The wide open frontier a place of freedom and promise.Fredrick Jackson Turnerstates that the frontier changed almost every aspect of the pioneer making them distinctly American.Unfortunately, Turner’s thesis as it is called is not true in all aspects.Many historians including Carl Degler who wrote the book “Out of Our Past” disagree with the cultural aspect of the thesis.Throughout his book he cites many pieces of evidence that prove Turner’s thesis wrong.
One of the pieces of evidence that he presents is the many frontier states constitutions.One of Turner’s hypothesis that found wide acceptance among historians is that American democracy is a unique product of the struggle with the wilderness.The main way of proving this point has to been to point out the many democratic features of the western states constitutions.(i.e. universal manhood suffrage, and elected officials)Through this comes the argument that democracy actually spread from the west to the east.This is easily proven wrong however by comparing the western and eastern states constitutions.For example thefirst states over the Appalachian Mountains Tennessee and Kentucky both modeled their constitutions after the Pennsylvania constitution of 1790 a document which was more conservative than the 1776 laws of the state.Another example of this is the state constitutions of the Ohio-Mississippi region.At that time nicknamed the “Valley of Democracy” yet historian John Barnhart found only eleven original clauses in Ohio’sfirst constitution which had 106 clauses in total.
Another piece of evidence that Degler states in his book is economic.As his book states that it takes a year and a half of an average urban workers pay to start a farm in the west or frontier.In essence this means that the poor urban man is going to become a poor frontiersman with no money to change economically or culturally.