The American Intellectual Tradition - Vol. 2

The American Intellectual Tradition - Vol. 2

The American Intellectual Tradition - Vol. 2

The American Intellectual Tradition - Vol. 2


This two-volume anthology brings together some of the most historically significant writings in American intellectual history. The only collection of its kind, The American Intellectual Tradition, Fifth Edition, includes classic works in history, politics, social commentary, economics, law literature, and philosophy. Organized chronologically into thematic sections, it traces the evolution of intellectual writing and thinking from it origins in Puritan beliefs to the most recent essays on diversity and post-modernity. A short introduction by the authors precedes each work and both volumes include detailed chronologies and bibliographic material. Offering several new selections, this new edition addresses additional themes, including aesthetics, cultural criticism, Americanism, and race, gender, and sexuality.


If a tradition is a family of disagreements, the American intellectual tradition is a very extended family. Its members include arguments inspired by the interests and ideals of a variety of communities within the United States as well as arguments concerned with the national community itself. The family also embraces arguments responsive to Western, if not universal, issues in philosophy, science, religion, politics, literature, and the arts. Some of the most influential members of this family are intensely aware of their European ancestry, whereas others have married into European families, and still others remain always preoccupied with the family’s Americanness. The family currently seems generally content with its extended state; its diverse and contested character is often a source of pride. But not everyone is agreed on just what makes it a family to begin with. And the family is divided, if not confused, over exactly which of its members ought to supervise the education of its young. What disagreements are primary? How should the tradition be structured to ensure its continuation and critical revision? What specific artifacts of discourse have played the greatest role historically in developing the American intellectual tradition?

Answers to these questions are necessarily implied by any sourcebook for the study of American intellectual history. In deciding what to include in this collection, we have been aware of the dynamism and diversity of our subject as well as highly conscious of the differing constructions of it offered by various scholars. We have sought the advice of numerous colleagues and accordingly have designed The American Intellectual Tradition to make available to students many of the documents now routinely assigned by teachers of this subject in colleges and universities throughout the United States. Hence these volumes are chiefly practical devices, not outlines of a systematic, comprehensive interpretation of American intellectual history. Yet certain priorities have shaped these volumes, and it is appropriate to make them explicit.

The American Intellectual Tradition is frankly intellectual in orientation. Most of the documents it contains are the result of someone’s effort to make an analysis and to persuade others of the correctness of that analysis. Although these documents express “attitudes” and embody “ideas,” we have been more sensitive to their status as arguments. Hence most of our selections are of the genres classically associated with purposive discourse: sermon, address, letter, treatise, and essay. We have tried to identify pieces of argumentation that became prominent points of reference for contemporaries or for Americans of later generations. In so doing, we have necessarily been drawn again and again to the work of men and women normally regarded as intellectual leaders: people who were relatively effective at making arguments.

Arguments can be addressed to an infinite number of issues, but the writings in this book respond to issues that have persistently generated extensive intellec-

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