The American Dream
The American dream is a notion that has been applied by many people in order to refer to the opportunities for happiness that America offers. America is considered the home of the free and people around the world have sort asylum in this country to escape political persecution, economic strife, and education, among other reasons. What everyone expects of America is a prosperous future regardless of one’s religion, race, ethnicity, color or creed (Reece et al 21). This was also the expectations of those who came to the United States at a time when America was referred to as the new world. Columbus and many others saw an opportunity in a distant land, and they were right. America is now the most prosperous nation in the world, and many could attest to this truth. It is essential to determine what two of the earliest settlers thought of the concept of the American dream. The earliest of settlers were introduced to the new world by Columbus. The other was the Christians who for the purposes of this paper would be represented by John Winthrop. This paper discusses the views of these two groups with regard to their drams about the early word.
John Winthrop, an affluent English lawyer and puritan, was one of the leading public figures who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England. His writings influenced many people in the New England Colony and the other colonies around it (Francis 25). One of his renowned works included “A Model of Christian Charity”. He delivered this as a part of a sermon around 1630 to his small community. This sermon could be used to interpret a view of what the American dream according to John Winthrop was. In this sermon he, believed in a life that was modeled around the Christian principles. Within this famous sermon, there is a part marked “the City on a Hill” that is believed to exemplify the American Dream.
John Winthrop among others believed that America in some way was the Promised Land. America ensured that its people enjoyed freedom from oppression and persecution and gave them the right to worship as the deemed correct. It was the dream of freedom of worship that led to the mass exodus of people from Europe for a better life in America. During these early years in the formation of the Union, hard work and concern for one another were the core principles. However, John Winthrop was fearful of the fact that people forgot about the covenant made with God when they came to America. He, therefore, cautioned that if people resorted to self-gain forgetting one another in this land of prosperity, then surely God would destroy the land, and they would understand the price of breaking this covenant (Campbell & Kean 32). From this, we learn that John Winthrop believed in an American Dream that was based on values of community and in doing everything in one’s power to sustain this community.
Winthrop, in this regard, told the people that to preserve this American Dream, they had to subscribe to the teachings of Micah. He asserted that people should strive to be just, to show mercy, and most of all to soldier on humbly with God (Francis 78). That love between brothers would sustain each of them. In this sense, one should have been able to give what is in his abundance to someone who had less. The basic principle of the American Dream, therefore, was caring for one another and working hard. Following this would ensure prosperity for America. John Winthrop believed that whatever they did whilst in England, and what they should have done must be done in this new land. He believed that the good principles that England awarded them were also supposed to be part of their lives in the new land.
Christopher Columbus is the embodiment of the creation directive by God, “go ye into the world and subdue it”. The discovery of the Americas was the advent of the American Dream. The letters of Columbus portrayed America as a land of immense wealth and massive resources. It is, therefore, no surprise that many voyages were later deployed to discover the promises of this new land. What Columbus found was an undiscovered land where the people had no form of governments (Orne 53). The only structures of order were small villages. The first settlers of the Americas were prepared to colonize the land and take it for its treasures. This is a different approach from what John Winthrop view of America was. Winthrop viewed America as a chance of freedom and prosperity.
In his letter to the Monarchs in Spain, Columbus writes that the lands he has found are suitable for colonization and that the lands offered terrain that would be effective for agriculture and for raising livestock of all kinds, and for erecting towns and for sustaining farms. Another crucial factor that he pointed out was the verity that the new world had many mines. These had gold and other metals that could be used to amass the wealth of the Spanish Monarchy. Columbus describes the inhabitants of these new lands as being innocent, primitive, without knowledge and not threatening. One thing is clear, both Columbus and Winthrop saw the potential of the new land and understood the advantages that could be exploited in this land. However, while Columbus was intent on stripping the land its wealth, Winthrop hoped that the new land would be a place where a good community could thrive and enjoy what God had bestowed unto them.
Bremer, Francis J. John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
Campbell, Neil, and Alasdair Kean. American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Orne, Henry. The Letters of Columbus: [pseud.] Originally Published in the Boston Bulletin; to Which Are Added Two Letters of Col. Orne to Gen. Duff Green. Boston: Putnam & Hunt, 1829. Print.
Reece, Colleen L, Norma J. Lutz, Norma J. Lutz, and Susan M. Miller. American Dream, 1620-1765: 4 Stories in 1. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub, 2011. Print.