Crevecoeur, Hector St John de. (1735 - 1813).
L i f e
- introduced the psychosocial phenomenon of the American identity: ‘What then is the American, this new man?’
- himself an amalgam of identities: served as a commander of the French army under General Montcalm in Canada x but: adopted physically and philosophically the role of ‘a simple American farmer’
- despite his attempts to remain neutral suspected by both sides during the Revolution
W o r k
Letters from an American Farmer (1782):
- a series of epistolary essays, published in London
- sentimental on the values of agricultural life, rather mythical than real
=> lured many people into the frontier conditions
Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America:
- the 2nd series, unpublished x but: rediscovered
- shows also rural hardship and the ordinary tasks of agricultural life
“What is an American”:
- an essay investigating the American character
- an American = a sober, honest, and industrious new man
- a motivating force is self-interest x B. Franklin
- introduced the idea of American as a ‘melting point’
- claims the motto of American settlers is "ubi panis ibi patria" ("where there is bread, there is my country")
- concludes with a case study of a single immigrant’s history as an answer to the central question: could have appended his own biography of a versatile, pragmatic, self-reliant, and self-inventive man of multiple loyalties
- the question remains still intriguing
"Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow".
From Letters from an American Farmer (1782).
(Crevecoeur in 1784. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorBorn Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur in France. Naturalized John Hector St John in America. (1735 - 1813). French-American.
WorkProse writer. Author of "What is an American"?
GenreEssays. Instructive writing.
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