Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson

Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson

Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson

Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson

Excerpt

Most of those who were friends of the first four Presidents were not far travelers within the limits of their country; they seldom ventured out of the State that had given them birth. Few cared to suffer the hardships of crossing the Appalachians or to incur danger from Indians beyond the Mississippi unless they were dominated by a great personal desire or acting under government orders that they could not readily evade. For the general population, New Orleans, Detroit, and Albany were merely geographical expressions--outposts on the periphery of a wilderness that only pioneers were wont to explore. The more conservative who succeeded in meeting competition along the eastern seaboard did not harken to the call of cheap lands across the mountains or in the fecund river valleys of the Southwest unless the spirit of adventure conquered the discerning judgment that had created their opulence. In time, these who remained at home became more set in English patterns; even their passing was marked by tombstones cut like those in quiet country churchyards across the sea. The frontier, with its years of hardships, was for hardy young men who yearned for a greater and more exciting future than that which their drab and conventional birthplaces indifferently offered them. They were the more daring few who cleared and plowed under new lands and created a virile democracy. For their less aggressive countrymen they won an imperial domain. In payment they demanded the elimination of certain outworn political theories and social practices. As frontiersmen they were concerned with essentials; they had slight esteem for conventions; they created a type distinctly American. To critical foreigners these representatives of new ideals of living often appeared gross, frequently dishonest, commonly illiterate, and generally egotistical beyond limit; in their myopia they over- looked those worthier qualities of bravery, open friendliness, tenacity of purpose, and a heartening confidence in all the vicissitudes of life. Of the many able men in the early days of the United States not a few displayed several of these estimable qualities while they lagged little behind their critics in culture and Old World vices.

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