Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
The Nation’s Progress
By Caleb Cushing (1800–1879)
 
[Born in Salisbury, Mass., 1800. Died at Newburyport, Mass., 1879. From a speech at Baltimore, Md., 11 July, 1853, made while journeying from Washington with Franklin Pierce, to open the Crystal Palace at New York.]

THERE was a time—and I see before me some few gray heads who may remember it—there was a time when the United States consisted of a narrow ribbon, as it were, of territory, extending along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. When the thirteen United States, strong in their sense of right—strong in their sanguine anticipations of the future—strong in the vigor of wise and good men—when these thirteen United States, I say, dared the power of Britain, we were then a comparatively humble people, occupying merely the narrow slope of the mountains looking towards the Atlantic. Time passed on. To those days of feebleness followed that period in which the vast Valley of the Mississippi—the vastest body of cultivable earth that exists, in one mass, on the face of the earth—I say, the time came when that vast Valley of the Mississippi was opened to the enterprise and the industry of Americans. And then it was that the symbolic eagle of our arms took its flight across the Alleghanies, and spread its protecting wings over that great and rich Valley of the Mississippi. Then, then it was that we began to feel that we were great—that there might be, in the future, some untold destiny of magnificent greatness and glory for those original thirteen States. I say, we then first began to feel that it must and should be so. And it has become so; for that Valley of the Mississippi region, almost unknown to geographical inquiry, looked upon as the yet unconquered home of the savage,—what is it now? Is it not now the glorious, the unparalleled centre of these United States?…
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  This is now the United States—that colossus of power, that colossus of liberty, that colossus of the spirit of nations, which invites all men from the four corners of the globe to come hither, and find here a refuge from oppression; here to find inexhaustible resources for the development of industry and enterprise; here to add each an item from his intelligence, his virtue, his strength—to add the atom of his own individual capacity to the vast total of the untiring enterprise and industry of the people of the United States. This is the point at which we now stand; and I repeat that it is to no trivial question of the past, it is to no exhausted passions of the past, that we of this day are confined. Our flight is into other elements. Our duty is for other objects. It is, gentlemen, in the confidence of our strength; for force is, of itself, the irrepressible instinct of action.  2
  He who is strong, who feels coursing in his veins the blood of maturity and vigor, needs action and must have action. It is the very necessity and condition of existence.  3
  I say, then, we are strong in our territorial extent; strong in the vast natural resources of our country; strong in the vigorous men and in the fair women who inhabit it; strong in those glorious institutions which our fathers of the Revolution transmitted to us; but above all, strong, stronger, strongest, in the irrepressible instinct of patriotic devotion to country which burns inextinguishably, like the vestal fire on its altars, in the heart of every American. I say, gentlemen, that is the point in the history of our country to which we have arrived.  4
 
 
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