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

Words: 1320
Pages: 6

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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In a single community, there can be members of several different sects of Christianity. In this community, a Catholic could interact with a Lutheran in entirely peaceable terms, something that was nigh impossible in Europe.

Crèvecœur contends that while this peaceful mix of religious sects within a community does foster tranquility among citizens, he also says that this mix will eventually dilute religious identity, much like national identity. As generations of Americans pass, they will intermingle religiously, and religious zeal will soon disappear, and religious persecution with it. (611)

The letters following What is an American illustrate the slow breakdown of Crèvecœur’s agrarian utopia into a land marked by oppression and strife. His encounters with slavery leave him questioning the contradictory republican ideals of freedom of expression and right to self-determination with the existence of slavery.

The most shocking and afflicting experience Crèvecœur had was with a slave, in a cage suspended from a tree branch, left in the sun to die. His eyes had been pecked out by birds of prey, and whose condition is such that Crèvecœur would have shot him to end his pain, had he a bullet.

The gaping maw that lies between the wealth of the planters and the slaves interferes with Crèvecœur’s egalitarian examination of American agricultural society. In Letter IX. Description of Charles-Town; Thoughts