« AnteriorContinua »
After them comes a mightier system of commercial facilities-the railways civilization has given to man. This system supersedes oceans, lakes and rivers, and this system must control, in the future, the higher commercial and industrial destines of all people; while the ocean systems of commerce are destined to become the most obsolete of all these facilities afforded to man. Of the five water systems of navigation belonging to our continent, the river. system is by far the most valuable, and, with the Gulf, is destined to control the foreign commerce of our continent; and both, united to our railway system, fix the industrial mission of our people henceforth to the far-off y
of the future.
Civilization is rapidly reversing the order of nature. To the barbarian and semi-barbarian nations, the oceans were facilities for exchanging their commerce, the land an obstacle; but civilization is about to reverse the order, and transform the land into a facility and the oceans into obstacles. The car will take the place of the ship, and the land of the ocean, and commerce will find its goal in continental development; and not, as heretofore, beyond distant oceans and among the islands of the sea. The railway systems of continents. and the world are soon to be the great rule of commerce, while ships will be the exception. Already the maritime nations of the earth foresee their doom. in the coming reversal of the order of things, and are struggling to hold the seas supreme over the land, the ships over the cars; hence their aggressions upon the land in their haste to sever continents, that the ships may pass through and speed on to the uttermost parts of the earth.
But before we further consider the railway system as destined to control and direct the future industry of the world, let us go back and consider for one moment the commerce of the globe, which the nations are now striving to control. Since the discovery of America, perhaps there has been no artificial improvement to which so much importance has been attached in its bearing upon the future commerce of the world as the construction of the Pacific railway, and no man better vindicated the importance of such a facility across the continent than the Hon. Thomas H. Benton, in the many speeches he made from time to time in favor of its construction, and from one we make the following pointed quotation touching the great importance of the road in its bearing upon the commerce of the world. Hear his plea: "I enforce another advantage, not so immediate, but obvious to the thinking mind, and important to America, Europe, and Asia; and which, in changing a channel of rich commerce, may have its effect upon the wealth and power of nations, and operate a change in the maritime branch of national wars. I allude to the East India trade, already incidentally touched upon, and the change of its channel from the water to the land, and the effect of that change in nullifying the maritime supremacy of naval powers by making continents, instead of oceans, the great theaters of international commerce. No events in the history of nations have had a greater effect on the relative wealth and power of nations than the changes which have been going on for near three thousand years in the channels of Asiatic commerce. During that time nations have risen and fallen, as they possessed or lost that commerce. Events announce the forth
coming of a new change. The land becoming a facility and the ocean an obstacle to foreign trade, must have an effect upon Europe, conterminous upon Asia, and upon America, separated from it by a western sea over which no European power can dominate. I confine myself to the American branch of the question, and glance at the past to get an insight into the future. I look to former channels of this Asiatic commerce-their changes, the effects of the changes and infer from what has been, what may be-from what is, to what will be.
"I. The Phoenician Route.-Tyre, queen of cities, was its first emporium. The commerce of the East centered there before the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, upwards of six hundred years before the coming of Christ. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered Tyre and razed it to its foundations; but ho was no statesman-merely a destroyer-and did not found a rival city; and the continuance of the India trade quickly restored the queen of cities to all her former degree of prominence and power. Alexander the Great conquered her again. He was a statesman, and knew how to build up, as well as how to pull down, and looked to commerce for exalting and enriching that magnificent empire which his war genius was conquering. He founded a rival city on the coast of Egypt, better adapted to the trade; and the prophecy of Ezekiel became fulfilled on Tyre: she became a place for fishermen to dry their nets.
"II. The Jewish Route.-In the time of Solomon and David, the Jews succeeded to the East India trade, made it a leading subject of their policy, and became rich and powerful upon it. Jerusalem rivaled Nineveh and Babylon; and Palmyra, a mere thoroughfare in the trade in the midst of a desert, became the seat of power and opulence, of oriental magnificence, and the center of the arts and sciences. The Jews lost that trade, and Jerusalem became as a widow in the wilderness, and Palmyra a den for foxes and Arabs.
"III. The Alexandrian Route.-This was opened by Alexander the Great; its course along the canal of Alexandria to the Nile, up that river to Coptus; thence across the desert with camels to the Dead Sea, and down that sea to the neighboring coasts of Asia and Africa - a route chosen with so much judgment that it made Alexandria and Egypt the seats of wealth, power, learning, the arts and sciences, and continued to be the channel of trade for a period of eighteen hundred years-from three hundred years before Christ to the close of the fifteenth century-when the Portuguese discovery of the passage by the Cape of Good Hope annihilated the Egyptian route, and transferred to Lisbon the glories of Alexandria. But not without a great contest. Solyman the Magnificent, then Sultan of the Turkish Empire, fought the Portuguese for the dominion of routes-carried on long and bloody wars to break up the Cape of Good Hope route, assisted by the Venetians, because of their interest in the Egyptian route, and menacing Christendom - this alliance of Christian and Saracen against Christians-according to the Abbe Raynal, indorsed by the philosophic historian Robertson, with the most illiberal and humiliating servi tude that ever oppressed polished nations.' From this calamity Christendom was saved by the valor of the Portuguese and the talents of their renowned commander, Albuquerque; but the contest shows the value which all nations
placed on the possession of this trade, and the reversed conditions of Alexandria and Lisbon, of Egypt and Portugal, upon the defeat of the Turks and Venetians, shows that that value was not ever-estimated.
"IV. The Constantinoplitan Route.-This became fully established in the time of the Greek Empire, and during the two hundred years of the Crusade irruptions, and to which the enlightened part of the Crusaders greatly contrib uted. For, while a religious frenzy operated upon the masses, the extension of their trade with India was the systematic, persevering, and successful policy of all liberal and enlightened minds, availing themselves of that frenzy to promote and establish the commerce upon the possession of which the supremacy of nations depended. It was fully established; and the long and tedious transit across the Black Sea to the mouth of the Phases, up that river to a portage of five days to the Cyrus, down that river to the Caspian Sea, across it to the mouth of the Oxus, up it nine hundred miles to Samarcand, once Alexandria, the limit of Alexander's march to the northeast; and after this long travel, an overland journey of ninety days on the Bactrian camel to the confines of China, commenced. Such was this extended route. Yet it was upon this route, so extended and perilous, that Europe was supplied with East India goods for several centuries; the profits of the trade being so great that after its arrival at Constantinople, it could still come on to Italy, and even round to Bruges (Brussels) and to Antwerp. It was upon this route that the Genoese established their great commerce, gaining permanent establishments with great privileges at Constantinople (its suburb Pera) and in that Crimea, then resplendent with wealth, since impoverished, now the scene of bloody strife; and of which the issue would be fortunate, if it restored the Crimea to what it was when Caffa was as celebrated as Sebastopol is now, and celebrated for streams of commerce instead of streams of blood. But to this route of Constantinople the Cape of Good Hope passage became as fatal as it was to that of Alexandria.
"V. The Ocean Route.-It has been the line of the East India trade since the close of the fifteenth century, and must have continued to be so forever if a marvel had not been wrought, and the land become the facility-the ocean the obstacle-to commerce. All the powers that have land for distant communications must now betake themselves to the steam car. Why contend with ships for the dominion of the sea, when both the ships and the sea are to be supersedod? Take the case of Russia. She has been one hundred and fifty years building up a navy-to become useless the first day it is wanted. Not only useless, but an encumbrance and a burden, requiring impregnable posts, and vast armies, and murderous battles to protect and save it-save it from going to swell the enemy's fleet, and be turned against its buildors. Why build any more ships when there is the land to carry commerce, without protection, to every part of Europe, and to America by Behring's Straits, rendering fleets inoperative and harmless? But I confine myself to our own commerce and our own land. There is the road to India, pointing west, half the way upon our own land, and the rest upon a peaceable sea washing our shores, but separated from Europe by the whole diameter of the earth. Can we not cease
wrangling over an odious subject of domestic contention, and go to work upon the road which is to exalt us to the highest rank among nations, and make us mistress of the richest gem in the diadem of commerce? Can we not cease contention, and seize the supreme prize which is glittering before us? Make the road; and, in its making, make our America the thoroughfare of Orient commerce-throw back the Cape and the Horn routes to what Tyre became when Alexandria was founded, and what Alexandria became when the Cape of Good Hope was doubled, making Europe submissive and tributary to us for a transit upon this route, and dispensing us from the maintenance of the fleets which the ocean commerce demands for its protection."
The railway is built, and what in Benton's day was an extended wilderness of country, from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean, is now States and populous Territories, with rapidly growing cities, rich in wealth. Yet the road is not the wonderful thoroughfare for the commerce of distant nations that earlier enterprise anticipated. Nor will it ever be. Every foot of railway built the more and more confirms the continental destiny of the American people; and by the business of this road being absorbed by the local interests of the people at each end and along its line, and the failure to revolutionize the commerce of the world, the spirit of adventure has gone again to the ocean, and seeks new channels through the isthmuses of Suez and Darien. By these highways the commerce of the world is again sought to be controlled. In this contest America again has the advantage, in climate, ocean and distance, as the following testimony of Mr. Nourse, of the United States navy, given in his pamphlet on the Maritime Canal of Suez, will assure: "for while Suez is the center of the old continent, Darien is the center of the great ocean - the Atlantic-Pacific of the water as well as of the land of our globe. For this fact is to be remembered
"From the Gulf of Mexico all the great commercial markets of the world are down hill. A vessel bound from that Gulf to Europe places herself in the current of the Gulf Stream and drifts along with it at the rate, for part of the way, of eighty or a hundred miles a day. If her destination be Rio or India, or California, her course is the same as far north as the island of Bermuda.
"And when there shall be established a commercial thoroughfare across the Isthmus, the trade winds of the Pacific will place China, India, New Holland, and all the islands of that ocean, down hill also from this sea of ours. In that case Europe must pass by our very doors on the great highway to the markets. both of the East and the West Indies. This beautiful Mesopotamian sea is in a position to occupy the summit level of navigation, and to become the great commercial receptacle of the world. Our rivers run into it, and float down with their currents the surplus articles of merchandise that are produced upon their banks. Arrived with them upon the bosom of this grand marine basin, these are the currents of the sea and the winds of heaven, so arranged by nature that they drift it and waft it down hill and down stream to the great marketplaces of the world."
THE ISTHMUS OF SUEZ COMPARED WITH THAT OF DARIEN.
Before taking up our journey, then, to Suez, let us look for a moment at the two isthmuses, side by side. Whoever casts the eye on a map of the great continents will hardly fail to mark some striking peculiarities common to both. One of these is the peninsular form of each, and its tending southward, either in a mass, as Africa and South America, or in broken peninsulas, as Southern Asia and Europe. A second peculiarity is the existence of island groups on the right hand of the southern limits of each continent; as the West Indies and the Falkland group, southeast of America and Australasia, southeast of the various peninsulas into which Asia is broken. A third and equally noticeable common mark appears in that narrow neck of land which, in each continent, joins the land masses and separates great seas the two isthmuses which we are considering. In the Eastern hemisphere, the land mass of Asia and Europe is thus joined to Africa by a neck of less than a hundred miles in extent. In the West, the great American Isthmus — of about fourteen hundred miles in its full extent from Tehauntepec to the Atrato river at one point narrows itself to even a less breadth than Suez. In the country of Darien proper it is scarcely more than thirty miles wide. And this further point of interest may be again noted on the world-map, that the Isthmus of Suez is but the center of the old continents, Asia, Europe, and Africa, while the American Isthmus is the center of oceans as well as of countries. The commercial value of this will be seen at a glance, and it belongs to the Isthmus of Darien.
The chief practical point of difference, in considering the American Isthmus and the African, with the view of opening up communication across each, is their opposite geological formation. Suez is an arid, sandy, longitudinal depression, of which more than one-half is on a level with or below the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The American Isthmus strikingly contrasts itself, in its being chiefly a ridge of the Great Cordilleras. Its counter-slope toward the Pacific is not in most places found to be extended. To cross the Isthmus of Suez is to encounter its drift sands, but scarcely an elevation whose mean height is above fifty feet. To cross Central America is to encounter, in Honduras, elevations of at least two thousand nine hundred feet; or, in Panama, the line of the lowest level as yet found, with any certainty, elevations from four hundred and fifty to two hundred and seventy feet. The summit ridge, on the Panama railroad, is two hundred and eighty-seven feet above the mean tide-level of the Atlantic.
The contrast between the two isthmuses is as marked from a historic point of view. Suez has witnessed the tramp of many armies, and the noise of busy trade around cities now wholly lost beneath the sands. The narrow neck of Darien has scarcely a historic record. M. de Lesseps, the engineer of the Suoz canal, remarks: "We cannot approach history without touching upon Suez; the Bible gives its early record; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the patriarchs, crossed it; Moses was rescued from a branch of the Nile running through it. Afterward the third station of his rescued people was Ethan, which still keeps