CHAPTER XXIV. GROWTH OF THE COUNTRY FROM 1820 TO 1840

POPULATION. - When Harrison was elected in 1840, the population of our country was 17,000,000, spread over twenty-six states and three territories. Of these millions several hundred thousand had come from the Old World. No records of such arrivals were kept before 1820; since that date careful records have been made, and from them it appears that between 1820 and 1840 about 750,000 immigrants came to our shores. They were chiefly from Ireland, England, and Germany. [1]

West of the mountains were over 6,000,000 people; yet but two Western states, Arkansas (1836) and Michigan (1837), had been admitted to the Union since 1821; and but two new Western territories, Wisconsin and Iowa, had been organized. This meant that the Western states already admitted were filling up with population. [2]

THE PUBLIC LANDS. - The rise of new Western states brought up the troublesome question, What shall be done with the public lands? [3] The Continental Congress had pledged the country to sell the lands and use the money to pay the debt of the United States. Much was sold for this purpose, but Congress set aside one thirty-sixth part of the public domain for the use of local schools. [4] As the Western states made from the public domain had received land grants for schools, many of the Eastern states about 1821 asked for grants in aid of their schools. The Western states objected, and both then and in later times asked that all the public lands within their borders be given to them or sold to them for a small sum. After 1824 efforts were made by Benton and others to reduce the price of land to actual settlers. [5] But Congress did not adopt any of these measures. After 1830, when the public debt was nearly paid, Clay attempted to have the money derived from land sales distributed among all the states. The question what to do with the lands was discussed year after year. At last in 1841 (while Tyler was President) Clay's bill became a law with the proviso that the money should not be distributed if the tariff rates were increased. The tariff rates were soon increased (1842), and but one distribution was made.

THE INDIANS. - Another result of the filling up of the country was the crowding of the Indians from their lands. They had always been regarded as the rightful owners of the soil till their title should be extinguished by treaty. Many such treaties had been made, ceding certain areas but reserving others on which the whites were not to settle. But population moved westward so rapidly that it seemed best to set apart a region beyond the Mississippi and move all the Indians there as quickly as possible. [6] In 1834, therefore, such a region, an "Indian Country," was created in what was later called Indian Territory, and the work of removal began.

In the South this proved a hard matter. In Georgia the Creeks and Cherokees refused for a while to go, and by so doing involved the federal government in serious trouble with Georgia and with the Indians. In 1835 an attempt to move the Seminoles from Florida to the Indian Country caused a war which lasted seven years and cost millions of dollars. [7]

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS. - Another issue with which the growth of the West had much to do was that of government aid to roads, canals, and railroads. Much money was spent on the Cumberland Road; [18] but in 1817 Madison vetoed a bill appropriating money to be divided among the states for internal improvements, and from that time down to Van Buren's day the question of the right of Congress to use money for such purposes was constantly debated in Congress. [9]

THE STATES BUILD CANALS AND ROADS. - All this time population was increasing, the West was growing, interstate trade was developing, new towns and villages were springing up, and farms increasing in number as the people moved to the new lands. The need of cheap transportation became greater and greater each year, and as Congress would do nothing, the states took upon themselves the work of building roads and canals.

What a canal could do to open up a country was shown when the Erie Canal was finished in 1825 (see p. 273). So many people by that time had settled along its route, that the value of land and the wealth of the state were greatly increased. [10] The merchants of New York could then send their goods up the Hudson, by the canal to Buffalo, and then to Cleveland or Detroit, or by Chautauqua Lake and the Allegheny to Pittsburg, for about one third of what it cost before the canal was opened (maps, pp. 267, 279). Buffalo began to grow with great rapidity, and in a few years its trade had reached Chicago. In 1839 eight steamboats plied between these two towns.

A TRIP ON A CANAL PACKET. - Passengers traveled on the canal in packet boats, as they were called. The hull of such a craft was eighty feet long and eleven feet wide, and carried on its deck a long, low house with flat roof and sloping sides. In each side were a dozen or more windows with green blinds and red curtains. When the weather was fine, passengers sat on the roof, reading, talking, or sewing, till the man at the helm called "Low bridge!" when everybody would rush down the steps and into the cabin, to come forth once more when the bridge was passed. Walking on the roof when the packet was crowded was impossible. Those who wished such exercise had to take it on the towpath. Three horses abreast could drag a packet boat some four miles an hour.