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American Exceptionalism: Did It Cause Irreparable Damage Or Spell Success For The Nation?

1944 words - 8 pages

In the evaluation of history as a representation of the past, it is necessary to consider the many facets that every piece of history possesses. In the evaluation of American exceptionalism it is essential to consider what exceptionalism is and how it has been integral in production of the modern day United States of America. As a result of exceptionalism and indeed expansionism in America it is also of supreme importance to look into the effects of such a radical policy, in particular the plight of the native Americans, how their lives were changed and in many cases destroyed because of Anglo-Saxon settlement. With the lives lost, the culture destroyed, the land plundered and as a result a ...view middle of the document...

America was a nation founded predominantly by white European settlers; not only did these people bring with them their culture and tradition, they also brought an outsider’s perception and belief of what this new land could or would become. Most (if not all) of these settlers, be them from Britain, Western Europe or Scandinavia, possessed a similar desire for opportunity and freedom. The process of settlement and establishment of power was shaped by the superiority of European political systems – "long-held beliefs in the superiority of the early Anglo-Saxon political institutions became a belief in the innate superiority of the Anglo-Saxon branch of the Caucasian race was directly linked to the new scientific interest in racial classification". As it seems to be, the settlers of different origins found strength in the perception of a collective agenda, and indeed in the idea of unity in the face of adversity. This unity, coupled with misinterpreted racial classification theories, lead to what has become known as American exceptionalism. The term portrays a notion of supremacy above all other nations, and the perception that the Anglo-Saxon race was one of purity in these new found lands. This egoistic view of power contributed to a vast amount of America’s colonial history.

In spite of the egotistic nature of American exceptionalism, the ideology itself has contributed a great deal in establishing the very successful, present day United States of America. The first of these major successes is American expansionism. Expansionism in America has remained a highly controversial topic, and rightfully so; there is no doubting that American history is tarnished with segregation, oppression, exploitation and blood loss. However, despite these tragedies, for a moment the successes of such an arduous past need to be considered. The first time such expansionist policies and the notion of the American frontier came to the fore was in 1893, through the works of Frederick Jackson Turner in his frontier thesis. Turner paints a glamorous picture of the frontier:
"The settler is ready to sell out and take the advantage of the rise in property, push farther into the interior and become, himself, a man of capital and enterprise in turn. The small village rises to a spacious town or city; substantial edifices of brick, extensive fields, orchards, gardens, colleges, and churches are seen. Broadcloths, silks, leghorns, crapes, and all the refinements, luxuries, elegancies, frivolities, and fashions are in vogue. Thus wave after wave is rolling westward; the real Eldorado is still farther on".
Despite this romanticized notion of the frontier, its longer term successes lay elsewhere – in particular in the wealth of natural resources that America possessed. Instead of focusing on outward trade as other world powers did, America focused their attention inward, and the push west for virgin lands became an economically motivated initiative. This mindset lead to the...

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