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Am. Exceptionalism

In: Historical Events

Submitted By fairychick
Words 632
Pages 3
American Exceptionalism is the notion that the United States of America is duly

endowed with properties unique to it because of the formal declaration to the pursuit of liberty.

This idea prescribes the United States with the right of “divine sanction or moral obligation,” to

proffer throughout the world a civilizing, democratizing mission – achievable through violence,

if necessary (Zinn, 2005). American Exceptionalism works through Manifest Destiny, the

doctrine first described by O’Sullivan which justified the expansion of the United States

government over the whole North American continent as divine destiny (O’ Sullivan, 1945).

Aside from occupation of land, Americans were to expand the social, political, and economic

agendas of the United States (O’Sullivan, 1945). This process is often called Westward

Expansion because from the eastern shores of the central North American continent “pioneers”

proved their grit and forged west.

Land hunger drove the “great frontier model” which was backed by belief that there was

an emptiness, an unoccupied void of land ready for those willing to risk their lives on the frontier

(Pickens, 409). Land, resources, and ideas about exceptionalism bound together in the minds of

imperial Americans searching for political and economic independence and equality; this was

especially apparent in the men of the time (Pickens, 411). The concept of a new frontier, driven

by a yearning for material improvement and nationalism, was based on the man:land ratio – or

population density (Pickens, 412). The number of people in the United States was increasing

while land was fixed and land productivity was decreasing; the limits of science were more

apparent and “possessive individualism” began to drive people from epicenters into previously

unexplored (by Europeans) land (Pickens, 413). The...

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