What Does it Mean to be an American?

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Over the course of the first century and a quarter of the history of the United States of America, what it means to be an American has been defined by a number of different documents. The authors of those documents have come from varied backgrounds all searching to find their place in the growth and development of this country. At the beginning of the nation, those authors came from the English tradition of what government should look like and what those who were looking to change that government should do. When the country experienced some early growing pains, many of those same people came together again to try and develop a new system of laws for the country. As the nation grew up, it also grew apart and faced arguably the most difficult thing for any nation, civil war. By the end of the 19th Century, the United States of America was well on its way to becoming the nation that we know it as today, and immigrants from all over the world began to pour in learn for themselves what it meant to be an American. On July 4, 1776, the newly created United States of America introduced itself to the world with a declaration of independence from England. Authored principally by Thomas Jefferson, but with the assistance of others, the founders of the nation attempted to explain to the world just what King George III and Parliament had done to them that was so terrible they had to break away and form their own nation. The document was drawn following the deepest of English tradition, and was announced after the declarations of many individual of the individual colonies. The delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress that approved this document wanted to make sure that they had the will of the people behind them. Many of them were af... ... middle of paper ... ...o achieve great wealth have any kind of obligation to share that wealth with the nation that helped them achieve that wealth? Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish immigrant who would achieve enormous wealth through the steel industry, made the decision that he, and by extension all self-made rich, had the responsibility to give back to the common people of the United States. He wrote an essay in 1889, entitled “Wealth,” later to be known as the “Gospel of Wealth,” that warned of the potential evils of allowing the money of the wealthy to be distributed after their deaths. By the time of his death, Carnegie gave away close to $300 million, almost 90% of the wealth he accumulated over the course of his life. His money went to build libraries across the nation, cultural centers, such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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