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W. R. Grace, "A Great Era for South America"



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In the early 1890s, the American Press Association put together a feature series of writings in preparation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They commissioned 74 notable Americans to make predictions about American life in the 1990s, in the process producing an interesting commentary on life in the 1890s. The variety of essays reflected the diversity of the contributors, including a senator (John J. Ingalls), an electrical engineer (John J. Carty), a poet (Elizabeth Akers Allen), and a minister (Thomas De Witt Talmage). The segments ran in newspapers across the country from March through May 1893, in time for the World's Fair opening.

I look for very great changes, all of them in the direction of business prosperity in American commercial development, in the next century. I expect to see a great merchant marine, although I am one of those who believe that this cannot be procured by us until there are changes in our navigation laws. The substitution of iron and steel for wood, and of steam for sail power - which has been going on with great rapidity in the past 20 years - accounts partly, I think, for the decadence in American shipping.

And if Congress shall so legislate that Americans can compete with foreign shipowners, there is likely to be a revival of American shipping interest and shipbuilding, as well as the development of a race of American sailors like those of former times. They were as fine sailors as trod the decks, and simultaneously they were distinguished from all other seamen by heir business ability.

The development of the great West, and especially of the South and the Southwest will, I think, be as prodigious in the early part of the coming century as has been that of the states of the Ohio Valley under the influence of railway construction. I am inclined to think that the American farmer must either find new wheat lands by a well-considered and elaborate general system of irrigation or special methods of cultivation. Or else the American people will be compelled in the next century to import instead of export wheat.

On the other hand, the active men of the Twentieth Century are going to see a magnificent development of corn and other cereals in the fertile lands of the great Southwest. And American genius is going to show Europe now nutritive and desirable American corn is for food purposes when it is properly cooked. For that reason we shall probably find that our exports of corn will more than make up for the falling off in the exports of wheat.

But I think that one of the greatest commercial developments is going to be, so far as the United States is concerned, in the relations between this country and those of the South American continent. The Andes Mountains are already surmounted by a railroad which is going to open up that magnificent plateau, or montane, which stretches to the eastward from the Andes.

As fine a cotton country as there is in the world is there and, with the opening of this railroad, a particularly fine grade of cotton will be developed. There are millions of acres suitable for tobacco culture, and higher up there is a wheat belt of virgin soil almost as large as is the great wheat belt of the United States.

Besides, there are the great silver mines of the Cerro de Pasco. These were known even from the time of the Incas, which history has so many romances about. By the record of taxation, these mines have produced over $420,000,000 since the conquest.

Now men are living who will see this enormous land brought under development. This change will bring the South American countries into closer relation with the United States. There will be competition, of course, but some competition of this sort ought not be unhealthy.

And I presume that, in the next century, there may be built a railway reaching so far that it may be possible to enter a palace car in New York City and ride it to Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, or Buenos Aires. Railroad development will do for South America what it has done for the United States.

And the activity of our commerce will bring the United States into very close alliance with the southern continent and will cause a development of commercial relations the consequences of which cannot be realized today. The Twentieth Century is going to be a great era for South America, and that continent cannot flourish without benefiting the United States.

I am one of those who believe that the commercial and manufacturing development of this country during the Twentieth Century will be such that the genius of the American people will make it perfectly possible for this country to compete successfully with all the great manufacturing centers of Europe. This will be done with a great majority of the classes of goods that are now being marketed by England, France, and Germany -- not only in South America, but in all the great centers of commerce throughout the world.


Consider This Question



1. What connections does Grace make between transportation and commerce?

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