Johnson County War Essay

Johnson County War

            The Johnson County War was an event that showed a more realistic view of the Wild West. It presented a traditional fight between the haves and the have-nots with the former clearly winning the war with the use of the resources and influences available to them. The Johnson County War started with the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association (WSGA) plan to do away with the small homesteaders in the region through a group of assassin invaders. The ruckus got so out of hand that then  President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, was asked for help and sent the Sixth Cavalry from Fort McKinney to aid the invaders. The war ended with the invaders being released from prison, charges against the WSGA and those in authority dropped due to a supposed inability of the Johnson County to pay for the prosecution. This showed that even during those times, those with greater economic influences and with greater financial power also had greater political influence. The fact that President Benjamin aided the WSGA created impressions that the Johnson County War was a class war with President Benjamin Harrison, being a Republican, coming to the aid of wealthy Republican businessmen. President Harrison may have condoned to help the WSGA in order to strengthen his ties with them and thus assuring access to the resources the WSGA held.

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            The events of the war were a complete contradiction to Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which stated that the American frontier is the place where American exceptionalism is at its greatest. This means that the West – the epitome of the American frontier – was the region where everything contributing to the concept of American uniqueness such as democracy and freedom were best experienced. The Johnson War showed that, indeed, the West was also subject to corruption, injustice, and oppression. Social classes dictated the events that occurred in the West and political powers were not impartial in making their decisions.