The United States—what are they? Two hundred years ago, this question could not have been answered; it could not even have been asked. Now it can be answered by the dwellers in every quarter of the globe. Then a few small settlements of earnest men, flying from the religious intolerance of the Old World, dotted a narrow strip of coast line on our New England border. Now a mighty nation, with a vast expanse of territory stretching from ocean to ocean, and from regions almost arctic on the north to regions equally torrid on the south, embracing more square leagues of habitable land than Rome ruled over in its palmiest days, here holds a position of independence and glory among the nations of the earth.
And the sound of this new nation has gone into all the world. It has reached the toiling millions of Europe; and they are swarming to our shores to share its blessings. It has gone to the islands of the sea; and they have sent their contributions. It has reached the Orient, and opened as with a password the gates of nations long barred against intercourse with other powers; and China and Japan, turning from their beaten track of forty centuries, are looking with wonder at the prodigy arising across the Pacific to the east of them, and catching some of the impulse which this growing power is imparting to the nations of the earth.
Less than one hundred years ago, with three millions of people, the United States became an independent government. It has now a population of thirty-eight and a half millions of people, and a territory of three and a half millions of square miles. Russia alone exceeds this nation in these particulars, having forty millions more of people, and four millions more square miles of territory. Of all other nations on the globe whose laws are framed by legislative bodies elected by the people, Brazil, which has the largest territory, has not quite three millions of square miles; and France, the most populous, has not probably, considering her late reverses and misfortunes, a greater number of inhabitants than our own country. So that in point of territory and population combined, it will be seen that the United States now stand at the head of the self-governing powers of the earth.
Occupying a position altogether unique, this government excites equally the astonishment and admiration of all beholders. The main features of its history are such as have had no parallel since the distinction of nations existed among men.
1. No nation ever acquired so vast a territory in so quiet a manner.
2. No nation ever rose to such greatness by so peaceable means.
3. No nation ever advanced so rapidly in all that constitutes national strength and capital.
4. No nation ever rose to such a pinnacle of power in a space of time so incredibly short.