American exceptionalism

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American exceptionalism is an intuition about the United States, a country that occupies a special place among the nations of the world primarily because of its unique origins. The concept of "American exceptionalism" may be defined as the notion that the United States, by virtue of its origins and ideals, its struggles and accomplishments, stands apart from — and, in some eyes, above — other nations.[1][2]

Dinesh D'Souza wrote:

  • The notion that in many respects America is unique in the world in called American "exceptionalism."[3]


Alexis de Tocqueville is commonly cited as the originator of the phrase, and once said that the United States held a special place among nations because it was a country of immigrants and the first modern democracy. He specifically cited the American Founding as the basis of this exceptionalism. Tocqueville wrote:

The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people.[4]
Many important observations suggest themselves upon the social condition of the Anglo-Americans, but there is one which takes precedence of all the rest. The social condition of the Americans is eminently democratic; this was its character at the foundation of the Colonies, and is still more strongly marked at the present day.[5]


  1. James Rosen. Texas Textbooks: Is America ‘Exceptional’?, May 20, 2010.
  2. Will U.S. be 'Exceptional' in Textbooks?, Fox News (, May 20, 2010.
  3. The Roots of Obama's Rage
  4. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 2, page 36-37
  5. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 1, page 42

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