2. Prospects and Promise of the Frontier
2.1. An American History
"Among these German-trained historians [i.e. Turner's mentors], the dominant line of analysis used to explain the history of the United States was the 'germ theory', the notion that American institutions had evolved from European, specifically Teutonic, origins. [..] what was truly American was, as its root, truly Anglo-Saxon. But in that sense, of course, nothing was truly American. / To Turner, the frontier was."
Writing a national history of course feeds on the need for the definition of a nation. With the United States declaring its political independence from Europe, the intellectual and cultural definition of what America means had to follow; de-finition also by delimiting from European ways, by erecting borders between what was seen as European and what was seen, or constructed, as more individualistic, as American. When "In the minds of many people, it was Turner who finally put the 'American' in American history", what does this mean? Was it necessary to stress the American specifications of such a history? And who is to define the criteria for such a process? In turn, the European view would have continued to stress the European legacy within America; as well as there have been movements trying to equal the concept of American culture with Anglo-Saxon culture. Both views would struggle against themselves; influencing themselves.
The result of such a discussion is an open discourse, and the results of subsequent discussions could very well be that once clear-cut separations and definitions would have to be re-evaluated, would have to get more facets, would have its limits and motivations exposed.
2.2. Land, Freedom and Pioneer Life
"The frontier was not simply a place; it was a recurring process that moved (or, to use Turner's more energetic terms, 'leaped' or 'skipped') across the continent in stages, leaving newly born societies to develop in its wake. / But most important of all, Turner argued, this process of frontier settlement promoted freedom, opportunity, and democracy. [..] On the frontier, common people were free to fashion new social and political relationships that reflected their desire for personal independence and local self-government. / Those relationships not only affected life in frontier settlements, they ultimately shaped the very nature of the nation."
But maybe this frontier is not just that, maybe it's just nature - the great impression nature surely had made on the settlers and is also making today; the frontier would be the frontier between what civilization had achieved in destroying that nature and what was kept out of reach from Western civilization. But in America, as the settlers arrived, nature was still present in a breathtaking magnitude; mostly in contrast to Britain's cleared forests and the comparatively densely populated Europe.
What awaited the immigrants in the New World was a new life; new also in a way that it contained different forms of living. At the frontier of Western civilization, there was this relative wilderness which had to vanish in order for the colonies, and later for the new American states, to constitute themselves and to provide their population with soil to build their houses and towns on, with the frontier with its demands strongly promoting democracy.
Such a frontier, as I am using this term right now, demanded for certain very basic abilities. At the edge of civilization, or even far apart from it, there are not all the conveniences a civilized human being from the Western world would be used to; this would be a place where rank and birth would have no meaning. In that respect, the frontier presented the settlers with basically two things: cheap land and freedom; thus also democracy for any restriction of the freedom of the settlers wouldn't have helped the shaping of the society.
The frontier therefore also means kind of a loosely controlled anarchy; loosely meaning that less restrictions were there concerning rank and bending to authority. On the edge of civilization, the primal fight was not against bureaucracy but against death, immanent death. That also explains the wearing of weapons and forms of severe punishment. But the aspect of anarchy mostly would aim at the consequently conducted or inconsequently criticized injustices against the native population.