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By Ray Allen Billington

The speculation complex in Frederick Jackson Turner's well-known 1893 essay, the importance of the Frontier in American background, has been debated by means of 3 generations of students. The pioneering event, Turner advised, accounted for a few of the special features of the yank humans: in the course of 3 centuries of enlargement their attitudes towards democracy, nationalism and individualism have been altered, and so they constructed distinctively American characteristics, similar to wastefulness, inventiveness, mobility, and a dozen extra. After establishing with a precis of the looks, attractiveness, and next dismissal of the idea, the writer rigorously defines the "frontier" and reports fresh proof on its political, social, and financial characterstics. He discusses the compulsion emigrate and examines different behavioral styles and characteristics in his clarification of the way and why pioneers moved west. His broad bibliographic notes represent a notable advisor to the literature of many disciplines facing the frontier idea.

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Disciples bent on preaching the gospel forgot that their master had made no false claims to the validity of his hypothesis. Had they been less blind to this essential fact, they would have used their time testing aspects of the frontier thesis rather than proclaiming its inviolability. The day of reckoning found them unprepared to repel the inevitable attack. This began shortly after Turner's death in 1932, for by this time the intellectual climate of the United States was changing under the impact of the Great Depression and the time was ripe for an assault on his theories.

During the last two decades of the nineteenth century this situation changed. An altered intellectual atmosphere created a climate of opinion suited to receive and nurture the frontier theory. And, through a Page 6 happy conjunction of circumstances, those years produced a prophet capable of formulating the hypothesis in terms understandable to the public. 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.

First the wilderness mastered the colonist, stripping off the garments of civilization, and returning him to a state of near savagery. Then came the climb back toward social maturity, but a different maturity than that known in the East. The "bonds of custom" had been broken; in the repeated rebirth of civilization an Americanization of men and institutions had occurred. The result, Turner believed, was a new society, based on borrowings from the old, but markedly different. " Another was "the promotion of democracy here and in Europe" as frontiersmen rebelled against external controls or responded to the individualizing influence of cheap land and abundant resources.

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