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By Ray Allen Billington

The speculation complex in Frederick Jackson Turner's recognized 1893 essay, the importance of the Frontier in American heritage, has been debated by way of 3 generations of students. The pioneering adventure, Turner instructed, accounted for many of the unique features of the yank humans: in the course of 3 centuries of enlargement their attitudes towards democracy, nationalism and individualism have been altered, they usually built distinctively American features, comparable to wastefulness, inventiveness, mobility, and a dozen extra. After commencing with a precis of the looks, attractiveness, and next dismissal of the idea, the writer conscientiously defines the "frontier" and studies fresh proof on its political, social, and fiscal characterstics. He discusses the compulsion emigrate and examines different behavioral styles and features in his rationalization of the way and why pioneers moved west. His vast bibliographic notes represent a striking advisor to the literature of many disciplines facing the frontier proposal.

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He was by nature a poet, incapable of marring his text with scientific definition, and inclined to be swept along on Page 17 a tide of metaphors until trapped by his own imagery. Had he been less gifted in the use of language, or the product of an age given to scientific precision, he would have been more clearly understoodand less widely read. 58 Turner was also accused, and rightly, of failure to explain how migration westward altered people and institutions. Did the mere process of moving affect a change, as he hinted when he spoke of discarding "cultural baggage"?

The changed intellectual environment was created by publicists who during the 1880s awakened to the fact that an era of history was closing with the exhaustion of the public domain. Their first impulse was to pay more attention to the role of land in man's social evolution; the works of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx were widely read and freely discussed, while commentators such as Josiah Strong and James Bryce showed increasing awareness of the relationship between land and society.

One group of critics condemned Turner for his statement of the thesis, indicting him for creating a Pandora's box of troubles by failing to define the "frontier" exactly, for the haziness of his language, his inability to explain how migration accomplished the changes ascribed to it, his methodology, and his indifference to other forces even more important in shaping the American culture. Another group questioned the hypothesis itself; they charged that the frontier had not fostered democracy, that it had been no spawning bed for nationalism, that it had failed to stimulate social mobility, and that it had never served as a "safety valve" through which displaced Easterners could escape to a new affluence.

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