IntroductionWhat’s at Stake

America’s story is one of defiant struggle against the odds for an improbable vision: that all people, created and born free and equal, can live and govern together “in the pursuit of happiness.” This dream of a society of free people with equal rights, where people govern themselves, was unlikely indeed in the eighteenth century. In a world of empires, governed by royalty and divided by class, and in our own country, with millions enslaved, where women were considered the property of their husbands, and where land ownership was considered a prerequisite to participation in government, the pursuit—let alone the fulfillment—of this vision was far-fetched indeed.

Yet we Americans never let that vision go, despite dark ...

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