If we make attempt to analyze the way in which modern Americans tend to define themselves not only themselves but also their country, probably it will be prudent to compare their views with the views of Americans who lived at the very dawn of the United States. Moreover, it is of utmost importance to show how it was reflected in the literature of that period.
It should be taken into consideration that the portrayal of America, which was given in the early American literature, does not exactly coincide with the image of modern America. This statement can be proved by the following facts. First, at that moment the United States was a young country, which had just gained independence from Great Britain. Judging from the Declaration of Independence, also known as “A Declaration by the Representatives of United States of America” written by Thomas Jefferson, the main priorities of the country were liberty, equality, and pursuit of happiness.
It was formulated in the following way “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”(Jefferson, 1) Naturally, we cannot say that these priorities have changed but we have to admit that there is a tendency among modern Americans to believe that their country is to a certain degree superior to others. According to Thomas Jefferson, every nation has a right to its own mode of life. However, nowadays, there is a widely held opinion that among some citizens of the United States that their country has a right to dictate its terms to others.
If we take for instance “The American Crisis”, which is a collection of essays written by Thomas Paine, it is quite possible for us to say that our previous statement can be confirmed. The author is firmly convinced that the country must find some kind of golden mean. He says:” America did not, nor does not want force, but she wanted a proper application of that force.”(Paine, 3) Paine believes that the government of the United States must resort to force only in case of urgent need but if it is necessary, the country must not hesitate to use it.
As far as the image of Americans is concerned, we can say that it was eloquently described by Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crevecoeur in his work “What is an American”. It must first be taken into account that the author was a Frenchman who lived many years in the New World. He tried to present his own concept of America and its people. According to him, America is the land of opportunity, which provides shelter to those people who were oppressed in their own countries. The author gives the following description of an American citizen: “He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the mode of life he embraced.”(Crevecoeur. 35) Crevecoeur believes that America can give equal opportunities to every person. However, the author does not say that America should impose its mode of life on others even despite the fact that it can be better.
Thus, we may arrive at the conclusion that the image of America has undergone some change. Now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it is the country, which attempts to prove to the world that its way of life is better and those other people should follow their example.