The Stakes of the West
FRÉMONT, unfortunate (as we may have said) in his illegitimate birth, his poverty, and his undisciplined early schooling, had been fortunate in his later scientific training; and now he was fortunate most of all in the time and circumstances in which he began his greatest work. He had completed his apprenticeship to exploration, and had obtained by marriage the support of the American statesman most interested in mapping and colonizing the West, at the opening of the forties. The decade which followed was to be preëminently the decade of American expansion; the decade in which Texas and the Southwest, California and Oregon, were all added to the Union, and in which a flood of emigrants swept to the coast. For this expansion and emigration Frémont was to do spectacular service.
Before the western wilderness lying beyond the Missouri could be opened to the broad American advance--a land of mountain, plain, cañon, and forest regarding which the eastern public possessed little accurate knowledge--various preparatory labors had to be performed therein. The different types of men who accomplished them each deserve no small meed of gratitude. First the paths of this wilderness had to be found; the trails by which men could ford rivers, thread the mountains, traverse parched deserts, without needless danger. Indians and buffalo knew most of these paths, and the first white hunters and trappers absorbed and added to their lore: men like John Colter, who was with Lewis and Clark, who served the fur-trader Manuel Lisa, and who made a famous journey southwest from the Yellowstone and back again to