Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was the 26th President of the United States, an adventurer, soldier and historian.
This volume starts by showing how the Europeans’ westward expansion across America was an extension of the Germanic völkerwanderung and then moves on to describe tribulations and heroic efforts of the early settlers who opened up the first trails westward from the original thirteen colonies. Roosevelt pulls no punches in describing the intense racial conflict and the cruel warfare which followed:
“The Creeks owed the land which they possessed to murder and rapine; they mercilessly destroyed all weaker communities, red or white; they had no idea of showing justice or generosity toward their fellows who lacked their strength, and now the measure they had meted so often to others was at last to be meted to them.
“Not only were the Indians very terrible in battle, but they were cruel beyond all belief in victory; and the gloomy annals of border warfare are stained with their darkest hues because it was a war in which helpless women and children suffered the same hideous fate that so often befell their husbands and fathers.
“It was a war waged by savages against armed settlers, whose families followed them into the wilderness. Such a war is inevitably bloody and cruel; but the inhuman love of cruelty for cruelty’s sake, which marks the red Indian above all other savages, rendered these wars more terrible than any others.
“For the hideous, unnamable, unthinkable tortures practiced by the red men on their captured foes, and on their foes’ tender women and helpless children . . . All men knew that the prisoners who fell into Indian hands, of whatever “age or sex, often suffered a fate hideous and revolting beyond belief and beyond description.
“It was inevitable—indeed it was in many instances proper—that such deeds should awake in the breasts of the whites the grimmest, wildest spirit of revenge and hatred.
“Unless we were willing that the whole continent west of the Alleghanies should remain an unpeopled waste, the hunting-ground of savages, war was inevitable; and even had we been willing, and had we refrained from encroaching on the Indians’ lands, the war would have come nevertheless, for then the Indians themselves would have encroached on ours.
“Every good hunting-ground was claimed by many nations. It was rare, indeed, that any tribe had an uncontested title to a large tract of land; where such title existed, it rested not on actual occupancy and cultivation, but on the recent butchery of weaker rivals. For instance, there were a dozen tribes, all of whom hunted in Kentucky, and fought each other there, all of whom had equally good titles to the soil, and not one of whom acknowledged the right of any other; as a matter of fact they had therein no right, save the right of the strongest.
“The land no more belonged to them than it belonged to Boone and the white hunters who first visited it.”
This volume ends just after the Revolutionary War, and the other three volumes complete the set.
Volume Two: From the Alleghanies to the Mississippi 1777-1783.
Volume Three: The Founding of the Trans-Alleghany Commonwealths 1784-1790.
Volume Four: Louisiana and the Northwest 1791-1807.
Cover image: Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap, by George Caleb Bingham.