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THE greatest question before America in the eighteenth century was the control of the Mississippi valley. This was the finest river valley in the world, with great but undeveloped and unknown possibilities in it. Should this remain the home of the Indian, or should it become the future home of Europeans? And furthermore should these Europeans be British or French? The advancing civilization made the continued control of the territory by the Indians an improbability. The conflict must be settled between the British and the French. It did not reach its final settlement until the beginning of the next century, but the forces were at work all through the latter half of the eighteenth which would finally give the control to the British. Possibly the United States might have become a world power without the control of this valley, but it is doubtful. The natural outlet for the commerce of all the vast interior is the Mississippi, and if cut off from this, the nation would have been confined to the Atlantic seaboard, with no possibility of westward expansion to the Pacific, and no chance for contact with the Orient. It is certain that the history of the United States would have been very different, if the new nation had been confined to the eastern slope of the Alleghanies. In 1750 the prospect of any expansion of the American colonies to the west seemed very small. The mountains, range beyond range, made a natural barrier to

any extension toward the west. There was very little knowledge of the country beyond the mountains which would induce anyone to make the journey, and there still remained in the east vast stretches of unused lands, enough apparently, to support all the emigrants and their children for many generations. The difficulties of the journey over the mountains or down the rivers were very great, and there were dangers in the wilderness and from the Indians. The land was believed to be held by powerful Indian tribes, hostile to the British, who would dispute any encroachments on their hunting grounds. More important than this, the French, the hereditary enemies of the British and therefore of the colonists, laid claim to the valley and would resist any attempt which the British might make to settle there; but these and other excellent reasons did not appeal to the settlers. There was the restless desire to improve their condition which made men hope that better fortune would come to them in the land beyond the mountains; and so, in spite of danger and difficulty, the westward movement of population began and continued until it filled the valley with growing cities and prosperous States. It did not stop, until, having passed the valley and the highlands beyond, it reached the Pacific. Like the pioneer everywhere, the man who, with his family and meagre household goods, made the weary journey over the mountains or floated his flatboat down the Ohio into the disputed lands, did not understand the importance of the work he was doing. Nor do we yet know, but we are beginning to understand that it was a preparation by which the little strip of Atlantic colonies was to become a world power in which certain Anglo-Saxon ideas of equality and liberty were to have their fairer trial under more favorable circumstances than they possibly could under any Old World conditions, or if hemmed in by the mountains which would make them a strip of Atlantic seaboard States.

Who owned this land beyond the mountains? According to the early English colonial charters it belonged to the king,

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