Week Fifteen: Discussion

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Week Fifteen: Discussion

SteveBrandon
Administrator
Post your thoughts on the effects of a frontier on America and what it means to be an American.  

In your post, consider of the notion of frontier broadly, that is, it was a moving border between settled and unsettled land, it can be synonymous with technologies or ideas which are at the leading edge, it can be synonymous with opportunity or lawlessness.  

As you think about and comment on the frontier, think the following questions concerning the people who settled the Virgina Colonies and what you know from Letters from an American Farmer.  What were those who settled the frontier like?  What were those who stayed behind like?  What reasons did they have for coming to the colony?  How were those who settled the frontier like you?  How do they differ from you?  Would you have made the choice they made?  Why, or why not?  

What affect did having a physical frontier for three hundred years have on how America views itself and what it means to be an American?
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Alex Chenault
      America to me is a place of opportunity. Those who first came here were looking for something that was missing in their lives. The people that landed here in Plymouth came in search of religious freedom. They became known as the puritans. They believed that if they worked hard and focused on the religion that they started and believed in then the lord would ensure their survival. There were also those who landed in Jamestown. They were the ones who wanted to start over, build their own homes and have something they could call their own. These were both Americans in my mind. They saw an opportunity and took it. They faced many problems when they got here. The puritans faced cold harsh winters and the Jamestown settlers faced disease and famine. They managed to work through the problems and achieved what they came here for.
     Later the frontier changed but the people were still in search of something that was missing. In the 1800's millions of people moved west in search of better lives. The Gold Rush also helped to convince some people. The people that didn’t have very much jumped on the opportunity to better their lives. They moved west and built houses and those that found gold achieved their goals as well. When you step back to think about it, they all reached their goals. They had found a place that they could call home and created an opportunity for themselves so that they could have happiness.
     These people aren’t so different from you and I. Were going to college to better our lives and futures just like these people did. In America today we must create our own destinies. There aren’t any handouts so if we want to be something we have to make it happen ourselves. Without risk there is no reward. That is what an American is to me, someone who risks it all to create an opportunity that they can call their own.

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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Lucy
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I agree with Alex's ideas of America being a place of opportunity and though out our country's history it is evident that one doesn't have to be born into wealth to accumulate it. Besides gold, many were also motivated to move out west for agricultural reasons. This country was established as place of opportunity because of the business prospectors of London (Virginia) company who believed in this lands economic potential. They believed in this land's opportunity so much that they continued the attempt to set up colonies even after Roanoke. and in my life the same virtue applies because if at first I don't succeed I try again, or find another solution to achieve my goal. Despite not having the means for my education, having to literally work for it has not only mentally prepared me for my life ahead it has also made me realize and appreciate all the opportunity I have in order to acquire the money.
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Erin Edwards
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I completely agree with Alex, when he stated that America is a land of opportunity. Our ancestors and pilgrims and everyone that moved to America moved because they wanted to create opportunities to better themselves and live the way they want to. It is very evident today that everyone has the ability to achieve any goal that they want, it just a matter of working for it. Anyone and everyone can go to college and make money if that is in fact what they want to do. That is the exact reason why our ancestors moved to American and fought for our freedom, so that we could achieve what we want to.
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Sharice Morris
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I also agree with Alex that America is a place of opportunity. As a child you are asked what do you wanna be when you grow up and there are in less possiblities as to what you can be. When most people come to America they come for freedom and a chance to better there life. When the settlers first came to America they did not know what to expect but they was willing to fight for this land. When you want something you can get it all you have to do is try and no one can stop you from achieving your goals. The Puritains came here for religious freedom. Just the thought of bettering the situation that you are in is enough to motivate you to get up and try something different. And this is what the people who came to America did. If you dont like the situation that you are in dont sit around and deal with it get up and make a change. America is a place where you can do that. I would of made the decision to come here. I dont want to settle for less. If there is a opportunity to better myself I'm going to try it because even if I fail I can say I tried.
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Kelsey Glasco
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
The people who settled in the Virginia Colonies definitely wanted better opportunities and freedom.  They were hoping to give a better life to themselves and their loved ones.  These people are not much different than us because don't we all want to have freedom and opportunities?  It was much harder for them to come here than it was for us.  They had to make this life for themselves, whereas we were born here and it was already set up in a way that gave us our freedoms and opportunities.  If I were the one making the decision to settle here, I would definitely do it if I knew that I was going to have a better life.  If it was possible for me to make my way accross the frontier without doing any serious damage to myself, then I would totally do it.  
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

SteveBrandon
Administrator
Unfortunately, there was no way to "know" life would be better.  It was a gamble for almost everyone.  Many who came to America were fairly desperate.  Many who headed toward the frontier did so because of failure in the East.  They were looking for a better life, but their standards were fairly low as to what that life would have to be to be "better." 

 Land of their own, opportunity, a chance to keep what they earned--these were freedoms they did not have at "home."  The remarkable thing was that they then added to these freedoms and guaranteed them not only for their selves but for all others, including those of us living today.  They saw the secret to being an American wasn't in seizing opportunity for one's self--this was only the first half of winning liberty. 

 The next step took more courage.  They made sure that everyone had access to opportunity even at a price to their selves--the price being what Jefferson called the inconveniences which come with liberty, inconveniences like jury duty, paying taxes, allowing others to believe as they will, allowing others to talk as they will, taking the time to become informed, fighting tyranny wherever it was found, lack of full security...the list goes on.  However, their willingness to bet life, fortune, and honor paid off in our access to opportunity and a better life for most.

Steve

Stephen Brandon, PhD
Associate Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)


On Sun, Dec 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM, Kelsey Glasco [via General Assembly Discussion Forum, Fall 2010] <[hidden email]> wrote:
The people who settled in the Virginia Colonies definitely wanted better opportunities and freedom.  They were hoping to give a better life to themselves and their loved ones.  These people are not much different than us because don't we all want to have freedom and opportunities?  It was much harder for them to come here than it was for us.  They had to make this life for themselves, whereas we were born here and it was already set up in a way that gave us our freedoms and opportunities.  If I were the one making the decision to settle here, I would definitely do it if I knew that I was going to have a better life.  If it was possible for me to make my way accross the frontier without doing any serious damage to myself, then I would totally do it.  



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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Jeromy Jones
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
To me the early frontier of America is a perfect representation of what it is to be an American. Those who chose to venture out and create the early west were exactly like all of us today; they all wanted more. They wanted more out of life than was being offered on the East, and also wanted greater opportunities for their families. Just as today, this opportunity came with risk; of course their risks were much greater than ours ever could be. Inevitably, the early frontiersmen were faced with ethical problems we do not have to face today. For them these ethical issues proved much more difficult to overcome, as they had essentially boundless freedoms and nearly no real law. This proved to be somewhat beneficial to our country, because it showed us the need to have law and control even in the land of the free.  

America began as a place to gain more than just financial means, of course. Even today people from all over the world travel to this country in search of freedoms of all kinds. Religious persecution, social restrictions, and many other outrageous activities are still very prevelent thoughout the world and, just as the early Pilgrims did, countless people come here seeking an end to this treatment. This displays another aspect of what it is to be an American; caring for those less fortunate. Very few people came to this country with wealth, and even less came here knowing what they were going to do if they actually made it here. Early Americans had to build themselves up to be what and who they wanted to be, and this type of determination has been enstilled in all of us; we call it having the American dream.
 
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Anna Olihnenco
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I would have to agree with Dr. Brandon's statement regarding those who pushed the frontier lines--they did so with the intent to acquire land, secure more opportunities for themselves and others, and to have something to call their own that the government could not confiscate, a right that rarely existed in the overpopulated cities of Europe, where essentially everything was monitored by the monarchy and church. For most, to live in Europe meant to be confined to the standards and laws of the region--deviation yielded severe discipline, often which did not fit the crime. Some colonies were established by those seeking religious freedom--Rhode Island; while others were inaugurated as "dumping" sites for criminals--Georgia.

According to a number of accounts, the frontier equated with lawlessness. The absence of a surveillance system out West, sparked some pioneers' desires to leave for the uncharted wilderness, where they were permitted to live according to their own inclinations. While some left to avoid conformity to regulations, others wished to cease the available opportunities in the unclaimed land. The pioneers pushed the boundaries to establish settlements where equality reigned. In doing so, they desired to create ideal communities that granted those inalienable human rights to everyone who had the courage to leave their present conditions and explore the limits. These people were unsatisfied with circumstances that they were born into, and instead of bearing the continued failures to reform government or enduring the oppression, they endeavored to create colonies where freedom and opportunity spearheaded all aspects of life. Because of their selfless attempts, we are today reaping the rewards that they so bravely fought for.

Having a frontier for three hundred years has shaped America's viewpoint of herself as a source of unending opportunity. In a way, the thought is "as long as there is a wilderness, there will always be an opportunity to start over and mold your future." From it's birth, this nation has been viewed as the land of opportunity--the opportunity to build a life inhibited by a tyrannical government and inescapable circumstances.  

My decision to devote my life to securing opportunities for my future family can, in a way, be synonymous with the pioneers braving the wilderness. I am willing to step out of my comfort zone in order to tap into the world as a source of knowledge and understanding that will grant empowerment and possibilities to mold my own life.
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Emmanuel Ihejirika
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
The effects of a frontier on America correlates to the idea of what it means to be an American in that people began to move to unknown territories and would make the best of it. The spirit of self-reliance and seeking to obtain opportunity is what I think one of the most important aspects American culture. Those who settled the frontier walked the line between the primitive and civilized. They adapted to nature and began to set into motion the foundations of structure. Everything was fresh territory to figure out new ways. There, public schools were started to spread the knowledge for what was learned and was economically, similar to capitalism.    
A lot in history has impacted society today. There was hard work to be done and a gamble of possibilities on the North American frontier. Success and/or failure is something we must all risk in life. For that, we are here.
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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

SteveBrandon
Administrator
Never underestimate the power of debt.  Albert Einstein once suggested that the greatest power in the universe was compound interest.  Today the leading cause of those not finishing college is the cost and debt.  One of the leading causes of divorce is debt.  Debt had tremendous influence on history and the frontier.  Many fled Europe and the east to escape debt or debtor's prison.  My wife recently shared an except from IOU, a recent book on the role of debt in history, and the American Revolution:

"In England, statutes decreeing imprisonment for debt date to the thirteenth century. The point wasn't to lock you up - as the proverb had it, 'A prison pays no debts' - but to terrify you into paying, to avoid incarceration. Nine times out of ten, that's just what happened, which is why the practice prevailed in most parts of the early modern world and, in the seventeenth century, travelled, with English common law, to America. A 1641 Massachusetts law known as the 'Body of Liberties' closely followed English practice, declaring of the insolvent that 'his person may be arrested and imprisoned where he shall be kept at his owne charge, not the platife's till satisfaction be made.' ... There were no terms: you weren't sentenced for a month, a year, a decade; you stayed in jail until your creditors were satisfied.

"This didn't work that well in the New World. As many as two out of every three Europeans who came to the colonies were debtors on arrival: they paid for their passage by becoming indentured servants. Early on, labor was so scarce that colonists who fell intodebt once they got here paid with work; there was much to be done, and there weren't many prisons. In 1674, a Massachusetts court ordered Joseph Armitage, who owed John Ruck twenty-two pounds, to serve as Ruck's servant for seven years. (What relieved the colonies' labor scarcity and spelled the end of debtor servitude was the rise of the African slave trade.) The colonies were also a good place to go to run away from your debts. Some colonies were, basically, debtors' asylums. In 1642, Virginia, eager to lure settlers, promised five years' protection from any debts contracted in the Old World. North Carolina did the same in 1669. Creditors, in any case, found it all but impossible to pursue fugitive debtors across the Atlantic. (Not for nothing did Defoe's Moll Flanders, born in London's Newgate Prison, sail to Virginia.) Then, there was an early version of a farm subsidy: Connecticut and Maryland forbade the prosecution of debtors between May and October and released prisoners to plant and harvest on the unassailable argument that 'the Porest Sort of the Inhabitants' were often 'undone in that they cannot be at Liberty to make their Cropps.' ...

"In London, debtors' prisons filled. And then they teemed. James Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament, ... had an idea: what about just shipping the miserable wretches across the ocean? In 1732, he founded Georgia, a colony intended as a refuge for debtors released from English prisons.

"This only strengthened a prevailing perception: that the colonies' relationship with England was that of a debtor to a creditor. By the seventeen-sixties, sympathy for debtors had attached itself to the patriot cause. Weren't all Americans debtors? Whenever New York's Sons of Liberty held a banquet, they made a show of sending the leftovers to the city's imprisoned debtors. Virginia planters likeJefferson and Washington were monstrously in debt to merchants in London. A creditor was 'lord of another man's purse'; hadn't the British swindled Americans out of their purses, their independence, their manhood? This, anyway, is how many colonists came to view their economic dependence on Britain. Declaring independence was a way of canceling those debts. The American Revolution, some historians have argued, was itself a form of debt relief. ...

"Debtors in New York used to be locked up in the garret of City Hall, at the corner of Wall Street, in a cramped nook under the eaves. From its dormers, they would lower shoes, tied to a string, to collect alms from passersby. Debtors' prisons in other cities and towns had what were called 'beggars' grates,' iron bars through which prisoners in cellar dungeons could extend outstretched palms."

Jill Lepore, "I.O.U.," The New Yorker, April 13, 2009, pp. 35-37. 
Stephen Brandon, PhD
Associate Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)


On Sun, Dec 5, 2010 at 11:55 PM, Emmanuel Ihejirika [via General Assembly Discussion Forum, Fall 2010] <[hidden email]> wrote:
The effects of a frontier on America correlates to the idea of what it means to be an American in that people began to move to unknown territories and would make the best of it. The spirit of self-reliance and seeking to obtain opportunity is what I think one of the most important aspects American culture. Those who settled the frontier walked the line between the primitive and civilized. They adapted to nature and began to set into motion the foundations of structure. Everything was fresh territory to figure out new ways. There, public schools were started to spread the knowledge for what was learned and was economically, similar to capitalism.    



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Re: Week Fifteen: Discussion

Alex Smith
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
Frontiers are the main reason why we have a country today.  If no one decided to do frontiers there wouldn't be anything.  Without finding Jamestown on the explorer's journey, who knows what Virginia would be like.  Everything has a reason and that's why the past is such a crucial part of America.  I think we need more American's like John Smith, Robert Hunt, and Edward-Maria Wingfield who aren't afraid to go after new findings and have a very good understanding of what it's like to have a intellectual mind to go out and do those types of things.  True American's are people who aren't afraid to go out and do what they think is right and something that they could make a difference in.