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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SECTION IN
FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER
A generation ago I published in the Proceedings of this Society a paper which I had read at the summer meeting of the American Historical Association, on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." The Superintendent of the Census had just announced that a frontier line could no longer be traced, and had declared: "In the discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., it cannot therefore any longer have a place in the census reports."
The significance in American history of the advance of the frontier and of its disappearance is now generally recognized. This evening I wish to consider with you another fundamental factor in American history, namely, the Section. Arising from the facts of physical geography and the regional settlement of different peoples and types of society on the Atlantic coast there was a sectionalism from the beginning. But soon this became involved and modified by the fact that these societies were expanding into the interior, following the frontier, and that their sectionalism took special forms in the presence of the growing West. Today we are substantially a settled nation without the overwhelming influence that accompanied the westward spread of population. Urban concentration chiefly in the East has reversed the movement to a considerable extent. We are more like Europe, and our sections are becoming more and more the American version of the European nation.
First let us consider the influence of the frontier and the West upon American sections. Until our own day, as I urged in that paper, the United States was always beginning over on its outer edge as it advanced into the wilderness.