THE NATION: What Is an American?

Two thousand years ago, when Western civilization was bounded by the laws and legions of the Roman Empire, the proudest words a man could utter were: "I am a citizen of Rome." A century ago, when the world was girdled by the British Empire, the Englishman's voice sounded from the earth's far corners: "I am a British subject." Now, in the middle of the 20th Century, the most arresting tones of history said something else: "I am an American."

What did the phrase mean? The U.S. citizen would vociferously deny that he was the subject of any government—even in name....

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