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The West was a form of society rather than an area It is the term applied to the region whose social conditions result from the application of older institutions and ideas to the transforming influences of free land By this application a new environment is suddenly entered freedom of opportunity is opened the cake of custom is broken and new activities new lines of growth new institutions and new ideals are brought into existence The wilderness disappears the West proper passes on to a new frontier and in the former area and a new society has emerged from this contact with the backwoods Gradually this society loses its primitive conditions and assimilates itself to the type of the older social conditions of the East but it bears within it enduring and distinguishing survivals of its frontier experience Decade after decade West after West this rebirth of American society had gone on and left its traces behind it which reacted on the East The history of our political institutions our democracy is not a history of imitation of simple borrowing it is a history of the evolution and adaptation of organs in response to changed environment a history of the origin of new political species In this sense therefore the West has been a constructive force of the highest significance in our life The West as a phase of social organization began with the Atlantic coast and passed across the continent But the colonial tidewater area was in close touch with the Old World and soon lost its Western aspects In the middle of the eighteenth century the newer social conditions appeared along the upper waters of the tributaries of the Atlantic Here it was that the West took on its distinguishing features and transmitted frontier traits and ideals to this area in later days On the coast were the fishermen and skippers the merchants and planters with eyes turned toward Europe Beyond the falls
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