Political Theory

American Exceptionalism and the Pursuit of Liberty


From its very inception America was viewed by its settlers, founders, and citizens (along with astute outside observers) as an exceptional nation. Part of what made it appear exceptional was its remarkable commitment to liberty, understood as a commitment to severely limiting the power of the government in favor of individual liberty. This conference explored the evolving conception of American exceptionalism through major historical events and current thinking, and debated its status as something that is simultaneously desired and criticized.


From Liberty Fund

The Federalist

by By Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
Edited by George W. Carey and James McClellan

The Federalist, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, constitutes a text central to the American political tradition. Written and published in newspapers in 1787 and 1788 to explain and promote ratification of the proposed Constitution for the United States, which were then bound by the Articles of Confederation,…

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Additional Readings

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Lloyd, Gordon, eds. The Two Faces of Liberalism: How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debate Shapes the 21st Century, Salem: M & M Scrivener Press, 2007.

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Bromund, Ted. “American Exceptionalism and Its Enemies.” The New Ledger (May 2009): 7. http://newledger.com/2009/05/american-exceptionalism-and-its-enemies (accessed ).

Burke, Edmund, “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies, 22 March 1775.” In The Essential Bill of Rights, edited by Gordon Lloyd and Margie Lloyd, 170-175. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998.

Davis, Jefferson. "Confederate States of America - Inaugural Address of the President of the Provisional Government." Yale Law School Lillian Goodman Law Library. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_csainau.asp (November 3, 2009).

de Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John. Letters from an American Farmer. Charlottesville: University of Virginia American Studies Program 2002-2003, 2003.http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/CREV/header.html (accessed ).

Degler, Carl N. “In Pursuit of an American History [December 28, 1986] .” American Historical Association. http://www.historians.org/INFO/AHA_History/cndegler.htm (November 4, 2009).

Founding Fathers. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Ashland: Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, 2001.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 12 (1816-1826). Edited by Paul Leicester Ford. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1905.

King, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream [August 28, 1963] .” www.americanrhetoric.com. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm (November 4, 2009).

Lincoln, Abraham. “Second Inaugural Address.” The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25819 (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25819).

Lincoln, Abraham. “The Gettysburg Address.” Abraham Lincoln Online. http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm (November 4, 2009).

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Lind, Michael. “The American Creed: Does It Matter? Should it Change?” Foreign Affairs 75, no. 2 (March/April 1996): 135-139. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/51853/michael-lind/the-american-creed-does-it-matter-should-it-change (accessed ).

Lipset, Seymour Martin. American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/americanexceptionalism.htm (accessed March 17, 2016).

Murray, Charles. “The Europe Syndrome and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism.” The American (2009 March): 5. http://www.american.com/archive/2009/march-2009/the-europe-syndrome-and-the-challenge-to-american-exceptionalism (accessed ).

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Reagan, Ronald. “Farewell Address to the Nation [1989] .” www.ronaldreagan.com. http://www.ronaldreagan.com/sp_21.html (November 4, 2009).

Schuck, Peter. “Understanding America.” The American Lawyer (May 2008): 73-77.

Stephens, Alexander H. "Cornerstone Speech." TeachingAmericanHistory.org. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?documentprint=76 (November 3, 2009).

Students for a Democratic Society . "Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962." Michigan State University . http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/huron.html (November 4, 2009).

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America (De la Démocratie en Amérique). Edited by Eduardo Nolla. Translated by James T. Schleifer. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009.

Turner, Frederick Jackson. “The Significance of the Frontier in American History [1893] .” TeachingAmericanHistory.org. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1428#50r (January 20, 2010).

Wilson, James Q. “American Exceptionalism.” The American Spectator (August 2006): 10. http://spectator.org/archives/2006/10/02/american-exceptionalism (accessed ).

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