SPECULATORS ran wild in the fifties and the bubbles blew big. Started by California gold, men everywhere were drunk with the possibilities of wealth. There was no limit to what might be dug or grown, built or merely "financed" in the stupendous empire between the oceans. There were outbursts of extravagance in the cities; men flaunted money and champagne and promoters caught them with wildcat schemes. But it was all sporadic and rampantly individualist; development was spotty, the building was jerry-building, buying and selling were sufficient unto the day; nothing was co-ordinated, not even the railroads, largest structure of all.
Many bubbles were pricked in 1857 and men were ruined; there was panic in the market place. Yet there was only a surface collapse. In the interval, people had leisure in which to think more deeply. They thought more of iron as well as of gold; they thought of coal and oil and other more solid, less glittering material. Suddenly there was war. The fire on Sumter was aimed rather at the boom than the depression.
Had the South realized that its act would make, not break, a great industrial nation, it might not have aimed those guns. Had it known that a war between the particular states involved would have provided the one necessary feeding ground for the twin giants of industry and business in the North, it might have compromised with secession.
Even under the first Northern defeats, the giants prospered. It was their prosperity under defeat that brought the victory and would have brought it sooner or later had Grant and his