Crevecoeur, Hector St. John de. "What is an American?".
Moving to America
- every person's country, knows no strangers
- a refuge, an asylum for the poor and the oppressed of Europe
- "Where bread is, there is one's country."
- the refugees regenerate, become men, ripe to maturity, rank as citizens
- commit very few crimes
- the useless become useful, the poor become rich: not in gold, but in cleared lands, cattle, good clothes, etc.
Conditions in America
- praises the achievements in building of cities and cultivating of fields
- the rich and the poor not so far removed from each other as in Europe
- a people of cultivators where each works for himself
- democratic government: laws ratified and confirmed by the crown to protect the citizens
- religious freedom (William Penn and the Quakers)
- whatever talents or inclinations the person has, he may satisfy them
- in all societies there are outcasts
- esp. near the frontier, beyond the reach of government, remote from the power of good example
- destructive effects of the howling wilderness
- the outcasts are worse than the Indians, degenerated into the hunting state
- mentions some nationalities more inclined to fail than the others (e.g. the quarrelsome and drinking Irishmen)
- optimistic vision for the future: prosperity will polish some, law will drive off the rest
People of America
- the most perfect society now existing
- a mixture of English, Scottish, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes
- all of them create the race now called Americans
- introduces the notion of melting
- only eastern provinces consist of unmixed Englishmen
- also mixture of religious sects
What is an American
- new environment makes a new man
- absence of aristocracy, of lords and tenants, working for oneself => self-interest
- new man: acts upon new principles, new ideas, new opinions
- a person becomes an American by being received in this great Alma Mater
- Americans were once scattered all over Europe, now incorporated into one the finest systems of population
- requirements for an American: peaceable subject; sober, honest, and industrious
AuthorCrevecoeur, Hector St. John de. (1735 - 1813).
Full Title"What is an American?".
First PublishedIn: Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America. London: 1782.
Crevecoeur, Hector St. John de. "What is an American?". Letters from an American Farmer. (1782). In: The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al. NY: Norton, 1989.