The abundance of natural resources ~ Destruction of nature in the name of industry
Americans' hope in moving West

The Europeans appreciate the beauty of the American landscape and see the value of its abundant natural resources. They also observe how the industrious Americans gratuitously mare their rivers, forests and grasslands in the name of the almighty dollar. The West is where the Europeans see this use of nature for profit carried out most vividly. Travelers from all backgrounds continuously comment on the Americans' belief in the endless riches of their land and their propensity to pack up whatever they owned and head off toward the setting sun.

American was undeniably a place of natural abundance.

"The United States are not only vast in extent; they are inestimably rich in material wealth...Never was a country more gifted by nature" (Martineau, 130).


The Mississippi River at Davenport, Iowa


"Again the enormous width of the river struck me with astonishment and admiration. Such huge bodies of water mark out the country through which they run, as the future abode of the most extensive commerce and the greatest maritime power in the universe" (Kemble, 53).

The ability of Americans to destroy their landscape in the name of industry strikes most of the tourists. The Europeans look to the landscape for beauty, while the Americans look at it for wealth. Europe was full of gardens and courtyards; America was cut by fields and open prairie. Where industry encroached upon the landscape, nature was sure to lose. The travelers were disturbed by the Americans' cavalier attitude toward the natural beauty of their world.




"but all the marshes were formerly larger before the surrounding forest was partially cleared away. The removal of the tall trees has allowed the suns rays to penetrate freely to the soil, and dry up part of the morass...Within the memory of persons now living, the wild bison's or buffaloes crowded to these springs, but they have retreated for many years, and are now as unknown to the inhabitants as the mastodon itself" (Lyell, 141).




"Nature, when undisturbed by man, is never without a beauty of her own. But even in these remote mountain recesses the marks of wanton havoc are too often visible. Numbers of the trees by the road were scorched and mutilated, with no intelligible motive but that of destruction" (Hamilton, 315).

"There is one sad drawback, however. At precisely the most beautiful point of the scene [Trenton Falls] there has been erected--what, good reader?--but you will never guess--a dram shop" (Hamilton, 395).

"where the land has been cleared the trees were looked upon as the greatest impediment to improvement and cultivation, and were cut down without either mercy or judgment" (Hall, 29).

"There were some magnificent trees at Louisville and the roots of some still larger, which on enquiry we found had been cut down to make cogs for wheels or some such purpose, for which a smaller tree could have answered quite as well" (Hall, 274).

"They were, I doubt not, once beautiful. But alas! the waters have been turned off to turn mills, and a thin curtain which falls over the rocks like a vapoury sheet of blue smoke, is all that remains of Genesee Falls...Truly, mills and steam engines are wonderful things, and I know that men must live, but I wish it were not expedient to destroy what God has made so beautiful, in order to make it useful" (Kemble, 192).

"It is a pity here, as everywhere, much of the beauty of the area is spoiled by cutting and burning of the trees, which are scattered everywhere, too heavy to be moved" (Gustorf, 14).

If the battered landscape of the East reflects the American's industry and growth, the open vastness of the West hold the promise for the future. All of the travelers are continually impressed with the hope that Americans found in their constant ability to move further west.

"The possession of land is the aim of all action, generally speaking, and the cure for all social evils, among men in the United States. If a man is disappointed he buys land. If he disgraces himself, he betakes himself to a lot in the West" (Martineau, 168).

"First there is not a class in want or extreme poverty here, partly because the facility of migrating to the West, for those who are without employment, is so great..." (Lyell, 62).

"Today we stopped at a little town on the Virginia side to take aboard a load of American emigrants with wives, children, and all their possessions. They did not look very inviting. Their hopes seemed to be pinned on the Far West (wherever Americans live in the West, they believe there are greater opportunities even farther in that direction)" (Gustorf, 20).

"Here on this prairie also are many settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee. Believe it or not, they are preparing to move farther West. An American feels no particular attachment to the soil he cultivates...someone mentions a new piece of land, regardless of its distance, which offers the advantages of good timber and fertile soil, or perhaps the opportunity of opening a store for trading or swapping, or founding a new town, and at once he hitches the oxen to his wagon, loads his wife and children and all his belongings, and start moving" (101).

It is clear that the Europeans recognize the American fascination with the West, but they speak about it comically and with puzzlement. They do not understand the endless hope and potential that is manifested in the constant ability to move west and carve out a new life for one's self.



Introduction ~ The Travelers and Their Writings ~ On the Road ~ Character
Habits ~ Education ~ The Press