English Land Charters to the Pacific

The Pacific was so near that the charters of Massachusetts ( 1628 and 1691) granted the colony the full extent of the land west to the ocean. Virginia (second charter 1609) extended from sea to sea. Connecticut too ran to the Pacific (1662) and included the islands adjacent to the shore. So did both Carolinas. None of these grants were absurd to English minds but the later ones seem fantasy in the light of what the French, who had pressed beyond Lake Superior and the Mississippi, knew when they were made.

They were fantasy and this geography of fantasy played a part in forging the United States. When the Articles of Confederation were ratified (1781) these western boundaries had been realistically amended; they were now the Mississippi. But under the Articles the first national possession of the United States was the lands that had been granted by English kings according to the geography of fantasy. They were the nation’s most valuable asset and it!i strongest cohesive force. They were a prime mover in fulfilling the geographical, political, and psychological destiny that required us to be a continental nation.

Even more may be said. In the geography of fantasy the English colonies, which in the first moment of settlement began to become the United States, extended to the Pacific Ocean. The usage and expectation that were born of fantasy are the first bud of the psychological component. We completed the continental nation when we fulfilled the fantasy by pushing the western boundary to where it had first been drawn.