American Founding Quotes on America: Exceptional Founding

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."

The Official King James Bible Online
1769
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"And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience."

Settlers of Plymouth County
1620
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"We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, 'may the Lord make it like that of New England.' For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world."

John Winthrop
1630
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"Westward the course of empire takes its way;/The first four acts are already past,/A fifth shall close the drama with the day; /Time's noblest offspring is the last."

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"But there is still behind a third consideration concerning this object, which serves to determine my opinion on the sort of policy which ought to be pursued in the management of America, even more than its population and its commerce, I mean its Temper and Character.

In this Character of the Americans, a love of Freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole: and as an ardent is always a jealous affection, your Colonies become suspicious, restive, and untractable, whenever they see the least attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by chicane, what they think the only advantage worth living for. This fierce spirit of Liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in any other people of the earth; and this from a great variety of powerful causes; which, to understand the true temper of their minds, and the direction which this spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely."

Edmund Burke
Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 1
March 22, 1775
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"Then, Sir, from these six capital sources; of Descent; of Form of Government; of Religion in the Northern Provinces; of Manners in the Southern; of Education; of the Remoteness of Situation from the First Mover of Government; from all these causes a fierce Spirit of Liberty has grown up. It has grown with the growth of the people in your Colonies, and increased with the increase of their wealth; a Spirit, that unhappily meeting with an exercise of Power in England, which, however lawful, is not reconcileable to any ideas of Liberty, much less with theirs, has kindled this flame that is ready to consume us."

Edmund Burke
Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 1
March 22, 1775
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"But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever."

John Adams
The Massachusetts Historical Society
July 7, 1775
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"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Second Continental Congress
July 4, 1776
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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."

Second Continental Congress
July 4, 1776
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"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Second Continental Congress
July 4, 1776
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"I have never met with a man, either in England or America, who hath not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the countries, would take place one time or other. And there is no instance in which we have shown less judgment, than in endeavoring to describe, what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independence."

Thomas Paine
1776
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"America ever is what she thinks herself to be. Governed by sentiment, and acting her own mind, she becomes, as she pleases, the victor or the victim."

Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776
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"THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."

Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776
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"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

National Archives and Records Administration
1787
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"The institutions now made in America will not wholly wear out for thousands of years. It is of the last importance, then, that they should begin right. If they set out wrong, they will never be able to return, unless it be by accident, to the right path."

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"[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

President George Washington
The American Presidency Project
April 30, 1789
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"The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy–a policy worthy of imitation…It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants–while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."

George Washington
August 19, 1790
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"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his."

James Madison
National Gazette
TeachingAmericanHistory.org
March 29, 1792
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"In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it."

George Washington
1796
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Using the pen name of the "Ohio Farmer," the Ashbrook Center attempts to create the spirit of early Americans--both Federalist and Antifederalist--and their concerns for constitutional self-government. In this vein, the "Ohio Farmer" writes to the Members of the 112th Congress in a letter exploring the exceptional example and experiment of America.

"Unlike most of the 111 that preceded it, the 112th Congress must begin the process of restoring the national regime and civic culture the Founders bequeathed. This will require reviving the rule of law, reasserting the relevance of the Constitution and affirming the reality of American exceptionalism."

"The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 have not only widened the differences between America and the rest of the world, but have also deepened divisions within the country itself, says John Parker."

American Exceptionalism does not come from our military might or that we are some kind of super race, but comes from the limited government provided in the founding documents.

Bromund gives a modern overview of American exceptionalism, from a British perspective, arguing that American confidence, free speech tradition, and natural rights pave its exceptional nature. Importantly, Bromund also explores political language, outlining that America was originally a 'liberal' experiment, but that it now has a 'conservative' obligation to uphold its legacy of 1776 and 1787...

"For nearly four centuries, we as a people have believed that America has a special and unique role to play in the world. Here is a land of new beginnings and new promise, not merely one nation among others. But we have to ask: Do our leaders still believe this?"

Born out of revolution, the United States is a country organized around an ideology which includes a set of dogmas about the nature of a good society. Americanism, as different people have pointed out, is an 'ism' or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms.

"[T]he idea of a special, even divine, role for America can be fairly slippery. At its best, it has inspired Americans to hold themselves to a high moral standard, serving as exemplar to other nations. At its worst, it becomes a license for rationalizing away morality itself. The former demands humility and responsibility and ties us to the moral human community, making our exceptionalism...

The major issue, the elephant in the room, is that the doctrine of American exceptionalism is theological, not political.

"'American Exceptionalism' is one of those phrases that seems to get tossed around a great deal by political pundits. Often they act like everyone knows what they mean by it, but in most cases, their use of it implies it is almost a force of nature, a blessing by God. Others believe it is nothing but propaganda for American nationalism. Both definitions are what I would call Manifest Destiny,...

"Why was it that Washington was no Cromwell, setting himself up as a military dictator after leading to victory in a war against tyranny, and that the young American Republic did not experi­ence the fratricidal slaughter of its revolutionary leaders by each others’ hands and the changes in ideals that marked the aftermaths of the French and Russian up­heavals? Many reasons may be cited. But...

"If the American moment passes, or U.S. power in other ways declines, it will not be because of demography."

"In the United States, civil liberties are seen as the province of the left. The ACLU, the Bar Association, the Democratic Party, people who err in favor of procedural protections for criminals and even terrorists—this is what tends to come to mind to conservatives who condemn civil liberties as a leftist interest, and to liberals who celebrate it as a great anchor of their political...

"Robert Curry’s continuing exposition of the Scottish enlightenment’s influence on the founding of the United States looks back at a vanishing greatness in the soul of America, a greatness that is anathema to liberal-progressives."

"Some Straussians see Lincoln as the Second Founder and the abolition of slavery as the return of the West to natural rights. And it certainly seems true that in Lincoln's words and America's example, key ideas about human equality and dignity gained momentum - and you can hear those ideas today in the mouths of a new Arab generation, in a culture so alien to our own it is close to impossible...

Michael Novak retells stories from early American history to highlight the importance of religion and the influence of both Judaism and Christianity on the formation of American government. He stresses the emphasis on Old Testament language and values in order to keep the various Christian denominations united.

Rabbi Spiro provides a brief history of the impact of Judaism on the American Founding as well as the treatment of Jews in early America.

"Historians have very little use for the idea of American exceptionalism and its supporting religious rhetoric. The historical record points not to the exceptional experience of America but to its common history with other nations. America is, after all, a nation of immigrants, and it is one shaped by both transatlantic and transpacific exchanges. Apart from this historical challenge to...

While Generation Yers may have the stereotype of being self-centered, many of them not only view themselves as exceptional — they hold the same view of America as well.

"The exceptional issue may be political, but it isn't only that. The idea lies smack at the heart of how Americans view themselves, and the role of government in their lives and in the broader world. Is America exceptional or isn't she? Is there something about this country that makes us unique in the world?"

"Though the phrase 'American exceptionalism' does get tossed around a lot, confusion reigns over its actual meaning. Before deciding whether American exceptionalism is a good or bad thing, whether it’s threatened or not and whether the President actually embraces it, shouldn’t we first figure out what it actually means?"

Leftists mocking those who believe in the greatness of the U.S. is nothing new. But their bizarre insistence that it's an artifact of right-wing jingoism and xenophobia certainly isn't helping Obama.

This article dismisses the idea of American exceptionalism by arguing that the Founders and subsequent Americans copied their exceptional ideas from European nations. Lind argues, "Americans have always been proud of their republic -- but not too proud to learn from others. When America worked, Americans did not hesitate to copy the innovative ideas and best practices of other countries."

American Exceptionalism is an idea as old as our country itself. The Founding Fathers understood that the vast resources at our fledging country’s disposal coupled with our puritan roots and lack of a feudal past meant that the United States was uniquely positioned to thrive as an exception to the corruption and poverty of other countries."

"A few men who did look into 'the law of liberty' bequeathed to present-day Americans a unique heritage. They were the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. In what respect were these political documents unique? First, they unseated government as the endower of men’s rights and placed the Creator in that role. Second, they more severely limited...

Cohen is gravely suspicious of American exceptionalism and points out examples in which America lags behind international averages. Cohen proposes that exceptionalism is merely a buzz word of the Christian Right.

The author takes a negative view of American exceptionalism, arguing that the misleading theory leads to militarization and conquest, imposing American ideals upon the world.

Morris takes a contrarian view of American exceptionalism, arguing that America is not endowed with special gifts by God or politics. Rather, he believes America grew up in exceptional circumstances throughout its first two hundred years, yet did an exceptional job in squandering those circumstances.

The theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters and approximately 100 percent of all U.S. politicians, although there is less and less evidence to support it.

"Despite the struggling economy and broad dissatisfaction with national conditions, the public has a positive view of the United States' global standing. But more think that the U.S. is one of the greatest countries in the world than say it stands above all other countries."

"In the course of the American revolutionary war, the New York-based lawyer and political pampleteer John Stevens observed that 'The path we [Americans] are pursuing is new, and has never been trodden on by man.' That well-founded sense of originality was accompanied by remarkable confidence in our abilities and optimism about our future. In the historian Bernard Bailyn’s words, 'The Founding...

"Here’s a suggestion: Whenever you hear or read someone boasting of 'American exceptionalism,' — the notion that America has since its founding been uniquely ordained by God and its own moral character to lead the world – reach for your wallet. Because, intellectually speaking, someone is surely trying to pick your pocket."

In 1776, when America announced its independence as a nation, it was composed of thirteen colonies surrounded by hostile powers. ... Is America exceptional?

To commemorate American Independence and the nation's founding, the Heritage Foundation asks prominent libertarian and conservative thinkers to explain why they believe America is exceptional.

After prompting a debate over the possibility of American exceptionalism, National Review Online engages in a symposium, showcasing the differing opinions of Yuval Levin, John O'Sullivan, and Matthew Spalding.

Chart or Graph

Among white Americans who say God has granted the U.S. a special role in history, a majority (52%) say the best way to ensure peace is through military strength rather than through diplomacy, a rate twice as high as among white Americans who do not affirm American exceptionalism.

"Americans widely agree that the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world. This view, commonly referred to as 'U.S. exceptionalism,' is shared by at least 73% of Americans in all party groups, including 91% of Republicans."

The country is exceptional in more profound ways [than military capacity alone]. It is more strongly individualistic than Europe, more patriotic, more religious and culturally more conservative. Al-Qaeda's assaults stimulated two of these deeper characteristics.

Young people are less likely than older Americans to say that the U.S. stands above all other nations.

"Despite the struggling economy and broad dissatisfaction with national conditions, the public has a positive view of the United States' global standing."

In opinions about whether the American people can solve major problems, the typology groups split mostly on economic, rather than partisan, lines.

Among the eight major typology groups, Staunch Conservatives -- who are strongly anti-government and pro-business -- are the only one in which a majority (67%) says that the U.S. stands above all other nations.

Analysis Report White Paper

"Most Americans think...that the United States is an exceptional country that differs sharply from the rest of the world and that must therefore have its own laws and Constitution."

"In this essay, Bruce Thornton first shows that, merely on practical grounds, many of these EU ideals have been ineffective if not dangerous. He then demonstrates that the EU model is predicated on philosophical assumptions about human nature and the human good that are diametrically opposed to those that underlay the American Founding."

Noted political scientist James Q. Wilson argues here that the observations Tocqueville made about America's uniqueness remain true today.

"Americans across the political spectrum embrace individualism, skepticism about government, and a faith in social mobility. Other developed nations, in contrast, have often embraced socialism and a strong state. Two new books document the advantages of this 'American Exceptionalism.'"

"This article is about the concept of American exceptionalism. The term has a long history and has been applied to a whole range of features that are unique to US society, particularly its history, identity, and culture."

American exceptionalism has been repeatedly dismissed by the academy, yet recent historical schools and trends continue to take it up as a topic of discussion, whether in a positive or negative light. Dale Carter takes a look at exceptionalism's role in modern intellectual debates such as New Left historiography.

"American political forms are unique, partially be­cause of the great opportunities which America has enjoyed on this continent and partially from what Daniel Boorstin has described as 'a peculiar and unrepeatable com­bination of historical circum­stances.'"

"America’s Founders sought to define a national good that transcended local interests and prejudices. The national good included the common benefits of self-defense and prosperity.... But it was only with the constitutional rule of law that the higher purpose, or true national interest, of America could be realized."

"No form of government devised in history was so careful to avoid the dangers of concentrated power and so favorable to letting the citizen go as far and as fast as his individual capacity would carry him, without state coddling, state regulation and state domination, which always go hand in hand."

"The era of the American Revolution was the greatest and most creative age of constitutionalism in American history. During the last part of the eighteenth century Americans established the modern idea of a written constitution. There had been written constitutions before in Western history, but Americans did something new and different."

This essay focuses on the great prevalence and influence that religious ideas had on America's founding. Michael Novak gives a variety of fascinating anecdotes and quotes from the founding fathers which demonstrate their familiarity with the Bible and other Christian and Judaistic elements of faith.

"To this day, Douglass endures unequalled as the invincible adversary of racial despair and disaffection—the preeminent exemplar and apostle of hopefulness in the American promise of justice for all."

This piece discusses the Declaration of Independence and its unique role in history. According to Spalding, the Declaration was "a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government."

"We conclude that claims of exceptional U.S. external behavior have been exaggerated, although more research is needed to determine whether other dimensions of U.S. foreign policy that have been widely discussed, such as its presentation to domestic audiences, are indeed highly atypical."

"I propose first, to unpack precisely what we mean by American exceptionalism; second, to clarify both the negative and the overlooked positive faces of American exceptionalism; and third, to suggest how we, as American scholars and lawyers, should respond to the most negative aspects of American exceptionalism in the wake of September 11."

Daniel Bell's famous 1975 essay declares American exceptionalism dead. He emphasizes that for a radical experiment like the American Revolution to be indeed radical, it must lack a history. Revolutions must be fresh and future-oriented. But after over 200 years--particularly in the wake of Vietnam--Americans can not look forward, only back.

"There are three dimensions of the Declaration of Independence which should be carefully considered for a clear understanding of it. The first is the contemporary context within which it was written, adopted, proclaimed, and served its purpose....The second dimension is its past....The third dimension is its future."

"Republics had been notoriously unstable, fiscally irresponsible, subject to being pulled hither and yon by foreign influences, divided and laid open to civil commotions by partisan conflicts, and rent by contests over succession to leadership. No fact troubled the more thoughtful of the Founders of the United States more than this one."

"This Article critically evaluates the widely held view inside and outside the United States that American constitutional rights jurisprudence is exceptional. There are two dimensions to this perceived American exceptionalism: the content and the structure of constitutional rights."

This essay discusses "what it means to base democratic government on the notion of natural rights, what these rights are, and what they mean for public policy" by comparing "three revolutions' theories of natural rights: the English Glorious Revolution of 1688, the French Revolution, and the American Revolution."

"In the following excerpt, the authors examine the major factors, real and imagined, that contribute to this growing alienation between America and other countries, both friends and foes, around the globe."

If it is merely a neutral characterization for 'uniqueness' or 'distinctiveness,' however, the question then arises why the notion of 'exceptionalism' needs emphasizing at all.

"The key to the uniquely successful story of American immigration is its deliberate and self-confident policy of patriotic assimilation: America welcomes newcomers while insisting that they learn and embrace its civic culture and political institutions, thereby forming one nation from many peoples—e pluribus unum."

"Today, the United States is a country of fifty states covering a vast continent. Its military forces are the most powerful in the world. Its economy produces almost a quarter of the world's wealth. The American people are among the most hard-working, church-going, affluent, and generous in the world. Is America exceptional?"

Americans are more individualistic, more religious, more patriotic, more egalitarian, and more hostile to unions and Marxism than are the people of any other advanced democracy. This positive account of the ways in which the United States truly is exceptional will call into question the practicality and wisdom of our Supreme Court imposing foreign ideas about law on us.

Video/Podcast/Media

"Matthew Spalding discusses American exceptionalism and why it's still important today."

"In Episode 23, Chris Gondek speaks with Eric J. Sundquist about the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'I have a dream' speech, and Godfrey Hodgson about the history behind America’s notion of its exceptionalism and the consequences for foreign policy today."

At the ISI regional conference, "America in the Clash of Civilization," Professor Thorton explores the Western building blocks of American exceptionalism.

"Americans across the political spectrum embrace individualism, skepticism about government, and a faith in social mobility. Other developed nations, in contrast, have often embraced socialism and a strong state. Two new books document the advantages of this 'American Exceptionalism.' In It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary...

"This panel examines the question whether there is an American ideology of exceptionalism that is deeply rooted in 400 years of our history. Have Americans from John Winthrop to the Founding Fathers to Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan believed that we are a shining city on a hill – a beacon of liberty and democracy for the rest of the world? How has the idea of American exceptionalism changed...

"On this edition of Peter Lavelle's CrossTalk, he asks his guests whether American exceptionalism is a self-serving myth."

"With the emergence of democracies in Europe and the New World at the beginning of the nineteenth century, political philosophers began to re-evaluate the relationship between freedom and equality. Tocqueville, in particular, saw the creation of new forms of social power that presented threats to human liberty. His most famous work, Democracy in America, was written for his French...

"The 'Judaism: A Way of Being' author makes the case for Judaism as the most important intellectual development in Western history."

After today’s forum, Princeton professor Robert P. George spoke with reporters. Below are his excellent remarks on 'what distinguishes American exceptionalism from nationalism.'

History professor Rob McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point gives a lecture on the conflict between the ideals of the American Revolution, such as individual liberty, and unfortunate realities of the time, such as slavery.

"Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood presented a series of essays that examines the underpinnings of the American Revolution. Mr. Wood explored the origins of American exceptionalism, the Founders' belief in the universality of the revolution, and the radicalism of republicanism in the 18th century. Gordon Wood discussed his essays in conversation with author and historian Jay Winik...

"In a world of moral confusion, and of arbitrary and unlimited government, America's founding principles are our best access to permanent truths and the best ground from which to question the current direction of our nation. Join Matt Spalding, author of We Still Hold These Truths and an authority on American political thought and religious liberty at The Heritage Foundation, as he...

"What makes some laws worth obeying, while others demand to be overturned? In Part 4, Bill examines the difference between Natural Law and Political Law."

Primary Document

Before this reaches you, the resolution for finally separating from Britain will be handed to Congress by Colonel Nelson. ... I put up with it in the present form for the sake of unanimity. ’Tis not quite so pointed as I could wish.

Written aboard the Arbella in 1630, John Winthrop's most famous sermon cites the Book of Matthew and man's logical nature as the source of a civilization that is new, unique, and divine. Preparing his Puritan followers for the society they must forge amidst difficult odds, Winthrop spoke of "A City upon a Hill" in their New England community.

As the title suggests, this sermon was delivered in commemoration of the American rule of law under the Constitution. Cooper emphasizes the greatness of liberty established by the founding of America, pointing out a variety of biblical support for the nature of its republican government.

At the beginning of Operation Overlord, the largest seaborne invasion in history, and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny, General Eisenhower delivered this moving address to his forces.

Arguing for the annexation of Texas to the United States, this piece by John O'Sullivan coined the phrase "manifest destiny." The concept of manifest destiny has sometimes been equated with the concept of American exceptionalism.

Walt Whitman's poetry is often cited for its innovative free-verse and celebration of America. Here is a selection from Specimen Days, in which Whitman questions if any accomplishment of old Europe can rival America's 'peculiar' beauty.

At the age of 77, I begin to make some memoranda and state some recollections of dates & facts concerning myself, for my own more ready reference & for the information of my family.

"It was during those Republican years that the thrust of Communist imperialism was blunted. It was during those years of Republican leadership that this world moved closer, not to war, but closer to peace, than at any other time in the three decades just passed. And I needn't remind you - but I will - that it's been during Democratic years that our strength to...

"We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. That coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation.

Thomas Paine's famous and radical 1776 pamphlet made a bold case for American Independence from Britain, at a time when the notion of Independence was still contested among the colonists.

Predominantly written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence formally and eloquently justified the independence of the United States from British monarch King George III.

Tocqueville's famous analysis of the American economic and political system, as he observed during his travels of the country in the 1830s.

Finally, we gather on this Fourth of July--as our forefathers did at Independence Hall--more than 9 score years ago--to emulate them as they pledge their common adherence to basic principles, and their common obligation to uphold these principles regardless of differences of opinion, even of policy.

One hundred fifty years ago tonight, thirty-eight weary delegates to a Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. Four handwritten sheets of parchment were enough to state the terms on which thirteen independent weak little republics agreed to try to survive together as one strong nation.

On this Fourth of July, 2001, a great anniversary of our Nation's birth and a great anniversary of religious liberty, we remember the ideals of America and the things of the spirit that sustain them.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

TWO HUNDRED years ago we, the people of the United States of America, began a great adventure which stirred the imagination and quickened the hopes of men and women throughout the world. The date was July 4, 1776; the occasion, the signing of our Declaration of Independence.

"Perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg, PA, July 1 to July 3, 1863. At the end of the battle, the Union's Army of the Potomac had successfully repelled the second invasion of the North by the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia. Several months later, President Lincoln went to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the cemetery for the Union war dead......

You have come to the Nation's Capital to visit its monuments and to look at the basic documents on which our Government was founded. Many people come to Washington to do these things, but you have come here for a special purpose. You have come here to emphasize the fact that this Nation was founded on religious principles.

Perhaps one of the most well known and rhetorically powerful speeches on civil rights, King's speech calls for racial equality and an end to discrimination. His dream of a color blind society specifically resonates with conservative thinkers.

On July 4, 1976, we joyfully celebrated the 200th anniversary of our Nation's independence. Now, on September 17, 1977, we commemorate the 190th anniversary of a quieter but equally momentous event: the signing of the Constitution of the United States, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.

"I am aware of the force of the observations you make on the power given by the Constn to Congress, to admit new States into the Union, without restraining the subject to the territory then constituting the U S.

A Frenchman living in American, Crevecoeur expounded upon the wonders of farm life and its benefits to the American culture.

"In the critical year of 1944 a vast 'I Am an American Day' ceremony was held in Central Park, New York City, on May 21. Many thousands of people were present, including a large number of new citizens. Learned Hand’s brief address was so eloquent and so moving that the text immediately became the object of wide demand. It was quickly printed and reprinted and also put into anthologies. The...

This famous speech at Lincoln's Second Inaugural, known for its phrase 'with malice toward none', calls for a forgiveness between the American North and South, a sense of common charity, and a retribution for the horrors of slavery.

When it was determined that they would be settling further North in the New World than originally anticipated, the Pilgrims of Plymouth County entered into a social contract. They consented to rules by which they would survive, proclaiming a sense of liberty, but also allegiance to the King.

The transcript of President Obama's interaction with a French journalist over American exceptionalism. The President famously replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

The Bishop George Berkeley was a well-regarded philosopher and theologian of the 19th century. This poem speaks of Berkeley's fondness for the West and American promise and later inspired settlers in Berkeley, California.

If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments.

why is America a great country? Sometimes the quick answer to that, 'Why, we are great because we are the strongest country in the world.' We are. And others say we are great because we are the richest country in the world, and that is true, too. But the secret of America's greatness goes far beyond its wealth and far beyond its strength.

The calendar can't measure America because we were meant to be an endless experiment in freedom—with no limit to our reaches, no boundaries to what we can do, no end point to our hopes. The United States Constitution is the impassioned and inspired vehicle by which we travel through history.

Then Governor Ronald Reagan delivered a moving summary of America's exceptional roots to the First Annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

In seeking for methods by which I might communicate what I have observed in my travels, without offering any pretension to teach the English, or judge the Americans, two expedients occurred to me; both of which I have adopted. One is, to compare the existing state of society in America with the principles on which it is professedly founded

In attempting to find a way for both Parliament and the American colonies to have their demands met, Burke notes that while the Parliament may indeed retain the right to legislate for the colonies, they do not need to exercise that right. This allows the colonies some measure of de facto autonomy (which would be pleasing to the increasingly riled American colonists), but still maintains Parliament’s superior position.

Scarcely any one has looked at the United States with any other apparent purpose than to find arguments for and against popular government. America has been discussed, as if she were nothing but a democracy: a society, differing from other human societies in no essential point, except the popular character of her institutions.

"In Democracy in America (1835) the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville interpreted American society through the lens of democratic political theory. A half-century later the Scotsman James Bryce examined 'the institutions and the people of America as they are.' Bryce presented his findings in The American Commonwealth, first published in London in three volumes in 1888. This new Liberty Fund two-...

A collection of 16 pamphlets, written between 1776 and 1783, whereby Thomas Paine rallied everyday colonists to embrace American Independence.

The Federal Constitution did not deal with the question of religious liberty. The rules for the election of the president and for that of the vice–president proved a failure. Slavery was deplored, was denounced, and was retained. The absence of a definition of State Rights led to the most sanguinary civil war of modern times. Weighed in the scales of Liberalism the instrument, as it stood, was a monstrous fraud. And yet, by the development of the principle of Federalism, it has produced a community more powerful, more prosperous, more intelligent, and more free than any other which the world has seen.

"President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared 'that all persons held as slaves' within the rebellious states 'are, and henceforward shall be free.'

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states...

The famous "Turner Thesis" remarks upon the unique American character that arose from the frontier experience. The notion of an ever-continuing frontier line captured the American imagination and instilled a sense of confidence, explaining an important American difference from Europe. However, when the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that the American West had been officially "closed",...

After Tocqueville retired from public service, he wrote this political commentary on his own nation. He discusses how the French Revolution came about and what its effects were, concentrating on the intellectual influences.

Locke's Second Treatise develops his descriptions of the state of nature along with natural law. His work was extremely influential in the founding of America and its Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States established the federal governmental system currently in place with three branches of government. The premise of executive privilege developed from the separation of powers clause.

Thomas Jefferson's last written letter, just before his death, remarkably touches upon the 50th anniversary of American Independence.

The new president’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, captures his belief in America as a shining example of liberty.

We have seen a world passion spend its fury, but we contemplate our Republic unshaken, and hold our civilization secure. Liberty--liberty within the law--and civilization are inseparable, and though both were threatened we find them now secure; and there comes to Americans the profound assurance that our representative government is the highest expression and surest guaranty of both.

George WashingtonPreparing to leave office, Washington wrote his now famous "Farewell Address" to placate American concerns that a country without his leadership could not survive. Washington stresses the importance of unity, the supremacy of the Constitution, the danger of...

Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America.

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