“WE ARE NOT ALONE
ON THESE BARE PLAINS”
THE MOSAIC OF
In 1852, a popular camp song included these two lines: Come along, come along—don’t be alarmed, Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm.
Later, in the territories of Colorado and New Mexico, pamphlets lured homesteaders west with these words: “Where to Go to Become Rich.” Ever since the first colonists sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to America’s shores, seeking religious freedom and the opportunity to build a new Promised Land, the open spaces of the North American continent have been equated with greater opportunity—with freedom to live as one pleased and with economic as well as spiritual enrichment.
The history of America, then, is the history of a nation on the move, as settlers continually pushed the boundaries back to seek new land and opportunity. In 1803, in perhaps the greatest land deal since the Dutch bought Manhattan island in 1623, President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory sight unseen from France for $15 million. He then dispatched two explorers to survey what he had bought. The Louisiana Purchase extended the nation’s boundaries west from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and north from the Gulf of Mexico to the border of Canada. It doubled the