The Flow of History

The American Democracy

Change and Continuity in American Democracy: Ideas, Institutions, Practices, and Controversies

We Americans have a peculiar fascination with our beginning.

Citizens and scholars disagree intensely over many aspects of the American "founding," but the great importance of where, when, and how the country began - and particularly why - are taken for granted. We define ourselves in relation to the founding - how it inspires and challenges us, whether current policies are faithful to it, what has stayed the same in us and what has changed. In Fourth of July addresses, classroom debates, and after-dinner speeches everywhere, its puzzles and paradoxes are assumed to reflect our own. The founding's hold on us is unique - yes, Italians have their Romulus and Remus, Germans their Bismarck, the British their Magna Charta. Plenty of places celebrate the day they won independence from their colonial masters. But only Americans fold together so much cultural mythology and political history into one package. And only Americans invest so much in the idea that unlike others, our country did not simply happen - it was created, and in a way that defines all who belong."

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