Another statement of the American Dream by Wertenbaker (even though this same author has made extensive studies to show that the era of opportunity for the lower classes ended before 1680 in the colony which "began with the founding of Jamestown," as will be shown) reads: 5Next Page
. . . an American minister would not invite the janitor to his church to have tea with his family. Yet the janitor might some day become a millionaire and, without resentment for the past, condescend to invite the minister to his home.
The vital phenomenon in American history has been the lifting of millions from the lower class into the middle class . . . . This movement began with the founding of Jamestown, and it is still in progress . . . .
It is this spectacle of continuous rise, this fermenting within the social body, this lack of class bonds which accounts for another American characteristic -- optimism.
Greene, by introducing the words "hope" and "industrious," qualifies his statement to the American Dream. He says: "So in spite of some class distinctions, a country in which almost any industrious white man could hope to own land tended to become democratic both socially and politically." 6
One phase of the American Dream, no longer accepted by most historians, is the following statement by Turner: 7
Whenever social conditions tended to crystallize in the East, whenever capital tended to press upon labor or political restraints to impede the freedom of the mass, there was this gate of escape to the free conditions of frontier.
One statement by Timothy Flint, often quoted, may in part be responsible for the belief in the authenticity of open opportunity in the West. Flint wrote: 8
One of my immediate neighbors . . . had hired a man, a black man, and two sons . . . . He raised, the year I came away, two thousand four hundred bushels of corn, eight hundred bushels of wheat, and other articles in proportion, and the number of cattle and hogs that he might raise was indefinite . . . . Any person, able and disposed to labor, is forever freed from the apprehension of poverty . . . .
Fish, who wrote a volume obviously dedicated to the American Dream, summarizes his belief in the following citation: 9
To be an American was enough to have all doors open. It was something new in the world . . . .
Liberty and opportunity, after all, meant responsibility, a sobering thought; one other gift of the American political system involved no personal effort, was complete at birth -- equality.
Americans of the thirties and forties laughed at by foreigners, and still are by their descendants, for their frequent assertion that every American was a king in his own country. Few remember today, what every schoolboy knew, that this was not a figure of speech, but a specific provision of the national and of every state constitution . . .
There was so close an approximation to economic equality to match the political that effort and ability could raise anyone to the top. The absence of higher professional training made communion with the intellectual almost as easy as entrance into the ranks of the opulent.
Commager infers the existence of equality, but doubts the consequence usually attributed to it. In a recent review in a metropolitan newspaper he writes: 10
Doubtless, too, the frontier swept away artificial distinctions of class or wealth and discovered the real worth of men, but whether this made for democracy is again open to dispute. It may be questioned whether the "frontier" States are more democratic, now, than are Massachusetts or New York . . . .
Young is of the opinion that industry and trade "have made countless wealthy men of European immigrants. It is only natural that of the millions of immigrants who have started as day laborers, clerks and peddlers, a reasonable proportion would achieve success as measured by income." 11 Time and space preclude a rebuttal here, but one may ask that a "reasonable proportion" is. The story of immigration is told by Jacob Riis, Thomas and Znaniecki, and Jane Addams throws a much different light upon the subject. Could it not be that the wealthy Americans descended from higher class immigrants and that the poor of today have descended from lower class immigrants?
5. Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, The Founding of American Civilization, The Middle Colonies (New York, 1938) pp. 2 - 3.
7. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York, 1920) p. 259.
8. Timothy Flint, Recollections of the Last Ten Years (Boston, 1826) p. 249.
9. Fish, op. cit., pp. 7 and 9.
10. Henry Steele Commager, in a review of Vanguards of the Frontier, in The New York Times Book Review, May 25, 1941.
11. Donald Young, American Minority Peoples (New York, 1932) p. 146.