The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 1, Number 2, Page 2
Spring, 1976

Editorial: The Bicentennial and the West

As the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence draws near, it is useful to remind ourselves that the American Revolution is as much the "property" of the western United States as of the eastern seaboard.

It is true that the Founding Fathers were hardly aware of the West. When they thought of a nation, they thought of the thirteen original states. The men who fought at Saratoga and Yorktown were defending a long strand of farms and towns along the eastern seaboard of the United States. They knew almost nothing about the majestic land that lay far beyond their frontiers. Their mountains were the Alleghenies. Their ocean was the Atlantic. George Washington and John Adams never saw the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River, the Olympic Peninsula, or the Pacific Ocean.

But the ideals and political institutions of the Founding Fathers did cross the Mississippi. The challenge of the American democratic experience comes down from the early settlers of the East Coast to the modern Americans of a whole continent. The ideas, which once belonged to a few people on the Atlantic Coast, now affect millions of men and women in the West. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are blueprints for the good society in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane as well as in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

The early pioneers recognized the continuity of American experience when they celebrated the Fourth of July. A hundred and twenty-five years ago, for example, Daniel R. Bigelow, a frontier lawyer, delivered an Independence Day speech in Olympia, which indicated that, the American Revolution, like the American people themselves had "Gone West,"

These are his words as reported in a contemporary newspaper account:

"We are now assembled on the verge of United States soil, - no monumental shafts erected on revolutionary battle-fields meet our eyes to stimulate our patriotism and awaken our sympathies. We are far removed from all such scenes, farther than the most enthusiastic actors in those scenes ever expected their labors to extend. But the scene exhibited here today shows that the great national heart sends its pulsations, actively, healthfully, patriotically even to this distant extremity. We see the flag of the union waving over us, and we feel that beneath its ample folds we are at home."