From The Federalist:
Every nation holds some things sacred. America is often said to be a nation based on an idea. Indeed, it’s true that the United States was founded on principles of limited government and ordered liberty that remain with us today.
As important as those national ideas are, however, it is also true that America has become a distinct nation since the Revolutionary War. Just as the nations of the Old World did across the centuries, so to with time have we developed sacred things and places.
The process began with the people, as consensus developed on what would become America’s cherished objects. Artifacts of the early generations of colonists came first. In 1826, Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the reverence imbued to Plymouth Rock:
…[the rock had] become an object of veneration in the United States. I have seen bits of it carefully preserved in several towns of the Union. … Here is a stone which the feet of a few outcasts pressed for an instant, and this stone becomes famous; it is treasured by a great nation, its very dust is shared as a relic: and what is become of the gateways of a thousand palaces?
The Pilgrims themselves became elevated in popular imagination. Speaking in 1920, Vice President-elect Calvin Coolidge proclaimed:
Measured by the standards of men of their time, they were the humble of the earth. Measured by later accomplishments, they were the mighty. In appearance weak and persecuted they came — rejected, despised