This is part three of our series "An Idea on the Land." Part one is here. Part two is here.
It’s the summer of 1831. A young French writer arrives in Michigan, hoping to get a glimpse of untouched American wilderness. He sets off from Detroit.
"A mile out of town," he writes, "the road goes into forest and never comes out of it."
Alexis de Toqueville travels on horseback from Detroit to Saginaw, the entire way covered by dense, virgin forests and swampland. He relies on native guides to find the way.
When he finally emerges onto the banks of the Saginaw River, he contemplates what was soon coming for this land.
"In a few years these impenetrable forests will have fallen," he writes. "The noise of civilization and of industry will break the silence of Saginaw."
He had no idea.