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Handbook to the new Gold-fields   By: (1825-1894)

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Handbook to the New Gold Fields, by R.M. Ballantyne.

This book was one of several books written by Ballantyne in or about 1858, for Nelson, the publishers. From a literary point of view it does not rank very high, because it was a "pot boiler", and not one of Ballantyne's dashing and spirited books for teenagers. There were three other books in this category, and we do not rate very high our chances of finding any of them and adding it to our collection.

Much of the book consists of long quotes from the Times correspondent. I am not sure, but I think that should really be read as "the New York Times correspondent". There are also long letters from the Governor of the area (a British colony), to the British Government, and their answers. Of course there were long intervals between these letters and their replies, because they had to cross the North American continent, and then the Atlantic by sailing vessel.

This book turned up in the Early Canadiana Online collection of early books about Canada, and the scans of the pages to be found on the Canadiana website were acquired using the very new (2005) screen grabbing tool created by ABBYY. Canadiana publish their scans at five different scales, of which we used the middle one, except for the Appendix, where we used the largest size, and OCRed it in the usual manner. The reason for this was that the font size used by Nelsons for the Appendix was much smaller than that used for the bodytext of the book. The rest of the work was done using our Athelstane editing programs, just as we do all other books. So doing it was something of a technical feat.




The problem of colonisation in the north western portion of British America is fast working itself out. The same destiny which pushed forward Anglo Saxon energy and intelligence into the rich plains of Mexico, and which has peopled Australia, is now turning the current of emigration to another of the "waste places of the earth." The discovery of extensive goldfields in the extreme west of the territories now occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company, is a great fact. It no longer comes to us as the report of interested adventurers, or the exaggeration of a few sanguine diggers, but with well authenticated results large quantities of gold received at San Francisco, and a consequent rush of all nations from the gold regions of California, as well as from the United States and Canada. The thirst for Gold is, as it always has been, the most attractive, the strongest, the most unappeasable of appetites the impulse that builds up, or pulls down empires, and floods the wilderness with a sudden population. In those wild regions of the Far West men are pouring in one vast, gold searching tide of thousands and tens of thousands, into the comparatively unknown territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, for which our Legislature has just manufactured a government. How strange is the comparison instituted by the Times between the rush to Fraser River and the mediaeval crusades, which carried so large a portion of the population of Europe to die on the burning plains of Palestine! At Clermont Ferrand, Peter the Hermit has concluded his discourse; cries are heard in every quarter, "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"; Every one assumes the cross, and the crowd disperses to prepare for conquering under the walls of the earthly, a sure passage to the heavenly, Jerusalem. What elevation of motive, what faith, what enthusiasm! Compare with this the picture presented by San Francisco Harbour. A steamer calculated to carry 600 persons, is laden with 1600. There is hardly standing room on the deck. It is almost impossible to clear a passage from one part of the vessel to the other. The passengers are not knights and barons, but tradesmen, "jobbers," tenants, and workmen of all the known varieties... Continue reading book >>

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