Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address

President Abraham Lincoln
March 4, 1865

President Lincoln describes the Civil War as a punishment for failing the ideals of democracy. By allowing the institution of slavery, the United States paid with great bloodshed. It was unique because the US was enshrined with certain ideals -- ones that cannot support slavery. More over, they were the test for these ideals. This war was the punishment for failure. Yet Lincoln remains bullish that America would achieve a "just and lasting peace among ourselves and the nations."

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Andrew Sullivan argues that Obama invoked American Exceptionalism in his speech regarding Libyan military actions. Mr. Sullivan likened the President's approach to putting "the moral in realism." While the U.S. cannot help or prevent all evils, when they can they will. Yet Mr. Sullivan finds fault with Exceptionalism, mainly what happens now? In the Libyan situation, it appears Obama...

Using the pen name of the "Ohio Farmer," the Ashbrook Center attempts to create the spirit of early Americans--both Federalist and Antifederalist--and their concerns for constitutional self-government. In this vein, the "Ohio Farmer" writes to the Members of the 112th Congress in a letter exploring the exceptional example and experiment of America.

Conservatives are awfully fond of referring to America as a 'city upon a hill;' it would be a wonderful thing if they actually made some attempt to understand what that image is supposed to signify. When it is used by contemporary conservatives, it is invariably intended to invoke notions of 'American exceptionalism.

This article examines two competing views of American Exceptionalism: one is America, the harbinger of democracy and light of freedom to the world while the other details deficits in America's character. The author argues that the first version is more compatible with actual historical events. While he acknowledges that compared to today's sensibilities the Founders may have been lacking, he...

For many years America was the light of the world. We became a super power not to rule the world, but to help maintain peace and serve as an example of Democracy for the rest of the world. But during our short history America has been on the wrong side of some issues (the most glaring was perhaps slavery but many feel it to be the promotion of abortion).

Perhaps it is no surprise that Americans have seen themselves and their country as possessing a special moral dignity. Americans have viewed their country as an exemplar for the world, as a shining city on a hill that stands to inspire and attract millions of like-minded individuals. But what is the basis of America's particular patriotism and civic virtues? Why have millions loved this country enough to fight and die for its preservation?

This article argues that President Obama believes America is exceptional but does not understand or believe in American Exceptionalism. The author juxtaposes President Obama with President Reagan and Michael Jackson. All three exceptional success stories. All made possible by, the author contends, the unique system created by the Founding Fathers. Reagan and Jackson realize this but the author...

Americans are harder workers, more philanthropic, individualistic, self-reliant, anti-government than people in most other countries. We’ve turned what was an 18th-century Third World nation into the freest and most prosperous nation in mankind’s entire history. Throughout our history, United States has been a magnet for immigrants around the world. What accounts for what some have called American exceptionalism?

Did President Obama abandon American Exceptionalism? This Time article details how President Obama is moving America towards a partnership with the world as opposed to leadership. This article examines how President Obama's common refrain is that he was here to listen, not order. This is a departure from President Bush's belief that America should authoritatively utilize its influence in the...

Declaring in his State of the Union address that the United States is 'a light to the world,' President Obama joined the pantheon of presidents who, in turbulent times, wrapped their political agenda in the comfortable cloak of 'American exceptionalism.'

The Vietnam war scared the collective sense of American Exceptionalism; the U.S. lost its first major international engagement while suffering extreme displeasure domestically. It made people question whether America was truly exceptional. This resulted in the Vietnam syndrome. According to this article, policy makers utilize a mental checklist to ensure a second Vietnam does not occur. They...

One version of American Exceptionalism argues America is morally unique due to it's founding principles and therefore is morally obligated to spread American ideals throughout the world. According to this article, Woodrow Wilson typified this belief. He argued the U.S. had a moral obligation to serve the enslaved old world and was unafraid to utilize military assists to meet this moral...

Today, politicians often ask us to think of ourselves as a kind of 'chosen people' by birthright: 'Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world,' as George W. Bush asserted during the 2000 election campaign.

The idea that America is a chosen country, a shining light for the world is ingrained in American civil religion. This concept claims that American values and history are intertwined with Judeo-Christian motifs. These stories are used to demonstrate the U.S.'s role in the world as the City on the Hill. This article discussed this viewpoint via Glenn Beck, the current standard bearer of...

President Bush often utilized religious rhetoric while arguing for the war on terror. This has lead many to worry of a clash of civilizations; the Christian west led by America confronting the Muslim east typified by terrorists. But the Economist argues that religious rhetoric is purely talk. The fears are perpetuated by myths about American's acceptance of religion and politics. While many...

Glenn Greenwald accepts that President Obama is a believer in American Exceptionalism. He demonstrates this during the first half of his essay. He questions whether this is a good thing. He argues American Exceptionalism and its "moral obligations" will ensure the U.S. devolves to "endless war."

Throughout his eight years in the Oval Office, Reagan brought a renewed sense of optimism to a beleaguered nation disillusioned by war and scandal. He repeatedly described America as the 'shining city upon a hill.'"

Rather, John Winthrop, founding governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, first voiced the conviction that God had summoned the people of the New World - or at least those settling in New England - to serve as a model for all humankind.

It's Europe, stupid. The continent 'has become the new 'city upon a hill.'' Or that is what Jeremy Rifkin, one of the most notorious American critics of U.S.-style capitalism asserts in his most recent book. In what constitutes a better way of life, Rifkin says, Europe now surpasses America.

In this article Robert Kagan and William Kristol extol the Bush Doctrine. They claim President Bush recognized that foreign policy -- specifically the War on Terror -- must be focused on American leadership and the promotion of American, democratic ideals. They stress their willingness to go to war for these ideals. In this regard, they address Taiwan. They also address how America can...

Cohen is gravely suspicious of American exceptionalism and points out examples in which America lags behind international averages. Cohen proposes that exceptionalism is merely a buzz word of the Christian Right.

Manifest Destiny was not simply a cloak for American imperialism and a justification for America’s territorial ambitions. It also was firmly anchored in a long standing and deep sense of a special and unique American Destiny, the belief that in the words of historian Conrad Cherry, 'America is a nation called to a special destiny by God.

Newt Gingrich recently criticized Obama for lessening American Exceptionalism. This Salon article takes umbrage with that critique and questions Gingrich's interpretation of exceptionalism. They argue American Exceptionalism resulted from the Founders' desire to divorce themselves from European culture and mores; they created a separate identity based on liberty and democracy. Their actions...

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"Most Americans think...that the United States is an exceptional country that differs sharply from the rest of the world and that must therefore have its own laws and Constitution."

This essay offers an overview of the relation between exceptionalism and American literature, with a focus on how this ideology has shaped both the production and reception of America's literary texts. It suggests, in particular, that exceptionalism bears a relation to the literature that is at once constraining and generative.

The opening chapter to Robert Bellah's famous work on American Civil Religion provides a background of what American Civil Religion is, how it started, where it is going, and its effect. American Civil Religion and American Exceptionalism are heavily linked.

This paper argues that America's system of checks and balances delay rapid acceptance of radical ideas by both the government and the people ensuring a US quite different from many other countries. Perhaps this explains why the US maintains a religious culture whereas many other cultures have become more secularized?

Perhaps more disturbing, Strossen argues the US disregard for American values has justified dictators in abuse of their prisoners, dissents, and terrorists. By engaging in these actions themselves -- even if mildly -- the US sets an example for the world. A city on the hill but hardly shinning.

This essay examines why Americans did not adopt socialism. This rejection is what caused Europeans to label Americans as exceptional. The author notes that Americans are defined by ideology; hence someone can be born in America, yet, due to different ideas, be labeled un-American.

According to the early colonists, America had a divine origin and destiny. They believed that God was guiding its destiny. 'America was designed by Providence,' John Adams wrote in 1765, 'for the theatre on which man was to make his true figure, on which science, virtue, liberty, happiness, and glory were to exist in peace.'

This report examines American Civil Religion. It identifies what civil religion is and how it applies to the United States. It examines the religious reverence for the Founding Fathers and documents. It identifies certain myths and doctrines.

This article examines the legality of the Bush Doctrine and argues that American Exceptionalism influences key tenets of this doctrine. The Bush Doctrine claims that the U.S. can engage in preemptive war -- actions taken against countries that pose a threat but not an immediate one.

But to understand the true history of American liberty, we have to begin not with the 1780s and the Constitution, but with Jamestown and Massachusetts.

While Zinn holds no qualms with America acting as a beacon for democracy, he argues the nationalistic, empire-building emanating from American Exceptionalism's blend of divine purpose and faux self-preservation creates a dangerous and ethically wrong militaristic culture, specifically present amongst elites -- even so-called liberals fall prey.

This Pew article examines American attitudes towards American Exceptionalism. They found that while many Americans believe the US is a City on a Hill, few actively want to spread American beliefs throughout the world but most Americans believe it would be a good thing if the world adopted US practices -- contrary to the political elite's beliefs.

Americans are more individualistic, more religious, more patriotic, more egalitarian, and more hostile to unions and Marxism than are the people of any other advanced democracy. This positive account of the ways in which the United States truly is exceptional will call into question the practicality and wisdom of our Supreme Court imposing foreign ideas about law on us.

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"This panel examines the question whether there is an American ideology of exceptionalism that is deeply rooted in 400 years of our history. Have Americans from John Winthrop to the Founding Fathers to Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan believed that we are a shining city on a hill – a beacon of liberty and democracy for the rest of the world? How has the idea of American exceptionalism changed...

Noam Chomsky is interviewed regarding his views on American Exceptionalism. Chomsky argues that American Exceptionalism is utilized as an excuse for any military action, wielded by the elite for their self-interest. He uses Iraq as an example.

In this address, Ronald Reagan explains what American Exceptionalism means to him. He describes his vision of America: the Shinning City on a Hill. He explains why his administration moved the U.S. closer to that vision.

"Americans have long embraced a notion of superiority, claims Howard Zinn. Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described establishing “a city on a hill,” to serve the world as a beacon of liberty. So far, so good. But driving this sense of destiny, says Zinn, was an assumption of divine agency—“an association between what the government does and what God approves of.” And too...

Primary Document

In every discussion of the peace that must end this war it is taken for granted that that peace must be followed by some definite concert of power which will make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe should ever overwhelm us again. Every lover of mankind, every sane and thoughtful man must take that for granted.

I have welcomed this opportunity to address this historic body, and, through you, the people of Massachusetts to whom I am so deeply indebted for a lifetime of friendship and trust.

The Desire of ... Dominion, that encroaching, grasping, restless, and ungovernable Principle in human Nature, that Principle which has made so much Havock and Desolation, among the Works of God, in all the Variety of systems, that have been invented, for its Gratification, was never so successfull, as in the Invention and Establishment of the Cannon and the Feudal Law.

Written aboard the Arbella in 1630, John Winthrop's most famous sermon cites the Book of Matthew and man's logical nature as the source of a civilization that is new, unique, and divine. Preparing his Puritan followers for the society they must forge amidst difficult odds, Winthrop spoke of "A City upon a Hill" in their New England community.

The within is a discourse delivered by the writer in several of the Atlantic cities last season, while on an agency for the Cincinnati Lane Seminary. Those who heard it will perceive that it is as it was delivered, with a little enlargement on a few points which demand a more ample illustration.

An animated and patriotic preacher, Evans saw the wonder-working hand of Providence in every event of the Revolutionary War and in the national glory looming beyond the triumph over British tyranny, a glory that would blend with the fulfillment of God’s plan for the world. The election sermon reprinted here was preached in Concord in 1791 before the General Court of the state of New Hampshire.

Noted for a plain preaching style, Tappan at first welcomed the French Revolution as a continuation of the American Revolution, clearing the way for the coming of the millennium through the destruction of popery. But he soon turned against the French revolutionists as diabolical and atheistic and joined with Timothy Dwight in a fierce denunciation of the movement.

President Lincoln describes the Civil War as a punishment for failing the ideals of democracy. By allowing the institution of slavery, the United States paid with great bloodshed. It was unique because the US was enshrined with certain ideals -- ones that cannot support slavery.

During his address to the Navy, Woodrow Wilson explains why the U.S. fought during World War I. He argued they did not fight against the German people but a thing; the power controlling the German people. They were fighting to end privilege, tyranny and hierarchal domination. The power they fought against had enslaved, tortured, and murdered too many humans. Therefore, they strove against this...

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight more than two centuries later, it's because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our Union is strong.

"We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. That coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation.

Tocqueville's famous analysis of the American economic and political system, as he observed during his travels of the country in the 1830s.

"The action which I propose would have the following features. It would, first of all, authorize the United States to cooperate with and assist any nation or group of nations in the general area of the Middle East in the development of economic strength dedicated to the maintenance of national independence. It would, in the second place, authorize the Executive to undertake in the...

Peace is a great good; and doubly harmful, therefore, is the attitude of those who advocate it in terms that would make it synonymous with selfish and cowardly shrinking from warring against the existence of evil.

Federalist Papers 2- 5, written by John Jay, deal specifically with the issue of foreign policy - both the United States' influence on other nations, and vice versa. The subtitle reads, "Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force or Influence." These comprise four of the five papers John Jay wrote. All are available from the above link.

I am especially to speak to you of the character and mission of the United States, with special reference to the question whether we are the better or the worse for being composed of different races of men.

The imagery of the "City on the Shining Hill" was that of a beacon for the world, the US was a guiding light to the nations. General Eisenhower, in his address to allied soldiers prior to D-Day, encouraged his men to fight a "great Crusade… [for] liberty-loving people everywhere, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe." America's commitment to freedom was directly...

"Perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg, PA, July 1 to July 3, 1863. At the end of the battle, the Union's Army of the Potomac had successfully repelled the second invasion of the North by the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia. Several months later, President Lincoln went to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the cemetery for the Union war dead......

This document describes President Truman's desire to aid Greece and Turkey following WWII. According to Truman, Greece was facing a variety of terrorist factions which threatened to squelch democracy and freedom within her borders. These events caused Truman to encourage Americans to expand democracy in Greece through U.S. assistance.

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

Kennedy's inaugural address focused on America's responsibility to protect freedom. He explains how the U.S. has a messianic mission to protect freedom as the "heirs of that first revolution."

In this speech, President Kennedy compared America to a "city on a hill." Kennedy declared that this position enabled Americans to "set an example to the world" by "demonstrating what a free people can do."

The sermon reprinted here was preached on February 19, 1795, proclaimed a day of national thanksgiving and prayer by President Washington.

When it was determined that they would be settling further North in the New World than originally anticipated, the Pilgrims of Plymouth County entered into a social contract. They consented to rules by which they would survive, proclaiming a sense of liberty, but also allegiance to the King.

Prince says here that the Puritans came to New England for religious liberty, rather than for economic reasons. Prince's sermon also calls for government acknowledgment of God. This sermon was preached before the Massachusetts legislature, and was printed by the government's own printer.

President Obama explains why he committed military forces to the Libyan war -- the logic was laced with American Exceptionalism rhetoric. He points out the US has traditionally played the role of "an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom." Yet he recognizes that the U.S. cannot act in every situation. "But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a...

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Ronald Reagan's farewell address ended with speaking about the "shining city upon a hill." Reagan equated that city with America. This city was a beacon to the world, open for all mankind. This city was prosperous, strong, and harmonious. Reagan believed that America -- by sticking to it's Founding principles -- was growing more like that city every day.

This piece presents the sermon delivered at President Reagan's funeral. Senator Danforth's text was Matthew 5:14, from which Reagan's well-known "city on a hill" phrase stemmed. The sermon discusses Reagan's life and draws corollaries between John Winthrop's speech, the biblical text, and America's greatness.

President Bush notes that a massive wave of new countries adopted freedom and democracy during the 1990s. He claims this is a direct result from American actions and leadership. Through military commitments, the U.S. ensured that some countries would have the security to achieve a free society. To others, America was a role model to emulate. But the key constant was American presence.

The final hours of the campaign are upon us, and tomorrow America's future will be in your hands. I urge all of you, please, take time to vote. You are the guardians of this great democracy.

We must present to the world not just an America that's militarily strong, but an America that is morally powerful, an America that has a creed, a cause, a vision of a future time when all peoples have the right to self-government and personal freedom.

"The steady aim of this Nation, as of all enlightened nations, should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. There are kinds of peace which are highly undesirable, which are in the long run as destructive as any war. Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace....

President Bush's 2002 State of the Union address lays out his view of American Exceptionalism. First, terrorists pose a dire threat towards the United States and freedom. Secondly, the U.S. will act -- in concert with other nations preferably, unilaterally if necessary -- to eliminate this threat. Chief among these threats is the "axis of evil"; Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. He claims these...

This document is the seed from which sprang the future government of the Massachusetts Bay Commonwealth. Adhering to the guidelines set up in the Royal Charter, it establishes the offices of Governor, with a Deputy Governor and eleven others to be governing Council, to be selected by the Company once a year from among the residents of the plantation.

In the first Federalist paper, Hamilton explains the urgency needed to adopt a better Constitution. He views the United States as earning the right to be the world's democratic experiment. Therefore, it was incumbent upon them to make a right choice, or, to the "general misfortunate of mankind," fail.

"Essentially an organized codification of the laws passed in earlier years, with a number of new laws added, this organic act contains everything we might today expect in a constitution and indeed functioned as a constitution for the colony. The document has many notable features. Its preamble efficiently lays out the theoretical basis for government that underlies the document’s contents, and...

President Obama elucidates his view on American exceptionalism after being asked whether he adheres to American Exceptionalism. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I am enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world.…And I think that we have a core set of...

President Reagan makes his case for why America is Exceptional. He explains that our country was founded upon certain principles, primarily the rights and sanctity of the individual. Despite progressive attempts, Reagan claims those concepts continue to shape the hearts and minds of the American people.

George Washington wrote to a concerned Jewish congregation regarding religious freedom. He points out that America has "given to mankind examples of ... liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation." This echoes the call of the Pilgrims to be a beacon to all the world. Yet Washington points out that America is a beacon for classic liberal thought, not necessarily religious beliefs.

The Monroe Doctrine established US supremacy in New World matters. Due to differences in governance the US, argued Monroe, should have jurisdiction in the New World. While exerting authority, Monroe also claimed the US wanted isolationism, a foreign to those imperial powers.

This doctrine fits into American Exceptionalism. First, the US is different politically than European countries...

The founders of the Government, at its birth and in its feebleness, invoked the blessings and the protection of a Divine Providence, and the thirteen colonies and three millions of people have expanded into a nation of strength and numbers commanding the position which then was asserted and for which fervent prayers were then offered.

In an address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy class of 2000, President Clinton discussed America's role in the world. Among other things, President Clinton interpreted the "shining city on a hill" phrase to mean that America "must be engaged in the world."

The Journal of John Winthrop, founder of the colony of Massachusetts Bay in New England, recording the story of that colony during the first nineteen years of its existences, must always have an interest not only for New England but for America in general, and indeed for the world at large.

President Wilson asks Congress for a declaration of war against Germany in order to preserve liberty, freedom for all people, and the destruction of autocratic government. While he points out the illegal actions taken by the German Navy, his reasons for going to war are moral; the German ideals fly in the face of U.S. ideals.

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Education history in America is important to know. ITO traces how education has changed from the colonial period to present day America.
At Intellectual Takeout, we think it's about time freedom went viral. Before our generation is the opportunity to embrace freedom, to unleash each individual's potential, and to have a prosperous future. And yet it seems that almost everyone running our cities, states, and federal government is intent on destroying freedom and burying us in debt to pay for it. If you, like us, believe that...
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Another movie that tells the story of the failing public school model in the United States is “The Lottery”. It takes its own unique look at the systems by focusing on the use of lotteries to choose which children will be plucked from failing public schools and put into more successful public charter schools. Here’s the trailer:  You can watch the whole movie right now with the help of Hulu...
While there are a variety of really good documentaries about the failing public school systems in America, "The Cartel" stands alone in its frontal assault on the teacher unions, particularly those in New Jersey. If you'd like to get an inside look into how some teacher unions operate and the effects they have on education, you'll want to watch "The Cartel."From the movie's website: "This movie...
Are you concerned your child isn't getting the education necessary to compete in the global economy or even, perhaps, to carry on the lessons and learning of Western Civilization? If so, you have a number of choices. You could, of course, consider changing schools to a charter school, private school, or even homeschooling. If that's overwhelming for you right now, you can always supplement your...
Let's face it, most of us love to watch TV and movies. A wonderful way to spread ideas is to embrace our love of the cinema by hosting a movie night with friends and family.  There are numerous documentaries that do a fantastic job of sharing the ideas of liberty. You can pull a small group of friends together at your house or even consider asking a local restaurant or tavern to let you...
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