Jedidiah Morse was a clergyman who wrote about geography in the late 18th and early 19th century‚—right when the United States was first forming as a nation. The following passage appeared in the preface of a school textbook on geography called Geography Made Easy:
No national government holds out to its subjects so many alluring motives to obtain an accurate knowledge of their own country, and of its various interests as that of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. . . . There is no science better adapted to the capacities of youth, or more likely to engage their attention than Geography . . . This part of education was long neglected in America. Our young men, formerly, were much better acquainted with the Geography of Europe and Asia than with that of their own country . . . till the year 1784, when the first edition of this school Geography was published by the Author. . . . The geography of this part of the world was unwritten, and indeed very imperfectly known to any one. Previously to this period we seldom pretended to write, and hardly to think for ourselves. We humbly received from Great-Britain our laws, our manners, our books, and our modes of thinking; and our youth were educated as British subjects, not as they have since been, as citizens of a free and independent nation. The revolution has proved favourable to science in general among us; particularly to that of the Geography of our own country.
Source: Short, John Rennie. Representing the Republic. London: Reaktion Books, 2001. 108-109. Quoting Jedediah Morse, father of American Geography 1790: J. Morse, Geography Made Easy, Utica, NY, 1819, p. iii. (twentieth edition).
1. According to Morse, why should Americans turn their attention to geography?
2. What connection is Morse making between geography and national identity?