What is John O’Sullivan’s view on our connection with the past and future?
O'Sullivan, a newspaperman best known for his assertion of the "manifest destiny" of the United States to spread throughout the American continent, offered an explanation of his position in a famous essay entitled "The Great Nation of Futurity." The title says much about his understanding of the future of the United States. O'Sullivan believed that, in his words, the "far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness." As a democratic nation, committed, in O'Sullivan's view, to progress and improvement, the United States would continue to grow and expand both physically and economically. It was all, O'Sullivan thought, ordained by God, who had clearly favored the United States with his blessing. As for the relationship to the past, O'Sullivan saw little connection between the United States and history. He claimed that the history of the world was littered with corrupt monarchies, brutal tyrants, and bloody wars, and that the United States offered a break from that awful past. "We have," he claimed, "but little connection with the past history of any of them [foreign nations], and still less with all antiquity, its glories, or its crimes." O'Sullivan's essay is one of the purest examples of what would become known as American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is fundamentally different, even superior, to other nations past and present.