The Story of Geographical Discovery eBook

Joseph Jacobs
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 165 pages of information about The Story of Geographical Discovery.
At one time the inhabitants of the States were inclined to claim all the country as far as the Russian boundary 54.40 deg., and a war-cry arose “54.40 deg. or fight;” but in 1846 the territory was divided by the 49th parallel, and at this date we may say the partition of America was complete, and all that remained to be known of it was the ice-bound northern coast, over which so much heroic enterprise has been displayed.

The history of geographical discovery in America is thus in large measure a history of conquest.  Men got to know both coast-line and interior while endeavouring either to trade or to settle where nature was propitious, or the country afforded mineral or vegetable wealth that could be easily transported.  Of the coast early knowledge was acquired for geography; but where the continent broadens out either north or south, making the interior inaccessible for trade purposes with the coasts, ignorance remained even down to the present century.  Even to the present day the country south of the valley of the Amazon is perhaps as little known as any portion of the earth’s surface, while, as we have seen, it was not till the early years of this century that any knowledge was acquired of the huge tract of country between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.  It was the natural expansion of the United States, rendered possible by the cession of this tract to the States by Napoleon in 1803, that brought it within the knowledge of all.  That expansion was chiefly due to the improved methods of communication which steam has given to mankind only within this century.  But for this the region east of the Rocky Mountains would possibly be as little known to Europeans, even at the present day, as the Soudan or Somaliland.  It is owing to this natural expansion of the States, and in minor measure of Canada, that few great names of geographical explorers are connected with our knowledge of the interior of North America.  Unknown settlers have been the pioneers of geography, and not as elsewhere has the reverse been the case.  In the two other continents whose geographical history we have still to trace, Australia and Africa, explorers have preceded settlers or conquerors, and we can generally follow the course of geographical discovery in their case without the necessity of discussing their political history.

[Authorities: Winsor, From Cartier to Frontenac; Gelcich, in Mittheilungen of Geographical Society of Vienna, 1892.]



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The Story of Geographical Discovery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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