1876. The western sun set on Grant's Presidency. Colorado was
the newest admission to the Union, number 38. Now-familiar technology found
application in industry and agriculture.
The guttering candle of manifest destiny had lost its spark, the wick was exhausted;
it had burned down to a nub. Even still, the red, white and blue explosions that
resounded across the nation in July of that year marked the one hundredth anniversary
since the United States, a maverick bull, bucked Britain.
1876. America had tamed the savage, wild lands and Lady Liberty turned her eyes toward
the future. Six years before, the fifteenth amendment was passed, and now, for
the first time, all of the inhabitants of this great land were feeling their
God-given power to change the vector of the world.
Textbooks were printed in scale, so that students the nation over could
experience the might of the United States. They were bound in tough,
durable leather. They were designed to last. Inside the history textbooks one could
find a wealth of knowledge, and the words were so vivid that they could stampede
right off of the page and trample the reader. Reading the accounts of how the West
was wrested from the insidious clutches of the Indians was like wrangling a horse
and experiencing the monstrosity of a cattle drive firsthand. You felt as if
you were part of the excitement of the herd, felt the crushing tide of
American muscle at your back, understood your place in the great river
of momentum, you felt the inertia and drive of history and felt as if you belonged.
A doctorate-holding professor by the name of Ridpath found himself recording this history
as he thought the People knew it; he understood that it was necessary to examine the United States
from its humble beginnings to the present day in order for readers to appreciate
the juggernaut the nation had become. What better time to record such history than
on the freedom's 100th birthday?
Six score and seven years later, a student picks up a textbook forgotten in the
archives of a library. The leather is cracked and dry. The worn binding cracks as
she opens it, releasing plumes of dust. It is a moldering, musty smell that pulls the
hair from your scalp and shoots your nostrils clean through. The spine of the book
has failed, and the first twenty-five pages fall out in a tumble. She thumbs the
aged vellum. The cream colored pages have curdled around the edges.
She encounters an account of the Red Man: a race of savage alcoholics who
squandered the United States and its magnificent resources. Though interesting from
an anthropological standpoint, the heathen artifacts of their history are of lesser
interest than the significant damage they caused America during its struggle to
civilize the frontier. Their tradition of telling history was in every way inferior
to the printing press, whose words could reach thousands. The steam engine, a
pinnacle of steel engineering, chortled and gobbled up their primitive means of
transport without so much as licking its lips.
She reads the text, smiling lopsidedly at the inspired but strangely
myopic writing. She reaches the conclusion of the chapter on Native Americans
and she reads aloud, the echoes of her voice reaching no other ears among the
old stacks of the library:
Such is a brief sketch of the Red man - who was rather than is. The only hope
of the perpetuity of his race seems now to center in the Choctaws, Cherokees,
Creeks and Chickasaws of the Indian Territory. These nations, numbering in the
aggregate about forty-eight thousand souls, have attained a considerable degree
of civilization; and with just and liberal dealing on the part of the Government
the outlook for the future is not discouraging. Most of the other Indian tribes
seem to be rapidly approaching extinction. Right or wrong, such is the logic
of events. Whether the Red man has been justly deprived of the ownership of
the New World will remain a subject of debate; that he has been deprived, can
be none. The Saxon has come. His conquering foot has trodden the vast domain from
shore to shore. The weaker race has withered from his presence and sword. By
the majestic rivers and in the depths of the solitary woods the feeble sons
of the Bow and Arrow will be seen no more. Only their names remain on hill
and stream and mountain. The Red man sinks and fails. His eyes are to the West.
To the prairies and forests, the hunting-grounds of his ancestors, he says farewell.
He is gone! The cypress and the hemlock sing his requiem.
Last paragraph taken from "A Popular History of the United States of America,
from the Aboriginal Times to the Present Day," written by John Clark Ridpath,
A. M., LL. D. and published by Jones Brothers & Company: Cincinnatti, O. Chicago, Ills. St. Louis, Mo. Dallas, Texas. Copyright 1876. Should you come across a copy of this textbook, the original material can be found on page 50.
Ridpath, John Clark. A Popular History of the United States of America. Cincinnatti, Ohio: Jones Bros. & Co, 1876.