Research Paper on 'Letters from an American Farmer' by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur

1328 Words Dec 19th, 2012 6 Pages
The definition of what America is, and furthermore what an American is, has been eternally elusive. However, it can be reasonably said that the vision of America rests upon freedom of expression, the right to property, and self-determination. These ideas are explored in one European’s examination of American agricultural society in the late 18th century. Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur illustrates the gilded nature of the early vision of America; one that appears to be simplistic and based in freedom, but lies on a foundation of oppression and greed.
Crèvecœur was a native of France, who - at the age of 20 - immigrated to North America. After a short military career in Canada, Crèvecœur purchased land in
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The American farmer is his own landlord, and is content with a precedent of continual work, and limited governmental interference in his business. (Plotkin 392)

He goes on to state that the continual flow of immigrants into America will facilitate the eventual civilization of far western lands. In this onward march westward, “...industrious people...will change in a few years that barbarous country into a fine fertile, well-regulated district. Such is our progress, such is the march of the Europeans toward the interior parts of this continent.” (Crèvecœur 609) This early reference to manifest destiny puts on display, for the European reader, the sheer vastness and availability of land in the New World, as opposed to the marked lack of such available land in Europe. Crèvecœur also makes reference to the fact that the citizens of America cannot possibly draw from one single European culture, due to the diverse background of immigrants. This ‘melting-pot’ milieu of peoples is part of the foundation upon which Crèvecœur’s America, because it prevents monolithic identification with one European background. (Cunliffe 130)

Possibly the largest difference between European and American,
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