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What Is an American According to Crévecoeur

According to Crévecoeur there are many things that distinguish an American from a European, as they are inhabitants of different continents, but there are many things in common, as they all are Europeans by origin, “they are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes” (Crévecoeur, 1912).

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The political regimes, the social structure, the way of making money are different, as America is a free, brand-new country with its traditions, though it possesses many features of Old Europe, and the author gives the description of what the European can see in America: “Here he sees the industry of his native country displayed in a new manner, and traces in their works the embryos of all the arts, sciences, and ingenuity which flourish in Europe” (Crévecoeur, 1912). Then the author explains the most obvious diversities between the social structures of the New World and the Old World, and these characteristic features also lie in religion, “Here are no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one; no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great refinements of luxury” (Crévecoeur, 1912).

Another distinctive feature is the standard of life, as Americans are believed to be equal or almost equal, but the gap between social layers is not so big as in Europe, “The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe” (Crévecoeur, 1912). The representatives of different religions and lifestyles are considered to live in peace and cooperation. And one of the features that unite the inhabitants of new lands is the labor, as everyone is free to work on his own land or to work for himself, as “We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and unrestrained because each person works for himself” (Crévecoeur, 1912). Though the way of life is very simple and all people live in “the clay-built hut and miserable cabin, where cattle and men help to keep each other warm and dwell in meanness, smoke, and indigence” (Crévecoeur, 1912); it helps not to divide people according to social status or income level.

The way of life in the former place, on the old continent, was absolutely different from the new life, as all people were oppressed by the authorities, religious mentors, and the existing regimes. And the author of the letter asks: “can that man call England or any other kingdom his country? A country that had no bread for him, whose fields procured him no harvest, who met with nothing but the frowns of the rich; the severity of the laws, with jails and punishments; who owned not a single foot of the extensive surface of this planet” (Crévecoeur, 1912).

The structure and lifestyle of the new lands presupposed the absence of crimes, division according to social status or wealth. “We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment. Here you will find but few crimes; these have acquired as yet no root among us” (Crévecoeur, 1912). And the most striking thing in the letter is that in spite of speaking favorably towards the equality of all new inhabitants, the author also speaks about the division according to the way of life, that some people should live near the sea and others in the woods as they are accustomed to such climate conditions.

References

Crévecoeur, Hector St. John De. Letters from an American Farmer. London: 1912.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'What Is an American According to Crévecoeur'. 19 November.

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