Ohio History Journal

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"A New Home--Who'll Follow

"A New Home--Who'll Follow?"

Letters of a New England

Emigrant Family in Ohio, 1831-1842






A dominant characteristic of the fifty-year period following the

American Revolution was the rise of national self-consciousness,

reflected by patriotic experiments in ?? literature, in fine arts, in science,

and in other areas of culture. Cultural nationalism was whetted by

the War of 1812 and by the end of the period had made its way

into foreign policy with the Monroe Doctrine and into domestic

policy with Henry Clay's American System of protective tariffs and

internal improvements. In all this a recurrent theme was the con-

trast of America's simple rural virtues with the supposed decadence

of urban, industrial Europe and the eastern seaboard. The East-West

polarity accelerated the movement of the population into the trans-

Allegheny regions and helped to identify the American national

character with frontiersmen like Davy Crockett or with Jefferson's

virtuous yeoman farmer.1

The westward migration of peoples looking for a better, more

abundant material life gave to America the proud title "promised

land," or "land of opportunity." The promises of the frontier were

not reckoned merely in material terms, however, for the New

England Puritans had early associated the business of reclaiming the

wilderness with moral and spiritual destiny. Something of this

buoyant hope for the new country as well as a cultural self-


* Charles L. Sanford is a member of the department of language and literature at

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.

1 Cf. my article, "The Garden of America," Modern Review, LXXXXII (1952),

23-32; also Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land (Cambridge, Mass., 1950), especially

Chapters III and V.