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.

WESTERN ROUTES. - Aroused by the success of the Erie Canal, Pennsylvania began a great highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburg. As planned, it was to be part canal and part turnpike over the mountains. But before it was completed, railroads came into use, and when finished, it was part railroad, part canal. Not to be outdone by New York and Pennsylvania, the people of Baltimore began the construction (1828) of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first in the country for the carriage of passengers and freight. [11] Massachusetts, alarmed at the prospect of losing her trade with the West, appointed (1827) a commission and an engineer to select a route for a railroad to join Boston and Albany. Ohio had already commenced a canal from Cleveland to the Ohio. [12]

EARLY RAILROADS. - The idea of a public railroad to carry freight and passengers was of slow growth, [13] but once it was started more and more miles were built every year, till by 1835 twenty-two railroads were in operation. The longest of them was only one hundred and thirty-six miles long; it extended from Charleston westward to the Savannah River, opposite Augusta. These early railroads were made of wooden beams resting on stone blocks set in the ground. The upper surface of the beams, where the wheels rested, was protected by long strips or straps of iron spiked to the beam. The spikes often worked loose, and, as the car passed over, the strap would curl up and come through the bottom of the car, making what was called a "snake head."

What should be the motive power, was a troublesome question. The horse was the favorite; it sometimes pulled the car, and sometimes walked on a treadmill on the car. Sails were tried also, and finally locomotives. [14]

Locomotives could not climb steep grades. When a hill was met with, the road had to go around it, or if this was not possible, the engine had to be taken off and the cars pulled up or let down an inclined plane by means of a rope and stationary engine. [15]

A TRIP ON AN EARLY RAILROAD. - A traveler from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, in 1836, would set off about five o'clock in the morning for what was called the depot. There his baggage would be piled on the roof of a car, which was drawn by horses to the foot of an inclined plane on the bank of the Schuylkill. Up this incline the car would be drawn by a stationary engine and rope to the top of the river bank. When all the cars of the train had been pulled up in this way, they would be coupled together and made fast to a little puffing, wheezing locomotive without cab or brake, whose tall smokestack sent forth volumes of wood smoke and red-hot cinders. At Lancaster (map, p. 267) the railroad ended, and passengers went by stage to Columbia on the Susquehanna, and then by canal packet up that river and up the Juniata to the railroad at the foot of the mountains.

The mountains were crossed by the Portage Railroad, a series of inclined planes and levels somewhat like a flight of steps. At Johnstown, west of the Alleghenies, the traveler once more took a canal packet to Pittsburg. [16]

THE WEST BUILDS RAILROADS AND CANALS. - Prior to 1836 most of the railroads and canals were in the East. But in 1836 the craze for internal improvements raged in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and in each an elaborate system of railroads and canals was planned, to be built by the state. Illinois in this way contracted a debt of $15,000,000; Indiana, $10,000,000, and Michigan, $5,000,000.

But scarcely was work begun on the canals and railroads when the panic of 1837 came, and the states were left with heavy debts and unfinished public works that could not pay the cost of operating them. Some defaulted in the payment of interest, and one even repudiated her bonds which she had issued and sold to establish a great bank.

THE MAILS. - As the means of transportation improved, the mails were carried more rapidly, and into more distant parts of the country. By 1837 it was possible to send a letter from New York to Washington in one day, to New Orleans in less than seven days, to St. Louis in less than five days, and to Buffalo in three days; and after 1838 mail was carried by steamships to England in a little over two weeks.

OCEAN STEAMSHIPS. - In the month of May, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the city of that name for Liverpool, England, and reached it in twenty-five days, using steam most of the way. She was a side- wheeler with paddle wheels so arranged that in stormy weather they could be taken in on deck. [17]

No other steamships crossed the Atlantic till 1838, when the Sirius reached New York in eighteen days, and the Great Western in sixteen days from England. Others followed, in 1839 the Cunard line was founded, and regular steam navigation of the Atlantic was established.

EXPRESS. - Better means of communication made possible another convenience, of which W. F. Harnden was the originator. He began in 1839 to carry packages, bundles, money, and small boxes between New York and Boston, traveling by steamboat and railroad. At first two carpetbags held all he had to carry; but his business increased so rapidly that in 1840 P. B. Burke and Alvin Adams started a rival concern which became the Adams Express Company.

MECHANICAL DEVELOPMENT. - The greater use of the steamboat, the building of railroads, and the introduction of the steam locomotive, were but a few signs of the marvelous industrial and mechanical development of the times. The growth and extent of the country, the opportunities for doing business on a great scale, led to a demand for time-saving and labor-saving machinery.

One of the characteristics of the period 1820-40, therefore, is the invention and introduction of such machinery. Boards were now planed, and bricks pressed, by machine. It was during this period that the farmers began to give up the flail for the thrashing machine; that paper was extensively made from straw; that Fairbanks invented the platform scales; that Colt invented the revolver; that steel pens were made by machine; and that a rude form of friction match was introduced. [18]

Anthracite coal was now in use in the large towns and cities, and grate and coal stoves were displacing open fires and wood stoves, just as gas was displacing candles and lamps.

THE CITIES AND TOWNS. - The increase of manufacturing in the northeastern part of the country caused the rise of large towns given up almost exclusively to mills and factories and the homes of workmen. [19] The increase of business, trade, and commerce, and the arrival of thousands of immigrants each year, led to a rapid growth of population in the seaports and chief cities of the interior. This produced many changes in city life. The dingy oil lamps in the streets, lighted only when the moon did not shine, were giving way to gas lights. The constable and the night watchman with his rattle were being replaced by the policeman. Such had been the increase in population and area of the chief cities, that some means of cheap transportation about the streets was needed, and in 1830 a line of omnibuses was started in New York city. So well did it succeed that other lines were started; and three years later omnibuses were used in Philadelphia.

THE WORKINGMAN. - The growth of manufactures and the building of works of internal improvement produced a demand for workmen of all sorts, and thousands came over, or were brought over, from the Old World. The unskilled were employed on the railroads and canals; the skilled in the mills, factories, and machine shops.

As workingmen increased in number, trades unions were formed, and efforts were made to secure better wages and a shorter working day. In this they succeeded: after a long series of strikes in 1834 and 1835 the ten-hour day was adopted in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and in 1840, by order of President Van Buren, went into force "in all public establishments" under the federal government.

THE SOUTH. - No such labor issues troubled the southern half of the country. There the laborer was owned by the man whose lands he cultivated, and strikes, lockouts, questions of wages, and questions of hours were unknown. The mills, factories, machine shops, the many diversified industries of the Northern states were unknown. In the great belt of states from North Carolina to the Texas border, the chief crop was cotton. These states thus had two common bonds of union: the maintenance of the institution of negro slavery, and the development of a common industry. As the people of the free states developed different sorts of industry, they became less and less like the people of the South, and in time the two sections were industrially two separate communities. The interests of the people being different, their opinions on great national issues were different and sectional.

REFORMS. - As we have seen, a great antislavery agitation (p; 293) occurred during the period 1820-40. It was only one of many reform movements of the time. State after state abolished imprisonment for debt, [20] lessened the severity of laws for the punishment of crime, extended the franchise, [21] or right to vote, reformed the discipline of prisons, and established hospitals and asylums. So eager were the people to reform anything that seemed to be wrong, that they sometimes went to extremes. [22] The antimasonic movement (p. 292) was such a movement for reform; the Owenite movement was another. Sylvester Graham preaching reform in diet, Mrs. Bloomer advocating reform in woman's dress, and Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism, were but so many advocates of reform of some sort.

Owen believed that poverty came from individual ownership, and the accumulation of more money by one man than by another. He believed that people should live in communities in which everything - lands, houses, cattle, products of the soil - are owned by the community; that the individual should do his work, but be fed, housed, clothed, educated, and amused by the community. Owen's teachings were well received, and Owenite communities were founded in many places in the West and in New York, only to end in failure. [23]

MORMONISM had better fortune. Joseph Smith, its founder, published in 1830 the Book of Mormon, as an addition to the Bible. [24] A church was next organized, missionaries were sent about the country, and in 1831 the sect moved to Kirtland in Ohio, and there built a temple. Trouble with other sects and with the people forced them to move again, and they went to Missouri. But there, too, they came in conflict with the people, were driven from one county to another, and in 1839-40 were driven from the state by force of arms. A refuge was then found in Illinois, where, on the banks of the Mississippi, they founded the town of Nauvoo. In spite of their wanderings they had increased in number, and were a prosperous community. [25]

THE GREAT WEST EXPLORED. - During the twenty years since Major Long's expedition, the country beyond the Missouri had been more fully explored. In 1822 bands of merchants at St. Louis began to trade with Santa Fe, sending their goods on the backs of mules and in wagons, thus opening up what was known as the Santa Fe trail. One year later a trapper named Prevost found the South Pass over the Rocky Mountains, and entered the Great Salt Lake country. [26] This was the beginning, and year after year bands of trappers wandered over what was then Mexican territory but is now part of our country, from the Great Salt Lake to the lower Colorado River, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. [27]

Between 1830 and 1832 Hall J. Kelley attempted to found a colony in Oregon, but failed, as did another leader, Nathaniel J. Wyeth. [28] Wyeth tried again in 1834, but his settlements were not permanent. A few fur traders and missionaries to the Indians had better fortune; but in 1840 most of the white men in the Oregon country were British fur traders. It was not till 1842 that the tide of American migration began to set strongly toward Oregon; but within a few years after that time the Americans there greatly outnumbered the British.


1. In 1840 the population of the country was 17,000,000, of whom more than a third dwelt west of the Allegheny Mountains.

2. For twenty years there had been much discussion about the disposition of the public lands; but Congress did not give up the plan of selling them for the benefit of the United States.

3. As population increased, the Indians were pushed further and further west. Some went to the Indian Country peaceably. In Georgia and Florida they resisted.

4. As Congress would not sanction a general system of federal improvements, the states built canals and railroads for themselves.

5. The success of those in the East encouraged the Western states to undertake like improvements. But they plunged the states into debt.

6. The period was one of great mechanical development, and many inventions of world-wide use date from this time.

7. The growth of manufactures produced great manufacturing towns, and the increase of artisans and mechanics led to the formation of trades unions.

8. The unrest caused by the rapid development, of the country invited reforms of all sorts, and many - social, industrial, and political - were attempted.


[1] In the early thirties much excitement was aroused by the arrival of hundreds of paupers sent over from England by the parishes to get rid of them. But when Congress investigated the matter, it was found not to be so bad as represented, though a very serious evil.

[2] Life in the West at this period is well described in Eggleston's Hoosier Schoolmaster and The Graysons.

[3] The credit system of selling lands (p. 241) was abolished in 1820, because a great many purchasers could not pay for what they bought.

[4] The public domain is laid off in townships six miles square. Each township is subdivided into 36 sections one mile square, and the sixteenth section in each township was set apart in 1785 for the use of schools in the township. This provision was applied to new states erected from the public domain down to 1848; in states admitted after that time both the sixteenth and the thirty-sixth sections have been set apart for this purpose. In addition to this, before 1821, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana had each received two entire townships for the use of colleges and academies.

[5] After the Indian title to land was extinguished, the land was surveyed and offered for sale at auction. Land which did not sell at auction could be purchased at private sale for $1.25 an acre. Benton proposed that land which did not sell at private sale within five years should be offered at 50 cents an acre, and if not sold, should be given to any one who would cultivate it for three years.

[6] An attempt to remove the Indians in northern Illinois and in Wisconsin led to the Black Hawk War in 1832. The Indians had agreed to go west, but when the settlers entered on their lands, Black Hawk induced the Sacs and Foxes to resist, and a short war was necessary to subdue them.

[7] The leader was Osceola, a chief of much ability, who perpetrated several massacres before he was captured. In 1837 he visited the, camp of General Jesup under a flag of truce, and was seized and sent to Fort Moultrie, near Charleston, where he died. His followers were beaten (1837) in a hard-fought battle by Colonel Zachary Taylor, but kept up the war till 1842.

[8] When Ohio was admitted (p. 241), Congress promised to use a part of the money from the sale of land to build a road joining the Potomac and Ohio rivers. Work on the National Road, as it was called, was started in 1811. It began at Cumberland on the Potomac and reached the Ohio at Wheeling. But Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois demanded that the road be extended, and in time it was built through Columbus and Indianapolis to Vandalia. Thence it was to go to Jefferson City in Missouri; but a dispute arose as to whether it should cross the Mississippi at Alton or at St. Louis, and work on it was stopped.

[9] Jackson vetoed several bills for internal improvements, and the hostility of his party to such a use of government money was one of the grievances of the Whigs.

[10] For a description of life in central New York, read My Own Story, by J. T. Trowbridge.

[11] The first railroad in our country was used in 1807, at Boston, to carry earth from a hilltop to grade a street. Others, only a few miles long, were soon used to carry stone and coal from quarry and mine to the wharf - in 1810 near Philadelphia, in 1826 at Quincy (a little south of Boston), in 1827 at Mauchchunk (Pennsylvania). All of these were private roads and carried no passengers.

[12] While the means of travel were improving, the inns and towns even along the great stage routes had not improved. "When you alight at a country tavern," said a traveler, "it is ten to one you stand holding your horse, bawling for the hostler while the landlord looks on. Once inside the tavern every man, woman, and child plies you with questions. To get a dinner is the work of hours. At night you are put into a room with a dozen others and sleep two or three in a bed. In the morning you go outside to wash your face and then repair to the barroom to see your face in the only looking glass the tavern contains." Another traveler complains that at the best hotel in New York there was neither glass, mug, cup, nor carpet, and but one miserable rag dignified by the name of towel.

[13] As early as 1814 John Stevens applied to New Jersey for a railroad charter, and when it was granted, he sought to persuade the New York Canal Commission to build a railroad instead of a canal. In 1823 Pennsylvania granted Stevens and his friends a charter to build a railroad from Philadelphia to the Susquehanna. In 1825 Stevens built a circular road at Hoboken and used a steam locomotive to show the possibility of such a means of locomotion. But all these schemes were ahead of the times.

[14] The friends of canals bitterly opposed railroads as impractical. Snow, it was said, would block them for weeks. If locomotives were used, the sparks would make it impossible to carry hay or other things combustible. The boilers would blow up as they did on steamboats. Canals were therefore safer and cheaper. Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 87-89.

[15] Almost all the early roads used this device. There was one such inclined plane at Albany; another at Belmont, now in Philadelphia; a third on the Paterson and Hudson Railroad near Paterson; and a fourth on the Baltimore and Ohio. When Pennsylvania built her railroad over the Allegheny Mountains, many such planes were necessary, so that the Portage Railroad, as it was called, was a wonder of engineering skill.

[16] The state built the railroads, like the canals, as highways open to everybody. At first no cars or motive power, except at the inclined planes, were supplied. Any car owner could carry passengers or freight who paid the state two cents a mile for each passenger and $4.92 for each car sent over the rails. After 1836 the state provided locomotives and charged for hauling cars.

[17] The captain of a schooner, seeing her smoke, thought she was a ship on fire and started for her, "but found she went faster with fire and smoke than we possibly could with all sails set. It was then that we discovered that what we supposed a vessel on fire was nothing less than a steamboat crossing the Western Ocean." In June, when off the coast of Ireland, she was again mistaken for a ship on fire, and one of the king's revenue cutters was sent to her relief and chased her for a day.

[18] A common form was known as the loco-foco. In 1835 the Democratic party in New York city was split into two factions, and on the night for the nomination of candidates for office one faction got possession of the hall by using a back door. But the men of the other faction drove it from the room and were proceeding to make their nominations when the gas was cut off. For this the leaders were prepared, and taking candles out of their pockets lit them with loco-foco matches. The next morning a newspaper called them "Loco-Focos," and in time the name was applied to a wing of the Democratic party.

[19] Good descriptions of life in New England are Lucy Larcom's New England Girlhood; T. B. Aldrich's Story of a Bad Boy; and E. E. Hale's New England Boyhood.

[20] Read Whittier's Prisoner for Debt.

[21] In Rhode Island many efforts to have the franchise extended came to naught. The old colonial charter was still in force, and under it no man could vote unless he owned real estate worth $134 or renting for $7 a year, or was the eldest son of such a "freeman." After the Whig victory in 1840, however, a people's party was organized, and adopted a state constitution which extended the franchise, and under which Thomas W. Dorr was elected governor. Dorr attempted to seize the state property by force, and establish his government; but his party and his state officials deserted him, and he was arrested, tried, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was finally pardoned, and in 1842 a state constitution was regularly adopted, and the old charter abandoned.

[22] In New York many people were demanding a reform in land tenure. One of the great patroonships granted by the Dutch West India Company (p. 72) still remained in the Van Rensselaer family. The farmers on this vast estate paid rent in produce. When the patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer, died in 1839, the heir attempted to collect some overdue rents; but the farmers assembled, drove off the sheriff, and so compelled the government to send militia to aid the sheriff. The Anti-rent War thus started dragged on till 1846, during which time riots, outrages, some murders, and much disorder took place. Again and again the militia were called out. In the end the farmers were allowed to buy their farms, and the old leasehold system was destroyed. Cooper's novels The Redskins, The Chainbearer, and Satanstoerelate to these troubles. So also does Ruth Hall's Downrenter's Son.

[23] Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. V, pp. 90- 97.

[24] Joseph Smith asserted that in a vision the angel of the Lord told him to dig under a stone on a certain hill near Palmyra, New York, and that on doing so he found plates of gold inscribed with unknown characters, and two stones or crystals, on looking through which he was enabled to translate the characters.

[25] Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 102-107; 454-458.

[26] In 1824 W. H. Ashley led a party from St. Louis up the Platte River, over the mountains, and well down the Green River, and home by Great Salt Lake, the South Pass, the Big Horn, the Yellowstone, and the Missouri. In 1826 Ashley and a party went through the South Pass, dragging a six-pound cannon, the first wheeled vehicle known to have crossed the mountains north of the Santa Fe trail, The cannon was put in a trading post on Utah Lake.

[27] In 1826 Jedediah Smith with fifteen trappers went from near the Great Salt Lake to the lower Colorado River, crossed to San Diego, and went up California and over the Sierra Nevada to Great Salt Lake. In 1827, with another party, Smith went over the same ground to the lower Colorado, where the Indians killed ten of his men and stole his property. With two companions Smith walked to San Jose, where the Mexicans seized him. At Monterey (mon-te-rá) an American ship captain secured his release, and with a new band of followers Smith went to a fork of the Sacramento River. While Smith and his party were in Oregon in 1828, the Indians massacred all but five of them. The rest fled and Smith went on alone to Fort Vancouver, a British fur-trading post on the Columbia River. Up this river Smith went (in the spring of 1829) to the mountains, turned southward, and in August, near the head waters of the Snake River, met two of his partners. Together they crossed the mountains to the source of the Big Horn, and then one went on to St. Louis. Early in 1830 he returned with eighty-two men and ten wagons. This was the first wagon train on the Oregon trail.

[28] Wyeth had joined Kelley's party; but finding that it would not start for some time, he withdrew, and organized a company to trade in Oregon, and early in 1832, with twenty-nine companions, left Boston, went to St. Louis, joined a band of trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and went with them to a great Indian fair on the upper waters of the Snake River. There some of his companions deserted him, as others had done along the way. With the rest Wyeth reached Fort Vancouver, where the company went to pieces, and in 1833 Wyeth returned to Boston.