Letters From an American Farmer
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur
Text: Letters From An American Farmer, by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, reprinted from the original ed., with a prefatory note by W. P. Trent and an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.
Original Scan: Eric J. Gislason 2/6/96
Formatted and linked to xroads: Eric J. Gislason 2/6/96
[To the first edition, 1782.]
The following Letters are the genuine production of the American Farmer whose name they bear. They were privately written to gratify the curiosity of a friend; and are made public, because they contain much authentic information, little known on this side the Atlantic: they cannot therefore fail of being highly interesting to the people of England, at a time when everybody’s attention is directed toward the affairs of America.
That these letters are the actual result of a private correspondence, may fairly be inferred (exclusive of other evidence) from the stile and manner in which they are conceived; for though plain and familiar, and sometimes animated, they are by no means exempt from such inaccuracies as must unavoidably occur in the rapid effusions of a confessedly inexperienced writer. Our
Our Farmer had long been an eye-witness of transactions that have deformed the face of America: he is one of those who dreaded, and has severely felt, the desolating consequences of a rupture between the parent state and her colonies: for he has been driven from a situation, the enjoyment of which, the reader will find pathetically described in the early letters of this volume. The unhappy contest, is at length however, drawing toward a period; and it is now only left us to hope, that the obvious interests and mutual wants of both countries, may in due time, and in spite of all obstacles, happily re-unite them.
Should our Farmer’s letters be found to afford matter of useful entertainment to an intelligent and candid publick, a second volume, equally interesting with those now published, may soon be expected.
TO THE ABBE RAYNAL, F. R. S.
Behold, Sir, an humble American Planter, a simple cultivator of the earth, addressing you from the farther side of the Atlantic; and presuming to fix your name at the head of his trifling lucubrations. I wish they were worthy of so great an honour. Yet why should not I be permitted to disclose those sentiments which I have so often felt from my heart? A few years since, I met accidentally with your Political and Philosophical History, and perused it with infinite pleasure. For the first time in my life I reflected on the relative state of nations; I traced the extended ramifications of a commerce which ought to unite,
unite, but now convulses the world; I admired that universal benevolence, that diffusive goodwill, which is not confined to the narrow limits of your own country; but on the contrary, extends to the whole human race. As an eloquent and powerful advocate, you have pleaded the cause of humanity in espousing that of the poor Africans: you viewed these provinces of North American in their true light, as the asylum of freedom; as the cradle of future nations, and the refuge of distressed Europeans. Why then should I refrain from loving and respecting a man whose writings I so much admire? These two sentiments are inseparable, at least in my breast. I conceived your genius to be present at the head of my study: under its invisible but powerful guidance, I prosecuted my small labours: and now, permit me to sanctify them under the auspices of your name. Let the sincerity of the motives which urge me, prevent you from thinking that this well meant address contains aught but the purest tribute of reverence and affection. There is, no doubt, a secret communion among good men throughout the world; a mental affinity connecting them by a similitude of sentiments: then why, though an American, should not I be permitted to share in that extensive intellectual consanguinity? Yes, I do: and though the name of a man who possesses
possesses neither titles nor places, who never rose above the humble rank of farmer, may appear insignificant; yet, as the sentiments I have expressed, are also the eccho of those of my countrymen; on their behalf, as well as on my own, give me leave to subscribe myself,
Your very sincere admirer,
J. HECTOR ST. JOHN.