What Turner wants to point out here is that the American West is the most important feature of American history, and of the development of its society. He refers several times to a process of “Americanization” and we will see that the definition he gives of it is a very peculiar one.
He gives a definition of the frontier: “it lies at the hither edge of free land”, meaning that he considers the Indian territory to be free land. According to him the frontier is the “meeting point between savagery and civilization”, “the most rapid and effective Americanization”. The process of Americanization he refers to is in fact a double transformation of the society. First the European people being stripped off by the wilderness they have to face in the west, and then those same people rebuilding a new society in which they turn the savage people into a civilized one, but not a “European civilized”, an American civilized population. It was, according to him, a plural-ethnical society in which “the immigrants were Americanized, liberated and fused into a mixed society”.
Turner gives great credit to the frontier as a paramount feature of American history. He defines it as a “steady movement away from Europe”, which corroborates what we have already seen, the fact that it was a two-fold process in which the European populations first got rid of their European “attributes”. He argues that the advance of the frontier was a means of being less and less dependant on England, and that the frontier helped develop democracy, the legislation, communication, transportation etc. For instance the Indian trade contributed in the development of transport and every colonization was a model for the others and improvements that could be made in a region served in others… It was, according to Turner, a circular system of dependencies, but this system remained internal, and European rules or habits were almost banished. Turner argues that the west is the real basis of the American society because, thanks to the movement westward, the population became more and more American, and there was a rejection of England.
He says “Such examples teach us to beware of misinterpreting the fact that there is a common English speech in America into the belief that the stock is also English”.
At last, he considers the frontier as a historical period as such. He divides American history into two parts: first the early history corresponding to the period of dependency upon England, a period which he associates with the East, and the period of “the Frontier” associated with the West, a period on which are now based most American features regarding society.
I think his point of view is somewhat extreme in the sense that even though the West did play a great part in the development of the American society, he goes too far in explaining his view on Americanization, on the rejection of any European habits… The East also played a role in the American society and his being a propagandist is clear throughout his writing. He even refers to Eastern people as “traitors”, as people too much dependant on England. He points out the fact that the West was “self-conscious”, insinuating that Eastern America is just a copy-cat of England, of its system, legislation… It is true that building a new society requires the setting up of new rules etc. but he seems to forget that the first frontier in America was that of the Atlantic Ocean and that, despite closer links with Europe, The East had to develop as a new society as well. At last, his definition of Americanization is too exclusive and we find in it a propaganda for the West… He seems to exclude the East from this new Americanized society.