John Melish, born in Scotland, became a leading mapmaker and geographer in the United States. In 1816, he produced the map below. Though he originally intended to draw the map to the Rockies, he ended up drawing the map to the Pacific Ocean. He explains his reasoning for this decision in the passage below.
Source: John Melish. Map of the United States with the contiguous British and Spanish Possessions. Philadelphia, 1816. David Rumsey Collection.
Part of this territory unquestionably belongs to the United States. To present a picture of it was desirable in every point of view. The map so constructed, shows at a glance the whole extent of the United States territory from sea to sea; and in tracing the probable expansion of the human race from east to west, the mind finds an agreeable resting place on its western limits. The view is complete, and leaves nothing to be wished for. It also adds to the beauty and symmetry of the map; which will, it is confidently believed, be found one of the most useful and ornamental works ever executed in this country.
Source: Short, John Rennie. Representing the Republic. London: Reaktion Books, 2001. 135. Quoting John Melish, Geographical Description of the USA: with the contiguous British and Spanish possessions as an accompaniment to his map of these countries. (Philadelphia, 1816).
1. Why does Melish decide to draw the United States to the Pacific Ocean?
2. Do you think there is any relationship between Melish’s map and the actual expansion of the United States?