Against all odds, 18th-century Americans declared independence, imagined themselves a unified nation, and launched a bold and radical experiment. They would create a new form of government—without a king and without a hereditary aristocracy. Instead, they put their faith and hope in people of merely common birth. Against the skepticism of the Old World, they embraced the belief that the ordinary farmers, tradesmen, and merchants of their day had the “common sense” needed to form their own government and shape their own society.
In this new nation, the people would be the ultimate source of authority. Thus began the extraordinary American struggle to form a more perfect union based on the promise of democracy.
We invite you to join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as we share the stories of American democracy that have followed over more than 200 years, with millions of people from across the country and around the world.
Writing desk used by Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence