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 means of 3 generations of students. The pioneering adventure, Turner advised, accounted for the various exact features of the yankee humans: in the course of 3 centuries of growth their attitudes towards democracy, nationalism and individualism have been altered, and so they constructed distinctively American characteristics, comparable to wastefulness, inventiveness, mobility, and a dozen extra. After starting with a precis of the looks, popularity, and next dismissal of the idea, the writer rigorously defines the "frontier" and reports fresh facts on its political, social, and fiscal characterstics. He discusses the compulsion emigrate and examines different behavioral styles and features in his rationalization of ways and why pioneers moved west. His wide bibliographic notes represent a extraordinary consultant to the literature of many disciplines facing the frontier proposal.
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Additional info for America's Frontier Heritage
18 If lectures on that subject were to be prepared, Turner must read in widely scattered materials, for books on the West were few in that day. His quest for knowledge led him into two areas that helped clarify his thinking on the frontier. From the study of statistical and geographical publications originating in the Census Bureau he learned how and where the westward movement of peoples occurred; from scattered works by dozens of American and European authors he Page 9 realized that the frontier had been a moulding force in the evolution of the civilization of the United States.
57 This was no mean trick, they charged. That Turner was guilty of semantic sins is unquestionable. 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.
77 This is a statement with which no modern historian can quarrel. Nor can those familiar with his published and unpublished works censure him for unscientific methodology. History as a scientific discipline in America was still in its swaddling clothes when he began writing, yet he showed a firm grasp of internal and external criticism and employed techniques that are surprisingly modern. Overstatement, although appearing in his works, is relatively rare; he showed far Page 21 more caution than most of his contemporaries in generalizing from inadequate factual material.