23. WESTWARD MOVEMENT. The curtain which veiled far Cathay and the mystic East was raised during the Crusades, but the trade of Europe was blocked by the intrusion of the Ottoman Turks. Adventurous captains, barred by the scimeter in the East, by the cold of the North and the heat of the South, sailed boldly into the West, and consequently brought civilization to the Americas on the eastern rather than the western coast. The American people took up the extension of this triumphal coarse, and, following the same direction, car ried civilization directly across the continent of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In less than three centuries, they traversed the 3,000 miles of continental interior, conquered nature, dispossessed the savages, evicted Euro pean rivals, and set up a high form of civiliza tion and government, where formerly were only wilderness and barbarians. This achievement is commonly known as "the westward move ment." Speculation is exhausted in conjecturing the probable result had civilization been cast on the Pacific instead of the Atlantic Coast, and been compelled to make its way across the continent from west to east. Recalling the many chance discoveries along the Atlantic because captains mistook indentations, one may imagine the nu merous accidents which must have resulted along the almost solid Pacific Coast, and the hindrance to the spread of the people because all must come through a few ports. The nar row Pacific Coast plain cannot be compared in size with the great Atlantic plain as a place for recruiting strength before commencing the over land journey. Passing eastward, the inhospitable desert between the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains would have met the emigrants in stead of the fertile lands of Tennessee, Ken tucky and Ohio. An eastern movement must have been delayed for generations by the im penetrable Rockies and the arid region at their base, just as the western movement stands to day blocked while developing a national irriga tion scheme. If there be a national destiny shaping our end, it was surely in evidence when directing Columbus to the eastern instead of the western coast.
In 1619 the first successful attempt at col onization within the confines of the British dominions of North America was made at Jamestown, Va. In 1775 the first representa tive body of men gathered at Boonesborough from four incipient settlements in the present State of Kentucky. It had taken 165 years for the English speech to cover the Atlantic plain, cross the Alleghany Mountains and set up free government within the Mississippi Basin. In 1820 Missouri was admitted, the first State be yond the Mississippi River. Louisiana is not
considered because her population was suffi ciently complete for admission when she was purchased. It had thus required only 45 years to go from the Alleghanies to the trans-Missis sippi region. In 1850, California, the first Pacific State, was admitted. Thirty years only had been required for the people to traverse the remaining half of the continent. The rapid in crease in the rate of speed may be attributed to the growth of the protective efficiency of the central government, to the increasing number of people, and especially to improved means of transportation.
The Atlantic Coast Plain, upon which the present United States was born, is a long, nar row strip of comparatively level land, trending from northeast to southwest, and lying, gen erally speaking, between the Appalachian Moun tain system and the Atlantic Ocean. Its width varies from 50 to 200 miles, depending on the approach of the various flexions of the coast to the mountains. Within this long stretch the battles of the Revolution were fought with a few small exceptions. It was essentially a coast war, the troops 'being frequently conveyed by transports from one point to another, and a French fleet co-operating with the army during the last general campaign. During the war, the Continental Congress sat at Philadelphia, Bal timore, York, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton and New York, never more than 150 miles from the coast. It is said that during one of the many dark hours of the contest, Washington expressed his determination, in case of ultimate defeat, to retire with his remaining comrades to the fastnesses beyond the Alleghanies and there continue the unequal contest. Evidence is not wanting to show that many of Washing ton's fellow-officers and comrades contemplated future residences in the "back lands," as the region beyond the mountains was called. They were °back" lands in the sense that they did not drain through the Atlantic or °front" way. Al though claimed by the king ex officio, as °Crown lands," these lands as far west as Britain ruled were demanded by some of the colonies because their charters covered them. Others thought that the Indians owned the lands beyond the mountains, and endeavored to pur chase them from the aborigines. The king still insisted that the limits of the 13 colonies termi nated on the watershed of the mountains. He did not except even Pennsylvania from this rule in his proclamation of 1763. But the political rebellion arose so soon that the procla mation was virtually null and void, if the Amer icans should succeed in securing independence.