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Modern American liberalism is difficult to define. Scarcely the anti-statist doctrine of the eighteenth century, contemporary liberals maintain liberalism's fundamental principles yet pursue them in innovative ways. Emphasizing freedom, progress, and rationality, liberals of the twenty-first century remain remarkably similar to liberals of the eighteenth century, ideologically speaking (Gerstle 1994). To Thomas Jefferson, for instance, liberal goals were achievable once “unnatural” (feudal) institutions and oppressive restraints (from monarchical governments) were removed. With social and political equality as their goal, Jeffersonians pushed the liberal standard into the nineteenth century.
No other region symbolizes and embodies the liberal tradition quite like the American West. Replete with bountiful and plentiful land and free of autocratic institutions, the western frontier represented an ongoing tabula rasa for American liberalism. In this ...