- Historic Sites
A Record Filled With Sunlight
John Charles Frémont never succeeded in living up to his fame, yet he was one of America’s great explorers
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
A new America emerged from the Mexican War, enlarged by one third in extent, and faced by an exigent problem in tying East and Far West together by road, telegraph, and railway. It needed scientific explorers and map-makers; it needed just such dedicated skill and rich experience as Frémont could have supplied. Had fate been kinder, he might have done much to examine the new resources, assist emigrants, and find the best paths of transcontinental commerce. All the glitter and adventure of his later career—the California senatorship, the Mariposa fortune quickly vanished, the presidential nomination of 1856, the majorgeneralship in the Civil War, the railroad presidency--were a poor compensation for what he and the country lost. But the high achievement of the eight years, in which he not only kept the field of western investigation but led it, remained a permanent possession, and his record of these years may be counted one of our proud American stories.