Open main menu

Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/186

This page needs to be proofread.


CHAPTER III The Rising Tide of Schemes and Agitation for u, Transconti- nental Railway to the Oregon Country, 1818-1850. Through the treaties with England and Spain, 1818 and 1819, respectively, our national foothold on the Pacific Coast was fully acknowledged. Our southern boundary was the forty-second parallel ; but until 1846 we were not able to come to an agreement with Great Britain on a line for a northern boundary. In the interval the status of "joint occupation" obtained for the coast between latitudes forty-two degrees and fifty-four degrees and forty minutes north. Here then was a possession on the opposite side of the continent, with resources largely undetermined, though some were known to be of ex- ceedingly great value ; through it was the natural gateway to the commerce of the Pacific and to that of the Orient. Amer- ican explorers had proven the practicability of the overland route. The American frontier was being pushed rapidly to the west. Traders, missionaries and home-builders even, representing our nationality, were defying difficulties and dangers and in regularly increasing numbers were making their way over the continent to this possession facing the western sea. Invention was making available more and more effective means for over- coming distance. All these circumstances appealed to the national sense of duty and strengthened the motive urging the undertaking of the construction of a transcontinental highway. Responses were not slow in coming. An anonymous com- munication appeared in the American Farmer of Baltimore, July 9, 1819, suggesting the Bactrian Camel as the means by which the speedy communication between the opposite sides of the continent might be obtained. The same need of binding together these remote portions of the country was referred to that Washington had urged in pleading for closer communi- cation between the Ohio Valley and the Atlantic seaboard. "Less broken intercourse," must be had, "with the opposite coast of our continent, before the settlements, which must,