Significance Of The Settlement Of The Piedmont
By the middle of the century results of great significance had come about. All the way from New England to Georgia a back country society had been formed, with characteristics in many ways distinct from that of the Tidewater settlements. A large portion of the settlers, particularly south of New York, were of non-English stock, and had brought with them diverse notions; but, under the influence of frontier environment, they had been moulded, together with the English stock, into a more or less homogeneous mass. In the main the settlers were persons of slender means, and lived hard, frontier lives. They tilled small farms with their own hands, and indentured servitude and slave-holding were consequently unimportant. Society, on the whole, was democratic, individualistic, tolerant, and self-reliant. In spite of this homogeneity of the frontier, the original traits of the settlers persisted, and can still be found in the Pennsylvania "Dutch" or in the Scotch Presbyterians of the Southern Piedmont.
Being distinct in character and interests, the Piedmont and Tidewater clashed at many points, and thus arose "sectional" contests between the East and the West, a feature which has marked American development down to the present. The simple back country constituted a debtor society, in need of an expanding credit; the coast was more aristocratic and more capitalistic. The East attempted to dominate politics, legislation, and administration. The West resisted, and before the Revolution contests arose in nearly every colony. In many instances the back country won; its victories are reflected in the provisions for religious toleration and in the democratic tendencies of the new state constitutions formed during and after the Revolution.
There were other important consequences from the settlement of the back country. In spite of divergent interests, there were bonds of union between the East and the Wrest. The new settlements furnished a market for eastern goods and provided commodities in exchange, and thus lessened the dependence of the coast upon Europe. Attended by Indian wars and border hostilities with French and Spanish neighbors, the westward movement had created a fighting frontier. At the same time, by bringing the international frontiers into conflict, it had prepared the way for the final struggle between France and England in America.
It was the southern Piedmont which furnished leaders for the southwestward movement in the succeeding generations. Says Turner: "Among this moving mass, as it passed along the Valley into the Piedmont, in the middle of the eighteenth century, were Daniel Boone, John Sevier, James Robertson, and the ancestors of John C. Calhoun, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, James K. Polk, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett; while the father of Andrew Jackson came to the Piedmont at the same time from the coast. Recalling that Thomas Jefferson's home was in this frontier, at the edge of the Blue Ridge, we perceive that these names represent the militant expansive movement in American life. They foretell the settlement across the Alleghanies in Kentucky and Tennessee; the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark's transcontinental exploration; the conquest of the Gulf Plains in the War of 1812-15; the annexation of Texas; the acquisition of California and the Spanish Southwest. They represent, too, frontier democracy in its two aspects personified in Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. It was a democracy responsive to leadership, susceptible to waves of emotion, of a 'high religious voltage'—quick and direct in action."
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