The startling growth of liberal democracy and free markets over the past century sometimes obscures the extent to which America, in its first century of existence, from 1776 to 1876, stood nearly alone in the world. The first American century was when the United States was, most truly, an exceptional nation.
America at its founding was republican, in the sense of having no king; democratic, in the sense of grounding all political power ultimately in the consent of the people; liberal, in the sense of protecting the individual, natural-law rights of the people; and constitutional, in the sense that political powers …
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