American Exceptionalism Throughout United States History




Wells, Nikki

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In recent times, American Exceptionalism has become a major issue in United States elections, in particular the 2012 presidential election. In general terms, American Exceptionalism is the idea that there is something inherently different about the United States of America that distinguishes it from the rest of the world. Each time period has an expression of this concept. Beginning with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there are two prime examples: John Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill” and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. This is followed by the nineteenth century, where the rhetoric of Manifest Destiny shows a distinct belief that the United States has a mission to help the wider world. This mission carries on into the twentieth century where World War I, World War II and the Cold War are fought to “make the world safe for democracy.” No matter the time period, American Exceptionalism is a present force in the United States.