This Brave New World
HE LAND TO WHICH THE TRIBUNE MADE ITS BOW was on the threshold of great events. America was beginning to spread its wings in the 1840's. At times with caution and diplomacy (as Oregon bore witness), at times with ruthless ardor (as Mexicans and Indians learned to their cost), it extended its control over the vast empire of the West. And expansion was not only in so many feet of soil. A hammering and chattering, a belching of smoke and flame rose up from forge and factory and spread slowly but steadily from East to West. A vast industrial machine was building, with its offering of jobs and goods and opportunities for making a fortune. Population swelled as hundreds of thousands of immigrants responded to the call of the land and the lure of employment as wage earners. The nation's wealth increased, it seemed, by the hour. The country so lately stricken by panic and depression now seemed impatient of all limits to its material advance.
American energy and capacity manifested themselves in other than material ways. The decade was restless spiritually. Some, horrified by the sufferings of the depression, turned to the meager certainties of the primitive past—like Thoreau, building his hut in Walden woods with bean rows close by and peace in the bee-loud glade. Most of the restless ones strove more positively for perfection. Elihu Burritt, master of forge and anvil and twenty languages, campaigned for world peace, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton did for woman's rights and Dorothea Dix for the insane. Movements for temperance and for the abolition of slavery, begun during the preceding decade, welled up into roaring tides. Phrenologists, Grahamites, land reformers, Associationists rallied their bands of devoted followers. Robert Owen explained Communism to a joint session of the United States House and Senate.
By and large, the nation's unease had a hopeful quality. Most