CHAPTER XIII. VICTORY OF THE AMERICANS OVER BURGOYNE AT SARATOGA, A.D. 1777.
"Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
TIME'S NOBLEST OFFSPRING IS ITS LAST."
"Even of those great conflicts, in which hundreds of thousands
have been engaged and tens of thousands have fallen, none has
been more fruitful of results than this surrender of thirty-five
hundred fighting-men at Saratoga. It not merely changed the
relations of England and the feelings of Europe towards these
insurgent colonies, but it has modified, for all times to come,
the connexion between every colony and every parent state." - LORD
Of the four great powers that now principally rule the political destinies of the world, France and England are the only two whose influence can be dated back beyond the last century and a half. The third great power, Russia, was a feeble mass of barbarism before the epoch of Peter the Great; and the very existence of the fourth great power, as an independent nation, commenced within the memory of living men. By the fourth great power of the world I mean the mighty commonwealth of the western continent, which now commands the admiration of mankind. That homage is sometimes reluctantly given, and accompanied with suspicion and ill-will. But none can refuse it. All the physical essentials for national strength are undeniably to be found in the geographical position and amplitude of territory which the United States possess: in their almost inexhaustible tracts of fertile, but hitherto untouched soil; in their stately forests, in their mountain-chains and their rivers, their beds of coal, and stores of metallic wealth; in their extensive seaboard along the waters of two oceans, and in their already numerous and rapidly increasing population. And, when we examine the character of this population, no one can look on the fearless energy, the sturdy determination, the aptitude for local self government, the versatile alacrity, and the unresting spirit of enterprise which characterise the Anglo-Americans, without feeling that he here beholds the true moral elements of progressive might.
Three quarters of a century have not yet passed away since the United States ceased to be mere dependencies of England. And even if we date their origin from the period when the first permanent European settlements, out of which they grew, were made on the western coast of the North Atlantic, the increase of their strength is unparalleled, either in rapidity or extent.
The ancient Roman boasted, with reason, of the growth of Rome from humble beginnings to the greatest magnitude which the world had then ever witnessed. But the citizen of the United States is still more justly entitled to claim this praise. In two centuries and a half his country has acquired ampler dominion than the Roman gained in ten. And even if we credit the legend of the band of shepherds and outlaws with which Romulus is said to have colonized the Seven Hills, we find not there so small a germ of future greatness, as we find in the group of a hundred and five ill-chosen and disunited emigrants who founded Jamestown in 1607, or in the scanty band of the Pilgrim-Fathers, who, a few years later, moored their bark on the wild and rock-bound coast of the wilderness that was to become New England. The power of the United States is emphatically the "Imperium quo neque ab exordio ullum fere minus, neque incrementis toto orbe amplius humans potest memoria recordari." [Eutropius, lib. i. (exordium).]
Nothing is more calculated to impress the mind with a sense of the rapidity with which the resources of the American republic advance, than the difficulty which the historical inquirer finds in ascertaining their precise amount. If he consults the most recent works, and those written by the ablest investigators of the subject, he finds in them admiring comments on the change which the last few years, before those books were written, had made; but when he turns to apply the estimates in those books to the present moment, he finds them wholly inadequate. Before a book on the subject of the United States has lost its novelty, those states have outgrown the description which it contains. The celebrated work of the French statesman, De Tocqueville, appeared about fifteen years ago. In the passage which I am about to quote, it will be seen that he predicts the constant increase of the Anglo-American power, but he looks on the Rocky Mountains as their extreme western limit for many years to come. He had evidently no expectation of himself seeing that power dominant along the Pacific as well as along the Atlantic coast. He says: -
"The distance from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico extends from the 47th to the 30th degree of latitude, a distance of more than 1,200 miles, as the bird flies. The frontier of the United States winds along the whole of this immense line; sometimes falling within its limits, but more frequently extending far beyond it into the waste. It has been calculated that the Whites, advance every year a mean distance of seventeen miles along the whole of this vast boundary. Obstacles, such as an unproductive district, a lake, or an Indian nation unexpectedly encountered, are sometimes met with. The advancing column then halts for a while; its two extremities fall back upon themselves, and as soon as they are re-united they proceed onwards. This gradual and continuous progress of the European race towards the Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a Providential event: it is like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onwards by the hand of God.