The American Dream describes an attitude of hope and faith that looks forward to the fulfilment of human wishes and desires. What these wishes are, were expressed in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence of 1776, where it was stated:.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This search for freedom and happiness actually goes back to the very beginning of American civilisation, to the time of the first settlers. The first settlers were all religious refugees who were driven to the New World by persecution. To these people, America represented a new life of freedom, holding a promise of spiritual and material happiness. For those settlers who were not so religiously inclined, America was still a fairyland, a land of great possibilities. And so the first thirteen colonies came into being, amidst the religious and materialistic hopes of the first settlers. Material prosperity and progress kept pace with religious and spiritual goals because the Puritans and the Quakers alike approved of industry and material advancement. For, whereas physical pleasures were evil, hard work and achievements were regarded as indications of inner goodness.
When the Eastern Seaboard, comprising the thirteen colonies, became overcrowded, the settlers began to move west. The opening of the Middle and Western States increased the sense of hope and faith. And this looking forward beyond the immediate present, this belief in the future, has become a national characteristic that may partly explain the speed of American advancement in so many areas of activities. The democratic system, first voiced in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence in 1776, may be traced to this basic attitude of hope and confidence.
The American Dream, however, originally relates to a desire for spiritual and material improvement.