July 4, 2015


Why July 4 is the birthday of American exceptionalism (Gary J. Schmitt, July 3, 2015, NY Post)

As was obvious to both the Founders who drafted and approved the Declaration, and the monarchies and despotisms that ruled the vast majority of the rest of mankind, the American declaration of these principles was a revolutionary moment not only for a sliver of the North American continent but, potentially, for the rest of the world.

The United States, initially weak relative to the other great powers in the world and, as such, disinclined to involve itself in the their conflicts, set itself inevitably on a course that is aptly captured in the title of Robert Kagan's history of early American statecraft, "Dangerous Nation."

Here, for the first time in history, was a government whose legitimacy explicitly rested on the claims of human nature and not on common blood, soil, language, religion or ancient tradition.

This is the true root of American exceptionalism and why it is more apt that we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 rather than July 2. It is the creed, the principles, of the Declaration that define the United States -- not our successful break from British rule.

President Obama was surely right when he said that other nations, such as the Greeks, no doubt "believe in Greek exceptionalism" just as Americans believe in American exceptionalism. But this is to confuse and conflate "exceptionalism" with day-to-day "nationalism" and to overlook just how revolutionary and transformative the American experiment in liberal self-government was, and has been.

Up to that moment, republican rule was an exception, and an exception that occasionally but rarely dotted the landscape of political rule through the centuries.

Today, through the growth of American power to support those universal principles -- and, lest we forget, through our own bloody test of a civil war to ensure their survival -- the world truly has been transformed, with exponential growth in liberal, democratic regimes.

...than the fact that our exceptionalism applies universally.

Posted by at July 4, 2015 11:19 AM

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