Part III - State building as reconstitution, 1900–1920  pp. 163-164

State building as reconstitution, 1900–1920

By Stephen Skowronek

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The ideal of a constructive relation between American nationality and American democracy is in truth equivalent to a new Declaration of Independence … At the present time there is a strong, almost a dominant, tendency to regard the existing Constitution with superstitious awe, and to shrink with horror from modifying it even in the smallest detail; and it is this superstitious fear of changing the most trivial parts of the fundamental legal fabric which brings to pass the great bondage of the American spirit… There comes a time in the history of every nation when its independence of spirit vanishes, unless it emancipates itself in some measure from its traditional illusions; and that time is fast approaching the American people. They must either seize the chance for a better future, or else become a nation which is satisfied in spirit merely to repeat indefinitely the monotonous measures of its own past.

Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life, 1909