Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Carolyn Eastman

Second Advisor

Dr. Brooke Newman

Third Advisor

Dr. Adam Ewing


This thesis explores American exceptionalism through the lens of American newspapers during the Revolutionary era. As American newspapers covered the revolutions in France, Haiti, and Latin America, unique narratives developed around controversial leaders like Thomas Paine, Toussaint Louverture, and Simón Bolívar. Although at first newspapers covered the events in France and Latin America with glee, their coverage gradually began to change over time, increasingly finding flaws large and small in revolutions other than their own—chaos and violence in France and Haiti, and failures in the realization of republicanism in Latin America. If Americans initially believed their revolution was responsible for the Revolutionary era, newspapers increasingly touted the success of the American Revolution and the failures of other revolutions. A feeling of superiority began to develop in the United States regarding its own revolution, which created a powerful sense of American exceptionalism. American newspapers, this thesis shows, sought to downplay the success of subsequent movements by casting doubt on the success of the movements overall. Over the course of the Revolutionary era, American newspapers reinforced American patriotic values by creating narratives that justified a sense of American superiority based on a contrast of the American Revolution with the other revolutions in the Atlantic world during the early republic.


© Benjamin R. Smith

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission