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Erik Johnson
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The wiki (, via Google) comes up with this quote: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty . . is finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People." - George Washington which is definitely a reference by a Founding Father to America as an experiment. However, the oldest I've been able to trace the _exact_ phrase "grand experiment" is the 1978 book by Graff & Bohannan:
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Jan 27, 2012