Economic Beginnings of the Far West: How We Won the Land beyond the Mississippi - Vol. 1

By Katharine Coman | Go to book overview

PREFACE

FOR three centuries possession of the Far West, the vast unknown that lay beyond the Mississippi River, was in dispute. The maritime nations of Europe who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries contended for control of the north Atlantic coast and the eastern half of the Mississippi Valley, were engaged at the same time in a less dramatic but no less fateful tug of war for the great rivers, the arid plains, and the windswept coasts of western America. France through her fur traders laid hold on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the net-work of lakes and sluggish streams that stretch from the Great Lakes to the Canadian Rockies. Soon after the Peace of Paris had given Canada to Great Britain, the indomitable Scotch traders of Montreal carried their enterprises across the Rockies to the Pacific. Long before this, Spanish conquistadores and Franciscan missionaries had found their way over the lofty plateaus of northern Mexico to the headwaters of the Rio Grande and along the western foot-hills of the Coast Range to the harbors of San Diego, Monterey, and San Francisco. Spanish ships had already explored the coast well into Arctic waters and, while missing the key to the Northwest, the Columbia River, they had established the title of the most Christian Prince to all of the Pacific slope south of the Russian settlements. Unquestionably, Spain and Great Britain would have been engaged in an unequal controversy

-vii-

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