Annual address of the president of the American Historical Association, delivered at Toronto, December 28, 1932. From the American Historical Review 38, no. 3 (Apr., 1933): 448-474.

The Epic of Greater America



The membership of the American Historical Association used to consist almost exclusively of residents of the United States. At the time when it was formed a more exact name for the organization would have been “The United States Historical Association.” In recent years the situation has changed. The interests of the body have greatly expanded, and membership has come to include numerous citizens of other American countries, especially of Canada. This widening of the clientele and of the outlook of the Association, together with the holding of the present annual meeting in a Canadian city, would seem to give special fitness to a presidential address dealing with some of the larger aspects of Western Hemisphere history. I have therefore chosen for my subject this evening, The Epic of Greater America.

There is need of a broader treatment of American history, to supplement the purely nationalistic presentation to which we are accustomed. European history cannot be learned from books dealing alone with England, or France, or Germany, or Italy, or Russia; nor can American history be adequately presented if confined to Brazil, or Chile, or Mexico, or Canada, or the United States. In my own country the study of thirteen English colonies and the United States in isolation has obscured many of the larger factors in their development, and helped to raise up a nation of chauvinists. Similar distortion has resulted from the teaching and writing of national history in other American countries.

It is time for a change. The increasing importance of inter-American relations makes imperative a better understanding by each of the history and the culture of all. A synthetic view is important not alone for its present day political and commercial implications; it is quite as desirable from the standpoint of correct historiography.1

For some three hundred years the whole Western Hemisphere was colonial in status. European peoples occupied the country, transplanted their cultures, and adapted themselves to the American scene. Rival nations devised systems for exploiting natives and natural resources, and competed for profit and possession. Some of the contestants were eliminated, leaving at the end of the eighteenth century Spain, Portugal, England, and Russia as the chief colonial powers in America.

By this time most of the European colonies in America had grown up; they now asserted their majority. In the half century between 1776 and 1826, practically all of South America and two-thirds of North America became politically independent of Europe, and a score of nations came into being. Eventually, the entire Western Hemisphere, with minor exceptions, has achieved independent nationality. Since separation from Europe these nations alike have been striving on the one hand for national solidarity, political stability, and economic well being, and on the other hand for a satisfactory adjustment of relations with each other and with the rest of the world.

Our national historians, especially in the United States, are prone to write of these broad phases of American history as though they were applicable to one country alone. It is my purpose, by a few bold strokes, to suggest that they are but phases common to most portions of the entire Western Hemisphere; that each local story will have clearer meaning when studied in the light of the others; and that much of what has been written of each national history is but a thread out of a larger strand.


Columbus drew the curtain of the American stage not for Spaniards alone, but for all the European players. This navigator himself seems to have been international, if we may judge from the number of his birthplaces. His daring voyage set in motion a race for the Orient in which several nations took part. The Cabots for England reached the shores of northeastern America and returned home with boats smelling of fish. Portuguese adventurers, sailing around Africa, reached India and set up an empire there. Spain, finding the American continent in the way, sought a route through or around the unexpected nuisance. When Magellan found a southern strait for Spain, Verrazano and Cartier for France, and Thorne for England, in imitation, scurried to find a passage further north. Spain set the fashion; the others tried to keep the pace.

Discovery was followed by exploitation and colonization. This, likewise, was not a matter of one nation, but of many. Spain and Portugal led the way. They not only explored and exploited, but they colonized extensively and permanently, and their experience was utilized by later comers. In rapid succession Spain occupied the West Indies, Central America, Mexico, and all South America except the eastern seaboard. There Brazil is an imposing monument to tiny Portugal. On the mainland Spaniards first settled among the advanced peoples. Mayas, Aztecs, Pueblos, Chibchas, and Incas. These natives were easiest to conquer, were most worth exploiting, and their women made the best cooks. It happened, too, that most areas of advanced primitive culture were regions rich in mineral deposits.

The dominant position of Spain and Portugal in America at the end of the sixteenth century was truly remarkable. No other European power had established a single permanent settlement. Portugal monopolized the Brazilian seaboard. Spain had colonies all the way from Buenos Aires to the Rio Grande. Two-thirds of the Western Hemisphere was then Hispanic, and so it has remained to this day. Spain’s exalted position in the New World at the time is illustrated by the enemies who then rose up against her.

The North European countries and France rounded no permanent American colonies in the sixteenth century. But all were interested in expansion in similar ways. All took to the sea. All desired a share in the trade of America and the Far East. All tried to break down the monopoly of Spain and Portugal. All made intrusions into the Caribbean and the South American mainland. Britons braved winds and ice floes in an effort to find a Northwest Passage. French sea dogs, Dutch sea dogs, and English sea dogs alike plundered vessels and sacked towns all round the Hispanic American periphery. In defence Spain adopted a commercial fleet system, formed a West Indian armada, and walled her towns on the Caribbean coasts. One of these stanch old defences tourists see today at Cartagena. The fortifications at Havana and St. Augustine had a similar origin. The French intruded into Carolina, Florida, and Brazil, but were effectively expelled from all three. Raleigh attempted to found colonies in Carolina; his Orinoco project sent him to the block. Drake became a millionaire by plundering Spaniards, was crowned Great Hioh by the Indians near San Francisco Bay, and talked of a New Albion in California, long before there was a New England on the Atlantic Coast.

Then a new chapter opened. At the dawn of the seventeenth century North Europe and France began to found permanent colonies in the Caribbean and on the North American mainland. Being late comers, they established themselves in the left over areas. We Saxon Americans to-day may regard our respective countries as Promised Lands, reserved for God’s chosen people. But our Saxon ancestors froze and starved in them primarily because their Hispanic contemporaries were firmly entrenched in the sunnier climes. The late comers made vigorous and long-continued attempts to get a foothold on the whole Atlantic seaboard of South America, but found the way blocked by the Portuguese. This is one of the chapters we forget.2

The favorite colonies of the late comers at the outset were those planted in the Caribbean and Guiana. French, Dutch, English, and Danes settled side by side in the Lesser Antilles, jostled each other, and warred with Spain. They established tropical plantations, trading stations, and buccaneering bases. Till the end of the century, investors’ profits were vastly greater here than on the mainland. In 1676 the immigrant population of little Barbados alone was larger than that of all New England.

But the future for these new comers was in the northern continent, with its wide expanse, and its unappropriated back country. Here North Europe and France might hope to achieve something of the renown and a fraction of the wealth which Hispanic Europe had won in Mexico and South America. So France, Holland, Sweden, and England all planted colonies on the northern main.

The details need not detain us. France occupied Acadia, the St. Lawrence Valley, the Alabama and Mississippi basins, and the Canadian prairies. The Swedes and the Dutch settled on the Delaware and the Hudson. England rounded subtropical plantations in the South, diversified colonies on the Dutch and Swedish foundations, a coastwise and industrial society in New England, fishing stations in the northeastern waters, and fur trading posts about the shores of Hudson Bay. New England was redolent of fish and brimstone; New France at first was largely a matter of skins and souls. the skins of beaver and the souls of the heathen.

Thus by the end of the seventeenth century European colonies and trading posts formed a fringe like a figure eight clear around the rim of both Americas, from Hudson Bay to the head of the Gulf of California. Middle America was occupied from ocean to ocean, and long salients had been thrust into the interior of the wider continental areas. England alone had not thirteen but nearly thirty colonies in the islands and on the Atlantic seaboard, strung all the way from Guiana to Hudson Bay. As commonly used, the phrase “Original Thirteen” has been very misleading and even pernicious. It does not mean the original colonies at all, but the original states of the American Union.

In these peripheral regions of the two continents the Europeans settled on the land, adjusted themselves to the American environment, devised systems for utilizing natural resources, and transplanted European cultures. Governments were set up, cities rounded, religious institutions perpetuated, schools and colleges begun. The universities of Mexico and Lima date from 1551, the Jesuit College of Quebec, ancestor of Laval University, from 1635, Harvard from 1636, William and Mary from 1695, and Yale from 1701. Till near the end of the eighteenth century not Boston, not New York, not Charleston, not Quebec, but Mexico City was the metropolis of the entire Western Hemisphere.

Likenesses in the colonial systems were more striking than differences. All the nations entertained mercantilistic views of colonies. that is to say, they were for the benefit of their own people. Government at first was of the contemporary European pattern, adapted to the American frontier. Nearly every mother country revived in America some vestige of feudalism. Spain tried the encomienda, Portugal the capitanía, Holland the patroon system, England the proprietary grant, France the seigniory.

In all tropical areas Negro slavery was common. Native policies varied according to the natives. Indian tribes were everywhere used as buffers against European rivals. Intractable Indians were everywhere driven back or killed off. Sedentary tribes were subdued, preserved, and exploited. In New Spain they were held in encomienda; in South Carolina, Brazil, and Dutch America, and in the island colonies generally they were enslaved; in New France and in mainland English America they were utilized in the fur trade. Europeans who came without their women married native girls. Half breeds were numerous in Hispanic and French America, and squawmen were the rule on all French, Dutch, and English frontiers. In the Chickasaw nation in 1792 a fourth of the one thousand heads of Indian families were white men, mainly English. To-day French, English, and Scotch “breeds” are numerous in Manitoba, Labrador, and northern California, and dark cheeked oil queens are popular with white men in Oklahoma.

In one respect the Indian policies of the Latin countries differed essentially from those of the Saxons. The Latins considered the Indian worth civilizing and his soul worth saving. This was due largely to the influence of the Church. So in Brazil, Spanish America, and New France the missionary played a conspicuous role. There Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Jesuits, and other orders labored on every border, and founded Indian missions and Indian schools. The brilliant Parkman made widely known the heroic work of the Jesuits in New France. Less famous in Saxon circles is the equally heroic and vastly more extensive work of the Jesuits in Spanish and Portuguese America. In colonial Mexico alone there were probably ten times as many Jesuits as in New France.


Beginning on the rim of the continent, these European settlers pushed into the interior, opening new mines, new missions, new plantations, new farms, new trading posts, new administrative jurisdictions. Sometimes the advance to the hinterland was a westward movement, sometimes it was eastward, sometimes southward, sometimes northward. Everywhere contact with frontier environment and native peoples tended to modify the Europeans and their institutions. This was quite as true in the Latin as in the Saxon colonies.

Colonial expansion involved international rivalry. This, too, embraced the entire hemisphere. In Saxon America the story of the “struggle for the continent” has usually been told as though it all happened north of the Gulf of Mexico. But this is just another provincialism of ours. The southern continent was the scene of international conflicts quite as colorful and fully as significant as those in the north.

Minor rivalries occurred in Guiana, where France, Holland, and England exploited the region side by side. England for a century tried without success to break into the Spanish Main, and called into being the viceroyalty of New Granada. Into Portuguese America the French and Dutch intruded with great vigor and dogged tenacity.

But the major contest for territory in the austral continent was between Brazil and her Spanish neighbors to the west and south. Here an empire equal in area to the Mississippi Valley was at stake. By papal grant and royal treaty Portugal was restricted to a narrow strip on the Atlantic shore. So said the documents. But this delimitation made little difference in fact. Snapping their fingers at decrees and treaties, hardy Brazilians pushed their frontiers rapidly west, rounded Portuguese settlements in the interior, and plundered Spanish outposts on the Paraguay border. The Brazilian drive toward the Andes strongly resembles the westward movement in the United States and Canada.

Spain contested these inroads. In resisting them the Jesuits played a dramatic part. Their Paraguay missions became a buffer province to restrain the aggressive Portuguese. From middle Paraguay they extended their reductions above the great falls of the Paraná. There for twenty years they prospered, and then the Portuguese hammer fell upon them. Within three years thousands of mission Indians were carried off as slaves to Brazil. With the remainder. twelve thousand neophytes. Father Montoya and his associates fled helter-skelter in river craft five hundred miles down the stream, skirting through tropical forests the ninety miles of falls and rapids that broke navigation. This stirring episode antedated by more than a hundred and twenty years the Acadian expulsion which it somewhat resembled, and it determined the fate of a territory vastly greater in size. Striking new root in the south, the Jesuits defended that border for another century, sometimes by open warfare. The left bank of the lower Plata was another scene of long continued give and take. Brazil edged south at her neighbor’s expense, but Spain managed to hold the region that became the Republic of Uruguay. The middle eighteenth century saw the border contest come to a head. With English backing, Portugal had the advantage. In 1750 by treaty Brazil was given a boundary much like that of to-day. Thus the Line of Demarcation, fixed in the time of Columbus and Cabral, was sadly bent, and Brazil came to occupy nearly half of South America.

There was another chapter in this story. To restrain the Portuguese from further encroachments and to keep out the threatening English, who had now occupied the Falkland Islands, Spain established the viceroyalty of La Plata, with its capital at Buenos Aires. This was one of the significant American events of 1776. It did much to determine the destiny of the southern continent.

The scene now shifts to the top of the map. Here again the story has been distorted through a provincial view of history. The contest for North America is usually represented as falling between 1689 and 1763, confined chiefly to the valleys of the Ohio and the St. Lawrence, and ending on the Plains of Abraham. But this is far too restricted a view. The story neither began on the Ohio nor ended at Quebec.

In eastern North America territorial rivalry began with the first intrusions of other Europeans into Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. In the sixteenth century the intruders merely barked at the Spaniards’ heels. In the seventeenth century, long before 1689, important transfers of territory were effected both in the islands and on the mainland. By settlement of unoccupied islands, England, France, and Holland absorbed many regions stubbornly claimed but neglected by Spain. England conquered Jamaica, and the French took western Haiti. On the mainland, both Virginia and South Carolina were settled by England in the face of Spanish resistance; Swedes on the Delaware and Dutch on the Hudson soon found themselves in the maw of the British empire. For decades the buccaneers ravaged Spain’s Caribbean shores. Jamaica was the focus; Seitz has given us a telling refrain:

Ho! Henry Morgan sails today
To harry the Spanish Main,
With a pretty bill for the Dons to pay
Ere he comes back again.
For this harrying Morgan, like Drake, was knighted.

Then followed the more militant rivalry which Parkman has so brilliantly depicted as the Half Century of Conflict. It was a death grip of England not with France alone but with both France and Spain for eastern North America. On the American mainland fur trade and Indian alliances played a significant rôle. In the Caribbean and Georgia the Anglo-Spanish contest still raged. Not only Louisbourg and Quebec, but also Cartagena, Porto Bello, Havana, and St. Augustine, were targets for English cannon.

The long struggle was marked by five European wars. In each of them nearly all international frontiers were war zones. the Caribbean, the Spanish Main, the Florida-Georgia border, Acadia, Hudson Bay. In the contest Carolinians duplicated on a smaller scale in Georgia and Florida the savage Portuguese raids on the Spanish missions of Paraguay. In one campaign an ex-governor of South Carolina destroyed thirteen Spanish missions, burned Fathers Parga and Miranda at the stake, and carried off more than a thousand mission Indians. Bit by bit England shaved off both borderlands. France yielded her claims to Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Acadia; Oglethorpe’s intruding colony broke Spain’s hold on Georgia. But “Old Grog” Vernon’s disaster in the War of Jenkins’s Ear checked English designs on the Spanish Main. There Spain remained intact, for yellow fever was a faithful ally of the Dons. Incidentally, through Washington’s brother, who served in the Cartagena campaign, this war gave the United States a name for its national shrine, Mt. Vernon.

The final clash with France in this chapter of history came when English settlers threatened the French hold on the Ohio Valley. The classic story needs no repetition here. Leaden plates and a line of posts signalized French determination to hold on. France was encouraged by four years of success; the tide turned when Pitt took the helm for England. With Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham, French rule in mainland North America ended.

But the close of French rule did not remove the French people. Here historians often forget. The French settlers remained, continued to be pathfinders in the West, and their prolific descendants to-day constitute a third of Canada’s population. Yankee institutions have edged across the line into British North America. As an offset, French Canadians have pushed south and contributed greatly to the economic life of New England.

The end was not yet. The contest for the continent did not close with the Portuguese drive for the Andes, with the absorption of Spain’s Caribbean islands, nor with England’s victory at Quebec. Western North America was similarly involved. International rivalry was quite as much a feature of western as of eastern America, even in colonial days, and its story cannot properly be separated from the other. The stage for the contest for the continent was as wide as the hemisphere and its adjacent seas. It was international rivalry that brought into existence as organized communities nearly all the Spanish borderland areas of the Southwest and the Pacific Coast. These stirring episodes, if treated at all, have been considered only as local history, but they are a part of the general theme. They are no more local history than is the struggle for the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi Valley.

On her northern borderland Spain’s expansion was largely defensive. The French intruded into Carolina and Georgia, Menéndez expelled them, and founded Florida. Into Texas Spain was forced by a later French intrusion. La Salle founded his short-lived colony on the Gulf as a base for seizing the mines of Mexico, not primarily, as Parkman says, to hold back the English. Spain, roused to action, planted temporary settlements in the Piney Woods of eastern Texas. Iberville rounded Louisiana, split Spain’s Gulf possessions in two, and France again threatened the western country. But Spain came back. By a counter stroke she now permanently settled Texas. In the course of the contest the Marquís de Aguayo marched a thousand miles, at the head of cavalry raised at his own expense, restored Spain’s posts beyond the Trinity, and returned to the Rio Grande on foot, through loss of nearly five thousand horses in a blizzard. Aguayo saved Texas for Spain and made Napoleon’s pretension and Jefferson’s claim to the province as a part of Louisiana an historical joke. During the same international episode in which Aguayo recovered Texas for Spain, the French advance up the Platte River was met by a Spanish gesture from Santa Fe toward occupying the region which is now eastern Colorado.

Louisiana tells a similar story. The Seven Years’ War gave North America a new map west of the Mississippi as well as east of it. At the end of the struggle Spain found herself in possession of half of the former patrimony of France, and frowning at England across the Father of Waters. Acquired by Carlos III. in the stress of conflict, Louisiana was occupied and developed by Spain primarily as a buffer province to hold back first the English and then the Anglo-Americans.

Upper California was likewise a child of international rivalry. Jesuit missionaries had carried the Spanish frontier into Arizona and Lower California. There it stood. Then the Russian Bear threatened. Bering explored the North Pacific and Russians planted posts in Alaska. So Spain moved up the map once more. Portolá and Serra planted garrisons and missions at San Diego and Monterey. A few days before the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Philadelphia, San Francisco was founded on the Pacific Coast. It was planted as an outpost to hold the northwestern border of Spain’s vast empire, a realm which extended from the Strait of Magellan to the Golden Gate. Though less a matter of bullets, the rounding of San Francisco was as much a part of world history as was Wolfe’s victory at Quebec. It was another of the significant events of 1776.


Then came the American Revolution. This too was by no means a local matter. It lasted half a century–from 1776 to 1826–and it witnessed the political separation of most of America from Europe. The event was perhaps inevitable. Spain, Portugal, and England had founded vigorous colonies. They grew up and asserted their majority. The revolutions were the surest signs that the mother countries had succeeded. Thirteen of the English colonies led the way; Spanish and Portuguese America followed. Throwing off their status as wards, English, Spanish, and Portuguese colonists set themselves up as American nations. Viewed thins broadly the American Revolution takes on larger significance.

Of the revolt of the Thirteen English colonies little need be said before this audience. The causes were inherent in the situation. Beginning as a struggle for redress of grievances, it quickly became a war for independence. Soon the contest became international, a fact which determined the outcome. France, Spain, and Holland joined the colonial cause against England. Spain drove the British soldiery from the lower Mississippi and recovered the Floridas. In the final victory the French navy played a decisive part. The treaty of peace was a shock to European monarchs. It recognized not only a Western Hemisphere nation, but a nation with a democratic form of government. Through hostility to England the rest of Europe had contributed toward the ultimate loss of all colonial America and toward the undermining of the monarchical system.

The independence of the United States was not fully assured by the surrender at Yorktown. For the next third of a century European interests in the Mississippi Valley were a menace to the continued independence and the growth of the new republic. The shadow of Europe lay deep over the West. The infant nation was not born a giant, and many persons of prominence thought it would fail. European powers looked on with interest. If the young upstart ceased to exist, they would be on hand to share the estate; if it survived, they would check its growth and dominate its fortunes. The danger was averted only by the jealousy and the long conflict among the Europeans themselves, and by the vigor of American growth. Spain threatened the Southwest. England occupied an analogous position north of the Ohio. France was more dangerous than either. She hoped to dominate the Ohio Valley, or even to separate it from the United States. In this she failed, but by browbeating Spain, Napoleon regained Louisiana. Then, suddenly, his colonial plans having changed, he sold it to the United States for a song. The shadow of France in the West was dispelled.

The revolt of thirteen of the thirty British colonies laid the foundations not of one but of two English speaking nations in North America. One was the United States; the other was the Dominion of Canada. Before 1776 Canada was mainly French in race stock. The settlers who now arrived made up the first large English speaking element in the country. In the revolt of the colonies the people were far from unanimous. Only thirteen of the provinces joined, though appeals were made to all. The Maritime Provinces, Quebec, the two Floridas, and the island colonies, all stood by the mother country. Even in the thirteen a third of the people were opposed to the revolution.

Under harsh treatment by the separatists, thousands of these Loyalists emigrated during and after the war. Going to Halifax became a well recognized pursuit. Some settled in the old Maritime Provinces, and others in newly formed New Brunswick. Still others flocked to Upper Canada. the Ontario of to-day. So British Canada was largely American in origin. These United Empire Loyalists, founders of this city,3 and a multitude of others, were Canada’s Pilgrim Fathers. It was they who did the most to shape the history of the vast domain north of the United States. The small seed of empire which they planted beside the French colony has grown to be the great Dominion of Canada.

Two American nations had been founded. But the revolution had only started. At the end of the eighteenth century only a small patch on the American map had won its independence from Europe. Portugal still ruled Brazil, and Spain’s power was intact all the way from Patagonia to the borders of Oregon. But the revolution went on.

A third of a century behind the English colonies those of Spain and Portugal rose in revolt. In the two cases there were similarities and contrasts. The causes were in many respects alike. In both movements independence was achieved through outside aid. The area involved in Hispanic was ten times that in English America, and the population several times larger. In Hispanic America there were vastly greater obstacles to united action than in English America. Mountains and distance gave more effective isolation. As a consequence there were separate revolutionary movements in the different areas, and several nations resulted.

External influences played a prominent part in bringing the revolution about. England and France, trade rivals of Spain, plotted the liberation of her colonies. Subversive French philosophy penetrated Spanish America in spite of all efforts to keep it out. Young Creoles were educated in Europe. English and American contact through smuggling spread liberal ideas. The revolt of the English colonies, the French Revolution, and the independence of Santo Domingo furnished examples. Napoleon started the ball a’rolling by seating his brother Joseph on the throne of Spain. Spanish American resistance to the usurper soon changed into a war for separation.

Independence came to Brazil without bloodshed. Here as in Spanish America, Napoleon set things in motion. When he threatened to depose the Braganzas in Portugal, John, Prince Regent, fled with his court to Brazil. By his liberal policy he stirred new life in the quiescent colony. Brazil became a kingdom, John returned to Portugal and left his son Pedro as regent. Brazil and Portugal now grew apart. Ordered home, Pedro refused, raised the Grito de Ypiranga, declared for independence, and became emperor (1822).

The wars of independence in Spanish South America were an imposing military drama. Miranda the Precursor led the way in Venezuela. Bolívar the Liberator assumed his mantle. For fifteen years this brilliant figure moved back and forth across the continent, setting up republics, defeated here, winning victories there. Then for a time the revolution was nearly stamped out. But Bolívar had a way of coming back. Aided by British volunteers. veterans released after Napoleon’s fall. he crossed the Andes where they are thirteen thousand feet high, routed the royalists, and completed the revolution in the North. This Washington of South America well merited his title of El Libertador. In the North the dominating figure of Bolívar gave unity to the war. In the South there was less cohesion, but the cause prevailed. By 1816 the Argentine was practically free. Dr. Francia expelled the royalists and set up a republic in Paraguay. In the Bandit Oriental Artigas, the picturesque Gaucho chieftain, laid the foundations of Uruguayan nationality. The rebel forces of the North and the South now closed in on Peru, the last royalist stronghold. San Martín, greatest soldier of the South, forged a new army at Mendoza, made a stupendous march over the Andes where they are twelve thousand feet high, and completed the revolution in Chile. Then, with fresh forces, carried north in a fleet commanded by a British admiral, he defeated the royalists at Lima, and turned his army over to the Liberator. Bolívar ascended the Andes, created the Republic of Bolivia, and ended the war in Spanish South America. Bolivia commemorates his name.

Simultaneously with these epic events North America ended the rule of Spain. Hidalgo rang the Liberty Bell and sounded the Grito de Dolores. Mexican school boys still bless him because he raised the cry precisely at midnight, for in order to be sure to celebrate the right day, both the fifteenth and the sixteenth of September are national holidays. The Philadelphia bell ringer was not so considerate. Hidalgo raised an armed mob, defeated the royalists, and seized government stores. Routed at Guadalajara, he fled north, was captured, and executed at Chihuahua. Rayón rose and fell. Then emerged Morelos, mule driver priest, the chief military figure in the war. His astounding victories were followed by a declaration of independence.

The revolt had spread like a flash to the northern provinces of New Spain, where it was given special character by the proximity of the United States. It must be remembered that at this time the Floridas, Texas, all the Southwest, and California were still parts of Spain. Occurrences there which in the nationalistic mold have been regarded as local events, in this larger perspective are seen to be important phases of the history of the New World.

The people of the United States favored the Mexican revolution. They had recently fought one themselves, and were flattered by the imitation. They were interested in the spread of democracy, in Mexican commerce, and in Mexican land. Sam Houston of Tennessee, long before he became famous in Texas, offered to join the revolutionary cause there in return for real estate. There were boundary disputes between the United States and Spain, and now was a good time to settle them. So Mexico found many a helping hand. President Madison encouraged a revolution in West Florida, but when a republic was erected there he seized the district to keep order and to forestall England, for the War of 1812 was now in progress. In East Florida Madison fostered another short-lived revolt, with a similar purpose in view. Carolinians and Georgians ravaged the province but were expelled. Texas was “liberated” by a volunteer army raised in the United States, but was reconquered by Spain.

Meanwhile in Mexico the revolutionary congress fled from place to place, much as the Continental Congress had done before it. Heroic Morelos was captured and executed. But the revolt, now stamped out in the center, was kept alive on the frontiers. Here Western Hemisphere history was being made. Mina revived the spark by a raid from Texas. Andrew Jackson embarrassed Spain by invading East Florida, for Bahama Britons threatened. Uncle Sam took advantage of Spain’s predicament to acquire title to both Floridas, which he already held by military force,4 and to negotiate the boundary line of 1819. General Long led new expeditions from the United States into Texas, and set up a temporary republic. Galveston Island continued to be a base for proclamations and revolutionary raids. Bouchard, by an expedition that sailed all the way from Argentina, tried in vain to arouse contented California. On the far southern border of Mexico Guerrero kept up a guerrilla warfare.

Iturbide now brought the struggle to a climax. Sent by royalists to crush Guerrero, he joined hands with the rebel instead, and ended the rule of Spain. Then, making himself emperor, he carried the war of liberation into Central America. He in turn was soon overthrown, and the republic of Mexico was established, though shorn of the Floridas, eastern Texas, and Central America. The American Revolution had been fought and won. It did not end at Yorktown.

It was these events that called forth the Monroe Doctrine and that make it intelligible. European monarchs looked askance at the large crop of American republics. After the overthrow of Napoleon, that mutual insurance society at one stage called the Holy Alliance was formed to restore legitimate sovereigns. It essayed this task in Spain and in Italy, and then discussed the reconquest of Spanish America. Just then Russia took an aggressive position regarding Northwestern America. The czar declared the North Pacific a closed sea. In reply Monroe issued his famous dictum, denouncing further colonization of America by Europe and all plans to restore monarchy here. Russia now withdrew all claims below 54° 40′–hence the phrase later used as a campaign slogan–and the allies gave up their plans to restore Spanish rule in America. England’s precise part in this episode is still a subject of debate.

In most of the new Hispanic states independence was followed by disorder. like the “Critical Period” in the history of the United States, or like Tennessee when Sevier and Tipton were ludicrously chasing each other around the map. The turbulence was due to political inexperience, social antipathies, geographical barriers, and sectional or personal ambitions. But the struggle was not meaningless chaos. In the long period of strife, cleavage in politics usually centered on fundamental issues: centralism versus federalism; civilian rule versus militarism; privilege versus opportunity.

Disorder led to one man power. Mysterious Francia in Paraguay, bloody Rosas in Argentina, and venal Santa Anna in Mexico are examples of caudillos or military chiefs who thus became dictators. The struggle for nationality in Spanish America during the first half century after independence is typified by the fortunes of Mexico. There disorder and inexperience led not only to dictatorship but also to foreign invasion and loss of territory. Mexico’s career was given special character, and made more difficult, by proximity to the “Colossus of the North”. Canada had a similar experience with her neighbor.


Saxon America again occupied the center of the Western Hemisphere stage. All of Europe and America anxiously watched the drama. By the time the Hispanic states were established their territorial limits were fairly well fixed except on the north. The Spanish republics fitted into the audiencia districts of the old viceroyalties, whose outlines were already determined. Since independence there have been many boundary disputes in Hispanic America, Brazil has taken good-sized bites out of her neighbors’ domain, but there have been few major transfers of territory.

Quite different was the case in Saxon America. When independence came to the United States and the Loyalists founded British Canada, most of North America above Mexico was still in the raw. Spain’s holdings north of the Rio Grande were mainly defensive and missionary outposts. Beyond these, the major portion of the continent was Indian country, still in the fur trade stage. It lay in the pathway of several expanding peoples. It was an outpost of four empires, each of which contributed its pioneers. It was their land of opportunity, and it was anybody’s prize. The ultimate domains of the three principal North American nations were still to be hammered out. The shaping of them was a primary interest of the Hemisphere for the next half century. Western North America was still largely a matter of frontiersmen and international politics. The spoils to be divided were the Spanish borderlands and the open spaces of the Great West and Northwest. It was an affair of all North America, not of any single nation. The outcome no one could predict, patriotic historians to the contrary notwithstanding.

In this elemental process of shaping national zones the two English speaking peoples moved westward side by side. In each there was a succession of frontier types. In both cases the vanguard were the fur men. The United States frontier nosed its way like a wedge between British America on the right flank and Spanish America on the left. Besides being the crux of international relations, both border zones were areas of cultural influence, quite as significant as that of the isolated frontier.

Into the Pacific Northwest, British and American fur men raced across the continent. These “splendid wayfarers” profited by the commerce in skins, marked out spheres of influence for their respective nations, prepared the way for fixing boundaries, and were harbingers of permanent civilization. The British traders moved west from two eastern bases, and represented principally two great organizations. The Hudson’s Bay Company at first had held close to eastern shores. In the mid-eighteenth century it was forced inland by French rivalry in the back country and by criticism at home.5 Then it found a rival in the St. Lawrence Valley. Scotch settlers entered the fur trade at Montreal, formed the Northwest Company, and pushed boldly west. Mackenzie, McGillivray, McDougal, and all the rest. they have been called the “Clan of the Macks”. South of the Great Lakes they competed with American traders, and beyond the Mississippi they invaded the territory of Spain. In the Minnesota country and on the Missouri the Americans found them entrenched in the Louisiana Purchase. In the Canadian prairies the Nor’westers engaged in a life and death struggle with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rival posts were planted on every important stream. Price wars and bloodshed ensued, and tribal relations were sadly upset. But important explorations resulted; the Rocky Mountains were soon reached, and Mackenzie descended his fluvial namesake to the Arctic Ocean.

The next step was across the northern Rockies. Mackenzie again led the way and rivals followed. Spaniards from St. Louis ascended the Missouri, and Lewis and Clark crossed the mountains to the Lower Columbia. For the Nor’westers Fraser established posts in Fraser River Valley and David Thompson got a toe-hold on the upper Columbia in regions which are now British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana. Fraser’s New Caledonia posts were the first permanent English speaking settlements on the Pacific Coast of America. Close behind the Nor’westers went Astor’s men, and when Thompson descended the Columbia to its mouth he found Astoria established there. For the moment he was forestalled.

Then the American fur men had a setback. To them the War of 1812 was disastrous all along the border from Detroit to Astoria. Indians around the Lakes generally joined the British, and American traders fell back. Manuel Lisa and his associates retreated down the Missouri. Astoria was sold to the Nor’westers to prevent its capture by a British war vessel.

Canadian fur men were now confident. Why not restore the good old boundary of the Quebec Act, and extend it west? Urged by the traders, the British peace commissioners at Ghent proposed just this, demanding the cession of most of the country north of the Ohio, Missouri, and Platte rivers. The Oregon country was already in their hands. It would have been a pretty slice of territory. But quite the contrary happened, and the Canadians in turn got a setback. By the treaty British fur men were excluded from the United States, American traders placed them around the Lakes, and the boundary was run along the forty-ninth parallel to the Rockies. Another great chapter in the story of the map was finished. As the Americans saw it, the shadow of Britain in the Upper Mississippi Valley had been removed. Canadians express it differently.

West of the Rockies the Canadians were still far ahead. Spain traded her rights to Oregon for those to Texas and withdrew south to 42°. Then Mexico took Spain’s place. England and the United States arranged for joint occupation of the Oregon country. a seven hundred mile stretch from California to 54° 40′. In that vast region the legal rights of the two nations were now equal. But de facto the advantage was clearly with the British, for the Astorians had sold out, and left the British in control. Nor’westers now consolidated with the Hudson’s Bay Company, a western capital was placed at Ft. Vancouver,6 and Dr. McLoughlin took charge. For nearly two decades now this white haired dictator controlled most of the fur business of the Pacific Northwest, all the way from San Francisco to Alaska and eastward to the Rockies. His counterpart at Sitka was Baránof. These two fur barons were the monarchs of all Northwest America.

The American fur men had better luck in Mexico. Forestalled by the British traders in the Oregon country, they pushed southwest and west across the Great Valley and into the Rockies. Everywhere west of Louisiana and south of 42° they were intruders on Mexican soil. Most of our American explorer heroes of the Far West, from Smith to Frémont, were in reality belated explorers of a foreign country. For a quarter century after 1820 these trespassers roamed the western wilds, profiting by the fur trade, and “discovering” the mountain passes. which Spaniards had discovered long before. Into the Great Basin they entered simultaneously by way of the Platte River and the Rio Grande.

These mountain men were exemplars of manifest destiny. They wandered through Mexican lands, sometimes with but more generally without permission, unconscious of their character as unwelcome intruders, or arrogantly resentful of dark skinned people who spoke a foreign tongue and disputed the “inalienable right” of Americans to do as they pleased. Most of the fur gatherers were restless adventure lovers. rolling stones who gathered no moss, nor can we say that they got a very fine polish in the process of rolling. But they were endowed with that physical energy, that fondness for a life of half savagery, and that detachment from locality which fitted them for the great task which Titanic nature had set for some one.

Below the impresario Americans, who as partners managed large affairs, and beside the rank and file of reckless Americans who went as hired men or free trappers, there were the more numerous French engagés. These hardy souls, half European, half Indian, still formed the backbone of the western fur trade both in Canada and the United States.

One such has given his name to Provo, another to Laramie, another to Pierre’s Hole. Western Canada is similarly peppered with place-names commemorating the deeds of the French. These half-breeds did the humbler tasks of rowing, packing, skin curing, and camp duty. They served as guides into the wilderness, for their ancestors for generations had led the van, whether under English, French, Spanish, or American rule. Just as the American cowboy learned his trade from the Spanish vaquero, so the American fur trader borrowed his methods and his lingo from the French metís. Bourgeois, the word for manager, in the mouth of the mountain men became bushwa, for boss.

These American fur men were by no means monarchs of all they surveyed. In the southern Rockies and in the Great Basin they found Mexican traders everywhere ahead of them. They tried to push into jointly owned Oregon, but found their way blocked by the Hudson’s Bay Company, safely entrenched in Snake River Valley. Climbing the Sierras, they descended the western slopes into California. There, in the Sacramento Valley, they found the streams trapped by Russians from Ft. Ross and by McLoughlin’s brigades from Ft. Vancouver. A Hudson’s Bay settlement encountered by the Americans in the valley, and for obvious reasons called by them French Camp, is still in existence near Stockton and still bears the same name.

The Americans had been beaten, not only to the Pacific Northwest, but to northern California as well. Both they and the men of H. B. C. were unwelcome trespassers on the soil of Mexico. The international contest was not yet over. The map was not yet made. The ultimate fate of the Far West was still in doubt. Spain was out, Russia had backed up to 54° 40′, but England, the United States, and Mexico still had their stake. When the Republic of Texas was created, it, too, developed ambitions for a frontage on the Pacific.

The uncertainty was removed by the settler. Fur men and Santa Fe trader were followed into the alluring regions by land hungry Americans. All that had gone before, all the colonial and international drama of the centuries, was the background into which fitted the relentless westward movement of the farmer frontier.

By 1820 the United States had achieved stability and confirmed its independence from Europe. The next two decades witnessed the rise of the great Middle West and the formation of a western democracy. It was a militant democracy, fully imbued with belief in manifest destiny. American institutions must embrace and regenerate the entire Western Hemisphere. A concrete application was to be found in the rich lands of Mexico and the disputed Oregon country, just beyond. So the shadow of Europe in the West now gave way to the shadow of the United States in the West. a shadow which all America and several European nations watched with anxiety, for nearly half of the northern continent was still at stake. Impelled by this expansion urge, Anglo-Americans drove a wide salient between Canada and Mexico, checking the expansion of the one, and absorbing half the territory of the other. This madness for conquest has been called by our naughty neighbors “the other side of the Monroe Doctrine”.

Mexico, in spite of her turmoil, likewise felt the impulse of expansion. Settlers poured into her northern provinces at a rate unprecedented under Spain. The vast “Spanish Grants”, as they are erroneously called, in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and California, were nearly all made during the Mexican régime. Part of the new settlers were Mexicans; part were foreigners. Spain had colonized Florida and Louisiana with Anglo-Americans. Mexico now made the same political mistake in Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Many factors aroused American interest in the Far West. Boston coast traders, overland fur men, Northwestern missionaries, and official explorers had spied out the land. Interest was stimulated by sectional rivalry, and by fear of England, France, or Russia. Pathfinders beckoned; government tried to follow. By diplomacy, through purchase from Mexico, and through compromise with England it essayed to acquire all the vast region between Louisiana and the Pacific. Mexico did not wish to sell, and England was “stubborn”. so our schoolbooks say. Canning put his heavy foot down on the Columbia, and there he stood; so Uncle Sam resorted to watchful waiting. We thank President Wilson for the phrase, for it precisely fits the case. Wilkes, Ap Jones, Larkin, and Frémont all typify the government’s hope that something would “turn up”.

While government watched, settlers moved in. Invited, Americans colonized Texas, arose in revolt, and sought annexation, alternating this ambition with dreams of possessing “the fine harbor of Monterey”. Covered wagons creaked their way from the Middle West to Oregon; then England and the United States divided the disputed area. Uninvited, and long before the Gold Rush, other covered wagons invaded California, still a part of Mexico; their occupants obtained generous land grants, and then, imitating the Texans, set up the Bear Flag Republic. When something thus turned up, Frémont was on hand. Uninvited, Mormons poured into Utah, also Mexican territory. Uncle Sam’s soldiers and diplomats now supplemented the work of the settlers. Texas was annexed; Mexico went to war, and was forced to yield half of her domain. The purchase of the Gadsden strip and of Alaska completed the story of Saxon growth on the western mainland. The contest for the continent was practically over.

This division of the western seaboard of North America was highly significant. It cut off from Spanish America the remaining borderland areas which had been only partly Hispanized and placed the boundary near the frontier of effective Spanish colonization. It gave both Canada and the United States frontage on the Pacific. It enabled them both to assimilate added millions of Europeans. Built on the national domain, in both countries the West became a powerful nationalizing force. The process of growth kept both nations young with continued frontier experience; it prolonged opportunity for social experimentation, and perpetuated early American and Canadian characteristics.


On this long colonial and international background the subsequent development of the Western Hemisphere was founded. The nations had come into being. The outline of the map had been essentially completed. The territorial bases for the national system had been laid. The next phase was the filling in of the spaces with people, national unification, and economic growth. Like all the earlier phases, this, too, was not confined to one American nation, but was hemisphere wide.

In this whole process of national growth and unification in the nineteenth century the outstanding factors were boundless natural resources, foreign immigration, foreign capital, and expanding markets. Without these, none of the American nations would have come far on the road which they have traveled. No time is left me for detail. I can only indicate the broad lines. But if you are like my students, I am sure you will gladly forgive me for what I leave out.

The United States first got under way. Here territorial expansion was attended by growing pains. Tariffs, the slavery question, the acquisition of Texas, Oregon, and California aroused sectional jealousies. For thirty years peace between the sections was maintained by compromise. War followed, but the Union was preserved. It was then multiplied in strength by the peopling of the Far West. Wide flung and sprawling, it was welded by the building of transcontinental railroads, the economic reconstruction of the South, and the reorganization of industry on a national scale. In all this, European immigration and European capital played a decisive part. By the end of the nineteenth century both political and economic nationality had been achieved.

While the United States were gaining solidarity and power, the British provinces to the north were being similarly welded into a great dominion. The War of 1812 stimulated their sense of nationality, and British immigration lessened American influence. By 1850 the provinces had already won responsible government, but they were still detached entities. Like the United States, the Dominion was fashioned out of scraps of territory variously acquired.

Now the tide of federation set strongly in. Union was prompted by community of interests. Obstacles were met in local hostilities and racial suspicion. Federation found able champions and determined opponents. There were Hamiltons and Calhouns. In the Quebec Conference. as significant in Canadian history as the Constitutional Convention in the United States. the Dominion of Canada was born. One by one the older provinces joined. A mari usque ad mare became the slogan. Hudson’s Bay Company relinquished its vast jurisdiction in the West, Manitoba and British Columbia entered the union, and the Dominion did indeed extend from sea to sea.

The loosely knit federation, like its neighbor a little earlier, was now welded by transcontinental railroads and the development of the West. The American movement to the frontier was duplicated in Canada. European capital furnished the means. European immigrants thronged, Americans flocked across the border, new prairie provinces were formed, Winnipeg and Vancouver became boom towns. New railroads built up still more northerly cities, and mining rushes developed the yet more remote Northwest. Like California, Oregon, and Washington, British Columbia looks out across the Pacific.

The World War stimulated Canadian loyalism on the one hand, and English conciliation on the other. Canada now has full membership in the British Commonwealth. A fine sentiment binds her to the empire, but she is in all essentials an independent nation. From pole to pole American independence from Europe has been achieved.

Hispanic America has a similar tale of national growth to tell. Some of our southern neighbors have been moving rapidly along the same road as that traveled by the Anglo-American nations. The last half century has been remarkable especially for the emergence of the A B C powers. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

The essential factors in the recent development of these countries are much the same as those which have operated in Canada and the United States. Foreign capital and foreign immigration have been decisive. Italians, Spaniards, and Germans have come to the A B C countries by millions to make their homes. Railroads, plantations, stock ranches, nitrate works, mines, and oil wells have been developed by English and German capital. In business matters Uncle Sam has by no means had a monopoly there. Will Rogers, whom all will accept as an authority, wrote from Buenos Aires a few weeks ago, “Englishmen have got this country sewed up tighter than Borah has Idaho”. Other indexes of material progress in that far Southland are the great modern cities, such as Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. Cultural progress has followed material prosperity. Buenos Aires, with its nearly three million inhabitants, is the third city in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the great ones of the world. Brazil, with a population of over forty millions, is the second power in America, a title which Argentina probably would contest. When a Brazilian boasted of his country’s forty-three millions, an Argentinian retorted, “You must have counted all those who live in the trees”.

“The first shall be last!” In the tropics and around the shores of the Caribbean there has been less material progress than in the temperate regions. The areas which were most developed in early colonial days are now most retarded.7 Nevertheless, backwardness is only relative, and some of these tropical regions, with their fruit and oil, have recently attracted capital and been developed at a tremendous rate.

Mexico, our nearest Hispanic neighbor, has continued to have its ups and downs. The fall of Maximilian was followed by the rule of one of the remarkable men of all time. Porfirio Díaz, half-breed Zapotec Indian, and soldier hero, became president on the platform of no reelection. and then held office for seven terms in succession. He was a benevolent despot. He gave Mexico what it then most needed. good order and material progress. Foreign capital poured in, railroads were built, mines and oil wells opened. What had happened in the United States, Canada, and Brazil, was duplicated there. Díaz became a much eulogized world figure. Outsiders saw Mexico in a Golden Age.

But prosperity was one-sided. Vast estates were still intact while millions of people needed land. Foreigners and the old aristocracy flourished while peons were still bound to the soil. The kettle of unrest boiled, and the lid blew off. Madero gave the new Grito, Díaz fled the country never to return, Madero fell, Huerta was eliminated, Carranza put in power, and the new constitution installed. Socialistic and nationalistic in its aims, fifteen years have been spent putting it into operation. The declared objectives of the social revolution. for it is still going on. are Mexico for Mexicans, rights for the common man, and education for the common people. slogans which sound familiar to Anglo-Americans. In so radical a program vested interests have suffered. In the struggle the Church has been involved. Critics maintain that some of the reforms are more apparent than real; but the same has been said of other countries.


Progress toward nationality in the Western Hemisphere has been attended by international adjustments. The interrelations of Canada and the United States have always been close, as their development has been in many ways parallel. Loyalists never forget their expulsion from the home hearth, nor the attempted conquest of 1812. Fortunately, as the Canadians say, the Americans were always just exasperating enough to prevent an international marriage, thus preserving Canadian nationality. By 1846 the old boundary questions had been adjusted. The mid-century was sometimes disturbed by annexation talk that was seldom dangerous. The war between the states and Fenian raids caused irritation. Fisheries and the Bering Sea were bones of contention. Blaine enjoyed twisting the British Lion’s tail. Trade relations have sometimes been troublesome. But eventually these matters have been amicably settled. All in all, with common boundaries unfortified for more than a century, Canada and the United States, in this world of turmoil, furnish a splendid example of neighborliness.

Of the Hispanic republics the most intimate international contacts have been with each other. Like good Irishmen, whom they greatly resemble, the Latins quarrel among themselves but show solidarity against outsiders who interfere. Bullets often fly. But boundary disputes on many borders have been settled by arbitration, in which Latin America has set an example before the world. With Europe there has been occasional friction, but much more conspicuous has been the peaceful intercourse of commerce, investment, immigration, and cultural contacts.

Hispanic dealings with the United States have generally been closest in the adjacent regions; and by the rest of Latin America, naturally, these dealings have been taken as an index. Early friendship soon cooled. When the United States seized half of Mexico’s domain, that country became embittered and other Latins suspicious. In the mid-century relations with Mexico greatly improved, and the long reign of Díaz was the heyday of American investors south of the Rio Grande. After the fall of “El General”, the story was one of frequent intervention. Huerta was eliminated and Carranza elevated largely through Wilson’s aid. Villa chasing and “saluting the flag” made Uncle Sam ridiculous. Mexico’s new constitution threatened American investments and a decade of irritation followed. But this matter has been adjusted. In recent years the United States has had its most intimate relations with the Isthmus and the Caribbean area. In these regions the United States has exercised extensive supervisory functions. With South America, on the other hand, the tendency is toward recognition of the fullest autonomy. There the Monroe Doctrine is dead. The Southern Continent has grown up.

The essential unity of the Western Hemisphere was revealed by the Great War. Every nation had to answer the question of participation or neutrality. Canada was in from the start; the United States moved more slowly. Until Uncle Sam joined the Allies, all Hispanic America held aloof. Then, of the twenty states to the south, eight joined the Allies, five broke relations with Germany, and seven remained neutral. It is a significant thing that all America, from the north pole to the south pole, was either on the same side of the great struggle or remained neutral. There was emphatic Western Hemisphere solidarity.

The Americas have developed side by side. In the past their relations have been close; in the future they may or may not be closer. In the colonial period Latin greatly outweighed Saxon America. In the nineteenth century the balance tipped decisively in the other direction. But it is swinging back. The importance of Hispanic America as an economic unit and as a political factor is becoming greater from day to day. It is one of the great reservoirs of raw materials. It continues to attract foreign capital and foreign immigration. Saxon America, with its one hundred and forty millions of people, is practically closed to European settlers. Hispanic America, with its hundred millions, is wide open. A German colony of a whole million is right now being planned for the Upper Amazon. equipped with electric cooling plants and everything else up to date. It is entirely possible that within a short time Hispanic will outnumber Saxon America, and with continued immigration its race stock will be more and more largely European. Ever since independence there has been fundamental Western Hemisphere solidarity. Therefore, it is not a matter of indifference to know that European influence in South America to-day far outweighs that of Saxon America, and that Europe is bending every effort to draw the Southern continent more and more into the European circle and away from its northern neighbors.


In this imperfect way I have endeavored to indicate some of the larger historical unities and interrelations of the Americas. Those outlined arc only a few out of the many that are patent at every turn. Cultural and intellectual relations are quite as close and fully as important as political, territorial, and economic contacts. What I have said is intended merely as an illustration. In recent years the range of investigation in Western Hemisphere history has vastly broadened. This is due in no small part to the influence of Jameson’s guides to foreign archives; to the work of American and Canadian scholars on British America; of the students of the Caribbean; of the historians of the frontier; of the whole galaxy of Hispanists; of the social, economic, institutional, cultural, and diplomatic historians, the international relationists, and a host of others. Our historical data have not only become greater in amount but much more complex in character. Phases and factors formerly undreamed of have come to light. Many of the new discoveries do not fit into the nationalistic pattern. In the old synthesis their significance is lost. In a larger framework, on the other hand, many things which have seemed obscure and secondary become outstanding and primary.

This applies especially to borderland researches. Brebner studied the institutional relations of New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and concluded that the histories of Canada and the United States should be treated as one. Just as emphatically, those who have studied borderland areas between Saxon and Hispanic America are convinced that the two fields are inextricably linked together. Borderland zones are vital not only in the determination of international relations, but also in the development of culture. In this direction one of the important modifications of the Turner thesis is to be sought. By borderland areas not solely geographical regions are meant; borderline studies of many kinds are similarly fruitful.

It is not merely that a new framework will find a place for special researches that have already been consummated. Quite as important, a larger framework will call for data which we do not possess, and thus suggest a thousand new things to do. A classic example of the influence of a new synthesis is found in the multitude of investigators whom Turner set to work to fill out his elementary sketch. A report by a recent committee of historians complains that many doctoral thesis subjects in United States history have been cultivated past the point of diminishing returns. A larger synthesis of American history, I am sure, would do much to relieve this rather pathetic situation.8 Who has written the history of the introduction of European plants and animals into the Western Hemisphere as a whole, or of the spread of cattle and horse raising from Patagonia to Labrador? Who has written on a Western Hemisphere scale the history of shipbuilding and commerce, mining, Christian missions, Indian policies, slavery and emancipation, constitutional development, arbitration, the effects of the Indian on European cultures, the rise of the common man, art, architecture, literature, or science? Who has tried to state the significance of the frontier in terms of the Americas?

A noted historian has written for us the Epic of America. In his title “America” means the United States. We need an Adams to sketch the high lights and the significant developments of the Western Hemisphere as a whole. Perhaps the person who undertakes the task, as a guarantee of objectivity ought to be an inhabitant of the moon. But such a synthesis, done with similar brilliancy, would give us the “Epic of Greater America”.

Herbert Eugene Bolton (July 20, 1870–January 30, 1953) pioneered the study of the Spanish-American borderlands. He was the chair of the history department at the University of California, Berkeley for many years.


  1. This is so patent that it hardly needs demonstration, and for the future I foresee generally in practice two types of school and college courses in American history: an introductory, synthetic course, embracing the entire Western Hemisphere, analogous to courses in general European history; and courses in the history of the United States or of any other individual nation. In fact, a movement in this direction is well under way. []
  2. England striped the Spanish Main (northern South America) with sea to sea grants which on the map look just as imposing as the more familiar grants in North America. []
  3. Toronto, where this address was delivered. []
  4. Brazil similarly seized Uruguay during the revolutionary disturbances, but relinquished it a few years later. []
  5. It is interesting to note in passing that Samuel Hearne for the Hudson. s Bay Company explored the copper mine country at the very same time that Daniel Boone reached the Mississippi. The two west moving columns were neck and neck. []
  6. Across the river from the site of the present city of Portland. []
  7. This is true of British, Dutch, and French America also. []
  8. Before closing I wish to repeat with emphasis that I do not propose such a synthesis as a substitute for, but as a setting in which to place, any one of our national histories. []