American Exceptionalism: Quotes About What Makes America Unique and Preserving the Republic

American Exceptionalism: Quotes About Our Exceptional NationWhat makes America unique? We believe it is our approach to personal freedom that's often referred to as the "American Dream" of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As the sole global superpower – America is the first and only country in history to dominate both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – our country faces an existential crisis: How to manage the empire while still maintaining the ideals of the republic?

America was founded against British imperialism. Nowadays the scale of American power is imperial, yet history teaches that the balance between empire and republic is precarious. That's why we've also included notable quotes that warn about the fall of the republic, because we want to see American Exceptionalism flourish by learning what doomed previous empires.

On American Exceptionalism

“If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him – it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known – the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties.”

“I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American.”

“That America is an exceptional nation is unclear only to one who has not been taught its true history. It ceases to be exceptional only when its representative leaders cease to be exceptional. America, it has been said, is a nation of laws, not of men. The more it becomes a nation of men, the less it remains America.”

“For a long time it has been accepted that Americans have excelled and exceeded because of their form of government; that the Constitution was a brilliant document that created the greatest industrial, financial, military and commercial power ever to exist. But, the Constitution did not create Americans; Americans created it. No other people could have conceived of the form of government we call our own.”

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American ... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag.”

“Apologizing for our past sins may reveal character and for a time lessen anti-Americanism abroad, but if it is done without acknowledging that the sins of America are the sins of mankind, and that our remedies are so often exceptional, then it only earns transitory applause—and a more lasting contempt that we ourselves do not believe in the values we profess.”

“The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.”

“… this country belongs to the people and whenever they shall grow weary of their government they can exercise their constitutional right to amend it, or revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it …”

In June of 1804, Thomas Jefferson (then President of the United States), was visited by Alexander von Humboldt, the adventurous German-born naturalist and explorer who was fascinated by the "American Experiment" like De Tocqueville was. During the visit, von Humboldt saw a newspaper sitting on the President's desk. Reading it, he saw that it contained slanderous lies about Jefferson. Immediately, he showed it to Jefferson and said, "Why do you not have the fellow hung who dares to write these abominable lies?" Jefferson then said this to von Humboldt: "Put that paper into your pocket, my good friend, carry it with you to Europe, and when you hear any one doubt the reality of American freedom, show them that paper, and tell them where you found it.”

On The Fall Of The Republic

“Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.”

“A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean. At its cradle (to repeat a thoughtful adage) religion stands, and philosophy accompanies it to the grave. In the beginning of all cultures a strong religious faith conceals and softens the nature of things, and gives men courage to bear pain and hardship patiently; at every step the gods are with them, and will not let them perish, until they do. Even then a firm faith will explain that it was the sins of the people that turned their gods to an avenging wrath; evil does not destroy faith, but strengthens it. If victory comes, if war is forgotten in security and peace, then wealth grows; the life of the body gives way, in the dominant classes, to the life of the senses and the mind; toil and suffering are replaced by pleasure and ease; science weakens faith even while thought and comfort weaken virility and fortitude. At last men begin to doubt the gods; they mourn the tragedy of knowledge, and seek refuge in every passing delight. Achilles is at the beginning, Epicurus at the end. After David comes Job, and after Job, Ecclesiastes.”

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization

“All presidents but Jefferson have argued that their first job was to keep us safe. All presidents but Jefferson were wrong. If you read the Constitution, you will see that the President's first job - as Jefferson understood well - is to keep us free.”

“Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. That's what democracy is all about. It's not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.”

“The Court must be living in another world. Day by day, case by case, it is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.”

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

“[T]he power system continues only as long as individuals try to get something for nothing. The day when a majority of individuals declares or acts as if it wants nothing from the government, declares that it will look after its own welfare and interests, then on that day the power elites are doomed.”

“The tyranny of majorities may be as bad as the tyranny of kings.”

“Anyone who believes that we can afford collectively what we cannot afford individually is delusional.”

“Your generosity is reflected in what you do with your own money, not in what you do with other people's money. If I give a lot of money to charity, then I am generous. If you give a smaller fraction of your money to charity, then you are less generous. But if you want to tax me in order to give my money to charity, that does not make you generous.”

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Will & Ariel Durant, “Epilogue - Why Rome Fell”, The Story of Civilization, 3 Caesar and Christ

“Government should be good for the liberty of the governed, and that is when it governs to the least possible degree. It should be good for the wealth of the nation, and that is when it acts as little as possible upon the labor that produces it and when it consumes as little as possible. It should be good for the public security, and that is when it protects as much as possible, provided that the protection does not cost more than it brings in.... It is in losing their powers of action that governments improve. Each time that the governed gain space there is progress.”

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

Republican U.S. Senator from Idaho William Edgar Borah (Served from 1907 until his death in 1940)

“One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”

“Whoever is for higher taxes, feel free to pay higher taxes.”

“Do not trust governments more than governments trust their own people.”

“Great numbers of men and women were unwilling to make the effort required for the maintenance of the old order, not because they were not good enough to fulfill their civic duties, but because they were too good to be satisfied with a system from which so few derived benefit.”

“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”

On The Lack Of Historical Knowledge

“It is useful to remember that history is to the nation as memory is to the individual. As a person deprived of memory becomes disorientated and lost, not knowing where they have been or where they are going , so a nation denied a conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future.”

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

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