The American dream is given its name in 1931
James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream in his book, The Epic of America. He wrote, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Americans embraced Adam’s definition. Seeing it as a better life for all, not just the privileged upper class.
Immediately after defining the American Dream, Adam’s next sentence was puzzling. He wrote, “It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately.” The statement seemed out of context. Why did he specifically mention the European upper classes?
Back to this later.
The American Dream’s politically incorrect beginning
Most Americans would point to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as the starting point of the American Dream. But disillusioned English Puritans, abandoning England and sailing for America in 1620, was the starting point of the American Dream.
The Puritans beliefs are the reason….
♦ They left England for an uncertain future
♦ The character of Americans, which enabled them to defeat
the much more powerful British
♦ There is a consistent, clear voice of moral character and
wisdom in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence
The harsh world of 16th and 17th century Puritans
Life for Puritans or any commoner in 16th and 17th century England was very harsh. Kings could take their property, imprison them or kill them. They knew cruel, unjust punishments, food shortages and taking of what was theirs. Their lives and those of their children were expected to be nasty, brutish and short.(go to last line of linked article)
Their war infested world
Their world was a world of never ending war. Forced into the brutality of war, many were maimed, disfigured or died. Wars were not limited only to England. War was a way of life on the European continent. The wars were fought to fulfill the dreams of English rulers and European rulers. It was a time when every noble dreamed of being king.
The sheer number of wars meant two things…
* Men dying
* Wars cost money, lots of money
Men dying meant families left without fathers, husbands and sons. Wars left the rulers with huge debt. The debt was added to the already heavy tax burdens of the English subjects.
The war happy kings who controlled their lives were not elected. Most thrones were inherited. Others were through conquest or planned marriages of nobility to nobility. Ruling by the divine right of kings they answered only to God.
Disillusioned Puritans sail for America
The Puritans made the correct decision to sail to America in 1620. They had to persevere through many hardships and many deaths. In time their conditions improved. They enjoyed more freedom and liberty than would have ever been possible in England.
Disillusioned colonials fight for freedom
In 1776, another generation of Americans were disillusioned with the British. Once again they were in danger of being under complete British rule. After the Battle of Bunker Hill, King George III issued the ‘Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition.’ Declaring the colonies to be in rebellion and subject to severe penalties. War was their only option. It was “live free or die” time.
British and American forces engaged in many battles. From the battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775 to the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. Six brutal, savage years of war. They fought from Canada, down the east coast to South Carolina.
Cornwallis was finally defeated in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia and surrendered to George Washington. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed, Americans were finally a free people.
Every colonist was weary, soldiers and the families they left behind. They did not realize they had fought for the freedom and rights of future Americans. They fought so their families would be free from the whims of a foreign power. Unaware of us, we are aware of them.
The most wonderful and unique documents
The founding fathers wrote the kind of Declaration of Independence and Constitution, citizens all over the world and in all times dreamed of. Their words, their ideas came from their remembrance of the lack of rights and the abuses their forefathers endured in England.
These two documents represent a unique accomplishment. For the first time in history, subjects had won full rights. Not a few rights that an untrustworthy king begrudgingly gave them. They won full rights, in a battle to the death. Rights never to be taken back whenever a king has a change of heart.
European upper classes and the American Dream
Back to James Truslow Adams puzzling sentence, “It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately.” Adam’s was a Pulitzer Prize winning historian, a history expert. He was not making an idle comment. What was he saying in that sentence?
As a historian, he knew, restrictive European class structures still existed in 1931. Adam’s had also gained insight into the upper classes thinking. They were the rulers of their countries for centuries.
Looking at citizens, they did not really see them. They were beneath them, serving as things, enabling the upper classes to realize their dreams. Concern for commoners was not in their upper class genes.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Americans were different. Most Americans had developed the mindset of the American dream without realizing it. It was just part of being American. Institutions and policies were created to improve lives. Opportunity and innovation was growing.
America’s privileged elites
Today in America things are different. Americans in government and all fields have become extremely wealthy. The extreme wealth and influence has changed them. Like the European upper classes they so desire to emulate, they really do not see our lives. Elites are indifferent and oblivious to our problems.
Main Street Americans, a tsunami of challenges
Americans lives have been hit by a powerful overwhelming tsunami of problems. It is as if huge tsunami waves have taken parts and chunks of their lives and carried it out to sea. Dropping it somewhere in the unknown depths.
Somehow they are trying to gather their strength, skills and wits to put together some semblance of their former lives. These Americans have to tap into real hope, not the phony hope politicians talk about. That true hope that must be held onto, lest it slip away in trying times.
Restoring the American Dream
Let us hope something causes the elites to change. New thoughts, new hearts and new vision. Change and work with we the people, to restore the full luster of the American Dream.
Make America and Americans lives great again.