American Exceptionalism Essay

Pages: 4 (1214 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History

American Exceptionalism refers to allegedly exceptional social and political destiny of Americans guided by Puritanical values of the early migrants. This concept is attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville who believed that the special political nature and social history of America had given it a unique place in the destiny of nations.

"The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people."

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There are many interpretations of the term Exceptionalism. Some are of the view that it is something aligned with the concept of Manifest Destiny and hence they fiercely argue against such a notion. Tocqueville did not however believe that exceptional destiny of America was connected with power or might. Instead after studying its history, he had come to the conclusion that America had faced a unique social and political destiny since its discovery and the concepts like liberty, individualism and laissez faire made it even more unique because it essentially showed that America had not been under monarchies or feudalism.

Essay on American Exceptionalism Assignment

Economic or social destiny is however not the only thing that sets America apart from other countries. Some people argue that America is an exceptional country because of its Puritanical influence on various events. It is therefore seen as a liberator of evil- a role that America has taken seriously since earliest times. From the Civil war that abolished slavery to the First and Second World Wars where America stepped in only to protect some other nations from foreign attacks though its own waters were relatively safe. Then series of events occurred including some of the very recent wars that sealed the political destiny of America.

Puritans had a similar mission or vision in mind during their reign in England. They saw themselves as redeemers and hence tried to purify the society of its ills. "Puritan leaders such as John Winthrop were frequently described as fulfilling the promise of Moses, who in the old Testament led people out of bondage into the Promised Land" (Madsen, p. 6). The puritans believed that they had this unique destiny to meet, a promise to deliver and hence their actions originated from Puritanical values of redemption, freedom from evil and uncontaminated values. The same values were transferred to American consciousness when Puritans reached American soil. Since that day, America came to occupy a special place in the world which cannot be attributed just to its size or military power. It originates from America's belief in the same Puritanical values as Winthrop and others. However America fulfills its destiny in variety of ways which includes economic as well as political strategies. It is very clear from its recent history when America behaved as a liberator and sought to bring an end to "perceived" evil. Perceived because not everyone believes that America needs to act as world… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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