Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story - Encounter Books

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Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story

Young Reader’s Edition: Volume One

Available 6/21/2022

Publication Details

Paperback / 304 pages
ISBN: 9781641771702
AVAILABLE: 06/21/2022

Coming Soon
Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story
Young Reader’s Edition: Volume One

The American story begins before there was an America at all, except in the imagination of peoples around the world, living in poverty and yearning for freedom. From its beginnings America has been a land of hope, a magnet for people looking for a new beginning, a new life for themselves and their families. Out of their efforts a new nation gradually came into being. It was a nation formed by men and women who believed that freedom meant being able to rule themselves, rather than being ruled over by distant kings and princes. Such a nation would be a great experiment, a large republic unlike any other in history. Through a brave war of independence, and wise acts of statecraft, its leaders created a system of government that could protect the ideals of freedom and self-rule that they cherished. It was a brilliant system. But it was far from perfect, especially in its permitting the continued existence of slavery. It could not prevent a bloody and wounding civil war, a terrible contest pitting brother against brother and testing the great experiment to the breaking point—testing, but not breaking. The nation came out of the Civil War and postwar Reconstruction battered, but with a future full of possibility lying ahead.

About the Author

Wilfred M. McClay holds the Victor Davis Hanson Chair in Classical History and Western Civilization at Hillsdale College.

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ut where to begin? How far back do we go?

If we try to tell the whole story, we might end up going back many thousands of years. And there’s much we really don’t know for certain. We believe that the first human settlers came over into the western hemisphere perhaps 20,000–30,000 years ago from northeastern Asia, probably by crossing over what is now the Bering Strait, the frigid waters that separate Russia and Alaska. From there, we believe that these first immigrants to America gradually filtered outward and downward, eventually populating all of North and South America.

From those migrant peoples emerged some highly advanced cultures, which rose, flourished, and fell. The Mayas and Aztecs of Mexico, the Incas of Peru, the North American settlements, the Pueblo of the Southwest – all of them blazed a trail across time but left behind for us only a few physical reminders of themselves, silent clues to a once-flourishing but now vanished way of life.

There is something haunting about these remaining traces of earlier civilizations. In a sense, they are a part of our history, even if we know next to nothing about them. Their mysterious life and death haunt us with a somber recognition: the realization that our civilization, too, is perishable and can disappear in the same way.

But we won’t begin our story with those civilizations past, for the simple reason that they had no direct or significant role in the establishment of the settlements and institutions that would eventually make up the country we know as the United States.

Neither did the later discovery and exploration around the year 1000 of a New World by adventurous Norse seamen, such as Leif Eriksson of Iceland. He tried to plant a colony in what is now the large Canadian island of Newfoundland. He and other Norsemen tried their best to establish a settlement in this chilly newfound land to the west. But their efforts came to nothing and are generally counted as historical curiosities. They are interesting false starts on American history, perhaps, but no more than that.

And yet, on further reflection, I need to modify that statement, for the lost civilizations of the first Americans and the episodic voyages of Eriksson and other Norsemen point toward the deepest sources of American history. They point to the presence of America in the world’s imagination as an idea, as a land of hope, of refuge and opportunity, of a second chance at life for those willing to take it. Ideas are as much a part of history as battles, elections, and other deeds. And that idea, and the persistence of that idea, is one of the themes of this book. It is in the book’s title itself.

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