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Melville on American Exceptionalism

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But in many things we Americans are driven to a rejection of the maxims of the Past, seeing that, ere long, the van of the nations must, of right, belong to ourselves. There are occasions when it is for America to make precedents, and not to obey them. We should, if possible, prove a teacher to posterity, instead of being the pupil of by-gone generations. More shall come after us than have gone before; the world is not yet middle-aged.

Herman Melville, White-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War ch. 36 (1850) in the Library of America ed., p. 506

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