The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 1

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 1

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 1

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Deep into that darkness peering, long
I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal
ever dared to dream before.

— Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven, 1845

This stanza from Poe’s most famous poem must describe the feelings and emotions of the first English settlers better than any string of words in prose. Those who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, surely experienced just those fears and doubts when they first sighted land in the early morning darkness — while retaining visions of returning to England laden with gold and silver. Thirteen years later a persecuted religious sect which came to be known as the Pilgrims also set sail for the unknown. Its rationale for undertaking this dangerous voyage in the middle of winter was the desire to escape the discrimination imposed on any dissenting sect by the Church of England. Whether their emotional reaction when they came ashore on Plymouth Rock was the same as those who landed at Jamestown is doubtful. The former dreamt of material well-being; the dreams of the latter centered on freedom to practice their own faith. These two dreams would shape the future psyche of this nation.

What these English men and women had in common was their role as the vanguard of what would eventually become the United States. Each of their visions of this new world — wealth and freedom — was made possible by their accidental landing on that part of the North American continent whose climatic conditions lent to the development of a civilization. Its vast land mass, sparsely . . .

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