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Prior to Frederick Jackson Turner’s speech at the American Historical Association in 1893, historians only recited events in America rather than analyze them. Turner elaborates the importance of the frontier in America’s history as well as her development, by showing how the true point of America’s history is in the great west and not the Atlantic coast. Furthermore, Frederick Jackson Turner explains how the frontier has been considered from the perspective of border welfare and chase instead of being a case study for economists and historians. He cited and explained some examples of the frontier’s significance which had been overlooked over the decades.
This essay is focused on analyzing Frederick Jackson Turner’s ideas with examples illustrated below.
Frederick Jackson Turner’s Thesis
Turner points to the important position of the frontier which he describes it as a fortified boundary line that passes through a large or dense population. According to Frederick Jackson Turner, the frontier was handled as a margin of settlement that has a population of two or more people per square mile considering census results in America.
The dominance of England in the southern part of America lingered for long until the emergence of the frontier which reduced the dependence on Britain. The southern part of America lacked industries to produce basic products then, it depended on Britain for supplies for a long time. The frontier’s advancement eventually saw goods produced in the west supplied to the south. The south also relied on the north for food supplies (Turner, p. 113).
Legislation is another aspect in which the frontier demonstrated its role. Powers of the national government were developed by legislation and a good number of activities embarked upon by legislators were instigated by frontier movements.
In another instance, the frontier played a significant role in the sale and disposal of public lands. Prior to this time, all efforts to withhold land from emigrants in order to enable compact settlement proved abortive. The struggle for land affected the public domain which was of immense importance to nationalism and the growth of the government. This prompted the frontier’s intervention in some vital government activities that involved land (Turner, p. 180).
Through its social and economic characteristics, the frontier opposed sectionalism. It is worthy of note to mention that, tariff and land legislations, internal improvements and the whole nationalism system of America were based on the frontier ideas.
The promotion of democracy in America and throughout Europe entirely was one of the greatest and most important achievements of the frontier. The complex American society was comprised of Indians, English and Americans produced vices that hampered the growth of civilization. Such vices were lack of coordination, antipathy to control and posed a character of an anti-social environment. The frontier introduced civilized conditions that were prevalent among the people. This enabled the people to live in harmony and it, in turn, promoted democracy (Turner, p. 215).
Frederick Jackson Turner’s explicit explanation of the aforementioned reasons shows how the frontier actually played a significant role in America’s history. His thesis revealed the secrets behind the success in modifications, constitutional forms, institutions and other forms of civilization. It also shows how vital forces shape various organizations and help them produce better results despite the challenges.
Also, prior to the time of Turner’s speech, historical emphasis was more on the slave struggle which also has an important place in America’s history. But Turner went a step further than the rest of the historians by relating the two factors together in what he described as civilization and savagery’s meeting pointing.
Turner Frederick, Jackson. “The Frontier in American History.” The significance of the frontier in American History. 1997.