Thomas Paine

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How does this work exemplify what is American?   We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true; for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe

Thomas Paine's view of what is American is that we should never rely on the help of others, but rather rely on ourselves to create a better life for all. The idea of Manifest Destiny reflects this sentiment and represents the ideals America was founded on.

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This passage represents the independent spirit and individualistic thinking that was American in the Colonial days of this country.  Like many others in his time, Thomas Paine came to America to make a new start; therefore, he was resentful of any unnecessary controls put upon him and his countrymen since the idea was to break from the former life of Europe.

Since America was and still is a great agrarian country, bountiful in its riches, Americans feel that this country can flourish on its own.  The Midwest, for example, is known as the "Bread Basket of the World."  Thus, as Paine states, she will "always have a market while eating is the custom...."

The tone of this passage also presages the "Manifest Destiny" concept of the U.S., the concept of a national purpose and destiny.  While "Manifest Destiny" led to the expansion of the continent, the concept also reflects the ideas of independence and power of resources that Thomas Paine understood.

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