Influences On Early American L Essay

1136 words - 5 pages

It is strange to consider Thomas Jefferson's writings when speaking on traits of the American. Jefferson never wrote directly on the topic of the general character of the American. It was he, who was more responsible for setting the parameters of a society which would fulfill the ideals of what would become a part of the American character. He knew that liberty and equality could not exist in a hierarchical society. He also was aware that a society which was primarily production oriented, bound together by interdependence on those who controlled the the financial resources would put to much power in the hands of a few. A society of farmers, he believed, could support a society based on individualism and not conformity. This view, read by early Americans, led to the view of the American being an individualist and not a conformist.In order to be considered a nation the people have to be united through a series of common qualities and values. The most important of these is the quality of individualism. To be an individualist ties in all the other essential qualities of being an American such as the right to create your own destiny. The opposite of this value is conformity, an essential trait of those under a hierarchical system such as a monarchy. Conformity is not only seen as a trait of the subservient but also a destroyer of true democracy.Individualism was a trait actual selected for by the very processes which led a certain type of person to come to America. The non-conformists were people who would not allow themselves to be goaded into directions the monarchs of the old world wanted them to follow. This type of person has to be and individualist because a conformist would just remain in the old world content to follow the lead of others. The effect of settling a wilderness also was a contributing factor to the formation of this trait. Being isolated from others and most of the time totally dependent on yourself or the small band to which you belonged for all your needs is very conducive to further development of individualism.This individualism could only thrive in a society such as the one Jefferson conceived. As society develops and the populations become concentrated interdependency grows killing off the independent spirit. As society changed from an agrarian one to production oriented society, starting in the early 1800's, Americans became dependent on others for things which they no longer produced as a family unit. If you are working for someone else and dependent on pay from them to buy things you can't or don't produce you have lost your independence. Once independence is lost you become just a cog in the machinery of society.Majority rule, which Jefferson espoused, was one of the great destroyers of this individualism. It is an example of American culture being shaped by the forces of democracy. Even though you might think rule by the majority is conducive to individualism it is not. Rule by the majority fosters dependence on others...

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