In God They Trust
10.04.2021 Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens

A small group of colonies manages to break away from a large empire in the closing years of the 18th century. The resulting state would probably be not much more than the Chile of the Northeast—a long littoral ribbon between the mountains and the ocean—if it were not for the imperial rivalries that allow for the rapid growth of the new republic’s influence. 

When one of the rival empires gets into serious financial trouble, it sells the new republic enough territory to double its size, at a bargain basement price. This new territory, rich in all aspects, also gives access to a vast internal basin of navigable rivers. On exploration, this system eventually gives place to the coast of another ocean, and to lands that contain vast reserves of such desirable minerals as gold. Another immense tract of this, today known as Alaska, is almost casually sold to the envoy of the new republic, along with tremendous deposits of what will one day be known as “oil.” …

So yes, I suppose you could say that the United States had some kind of luck, or force, or destiny, on its side. There were certainly those, even among its most secular founding fathers, who felt that more than ordinary realpolitik was involved. Thomas Paine for example was taken by the idea of a new Garden of Eden and a fresh start, and it was his words that were later to be quoted by Ronald Reagan when he said that he thought humanity had found the power to begin the world over again.
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