In 1850 Herman Melville’s novel White Jacket included a vision of American destiny that in retrospect seems intolerably arrogant and hypernationalistic. In his defence, it can only be said that he was expressing views that were far from unusual for Americans of the time, and that this sense of limitless potentiality is explicable in terms of the astonishing progress of his country in the previous three decades. Melville wrote: And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people – the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. Seventy years ago we escaped from thrall; and besides our first birth-right – embracing one continent of earth – God has given us for a future inheritance the broad domains of the political pagans, that shall yet come and lie down under the shade of our ark, without bloody hands being lifted. God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Expansion and Crisis, 1825–65
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number