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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/348

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

not only, but of any known human power; a matter regulated by the unwritten laws of trade, laws not only unwritten but, except in their operation, entirely unknown; a result and not a process. Let Senator Cullom, for example, try and establish a trade-center, and he will speedily recognize the impossibility of it. And did Senator Cullom try, it would not be the first attempt. There are plenty of platted cities and towns to-day in the United States which have been laid out to make grass grow in the streets of actual cities in whose favor Nature and geography long ago decreed that they should be, in deed and in truth, trade-centers; and the platters, their successors and assigns, yet feel the hiatus made in their bank-accounts by payment for the costly honor of making valuable suggestions to the attraction of gravitation.

I need not, I suppose, refer, for example, to the plethora of "cities" and "city sites," whose prospects the vast dockage and trade territory of Chicago has superseded. But the force, the unwritten law, that has twice built the city of Chicago within the memory of men just entering middle age, was not devised by human brains. Perhaps a better answer to Senator Cullom's remarkable proposition about "trade-centers" could not be devised than a brief tracing of the operations of this law in this very building and rebuilding of a geographical trade center of this continent. And if it shall be said "even if human laws did not build Chicago, a lack of exact knowledge of this operation and an interstate jealousy of their inevitable result contributed to the building," yet that ignorance and jealousy, it may be replied, were a part of the result of the working of the law, rather than of the process by which it worked.

No human foresight placed Lake Michigan where it is. But human foresight did perceive that somewhere near its foot a great commercial center must some day arise. Various points were selected by shrewd pioneers; and if the reader will take down his map he will find them still indicated upon it—Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, and Michigan City were perhaps the most promising of these (the latter especially, since here was the very foot of the great trunk or tongue of navigable water which penetrated from the north into the rich central ridge of the nation, along which its integral artery of inland communication must run, and from whose head great navigable wings were spreading east and west). Yet, while all these points were selected, somehow the swamp where Chicago now lies was carefully avoided. But it seems those natural causes which we call laws of trade were in operation; the heavy settlement of the Ohio Valley sought its outlet on the lakes, and somehow the first practical expression of that search—a railroad—capped, not Milwaukee, Racine, or Kenosha, but the swamp where rose Chicago. And now occurred a wonderful thing. The jealousy of those lake-ports, which the laws of trade had passed aside in favor of Chicago, began to operate. Each