Effects Of The American Frontier Essay Research

Effects Of The American Frontier Essay, Research Paper The North American frontier contributed greatly to today’s American culture. For nearly 150 years before independence, the

Effects Of The American Frontier Essay, Research Paper

The North American frontier contributed greatly to today’s

American culture. For nearly 150 years before independence, the

Appalachian mountain range had been the American frontier, separating

civilization from wilderness. When North America gained independence

and became the United States, however, people began to move more

freely across the frontiers, into the unknown. The land belonged to

them now, and they were free to explore it however deeply they chose

claiming at will what land they saw. One can explain American

development as the existence of a large area of free land constantly

receding, and American settlement advancing westward. The difference

in American institutions from those of any other nation is that

American institutions have a way of adapting themselves to the

growing, changing nation for which they were imposed. In addition,

American development has shown itself to be not only an advance along

a single frontier, but a cycle of returning to primitive conditions

along a constantly moving frontier line, then settling and civilizing

those areas. The American frontier is also unlike that of any other

country in that most other countries have developed in a limited area

of which they knew the boundaries, meeting and conquering other

developing nations around them. But in the case of North America, the

frontier was where savagery and civilization met, and nobody knew what

lay beyond it. The settlers of North America had no idea that the

continent they had begun settling was so enormously vast; they simply

took nature as it came. The pioneers’ necessity to cope with natural

barriers and survive in near anarchy, in essence being

self-sufficient, has greatly affected the American culture of


One of the areas affected by the frontier experience was

politics. People on the frontier had to deal with whatever life

brought them and make the best of it. They learned how to be very

individualized, pushing their way through whatever barriers nature

presented. This individuality has led Americans to develop a

government that facilitates individualism. We, the Americans, are

usually suspicious, untrusting, and paranoid of the government because

we like to be independent, individually solving whatever problems

arise in our path to the goal. This mentality is shown in the nation’s

protests to the government’s increasing tyranny and intervention in

our personal lives; however, a changing, growing nation requires

changes in government. We believe in individualism, and we apply this

belief to all aspects of our lives. In the so-called “Wild West”,

government does not pay as close attention to people’s actions, and

this was where the vast majority of the nation’s reforms we know today

originated. For example, initiative, the right of the citizens to

initiate a new law into the legislature; referendum, the citizens’

right to directly vote a law into action instead of passing it through

the legislature; recall, the citizens’ to vote a corrupt legislator

out of office by way of petition; and term limits were all reforms

born in the West. The reason for the government’s low involvement in

Westerners’ daily lives is that for centuries, even to this day, many

parts of the West have still been developing their society,

civilization, and state governments. In the East, where we have always

been on the civilized side of the frontier, people tend more to accept

the government’s rules, mentally coming to the conclusion that there

is nothing they can do about it. But in the West new ideas for reform

are constantly being born. Of course, there must be a compromise

between a totalitarian government and complete anarchy; too much

government restricts freedom while too little government does not

provide the convenient government services we may take for granted,

and allows society to get far too out of hand.

The United States of America is a diverse but tolerant social

mixing pot. Unlike most other nations, America is a safe haven for

many, many races and religions. People of a particular race or ethnic

group usually live in clusters, minimally interfering with outsiders;

taking this into mind, however, many immigrants are still amazed by

the high level of tolerance America holds. Our tolerance comes from

the fact that so many ethnic groups arrived here during the

settlement, and that the black African slaves intermingled with the

white community enough to earn that tolerance. Furthermore, in the

West many different types of people can settle without upsetting one

another because of the vast empty space out west to separate them. In

addition to our toleration of race and religion, America gives more

privileges to its women than most other countries. This anomaly

results from the fact that during settlement the women were required

to do certain mandatory work. They had nearly the same status as men

in most aspects of their lives. In the fully civilized society of

modern America, however, women are not required to do the same jobs as

men, and are thus on a lower status level. To this day, however,

compared to other nations American women still have many more rights

such as owning land, voting, and performing men’s jobs. Education is

another aspect of social life affected by the frontier. Public schools

were necessary to educate children at the time of settlement. No

sooner than the pioneers arrived here than the first public schools

were set up. Our society today is still affected by this craze to

learn. America is constantly encouraging its children to stay in

school, and American colleges are some of the best in the world.

The frontier also affected modern American economy. During

settlement, people did not need or want a government to interfere with

the country’s economy. Thus a laissez-faire economic system was

established. Laissez-faire is a term to describe an economy in which

the government interferes very little in day-to-day economic activity,

and such a system is very closely related to capitalism. Economy in

America is one of speculation and risk taking; America was settled so

quickly because of the fact that everything was abundant and extremely

available or easy get. Speculation was in fact not a great risk at all

at that time, and even now, so people would take great risks knowing

that the odds were so greatly in their favor. Still today, Americans

nearly throw their money into whatever new company they think has a

chance, and, not surpsingly, often come out richer than one could

dream. Americans also have a strong technological bias, and are a

people of tools and gadgets, so to speak. We have been such an

inventive country because of the fact that we always needed to devise

some way to get around an obstacle we found in nature.

Another way, perhaps one of the most important, in which the

frontier has drastically affected modern American life is

psychologically. Americans in general enjoy solving problems or

puzzles, and Americans will usually at least make an attempt to solve

any problems that confront them. This problem-solving personality in

many Americans goes back to the fact that there were innumerable tasks

and problems set before the average settler each day: How do I get

across this stream? through this forest? build something on this

forest? keep the wild animals away? get food to eat?… It is easy to

see that the settlers had no choice but to solve these problems one

way or another, or they would die. One negative aspect about the

psychology of our society is that we are one of violence-more violent

than many other nations on Earth. This way of violence with us

resulted from the fact that out on the frontier when there was no

government, each man would have to settle his own problems, and if it

involved violence or killing, so be it. No one would even notice.

Everyone would always be fully armed because they knew what people

would do to solve a conflict. Although we are a violent people,

however, we believe in egalitarianism, that everyone is equal in

status. There were simply so many types of people, rich or poor, that

worked in the same way, earning money the same way, that a class

system was not important. American psychology was deeply impacted by

the frontier experience.

The frontier experience was very important in shaping modern

American culture. American development, moving from the known into the

unknown, has drastically affected the way Americans live and function