The American Character Essay

1125 words - 5 pages

Do "Americans" represent Europeans who live in America, or do "Americans" have their own unique personality built up of the European back round and characteristics throughout history? Many historians agree with the idea that there is a unique American character throughout history and in today's society. There are many different character traits within the American character and different historians have both different and similar ideas on what the characteristics are.One trait of the American character is the idea of individualism and independence. Americans believed that they were different from the Europeans. Within Robin M. Williams, Jr.'s list of American Values, he states, "Individual Personality: We protect our individualism and rights by law. We believe each person has worth." Other historians also agree with this idea of individualism and independence. Michel-Guillaume De Crèvecoeur, a Frenchman who served under Montcalm, also agreed with the idea of the American character having the trait of individualism and independence. Within his literature, Letters from an American Farmer, Crèvecoeur states, "He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced." (p.10, A Society of Free Men) Continuing on in his work, he also states, "Here the rewards of industry follow with the equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is founded on the basis of nature, self interest; can it want a stronger allurement?..." (p.10, A Society of Free Men) Crèvecoeur shows the idea that drives people to doing what they do, independence and free will. Another historian who also agrees that the unique American character possesses the trait of individualism is Frederick Jackson Turner, within his Frontier Thesis. Frederick Jackson Turner was an historian who revolutionized historical thinking in the United States by calling attention to the significance of the frontier in the development of the American character. He delivered this essay at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Within his Frontier Thesis, he states, '"It appears then that the universal disposition of the Americans to emigrate to the western wilderness, in order to enlarge their dominion over inanimate nature, is the actual result of an expansive power which is inherent in them..."' (p.423, Significance of the Frontier in American History) Turner is stating that the frontier had created a "rugged individualism."Another characteristic of the unique American character is the idealistic side of the people. A lot of the people, who make up the American population, came to America with the idea of a better life existing and getting away from their old problems. Most saw it as a second chance, a chance to start over from scratch. Many also saw it as the chance for freedom and equality. From Robin M. Williams, Jr.'s piece, equality is mentioned, "Equality: We value equality of...

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