"In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue". The discovery of the New World, changed the economic and political landscape of the planet forever. Although many European Kingdoms would profit from this discovery, it would lead to their eventual destruction.
As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, European colonization of the New World began with a surge led by Spain at first, and quickly followed by England, France and the Dutch. Small colonies began springing up all over the New World...some languished and were lost...others slowly began to expand.
Although the Spanish were ruthlessly cruel in their initial conquest of the New World, in 1542 Charles V imposed new laws that prohibited slavery. This in part allowed for a relatively peaceful assimilation of the native peoples.
As the Reformation continued the English, Dutch, French, and Germans began flocking to the New World. They were leaving their native lands to escape religious persecution. The New World lured them with the promise of religious freedom, cheap land, and the promise that they could make a better life by their own hand.
"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" - Declaration of Independence.
An American does not just believe this to be so...they live it. The Declaration of Independence provides us with insight into why the Europeans of America found it necessary to cut their ties to the ancient European governmental structure.
An American believes that everyone has the right to do with their life as they please...to be responsible for the outcomes of their choices...to be allowed to take the risks and rewards that lead to their happiness. This is the basic definition of an American. It is the promise of America.
That is what an American Is.
Part III will expand on this definition.