The moral and social aspiration proper to American life is, of course, the aspiration vaguely described by the word democratic; and the actual achievement of the American nation points towards an adequate and fruitful definition of the democratic ideal.
The only fruitful promise of which the life of any individual or any nation can be possessed, is a promise determined by an ideal.
To the European immigrant - that is, to the aliens who have been converted into Americans by the advantages of American life - the Promise of America has consisted largely in the opportunity which it offered of economic independence and prosperity.
When the Promise of American life is conceived as a national ideal, whose fulfillment is a matter of artful and laborious work, the effect thereof is substantially to identify the national purpose with the social problem.
The years between 1800 and 1825 were distinguished, so far as our domestic development was concerned, by the growth of the Western pioneer Democracy in power and self-consciousness.
Democracy may mean something more than a theoretically absolute popular government, but it assuredly cannot mean anything less.
American history contains much matter for pride and congratulation, and much matter for regret and humiliation.
The first phase of American political history was characterized by the conflict between the Federalists and the Republicans, and it resulted in the complete triumph of the latter.
The interest which lay behind Federalism was that of well-to-do citizens in a stable political and social order, and this interest aroused them to favor and to seek some form of political organization which was capable of protecting their property and promoting its interest.
The combination of Federalism and Republicanism which formed the substance of the system, did not constitute a progressive and formative political principle, but it pointed in the direction of a constructive formula.
Of course, Americans have no monopoly of patriotic enthusiasm and good faith.
The Constitution was the expression not only of a political faith, but also of political fears. It was wrought both as the organ of the national interest and as the bulwark of certain individual and local rights.
In Jefferson's mind democracy was tantamount to extreme individualism.
Let it be immediately added, however, that this economic independence and prosperity has always been absolutely associated in the American mind with free political institutions.
Unless the great majority of Americans not only have, but believe they have, a fair chance, the better American future will be dangerously compromised.