1930.7.2_Cole Thomas
The Van Rensselaer Manor House. By: Thomas Cole.

Through the early 1800s and well into the 1840s, Americans had developed a sense of unity and pride about their country.

In fact, the American people had developed a “political communion,” a bond uniting all Americans centered on the country being a democratic republic. See David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 11. Many Americans were quite eager indeed to remind foreign visitors of their pride.

Travelers “were forcibly reminded of the strength of the political ties which bound the citizens of the United States together, for the Americans boasted of them incessantly.” Id. Some Americans were known to ask how foreigners liked “our institutions,” and before an answer could be formulated, the American would elaborate on “the decadence of monarchies, the merits of a system in which the people were sovereign, and the superiority of republicanism, American style.” Id.

The political values of America were not just touted by ordinary, common Americans. President Andrew Jackson, in his farewell address, said that Americans were “the guardians of freedom to preserve it for . . . the human race.” Id. quoting James D. Richardson (ed.), A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (11 vols.; New York, 1907), II, 1527. President James Polk called the Federal Union “this most admirable and wisest system of well-regulated government among men ever devised by human minds.” David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 11 quoting James D. Richardson (ed.), A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (11 vols.; New York, 1907), II, 1527.

A hint of American exceptionalism had certainly developed by the 1840s. Americans had witnessed their democracy come to life and were keen on explaining its best virtues to visitors.

Whether Americans had exaggerated the success of the country, the American spirit, for better or worse, was emerging by the mid-1800s. This is a spirit that carries well into modern America and has only grown since the mid-1800s. Through good times and bad times, Americans have extolled the best aspects of the country, fostering a sense that the country is destined to succeed where other nations have failed. As every year has passed and America has remained and even increasingly thrived, this has only reinforced that spirit.

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