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difference in temperature between the day and the succeeding night is, at all seasons, but particularly in summer, greater than in the countries nearer to the ocean. It is scarcely necessary to add, that, in territories so scantily and irregularly supplied with water, the surface must be, in general, bare and destitute of vegetation; and such is the character of the greater portion of the continent west of the dividing range of mountains.
The central regions of the continent east of the Rocky Mountains exhibit, though in a less degree, the same peculiarities of climate with those adjoining, in the Pacific section. The vast plains, extending from the vicinity of the dividing chain towards the Mississippi, south of the 50th parallel of latitude, are almost as arid and barren as the countries on the other side of the ridge; the rains are neither frequent nor heavy during the warm months, and the surface, except in a few spots near the rivers, consists of sand and sandstone strongly impregnated with salt, and affords support only to stiff grass and shrubs. Descending towards the Mississippi, the climate and soil become more favorable to vegetable life, and the country gradually assumes the characters of the other Atlantic regions. North of the 50th parallel, there is more rain or snow, at all seasons, on each side of the ridge, though less on the west than on the east; the intensity of the cold, and its long duration, particularly on the eastern side, render those territories almost all uninhabitable by those who depend on agriculture for subsistence.
In consequence of this greater aridity of the climate on the western side of America, the irregularity of the surface, and the proximity of the dividing chain of mountains to the coast, the rivers on that side are generally neither so long, nor so abundant in water, nor navigable to such distances from their mouths, as those which fall into the Atlantic. The Columbia and the Colorado are the only streams known to flow from America into the Pacific, which can be compared, in any of these respects, with several in the other sections of the continent; yet they are each certainly inferior to the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Plate, and probably, also, to the Mackenzie. These and the other rivers of Western America run, in nearly their whole course, through deep ravines, among stony mountains; and they are, for the most part, crossed at short intervals by ledges of rock, producing falls and rapids, which render all navigation on them impossible, and to overcome which, all the resources of art would be unavailing.
In the territory east of the dividing chain, and south of the 50th parallel of latitude, are many rivers flowing from the mountains to the Mississippi; but none of them seem calculated to serve as channels for communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific regions. The Missouri and the Yellowstone each take a devious course; so that, after ascending either of them to the head of its navigation, the distance to the habitable countries on the Pacific is almost as great as from a point on the Missouri, more than fifteen hundred miles below. The Platte flows nearly, under the 42d parallel of latitude, from its source in the South Pass, the principal cleft of the Rocky Mountains, to the Missouri, precisely in the direction most favorable for intercourse between the Mississippi and the Columbia countries; but it is the most shallow of all large rivers: traversing a surface nearly plain, the increase of its waters, produced annually by the rains and melting of the snows, only serves to render it wider
GENERAL VIEW OF THE GEOGRAPHY.
without any considerable increase of its depth, which is every where too small for the passage of the lightest boats. Nature has, however, provided a road along its banks, over which heavy wagons now annually roll between Missouri and Oregon; and, with a little assistance from art in some places, this road may be rendered one of the best in the world.
The territory farther north, extending from the Rocky Mountains to Hudson's Bay and the Arctic Sea, is traversed by innumerable rivers falling into those parts of the ocean. Of these, the principal are the Red River, of the north, the Assinaboin, and the Saskatchawine, emptying into Lake Winnipeg, which coinmunicates by several channels with Hudson's Bay, and the Missinippi or Churchill's River, falling directly into that bay; while the Arctic Sea receives, nearly under the 69th parallel of latitude, Back's or the Great Fish River, the Coppermine, and the Mackenzie, the latter draining a territory scarcely less extensive than that of the Columbia. The regions crossed by these rivers are, in general, so nearly level, that it is, in many places, difficult to trace the limits of the tracts from which the waters flow into their respective channels or basins. They contain numerous lakes, some very large, and nearly all connected with each other, and with the Arctic Sea on the north, and Hudson's Bay on the east; and the head-waters of the rivers supplying these reservoirs are situated in the vicinity of the sources of the Mississippi, or of the Missouri, or of the Columbia, or of the streams falling into Lake Superior. The rivers above named are all navigable for great distances by boats, and they thus afford considerable advantages for commercial intercourse; goods being now transported across the continent, from the mouth of the Columbia to Hudson's Bay or to Montreal, and rice versa, almost entirely by water.
Under circumstances of climate, soil, and conformation of surface, so different, it may be supposed that considerable differences should exist between the productions of the great divisions of America here mentioned. It has been, accordingly, found that few species of plants or of animals are common to them all, and that many which abound in one arc rare, if not entirely wanting, in the others. Some plants, especially the pines and cedars, acquire a greater development in the regions near the Pacific than in any other country; but a large portion of those territories is, from reasons already shown, entirely and irretrievably barren. In recompense for this sterility of the soil, the rivers of the Pacific section abound in fish, particularly in salmon, which ascend them to great distances from the sea, and form the principal support of the inhabitants.
With respect to the aborigines of these countries, the Arctic coasts of America are occupied by a race called Esquimaux, distinguished by peculiar marks from all others, who are likewise found on the northernmost shores of the Pacific, and particularly in the islands between the two continents, intermingled with the Tchukski, the aborigines of northernmost Asia. The remainder of the Pacific section, and, indeed, of the whole American continent, except, perhaps, Patagonia, appears to have been inhabited, before the entrance of the Europeans, by one and the same race; the natives of the different portions differing but slightly, considering the varieties of climate, soil, and situation, and the consequent varieties in modes of life. That some admixture with the races of Southeastern Asia may have taken place, is not improbable, from the fact that Japanese vessels have more than once been thrown on the north-west
coasts of America since the beginning of the present century; but no evidence or strong ground of supposition of such admixture has been discovered in the appearance of any part of the population of those coasts,
The settlements of civilized nations in the Pacific section of North America are inconsiderable in extent. Those of the Russians are scattered along the coasts and islands north of the latitude of 54 degrees 40 minutes; they are all under the direction of the Russian American Trading Company, and are devoted entirely to the collection of the furs and skins of the land and sea animals abounding in that quarter, of which large quantities are transported for sale to Asia and Europe. Those of the British and of citizens of the United States are intermingled throughout the regions south and east of the Russian territory, to California ; the British, in general, occupying the parts north, and the Americans those south, of the Columbia River, which enters the Pacific near the 46th degree of latitude. The people of both the last-mentioned nations have hitherto, likewise, been employed principally in the fur trade; but, that business having become less profitable of late years, from the diminution of the animals, agricultural establishments have been formed, especially by the citizens of the United States, in the vicinity of the Columbia. The British are all under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company, which possesses, in virtue of a royal grant, the privilege, in exclusion of other British subjects, of trading in all the Indian countries of North America belonging to, or claimed by, that power; and they are protected and restrained by British laws, under an act of Parliament extending the jurisdiction of the Canada courts over those countries, so far as relates to subjects of that nation. The citizens of the United States, on the contrary, are deprived of all protection, and are independent of all control; as they are not subject to British laws, and their own government exercises no authority whatsoever over any part of America west of the Rocky Mountains. In California, south of the 38th degree of latitude, are many colonies, garrisons, and missionary stations, founded by the Spaniards during the last century, and now maintained by the Mexicans, who succeeded to the rights of Spain in 1821. They are all situated in the immediate vicinity of the coasts, the interior regions being, as yet, almost unknown. It is worthy of remark, that California, though thinly inhabited by a wretched, indolent population, is the only part of the Pacific section of North America which can be considered as regularly settled, — which possesses an organized civil and social system, and where individuals hold a property in the soil secured to them by law.
Each of these four nations claims the exclusive possession of a portion of the territory on the Pacific side of America, north of the Californian Gulf; and each of them is a party to some treaty with another, for the temporary use, or definitive sovereignty, of such portion. Thus it has been agreed, by treaty, in 1819, between the United States and Spain, renewed, in 1828, between the United States and Mexico, – that a line, drawn from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, in the course of the 42d parallel of latitude, should separate the doininions of the former power on the north from those of Mexico on the south. It was, in like manner, agreed, in 1821, by convention between the United States and Russia, that the former nation should make no establishments on the coasts north of the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes, and that the latter
GENERAL VIEW OF THE GEOGRAPHY.
should make none south of the same line; but this convention was neutralized, and, in fact, abrogated, by a treaty concluded between Russia and Great Britain in the following year, by which all the territories of the main land and islands, north and west of a line drawn from the latitude of 54 degrees 40 minutes, north-westward, along the highlands bordering the Pacific coasts, to Mount St. Elias, and thence due north to the Arctic Sea, were to belong to Russia, while all east and south of that line were to be the property of Great Britain.
The possession of the vast territory west of the Rocky Mountains, between these two lines of boundary, long remained undetermined ; the United States claining the portion north of the 42d parallel, and Great Britain claiming that south from the other line, to such extent as to secure to the claimant in each case the whole, or nearly the whole, valley of the Columbia : and neither nation being willing to recede from its pretensions, a compromise was made by convention, in 1818, and renewed in 1827, agreeably to which all these countries remained free and open to the people of both. At length, however, on the 15th of June, 1846, a new convention was concluded, for a definitive partition of the disputed territory, by a line drawn from the Rocky Mountains westward, along the 49th parallel of latitude, to the Strait of Fuca, and southward, through the middle of that strait, to the Pacific; all south of which line is assigned to the United States, and all north of it, including the northern portion of the Columbia, Frazer's River, and the southern division of the NorthWest Archipelago, to Great Britain.
The long dispute, with regard to the possession of the countries on the north-west side of North America, was thus amicably terminated ; at the same time, however, the war between the United States and Mexico raises a doubt as to the continuance of the dominion of the latter nation in California, on which no speculations will be here offered.
Having presented this concise general view of the western section of North America, its divisions will now be described in detail, beginning with the most southern, under the heads of California, Oregon, and Russian America.
The name California was first assigned, by the Spaniards, in 1536, to the great peninsula which extends on the western side of North America, from the 32d degree of latitude, southwardly, to and within the limits of the torrid zone; and it was afterwards made to comprehend the whole division of the continent north-west of Mexico, just as that of Florida was applied to the opposite portion on the Atlantic side. At the present day, California is usually considered as including the peninsula, and the territory extending from it, on the Pacific, northward, as far as the liniits of Oregon, or the country of the Columbia River; Cape Mendocino, in the latitude of 40 degrees 19 minutes, being assumed as the point of separation of the two coasts. The Mexican government, however, regards the 42d parallel of latitude as the northern limit of California, agreeably to the treaty concluded between that republic and the United States of America in 1828.
California is naturally divided into two portions - the peninsular, called Old or Lower California -- and the continental, or New, or Upper Califoraia, the line of separation between which runs nearly along the 32d parallel of latitude, from the head or northern extremity of the Californian Gulf, westward to the Pacific.
The Gulf of California will be first considered. This Gulf, called by the Spaniards the Sea of Cortés, but more commonly the Vermilion Sea, (Mar Vermejo,) is a great arm of the Pacific, which joins that ocean under the 233d parallel of latitude, and thence extends north-eastward, between the American continent on the east and the Californian peninsula on the west, to its head or termination, near the 32d parallel, where it receives the waters of the Colorado and Gila Rivers. Its length is about seven hundred miles; its breadth, at its junction with the Pacific, is one hundred miles : farther north, it is somewhat wider, and, still farther, its shores gradually approach each other, until they become the banks of the Colorado. It contains many islands, of which the largest are Carmen, near the 25th degree of latitude, Tiburon and Santa Ines, near the 29th, and some others at the northern extremity. The western or peninsular coasts of the gulf are high, steep, and rocky, offering very few places of security for vessels; and not a single stream which deserves the name of a river enters it on that side. The eastern or continental shores are generally low, and the sea in their vicinity is so shallow as to render the navigation along them dangerous.
The peninsular coast of the gulf has long been celebrated for the great size and beauty of the pearls contained in the oysters which abound in the sea on that side; and the search for those precious stones has always formed the principal employment of people of civilized nations in that quarter The pearls are procured, with much danger and difficulty, by