“What Is an American?” is Crevecoeur’s account of life in America before the US Constitution was adopted. The piece provides a useful insight into the early mind of the American nationals.
In his account, Crevecoeur puts forward several ideas, including the fact that European settlers took refuge in America due to the miserable and unbearable life they had in Europe. In his words, Crevecoeur states that “my countrymen, who, when convulsed by factions, afflicted by a variety of miseries and wants, restless and impatient, took refuge here.” The author brings out the idea of the early societal setting in America and compares it to that of Europe. He states that “it is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess everything and a herd of people who have nothing. Here are no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings.” The author conveys the early American society as an ideal social setting where there was no discrimination; instead, there was equality for everyone. On the other hand, the author depicts the idea of inequality and oppression that existed in Europe, a situation that led to the oppressed leaving Europe in search of greener pastures. To articulate the idea of oppression and inequality experienced by the immigrants in Europe, he says, “What attachment can a poor European emigrant have for a country where he had nothing?”
Thus, the main ideas presented by the author include the excessive oppression and inequality witnessed by the European immigrants before moving to America. Further, the author brings out the idea of equality, respect, and harmony which was witnessed in the early American society into which the European immigrants were welcomed.