American Exceptionalism

By Stephen McDowell


America is different than any nation in history. She is special. When America began in the late eighteenth century she was insignificant on the world stage, although her unique form of government and unmatched liberty would become examples to the world. Her great personal, religious, economic, and civil liberty produced advancement and growth unlike any nation before.

The Founders of America believed she was a chosen nation.

By the beginning of the twentieth century America had become the leading nation in the world and held that place for generations. She led the way in new inventions, discoveries, and advances that benefited all men. She became the most productive nation in the world and a leader in education, medicine, technology, and science. By 1960 she produced 39% of the world’s output, with only 6% of the population.[1] America, even with her faults and shortcomings, became the most free and prosperous nation to have ever existed. America became an exceptional nation. This had nothing to do with any inherent value of the American people, but had to do with the valuable ideas upon which she was founded.

A few of the ideas incorporated into American society making it exceptional include: valuing the individual; freedom of worship; freedom of assembly; opportunity for all to labor and benefit from the fruit of their labor; freedom to elect representatives and have a voice in government; freedom of thought and expression of ideas; freedom to own property; freedom to obtain ideas, start businesses and create wealth; limited  jurisdiction of civil government; equal standing before the law for all people; no class distinctions; the central role of the family. These are part of the American Dream.

These ideas produced great liberty, justice, prosperity, charity, virtue, and knowledge. They made America a success and made her powerful. This power and wealth were used, not for conquest, but for good — for furthering liberty in the world. America has been a great blessing to the nations. Blessings have come from the private sector by giving aid, starting hospitals and schools, sending forth missionaries, and much more. The American government has also been a great blessing in assisting many nations who have fought against tyrants seeking to oppress them, and by sending large sums of money to nations encountering natural disasters and other threats.

Throughout America’s history, people have flocked to her shores to experience the fruit of her liberty and prosperity. Those that have come have been greatly blessed. Many have escaped persecution and experienced freedom to worship God and pursue their calling. Other nations, recognizing this exceptionalism, have sought to imitate the principles that made America great, and have, to some degree, benefited as well.

John Adams

Early Americans recognized the special nature of the nation in history. John Adams said:

I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.[2]

Historian B.F. Morris said: “God held this vast land in reserve, as the great field on which the experiment was to be made in favor of a civil and religious liberty.”[3] Historian and leading educator of women, Emma Willard, stated: “In observing the United States, there is much to convince us, that an Almighty, Overruling Providence, designed from the first, to place here a great, united people.”[4] Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

In that land the great experiment was to be made by civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past.[5]

Alexis de Tocqueville

Many of the early colonizers of America came with the vision of establishing a unique nation in history. John Winthrop wrote of the Puritans’ desire to be “A Model of Christian Charity,”— “as a city upon a hill,” where all the people of the earth would look upon and say of their own nation, “the Lord make it like that of New England.”[6] William Penn said that God gave him the land that became Pennsylvania so that he could set up a model state — “a holy experiment” — “which should open its doors to every kindred” and be a refuge for men of all creeds.[7]

Abandoning Our Unique Founding Principles

America’s founding principles made her unique, free, and powerful, but there are many today who would have her abandon those principles. Many leaders in education and the media have promoted a different ideology, and many governmental leaders have implemented policies contrary to our founding principles which have diminished our greatness.

As we have abandoned that which made us exceptional and embraced socialistic ideas, we have witnessed increasing problems and diminishing liberties. Over the past few generations there has been an increase in crime, a breakdown of the family, an increase of social immorality, growth of taxes, run-away government spending, declining educational skills, attacks on religious liberty, and government intrusion into private, family, and church life.

Consider these statistics reflecting the breakdown of the family and sexual morality. In 1960, 72% of adults were married. Today it is about 50%. In 1980, 18% of children were born outside of marriage; today over 40% are born outside of marriage.[8] Today, only 32% of people think premarital sex is wrong; 69% thought so in 1969.

In the 1960s America was at the top of the nations for best educated students. But over the years that position has steadily declined while spending has increased. In 2012 America ranked 24th in reading, 28th in science, and 36th in math.[9]

We have also experienced a decline in our economy with the implementation of policies that do not protect private property rights nor encourage business growth. Currently, America has one of the world’s highest rates of taxation on capital gains,[10] which has led to plummeting productivity, from 32% of the world’s GDP in 2000 to 24% in 2010.[11] And now, for the first time since the measurement started, America has fallen out of the top ten most economically free nations, even being surpassed by Chile and Estonia.[12]

This decline is largely due to the nation rejecting the ideas upon which she was founded and embracing humanistic, immoral ideas. If we continue to throw off the foundational principles that produced the American Dream and embrace man-centered philosophies, we will see America decline even further.

The Source of America’s Founding Principles

America’s founding principles made her exceptional, powerful, and free. They produced the American Dream. My book, The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty, explores where these principles originated and how they were planted in the nation. (Order from

The founding of America is unique. It has no parallel in history. The nation started from scratch, by a people providentially prepared and greatly influenced by the Protestant Reformation. They were a people of the Book. The founding ideas came from the Bible. They were Christian in their origin. Beginning in the sixteenth century these ideas were released to many people through the printing of Bibles in the common languages. The early settlers of America carried these seed ideas with them as they colonized the nation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These ideas were planted, grew, and began to bear great fruit. This seed determined the fruit of the American Christian Republic. It produced America as an exceptional nation, the most free and prosperous in history.

However, in recent decades we have been systematically casting aside the Bible from education, government, and law. We are removing the Ten Commandments from classroom walls, courthouses, and public life in general — and more importantly failing to teach the fundamental principles in these commandments to our children — but then wonder why our jails are being filled with people who steal, murder, and rape people. We teach that men are merely animals and then bemoan the societal result of men acting like animals.

Some people say that America’s greatest threat today comes from those who believe the nation should be governed by God-given moral standards. After all, they say, we cannot mix God and government. However, these are the official standards the Founders gave us; truths, according to the Declaration of Independence that are self-evident, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These rights, derived from “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” are part of the founding principles that produced the American Dream.

The truths that our Founding Fathers believed and built this nation upon came from the Creator and His Holy Scriptures, the Bible. That book, according to President Jackson, “is the Rock upon which our Republic rests.”[13] While this fact is not known by most Americans and is not taught in government schools, the evidence is overwhelming (see The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty). We must understand the source of our great liberty and prosperity, and pass it on to all Americans, in order to return America to her foundational ideas and keep this country a place of liberty, truth, and prosperity.


End Notes


[2] B.F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864, p. 109.

[3] Morris, pp.41-42.

[4] Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History, Charlottesville: Providence Foundation, 1989, p. 17.

[5] Ibid., p. 17.

[6] John Winthrop, A Modell of Christian Charity, 1630, Old South Leaflets, No. 207, Boston: The Old South Association.

[7] William Penn, Letter to James Harrison, August 25, 1681, Remember William Penn, compiled by the William Penn Tercentenary committee, Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1945, p. 77.

[8] CDC: U.S. Fertility Rate Hits Record Low for 2nd Straight Year; 40.7% of Babies Born to Unmarried Women.


[10] “Capital Gains Rate by Country, 2011,” Tax Foundation, July 6, 2012 (at:

[11] “Country Rankings,” The Heritage Foundation (at: (accessed on March 4, 2014), where America is ranked # 12.

[12] “Country Rankings,” The Heritage Foundation (at: (accessed on March 4, 2014).

[13] George Herbert Walker Bush, February 22, 1990, at the request of Congress, Senate Joint Resolution 164, in a Presidential Proclamation declaring 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading.

2022-10-14T12:12:42-04:00October 14th, 2022|Featured, Providential History|0 Comments