The Power of Ideals in American History

By Ephraim Douglass Adams | Go to book overview

In America, the ideal of our revolutionary fathers was independence. But it was not national independence. Each colony jealously guarded its sense of separate existence, and independence from Great Britain once assured, each state, in spite of the forms of a wider nation, maintained its sovereignty. Difficulties at home and dangers from abroad forced the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. There were a few men in the convention, and a few also in the country at large, who rejoiced in this first step toward American nationality. Timothy Dwight, later to be one of the greatest of Yale's distinguished line of presidents, was inspired to address the constitutional convention of 1787 in a poem beginning with these lines:

"Be then your counsels, as your subject, great,
A world their sphere, and time's long reign their date.
Each party-view, each private good, disclaim,
Each petty maxim, each colonial aim;
Let all Columbia's weal your views expand,
A mighty system rule a mighty land."

But such visions, such an ideal, were not felt by the mass of men. Timothy Dwight in all his views and policies has been rightly described as "an earnest of the nineteenth century" -- a forerunner of his times. The constitution, said John Quincy Adams, was "extorted from the grinding necessity of a reluctant nation," and these words, save

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The Power of Ideals in American History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • I - Nationality -- a Faith 1
  • I - Nationality -- a Faith 3
  • II - Anti-Slavery -- a Crusade 31
  • II - Anti-Slavery -- a Crusade 33
  • III- Manifest Destiny -- an Emotion 63
  • III- Manifest Destiny -- an Emotion 65
  • IV - Religion -- a Service 95
  • IV - Religion -- a Service 97
  • V - Democracy -- a Vision 125
  • V - Democracy -- a Vision 127
  • Index 153
  • Index 155
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