Handbook to the new Gold-fields

Robert Michael Ballantyne

to the new Gold-fields, by R. M. Ballantyne

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Title: Handbook to the new Gold-fields
Author: R. M. Ballantyne
Release Date: November 7, 2007 [EBook #23389]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Handbook to the New Gold-Fields, by R.M. Ballantyne.

The problem of colonisation in the north-western portion of British America is fast working itself out. The same destiny which pushed forward Anglo-Saxon energy and intelligence into the rich plains of Mexico, and which has peopled Australia, is now turning the current of emigration to another of the "waste-places of the earth." The discovery of extensive goldfields in the extreme west of the territories now occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company, is a great fact. It no longer comes to us as the report of interested adventurers, or the exaggeration of a few sanguine diggers, but with well-authenticated results--large quantities of gold received at San Francisco, and a consequent rush of all nations from the gold regions of California, as well as from the United States and Canada. The thirst for Gold is, as it always has been, the most attractive, the strongest, the most unappeasable of appetites--the impulse that builds up, or pulls down empires, and floods the wilderness with a sudden population. In those wild regions of the Far West men are pouring in one vast, gold-searching tide of thousands and tens of thousands, into the comparatively unknown territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, for which our Legislature has just manufactured a government. How strange is the comparison instituted by the Times between the rush to Fraser River and the mediaeval crusades, which carried so large a portion of the population of Europe to die on the burning plains of Palestine! At Clermont Ferrand, Peter the Hermit has concluded his discourse; cries are heard in every quarter, "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"; Every one assumes the cross, and the crowd disperses to prepare for conquering under the walls of the earthly, a sure passage to the heavenly, Jerusalem. What elevation of motive, what faith, what enthusiasm! Compare with this the picture presented by San Francisco Harbour. A steamer calculated to carry 600 persons, is laden with 1600. There is hardly standing room on the deck. It is almost impossible to clear a passage from one part of the vessel to the other. The passengers are not knights and barons, but tradesmen, "jobbers," tenants, and workmen of all the known varieties. Their object in of the earth, earthy--wealth in its rawest and rudest form-- gold, the one thing for which they bear to live, or dare to die. Although in the comparison the crusades may have the superiority in many points, yet so little have ideal, romantic, and sentimental considerations to do with the current of human affairs, that while the crusades remain a monument of abortive and objectless folly, fatal to those who embarked in them, and leaving as their chief result a tinge of Asiatic ferocity on European barbarism, the exodus of San Francisco, notwithstanding the material end it has in view, is sure to work out the progress of happiness and civilisation, and add another to the many conquests over nature, which the present age has witnessed.
In a year more than ordinarily productive of remarkable events, one of the most noteworthy, and that which is likely to leave a lasting impression on the world, is this discovery of gold on the coasts of the Pacific. The importance of the new region as a centre for new ramifications of English relations with the rest of the world cannot well be exaggerated either in a political or a commercial point of view. It will be the first really important point we shall have ever commanded on that side of the Pacific Ocean, and it cannot but be of inestimable value in developing our relations with America, China, Japan, and Eastern Russia.
This new discovery must also tend to make the western shore of the American continent increasingly attractive, from Fraser's River down to Peru the rivers all bear down treasures of a wealth perfectly inestimable. Emigration must necessarily continue to flow and increase. Gold digging is soon learned, and there will be an immense demand for every kind of labour at almost fabulous prices.
It is further valuable as tending to open up a direct communication from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Europe across
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