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 originial 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
Abbe Raynal.–Guillaume-Thomas-Francois Raynal (1713-1796). The “Abbe Raynal” was a literary free-lance of inexhaustible vigor and fertility. He was a fierce controversialist, and, in his own strident way, a lover of liberty. His great reputation at the time of his death caused booksellers to publish various works under his name. Among the objects of his fiercest attacks were the Inquisition and European methods of colonization. Exiled from France, he took refuge successively at the Courts of Berlin and St. Petersburg, but returned to his native district during the Revolution. Some of his chief works were: “Histoire du divorce de Henri VIII. roi d’Angleterre, et de Catharine d’Aragon” (1763); “Histoire philosophique et politique des etablissements et du commerce des Europeens dans les deux Indes” (1770), and “Tableau et Revolution des colonies Anglaises de l’Amerique Septentrionale.”
Two maps, one of Nantucket and one of Martha’s Vineyard, appear in the original edition, which it has been thought well to omit.
Crevecoeur’s statements with regard to the life of the Charleston gentry should be received with caution. His sense for literary atmosphere led him to exaggerate, almost to caricature, elements in that life which were real enough, but not of quite such tropical color.
It is impossible to ascertain whether the Russian gentleman supposed to have written this letter had a real existence, or whether he was merely a part of Crevecoeur’s mystification; probably the latter.
James Duane (1733-1797); a prominent New York jurist, member of the Continental Congress, and first Mayor of New York under the city’s new charter derived from the State Legislature.
William Palfrey (1741-1780); aide of Washington, and Paymaster-General. In 1780 he was appointed Consul-General to France by a unanimous vote of Congress, by the ship on which he sailed was lost with all on board.
William Short (1759-1849); American charge d’affaires in France in 1789.
John Fitch (1743-1798); explorer and inventor. He patented a steamboat in 1791.
The letters given in Appendix I. were furnished with great kindness and courtesy by Professor Albert H. Smyth of Philadelphia, who intended to present them first in the elaborate edition of the works of Franklin, which he is preparing. Two Crevecoeur letters, pointed out by him, but not available, are to be found in the Duer Collection of the Pennsylvania Historical Society and in the Stevens Collection of Franklin papers in the Library of Congress (No. 875), respectively. Letters to Creve-
coeur can be found in Bigelow’s edition of Franklin, ix., 4, and 457 (relative to Crevecoeur’s plans with regard to oceanic packetboats, etc.), and in P. L. Ford’s edition of Jefferson, iv., 253 (relative to American paper money). For Washington’s letter dealing with Crevecoeur, see W. C. Ford’s edition of Washington, xi., 283.
An interesting detail given in Guyot de Fere’s article in the Nouville Biographie Generale should not be overlooked. The kindness shown by Crevecoeur to the five Americans, described in his letter of August 27, 1781, was returned to him with interest. Learning of the incident, a gentleman of Boston, by the name of Fellows, was so much affected by it that when later he heard that Crevecoeur’s wife was dead and his children in distress, the kind man hastened from Boston to New York to lend his aid. Vide, Journal de l’Empire, November 21, 1813, and Lair, Mem. de las Soc. d’ Agric. de Caen, 1823. See also Sabin’s Bibliotheca Americana for details as to the translations of the Letters, which include both a German and a Dutch version of 1784.