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Chapter 18 Wrapup

Chapter 18 Wrapup - Chapter 18 Wrap-Up I The West a...

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Chapter 18 Wrap-Up I. The West a. Expansion i. Frederick Jackson Turner 1. The Significance of the Frontier in American History” a. Turner is the “father” of Western History – he describes America as significant and different from Europe because of the frontier – a line of white “civilization” that was constantly moving Westward, or so he described. Later historians would take issue with his theory that the West is kind of like a process of civilization – westward expansion characterized “civilization” as Native peoples were replaced by traders, then traders by ranchers, then ranchers by farmers, then farmers by towns, then towns by cities. Of course if you look at the history of the mining west all of that gets thrown out the window as boomtowns were created overnight in what had once been Indian country. b. Turner’s main source was the 1890 census which stated that America had no more frontier left – that the country had at least 2 people living per square mile. c. Turner will be significant again when we look at imperialism, as he presented his work in 1893 – a time when Americans believed their country was changing drastically and were afraid of how they would continue to challenge themselves ii. “City Upon a Hill” 1. We have to remember that from the time of the earliest “Americans” (Puritans) – Americans believed they were special and served as a beacon to the world. Euro-Americans believed they knew how to use the land effectively, something Indians and Mexicans purportedly did not do. Therefore it was a duty to take that land and demonstrate how it could be productive. 2. Manifest Destiny a. the idea that Americans had a God-given right and indeed imperative to take over that land and use it effectively. There were fulfilling their destiny iii. Safety Valve 1. western lands had often been thought of as a “safety valve” in case the pressure cooker of cities boiled over. They rarely operated as such but it was a nice thought. iv. Progress 1. at the end of this document I will present my favorite painting – John Gast’s “American Progress.” Notice how the angelic like figure (she probably represents America as many artists used female figures to represent nations – she would have been called 1
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Columbia – note that artists today use the masculine representation – Uncle Sam) floats westward. In the East there are signs of “civilization – one of which is light” – in the West, it is dark and yet Columbia brings light to the west – in the form of education, religion – or even telegraph lines. This 1872 painting is an important primary source of what Americans believed to be progress. b. Policy i. Homestead Act 1862 1. legislation opening up the former “Great American Desert” to farmers. Land was “free” – at least 160 acres to each head of household as long as he “improved it” (by digging a well or building a sod house) and after 5 years paid a token fee to file his claim. This act was actually passed during the Civil War, and I
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Chapter 18 Wrapup - Chapter 18 Wrap-Up I The West a...

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