The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    The American Dream

The American Dream: A Bibliographic Review

Lawrence R. Samuel

Adams described this path as the “American dream,” putting in play a phrase that would, over the following decades, come to heavily de ne our national identity and character. (Adams wanted to title the book The American Dream but was unfortunately talked out of it by his publisher.) “ e dream is a vision of a better, deeper, richer life for every individual, regardless of the position in society which he or she may occupy by the accident of birth,” he wrote in an article for the New York Times two years after his book was published, emphasizing that the nation was a meritocracy versus an aristoc- racy.1 Importantly, Adams made it clear that the dream (he did not capitalize the word) was much more than just making a greater amount of money. “It has been a dream of a chance to rise in the economic scale, but quite as much, or more than that, of a chance to develop our capacities to the full, unhampered by unjust restrictions of caste or custom,” he stated.2 e original de nition of the American Dream was thus rooted in the democratic principles of both the Founding Fathers and nineteenth-century transcendentalists such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman.

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