Engines of Democracy: Inventions and Society in Mature America

Engines of Democracy: Inventions and Society in Mature America

Engines of Democracy: Inventions and Society in Mature America

Engines of Democracy: Inventions and Society in Mature America

Excerpt

In March of the Iron Men, I traced the history of that American society which, in 1865, found itself organized into a nation. I tried to show how it had been shaped, dispersed and reshaped up to that point not by wars, treaties or what is called political science but by invention. This is a large word and includes the Federation which was our pattern as well as the cotton gin and the steamboat. But my emphasis was on physical things: on the tools, machines, and processes which made life possible in a raw land; which articulated the expansion across the emptiness, which determined the temper of the people and, finally, helped them toward unity.

Beginning with the earliest seventeenth-century settlement, I saw three movements: first a huddling together in small communities in a desperate effort to transplant an old-world culture, second a wide, fanlike dispersion, third a drawing together of all the parts into a new whole, quite different from the first dream. Invention began, then, in the technologies of building and agriculture. But in agriculture was the westward lure, and invention in transport and communication was a normal consequence. It is my belief that the instruments invented in this phase were the instruments of our eventual union and that, working with an industrial revolution imposed upon us by European conflict, they made that union a fact before, politically, it was recognized. Thus, March of the Iron Men was a finished story, complete in itself.

Engines of Democracy, though it follows in the time sequence, is a different story. It is the history of what, in effect, is a different nation though the old political pattern because of its wide adaptability still applied to it. From 1865 the effective forces, technical and social, were all collective tending to tighten the complex. The movement of internal consolidation from the final ocean frontiers, unlike the straight westward advance, did not lend it-

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