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John L. O’Sullivan: The Great Nation of Futurity

In this episode Caleb O. Brown reads John L. O’Sullivan’s “The Great Nation of Futurity.”

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John L. O’Sullivan and his Democratic Review gained fame, notoriety, and influence by spearheading the movement to produce an authentically American national culture distinct from European antecedents.  Publishing now-canonical authors like Whitman and Hawthorne as well as editorials written by O’Sullivan himself, the Democratic Review trumpeted the concept of “Manifest Destiny” cast in a decidedly radical liberal direction.  The wider New York cultural movement identified itself with the phrase “Young America,” sharply contrasting the United States, which O’Sullivan called “The Great Nation of Futurity,” with the monarchies, aristocracies, and corporate-plutocracies proliferating throughout the Old World.  O’Sullivan and his fellow Young Americans were far from perfect, and by no means were they equivalent to modern libertarians, but their visions and concepts of republicanism, democracy, and the United States constituted one of the most virulent and influential strains of liberal thinking in the entirety of nineteenth-century America.

O’Sullivan and his Democratic Review gained fame, notoriety, and influence by spearheading the movement to produce an authentically American national culture distinct from European antecedents.  Publishing now-canonical authors like Whitman and Hawthorne as well as editorials written by O’Sullivan himself, the Democratic Review trumpeted the concept of “Manifest Destiny” cast in a decidedly radical liberal direction.  The wider New York cultural movement identified itself with the phrase “Young America,” sharply contrasting the United States, which O’Sullivan called “The Great Nation of Futurity,” with the monarchies, aristocracies, and corporate-plutocracies proliferating throughout the Old World.  O’Sullivan and his fellow Young Americans were far from perfect, and by no means were they equivalent to modern libertarians, but their visions and concepts of republicanism, democracy, and the United States constituted one of the most virulent and influential strains of liberal thinking in the entirety of nineteenth-century America.