In republishing these essays in collected form, it has seemed
best to issue them as they were originally printed, with the
exception of a few slight corrections of slips in the text and
with the omission of occasional duplication of language in the
different essays. A considerable part of whatever value they
may possess arises from the fact that they are commentaries in
different periods on the central theme of the influence of the
frontier in American history. Consequently they may have
some historical significance as contemporaneous attempts of a
student of American history, at successive transitions in our
development during the past quarter century to interpret the
relations of the present to the past. Grateful acknowledgment
is made to the various societies and periodicals which have
given permission to reprint the essays.
Various essays dealing with the connection of diplomatic
history and the frontier and others stressing the significance of
the section, or geographic province, in American history, are
not included in the present collection. Neither the French nor
the Spanish frontier is within the scope of the volume.
The future alone can disclose how far these interpretations
are correct for the age of colonization which came gradually
to an end with the disappearance of the frontier and free land.
It alone can reveal how much of the courageous, creative
American spirit, and how large a part of the historic American
ideals are to be carried over into that new age which
is replacing the era of free lands and of measurable isolation by
consolidated and complex industrial development and by increasing
resemblances and connections between the New World and the Old.
But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable
in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit
has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending
its type of frontier into new regions; and in creating peaceful
societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing
geographic provinces which together make up the United States.
Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of the
Eastern as well as the Western States, and even reacted upon the
Old World and influenced the direction of its thought and its
progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic,
political and social characteristics of the American
people and in their conceptions of their destiny.
Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the
United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson
could not be relied on to he devoted to French interests,
and he added: "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that
name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the
born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous
as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If
we would understand this element of truth, we must study the
transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote
from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities
affording the conditions under which a new people, with new
social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its
own part in the world, and to influence Europe.
FREDERICK J. TURNER.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, March, 1920.