Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''The Mountain Tramp. Tselica; A Legend of the French Broad'': With an Eye on the Horizon >> Page 60

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 60 THE SIMMS REVIEW

though he is dressed in hunter's garb when he sets out upon the tramp
(101), his appearance seems little more than a masquerade, and the vio-
lence of the hunt is left to his mountain hosts, who also seem to dance
with an intensity that approaches violence. To the Indian characters,
though, violence is no mere sport: with the same intensity that the two
tribes devote to their war with each other, they pursue their kinfolk to the
death over a social principle.
In the series of essays in which he was to propound the Frontier
Thesis, Frederick Jackson Turner specifically would address each of
these five characteristic in terms of the ways that each was intensified
by the remoteness of the pioneers' positions upon the frontier. William
Gilmore Simms, who obviously couldn't have access to the work that
Turner wouldn't complete until a half century after Simms's death, not
only paid comparable attention to these qualities in "The Mountain
Tramp. Tselica; A Legend of the French Broad," but he specifically illus-
trated each as intensifying with greater distance from the "civilization"
of east-coast society. In addition, at the end of the first of his essays,
Turner attributed most of these qualities to the presence on the frontier
of free land as he lamented the closing of the frontier: "But never again
will such free lands offer themselves" (37). It was the availability of free
land that, in Turner's thesis, inspires the changes in human nature that
occurred on the frontier, and for reasons that may be somewhat obvious:
land ownership for people who would have been day laborers on the
east coast would certainly inspire greater happiness, and the freedom of
the wide-open spaces permitted a spontaneity that wouldn't have been
possible in the crowded cities. Also, land demanded and inspired both
a greater devotion to physical labor and the ability to make do with
the rude implements available on the frontier to improvise both on
Turner's historical frontier and Simms's poetical frontier—and it also
left less time for abstract concerns like history and literature. Finally, the
availability of free land on the frontier, coupled with the remoteness from
formal law-enforcement agencies, made frontiersmen more willing and,
with practice, more able to take even the most violent of actions to defend
the asset that had so radically changed their lives for the better. Simms
makes brief reference to the availability of free land in "The Mountain
Tramp" when the city slicker first meets up with his hillbilly host, who
says, "And now, but make your wishes known, / And all these mountains
are your own" (161-62).