THE MIDDLE BORDER AND THE GREAT WEST
“We shall not send an emigrant beyond the Mississippi in a hundred years,” exclaimed Livingston, the principal author of the Louisiana purchase. When he made this astounding declaration, he doubtless had before his mind’s eye the great stretches of unoccupied lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi. He also had before him the history of the English colonies, which told him of the two centuries required to settle the seaboard region. To practical men, his prophecy did not seem far wrong; but before the lapse of half that time there appeared beyond the Mississippi a tier of new states, reaching from the Gulf of Mexico to the southern boundary of Minnesota, and a new commonwealth on the Pacific Ocean where American emigrants had raised the Bear flag of California.
THE ADVANCE OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
=Missouri.=—When the middle of the nineteenth century had been reached, the Mississippi River, which Daniel Boone, the intrepid hunter, had crossed during Washington’s administration “to escape from civilization” in Kentucky, had become the waterway for a vast empire. The center of population of the United States had passed to the Ohio Valley. Missouri, with its wide reaches of rich lands, low-lying, level, and fertile, well adapted to hemp raising, had drawn to its borders thousands of planters from the old Southern states—from Virginia and the Carolinas as well as from Kentucky and Tennessee. When the great compromise of 1820-21 admitted her to the union, wearing “every jewel of sovereignty,” as a florid orator announced, migratory slave owners were assured that their property would be safe in Missouri. Along the western shore of the Mississippi and on both banks of the Missouri to the uttermost limits of the state, plantations tilled by bondmen spread out in broad expanses. In the neighborhood of Jefferson City the slaves numbered more than a fourth of the population.
Into this stream of migration from the planting South flowed another current of land-tilling farmers; some from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, driven out by the onrush of the planters buying and consolidating small farms into vast estates; and still more from the East and the Old World. To the northwest over against Iowa and to the southwest against Arkansas, these yeomen laid out farms to be tilled by their own labor. In those regions the number of slaves seldom rose above five or six per cent of the population. The old French post, St. Louis, enriched by the fur trade of the Far West and the steamboat traffic of the river, grew into a thriving commercial city, including among its seventy-five thousand inhabitants in 1850 nearly forty thousand foreigners, German immigrants from Pennsylvania and Europe being the largest single element.