Pride is not simply an American trait but is rather a human emotion, and as such it can be for good or ill. There is a saying that "pride goeth before a fall," for pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Pride can also be justified, however, but only if it is not excessive. It need not lead to one's downfall but can instead be evidence of accomplishment. In the American character, the emotion of pride derives from the combination of the success in creating what has been perceived as being a new and free nation and the exuberance that this success engenders. At the same time, there has been a tension between pride and the religious strictures against that emotion, beginning in the Calvinist era and continuing as a strain in the Protestant ethic that has been a key theme in American life ever since. In fact, this tension is evident in the works of different writers from different historical periods.
Benjamin Franklin represents the colonial era as an icon, one of the Founding Fathers whose intellect and many accomplishments certainly gave him a reason for feeling pride. In the colonial era, though, personal pride would be avoided, while pride in the nation-state that was being developed would be another matter. The Founding Fathers asserted their pride in the institutions they were creating in terms of how well they themselves were able to base those institutions on basic human freedoms given by God.
The fact is that the institutions they had created