Special  Exhibits
Special  Exhibits
Lee  Gaskins'    AT THE FAIR  The 1904 St. Louis World's   Fair 
                   Web  Design and Art/Illustration   copyrighted  2008
Special  Exhibits

Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen:

At the outset of my address let me recall to  the minds of my hearers that the soil upon which  we stand, before it was ours, was successively  the possession of two mighty empires, Spain and  France, whose sons made a deathless record of  heroism in the early annals of the New World.  No history of the Western country can be  written without paying heed to the wonderful  part played therein in the early days by the  soldiers, missionaries, explorers, and traders, who  did their work for the honor of the proud banners of France and Castile. While the settlers  of English-speaking stock, and those of Dutch,  German, and Scandinavian origin who were  associated with them, were still clinging close to  the Eastern seaboard, the pioneers of Spain and
of France had penetrated deep into the hitherto  unknown wilderness of the West and had wandered far and wide within the boundaries of  what is now our mighty country. The very  cities themselves — St. Louis, New Orleans,  Santa Fe, New Mexico — bear witness by their  titles to the nationalities of their founders. It was not until the Revolution had begun that the  English-speaking settlers pushed west across the  Alleghenies, and not until a century ago that  they entered in to possess the land upon which  we now stand.

We have met here to-day to commemorate  the hundredth anniversary of the event which  more than any other, after the foundation of the  Government and always excepting its preservation, determined the character of our national  life — determined that we should be a great expanding nation, instead of relatively a small and stationary one.

Of course it was not with the Louisiana  Purchase that our career of expansion began. In  the middle of the Revolutionary War the Illinois  region, including the present States of Illinois and  Indiana, was added to our domain by force of  arms, as a sequel to the adventurous expedition  of George Rogers Clarke and his frontier riflemen. Later the treaties of Jay and Pinckney  materially extended our real boundaries to the
west. But none of these events was of so striking  a character as to fix the popular imagination. The old Thirteen Colonies had always claimed that  their rights stretched westward to the Mississippi, and vague and unreal though these claims were  until made good by conquest, settlement, and  diplomacy, they still served to give the impression that the earliest westward movements  of our people were little more than the filling in of already existing national boundaries.  But there could be no illusion about the  acquisition of the vast territory beyond the  Mississippi, stretching westward to the Pacific,  which in that day was known as Louisiana.

This immense region was admittedly the territory of a foreign power, of a European kingdom. None of our people had ever laid claim  to a foot of it. Its acquisition could in no sense  be treated as rounding out any existing claims.  When we acquired it we made evident once for  all that consciously and of set purpose we had embarked on a career of expansion, that we had  taken our place among those daring and hardy
nations who risk much with the hope and desire  of winning high position among the great powers of the earth. As is so often the case in nature,  the law of development of a living organism showed itself in its actual workings to be wiser  than the wisdom of the wisest. This work of expansion was by far the greatest work of our people during the years  that intervened between the adoption of the  Constitution and the outbreak of the Civil War.  There were other questions of real moment and  importance, and there were many which at the  time seemed such to those engaged in answering  them; but the greatest feat of our forefathers of  those generations was the deed of the men who,  with pack train or wagon train, on horseback, on  foot, or by boat upon the waters, pushed the  frontier ever westward across the continent.

Never before had the world seen the kind of  national expansion which gave our people all  that part of the American continent lying west  of the thirteen original States ; the greatest landmark in which was the Louisiana Purchase.  Our triumph in this process of expansion was  indissolubly bound up with the success of our peculiar kind of federal government; and this  success has been so complete that because of its  very completeness we now sometimes fail to  appreciate not only the all-importance but the  tremendous difficulty of the problem with which  our nation was originally faced.   When our forefathers joined to call into being
this Nation, they undertook a task for which there was but little encouraging precedent. The  development of civilization from the earliest  period seemed to show the truth of two propositions: In the first place, it had always proved  exceedingly difficult to secure both freedom and  strength in any government; and, in the second place, it had always proved well-nigh impossible  for a nation to expand without either breaking up or becoming a centralized tyranny. With  the success of our effort to combine a strong and  efficient national union, able to put down disorder at home and to maintain our honor and  interest abroad, I have not now to deal. This success was signal and all-important, but it was by  no means unprecedented in the same sense that our type of expansion was unprecedented. The  history of Rome and of Greece illustrates very  well the two types of expansion which had taken  place in ancient time, and which had been universally accepted as the only possible types up  to the period when as a nation we ourselves  began to take possession of this continent.

The Grecian States performed remarkable  feats of colonization, but each colony as soon as  created became entirely independent of the  mother State, and in after years was almost apt to prove its enemy as its friend. Local self-government, local independence, was secured,  but only by the absolute sacrifice of anything
resembling national unity. In consequence, the  Greek world, for all its wonderful brilliancy and its extraordinary artistic, literary, and philosophical development, which has made all mankind its debtors for the ages, was yet wholly unable  to withstand a formidable foreign foe, save spasmodically. As soon as powerful, permanent empires arose on its outskirts, the Greek States  in neighborhood of such empires fell under their  sway. National power and greatness were completely sacrificed to local liberty.

With Rome the exact opposite occurred.  The imperial city rose to absolute dominion over  all the peoples of Italy, and then expanded her  rule over the entire civilized world by a process  which kept the nation strong and united, but  gave no room whatever for local liberty and self-government. All other cities and countries
were subject to Rome. In consequence this  great and masterful race of warriors, rulers, road-builders, and administrators stamped their indelible impress upon all the after life of our race, and  yet let an over-centralization eat out the vitals of their empire until it became an empty shell;  so that when the barbarians came they destroyed  only what had already become worthless to the  world.

The underlying viciousness of each type of  expansion was plain enough and the remedy now  seems simple enough. But when the fathers of  the Republic first formulated the Constitution  under which we live, this remedy was untried and  no one could foretell how it would work. They  themselves began the experiment almost immediately by adding new States to the original  thirteen. Excellent people in the East viewed  this initial expansion of the country with great  alarm. Exactly as during the Colonial period  many good people in the mother country  thought it highly important that settlers should  be kept out of the Ohio Valley in the interest of  the fur companies, so after we had become a  Nation many good people on the Atlantic coast  felt grave apprehension lest they might somehow  be hurt by the westward growth of the Nation.  These good people shook their heads over the  formation of States in the fertile Ohio Valley,  which now forms part of the heart of our Nation;  and they declared that the destruction of the Republic had been accomplished when through the Louisiana Purchase we acquired nearly half  of what is now that same Republic's present  territory. Nor was their feeling unnatural.  Only the adventurous and the far-seeing can be  expected heartily to welcome the process of expansion, for the nation that expands is a nation  which is entering upon a great career, and with greatness there must of necessity come perils  which daunt all save the most stout-hearted.

We expanded by carving the wilderness into  Territories, and out of these Territories building  new States when once they had received as  permanent settlers a sufficient number of our  own people. Being a practical nation we have  never tried to force on any section of our new  territory an unsuitable form of government  merely because it was suitable for another section  under different conditions. Of the territory  covered by the Louisiana Purchase a portion  was given statehood within a few years. Another portion has not been admitted to statehood, although a century has elapsed — although  doubtless it soon will be. In each case we  showed the practical governmental genius of our  race by devising methods suitable to meet the actual existing needs; not by insisting upon the  application of some abstract shibboleth to all our  new possessions alike, no matter how incongruous this application might sometimes be.

Over by far the major part of the territory,  however, our people spread in such numbers  during the course of the nineteenth century that  we were able to build up State after State, each  with exactly the same complete local independence in all matters affecting purely its own  domestic interests as in any of the original thirteen States — each owing the same absolute fealty to  the Union of all the States which each of the  original thirteen States also owes — and finally each  having the same proportional right to its share  in shaping and directing the common policy of  the Union which is possessed by any other State,  whether of the original thirteen or not.

This process now seems to us part of the  natural order of things, but it was wholly  unknown until our own people devised it. It  seems to us a mere matter of course, a matter of  elementary right and justice, that in the deliberations of the national representative bodies the  representatives of a State which came into the
Union but yesterday stand on a footing of exact  and entire equality with those of the Commonwealths whose sons once signed the Declaration  of Independence. But this way of looking at  the matter is purely modern, and in its origin  purely American. When Washington during  his Presidency saw new States come into the  Union on a footing of complete equality with  the old, every European nation which had  colonies still administered them as dependencies,  and every other mother-country treated the  colonist not as a self-governing equal but as a subject.

The process which we began has since been  followed by all the great peoples who were capable both of expansion and of self-government, and  now the world accepts it as the natural process,  as the rule; but a century and a quarter ago it  was not merely exceptional; it was unknown.

This, then, is the great historic significance  of the movement of continental expansion in  which the Louisiana Purchase was the most  striking single achievement. It stands out in  marked relief even among the feats of a nation  of pioneers, a nation whose people have from the  beginning been picked out by a process of natural selection from among the most enterprising individuals of the nations of western  Europe. The acquisition of the territory is  a credit to the broad and far-sighted statesmanship of the great statesmen to whom it was  immediately due, and, above all, to the aggressive  and masterful character of the hardy pioneer folk to whose restless energy these statesmen  gave expression and direction, whom they followed rather than led. The history of the land  comprised within the limits of the Purchase is  an epitome of the entire history of our people. 

Within these limits we have gradually built up  State after State, until now they many times  over surpass in wealth, in population, and in  many sided development, the original thirteen  States as they were when their delegates met in  the Continental Congress. The people of these  States have shown themselves mighty in war with their fellow-men, and mighty in strength  to tame the rugged wilderness. They could not  thus have conquered the forest and the prairie, the  mountain and the desert, had they not possessed  the great fighting virtues, the qualities which  enable a people to overcome the forces of hostile  men and hostile nature. On the other hand,  they could not have used aright their conquest had they not in addition possessed the qualities of self-mastery and self-restraint, the power of  acting in combination with their fellows, the  power of yielding obedience to the law and of  building up an orderly civilization. Courage and  hardihood are indispensable virtues in a people;  but the people which possesses no others can  never rise high in the scale either of power or of  culture. Great peoples must have in addition  the governmental capacity which comes only  when individuals fully recognize their duties to  one another and to the whole body politic, and  are able to join together in feats of constructive  statesmanship and of honest and effective administration.

The old pioneer days are gone, with their  roughness and their hardship, their incredible  toil and their wild, half-savage romance. But  the need of the pioneer virtues remains the same  as ever. The peculiar frontier conditions have  vanished; but the manliness and stalwart hardihood of the frontiersmen can be given even freer scope under the conditions surrounding the complex industrialism of the present day. In this  great region, acquired for our people under the  Presidency of Jefferson, this region stretching  from the Gulf to the Canadian border, from the  Mississippi to the Rockies, the material and  social progress has been so vast that alike for weal and for woe its people now share the  opportunities and bear the burdens common to  the entire civilized world. The problems before  us are fundamentally the same east and west of  the Mississippi, in the new States and in the old,  and exactly the same qualities are required for  their successful solution.

We meet here to-day to commemorate a  great event, an event which marks an era in  statesmanship no less than in pioneering. It is  fitting that we should pay our homage in words;  but we must in honor make our words good by  deeds. We have every right to take a just  pride in the great deeds of our forefathers; but
we show ourselves unworthy to be their descendants if we make what they did an excuse for our
lying supine instead of an incentive to the effort  to show ourselves by our acts worthy of them.  In the administration of city, State, and nation,  in the management of our home life and the  conduct of our business and social relations, we  are bound to show certain high and fine qualities  of character, under penalty of seeing the whole heart of our civilization eaten out when the body  still lives.

We justly pride ourselves on our marvelous  material prosperity, and such prosperity must  exist in order to establish a foundation upon  which a higher life can be built; but unless we  do in very fact build this higher life thereon, the  material prosperity itself will go for but very  little. Now, in 1903, in the altered conditions,
we must meet the changed and changing problems with the spirit shown by the men who in  1803 and in subsequent years gained, explored,  conquered, and settled this vast territory, then a  desert, now filled with thriving and populous  States.

The old days were great because the men  who lived in them had mighty qualities; and we  must make the new days great by showing these  same qualities. We must insist upon courage  and resolution, upon hardihood, tenacity, and  fertility in resource; we must insist upon the  strong,  virtues; and we must insist no less  upon the virtues of self-restraint, self-mastery,  regard for the rights of others; we must show
our abhorrence of cruelty, brutality, and corruption, in public and in private life alike. If we come short in any of these qualities we shall  measurably fail; and if, as I believe we surely  shall, we develop these qualities in the future to  an even greater degree than in the past, then in  the century now beginning we shall make of this  Republic the freest and most orderly, the most  just and most mighty, nation which has ever
come forth from the womb of time.