As Europe struggles to contain its debt crisis, the name of an American dead for more than two centuries is being invoked by those who think euro area nations will have to trade some autonomy for fiscal stability.
In recent years, the term “American exceptionalism” has sometimes been an empty applause line, a fancy way of shouting “USA! USA!” Vladimir Putin recently went so far as to proclaim that “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional,” without bothering to investigate what American exceptionalism might entail.
One of the strangest pamphlets ever authored by an American public official appeared in 1797. Written by Alexander Hamilton -- a founding father and the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury -- its title constituted a mini-essay in its own right.
“Crucify him!” shouted people crowding the courthouse as the prisoner arrived. Levi Weeks was on trial for the murder of Elma Sands, a young Quaker girl who lived in the same boardinghouse. She’d been strangled, her body dumped into a Manhattan well just before Christmas, 1799.
What will it take to fix a European Union troubled by heavy debts and internal friction? The story of the U.S., which celebrates its 235th year of independence on July 4, offers a parable that Europe’s leaders might find instructive.