Turner likened the expansion to the West to expansion into the New World. The first Europeans saw the Atlantic coast as their chance at something better. Similarly, the men and women of the Atlantic coast could move west with their families and try to make a better life for themselves.
When Europeans moved to the New World, they left the relative comfort and ways of life as they knew them while turning to face the hardships that awaited them here. Likewise, settlers heading west faced this same unknown.
The individuals heading west were also vastly different from European expansionists. The two were from different walks of life with different cultures – miners, farmers, even slaves. Settlers to a new land would have to use everything at their disposal to survive.
I really liked the the way Turner described the “intellectual traits” of the frontiersmen. I think what he was trying to say still rings true to this day. The frontiersmen had to have both intelligence and common sense. Being able to able to think on their feet and being able to adapt to new situations were imperative for their survival.
I found myself quite appreciating the claims made in Frederick Jackson Turner’s “The significance of the Frontier in American History.” Turner equates the development of the American culture to always being on “the meeting point between savagery and civilization,” insofar as the fact that “American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier,” as opposed to developing within its own already civilized spheres as European culture had been doing for many centuries beforehand. Turner essentially defines this new way for a culture to develop, with the American melding of rugged Western individualism and perseverance to Eastern piety and education.
The idea that the development of a truly unique American culture came with and was fortified by the conquering of every frontier was a new way of looking at American culture for me, especially when Turner calls studying the frontier “the really American part of our history.” Turner attributes much of the conquering of the traveling American frontier to the conquering and conversion of Buffalo trails to Indian Trails to turnpikes to, at the time of writing, railroads, along with the conversion of Indian trading outposts to cities. The critical difference in the creation and development of American culture from European culture is that Americans were settling and starting population centers from much more “savage” backgrounds. Unlike European population centers that had been settled for many centuries and been the nexus for many a culture, Americans were working essentially from scratch in fulfilling their manifest destiny.
The interesting contrast Turner brings up is the almost disparaging difference between New England and essentially the rest of the country. Being a native New Englander this section was of additional interest to me, as Turner calls it out for standing for the English Puritanism movement in the nineteenth century. Turner’s interesting claim here is that “Even the New Englander, who was shut out from the frontier by the Middle region, tarrying in New York or Pennsylvania on his westward march, lost the acuteness of his sectionalism on the way.” Even today, over a century from the writings of this text, New England retains a certain degree of sectionalism from the rest of the country, which, quite simply to a native New Englander, has a different feeling about it when looking outward.
This difference however, along with the formation of a similar American culture across all lands that were once frontier lands, makes sense in the context of how Turner closes his text: “the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.” This means that the country no longer is looking outwards to develop itself and its culture, but is now looking inwards for development. This development, to me, means that certain vestiges of American culture from this point become more locked into the national schema, and more certain to persist into the future.
In his “Significance of the Frontier in American History,” Frederick Jackson Turner divides American into two distinct spheres. Turner sees the Atlantic coast (the “European Frontier”), as sharply different from the “really American part of our history,” the Western frontier, the isolation of which increased its “peculiarly American tendencies.” Although he may not admit it outright, Turner also implies that expansion into Indian territory made settlers more like Indians, “planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick.” Turner’s theory is one of “transforming” the wilderness into something distinctly American, but he does not give enough credit to the influence of Indian culture on settlers. In moving away from the “European frontier,” the Americans adopted the ways of the Indian not as a phase in the development of a new American culture, but as a way of life in order to survive in the wilderness. They had no existing infrastructure or network of cities to fall back on during expeditions, so out of necessity they provided solely for themselves, lived off the land, and simply attempted to survive, a lifestyle much more closely related to the Indians than their fellow Americans east of the Appalachians.
This is not to say that most settlers treated the Indians as equals: the settlers used Indian land as hunting grounds, train routes, and farmland. Turner argues that Americans “[poured] an ever-richer tide” through the “arteries made by geology,” perhaps implying that Indian culture wasn’t rich enough to adequately fill this vast wilderness between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This theory made it easier to justify taking Indians lands for western use, and I would also argue that this was a necessary step, if one assumes that Manifest Destiny was a foregone conclusion. The American land system was based on private property rights, a concept that did not exist within Indian civilization. Thus, the two systems were incompatible, and one needed to win out over the other. Americans were not going to respect property rights that didn’t exist, so making the lands their own private property was the only solution.
Turner’s description of how the frontier changed America’s nationalism is puzzling. He claims that “the West and the East began to get out of touch with each other.” However, in the postbellum period, a movement extolling the virtues of American citizenship united the country in a way that this collection of states linked by a federal system had never been united before. This led to the imperialist mindset that Europe had long ago adopted, partially fueled by the “White Man’s Burden,” giving America the moral authority not only to achieve Manifest Destiny, but to acquire land outside of America, such as Hawaii and the Philippines. It would seem to be a paradox that the states were becoming “out of touch” with each other at the same time that America was beginning a nationalist, and some would argue imperialist, expansion policy.
Some links to the Arizona Orphan Abduction texts.
With regard to the writings on wealth by Andrew Carnegie and William Sumner, I found myself very much agreeing with the concerns of both regarding how wealth should be distributed to society. However, in Carnegie’s first section on the Administration of Wealth, I found myself having concern in Carnegie’s insistence over the matter of the amount of wealth redistribution.
A common point harped upon by both authors is their concern with the proper and responsible distribution of wealth to the poor and those who need it. Carnegie himself acknowledges several times the fact that nine hundred and fifty of every thousand dollars spent on charity is unwisely spent several times, calling many recipients of charity the “the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy” (pg 26). Sumner essentially addresses these people as the “weak” ones of society; they are those that “neutralize and destroy the finest efforts of the wise and industrious” (pg 19). Given these shared concerns in the wealth distribution philosophy, which I completely agree with, I enjoyed reading through Carnegie’s seven ways to provide for the less-well off while being productive in doing so and not encouraging bad behavior. Simply put, the temptation of cash in the hands of the poor is too great to use it poorly, but give them things great sums of money can provide like libraries and parks, and they all will benefit.
My greatest concern with Carnegie’s thoughts comes with his insistence that excess wealth be redistributed. Anyone who does not purge their wealth from their name by the end of their life, through philanthropy, is a lesser person and “cannot held in graceful remembrance” (pg 21). Granted, Carnegie does not say how much wealth is proper for a wealthy individual to return to society, but it could be argued he believes all of a man’s accumulated wealth should be returned. One of many, sometimes conflicting, definitions of success is of what you leave behind for family and loved ones, and if they are left with no wealth because it has all been donated away, would they hold their philanthropist ancestor with spite? I agree that philanthropy while a wealthy man is living is a boon for society, but a balance of wealth distribution and maintaining personal wealth for those who will be carrying on the family name is quite necessary.
Carnegie saw wealth as something that a person had to work for, and as a constant battle to maintain. Carnegie came from a poor family and worked hard to achieve his wealth. it could also be said that he felt that he was given an opportunity when he was young and felt it was his duty to give others the means to be successful as well. giving a good portion of his wealth to philanthropic agencies was his way of giving back.
Sumner’s belief that society held two classes of either rich or poor and that society at the time was unable to see the other classes of people , just like today it seems that the only ones that are seen are the haves or the have nots.
I do believe like Carnegie that if you are successful it is because of your own hard work, and maintaining your way of life is a constant struggle, I do not believe that it is societies place to support the ones who refuse to support themselves. it is a persons moral compass that should guide them on how to help the less fortunate. if you are able, you should help with providing opportunities to the less fortunate to help themselves.
Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” offers an interesting insight into his philanthropic philosophy that defines his legacy. Known for his contributions such as Carnegie Hall, he devotes his earnings to making America a better place for all to live. He is, however, particular in how he believes these contribution ought to be made. He discusses how contributions made after a wealthy man’s death often are unable to benefit society as much as contributions made while living, but is even more wary of unhelpful contributions. “The miser millionaire who hoards his wealth does less injury to society than the careless millionaire who squanders his unwisely, even if he does so under cover of the mantle of sacred charity,” (p. 32) he says. This distinction of good and bad charity sets Carnegie and his contemporaries apart as millionaires who care much more about the results of their charity compared to those who donate to make themselves feel better.
When wealthy individuals do use their excess profits as he recommends later in his paper, the wealthy become the “trustee and agent for his poorer bretheren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves” (p. 25). This is important to Carnegie as someone who does come from a modest background; he doesn’t want to see the inequalities that are created as a result of the industrial revolution to mean a lower quality of life for the poor. He wants to see the whole of society to progress and become better for all, and this really shapes his actions and his recommendations in this paper.
This debate is one that is still carried out among today’s million- and billionaires, and can be seen in the difference between figures such as Bill Gates, who seems to have a similar philosophy to Carnegie’s, and many others who either hoard their profits or “squander” them with contributions to causes such as political campaigns and others which Carnegie would abhor. The fact that this debate is still ongoing makes me question whether Carnegie’s view of the wealthy as “trustees… for his poorer bretheren” (ibid.) will ever hold true or whether wealth inequalities necessarily lead to worse conditions for the poor than is necessary.
I found the most interesting aspect of William Graham Sumner’s piece to be his discussion of the contradictory theories of class relations: There are some who, in their opposition towards wealth inequality and the social classes it creates, argue that they not only have the right to pursue happiness, but that they deserve to get it. This mindset does nothing to eliminate the class system that these people believe exists. If anything, it further distinguishes society as two separate groups, those who provide aid and those who receive it.
I partly agree with Sumner’s argument. Although I believe every person should be entitled to (at the very least) a basic standard of living, the search for equality often causes us to ignore the interests of all those involved. As Sumner writes, “In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration they forget all about the rights of other classes…they invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetuating injustice” (pgs. 20-21).
Sumner’s stance on inequality differs from that of Andrew Carnegie, who believed it was the responsibility of the rich to distribute their excess wealth for the good of society. Carnegie, who immigrated to the United States from Scotland at age 12, had a more modest upbringing than Sumner. This certainly influenced his viewpoints on wealth and the class system in America. In addition, Carnegie believed that inequality was an inevitable byproduct of social evolution beyond human control. I actually think Sumner would agree with Carnegie on this point. Sumner was a supporter of the theories of Social Darwinism and was a strong proponent of laissez-faire capitalism.