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The thoughts and emotions that swell the mind as one traverses these vast and beautiful solitudes are various and peculiar. One seems carried back to the beginning of time and placed in the midst of the primeval world, — another Adam sole tenant of the new-created Paradise. The forest that encircles him has never yielded trunk or limb to the axe of civilization, but has stood through the storms of centuries, bowing its mighty top_to the winds and echoing the notes of the feathered tribe. From the long grass starts up at the sound of his step the sleek and straight-limbed deer, and stands gazing at him not in terror but with amazement at his intrusion ; while the surly wolf moves off at a slow trot as if ashamed that he had been discovered. Here, too, he will see traces of the red men who have been driven so far toward the setting sun, and be called to remember how recently they shared with the untamed animals the jurisdiction of these wide-spread plains, roaming from grove to grove and from stream to stream without restraint, not dreaming that any human power could vie with their own, and with none to molest them in their simple pleasures and wild pursuits. For he will see marks cut by them on the trees yet looking fresh; the long trail extending for miles worn by their footsteps and by the feet of their horses, as free from grass as though they had trodden it but yesterday; here and there small patches of land which the squaws have tilled; and far to the north, on the scene of the cruel war waged against them five or six years ago, their bones and graves. We cannot help being saddened at the thought of the fate of these once numerous tribes. We can scarcely refrain from painful reflections, when we consider that within the period of ten years a large part of these beautiful and fertile regions was theirs by undisputed possession ; and that now from the Alle ghanies to the Mississippi and from the Ohio to the Lakes only here and there a few of the race are to be seen.
But let us beware of taking too narrow a view of this subject. It spreads over a broad field of inquiry. Ought, we may ask, this goodly land to remain forever uncultivated and unproducing ? A country capable of sustaining millions of inhabitants, of feeding a hungry world, ought it to be kept in perpetual reservation as a play-ground for a few thousands ? God in his providence has given the answer. His decree is that this Eden shall be cultivated; that these forests shall render service to the arts and be for the use and convenience of civilized man; that these wild beasts shall - disappear and the domesticated animals be seen to skip and graze in their places ; that commodious houses shall take the place of wigwams, capitols of council-fires, and churches of Pagan rites. Civilization must expel barbarism. Rudeness must give place to refinement. Uninhabited regions must be peopled. The desert must blossom. And, in the end, the whole earth must become a garden beautiful, fertile, cultivated, man's resource for sustenance, health, pleasure, and peopled by an intelligent, refined, and virtuous brotherhood. For this result we hope. A careful observation of the ways of Providence justifies this hope. And God in the revolutions of time will accomplish it.
But besides these thoughts and emotions which are excited in the traveller by the view of those extensive and unoccupied tracts, there arises also the feeling, and it is vivid and often painful, of complete isolation. One feels somewhat as we imagine the mariner may who is cast away on some desolate island. He is cut off from all human sympathies. He looks wistfully round but can discover no traces of man.
Man has not been there. Art has never known these solitudes. They remain just as they came from the hand of God. And though
“ Arabia cannot boast A fuller gale of joy, than, liberal, thence
Breathes through the sense and takes the ravished soul,” yet one feels too insignificant to be comfortable, too lonely to be satisfied. But to be in such a situation, for a brief period, has undoubtedly its advantages. It enables one to separate himself from all relations but that which the soul bears to the Infinite, and to view his being as a naked reality. It realizes to him, more forcibly than is possible in the busy walks of society, the Divine Presence, and makes him more intimately conscious to the pervading and animating influence of his spirit. And this feeling, how delightful is it ! Nothing so delightful as that consciousness of the particular, personal presence of God with which the devout mind is sometimes indulged, when it seems to see the Perfect One, and to receive tidings of good and words of love from his lips ; when, indeed, it is inspired and has a revelation to confirm its faith, to elevate its aims, to correct its desires, and to establish and vivify its spiritual sentiments. God then seems to fill the mind. God glows in the affections. The earth disappears. Material things vanish
away. Time, life, friendship, kindred, earthly good give place to the one absorbing fact, the presence of God.
But it is time that we speak, and it must be briefly, of the condition of the settlers, particularly as it regards their personal comfort and contentment. The wonder is often expressed if they can be happy; if they do not suffer many privations ; if they are not continually disquieted by a desire to go back! A just answer cannot be given in general terms ; for what is true of one person or family is not of another. In some cases the privations are few, and the pain of being separated from friends and torn away from old associations is the only pain that is felt. In other instances the situation has been in all respects improved by the removal, and never before were they in possession of so many mere physical comforts, or in the prospect of so rapid and extensive gains. They left a condition in which it was hard for them to provide a scanty subsistence for their families, and now they have plenty, and all fear of want is forgotten. In still other cases they had been accustomed to live in splendor, surrounded with all the elegant and refined gratifications of opulence, and had known nothing of labor and hardship. To them a change of circumstances is, of course, a painful trial. They suffer for a while the most torturing conflict of feelings. They would so suffer anywhere; and more keenly, it is probable, by remaining on the theatre of their former affluence. For a few years their privations and hardships in a new country, and with new occupations, seem intolerable. But with the lapse of time they become used to their situation, interested in their new pursuits, and so strongly attached to everything around them, that no temptation could allure them back to the sea-board, to reëngage in the toilsome and vexatious routine of commercial operations. Again, there are many young men of tough sinews, of resolute spirit, of indomitable enterprise, who seeing that they have to make their own fortune in the world, that they have no patrimony to depend upon either in possession or reversion, have pushed out upon the frontiers, begun to thrive by industry, and laid a broad foundation for future riches; and to them the aspect of everything is pleasant. They cannot speak in terms of sufficient praise of their new home, and nothing would induce them to quit it.
But there are cases, as may well be supposed, different, widely different, from any of the foregoing. There are in
stances of extreme suffering and heart-sickness. They are the cases of those who have left the place of their birth with little property, and no particular object in view. They are “ going to the West.” This is the most definite account they are able to give of their purpose when they start. They have not counted the cost. They have not thought of the difficulties. It has scarcely entered their mind what they are to do on their arrival. They leave friends, relatives, and a comfortable home. By a weary journey they, at length, reach the place where they propose to stop for the purpose of " looking round,” as the phrase is. As the steamboat nears the landing, the family group with strained eyes, and beating hearts, and anxious faces, survey
the new town, highly colored descriptions of which had first kindled in them the “ Western fever." It does not look as they expected. It is not so large. It is not so well built. There is not the appearance of so much wealth. They do not see those beautiful streets shaded with trees which looked so finely on the map. Their first feeling is that of disappointment. They step upon the landing, entire strangers, hundreds of miles from any human being who knows them or cares for them. Where to go for shelter they know not, and all seem too busy to tell them. They sit down in the sand on the bank, the mother with her children in her lap and at her side, the sun pouring down a blazing heat upon them as they send back Ionging, soul-harrowing, agonizing thoughts to their forsaken home and their fond connexions, and shed copious tears over their comfortless lot. The anxious father walks slowly away in search of a tenement in which his family may be lodged. It is finally found; a single chamber perhaps, and at a higher rent than he had ever paid before for a whole house. The family enter it, and a chill, cold as death, rushes through their heart. Desolation, it seems to them, nothing but desolation ! No neighbor comes in to offer friendly sympathy, to ask after their welfare, or even takes the pains to inquire who they are. There is a wide world around them and people enough, but they are alone! And now comes another difficulty. If the adventurer concludes to take a farm, he has, out of an almost boundless territory, to select the few acres for his own cultivation. He leaves his family and wanders off on foot to make the selection. The spot is, at length, chosen. It is on the border of an immense prairie just by the edge of the wood that skirts it, fifteen or twenty miles from any town or hamlet, and four or five from the habitation of any human being. Since the flood no implement of husbandry has stirred the soil. Not a civilized man has ever tracked it. The wild birds have laid their eggs upon it; the wolf has made it his hiding place; and the deer his play-ground. After many struggles and much suffering they are once more settled in a home which they can call their own. But soon comes a heavier trial. One of their children falls sick, and there is no physician whom they can call in. There are no kind neighbors to watch with it when the parents are exhausted with watching. The child dies. And there are no hands but those of the broken-hearted parents to dig its grave and prepare it for the burial ; and no minister can be summoned to utter over it the solemn prayer, and to offer the consolations of religion to the mourning household.
Having spoken at greater length than we intended of the physical condition of the West and its settlers, we proceed to state our views in the little space that remains to us of their moral circumstances.
It is not necessary to say much on the character of the settlers. That is, of necessity, mixed and various, as it is here. There is goodness and wickedness, great goodness and gross wickedness, in the new as in the older portions of the country. In respect to morals and religion the settlers may be said to represent quite fairly the particular parts of the world from which they have emigrated. There may be a slight balance against them from the fact that a considerable proportion are mere adventurers; but the difference is, after all, but slight; and without injustice towards any, they may be said to express the moral tone and religious character of the communities from which they removed, -no better and no worse. In speaking of their moral condition, then, it is not to their personal character that we particularly refer. But we refer to their opportunities of bettering their condition; to their means of improvement ; to the moral incitements and restraints that surround them. We refer to the hopes or fears that are necessarily formed in regard to the rising generation, and to the influence which they are destined to exert on the country at large, in future years. And in this view of their condition, though we are not inclined to look on the dark side, the patriot sees much to give anxiety, the Christian and philanthropist much to lament, and much to do.