After the Bill of Rights was adopted, the new nation put off its swaddling clothes, forgot the formal Constitution awhile, and went to work. The people grew up in the land, then swaggered a little. Their merchantmen, whalers, and slavers sailed the Seven Seas.

There was the War of 1812, in which some of our ancestors broke the record of the Persians at Marathon, and let the British burn the national Capitol, over which we need not weep, for we have let the lobbyists burn it down several times since. However, our forefathers won Indian wars. They had the powder, the iron, the will; and they wanted the land of the Indians. The eleventh (1798) and twelfth (1804) amendments to the Constitution were adopted—one that a state could not be sued, and the other changing the manner of electing Presidents.

As the century progressed, there were a prodigious number of "constitutional debates." Webster, Hayne, Clay and Calhoun voiced sharpening rivalries and conflicts which were soon to flare into civil war.

But dominating all other national developments was an expansion unparalleled in history. There were big families, plenty for everybody to do, giant forests to cut down, seemingly endless lands to till, ship-loads of immigrants coming in to work and to raise the price of land.

The first territorial expansion was the Louisiana Purchase. Thomas Jefferson, even before he began dickering with Napolean for these vast millions of acres of rich lands and waters, regarded purchase on any terms as strictly unconstitutional. He suggested a constitutional amendment.

But when Jefferson saw a chance to buy the land for a song, he snapped it up, decided to let Congress find the money later, and to talk about the Constitution when the land was safely a part of the United States of America. If he had taken time to get an amendment, the country would probably never have gotten the land.

The purchase may not have been "unconstitutional," since territorial acquisitions are not provided for in the Constitution. But it was a good and honest buy, and nearly everybody except Eastern Federalists wanted the land and the Mississippi Valley and more western states. So the people, not in black robes, but in hickory shirts and buckskin britches, at once rendered a unanimous decision that it was constitutional, and began pouring into the new land. Some of the Tories denounced Jefferson as an Emperor and a violator of the Constitution, but it was too late. The people had the land and were living on it.

Jefferson's purchase was great statesmanship. No amendment was ever passed for its purchase. In fact, the acquisition set a constitutional precedent for future acquisitions. Soon after it was Florida, obtained from Spain.

In the 1820's adventurous men and women emigrated to the great land of Texas, then a part of the United States of Mexico. By 1836, they had revolted against Mexico, written a stirring Declaration of Independence, adopted a national constitution, and set up the Republic of Texas. Then the Republic, after nine years of independence, became a part of the Union in 1846, merging its constitutionalism with that of the United States of America.

The people wanted still more land. A border incident was cooked up by American federal authorities down in Texas. Our national honor was sullied by the United States of Mexico; our military columns marched; and not long after our banners fluttered, and the eagles of our empire screamed from the heights of Chapultepec. We soothed the sting of the "insult" by taking another block of western territory including California.

In 1846, after the turbulent political battle over "54-40 or Flight," we settled (with England) the Oregon boundary at the 49th parallel instead of 54-40.

In 1853, some railroad speculators wanted land for railroads; the United States government obliged by slicing from Mexico some more territory—what is now the southern extremity of New Mexico and Arizona. This was the Gadsen Purchase.

In the meantime, gold had been discovered in California. From 1849, straight across the praries, forest and deserts of the continent, men and women, men and women, children and children, each day plodded on toward the setting sun.

It was the turbulent march of empire. Troops, harlots, sainted women, whiskey merchants, Indian traders, gamblers, doctors, farmers, raced on to the cries of Land! Land! Gold! Gold! They staked out claims, built cities, became independent and self-reliant, for the people had the fertile earth, the rich veins of ore. They wasted much, but in the abundance of land there was enough for all.

Thus the little agricultural nation of some 892,000 square miles in 1790 had expanded to one of 3,027,000 square miles by 1860. The population of the United States at the time of the Revolution was somewhere near 3,000,000 people; by the beginning of the Civil War, it was 31,000,000.

The American people had covered a continent—they had reached the shores of the Pacific—a continent visioned by Tom Paine. Here was our continental United States of America. And now over it, like the other lands acquired, spread the Constitution of the American people.

Throughout this hectic half-century, however, overtones of a fundamental discord kept rising above the clamor and excitement of the western trek—the slavery debates. Fighting forests and Indians in the heat and sun and cold and rain, pioneers who went West generally carried with them a hatred of slavery. Nearly all were poor whites (not "poor whites"), whether they came from the North, the South, or from Europe beyond the seas. By the 1850's, it seemed that the nation was not destined for peace. Already it was shaken with the tremors of a bitter internal war. What finally brought this catastrophe?