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What Is an American - Essay Example

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In his 1782 letter, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur distinguishes between Americans and Europeans. The American has arrived in a new place and has created good roads, orchards, and bridges in a land which was formerly wild and uncultivated…
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What Is an American
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"What Is an American"

These Americans find themselves in a new land and in a modern society which offers endless possibilities very much detached from feudal lords. They are also away from aristocratic families, from the courts, kings, and bishops. As a result, they are not controlled by the clergy; and no power is owed to the kings and courts and there are no luxurious refinements apparent. The Americans in effect are away from the glamour of the courts, and except for a few towns in the Americas, they are all tillers of the earth. They cultivate and are sparsely distributed across vast tracks of land, only communicating with each other through roads and rivers. Despite their distance from each other, they are united by the loose bands of their permissive government as they respect their laws without the significant imposition of power. In the end, they live equitable lives as they live their lives full of spirit unbound by aristocratic rules. Each person, in the end, looks after himself. The travelling American would traverse the rural districts and not see castles and mansions, but gaze through clay-built huts and wooden cabins where both people and cattle keep warm. In these rural districts they dwell in harsh conditions, in smoke, and in extreme poverty. In these conditions however, competence shines through and these conditions offer what are necessary in these lands – dry and comfortable abodes. ...
Americans are also a mixture of races and nations as they are English, Scots, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, Asians, and Swedes. The eastern areas of the Americas are pure English descendants and they often wish that they were more intermixed with other races and nations. These people also manifest prominence in the American culture and image and they contribute pleasing qualities to the original thirteen provinces. They are much respected for their contributions to American society because they display wisdom in settling in their territories, and they portray decency of manners, the fondness for letters, for education, and for their industry. According to de Crevecoeur, the American has a favorable work ethic in relation to the common good of all people, especially the poor. The poor in America has gained the reputation of being hardworking people, people who have taken on various trials, rising from the ashes and gaining prominence in the Americas. In Europe, these were the same poor subjects and they started as such in America, but now they have somehow found a way to provide for themselves. The American is in other words the person leaving behind all his original prejudices and attitudes, taking on new ones from the new life he has now gained. The American now feels no attachment to the European country where he has borne much hardship and disregard. The love of the English language has been the only thing which has led to an attachment to his home country. Beyond that, what he considers his country is now the one which gives him lands, protection, and food. The American is therefore a European or a descendant of a European; he is a mixture of other races and bloods and this is a unique quality for any Read More
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