Foner reveals how the definition relates to who is entitled to enjoy it or, rather, who is an American. In times of threat to national security, Americans are often willing to sacrifice some degree of personal liberty. This concept is painfully revealed at the present time in the face of Arizona’s new illegal immigration policy. Freedom is also an inalienable right of all Americans. In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were denied their freedom and civil and legal rights in the U.
S. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, for instance, progressive focused on democratic citizenship and women’s advance through the suffrage movement, but at the same time massive disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South and repression of racial unionists and socialists occurred. Body From the American Revolution to the rebirth of Conservatism in contemporary times, Foner traces the changing story of American freedom through a framework of three distinct themes.
As Foner defines them, these themes are “the meanings of freedom, the social conditions that make freedom possible, and the boundaries of freedom-the definition, that is, of who is entitled to enjoy it. Through different periods in American history these three themes are revealed in discussions, debates and struggles to affect definitions of American freedom by the protagonists involved. Living amid freedom but denied its substance, slaves appropriated the patriotic ideology for their own purposes.
The views of conservatives and radicals have also affected definitions of American freedom during its history. For example, during the Civil War era views of American freedom put forth by the Confederacy were blatant in their denial of it to some Americans. In many ways the debates regarding the meanings and boundaries of Americans freedoms and the heated contestations surrounding them have been founded on economic disputes, from the Whigs and Jacksonian Democrats to the Populists and Progressives.
Various rights movements in from the 1950 s through the 1970s have advance democratic notions of freedom and liberty and advance them much further than any conception of the founding elites. For instance, Foner explains that “Slavery helped to shape the identity, the sense of self, of all Americans,” as it “constituted the most impenetrable boundary of American citizenships. ” Foner demonstrates how despite different definitions of American freedom that were in vogue or played out in American society through history, actions by government or policymakers during challenging periods often seem to contradict the prevailing notion.
As Foner asserts, “If history teaches anything, it is that the definitions of freedom and of the community entitled to enjoy it are never fixed or final. ” Learning this lesson is the challenging part. He also demonstrates how social conditions make freedom more or less possible (i. e. coercion, empowerment, and justice). Conclusion In conclusion, it is readily apparent that Eric Foner’s argument in The Story of American Freedom that American freedom is a principle that is malleable and changes over time based on generational needs and historical circumstances.
Instead of any resolution to the challenge of defining American freedom in future, Foner merely takes a philosophical stance with respect to his counsel or hope for future generations. Yet Foner’s exploration of the rebirth of conservatism reveals how competing ideological, cultural, political and economic claims shape and have shaped the story of American history for over two hundred years. The Story of American Freedom Introduction America is often defined as a nation conceived in liberty.
Various contradictions in government policy despite definitions of American freedom will also be noted. In our nations history, the concept of freedom has been altered, rethought and reworked based on historical events or generational requirements. Economic security and empowered labor were components of American freedom. In “Sixties Freedom” and “Conservative Freedom,” Foner emphasizes the fact that the Freedom Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the New Left made the United States “more open, more tolerant- a freer country.
Foner shows how throughout American history the meaning of freedom is often political, civil, individual or economic in nature. From minority groups to intellectuals, Americans continue to debate the nature of American freedom in ways that promise change in a positive direction. While American freedom may seem threatened by this reshaping of its definition, there are many groups that fight to advance a definition of freedom that is expansive and founded on democratic principles.