Virginians on Olympus: A Cultural Analysis of Four Great Men

By Marshall William Fishwick | Go to book overview

II
Daniel Boone The Virginian as Pioneer

A dirge for the brave old Pioneer!
Columbus of the land!
Who guided freedom's proud career
Beyond the conquered strand,
And gave her pilgrims' sons a home
No monarch's step profanes,
Free as the chainless winds that roam
Upon the boundless plains.

A DIRGE FOR THE PIONEER, by Theodore O'Hara

NO GROUP is more distinguished in America's democratic tradition than the hardy pioneers who struggled westward across a virgin continent, turning thirteen seaboard colonies into a continental empire. The man who has come most to personify America's pioneer spirit is Daniel Boone, the great trailblazer, the solitary adventurer, the prototype of a score of lesser frontiersmen. Virginia is only one of the states, and America only one of the nations, that venerates Boone -- certain qualities in his exploits have enough appeal to make him a world hero.

How is it that Boone has been raised to such a pinnacle, while his equally brave companions ( Squire Boone, Harrod, McAfee, Logan) have sunk into oblivion? His position rests both upon a combination of attributes which fitted him uniquely for the tasks at hand, and upon a set of fortunate historical circumstances. It was Boone's good fortune to be active while the Romantic Revolution was at its peak -- when a large number of writers and intellectuals, following the leadership of Jean Jacques Rousseau ( 1712- 1778), dreamed of the natural man and the noble savage, free from the shackles of society and convention. When John Filson published a book on Kentucke in 1784 at Wilmington, Delaware -- and it was translated into French in 1785 and German in 1790 -- he spread Boone's fame throughout Europe. He was the simple, innately good man of the forest, a sort

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