America is exceptional. Period. No other nation in the history of the planet was founded codifying a constitution establishing a system of government AND codifying protection of individual liberties. Until 1791 it was unheard of. Think about it. A system of government created by government to limit government—a system by, for, and of the people. That never happens. Not even by accident! Governments always end-up creating a system that empowers and protects the government and its ruling class. Government never voluntarily limits their own power unless at the pointy end of a sword.
Rome started as a republic whose system of government was codified in written document 509 B.C. It did NOT however codify protections for individual liberties. The Roman Republic devolved eventually into an empire ruled by emperors, and military dictators by 27 B.C.
The first written document in history adopted by a nation protecting individual liberties was the Magna Carta in 1297 A.D. This document was adopted by King John of England under the threat of rebellion. The Magna Carta afforded citizens individual protection against punishment, imprisonment, and execution except by a judge or jury of peers. It established the “rule of law” and “no taxation without representation.” The Magna Carta did NOT however establish or reform England’s system of government. England kept its monarchy and its ruling class of nobles.
To find the FIRST written constitution establishing a system of government AND codifying protections for individual liberties we look to a small nation in 1791, a new nation in the “new world,” a colony, a collection of 13 states populated largely by religious rejects from England and Europe. America.
Today, we take our written constitution for granted. Before the U.S. Constitution and its limits on government authority, who made the laws? By what limits were governing authorities bound? Before the U.S. Constitution, there were no limits on government. Laws were created or changed at the whim or fancy of kings, emperors, dictators, judges, and the noble class whose birthright, title of nobility, and/or property earned them a seat at the table. Governments ruled as they wished, bound only by tradition and the threat of rebellion. The church at least mediated on behalf of citizens, addressing cruelty, suffering, poverty, persecution and immorality of rulers.
The United States of America is also exceptional for embracing free enterprise—capitalism. It is from this fertile soil that sprang the motive, freedom, and creativity that thrust the entire world headlong into the modern age of machinery, the light bulb, rubber, photography, automobiles, assembly lines, airplanes, recorded music, movies, telephones, nuclear power, medical miracles, TV, space flight, microwave ovens, credit cards, computers, and internet. The list of inventions created directly in the U.S. or indirectly by our influence is astronomical. The advances in medicine and its life-saving affects alone are staggering. America is exceptional.
Are individual Americans exceptional? As human beings go, NO, we are not exceptional. We do not claim exceptionalism as humans. As human beings we are fallible, broken, and imperfect—just as are all God’s kids on earth. Each of us in time will stand naked before our heavenly Father and in the light of His mercy and tenderness answer, “How have you loved?”
As human beings we are not exceptional, but as “a people” Americans are indeed exceptional. The American people are exceptional farmers, teachers, soldiers, entrepreneurs. Our medical professionals are second to none. Our scientists and engineers are the envy of the world. Our entertainers, artists, musicians, and writers are exceptional. Our athletes are extraordinary. Our workers, police, and fire fighters are exceptional. As a people, we rock! And “they” the world know it.
America is exceptional—but by the grace of God. In gratitude, we ought lift those who wish to receive our generosity.