Origin of “American Exceptionalism”

Because America embodied a paradox that fell every other Republic in history, historians often attribute the unity of liberty to equality as the source underwriting American exceptionalism.  The source of the term American exceptionalism isn’t attributed to Joseph Stalin, although he wrote of it; Tocqueville is responsible for being the first to write of the term.

Upon arrival to investigate American penal systems in Ossining, New York, Tocqueville figured that no nation could long survive if its theoretical foundation was tethered to liberty in equality as a democracy.

TocquevilleThe situation of the Americas is entirely exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be put in the same situation.  Their . . . uniquely commercial habits. . concentrated the American mind in a singular was in the concern for purely material things.”

For Tocqueville, and later for John Paul II and Solzhenitsyn, the attribution to exceptionalism was perfectly embodied by Lincoln who wrote “that every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword“, the shining city on a hill has patrimony in a unique concentration of Platonic ideals with Aristotelian realism. As Fredrick Jackson Turner wrote of in the early 20th century, America was defined by its frontier.

To the extent that American jurisprudence continues to be hued from our Judaeo-Christian heritage it will always be capable of leading our institutions through the thicket of modernity that many nations failed upon.  Including Mother Russia.

Stalin wrote of it, but Tocqueville was the first.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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2 Responses to Origin of “American Exceptionalism”

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