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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/184

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176 F. G. YOUNG failure Astor's enterprise added much to our knowledge of the country and strengthened the basis of our claims to it. When in 1819 we added the former rights of Spain to ter- ritory north of the 42nd parallel to our previous basis for claiming it, our title was clear to at least a share of this re- gionĀ ; and the motive for securing means of transportation to it was reinforced. The more visionary and audacious in pre- senting schemes began to plan conditions for immediate and general occupation of it. Agitation in and out of Congress, projects for trade and colonization, for the planting of mis- sionary stations among the Indians there, brought the region into the consciousness of the restless pioneering element among our population. The idea of rivalling the activities of the English traders already in this farthest West, contributed in stirring up the American frontiersmen to the point of action. Annual cavalcades of pioneers were early in the forties on the way across the plains to the valley of the Columbia. The building of a transcontinental railway to this territory was then only a matter of time. But the Oregon country was not to continue the leading American interest on the Pacific. The discovery of gold in California, to the south of this region, and the influx of vast hordes of gold-seekers, who were to remain as settlers, just when this El Dorado became a possession of the United States, transferred the interest from the Columbia to the Sacramento Valley and made the building of a railroad thither a matter of but a few years, while the Pacific Northwest was, as it were, to fall into the background. Without equally alluring attractions settlement was slow and it was destined to remain in isolation for decades. The fair promise of continuing to be the leading American community on the Pacific Coast, as its auspicious beginning seemed to presage, suffered eclipse. While there had been no actual railway construction during the three decades in which the Pacific Northwest, so to speak, held the center of the stage, from the very year of our undisputed right to sovereignty there plans and projects were being submitted for securing