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Their houses, their food, their clothing, their neighbor-
hood dealings were all such as only the frontier brings.
Insensibly they were themselves changed. The strange
life became familiar; their adjustment to it was at length
unconscious and without effort; they had no plans which
were not inseparably a part and a product of it. But,
until they had turned their backs once for all upon the sea;
until they saw their western borders cleared of the French;
until the mountain passes had grown familiar, and the
lands beyond the central and constant theme of their hope,
the goal and dream of their young men, they did not be-
come an American people.
When they did, the great determining movement of our
history began. The very visages of the people changed.
That alert movement of the eye, that openness to every
thought of enterprise or adventure, that nomadic habit
which knows no fixed home and has plans ready to be
carried any whither, all the marks of the authentic type
of the “American" as we know him came into our life.
The crack of the whip and the song of the teamster, the
heaving chorus of boatmen poling their heavy rafts upon
the rivers, the laughter of the camp, the sound of bodies of
men in the still forests, became the characteristic notes in
our air. A roughened race, embrowned in the sun, hard-
ened in manner by a coarse life of change and danger,
loving the rude woods and the crack of the rifle, living to
begin something new every day, striking with the broad
and open hand, delicate in nothing but the touch of the
trigger, leaving cities in its track as if by accident rather
than design, settling again to the steady ways of a fixed
life only when it must: such was the American people
whose achievement it was to be to take possession of their
continent from end to end ere their national government
was a single century old. The picture is a very singular
one! Settled life and wild side by side: civilization frayed
at the edges, taken forward in rough and ready fashion,
with a song and a swagger, not by statesmen, but by
woodsmen and drovers, with axes and whips and rifles in
their hands, clad in buckskin, like huntsmen.
It has been said that we have here repeated some of the
first processes of history; that the life and methods of our

frontiersmen take us back to the fortunes and hopes of the men who crossed Europe when her forests, too, were still thick upon her. But the difference is really very fundamental, and much more worthy of remark than the likeness. Those shadowy masses of men whom we see moving upon the face of the earth in the far-away, questionable days when states were forming: even those stalwart figures we see so well as they emerge from the deep forests of Germany, to displace the Roman in all his western provinces and set up the states we know and marvel upon at this day, show us men working their new work at their own level. They do not turn back a long cycle of years from the old and settled States, the ordered cities, the tilled fields, and the elaborated governments of an ancient civilization, to begin as it were once more at the beginning. They carry alike their homes and their States with them in the camp and upon the ordered march of the host. They are men of the forest, or else men hardened always to take the sea in open boats. They live no more roughly in the new lands than in the old. The world has been frontier for them from the first. They may go forward with their life in these new seats from where they left off in the old. How different the circumstances of our first settlement and the building of new States on this side the sea! Englishmen, bred in law and ordered government ever since the Norman lawyers were followed a long five hundred years ago across the narrow seas by those masterful administrators of the strong Plantagenet race, leave an ancient realm and come into a wilderness where States have never been; leave a land of art and letters, which saw but yesterday “the spacious times of great Elizabeth,” where Shakespeare still lives in the gracious leisure of his closing days at Stratford, where cities teem with trade and men go bravely dight in cloth of gold, and turn back six centuries, nay, a thousand years and more, to the first work of building States in a wilderness! They bring the steadied habits and sobered thoughts of an ancient realm into the wild air of an untouched continent. The weary stretches of a vast sea lie, like a full thousand years of time, between them and the life in which till now all their thought was bred. Here they stand, as it were, with all their tools left behind, centuries struck out of their reckoning, driven back upon the long dormant in


stincts and forgotten craft of their race, not used this long age. Look how singular a thing: the work of a primitive race, the thought of a civilized Hence the strange, almost grotesque groupings of thought and affairs in that first day of our history. Subtle politicians speak the phrases and practice the arts of intricate diplomacy from council chambers placed within log-huts within a clearing. Men in ruffs and lace and polished shoe-buckles thread the lonely glades of primeval forests. The microscopical distinctions of the schools, the thin notes of a metaphysical theology are woven in and out through the labyrinths of grave sermons that run hours long upon the still air of the wilderness. Belief in dim refinements of dogma is made the test for man or woman who seeks admission to a company of pioneers. When went there by an age since the great flood when so singular a thing was seen as this: thousands of civilized men suddenly rusticated and bade to do the work of primitive peoples, Europe frontiered Of course there was a deep change wrought, if not in these men, at any rate in their children; and every generation saw the change deepen. It must seem to every thoughtful man a notable thing how, while the change was wrought, the simples of things complex were revealed in the clear air of the New World: how all accidentals seemed to fall away from the structure of government, and the sinuple first principles were laid bare that abide always; how social distinctions were stripped off, shown to be the mere cloaks and masks they were, and every man brought once again to a clear realization of his actual relations to his fellows! It was as if trained and sophisticated men had been rid of a sudden of their sophistication and of all the theory of their life, and left with nothing but their discipline of faculty, a schooled and sobered instinct. And the fact that we kept always, for close upon three hundred years, a like element in our life, a frontier people always in our van, is, so far, the central and determining fact of our national history. “East” and “West,” an ever-changing line, but an unvarying experience and a constant leaven of change working always within the body of our folk. Our political, our economic, our social life has felt this potent influence from the wild border all our history through. The “West” is the great word of our history. The “Westerner” has been the type and master of our American life. Now at length, as I have said, we have lost our frontier: our front lies almost unbroken along all the great coast-line of the western sea. The Westerner, in some day soon to come, will pass out of our life, as he so long ago passed out of the life of the Old World. Then a new epoch will open for us. Perhaps it has opened already. Slowly we shall grow old, compact our people, study the delicate adjustments of an intricate society, and ponder the niceties, as we have hitherto pondered the bulks and structural framework, of government. Have we not, indeed, already come to these things? But the past we know. We can “see it steady and see it whole"; and its central movement and motive are gross and obvious to the eye. Till the first century of the Constitution is rounded out we stand all the while in the presence of that stupendous westward movement which has filled the continent: so vast, so various, at times so tragical, so swept by passion. Through all the long time there has been a line of rude settlements along our front wherein the same tests of power and of institutions were still being made that were made first upon the sloping banks of the rivers of old Virginia and within the long sweep of the Bay of Massachusetts. The new life of the West has reacted all the while—who shall say how powerfully?—upon the older life of the East; and yet the East has molded the West as if she sent forward to it through every decade of the long process the chosen impulses and suggestions of history. The West has taken strength, thought, training, selected aptitudes out of the old treasures of the East,as if out of a new Orient; while the East has itself been kept fresh, vital, alert, originative by the West, her blood quickened all the while, her youth through every age renewed. Who can say in a word, in a sentence, in a volume, what destinies have been variously wrought, with what new examples of growth and energy, while, upon this unexampled scale, community has passed beyond community across the vast reaches of this great continent! The great process is the more significant because it has been distinctively a national process. Until the Union was formed and we had consciously set out upon a separate

national career, we moved but timidly across the nearer hills. Our most remote settlements lay upon the rivers and in the open glades of Tennessee and Kentucky. It was in the years that immediately succeeded the war of 1812 that the movement into the West began to be a mighty migration. Till then our eyes had been more often in the East than in the West. Not only were foreign questions to be settled and our standing among the nations to be made good, but we still remained acutely conscious and deliberately conservative of our Old World connections. For all we were so new a people and lived so simple and separate a life, we had still the sobriety and the circumspect fashions of action that belong to an old society. We were, in government and manners, but a disconnected part of the world beyond the seas. Its thought and habit still set us our standards of speech and action. And this, not because of imitation, but because of actual and long-abiding political and social connection with the mother country. Our statesmen, strike but the names of Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry from the list, together with all like untutored spirits, who stood for the new, unreverencing ardor of a young democracy, —our statesmen were such men as might have taken their places in the House of Commons or in the Cabinet at home as naturally and with as easy an adjustment to their place and task as in the Continental Congress or in the immortal Constitutional Convention. Think of the stately ways and the grand air and the authoritative social understandings of the generation that set the new government afoot, -the generation of Washington and John Adams. Think, too, of the conservative tradition that guided all the early history of that government: that early line of gentlemen Presidents: that steady “cabinet succession to the Presidency” which came at length to seem almost like an oligarchy to the impatient men who were shut out from it. The line ended, with a sort of chill, in stiff John Quincy Adams, too cold a man to be a people's prince after the old order of Precidents; and the year 1829, which saw Jackson come in, saw the old order go out. The date is significant. Since the war of 1812, undertaken as if to set us free to move westward, seven States had been admitted to the Union: and the whole number

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