Open main menu

Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/183

This page needs to be proofread.

CHAPTER II The Valley of the Columbia Only After Centuries of West- ward Exploration Placed Upon the Map Becomes an Alluring American Interest on the Pacific Suffers Eclipse. With the conditions controlling the transportation to this region at the successive stages in mind, attention is now di- rected to the course of that development as it is swerved by these conditions. Beginning with the opening of modern times a long train of explorers, with more or less extended intervals of time between successive expeditions, set out from the west- ern nations intent upon finding a shorter passage to the Indies. To these the lands of the American continent were stumbling blocks. It required the contributions in turn of a Columbus, a Cabot, a Magellan, a Balboa, Verrazano and Hudson, a Verendrye, a trio of Spanish explorers Heceta, Perez and Cuadra; a McKenzie and Gray, and Lewis and Clark, to de- velop the map of this region. Captain Robert Gray and Lewis and Clark not only added features to the map but also laid the basis for the claim of the United States to this part of the continent. The mind of Thomas Jefferson, zealous for the advancement of scientific knowledge and for the pre-emption of the whole continent for the American idea of liberty and democracy, planned this last exploration. His purpose looked to the found- ing here of a sister republic rather than that of incorporating it as an integral part of the Federal Union. The difficulties of communication made no closer union feasible. The original motive of interest in this region had by this time been trans- formed from the purpose of finding an open sea route through this latitude to that of securing a practicable transcontinental passageway to a highly desirable territory from the eastern portion of the United States. The Astor project for the exploitation on a grand scale of the fur-bearing resources of the region came as a natural sequel to the Lewis and Clark exploration. Though a financial