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Frederick Jackson Turner THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRONTIER IN AMERICAN HISTORY In a recent bulletin of the Superintendent of the Census for 1890 appear these significant words Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line In the discussion of its extent its westward movement etc it can not therefore any longer have a place in the census reports This brief official statement marks the closing of a great historic movement 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 Behind institutions behind constitutional forms and modifications lie the vital forces that call these organs into life and shape the m to meet changing conditions The peculiarity of American institutions is the fact that they have been compelled to adapt themselves to the changes of an expanding people-to the changes involved in crossing a continent in winning a wilderness and in developing at each area of this progress out of the primitive economic and political conditions of the frontier into the complexity of city life Said Calhoun in 1817 We are great and rapidly ---I was about to say fearfully ---growing So saying he touched the distinguishing feature of American life All peoples show development the germ theory of politics has been sufficiently emphasized In the case of most nations however the development has occurred in a limited area and if the nation has expanded it has met other growing peoples whom it has conquered But in the case of the United States we have a different phenomenon Limiting our attention to the Atlantic coast we have the familiar phenomenon of
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