14 Facts About American Exceptionalism


American exceptionalism is one of three related ideas.

Exceptionalism is the perception that a species, country, society, institution, movement, individual, or time period is "exceptional" in some way.

American Exceptionalism - Explained and Evaluated by Clearly History


The first is that the history of the United States is inherently different from other nations.

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In this view, American exceptionalism stems from its emergence from the American Revolution, thereby becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called "the first new nation" and developing a uniquely American ideology, "Americanism", based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy and laissez-faire economics.

The American Revolution was a political upheaval that took place between 1765 and 1783 during which colonists in the Thirteen American Colonies rejected the British monarchy and aristocracy, overthrew the authority of Great Britain, and founded the United States of America.

Seymour Martin Lipset was an American political sociologist, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government interference such as regulations, privileges, tariffs, and subsidies.


This ideology itself is often referred to as "American exceptionalism."


Second is the idea that the US has a unique mission to transform the world.


As Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg address, Americans have a duty to ensure, "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Abraham Lincoln was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.

The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, one of the best-known in American history.


Third is the sense that the United States' history and mission give it a superiority over other nations.


Although the term exceptionalism does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and other American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense.

Neoconservatism is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among conservative leaning Democrats who became disenchanted with the party's foreign policy.


To them, the U.S. is like the biblical "City upon a Hill"—a phrase evoked by British colonists to North America as early as 1630—and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

"A City upon a Hill" is a phrase from the parable of Salt and Light in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount.


The theme of exceptionalism is a frequent target for attacks from liberals and groups that adhere to Democratic Party ideologies.


The theory of the exceptionalism of the U.S. can be traced to the French political scientist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the country as "exceptional" in 1831 and 1840.

Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, political scientist, and historian.


Similar beliefs have existed elsewhere in the world, such as Whig history in Britain which held that the political system of the British Empire was the apex of human development and uniquely suited to ruling foreign peoples benignly.

Whig history is an approach to historiography that presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy.

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states.


Also, Sinocentrism in China, which regarded Chinese culture as more ancient than or superior to other cultures and neighboring countries as mere offshoots of China.


Neither of these views is common today.

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