Is America a normal country? Or is it somehow fundamentally different from other polities? What accounts for its special status, for our American exceptionalism, as it is sometimes called? What are the roots of American political identity? Of American national identity? Have subsequent American developments fundamentally transformed the nature of the country, or is our destiny as a people working itself out in accord with our beginning? How have foreign observers thought about America, and what has it meant to them? The writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Orestes Brownson offer the starting points in our exploration of the continuities and changes to these and other historically charged questions.