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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation: Nevada in the middle



It has always been about commerce.

In search of huge payoffs from trade with the Orient, Englishmen invested vast sums in Jamestown and other colonies, often consuming major shares of capital available in London.

England’s motivation in establishing colonies was commercial, in large part to find a river route through North America.

Investor debates were heated disagreements on priorities: Establish a profitable plantation? Find a passage through the continent to the Orient? Secure cargoes of medicinal herbs? Seek out rumored mineral riches, especially gold? …

The idea of reaching China by cutting through the heart of North America was a powerful idea particularly inspired by a writer, Hayes, who proposed there must be great rivers in North America draining not only eastward into the Atlantic but also westward into the Pacific. Goods “could be transported overland between them by horses mules or ‘beasts of that country apt to labour’ such as elk or buffalo or ‘by the aid of many Savages accustomed to burdens; who shall stead us greatly in these affairs.”

Colonization was a precursor to making a passage search; those at Jamestown were charged “you shall do your best endeavour to find out a safe port in the entrance of some navigable river making choice of such a one as runneth farthest into the land.” This passage-making premise was at the core of English designs on eastern North America.

So when it came to Nevada Territory, the race was still on. Was there a navigable river? What was going to be the transcontinental route? Who would get contracts for wagon roads and mail delivery? Who would be able to garner the water and land to grow the crops that would feed transcontinental purveyors and the towns needed to support mines and that new technology, railroads?

Would this be controlled by Salt Lake City (Mormons) or by San Francisco (eastern capitalists)? Thousands of stories and hours of entertainment can be derived from reading the debates, the maneuvers, the shenanigans, the personalities and human pathos that played this stage, making todayʼs socio-economic struggles tame and genteel.

The lands of Nevada Territory did not appear to lend themselves to the cultivation of cotton or tobacco, thus negating the economic necessity of field slaves to make a profit. Anglo-American miners did not want competition from the slave-holders in the gold fields or subsequently, the Comstock, so the 20-year march toward statehood did not center around the question of slavery on a local level, despite the national turmoil.

This, then, was a pivotal facet in Nevadaʼs eventual Constitutional proposal.

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series that will be published during that time. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.

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