The American Frontier Essay

771 Words Nov 23rd, 2015 4 Pages
Antebellum experienced rapid societal change stemming from the industrialization and rapid urbanization of north, marking the economic transition to capitalism. With the shift to capitalism, individualism developed from the change in the value of individual labor and nostalgia for the frontier. As the increasingly moral middle-class became more solidified, the wage gap increased, and the northerners became increasingly economically different from the south, the reform impulse grew. Reform impulse borrowed from the rhetoric of the individualism, exploring its discrepancies concerning the working class, women, and both enslaved and freed African-Americans.
Individualism and the reform impulse reacted to the rapidly changing northern society. Individualism translated nostalgia for the American frontier to the urbanized, industrial north, adapting to become prominent socially and politically. Intellectual individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson captured this in his essay "Self-Reliance," explaining, "It is easy to live in a world after the world 's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." Individualism romanticizes the frontier while compromising the economic realities of the north, such as urbanization, visible poverty, and increased economic dependency, with the traditional American value of independence.
Yet writers and politicians adapted the rhetoric…

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