What is an American?
Early American writers have made long-lasting contributions to developing and explaining American beliefs, values, and culture. St. John de Crevecoeur's "What is an American" sets out to describe what makes an American an American. Through the analysis of American government, beliefs, culture, and values Crevecoeur explains to the world what an American encompasses. Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur was born on December 31, 1735 in Caen, Normandy. At the age of nineteen, Crevecoeur traveled to England to live with relatives. In England, Crevecoeur planned on marriage however his bride to be died prior to their ceremony. In 1755, Crevecoeur immigrated to Canada and enlisted in the French colonial Militia as a surveyor and cartographer during the French and Indian War. Following the defeat of the French Army by British forces in 1759, Crevecoeur moved to the Province of New York and obtained American citizenship. In New York, Crevecoeur adopted the English-American name of John Hector St. John and would eventually further adjust his name to St. John de Crevecoeur. From 1759 to 1769, Crevecoeur traveled throughout the American colonies as a "surveyeyor and trader with American Indians." (Crevecoeur 657) Soon after Crevecoeur's marriage to Mehitable Tippet, an American woman in 1770, he bought a large farm in Orange County, New York. Crevecoeur flourished as an American farmer on his Orange County farm, Pine Hill, and began to write literature describing life in the American colonies, the emergence of an American society, and answering the question; what is an American? At the onset of the American Revolution in 1780, Crevecoeur decided to return to France to tend to his father and to reclaim the ownership of his family's lands. During his departure to France from the Port of New York, Crevecoeur was charged on allegations of being an American spy. Soon after his brief imprisonment, Crevecoeur finally returned to France and remained there for three years until he returned to America as a French consul. (Wilson) Upon his return to America, Crevecoeur learned that "his farm had been burned to the ground, his wife was dead, and his children where housed with strangers." (Crevecoeur 657) Crevecoeur continued working as a diplomat for 2 years, enjoying great success and being named an honorary citizen in many early American cities. St. Johnsbury, Vermont was named in honor of name. (Wilson) In 1785, Crevecoeur returned to France and remained there for the rest of his life. During the beginnings of the French Revolution in 1789, Crevecoeur attempted to gain passage to America however his request was denied by the American Ambassador. On November 12, 1813, Crevecoeur died in Sarcelles, France at his daughter home. ("Jean de Crevecoeur") During Crevecoeur's stay at his farm, Pine Hill, in Orange County, New York, he wrote several essays describing life in the American colonies, the emergence of an American society, and answered the question; what is an American? In 1782, Letters from an American Farmer was first published using his previously written essays. A two-volume version of Letters for an American Farmer was published in 1784, expanded and rewritten in French. ("Jean de Crevecoeur") During this time with the end of the American Revolution, Europeans loathed for more information about the successful American colonies and the type of people who defeated the British. ("Letters from an American Farmer")The Europeans asked the question; who were the Americans? Crevecoeur's Letters of an American Farmer gave these information seeking Europeans an opportunity to view life as an American and the opportunities America offered. Letters of an American Farmer became widely popular due to the events coinciding its release and the interesting subject material that Crevecoeur eloquently described.
Crevecoeur poses the question; what is an American, in letter III from Letters of an American Farmer. Through this...
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