Day 40 Frederick Jackson Turner assignment (2).doc -...

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Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (Found online at: ) Frederick Jackson Turner was an historian who revolutionized historical thinking in the United States by calling attention to the significance of the frontier in the development of the American character. He delivered this essay at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Pay close attention to how Turner characterizes the frontier and the Americanizing influence it has on settlers. Also notice the relationship Turner outlines between the frontier and nationalism, the frontier and individualism, and the frontier and democracy. In a recent bulletin of the Superintendent of the Census for 1890 appear these significant words: "Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the discussion of [the frontier's] extent, its westward movement it can not therefore any longer have a place in the census reports." This brief official statement marks the closing of a great historic movement. Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development. The peculiarity of American institutions is, the fact that they have been compelled to adapt themselves to the changes of an expanding people to the changes involving crossing a continent, in winning a wilderness, and in developing at each area of this progress out of the primitive economic and political conditions of the frontier into the complexity of city life. Said [John C.] Calhoun in 1817, "We are great, and rapidly I was about to say fearfully growing!" So saying, he touched the distinguishing feature of American life. All peoples show development. In the case of most nations, however, the development has occurred in a limited area; and if the nation has expanded it has met other growing peoples whom it has conquered. But in the case of the United States we have a different phenomenon. [In the United States] we have the familiar phenomenon of the evolution of institutions in a limited area the progress from primitive society up to manufacturing civilization. But we have in addition to this a recurrence of the process of evolution in each western area reached in the process of expansion. Thus American development has exhibited not merely advance along a single line, but a return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area. American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. The true point of view in the history of this

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