A Providentially Guided, Temporally Bound Country
The circumscribed politics of the Puritans persist into the constitutional period, despite changes in the self-conception of the people. Though the nation's founders treat the role of God, the role of history, and the sense of universality pertinent to government differently from Winthrop, the practical result is the same: a government meant to keep order but not reshape the world. In close readings of the period's most important documents, an account of the operative self-conception of the American people again serves as ground for rejecting claims that imperial exceptionalism is rooted in America from its founding onward. Particular attention is paid to the Declaration of Independence and its role in defining American identity—which will come fully to fruition only in the presidency and figure of Abraham Lincoln.
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