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.
Formatted and linked to xroads: Eric J. Gislason 2/6/96
LETTERS TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN FROM MME. DE HOUDETOT AND CREVECOEUR, REPRINTED FROM ORIGINALS IN THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY AT PHILA- DELPHIA.
From the Countess d’ Houdetot.
[Translated from the French original.]I was given to hope in the Spring, my dear doctor, that I should see you some day at Sanois, at the place where I preserve at least a memory of the moments that you were pleased to pass there, and where with tender interest I still cultivate the monument which you left of your stay. The losses which I have experienced and the circumstances in which I was placed, have not allowed me this year to express to you in person my anxiety to see you in my home, and to cultivate the good opinion that you were kind enough to bestow upon me. May I, my dear doctor, make use of it now, in regard to a young American who has just arrived and who should have been presented and recommended to you before? He is a French man
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man by birth, but for a long time has been established in your country, under the protection of your laws, to which he is faithful. He has come here to see his family after having lost the greater part of his possessions through the present war. His name is Crevecoeur, and he is the son of a friend, of more than twenty years’ standing, of my husband and myself. I beg of you for him all the kindness and care that are in your power and that circumstances permit. All that I can add, my dear doctor, to the sentiments of attachment and veneration with which you have inspired me is the regret not to be able to assure you of their continuance as warmly as I should like. It is with these sentiments, my dear doctor, that I have the honor to remain, during all my life, your very humble and very obedient servant. August 10, 1781 . Kindly address your reply: Rue St. Honore pres la place de Vendome.
Caen 27th Augt. 1781.
Chance Enabled me the other day to take 5 Americans by ye hand who had fortunately escaped from ye English prisons & Crossed the Channell,–Luckily for me as well as for them I was
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I was Just arrived from N. America: where I have resided 27 years–I brought them to my father’s Seat, who Tells me that he had Several Times the pleasure of dining with you at the Count de Houdetot’s–the Capt. of ye boat readily put them under my Care, thence I brought them here, and presented them to ye Count de Blanchy the Commandant of this Province, who received them with Kindness and left them under my Care–they gave their declarations before the admiralty, & were duly acknowledg’d to be Americans–as they are genteel discreet men from the Massachusets I have placed them in a good House and procured them the Hospitality of the City–all went on well when I heard that their boat belonged of right to the Duke of Ponthievre–In consequence of this Information I visited the Intendent’s, who Told me that if I wrote a petition in their name to the admiral, he would Inclose it in a Letter of his & recommend the contents; this I have done & thought it my duty to send you a Copy of ye Same, that you may if necessary unite your good Endeavours in order to procure to the 5 brave men the Slender Plank on which they have reached this shore–however, as it is uncertain, whether or no the Ravens of office will not Swallow all-I have procured them all they want–one of
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the Company Luckily heard Yesterday that his brother was the Second in Command on board the black Princess–him I have sent off by the Post, with a Sufficient Passeport–the other intend for L’orient as soon as they have heard from you–that space of Time they shall pass at my Father’s house- The adventure of these Men as well as that of many more who have Landed here, hath Suggested me an Idea which I beg to Com- municate–Policy as well as humanity points out the Necessity of appointing in these Ports some Persons who shou’d have proper authority to claim protect and befriend all such Americans as shoud Land on this Coast–by those simple Means those people woud find protection everywhere & not be exposed as many of them are to be treated as English prisoners, which Treatment Tends to Nourish prejudices, that ought to be extinguished–if from the Information you might receive of me from the Count de Houdetot you thought me capable of discharging this office I’d readily accept of it without either fee or Reward, glad on the contrary as a good Frenchman and as a good American to contribute my Mite towards the Success of this grand this usefull revolution-Excuse this Letter it is Zeal and the purest Zeal which hath dictated it; with so much the more confidence
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confidence that tho’ I have not the pleasure of being acquainted with you, yet I well know Mr. John Jay now in Spaign, Mr Governor Morris, Mr. Duwane5 &c. & all the New York delegates–I hope the representations these 5 Americans have made you will be Successfull, for they are worthy of your patronage. I hope also that you will approve my conduct and Intentions.
I Remain with the most unfeigned Respect
Your very Humble Servant
At Mr Le Mozier Merchd Rue St. Jean-
Caen, Sept. 26, 1781.
Yes Sir I am the Same Person whom Madame La Comtesse de Houdetot has been so kind as to mention to you,–the Reason of this mistake proceeds from the Singularity of ye french Customs, which renders their Names, allmost arbitrary, & often leads them to forget their Family ones; it is in Consequence of this, that there are more alias dictios in this than in any other Country in Europe. the name of our Family is St. Jean, in English St. John, a name as Antient as the Conquest of England by Wm the Bastard.- I am
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I am so great a Stranger to the manners of this, tho’ my native Country (having quitted it very young) that I never dreamt I had any other, than the old family name–I was greatly astonished when at my late return, I saw myself under the Necessity of being Called by that of Crevecoeur,–Excuse this Tedious explanation, which I hope you will not think Improper, as I have run the risk of either remaining unknown to you, or of Loosing the good effects which were Intended by Madame la Comtesse de Houdetot in mentioning me to you–I don’t mean to be Troublesome, very far from it, I am much more ambitious of ye Honor of your Esteem than of any thing else; I flatter myself with being able to Cultivate that of your acquaintance this Winter–being invited to spend [letter torn] Le Marquis de Turgot’s house brother to ye Late Comptrolleur general–the Intendant of the City has thought proper to write to ye Insignificant admiralty of Bayuex, in consequence of which I have been put in posession of ye wherry in which the 5 americans Came over; this has prevented the Intendant from Sending to ye admiral the Memorial, a copy of which I had taken the Liberty to send you. No Sooner had I received the wherry than I offered it to ye Intendant who accepted of it–as soon as he make me
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me some pecuniary Present, which I expect, I have informed my friends at Lorient to draw on me for the Sum granted whatever it will be –I have not Seen the Intendant yet- Poor Colol: Palfry6 I am Sincerely sorry for him; after having served his Country in the field, he wou’d have greatly have Served her here also, where such an Establishment is so Necessary–I earnestly wish them another equally capable may succeed him–the English Language being Common to both the Americans as well as to the Inhabitants of Great Britain the former become often Exposed to be Treated as Ennemies Instead of being taken by the hand & received as Friends-
I thank you very kindly for your reccomendations, I make no doubt of their Weight
I have the honor to be with unfeigned Respect Sir
Your Very Humble Servant
St. John De Crevecoeur
Chez Mr Le Mozier Marchd Rue St Jean Caen-
[Translated from the French original.]
The gentleman who recommended himself,my dear doctor, as coming from me, and under the name of St. John, is the one of whom I had the honor of speaking to you under the name of Crevecoeur
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Crevecoeur which is borne by his father, whose friend I have been for twenty years. As the son has not been living in this country I have no personal knowledge of him, but I have always heard him well spoken of by his father, and it is for his sake, my dear doctor, that I claim your kindness for his son. I know that he is very much attached to the United States and that no one has felt more than he the calamities attendant upon the present war. I therefore beg of you, my dear doctor, to do everything for him that your affairs permit. I have been unwell for several days and could not answer your letter sooner. I hope, my dear doctor, that Winter will enable me to see you again. In the mean time, give me a little place in your remembrance, and be well assured of all the sentiments of attachment, of esteem, and of veneration, with which I have the honor to be, my dear doctor, your very humble and very obedient servant.
(Signed) La Comtesse d’Houdetot.
Sanois, Oct. 30, 1781.
Caen 5th Decr 1781
The news of the great victory lately gained in Virginia by that wise & excellent man General
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General Washington, must necessarily convulse with joy the hearts of every loyal American as well as those of every good Frenchman. I who enjoy the Privileges of this double citizenship have thought it my duty to congratulate, on this memorable event the representatif of the former Society–a Society to which I have belonged 27 years, receive then, I pray, with your usual kindness, my most sincere congratu- lations on this memorable event which I would fain hope, must place the keystone to the strong arch of our American Independency and give peace to the world.
I am with the highest esteem & the most unfeigned Respect Sir
Your very humble servant
St Jean de Crevecoeur.
P.S.–The Americans who escaped from England last summer are happily embark’d at Nantes for Newberry in the State of Massa chusetts.
[Translated from the French original.]
The Countess d’Houdetot who has the honor of sending a thousand tender compliments to M. Franklin begs of him kindly to cause this package to be sent to America. It belongs
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belongs to M. St. John de Crevecoeur to whom he has already rendered this service for her sake. M. de St. John is likewise anxious to know whether M. Franklin has received and accepted a book on the troubles and misfortunes of America which he had the honor of sending him.* Madame de Houdetot hopes that M. Franklin’s health is good. She begs him to accept the assurance of her tender attachment. M. St. John de Crevecoeur’s address is care of M. de Lile, lieutenant-general of Baillage [Sic] at Caen.
Sanois+, Oct. 18, 1782.
I have been Wittness whilst I was in America of a Circumstance which I think, it Imports Your Excellency to Know; my Good In- tention will I hope, apologyse for the Liberty I am taking, if your Excellency is acquainted With it; if unknown, it is Certainly my duty as a good Cytysen of that Country to Inform you of what Follows- In the year I775 Samuel Bayard Junior deputy
*That is, the volume here reprinted.
+The chateau which Mme d’Houdetot owned at Sanois was destroyed; but the house which she occupied at Eaubonne exists unchanged. The grove, the water-fall, even the acacia of which Rousseau speaks may still be seen . . .–Note of M. Musset-Pattay. Vide the “Confessions,” pt. ii. bk. ix.
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deputy Secretary of the then Province of New York, was ordered by ye Convention to the house of Nicholas Bayard a Mile out of Town, in order to Watch over the records of the Province, then under the Guard of a Capt. & 30 Men; Some time after, they were Transported to Kingston on the North River, Vulgarily Called Eusopus; under the Guard of the Same Person, & the Same Military Party; 18 Months after the said Samuel Bayard, Contrary to ye oath he had Taken to ye Convention, found Means of Sending that part of those Records which Contained the Grant of Lands &ca to Govr Tryon then on board the Dutchess of Gordon; Since that, they have been Conveyed to the Tower of London, where they now are; those papers, fortunately become useless to G. Britain, at the return of the Peace, must be of the Greatest Consequence to that State, because, as you well Know, they Contain not only the Title of Lands but the Copy of Wills &c. I cannot Terminate this Letter Without taking the Liberty of Congratulating your Excellency, not only as a Man, an European, a Gaul, but as an American Cytisen, on the happy, thrice happy revolution, which you have began Conducted & Terminated With So much Wisdom; hence forth Will begin a New Era in the annals of Mankind, far more Interesting than those
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those absurd revolutions which have hitherto Stained the Earth With Blood Without meliorating it; May Nature Extend your days to the utmost Verge, to the End you may See ye Misfortunes of War repaired the Energy of this new people, the Wisdom of their Laws, the Industry of those New States admired & respected by all nations.–Permit me to add that I am the Person who under the Name of St. Jean de Crevecoeur had the honor of dining With your Excellency Last March, With ye Comtesse de Houdetot & who last July Sent you, by the hands of Mr. Turgot a book Intitled, Letters of An American Farmer.-
I am With the most unfeigned Respect
Most obedient Humble Servant
H. St. John.
Chez Mr. Le Marquis de Blangy Lieut-General Caen-Normandie
[Translated from the French original.]
M. de Crevecoeur is very anxious, my dear doctor, for an answer which he expects from you in regard to the matter of which he spoke to
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to you recently. As he is obliged to give an account of it to M. de Castries, it is very important that he should receive this answer, and he thought that I might help to hasten it. The esteem in which I hold him and the extreme interest which I have in him will not permit me to refuse, knowing very well the embarrassment into which your failure to reply would put him with M. de Castries, with whom he has an interview on Friday not only in regard to that matter but to others of importance to him. I still hope, my dear doctor, to have the pleasure of seeing you at 8 o’clock on Thursday. You know how great a value I place on this meeting.
La Ctesse d’ Houdetot.
Will you kindly send me by the porter a muff which I left at your house?
Wednesday, April 2, 1783.
Caen 1St July 1786
I Embrace with Great Pleasure the Favourable opportunity of Mr Dejean’s Return to Philadelphia, in order to present my Respects to Your Excellency:–the Good Marquis dela Fayette and I, we had conceived Strong Hopes of seeing him appointed Agent for Georgia from whence it was Probable the Minister wou’d
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wou’d draw annually a large quantity of Life Oak–but the Northern Contractors have been too Successfull, and have destroyed all Mr Dejean Expectation; he is the bearer of a Letter from the Good Comtesse de Houdetot, who has warmly Interested herself in his behalf; I hope the Situation of his affairs & your Excellency’s Influence will Enable him to Return, & dwell once more in his house at Detroit in Peace & Security.
I have the Honor of being with the Highest Consideration and Respect
Most obedient humble servant
St. John de Crevecoeur.
I forgot the other day To Inquire of you when I cou’d procure Two of your Medals which I have Imprudentely promised in Nor- mandy–after Fruitless-Inquiry, I find myself obliged to ask you that Question being anxious To procure them ere I leave the Capitol which will be on Saturday-
I am with unfeigned Respect
Sir Your Very Humble Servt
St. Jean de Crevecoeur.
Paris, Tuesday Night-
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The Marquis de Cartier shew’d me Yesterday the Model of y’ Edict which he proposes obtaining for the Establishment of the 5 Pacquet boats–I desired him to Send it to you, Ere he has presented it, which he will shortly do, I beg you’d Read it attentively & send him back all your observations thereon,-Woud you be Kind Enough to Inform the Comtesse de Houdetot, in what part of the Town that big Wire is to be had, that She may place a second Electrical Rod.
I am with Respect
Your Very Humble Servt.
New York, I787.
Having lately cross’d the Ocean with the commodore Paul Jones, I embrace the opportunity of his going to Philadelphia to transmit your Excellency a Bundle which Mr. Short7 gave me, a Letter from the good Comtesse de Houdetot, & the Second Edition of the American Farmer’s Letters, with the addition of a 3d Volume, which please to accept as a well
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well meant Testimony, of the Veneration & unfeign’d Respect of the author, as well as of the Man.–Let me beg that whenever your Excel- lency shall think fit to Send an answer to the good Comtesse’s Letter it may be conveyed to me, that I may forward it in the safest manner.
I am with the most sincere Respect and Esteem
Your Excellency’s, Most obedient humble Servant
St. John de Crevecoeur.
New York the 30th JanY I788
Having accidentally become acquainted with a Mr. Fitch8 from your City, whose curious experiment on the Delaware I had much heard of; I ask’d him a great many questions concerning his new method of applying the power of Steam, to which he answer’d with much dif- fidence & modesty, and communicated to me several Certificates from several of the most respectable persons in Philadelphia, a Copy of one of which I hereby transmit you. Anxious to know how far you think it may be rendered useful for inland Navigation, I take the liberty of asking your opinion concerning this new Invention of which I make no doubt you
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you have often heard. Embracing this opportunity of recalling myself to your memory give me leave to present you with the assurances of my unfeigned respect.
Most Obedient humble Servant
St. Tohn. New Yorke 12th March 1788
I duely Received the Letter you honored me with Some Time before the Packet Sailed, With one Inclosed for our mutual & very Respectable Friend the Comtesse de Houdetot, which I forwarded along with mine, by a Passenger who was bound to Paris; this Vessel Sailed 24 days ago;–I am much obliged to you for your opinion concerning the Steamboat, & am in great hopes that the Encour- agement, which it is Likely Mr. Fitch will obtain from Congress will enable him to cheapen, Simplify & render his Machine Still more use- ful–Like all other Inventions, it will no doubt give his author a great deal of Trouble & anxiety ere he has brought it to its last degree of Perfection–I wish most Sincerely that he may Succeed, & then will he be, most Justly Intitled to the Thanks & applause of both America & Europe-
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I Recv’d yesterday your Letter of the 10th Instant containing Two Packets, which will be forwarded on Sunday, by a vessel bound to Morlaix no Letters for the Gentm you mention have Reach’d my hands � if any ever should rest assured that I shall Transmit them To you by Some Safe hands–whenever you have any for your Friends in Paris, I beg you’d Freely Send them to me. I shall Take the Same Care of them as I do of my own–With the Most unfeigned esteem Veneration & Respect, I am Your very Humble Servt.
St. John de Crevecoeur.9