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It is inevitable, at
first, that a country opened by the railroads for the express purpose of
obtaining the largest possible freightage of cereals should for a few
seasons be a "single-crop country." Often the seed-grain is supplied on
loan by the roads themselves. They charge "what the traffic will bear."
The grain is all, or nearly all, marketed through long series of
elevators following the tracks, at intervals of a few miles, and owned
by some central company that bears a close relation to the railroad.
Thus the corporations which control the transportation and handling of
the grain in effect maintain for their own advantage an exploitation of
the entire regions that they traverse, through the first years of
settlement. Year by year the margin of cultivation extends further
West, and the single-crop sort of farming tends to recede. The wheat
growers produce more barley and oats and flax, try corn successfully,
introduce live stock and dairying, and thus begin to emerge as real

Unless this method of Western settlement is comprehended, it is not
possible to understand the old Granger movement and the more recent
legislative conflicts between the farmers of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas,
Minnesota, and the Dakotas, on the one hand, and the great
transportation and grain-handling corporations on the other. It was
fundamentally a question of the division of profits. The railroads had
"made" the country: were they entitled to allow the farmers simply a
return about equal to the cost of production, keeping for themselves the
difference between the cost and the price in the central markets, or
were they to base their charges upon the cost of their service, and
leave the farmers to enjoy whatever profits might arise from the
production of wheat or corn? Out of that protracted contest has been
developed the principle of the public regulation of rates. The position
of these communities of farmers with interests so similar, forming
commonwealths so singularly homogeneous, has led to a reliance upon
State aid that is altogether unprecedented in new and sparsely settled
regions, where individualism has usually been dominant, and governmental
activity relatively inferior.



But agriculture, while the basis of Northwestern wealth, is not the sole
pursuit. Transportation has become in these regions a powerful interest,
because of the vast surplus agricultural product to be carried away, and
of the great quantities of lumber, coal, salt, and staple supplies in
general, to be distributed throughout the new prairie communities. The
transformation of the pine forests into the homes of several million
people has, of course, developed marvelous sawmill and building
industries; and the furnishing of millions of new homes has called into
being great factories for the making of wooden furniture, iron stoves,
and all kinds of household supplies. In response to the demand for
agricultural implements and machinery with which to cultivate five
hundred million acres of newly utilized wild land, there have come into
existence numerous great establishments for the making of machines that
have been especially invented to meet the peculiarities and exigencies
of Western farm life.

Through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, Indian corn has become a
greater product in quantity and value than wheat; while in Wisconsin,
Minnesota, and North and South Dakota the wheat is decidedly the
preponderant crop. Although in addition to oats and barley, which
flourish in all the Western States, it has been found possible to
increase the acreage of maize in the northern tier, it is now believed
that the most profitable alternate crop in the latitude of Minneapolis
and St. Paul is to be flax. Already a region including parts of
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas has become the
most extensive area of flax culture in the whole world. The crop has
been produced simply for the seed, which has supplied large linseed oil
factories in Minneapolis, Chicago, and various Western places. But now
it has been discovered that the flax straw, which has heretofore been
allowed to rot in the fields as a valueless product, can be utilized for
a fibre which will make a satisfactory quality of coarse linen fabrics.
Linen mills have been established in Minneapolis, and it is somewhat
confidently predicted that in course of time the linen industry of that
ambitious city will reach proportions even greater than its wonderful
flour industry, which for a number of years has been without a rival
anywhere in the world.


The railroad system of the Northwest has been developed in such a way
that no one centre may be fairly regarded as the commercial capital of
the region. Chicago, with its marvelous foresight, has thrown out lines
of travel that draw to itself much of the traffic which would seem
normally to belong to Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth on the north, or
to St. Louis and Kansas City on the south. But in the region now under
discussion, the famous "Twin Cities," Minneapolis and St. Paul,
constitute unquestionably the greatest and most distinctive centre, both
of business and of civilization. They are beautifully situated, and they
add to a long list of natural advantages very many equally desirable
attractions growing out of the enterprising and ambitious forethought of
the inhabitants. They are cities of beautiful homes, pleasant parks,
enterprising municipal improvements; advanced educational
establishments, and varied industrial interests. Each is a distinct
urban community, although they lie so near together that they constitute
one general centre of commerce and transportation when viewed from a
distance. Their stimulating rivalry has had the effect to keep each city
alert and to prevent a listless, degenerate local administration. About
the Falls of St. Anthony, at Minneapolis, great manufacturing
establishments are grouping themselves, and each year adds to the
certainty that these two picturesque and charming cities have before
them a most brilliant civic future.

[Illustration: THE FALLS OF ST. ANTHONY, 1885.]


The tendency to rely upon united public action is illustrated in the
growth of Northwestern educational systems. The universities of these
commonwealths are State universities. Professional education is under
the State auspices and control. The normal schools and the agricultural
schools belong to the State. The public high school provides
intermediate instruction. The common district school, supported jointly
by local taxation and State subvention, gives elementary education to
the children of all classes. As the towns grow the tendency to graft
manual and technical courses upon the ordinary public school curriculum
is unmistakably strong. The Northwest, more than any other part of the
country, is disposed to make every kind of education a public function.

Radicalism has flourished in the homogeneous agricultural society of
the Northwest. In the anti-monopoly conflict there seemed to have
survived some of the intensity of feeling that characterized the
anti-slavery movement; and a tinge of this fanatical quality has always
been apparent in the Western and Northwestern monetary heresies. But it
is in the temperance movement that this sweep of radical impulse has
been most irresistible. It was natural that the movement should become
political and take the form of an agitation for prohibition. The history
of prohibition in Iowa, Kansas, and the Dakotas, and of temperance
legislation in Minnesota and Nebraska, reveals--even better perhaps than
the history of the anti-monopoly movement--the radicalism, homogeneity,
and powerful socializing tendencies of the Northwestern people. Between
these different agitations there has been in reality no slight degree of
relationship; at least their origin is to be traced to the same general
conditions of society.

The extent to which a modern community resorts to State action depends
in no small measure upon the accumulation of private resources. Public
or organized initiative will be relatively strongest where the impulse
to progress is positive but the ability of individuals is small. There
are few rich men in the Northwest. Iowa, great as is the Hawkeye State,
has no large city and no large fortunes. Of Kansas the same thing may be
said. The Dakotas have no rich men and no cities. Minnesota has
Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Nebraska has Omaha; but otherwise these
two States are farming communities, without large cities or concentrated
private capital. Accordingly the recourse to public action is
comparatively easy. South Dakota farmers desire to guard against drought
by opening artesian wells for irrigation. They resort to State
legislation and the sale of county bonds. North Dakota wheat-growers are
unfortunate in the failure of crops. They secure seed-wheat through
State action and their county governments. A similarity of condition
fosters associated action and facilitates the progress of popular

In such a society the spirit of action is intense. If there are few
philosophers, there is remarkable diffusion of popular knowledge and
elementary education. The dry atmosphere and the cold winters are
nerve-stimulants, and life seems to have a higher tension and velocity
than in other parts of the country.


The Northwest presents a series of very interesting race problems. The
first one, chronologically at least, is the problem that the American
Indian presents. It is not so long ago since the Indian was in
possession of a very large portion of the region we are now considering.
A number of tribes were gradually removed further West, or were assigned
to districts in the Indian Territory. But most of them were concentrated
in large reservations in Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota,
Montana, and Wyoming. The past few years have witnessed the rapid
reduction of these reservations, and the adoption of a policy which, if
carried to its logical conclusion with energy and good faith, will at an
early date result in the universal education of the children, in the
abolition of the system of reservations, and in the settlement of the
Indian families upon farms of their own, as fully enfranchised American



The most potent single element of population in the Northwest is of New
England origin, although more than half of it has found its way into
Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, by filtration
through the intermediate States of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

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