Listen to a bit of the philosophical treatise, from which I quote
in long sweeps, as follows:
The scripture classically chosen for exegesis [of the notion that
"the laughter of the frontier was born of despair"] is a passage from
Paine's Mark Twain:
The frontier with its hardships and tragedies was little more than
a vast primeval joke: when all frontiersmen were obliged to be laugh-
ing philosophers in order to survive the stress of its warfares.
... The fight was so desperate, to take it seriously was to surrender.
Women laughed that they might not weep; men laughed when they
could no longer swear.
... But there were occasions when the customary channel of relief
was blocked: and when they [such men as Daniel Boone, David
Crockett, and Kit Carson] could not swear, they laughed, for not to
swear or to laugh was to surrender.
To carry on the exegesis, Professor Boatright tells several stories
in point but finally comes around to the point that you have
sensed all along, namely: "There is actually more reason to
speak of the optimism of the frontier than of its pessimism."
Yes, that's it. And you will want to read the passages from writers,
orators, historians, and congressmen in support of this view.
RUDOLPH L. BIESELE
The University of Texas
Young America, 183o0-84o. By Robert E. Riegel. Norman (Uni-
versity of Oklahoma Press), 1949. Pp. xii+436. Illustrated.
Some twenty years ago when Carl Russell Fish published The
Rise of the Common Man, 1830-z850, and more recently when
Dr. Arthur M. Schlesinger, the younger, wrote The Age of Jack-
son, there was no objection to including politicians, diplomats,
and lawyers, at least as classes in society. Reading Young Amer-
ica, z83o-z84o, one is seldom made conscious of any political,
military, or diplomatic developments of the Jackson-Van Buren
era. The better than usual index has only two references to
Martin Van Buren. In the preface, Professor Riegel explains why
his "cross-view" of our civilization excludes political events, but
the title is misleading. He uses the stock in trade topics and
tools of the social historian to good advantage. Although doctors,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101133/. Accessed December 20, 2014.