Twilight of the Republic
Empire and Exceptionalism in the American Political Tradition
Publication Year: 2013
The uniqueness of America has been alternately celebrated and panned, emphasized and denied, for most of the country's history -- both by its own people and by visitors and observers from around the world. The idea of "American exceptionalism" tends to provoke strong feelings, but few are aware of the term's origins or understand its true meaning. Understanding the roots and consequences of America's uniqueness requires a thorough look into the nation's history and Americans' ideas about themselves.
Through a masterful analysis of important texts and key documents, Justin B. Litke investigates the symbols that have defined American identity since the colonial era. From the time of the country's founding, the people of the United States have viewed themselves as citizens of a nation blessed by God, and they accordingly sought to serve as an example to others. Litke argues that as the republic developed, Americans came to perceive their country as an active "redeemer nation," responsible for liberating the world from its failings. He introduces and contextualizes the various historical and academic claims about American exceptionalism and offers an original approach to understanding this phenomenon.
Today, American historians and politicians still debate the meaning of exceptionalism. Advocates of exceptionalism are often perceived by their opponents as unrealistically patriotic, and Litke's historically and theoretically rich inquiry attempts to reconcile these political and cultural tensions. Republicans of every age have recognized that a people cut off from their history will not long persist in self-government. Twilight of the Republic aims to reinvigorate the tradition that once caused people the world over to envy the American political order.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Download PDF (393.2 KB)
Download PDF (38.9 KB)
Download PDF (24.8 KB)
Download PDF (49.1 KB)
What happens if a country’s worldview is radically changed? If the particu-lar priorities and traditions that informed the life of a people are laid aside, something has to fill the void. New ones are taken up and a new worldview is formed. But what if the changes happen slowly and subtly? What if the changes, once in place, are no longer recognized as changes? The traditions, ...
1. The Problem of American Exceptionalism
Download PDF (133.6 KB)
Wide and seemingly interminable disagreements are prominently on display nearly any time the words American exceptionalism are uttered. They are today a shorthand for the popular view that America is not subject to criti-cism or constraint—at least not beyond any very minimal level. Those who “support” American exceptionalism often critique the idea’s opponents as ...
2. John Winthrop
Download PDF (149.8 KB)
Though many have held John Winthrop up as the first American exceptional-ist, particularly for his now-famous simile that the colony at Massachusetts Bay will be as a “city on a hill,” a few reflections are sufficient to initially First and foremost, the idea of American exceptionalism is, strictly speaking, concerned with the exceptional nature of the United States of ...
3. The Founders
Download PDF (178.4 KB)
Some of the most prominent commentators on the question of American exceptionalism have argued that the principal figures of America’s founding generation were ardent imperialists in word and deed.1 The claim is well established, it is supposed, by the vocabulary of key figures of that period in American politics. The use of the word empire to describe the new country ...
4. Abraham Lincoln
Download PDF (165.9 KB)
Up to this point we have moved from the western shores of England to the eastern shores of New England and farther south to Philadelphia. The movement has run from the early seventeenth-century American wilderness to a thriving city in the late eighteenth century. The next jump requires yet another plunge into a new century and milieu, into a time and situation of ...
5. Albert Beveridge
Download PDF (145.7 KB)
From the beginning of this book, the argument has been building toward a contemporary conception of American exceptionalism. The objective has been constant: to identify the various elements that seem to make up the idea and then to trace their evolution through the course of American his-tory. Though the ideas do not cease to change after the turn of the twentieth ...
Download PDF (74.8 KB)
The self-conception, worldview, and behavior of the American people un-derwent a great change by the turn of the twentieth century. The change, while radical, was piecemeal and sometimes slow; it proceeded nearly im-perceptibly. The story is one of gradual differentiation from colonial times into the nineteenth century. But then, a crisis. The wounds of the Civil ...
Download PDF (39.5 KB)
I am grateful to the numerous organizations and many people who added to the completion of this book. First, some of my ideas found their first public forum in the Journal of Church and State; portions of this book appeared in an earlier edition in its pages and I am grateful for that opportunity and the permission to use some of that work here. Many other portions were ...
Download PDF (184.6 KB)
Download PDF (81.6 KB)
Download PDF (58.4 KB)
Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013