The Conquest of the West and Beyond
For the second formal assignment, pleased write the four or more page essay on one of the topics listed below. You should cite at least three of the readings in your essay. Try to develop an attractive title for your essay, and please be sure to insert pages numbers. The essay is due November 16. Remember to take time to marshal your thoughts, organize them effectively, and to cite the texts. If you want to send me a draft before then, please do. If you need any help, just ask me or ask Kyle.
“To use the political terminology of the present day, the whole Western movement of our people was simply the most vital part of that great movement of expansion which has been the central and all-important feature of our history – a feature far more important than any other since we became a nation, save only the preservation of the Union itself” (Roosevelt).
“The test of true virility is willingness to engage in ‘righteous war,’ the archetype of which is the Indian war or ‘savage war’. . . . Roosevelt argues that a war against savages is inherently the most righteous of wars, because it brings ‘peace by the sword.’ The necessity for such wars arises from the racial character of the contending parties, and the triumph of civilization is always to be seen as both a moral and a secular bettering of the world” (Slotkin 52).
“From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual traits of profound importance. . . . The result is that to the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal the buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom – these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the waters of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity, and the people of the United States have taken their tone from the incessant expansion which has not only been open but which has been forced upon them” (Turner).
“The yeoman farmer described by Turner and the earlier agrarians is not an individual hero but a Whitmanian hero en-masse. ‘His’ ambition belongs to no particular person but is an abstraction of the motives that drive any modern economy: the desire for a better living standard to be achieved through labor and the accumulation of wealth. His great achievement – the establishment of the agrarian republic, the regeneration of society – is the outcome of a large collective process in which nearly everyone participates. . . . The agents of historical achievement in Turner’s world are not the great captains and men of daring exploit but the small entrepreneurs, artisans, and farmers, the little men in their average and aggregate” (Slotkin 34).
“In this advance, the frontier is the outer edge of the wave – the meeting point between savagery and civilization” (Turner).
“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” (Turner)
“. . . here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. . . . Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines” (Turner).
“. . . the concept of pioneering as a defining national mission, a ‘Manifest Destiny,’ and the vision of the westward settlements as a refuge from tyranny and corruption, a safety valve for metropolitan discontents, a land of golden opportunity for enterprising individualists, and an inexhaustible reservoir of natural wealth on which a future of limitless prosperity could be based” (Slotkin 30).
• This topic suggestion is about the notion of the frontier as presented in Roosevelt and/or Turner (and Slotkin). Pick one of them and discuss fully his thinking. How does Roosevelt present the importance of the frontier? What is Turner’s frontier thesis? How are Native Americans seen by each thinker? What role does race play in their thinking? How does this eventually lead to (and attempt to justify) America’s overseas expansion?