Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The First Steamboat

Our greatest trouble during Jefferson's rule was brought about by the war between France and Great Britain. The British did not want the French to have any food from abroad, and, hoping to starve them, said that no vessels should be allowed to enter French ports. The French, to take their revenge, then promptly decreed that no vessels should enter British ports. To make sure these orders should be obeyed, French ships stopped all American vessels to ask where they were going. The British did the same, and moreover, seized any men on board who were born in England, for they said: "Once an Englishman, always an Englishman."

This, as you know, is not our way of looking at things. Americans declared that they had a right to trade with any country they pleased, and that a foreigner who had lived a certain number of years in the United States became a citizen of the country, if he chose to be so. Several quarrels on this subject had already arisen, when the British frigate Leopard suddenly chased and fired upon the American frigate Chesapeake.

The American vessel, unprepared for war, was forced to strike her colors, after three men had been killed and eighteen wounded. Then the British boarded the vessel and, carried off three American sailors, saying they were deserters from the British navy. This insult, added to many others,—for the British had seized about four hundred American ships and six thousand American sailors,—made Jefferson justly angry.

Still, he decided not to declare war, for we had only twelve war ships to oppose to Britain's thousand. Our President, therefore, merely ordered all British vessels to leave American waters, and by his advice Congress forbade our ships visiting any foreign port. This law was called the "embargo," but most people preferred to spell that word backward, and said it was the "O grab me" Act.

It put an end to commerce, and thereby caused such a loss to our people that it had to be repealed at the end of about a year. Instead, a law was passed allowing our ships to trade with every country except Great Britain and France. As we had depended upon the French and British for goods not made in our country, manufactories were now started to supply them, and thus our land developed new industries.

Burr and Hamilton


Two great events happened in 1807. One was the downfall of Aaron Burr, the handsome and talented American who was Vice President during Jefferson's first term, and lacked but one vote of being President in his stead. But Burr was, unfortunately, a man of no principle. He quarreled with Hamilton, and killed him in a duel, although Hamilton discharged his pistol in the air rather than injure Burr. As people ceased to approve of him after this duel, Burr made use of his talents to win rich friends. With their aid, he tried to seize New Orleans, intending to make it the capital of a kingdom of Louisiana. But his plans were discovered, and he was caught and tried for treason.

Many people knew that Burr was guilty, but though his friends were ruined by him, no real proofs of his guilt were secured, and he was set free. Still, the rest of his life was spent in poverty and disgrace; for while a few persons still believed in him, the greater part of the nation respected him as little as Benedict Arnold, for he, too, had betrayed his country.

The other event of 1807 was the completion of Fulton's steamboat. The United States was growing so fast that a quicker and easier way of traveling had become very necessary. Fulton and others had already been working at this invention more than twenty years. In spite of many failures, they kept on, until Fulton finally built the Clermont. It was advertised to sail up the Hudson River, and, as it was a great curiosity, a big crowd collected to see it start. Nearly all the spectators made fun of it, declaring it would never go, and when it did set out they wonderingly cried: "She moves! she moves!"

Not only did the boat move, but it went up to Albany in thirty-two hours—a rate of speed which seemed so great then that people could hardly believe it either possible or safe. Still, before long Fulton's boat made regular trips up and down the stream. For a short time it was the only successful steamboat in our country, but two years later others were plying along the Delaware and Raritan rivers and on Lake Champlain.

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


In 1811, the first steamboat went from Pittsburg to New Orleans, creating a great sensation all along its way. Although vessels without sails or oars were a surprise to all, they especially amazed the negroes and Indians. Indeed, we are told that when the first steamboat was seen on Lake Michigan, the savages called it "Walk in the Water." Some of them, too, actually believed a joker who told them it was drawn by a team of trained sturgeons!