The United States, according to sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, was the ‘first new nation’. It may be at least anticipated, therefore, that genealogy, history, and the narration of time would prove more than usually complicated in a political state united across time and space solely by a civic idealism, and a people bound together only by what president Abraham Lincoln romantically described as ‘mystic chords of memory’. In order to probe the nationalist lineaments of America’s particular approach to locating the nation in time and in tradition, this paper traces a genealogy of American nationalism by interrogating three specific national discourses that have been of significance to the United States since its colonial beginnings. First, the identification of America as the New Israel in the New World; the attempt to inscribe the nation into spiritual, Biblical time. Second, the racial distinctions that America deployed to sustain a civic version of ethnic genealogical determinants, and to construct a coherent narrative of national lineage that embedded its citizens in time and space. And, finally, the role that conflict played, and still plays as both a central core and historical framework for both the narration, and the collapsing of time in the United States today.
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