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Lost in the BackwoodsScots and the North American Wilderness$
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Jenni Calder

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748647392

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748647392.001.0001

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Future Prospects and Present Sacrifice

Future Prospects and Present Sacrifice

(p.112) 5 Future Prospects and Present Sacrifice
Lost in the Backwoods

Jenni Calder

Edinburgh University Press

The American wilderness was promoted in Britain as an environment of freedom - religious, political and personal - as well as offering opportunities for the ownership of land, concepts which were potentially contradictory. One of the first writers to explore this contradiction was Fenimore Cooper, much influenced by Walter Scott, who recognised that the westward movement of settlement destroyed the freedom of spirit engendered by the wild. In the twentieth century, the novels of A B Guthrie, explored here, are classic examples of the process of erosion. This chapter looks at the experiences of Scottish settlers, focusing particularly on Canada’s Red River settlement and the Oregon Trail’s overlanders and homesteaders, and highlights the paradox of pioneering - trailblazers spearheading the destruction of the wilderness which is the source of their freedom. The Scottish contribution to the spirit of rugged individualism was significant, but they were also prominent in bringing the civic institutions that transformed the pioneering environment.

Keywords:   settlement, Red River, Overlanders, Oregon Trail, paradox of pioneering, Fenimore Cooper, Walter Scott, A B Guthrie

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