History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview

12
Western expansion and the
Second Awakening

IT WAS THE SAGE EMERSON WHO NOTED THAT "EUROPE EXTENDS TO THE Alleghenies, while America lies beyond." His observation was instructive. That vast area which stretches from the eastern mountains to the great plains was the crucible in which Americanism was fashioned and endowed with its most distinctive character. In the Middle West, the first part of America to be cultivated by English-speaking settlers since the advent of the national era, a new pattern was developing almost wholly independently of the eastern models which looked to Europe for their inspiration. Though Spanish and French adventurers had sailed up its arbor-framed rivers and traversed its rolling or flat terrain, the stamp of Old World culture left but a faint impression upon the land, and this was virtually obliterated by the ponderous tread of the American frontiersman. On the frontier this scion of individualism and progress carved out a new civilization, wild and crude according to urban standards, yet founded upon the dignity of man and his infinite perfectibility. He could face the future for in it all things were possible.

As time passed, the congested cities of the East looked increasingly

-238-

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