Where Did The “American Exceptionalism” Mantra Come From?



By Chris Rossini

Americans are constantly reminded by politicians that they are part of an “exceptional nation.” Over and over, the phrase is drilled into American minds as if we’re all part of a ‘power of positive thinking’ retreat, and politicians are our therapists.

What’s going on? Why are they constantly trying to reassure us of this “exceptional” status? Why won’t they just leave us alone to run our own lives without having to listen to their mantras?

Well, as it so happens, America is an “exceptional” nation when looking at the big picture and the history of totalitarian governments. As Justin Raimondo points out“Yes, America is ‘exceptional’ in the relatively limited sense that it experienced a libertarian revolution – the only fully successful one in world history.”

This is true.

The dominant ideas that powered the American secession from Britain were the ideas of liberty. Since the outside world is a mirror image of the ideas that dominate, Americans would be the freest people (from government) that would ever walk the earth.

Intellectual leaders at that time knew what to expect though. They knew quite well that the totalitarians would return. Weeds always try to overtake the garden. Intellectual leaders knew that this liberty would not last unless Americans were vigilant and constantly beat back the government power that would always try to overtake them.

Thomas Paine knew it when he said: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” 

Thomas Jefferson would echo: “We are destined to be a barrier against the return of ignorance and barbarism.”

They knew that “ignorance and barbarism” would return. 

And it most certainly did.

One by one, from George Washington to Barack Obama, American presidents would chip away at American liberty. Some would snuff out liberty faster than others, but every president (without fail) would make his individual contribution to the return of ignorance and barbarism.

It has been a steady 241 year march backwards.

Today, Americans open their eyes each morning to find the biggest centralized government and military empire in the history of the world.

The “exceptionalism” of Thomas Paine’s America can’t possibly mean the same thing that it means now. Somewhere along the way, the definition changed. 

In 1898, a new “exceptionalism” would be born. This was the year that the American Empire would begin to take shape.

Domestically, Theodore Roosevelt would describe the new “progressive” policies. Progressives were to “fearlessly champion a system of increased Governmental control, paying no heed to the cries of the worthy people who denounce this as Socialistic.”

Needless to say, that has been accomplished.

Check it off the list as done.

This new philosophy would not stop at America’s borders. The real adventure would be the new foreign policy.

The words of Senator Albert Beveridge in 1899 summed it up perfectly: “[God] has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile people. Were it not for such a force as this the world would relapse into barbarism and night. And of all our race, He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America, and it holds us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man. We are trustees of the world’s progress, guardians of its righteous peace.”

Every foreign intervention would be proclaimed a “liberation” of some sort.

President McKinley, who started it all by conquering the Philippines in 1898 said: “We come not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employments, and in their personal religious rights…The mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation…”

Fast-forward 100+ years and the same words are echoed by modern presidents to justify their military invasions. America is still “liberating” all these years later.

Ideas are powerful aren’t they?

They set in motion events and guiding philosophies that can last centuries.

So we have two American “exceptionalism” definitions here: 

One equals liberty from government. 

The other equals total government domination.

It’s quite obvious which of these two definitions dominate the minds of Americans today.

It should be obvious as to why politicians are constantly reminding us of the new version of “exceptionalism”. They have to keep it going…No doubters.

It doesn’t have to stay this way.

The old and true version of American Exceptionalism is only a thought away.


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