Life on the frontier Essay

Billington’s point of view several lines in to America’s Frontier Heritage begins with a philosophical question, he poses the question, ?Do they consider their fellow men as equals, or as inferiors and superiors?….? By they Billington is referring to America and in this case specifically to the people of the time he is discussing, people of the frontier in the aforementioned 19th and early 20th century. This quote would be the one posed to I, the reader, throughout not only his book but Limerick’s as well. Billington begins by explaining the foundation on which the country was built on, the thought of ?equality? and ?individualism.? These two words as many know are core virtues America was built on along with free enterprise, the pursuit of happiness and essentially the right to earn as much as you work for. All tremendous things that this country since day one has thrived on but the theme Billington implies throughout is that these products of life came without obstacles to most if not all. He states ?Nowhere could a stake in society be more easily obtained,? interesting, because as most are aware this ?frontier? time was the heart of the most extreme segregation and lack of acceptance unless you were of a specific demographic.
Reading along further in the book Billington begins to narrow in on what his essential, main point was to begin with. Which seems to be America is a land for all individuals to come to and prosper without government interference. I realized this upon Billington stating ?….where superabundant opportunity allowed each to rise or fall to his proper level as long as governments did not meddle.? At first Billington seems to be taking the naive route of that America since day one has been a perfect melting pot for all colors and types of people to thrive without resistance much of this sense came from his frequent claims of everyone being ?neighborly? and getting along in the communities. Upon finishing reading it became more obvious this was not his intention at all. His intention was to describe America as a land where government will not interfere which was unheard of to nearly all from every corner of the globe. That it is great here because if you came to America you would have a chance, without a lord taking your income for a ?tax,? or a ruler telling you where to live and for this I entirely agree.

The Legacy of Conquest brings up an entirely different perspective then Americas Frontier Heritage. Limerick narrates the other side of the story, one would probably say ?uglier? side. She discusses the lesser known hardships endured by the people who at the time frankly just were not as relevant as the majority. The frontier of the West as she describes was yes a diverse place where many could move to to make a living and settlement but if you were not of the majority you would almost definitly encounter resistance. The reputation of the West was that of where minorities: Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Certain Europeans etc. could go to live, ?free? of the South’s and Northeast’s individual prejudices. This was quite a mirage that most did not see, notice, or at the time frankly care about. She uses the example of Oregon in 1857. Oregon was much opposed to slavery which of course sounded good to the Freedmen but, as Limerick state ?….they also opposed intrusion of free blacks.? Limerick brings up the point of was the West and America in that case really such a welcoming place? It seems to be that unless you were white and protestant honestly it was not quite so welcoming.

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The books, America’s Frontier Heritage and The Legacy of Conquest, written by Ray Allen Billington and Patricia Nelson Limerick, respectively, each provide extremely compelling and contrasting views of the frontier in the 19th and early 20th century. Despite the obvious and apparent differences on points of view, neither I believe can be credited with a definite ?wrong? or ?right? assessment. I agree and disagree with both on various points but without dispute I believe bring up tremendous points and valid information that everyone can understand


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