Port-Royal (Mille & une pages) (French Edition)
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Available Exact wording Only in the title. Auctions Live Auction December In progress. Internet Auction Banknotes November Unsold lots. Something more than the relations that are patent on a map are necessary to a proper understanding of the long continued isolation of these continents. In the first place, we may notice the fact that from the Old World the most approachable side of these continents lies on the west.
Not only are the lands of the New and Old World there brought into close relations to each other, but the ocean streams of the North Pacific flow toward America. Moreover the North Pacific is a sea of a calmer temper than the North Atlantic, and the chance farers over its surface would be more likely to survive its perils. In the North Atlantic, over which alone the Aryan peoples could well have found their way to America, we have a wide sea, [xi] which is not only the stormiest in the world, but its currents set strongly against western-going ships, and the prevailing winds blow from the west.
The result is that man, who doubtless originated in the Old World, early found his way to America by the Pacific; and all the so-called indigenous races known to us in the Americas seem to have closer relations to the peoples living in northern Asia than to those of any other country. It is pretty clear that none of the aboriginal American peoples have found their way to these continents by way of the Atlantic. Although the access to the continent of North America is much more easily had upon its western side, and though all the early settlements were probably made that way, the configuration of the land is such that it is not possible to get easy access to the heart of the continent from the Pacific shore.
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So that although the Atlantic Ocean was most forbidding and difficult as a way to America, once passed, it gave the freest and best access to the body of the continent. In the west, the Cordilleras are a formidable bar to those who seek to enter the continent from the Pacific. None but a modern civilization would ever have forced its barriers of mountains and of deserts. An ancient civilization, if it had penetrated America from the west, would have recoiled from the labor of traversing this mountain system, that combines the difficulties of the Alps and the Sahara.
If European emigration had found such a mountain system on the eastern face of the continent, the history of America would have been very different. Scarcely any other continent offers such easy ingress as does this continent to those who come to it from the Atlantic side. The valleys of the St.
Lawrence, the Hudson, the Mississippi, in a fashion also of the Susquehanna and the James, break through or pass around the low-coast mountains, and afford free ways into the whole of the interior that is attractive to European peoples. No part of the Alleghanian system presents any insuperable obstacles to those who seek to penetrate the inner lands. The whole of its surface is fit for human uses; there are neither deserts of sand nor of snow. The axe alone would open ways readily passable to men and horses.
So that when the early settlers had passed the sea, all their formidable geographical difficulties were at an end,—with but little further toil the wide land lay open to them. I propose in the subsequent pages to give a sketch of the physical conditions of this continent, with reference to the transplanted civilization that has developed upon its soil.
It will be impossible, within the limits of this essay, to do more than indicate these conditions in a very general way, for the details of the subject would constitute a work in itself. It will be most profitable for us first to glance at the general relations of climate and soil that are found in North America, so far as these features bear upon the history of the immigration it has received from Europe.
The climate of North America south of the Laurentian Mountains and east of the Rocky Mountains is much more like that of Europe than of any we find in the other continents. Although there are many points of difference, these variations lie well within the climatic range of Europe itself. On the south, Mexico may well be compared to Italy and Spain; in the southern parts of the Mississippi Valley we have conditions in general comparable to those of Lombardy and Central France; and in the northern portions of that area and along the sea-border we can find fair parallels for the conditions of Great Britain, Germany, or Scandinavia.
As is well known, the range of temperature during the year varies much more in America than in Europe, but these variations in themselves are of small importance. Man in a direct way is not much affected by temperature; his elastic body, helped by his arts, may within certain limits neglect this element of climate. The real question is how far these temperatures affect the products of the soil upon which his civilization depends.
In the case of most plants and domestic animals, their development depends more upon the summer temperature, or that of the spring season, than upon the winter climate. Now the summer climates of America are more like those of Europe than are those of the winter.
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So the new-won continent offered to man a chance to rear all the plants and animals which he had brought to domesticity in the Old World. The general character of the soil of North America is closely comparable with that of Europe, yet it has certain noteworthy peculiarities. In the first place, there is a larger part of America which has been subjected to glacial action than what we find in Europe.
In Europe, only the northern half of Great Britain, the Scandinavian peninsulas, a part of Northern Germany, and the region of Switzerland were under the surface of the glaciers during the last glacial period. In America, practically all the country north of the Susquehanna, and more than half of the States north of the Ohio, had their soils influenced by this ice period. The effects of glaciation on the soils of the region where it has acted are important.
In the first place, the soils thus produced are generally clayey and of a rather stubborn nature, demanding much care and labor to bring them into a shape for the plough. The surface is usually thickly covered with stones, which have to be removed before the plough can be driven. They hold the same character over wide areas, and their constitution is the same to great depths. Though never of the highest order of fertility, they remain for centuries constant in their power.
I have never seen a worn-out field of this sort. Another peculiarity of the American soils is the relatively [xiii] large area of limestone lands which the country affords. America abounds in deposits of this nature, which produce soils of the first quality, extremely well fitted to the production of grass and grains. Although statistical information is not to be obtained on such a matter, I have no doubt, after a pretty close scrutiny of both America and Europe, that the original fertility of America was greater than that of Europe; but that, on the whole, the regions first settled by Europeans were much more difficult to subdue than the best lands of Central and Southern Europe had been.
The foregoing statement needs the following qualification: Owing to the relative dryness and heat of the American summer, the forests are not so swampy as they are in Northern Europe, and morasses are generally absent.
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It required many centuries of continued labor to bring the surface of Northern Germany, Northern France, and of Britain into conditions fit for tillage. Next to deserts and snowy mountains, swamps are the greatest barriers to the movements of man. If the reader will follow the interesting account of the Saxon Conquest given in Mr.
In America there are no extensive bogs or wet forests in the upland district, south of the St. Lawrence, except in Maine and in the British Provinces. In all other districts fire or the axe can easily bring the surface into a shape fit for cultivation. In taking an account of the physical conditions which formed the subjugation of North America by European colonies, we must give a large place to this absence of upland swamps and the dryness of the forests, which prevented the growth of peaty matter within their bounds.
The success of the first settlements in America was also greatly aided by the fact that the continent afforded them a new and cheaper source of bread, in the maize or Indian corn which was everywhere used by the aborigines of America. It is difficult to convey an adequate impression of the importance of this grain in the early history of America.
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In the first place, it yields not less than twice the amount of food per acre of tilled land, with much less labor than is required for an acre of small grains; it is far less dependent on the changes of seasons; the yield is much more uniform than that of the old European grains; the harvest need not be made at such a particular season; the crops may with little loss be allowed to remain ungathered for weeks after the grain is ripe; the stalks of the grain need not be touched in the harvesting, the ears alone being gathered; these stalks are of greater value for forage than is the straw of wheat and other similar grains.
Probably the greatest advantage of all that this beneficent plant afforded to the early settlers was the way in which it could be planted without ploughing, amid the standing forest trees which had only been deadened by having their bark stripped away by the axe. This rough method of tillage was unknown among the peoples of the Old World.