What Is an American

Topics: United States, Native Americans in the United States, Ralph Waldo Emerson Pages: 7 (2988 words) Published: June 17, 2013
American writings have portrayed numerous ideologies of what it means to be an American and these ideals have transcended throughout time and can clearly be depicted by the major influential literary aspirants from each century. The one thing that remains the same is that it has always been a struggle to forge a truly "American" identity given the fact that our nation is one of immigrants. These early works reached the level of literature, as in the robust and perhaps truthful account of his adventures by many literary aspirants such as: Thomas Jefferson, William Bradford, Crevecoeur, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Through the tendentious journalistic accounts as directed by the edification of these credited writers, the identity of these writers can clearly be depicted through their doctrine. In “Notes on the State of Virginia”, the ideas that Thomas Jefferson expressed primarily explains that man is born free and that he chooses to give up some rights to join into a governed society. One of Thomas Jefferson’s infamous statements was that, “all men are created equal.” In “Notes on the State of Virginia”, it emphasizes on human potential and reason, much of this literature reflects the prevailing sentiments of its era, often called the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. Jefferson says “I would not honor with the appellation of knowledge, what I derive from the fables published of them. These I believe to be just as true as the fables of Aesop. This belief is founded on what I have seen of man…” Thomas Jefferson’s writing is laced with the philosophy of objective thinking and the search for the pursuit of happiness. In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he spoke of freedoms in all areas with the condition the freedom did not harm others. As a part of these freedoms he specifically wrote, “To establish religious freedom on the broadest bottom.” He then went on to write, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.” Jefferson was a strong advocate for the ideals on personal freedoms, equality, equal power between all people, and the laws of nature. Jefferson also stated that “all men are created equal and independent of one another”. Jefferson referred to equality as the basis on which everything in society should be built upon. Jefferson pointed to independence as a first consequence of equality. “For I imagine anyone would easily grant, that it would be impertinent to suppose, the ideas of colors innate in a creature, to whom God had given sight, and a power to receive them by the eyes from external objects: and no less unreasonable would it be to attribute several truths, to the impressions of nature, and innate characters, when we may observe in ourselves faculties, fit to attain as easy and certain knowledge of them, as if they were originally imprinted on the mind.” In rebuttal to others’ ideas that American Indians were not a civilized people because they answered to no government, Jefferson writes, “This practice results from the circumstance of their having never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow government. Their only controls are their manners, and that moral sense of right and wrong, which, like the sense of tasting and feeling, in every man makes a part of his nature.” In this passage, he reiterates Locke’s belief that man chooses to be part of a government and conversely can choose not to join any government which is what some Native Americans chose. While Jefferson believed that man is born free, he also believed that some were superior to others in physical, mental, emotional and religious matters. Jefferson mentions the emancipation of all slaves which I believe further supports the fact that Locke and Jefferson were on the same page about politics because this shows that they believed that all humans should be given their natural rights. However, Jefferson proposes sending the slaves to other parts of the world instead of incorporating them...
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