Frontier Essay

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"Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the waters of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity, and the people of the United States have taken their tone from the incessant expansion which has not only been open but has even been forced upon them (Turner)." When the Europeans immigrated to the New World, they were faced with an overwhelming frontier atmosphere and forced to adapt to their environment or perish. As a result, an Americanization occurred which made these former Europeans into Americans, who founded the concept of democracy and made the traits associated with Americans almost stereotypical (Turner). Despite the fact that Frederick Turner's essay, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, was warmly received at the World's Fair in Chicago of 1893, after his death in 1932, a large cascade of criticism was unleashed arguing that Turner had misrepresented some dynamic concepts like the nature of the frontier, frontier allures, democracy, and the fur trade. Frederick Jackson Turner offered his essay as an analysis of the past and a warning about the future so the generations of his time period could find comfort knowing that the closing of the frontier was not an end to American history but rather an end to a chapter in American history. From the lack of a physical frontier in the United States of America, Americans thought the source of America's uniqueness was gone forever, however, in the recent century many frontiers have been discovered thus symbolizing a new chapter in American history.

Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier "Thesis" contains a multitude of core concepts in his essay titled The Significance of the Frontier in American History. First, Turner viewed the frontier as a constant for three hundred years. The boundaries of the frontier shifted and moved as the population of the United States expanded and important discoveries were made: cotton can be a cash crop, gold exists in California, and the desert that is the Great Plains can be farmed. Secondly, Turner differentiated between different classes of frontiersmen and settlers. He viewed settlement as a continuous process begun by explorers who surveyed the new terrain, pioneers who established the first outposts of civilization, and settlers and entrepreneurs who viewed the wilderness as an extension of society, or a safety net that provided a place of refuge for the people who could not function in the crowded, settled eastern lands: the urban poor, the misfit, the malcontented (White). Frederick Turner also mentioned that the repeated process of expansion was a process that returned society to primitive conditions along an advancing frontier line (Turner). Turner saw this happen repeatedly throughout United States history, from the arrival of the Pilgrims through the conquering of the Appalachians to the conquering of the Indians and the closure of the West in the late 1880's. The roles played by the expanding frontier were many. According to Turner, the frontier served to "Americanize" new immigrants and re-socialize Americans who ventured out onto it. "The inhabitants of our frontiers are composed generally of such as have been transported hither as of their time, settle themselves where land is to be taken and that will produce the necessarys of life with little labour…In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race (Turner)." This process of adaptation resulted in the development of many of the characteristics that today are considered typically, if not stereotypically, American: mobility, materialism, stalwart, coarseness of strength, restless energy, individualism, and exuberance (Turner).

Despite a relatively warm reception from some of the leading historians when Frederick Turner recited The Significance of the Frontier in American History at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, an inordinate amount of criticism rose after...
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