Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 11: No 2) >> Pioneers, Indians, and ''Southern Adams'' in ''The Two Camps'' >> Page 4

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 4

Scholarship | 2003
Transcription argument in citing how less than one percent of adult pioneers were single and
planned to stay that way (36). "On the frontier of fact," he notes, "that prototype
of the western hero, the supremely self-reliant long hunter, the character based on
Filson's Boone and expressed as Cooper's Leatherstocking and scores of
others...was not just unusual. He was a freak" (West 36).
In "The Two Camps," Simms much more accurately reflects West's
historical truth in describing how explorers like Boone "returned for the one thing
most needful to a brave forester in a new country, a good brisk, fearless wife,
who, like the damsel in Scripture, would go whithersoever went the husband"
(The Wigwam and the Cabin 50).2 Contrasting with Lewis's isolated American
Adam figure, Simms praises how bold young hunters like Daniel Nelson "had no
fear...to make a home and rear an infant family in regions so remote from the
secure walks of civilization" (WC 50). Simms further strengthens this idea in
showing how in the midst of increasing tension between Indians and neighboring
white pioneers, Nelson was. "a good husband" who "strove not to frighten his wife
by what he said," and then "took his little girl, now five years old, upon his knee
that evening, and looked upon his infant boy in the lap of his mother" (51).
Although distant from more settled regions, Nelson was a conscientious family
man who "felt his anxieties very much increase" (51) with their impending
These passages exemplify how Simms's characterizations more accurately
mesh with West's assertion that "The mythic tradition is like that in Filson's
story, with Boone and Stewart as hairy-chested solitaires against the wild...But
when Boone was ready for the real conquest, he brought the wife and kids" (35).
Of course, this is strictly in keeping with an idea Simms expresses again and
again that families played the key role in England's successful colonization of
the North American wilderness.3 As Louis D. Rubin convincingly demonstrates,
"Simms's dream...turns out to be diametrically opposed to that of Cooper," and
"is a dream not of solitude but of society, and the attainment of a position of
comfort and dignity within it" (125). Lewis's thesis, while representative of 19th
century New England literature, is neither representative of 19th-century
American literature, the reality of pioneering, nor the American ideology of
society and the wilderness, and as Molly Boyd cogently illustrates, this "Southern
Adam" is a clear alternative to Lewis's myth (74).
Simms also counters the image of pioneers as adventurers whose hunting
skills made them somehow above farming the land, offering what seems a more

2 Subsequent citations from The Wigwam and the Cabin are abbreviated to read
3 As in one particular passage where Simms praises how "To tend the soil, indeed,
is to make one love it," and then explains how in seeking to create homes in the
wilderness, "an office which the Spaniard in his pride, and the Frenchman in his
levity, equally disdained to perform," the British Colonist secured his future in
North America (The Social Principle 28).