The expansion of the American frontier played a large part in the history and making of the United States, but how big was that role? Historian Frederick Turner felt that the American frontier played the largest influence on our country?s history. Turner also believes that America as a country died over 100 years ago as published in ?The Significance of the Frontier in American History?. Turner felt that when the frontier was gone, America was as well. He also drew many factors to the rapid disappearance of the frontier and a larger step for independence and individual rights in America: 1.) The frontier gave Americans a new beginning. They were able to start a new life in a new place. It also allowed many of them to erase their pasts and start with a clean slate. 2.) America was a rapidly growing country and needed more room for all of its energy. The timing of the expansion was impeccable to the growth of America. 3.) Expansion made America independent in many ways. A largely visible way was lessening its dependence on Europe for goods and supplies. As a vast population of America moved west, European countries had a more difficult time delivering its goods and supplies to the Pioneers.
These points make Turner?s beliefs well received. Much of the information that Turner included was so obvious once it was said; yet it never would have caught my attention if I were to sit down and think of reasons for the American frontier playing a significant role in history. I found the most intriguing of Turner?s points to be that Americans did not shape the land, the land shaped Americans. This is something that most people would not like to hear because in a sense it is telling them that they are not in control of their own life. Turner proved this point by acknowledging how when the Americans moved westward, they adapted the native ways that worked best for the region. This shows that the Americans let the land show them how to live rather then make the land adjust to their lifestyle. Turner is claiming that the American expansion from the frontier was one of the largest impacts in the history of America. Although expansion of America plays a huge role in establishing it as a country, I feel that Turner, at times, overemphasizes its importance. Events such as the Civil War, civil rights movement and the Revolutionary War played a much larger role in shaping America then the expansion.
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Another lingering problem that I have is that this article was written over 100 years ago, and quite frankly, things have changed. Besides over-emphasizing the importance of the frontier in American history, Turner also feels that it deteriorated the American government because of a strong demand put on individualism. This is due to the fact that the article is over 100 years old. Now, America is based on individualism. The country as a whole thrives on it. People all over the world desire the kind of personal freedom and expression that Americans have. In defense of Turner, the world was a different place 100 years ago and people felt differently about many things, personal expression was one of them. In closing, Turner?s view of how America was formed was a welcome change of pace. It?s not everyday that something this unique is brought to my attention. His points are well made, and given the time difference, most of them would hold true today,
Turner, Frederick Jackson. ?The Significance of the Frontier in American History.? The Frontier in American History. Malabar, FL; Robert E. Krieger Publishing Co., 1985. Original edition, 1920.
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