Roots of the Feeling of Moral Superiority Term Paper

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Roots of the Feeling of Moral Superiority in the U.S.

The United States has been criticized in recent years for assuming an air of moral superiority and for trying to impose their opinions on the rest of the world. Even when the tragedy of September 11 happened, some countries were happy to see America suffer. Why would they hate us? Partly it might be because they envy the wealth and freedom that American citizens have. It is also because they think Americans believe they are always in the right, (my country, right or wrong). Did this attitude emerge with the founding fathers? We can see American attitudes to ourselves and also to other countries in non-fiction and fiction of the first two centuries, from the 1770's to the 1970's.

In "Common Sense," 1776, Thomas Paine declared "Neither can ye reconcile Britain and America...The Almighty hath implanted in us these inextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of His image in our hearts. They distinguish us from the herd of common animals." (III. "Thoughts on the present state of American affairs";

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Here he is saying that the Revolution is pre-ordained and that the moral right is held by the Colonies. In his Epistle to the Quakers, he contradicts their loyalist/pacifist sentiments by saying, "We view our enemies in the character of highwaymen and housebreakers." (as above). So Paine's view is that it is ordained by God that the colonies rebel, and that they are totally justified, and, even more significantly, that any enemy of the colonies is a
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criminal. Here we see the beginning of the mindset that has culminated in Bush's 'war against evil'.

Cervecoeur, in describing Nantucket, commented on the indigenous peoples: "In the year 1763, above half the Indians of this island perished by a strange fever...they appear to be a race doomed to recede and disappear before the superior genius of the Europeans." (Letters From An American Farmer,;see

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We see from this that the opinion existed that the Native Americans were not only destined to lose their lands to the white man, but they more or less didn't deserve to live.

Crevecoeur also contrasts the atmosphere of life in America with that in other countries, especially European nations. In Letter IV, "Description of the Island of Nantucket, with the Manners, Customs, Policy, and Trade of the Inhabitants," he remarks: "The great number of European emigrants yearly coming over here informs us that the severity of taxes, the injustice of laws, the tyranny of the rich, and the oppressive avarice of the church are as intolerable as ever...This country, providentially intended for the general asylum of the world, will flourish by the oppression of their people." (Letters From An American Farmer;

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In the same letter, he adds: "Had this island been contiguous to the shores of some ancient monarchy, it would only have been occupied by a few wretched fishermen...oppressed by poverty." Instead, the inhabitants of the New World are free to go ahead and make their living.

In literature as well, we see these…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

The Norton Anthology of American Literature, vol. 1, 5th ed. Nina Baym

De Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John. Letters From An American Farmer. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. New York, W.W. Norton and Company, 1967.

Paine, Thomas. "Common Sense" and "Epistle to Quakers." 1776. New York,, 1999.

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