Consideration on American Individualism I

Consideration on American Individualism I:
Its Formation in the Early Period
Yoshimi Nakamura
Tth get tke wheSe p$ctwre of Americaxx ixtdivlduaMsm, it is fir$s imgeertaxtt
te grasp kew the eaurky ffxeropealt imreigfamet$ iniÅíiated Åíheix expexSextce ak tke
New Wewld. The gkSquencss of Americazz individuftlism ls cg*$eiy reiated to
tkifir colgwial begimsftSesgs. Tkff early Europeans' experkemece irm the New Wefld
wa$, in malty respect$, di$tiecfivegy ecew and dramatic in tke histeyy ef hwsmesme
c2vkiizatiox. As a fesuat, ske$r experiences gemerated a pewetflji Atwexicait
mytholegy, wkich kad a gfeat impacs ok $haping America's futufe sense of
2tselÅí Fir$t, I attempt to diescr$be tke pxece$s in which the Amefican mytkoXegy
was foesmed in the Amex'ican coloniaS period.
Thesc I focus opt Åíke repub#carm armd bkbiical traditioft {hat derived frfira
Europeaft tho=gkt, It raust meot he fofgettea th&t sbe Americgn Revolutiext
acsuecaly wtkefkted a Sa'rge pertiext of Europeams shought. The cofe of Hur"peaft
tlrxogghs tkast eawly Araericans inhexisifdi Åëaem bee pavaphwasect as "individusftli$ra."
Before paying kttensSewxx t" a spocific American framewoyk, wki"h K pXkss fe
di$ew$$ ien the $eqasel ce thi$ pkpex, X hoSct it mere impertastt to gra$ge kow
ff"fasgeeeesxx armdiv$diuaMsm oerSgiftatect ige AmerScg and keww iitdividieekft$$tw it$it'if
#figtwktffd in tke We$tern werXd.
k . Tke XxkdivXdiwwkX ixk AmeerXckxx MySholagy
Tkefe i$ 2ke dowsb#haÅí tke pky$icgl xtature of tine New Worgd kad rwech
to di# with the fewmeestSeme asf the Atsefieasc mythQiegy. Eariy E"f"geeasms,
stamediftg eit fhe stew ceptinent, m#$Åí have beext struck by its bguevedie$$ fye$h
akd green e&nd$cape, wkeye they were te begin theif ncw lkves. Of c##rse they
$aw iftdigelt*"s pegplff }iving there, bxs their "$ii{ip$e" witys gf Nfe mexeay
eenfifmed tke idewtwtcation ef the New Werlci with gnciviained ftatufe.
What fa$cinated E"repeftms, Lee Mancx Åql964, p.36) claixgis, wa$ g 1and$cape
ventasascked by ki$tefy asnes ttxtmixed wish altything ar{ifieia$. Eargy gu'fopeams
tkeasgh{ shat the suew e"ktineitt leoked "tke way tke worki might haxfftf beee
$#pge#sect t" Eeask befofes tke begtmsntreg ef civilizntioxx."
Thee otker imgeerÅíant faectew in tke crektiox of thee Americitxx mytkeS#gy g$
the hk$t"xacaX backgregrsd of tke fiyst ffuropeaxt, krnmeigratw$. They came te the
New W"fSd, ecutting skem,$eive$ koo$e frem tke oldi ueurcpeitme soegetges, kmed
frewimeg thewmselve$ frewm tke pttst. Tkeey kftct a dream, itff $tartistg agkin wgtin
thfe$k initiative in the Neww W"rEtS, aftex having sp"iled, tkeif fif$t clkkmece$ Sxt tke
Old Wofad. ko R. W. B. Lewi$'$ (19$S, p.$År view, the Amefkcew ewkytk fegard$
life asxtes hiswry as ju$Åí beeginnixxg. The first Eexropean$ :h#asght tkat the steew
Xife lst Amefkca wks es divinely graptsed $ecoltdi chamece. Lewis expZain$ that,
S," as Bible reading gffxterratkext, the image ef eargy Amexicitms wa$ most eg$ily
idemstifiees wiÅík t,he "Actkmkc" figure. Arkam. symboEizes tke fust, the archetypasX,
man. Xn kis very newness, he is fundamentaiEy Srmocent esmed inctepeesdiext.
kt is mees $ufpsising tkat, as Åíkese two factors ikteftwixed, tke image ef
America came t# be reÅëogmized as a gaxden of "Eden," Te depict Amertca as a
ggfdeas, Marx (p.43) stexes, is te express "Gtepiaxt" aspiratign$ that Europeams
had chera$hed, Europeazzs kases asecepteci deprivation altd swsfferimeg a$ ast
wsuavgidkbge ba$is for cgvilizatlgre, Afstving kxx the New World, tkey thoueght
shitt {hey mightreakame what h#d beees regarded as a peetic fanta$y Tk*$e were
assptncittaezz$ seward "abgftdiftmecff, keksasrc, freedom, nred gfeatew inaermomsy gf
exi$Åíeftee" (p.xeggÅr. Aece$$ to asn$/ "tledi, b"ws'ntifuk /rmgture wg$ whg{ keeo#emtwd
for tke $erdef$' $estsff eff theeSf viasev gndi tke $peÅëiaX good forsuxxe eer Ameftcage$.
EÅí rcas$s keee geeift, tect "ut tinag skdv Necw 'Wofkt was aset alwxxy$ faemcieed as$ g
gafdffft by ekrrSy es\,er#geeax$, New $et{aews had es'xt usxxdeveiogeedi cescti#emst ixx
frurmÅí "f them. Tkey eftevrm ctkdi mees inave in$gktw{iostal or se#hst#gogicai dieviee$
fow e#meqesewixtg tke wiEdiewxe$$. ffme tkxe exewxtctktiexxs ewf pioneer Americ&, wkewe
tkee $ifervicew$ #ff {ke ge"ltce, Åíke ÅëkufÅëk, thee sck#eX, asrmd th,e kospttge were n"t
ewfteeme nvgigable, $aswvivasl diemkmedect actinxt. {'ke Åëoftcept "f "s#kff-feRiaxtcre" {oek
ok k sigwistrcasxxt 'meassuSemg foer tkem. C"1"meSes ereqwired per$oR$ whe wijuld go
askeesct amed sactkie witk wiadewxtes$ "witkewma waitimg for sigxxesi$ te be given *er
foer arrangemffrt{s thftf ws#kt make it ea$y" (Petter, 196S, p.9S). Mesxx Åqp.43)
afgues shat botk ske cgsttra$ting images ef America as ft "hgdeggs wilderncss"
gxtd a garden are poetic metapkor$ wkiÅëk went beyescci tke ESmkt$ of fact, bmst
that eack had n ka$Ss ik tke esctv}aX eewxxdXtSeecs S# tl te New W*fki.
Ss. 3eim die Cxevecoeuef (1963År, a ewreftch seetkef in tke eighreewath celttwry,
descfibed thet Amexicams as a "xtew mars, winu getg upoxt meffw geerSstctpte$" in kl$
kttgxsfr#m ew Amew'ecew Fctnvex The American, according se kim, was the one
"whas, lekving beekind kkm aEg ki$ aftÅëieng gerej\dices axxd masmermers, feceives scew
one$ from th,e 'mew mode of gife he has embfaced" (p.49). Åërevecoeur depi:ted
she voice ef a maxt wke di$Åëovered tkee p#$$ibigity of ckaemging hi$ life:
Frcrc xxoehing te start into being; fr"m a servgnt tw the rank ef ft rnaster;
from beistg the sEave ef $eme die$p"tic gerince, to lvee#me a free mait,
inve$ted wieh Ea=d$, to wkich evefy mljmek"ipaR blessing ks krmexed! Wkat
a ckftrsge indeed! It is in conseguexÅëe of that ckgxtge tka{ he bec#mes
Ameericltem (p.65).
Crevecoeur's des#riptintt suegge$ts tkat fhe myth of Arwerica g$ as meew
begirming wa$ c#stfureed in she reew $ettiers' experieltce ef regeltefasieem ksu khe
New WewSd. Wkey became mew benef, happiey rnen; they felt a$ if they were
born asgitin tkexe. Xt i$ new woxxdef shat the myth teok on a divine casememctatSeM.
The b"usitdies$ frontief in the New Woscld reinforcect thff power ef the
myth, A$ tiney kasd lrovtmedXess kknd, skere were alway$ uew tefritortes Åí" wkick
shey couXct meve. Awteyicans develgped a belief tkat they had, feom te make
pfogre$$ in ak exdless mknsuex Thi$ ictek of progre$s allewffd maemy setÅígef$ te
e$cape from wkewe they $ettled wkeiteves tkey felt alty $ecial comestfaint$. Tkey
were mkssrustfu1 of things tinat would fegere$s indSvidixai$. They tufxteed in$tead
te tke dream ef mkkixxg a sociffty ef free amed eq#ak imdSvutuki$.
Xt seems ebvious that tke majerSty of eargy AmerScan people geo$$es$ed a
deep coamfidence in the future "f Americgk seciety Tke Amefiean mytkewSegy
was tra#$mktted so those Americaft$ wk" directey geesfticipftsed ik tke ij#ildiMig
gf a new statiome, Russel Meaine Nye (S96e, ge,geO) dem*nsua{e$ hew cenfident
they were lvy quoÅíing $ome cemmeermts frem a few di$tlftgwished Fffesndirmg
FaÅíkers. Johit Adiam$ considesed tke $eetSemestÅí ef Arcteficasu c#aonie$ "as
tke opeRing ef a grarect scemse ama,d desigst im Pxevidestce for tke iKlscminRttsn
of the igAo/ axt aesdi eemartcipataext ef tke slavish pkrt of manig isud agl ffver tke
earth." Benjemmik Ffanlstik ealled tke RevglutieR "a glorioljs task assigmeed by
Providence." Tkopma$ J'efffer$#xx wr#te of himself axtd fhe osheT lekdef$, "we
feeg tkgt we esre acting \xtdew obligati"n$ ltet ceenfmed {e {he Ximit$ uf eex -wme
2 . Arweskeax RevgXxxetieme anct inGividxakS$me inkeriSees
Robert Bellak amedi kis c"11abewato/ s (19g6År, in {heir be"k ffmbSss of the ffeewt,
saxggest that tkefe gre two traditiomss esf ske indkviduali$m shat iRfiueesteed the
Amertcart Revefutiexx. Omee ks the civic k"ci megeasbiicait trkctisioxx ttxxct tke #tker
S$ tke biblical tfaditiept. Bellah et aa. refew te these two type$ ef ivedividiuaiism
as "tradisioanag" individuali$rw, as gppitsect te `gm#ciee'erft" 1 ftdividuali$m, whick I
plaen to examiree in she seq"eX tg thi$ geaper.
Aecoxdi#g tg Bellak es al. (p.30År, ske civic arsd repuebM:kms traditiorm
eciginated in the ciske$ of caa$$Scal Greece altd Ritme. Axtcient Greek$ Rkg
Romams gave a particukax $ig,nifacance to tke c"nÅëept of cStizenship, i,xx wkich
they wexe gljafgeceed freedem gfid ffqecaikty by fke rule "f law Wemdex thee
coltcept ef cisizifltshix}, stw #mee wa$ akÅrove she gaw, axtdl aXl were eaguas}ly $scbjecs
to tkif Zaw. CSvSc Åíredisi"sc stre$sees tke pfSmaciple of citizen pgrttcigeatinem. Xs
pre$#gepesed tkRt $he ecStSzens of a repesbiic were metivated by civi: viertwe k$
we{S as sevlf-isttffwffst.
Tke Fo"wading Wg'Åíkes"s iminewitwdi much of she civic astd repeebXcitn tradisi#xx.
Oree #f the remaxkasbXe gclkie-gremewt$ in the Arnericas# Revolgtiers was tke
e$sablishrskefts gf as rege#bSicaxt fofm of geveritmemet. BeSSaxk et kl. Åqp.3eÅr state
tha{ mesity indivict"itl$ kme thif fowstdi'ing gexxeratiost were exevmeLplary of tfte
xey'sublicaua tradk{iorm. in Tke Fgdgswlifsg, publisked #crigkscag2y Eft g7g7, Jarwes
MactSseit $tkte$ tkat only tt repljbaicesxx fofrw *f thee goverstmept we"ad be
receftcilasbge witk "the fukdamexxtal, pnciin,cageles of the X.eevo}#si"ft" (as cited im
C"mraager, S951, ge.k41År. In hi$ defiftiÅíittms, a regeaxblS: i$ ex g#verwment wkich
{ilexive$ all its power fr"ra peogeke, ttltd S$ actwtimi$'eeme(X l)y per$omes lkesXding t}ieir
#ffgees. Thomas Jcffefsoem, ift Beagala's rkeseripti*su, was es germwine adherent
#f tke repewbkkeaas tradktioft. }{e betieveci that geaslitSÅëak eag"uliey caxk "nly be
tffeÅëtive in as repwbaic whec"e the citizems nctxtaitSy pafsicipas'Åíe.
BSblicftl traditieft$, #lt Åëke ether kaitd, eyiginatewct in tkec Jffwi$k axtd Ckfi$tialt
ereaigio#$, wkkch kkd beifww pxedercinit"t in tke We$teflt worki fof mascy ceneg2ySe$
amed whick h,ad lzamed gregt isukgeact "zz Westefxt civitizatioft. BibXacul tractSsio/as geec
emphasis asft crea{ing as cerwsyk'\wtty Sik wkkickk oxxe caxt 1 ive a gemsuineay utkzaickR
meeces $pgrttwaa life, witkoust reggeres Åíe rcgterial pfo$perity. fl['he bkbkiced ct,effmei{i*ft
gf freectexxk i$ grtlculatect in referestee {o the cevenant betwÅëefi G"es kkd thff
indivad"al ÅqBeg2ah et al., p.29, ge.333). Bkblic&X trmditions take oit aev indivkdxalistSc
fofm iit Åíka'Åí kll ixtdSvictuals are coxtsidered eff,#aa in the eyes of Ged. Away
authoyity tkast vioaates reSkgiezks freedern care be resisfed in bibgScag trgditioxt$.
Mest AmerScalts were commgttwd aftd attached to their reiigions in tk,e
pefioct of {he Arwericafi RevolutSeen. k mttst be kotecl that mamey dvargy seerders,
repre$extted by she W#grim ewatheews, wefe reefugees from per$ecutien in rclkginws
ffstabli$inment$ in wwuerope. Lkrge rewwmbef$ of Prote$tants, Casshokics, xxmed Jew$
eamff to AmefSea $ince it$ cr"leniasE beginttings. America agtowed shem to
pracsice theix religioms Sst theSf owrm way. Thus, reaigien remained a ${rong force
kft Americaft seciety. Robert Nksbet ÅqS973, pp.73-95) argoe$ that tke Americaxx
ReveSuti#n was eccemplSshed iny peopie whe emLbTaced sbeir reRigiou$ vaS#e$
ascd gspiratkons. He keXds that thif fum cfeatioxt of sceiigious freedem wa$ the
mest heralded eonsequence ef she AmeriÅëasc RevolutiQzz.
Whus, repubXcasc anrk bkblical traditioxxs greatiy inspixedi the Americaft
revolgsiomeewy genefat2ors. Of egufse, the FeurediRg Fathef$ kad a divine
passi"lt fo buitd es uew type ef model natioft for the rest ef makkiRd, b=t it is
ireperraxr ro yecegnAze :xag :ftey reixea ere ecwropean rraam#naa beaiers ser maeir
Nye Åqp, gO" peirst$ out two distinct advantages eÅí the Americaxt Revelution.
First, she Rev#lutioxt ctid tset tekave se destfey kn establi$hect authority in ereseer
to evolve a new "re, for Americans aEready po$sessed a free, libefaX traditioit.
Secoxxd, Americ#es seciety after the Revol'#siofl wa$ rnuÅëlt more opext, ffgid,
and forceful tkaft Ewsfepeaft $ecietie$. Tke$e advasmerages extabied the Fasttendkftg
Festhex$ to asct axxes {hink "wiÅíhime axx AmeriÅëan, rsoR-fezzdal frftmewoerk."
Euvapeast tradgtivn$ that Americ#ns ifikerited, tkerefore, took as scew twra wi{h
their fugl encagSes in tke New Land.
Aftex the fevolktSBme, {ke Foasnding Fktkexs triedi to coftstfuct a democratic
geverfterykent tkat we"kt be werkabie, diurable, amsd in haxmexty wStk tkeiw
fepasbRican principies. Tke DecXarkÅíioft ef indepeftdenee, dfafted by rkgma$
Jeffexsoxt in g776, exptessed she bk$ic gehile$ophy ef democracy aftd Xiberty.
Tkese phrases wese deeply engraved Sft tke minct$ of Amestcams:
We heXd these txuths te be $elSevident, that alS men afe eregted equai, thest
t&iey afe eptdgwed by tkeif Creaser wkth ceTtakxt uxtaiienabge Right$, thas
among tke$e are Life, Liberty, axxd the p#rsuit of ffappines$ (a$ cised ift
Commagex, X95i, p.6År.
gÅí rcwas{ be n"twdi tkess winest is /refemeed te "aXE men" Rbevff, it giteyally asgeplieti,
okEy t# "meeft," exctlusive ef wemexeit nftdi siaves al$#, Xncteedi t{ hadi a diffewept
cteemcept of eagas,akity fr#m whgit keSd$ todiay. Haswever, the ovexalR emgeeÅëiyati#es
#ctuklay requsSredi a gractumek pxoece$s in tksudem witk ckanging $ptciesl ltscitudes. Xt
cnxx bee ge"inredi ou#kut tke VeÅëgaratg#x ptf ffndepermdeemee, in a $ewwse, eeitabkd a
progressivdi intwmpfewttinme of eaguRXity skat appi'ies te alX r}e"ple.
rerving kS$tel ÅqE9 73, ge.6) geoint$ o"t that the Fottxtding ee asher$ wevere weeEl
awgre s' imast tke g"vefrtmextt tkffy kdealized wouldi be axx excecdiesgty difwacttlt
fegirne to maintain. Tiney fearedi tk#t governmestt we"ki grow tho 'lre ss "bifast"
to #gepre$$ she individuesZ. As as res"lt, the Fottndizzg Fashers wretw she
Comassitutioxt of tke Vgited Statw$ witk a spirtt ef mederat'inft asnct gevagmasi$rifs.
Tkey invewted a distincsively ArnericaR $y$tem ef governmewt caiXed the
"separatioft of geowers," ipt wkich peweTs axe carefukly divided ftmong bfancke$
of govercment Rebert Geldwin (1990) sums up the pxrpose of thg$ $ystem a$
Pgs separate paft$ #f poEiticag ge"wef in the hands ewf different gffaei#g$
in dSffereut pkyts #f ske govewxtmewt .., ared eftÅëoljrage ... ftmbksioms asxtdi
seEgein,terest. ....., Xs $eere$ tlatgf tkexe i$ a rmee{:E fox very mglty geebitieu$
gesd self-interested offaciaSs Åíe keep oaxf goverftmettt Sft halmermee. A$
fuftctitme#tae as $egekrkti*st of pewer$ is as a prSnciple #f Åíhe C"ftsfitu#Seme,
ffven mptrefasscdesmgscstut is skec rcewdf3ff offiecekoXdecrs tv be esmbitinass eeesd self
intwrwstwel lisaaSc ascidedl lp.29).
Fov eewgy ffwwvepeame Smrsxigraftt$, Ameffica repre$ented R piaee of esew
beginxxing. Tkey gene/rastect tke puowerfui Americait mekytkekogy tkat $tfe$sedi
geregress gnd $elf-relignee. Oxx the echer httmed, tltey inkerited a Sayge p"ersiolt
of ffasr"peams tkkewsughr imbifed by eivSc ftnd biblieaR tfaditi"ms, reftdeed the
Amexkearm ReveS#sieme, thseugk whiÅëh America gained independence and
beggpt {o bgild its ftew seciif{y, scstgkt $emething ektirely ftew. "TradiisS#rmaX
individasali$rw" wks a# impef{axtt pmrt ef the spirkt of a wwew depatecfgtgc ltatieR.
Tradktigemal indkvidasalS$m kk$ Septg coexisted with "raodem" SndixwSduasXksm
iR Amefic3. BeXRkh et asl. Åqge.1as) s"ggesS that thc corsfiic's between tke two wa$
ini{ingiy m#sedi. H#weveq gfact#aily, {hee lattew became mere dBmixakt *ver
the former. The $equel to tkis paper will mainiy
gf AmeriÅëerft individttali$ra veftdef the pfoces$
diiscuss tlte trkwt$fbfmfttiewem
ef Sxtdiwsstrkaiization Sme the
xxXmeeteermtin cexttwery.
Npte: Thi$ paper is yevised fr#m paxt of my t'kesis, "Amewican Iscctkvirkuaiism Viewed ljy
Basctdhism," $"ijmitted fof my degr,ee "f M.A. t# tke { }radwwase $ckool of Ayt$ awact Sciences,
Geergeteswem Uftivefsity in 1996. X am gmateful t# mey mezavar, Profifssew Fmemeck$ca Ckg, for her
fecens assi$tance and $uggestien$ for p'ubiishing tki$ wapey.
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