I am right! I will always be right! It is my fate to be right!


And, I'd rather be right than President, too…So, Polk it was!


We dared not look north or look south; rather, we spread our gazes West until the continent could no longer support the terrible weight of so much vision and cracked in half. Those parallels the good Senator Clay had drawn may as well have been perforated — but we didn’t know that then.


In 1846, the good Senator had yet to draw those lines, but I had walked them, I had ridden them, I had been shot at on them, and I had bled on them — which is more than can be said for James Knox Polk. Henry Clay was the frontier! He was a man on the edge of a country without an ending! I will not begrudge such a man the time he never spent in Oregon or California — country with which I was intimately acquainted by the time I turned 25 — he was busy introducing the mint julep to the barbarian hordes of Washington while I was busy not getting killed by Mexicans and savages.


Am I being redundant again?


[The fiddler once again gives pause.]


Why did I go West? Surely, I was not going to wait around to inherit one seventh of my family’s wealth, but just as surely I went West because I was West. The West was my birthright. The West was given me the day in 1634 my forebear, Thomas Hastings, set sail from Portsmouth, England for Watertown, Massachusetts. The West moved and the Hastingses moved with it!


A man who knows New York knows London; he knows all the so-called great centers of commerce and art and civilization that long to creak under the weight of their own gilded bones. He knows the crystal, the corsets, the china, the wallpaper, the wine, the oil paintings, the jewels, the cheese, and the linens that are prized for their origins; and, in knowing them, he knows every other city that is significant because it holds a certain curated set of goods of identical provenance. Artifacts of commerce, all the same!


Surely, many will say I went West because I did not have these things. That much is true: I didn't. However, I dare you to find another Yosemite, another Yellowstone, another Pacific Coast! The jewels of the American West are one and the same as their provenance. An entire continent awaited and I was supposed to farm? Or, perhaps I should have gone East to sell useless bits of paper to idiots and men afraid to work with their hands?