How does Crevecoeur describe "Americannes" in Letters from an American Farmer?

"What then is the American," pondered the French-born farmer Crevecouer in 1782. Unlike his contemporary Benjamin Franklin, who saw the American as a more modern breed of Englishman, Crevecouer saw the American as a mixed breed of Europe's bold and cast-off. His is one of the prototypical "melting pot" conceptions of America, and he knew its diversity gave it a social cohesion, vitality, and prosperity that distinguished it from old Europe. Yet he also possesses Romantic dread of wild nature.

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To the French immigrant Crevecoeur, Americans were "the poor of Europe,” defined by their mongrel nature and not by their Englishness. He saw America as a “great asylum,” meaning a welcoming refuge where former landless Europeans could own property and be secure in their liberty to be free agents of their own prosperity. Crevecouer himself changed his name to the more Anglo-sounding Hector St. John because he understood the potential America offered individuals to reinvent themselves anew according to their own self-image.

Unlike the European, who is bound up by old affiliations with religion or clan or country, Crevecoeur’s American can embrace certain associations while still remaining “allied to all.” Crevecoeur marveled at an American family "whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations," observing that "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men."

Yet he was not so idealistic that his encounters with enslaved people and the inhuman conditions of their bondage didn’t challenge his views of liberty and self-determination. There was also for Crevecoeur another dark side to the Americans: connections to the land they own and work itself. Those same agrarian values and the developing American identity were being challenged by some force of encroaching “wilderness” close to home. When he says, "As long as we keep ourselves busy in tilling the earth, there is no fear of any of us becoming wild,” he reflects the unique anxiety of the American who must confront both wild nature and their own selves without the structure and support of established civilization.

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