J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur

We discussed Anne Bradstreet yesterday and the argument that there are two main voices that she employs in her writing. I was struck with a similar feeling regarding Crevecoeur. On page 314 he seems to turn in his praise, “He who wish to see America in its true proper light, and have a true idea of its feeble beginnings and barbarous rudiments, must visit our extended line of frontiers where the last settlers dwell.” He wrote of America as a country with “so many charms” that it “presents to Europeans so many temptations to remain in it,” and that a European “involuntarily loves a country where everything is so lovely” (319). The use of words like “charms,” “temptations”, and “involuntarily” caused me to question Crevecoeur’s real goal in writing about his experience of “America.” On the one hand, he seems to see the merit and good intentions of the idea of America, but I am not convinced that he agreed with what America truly was (to him), or perhaps what it was morphing into. Despite his (in my opinion) criticisms, he too was an American farmer, and his thoughts on what America represents, “We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and unrestrained, because each person works for himself,” do not seem limited to his time only (311). However, even in that sentence I wonder whether he agrees with “unrestrained” industry (unrestrained freedom?)?

What about his ideas of “America” still ring true today? Does he have an opinion of what a “proper” America should be? Does he give any warnings in this particular essay?

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One Response to J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur

  1. elliejo44 says:

    I think that several of St. John de Crevecoeur’s ideas about America still ring true. His description of industry as “unfettered and unrestrained” and his observation that “each person works for himself” is, to me, a description of capitalism and industry free from government influence. Although there is widespread disagreement on the subject of government influence in industry, many Americans argue that an “unrestrained” economy and the person working to better themselves as quintessentially American characteristics.
    St. John de Crevecoeur also describes the mixing of individuals of several different backgrounds to form a new American people: “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men…” (313). This essentially describes the American “melting pot” which has become an American symbol of diverse backgrounds which form a new American identity. St. John de Crevecoeur discusses at length friendships and marriages formed between individuals of different backgrounds and religions- painting the interactions of people from diverse backgrounds as essentially American. His discussion of these interactions, however, only extends to white European interactions- nothing in his writing suggests that Native Americans or African Americans are privy to these interactions.
    It’s interesting to me that several of the ideals that hold as quintessentially American were identified and described so early in our history.

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