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.
The Problem of American Exceptionalism
John Winthrop: A Divinely Sanctioned, Practically CircumscribedColony
The Founders: A Providentially Guided, Temporally Bound Country
Abraham Lincoln: An Ideally United, Potentially Unbound Union
Albert Beveridge: A Racially Defined, Imperially Aimed Nation
Conclusion: The Possibility of a New and Traditional American Political Order
""Litke has produced an important book, not only on the nature of the idea of exceptionalism, but on the very nature of the American nation. In the process of explaining the development of imperial exceptionalism, the author provides a penetrating analysis of the myths and symbols that have shaped the self-perception of Americans and their colonial precursors." -- Bruce Frohnen, author of The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism" --
""Probing the depths of the American identity, Litke provides a lucid and deft rejoinder to the 'dangerous nation' thesis that insists the United States has always been an ideological, imperial power dedicated to global revolution. Along the way from Massachusetts Bay to Manilla Bay, America reinvented itself and at considerable costs to the old republic. Litke shows how, when, and why, and, points the way forward to a renewal of the best of the American tradition."--Richard M. Gamble, author of In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth" --
""This historically grounded and thought-provoking book fits nicely into, and provides crucial material for, the ongoing debate on American identity and what ought to be the role of the United States in the world." -- Claes Ryn, Catholic University of America" --
"Offers a historical perspective on the idea of American exceptionalism and considers new ways forward for national identity. -- The Chronicle of Higher Education" -- The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Litke's case...is enthusiastically argued. His book should find a place in all collections that feature a sampling of contemporary conservative thought." -- Choice