The Old, Weird, Free America
- What was truly exceptional about American culture was the idea of the individual being sovereign and superior to the state. The founders were far from perfect and the Constitution did indeed do much to destroy the revolutionary individualistic nature of both the Declaration of Independence and the rebellion alike (for more information see this), but the overall guiding principle began conceptually with the individual and went from there.
And aside from politics, the individualistic culture of Americans persisted strongly up until the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century. This revolutionary idea that you were the supreme judge in the conduct of your own affairs and the government was there for a specific job – security and arbitration – and if they left those boundaries you would feel justified in defending yourself and acting outside the rules of the state.