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Letters from an American Farmer by Hector St. John de Crevecoeur

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Hazlitt wrote that of the three notable writers whom the eighteenth
century had produced, in the North American colonies, one was "the
author (whoever he was) of the American Farmer's Letters."
Crevecoeur was that unknown author; and Hazlitt said further of him
that he rendered, in his own vividly characteristic manner, "not
only the objects, but the feelings, of a new country." Great is the
essayist's relish for passages descriptive of "a battle between two
snakes," of "the dazzling, almost invisible flutter of the humming-
bird's wing," of the manners of "the Nantucket people, their frank
simplicity, and festive rejoicings after the perils and hardships of
the whale-fishing." "The power to sympathise with nature, without
thinking of ourselves or others, if it is not a definition of
genius, comes very near to it," writes Hazlitt of our author. And
his references to Crevecoeur are closed with the remark: "We have
said enough of this ILLUSTRIOUS OBSCURE; for it is the rule of
criticism to praise none but the over-praised, and to offer fresh
incense to the idol of the day."

Others, at least, have followed that "rule of criticism," and the
American Farmer has long enjoyed undisturbed seclusion. Only once
since the eighteenth century has there been a new edition of his
Letters, that were first published at London in 1782, and reissued,
with a few corrections, in the next year. The original American
edition of this book about America was that published at
Philadelphia in 1793, and there was no reprint till 1904, [Footnote:
References may be found to American editions of 1794 and 1798, but
no copies of such editions are preserved in any library to which the
editor has had access.] when careless editing did all it could to
destroy the value of the work, the name of whose very author was
misstated. Yet the facts which we have concerning him are few enough
to merit truthful presentation.


Except by naturalisation, the author of Letters from an American
Farmer was not an American; and he was no ordinary farmer. Yet why
quarrel with him for the naming of his book, or for his signing it
"J. Hector Saint-John," when the "Hector" of his title-pages and
American biographers was only a prenom de faintaisie? We owe some
concessions to the author of so charming a book, to the eighteenth-
century Thoreau. His life is certainly more interesting than the
real Thoreau's--and would be, even if it did not present many
contradictions. Our records of that life are in the highest degree
inexact; he himself is wanting in accuracy as to the date of more
than one event. The records, however, agree that Crevecoeur belonged
to the petite noblesse of Normandy. The date of his birth was
January 31, 1735, the place was Caen, and his full name (his great-
grandson and biographer vouches for it) was Michel-Guillaume-Jean de
Crevecoeur. The boy was well enough brought up, but without more
than the attention that his birth gave him the right to expect; he
divided the years of his boyhood between Caen, where his father's
town-house stood, and the College du Mont, where the Jesuits gave
him his education. A letter dated 1785 and addressed to his children
tells us all that we know of his school-days; though it is said,
too, that he distinguished himself in mathematics. "If you only
knew," the reminiscent father of a family exclaims in this letter,
"in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was
mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was
fed and dressed!" Already his powers of observation, that were so to
distinguish him, were quickened by his old-world milieu.

"From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, "I had a passion for
taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture,
tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned
how to decipher), had for me an indefinable charm. A little later
on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries; to examine the
tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the
churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they
contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures."

The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to be tested
soon by a very different class of objects: there were to be no
crumbling saints and canvases of Bed-Chamber Grooms for him to study
in the forests of America; no reminders of the greatness of his
country's past, and the honour of his family.

From school, the future woodsman passed over into England. A distant
relative was living near Salisbury; for one reason or another the
boy was sent thither to finish his schooling. From England, with
what motives we know not, he set out for the New World, where he was
to spend his busiest and happiest days. In the Bibliotheca Americana
Nova Rich makes the statement that Crevecoeur was but sixteen when
he made the plunge, and others have followed Rich in this error. The
lad's age was really not less than nineteen or twenty. According to
the family legend, his ship touched at Lisbon on the way out; one
cannot decide whether this was just before or immediately after the
great earthquake. Then to New France, where he joined Montcalm.
Entering the service as cadet, he advanced to the rank of
lieutenant; was mentioned in the Gazette; shared in the French
successes; drew maps of the forests and block-houses that found
their way to the king's cabinet; served with Montcalm in the attack
upon Fort William Henry. With that the record is broken off: we can
less definitely associate his name with the humiliation of the
French in America than with their brief triumphs. Yet it is quite
certain, says Robert de Crevecoeur, his descendant, that he did not
return to France with the rag-tag of the defeated army. Quebec fell
before Wolfe's attack in September 1759; at some time in the course
of the year 1760 we may suppose the young officer to have entered
the British colonies; to have adopted his family name of "Saint
John" (Saint-Jean), and to have gradually worked his way south,
probably by the Hudson. The reader of the Letters hardly supposes
him to have enjoyed his frontier life; nor is there any means of
knowing how much of that life it was his fortune to lead. In time,
he found himself as far south as Pennsylvania. He visited
Shippensburg and Lancaster and Carlisle; perhaps he resided at or
near one of these towns. Many years later, when his son Louis
purchased a farm of two hundred acres from Chancellor Livingstone,
at Navesink, near the Blue Mountains, Crevecoeur the elder was still
remembered; and it may have been at this epoch that he visited the
place. During the term of his military service under Montcalm,
Crevecoeur saw something of the Great Lakes and the outlying
country; prior to his experience as a cultivator, and, indeed, after
he had settled down as such, he "travelled like Plato," even visited
Bermuda, by his own account. Not until 1764, however, have we any
positive evidence of his whereabouts; it was in April of that year
that he took out naturalisation papers at New York. Some months
later, he installed himself on the farm variously called Greycourt
and Pine-Hill, in the same state; he drained a great marsh there,
and seems to have practised agriculture upon a generous scale. The
certificate of the marriage of Crevecoeur to Mehitable Tippet, of
Yonkers is dated September 20, 1769; and of this union three
children were the issue. And more than children: for with the
marriage ceremony once performed by the worthy Tetard, a clergyman
of New York, formerly settled over a French Reformed Church at
Charleston, South Carolina, Crevecoeur is more definitely than ever
the "American Farmer"; he has thrown in his lot with that new
country; his children are to be called after their parent's adopted
name, Saint-John; the responsibilities of the adventurer are
multiplied; his life in America has become a matter more easy to
trace and richer, perhaps, in meaning.


One of the historians of American literature has written that these
Letters furnish "a greater number of delightful pages than any other
book written in America during the eighteenth century, save only
Franklin's Autobiography." A safe compliment, this; and yet does not
the very emptiness of American annals during the eighteenth century
make for our cherishing all that they offer of the vivid and the
significant? Professor Moses Coit Tyler long ago suggested what was
the literary influence of the American Farmer, whose "idealised
treatment of rural life in America wrought quite traceable effects
upon the imaginations of Campbell, Byron, Southey, Coleridge, and
furnished not a few materials for such captivating and airy schemes
of literary colonisation in America as that of 'Pantisocracy.'"
Hazlitt praised the book to his friends and, as we have seen,
commended it to readers of the Edinburgh Review. Lamb mentions it in
one of his letters--which is already some distinction. Yet when was
a book more completely lost to popular view--even among the books
that have deserved oblivion? The Letters were published, all the
same, at Belfast and Dublin and Philadelphia, as well as at London;
they were recast in French by the author, translated into German and
Dutch by pirating penny-a-liners, and given a "sequel" by a
publisher at Paris. [Footnote: Ouvrage pour servir de suite aux
Lettres d'un cultivateur Americain, Paris, 1785. The work so offered
seems to have been a translation of John Filson's History of
Kentucky (Wilmington, Del., 1784).]

The American Fanner made his first public appearance eleven years
before Chateaubriand found a publisher for his Essai sur les
Revolutions, wherein the great innovator first used the American
materials that he worked over more effectively in his travels,
tales, and memoirs. In Saint-John de Crevecoeur, we have a
contemporary--a correspondent, even--of Franklin; but if our author
shared many of poor Richard's interests, one may travel far without
finding a more complete antithesis to that common-sense philosopher.

Crevecoeur expresses mild wonderment that, while so many travellers
visit Italy and "the town of Pompey under ground," few come to the
new continent, where may be studied, not what is found in books, but
"the humble rudiments and embryos of society spreading everywhere,
the recent foundations of our towns, and the settlements of so many
rural districts." In the course of his sixteen or seventeen years'
experience as an American farmer he himself studied all these
matters; and he gives us a charming picture of them. Though his book
has very little obvious system, its author describes for us frontier
and farm; the ways of the Nantucket fishermen and their intrepid
wives; life in the Middle Colonies; the refinements and atrocities
of Charleston. Crevecoeur's account of the South (that he knew but
superficially and--who knows?--more, it may be, by Tetard's
anecdotes than through personal knowledge) is the least satisfactory
part of his performance. One feels it to be the most "literary"
portion of a book whose beauty is naivete. But whether we accept or
reject the story of the negro malefactor hung in a cage from a tree,
and pecked at by crows, it is certain that the traveller justly
regarded slavery as the one conspicuous blot on the new country's
shield. Crevecoeur was not an active abolitionist, like that other
naturalised Frenchman, Benezet of Philadelphia; he had his own
slaves to work his northern farms; he was, however, a man of humane
feelings--one who "had his doubts." [Footnote: In his Voyage dans la
Haute Pensylvanie (sic) et dans l'Etat de New York (Paris, 1801)
slavery is severely attacked by Crevecoeur. His descendant, Robert
de Crevecoeur, refers to him as "a friend of Wilberforce."] And his
narrative description of life in the American colonies in the years
immediately preceding the Revolution is one that social historians
cannot ignore.

Though our Farmer emphasises his plainness, and promises the readers
of his Letters only a matter-of-fact account of his pursuits, he has
his full share of eighteenth-century "sensibility." Since he is,
however, at many removes from the sophistications of London and
Paris, he is moved, not by the fond behaviour of a lap-dog, or the
"little arrangements" carters make with the bridles of their
faithful asses (that they have driven to death, belike), but by such
matters as he finds at home. "When I contemplate my wife, by my
fire-side, while she either spins, knits, darns, or suckles our
child, I cannot describe the various emotions of love, of gratitude,
or conscious pride which thrill in my heart, and often overflow in
voluntary tears ..." He is like that old classmate's of
Fitzgerald's, buried deep "in one of the most out-of-the-way
villages in all England," for if he goes abroad, "it is always
involuntary. I never return home without feeling some pleasant
emotion, which I often suppress as useless and foolish." He has his
reveries; but they are pure and generous; their subject is the
future of his children. In midwinter, instead of trapping and
"murthering" the quail, "often in the angles of the fences where the
motion of the wind prevents the snow from settling, I carry them
both chaff and grain: the one to feed them, the other to prevent
their tender feet from freezing fast to the earth as I have
frequently observed them to do." His love of birds is marked: this
in those provinces of which a German traveller wrote: "In the thrush
kind America is poor; there is only the red-breasted robin. ...
There are no sparrows. Very few birds nest in the woods; a solemn
stillness prevails through them, interrupted only by the screaming
of the crows." It is good, after such a passage as this has been
quoted, to set down what Crevecoeur says of the bird kingdom. "In
the spring," he writes, "I generally rise from bed about that
indistinct interval which, properly speaking, is neither night nor
day:" for then it is that he enjoys "the universal vocal choir." He
continues--more and more lyrically: "Who can listen unmoved, to the
sweet love-tales of our robins, told from tree to tree? Or to the
shrill cat birds? The sublime accents of the thrush from on high,
always retard my steps, that I may listen to the delicious music."
And the Farmer is no less interested in "the astonishing art which
all birds display in the construction of their nests, ill provided
as we may suppose them with proper tools; their neatness, their
convenience." At some time during his American residence he gathered
the materials for an unpublished study of ants; and his bees proved
an unfailing source of entertainment. "Their government, their
industry, their quarrels, their passions, always present me with
something new," he writes; adding that he is most often to be found,
in hours of rest, under the locust tree where his beehive stands.
"By their movements," says he, "I can predict the weather, and can
tell the day of their swarming." When other men go hunting game, he
goes bee-hunting. Such are the matters he tells of in his Letters.

One difference from the stereotyped "sensibility" of the old world
one may discover in the openness of Crevecoeur's heart; and that is
the completeness of his interest in all the humbler sorts of natural
phenomena. Nature is, for him, no mere bundle of poetic stage-
properties, soiled by much handling, but something fresh and
inviting and full of interest to a man alive. He takes more pleasure
in hunting bees than in expeditions with his dogs and gun; the king-
birds destroy his bees--but, he adds, they drive the crows away.
Ordinarily he could not persuade himself to shoot them. On one
occasion, however, he fired at a more than commonly impertinent
specimen, "and immediately opened his maw, from which I took 171
bees; I laid them all on a blanket in the sun, and to my great
surprise fifty-four returned to life, licked themselves clean, and
joyfully went back to the hive, where they probably informed their
companions of such an adventure and escape, as I believe had never
happened before to American bees." Must one regard this as a fable?
It is by no means as remarkable a yarn as one may find told by other
naturalists of the same century. There is, for example, that undated
letter of John Bartram's, in which he makes inquiries of his brother
William concerning "Ye Wonderful Flower;" [Footnote: see "A
Botanical Marvel," in The Nation (New York), August 5, 1909.] there
is, too, Kalm's report of Bartram's bear: "When a bear catches a
cow, he kills her in the following manner: he bites a hole into the
hide and blows with all his power into it, till the animal swells
excessively and dies; for the air expands greatly between the flesh
and the hide." After these fine fancies, where is the improbability
of Crevecoeur's modest adaptation of the Jonah-allegory that he
applies to the king-bird and his bees? The episode suggests, for
that matter, a chapter in Mitchell's My Farm at Edgewood. Mitchell,
a later American farmer, describes the same king-birds, the same
bees; has, too, the same supremely gentle spirit. "I have not the
heart to shoot at the king-birds; nor do I enter very actively into
the battle of the bees. ... I give them fair play, good lodging,
limitless flowers, willows bending (as Virgil advises) into the
quiet water of a near pool; I have even read up the stories of a
poor blind Huber, who so dearly loved the bees, and the poem of
Giovanni Rucellai, for their benefit." Can the reader state, without
stopping to consider, which author it was that wrote thus--Mitchell
or Crevecoeur? Certainly it is the essential modernity of the
earlier writer's style that most impresses one, after the charm of
his pictures. His was the age of William Livingston--later Governor
of the State of New Jersey; and in the very year when a London
publisher was bringing out the first edition of the Farmer's
Letters, Livingston, described on his title-page as a "young
gentleman educated at Yale College," brought out his Philosophic
Solitude at Trenton, in his native state. It is worth quoting
Philosophic Solitude for the sake of the comparison to be drawn
between Crevecoeur's prose and contemporary American verse:-

"Let ardent heroes seek renown in arms,
Pant after fame, and rush to war's alarms ...
Mine be the pleasures of a RURAL life."

The thought is, after all, the same as that which we have found less
directly phrased in Crevecoeur. But let us quote the lines that
follow the exordium--now we should find the poet unconstrained and

"Me to sequestred scenes, ye muses, guide,
Where nature wantons in her virgin-pride;
To mossy banks edg'd round with op'ning flow'rs,
Elysian fields, and amaranthin bow'rs. ...
Welcome, ye shades! all hail, ye vernal blooms!
Ye bow'ry thickets, and prophetic glooms!
Ye forests hail! ye solitary woods. ..."

and the "solitary woods" (rhyming with "floods") are a good place to
leave the "young gentleman educated at Yale College." Livingston
was, plainly enough, a poet of his time and place. He had a fine eye
for Nature--seen through library windows. He echoed Goldsmith and a
whole line of British poets--echoed them atrociously.

That one finds no "echoes" in Crevecoeur is one of our reasons for
praising his spontaneity and vigour. He did not import nightingales
into his America, as some of the poets did. He blazed away, rather,
toward our present day appreciation of surrounding nature--which was
not banal then. Crevecoeur's honest and unconventionalised love of
his rural environment is great enough to bridge the difference
between the eighteenth and the twentieth century. It is as easy for
us to pass a happy evening with him as it was for Thomas Campbell,
figuring to himself a realisation of Cowley's dreams and of
Rousseau's poetic seclusion; "till at last," in Southey's words,
"comes an ill-looking Indian with a tomahawk, and scalps me--a most
melancholy proof that society is very bad." It is the freshness, the
youthfulness, of these Letters, after their century and more of
dust-gathering, that is least likely to escape us. And this "Farmer
in Pennsylvania" is almost as unmistakably of kin with good Gilbert
White of Selborne as he is the American Thoreau's eighteenth-century


It is time, indeed, that we made the discovery that Crevecoeur was a
modern. He was, too, a dweller in the young republic--even before it
WAS a republic. Twice a year he had "the pleasure of catching
pigeons, whose numbers are sometimes so astonishing as to obscure
the sun in their flight." There is, then, no poetic licence about
Longfellow's description, in Evangeline, of how--

"A pestilence fell on the city Presaged by wondrous signs, and
mostly by flocks of wild pigeons, Darkening the sun in their flight,
with naught in their craws but an acorn."

Longfellow could have cited as his authority for this flight of
pigeons Mathew Carey's Record of the Malignant Fever lately
Prevalent, published at Philadelphia, which, to be sure, discusses a
different epidemic, but tells us that "amongst the country people,
large quantities of wild pigeons in the spring are regarded as
certain indications of an unhealthy summer. Whether or not this
prognostic has ever been verified, I cannot tell. But it is very
certain that during the last spring the numbers of these birds
brought to market were immense. Never, perhaps, were there so many

Carey wrote in 1793, the year, as has been noted, of the first
American reprint of the Letters, that had first been published at
London. Carey was himself Crevecoeur's American publisher; and he
may well have thought as he wrote the lines quoted of Crevecoeur's
earlier pigeons "obscuring the sun in their flight." Crevecoeur had
by this time returned to France, and was never more to ply the
avocations of the American farmer. In the interval, much had
happened to this victim of both the revolutions. Though the Letters
are distinguished by an idyllic temper, over them is thrown the
shadow of impending civil war. The Farmer was a man of peace, for
all his experience under Montcalm in Canada (and even there his part
was rather an engineer's than a combatant's); he long hoped,
therefore, that peaceful counsels would prevail, and that England
and the colonies would somehow come to an understanding without
hostilities. Then, after the Americans had boldly broken with the
home government, he lent them all his sympathy but not his arms. He
had his family to watch over; likewise his two farms, one in Orange
County, New York, one in New Jersey. As it was, the Indians in the
royal service burned his New Jersey estate; and after his first
return to France (he was called thither by his father, we are told,
though we know nothing of the motives of this recall) he entered
upon a new phase of his career. "After his first return to France,"
I have said, as if that had been an entirely simple matter. One
cannot here describe all its alleged difficulties; his arrest at New
York as a suspected spy (though after having secured a pass from the
American commander. General MacDougal, he had secured a second pass
from General Clinton, and permission to embark for France); his
detention in the provost's prison in New York; the final embarkation
with his oldest son--this on September 1, 1780; the shipwreck which
he described as occurring off the Irish coast; his residence for
some months in Great Britain, and during a part of that time in
London, where he sold the manuscript of the Letters for thirty
guineas. One would like to know Crevecoeur's emotions on finally
reaching France and joining his father and relatives at Caen. One
would like to describe his romantic succour of five American seamen,
who had escaped from an English prison and crossed the Channel in a
sloop to Normandy. A cousin of one of these seamen, a Captain
Fellowes of Boston, was later to befriend Crevecoeur's daughter and
younger son in the new country; that was after the Loyalists and
their Indian allies had destroyed the Farmer's house at Pine Hill,
after his wife had fled to Westchester with her two children, and
had died there soon after, leaving them unprotected. But all this
must, in nautical phrase, "go by the board," including the novel
founded upon the episode. Nor can we linger over Crevecoeur's entry
into polite society, both in the Norman capital and at Paris. Fancy
the returned prodigal--if one may so describe him--in the salon of
Madame d'Houdetot, Rousseau's former mistress! He was fairly
launched, this American Farmer, in the society of the lettres.

"Twice a week," he wrote, some years after, "I went with M. de
Turgot to see the Duchesse de Beauvilliers, his sister; and another
twice-a-week I went with him to the Comte de Buffon's. ... It was at
the table of M. de Buffon, it was in his salon, during long winter
evenings, that I was awakened once more to the graces, the beauties,
the timid purity of our tongue, which, during my long sojourn in
North America, had become foreign to me, and of which I had almost
lost command--though not the memory."

Madame d'Houdetot presented Crevecoeur to the families of La
Rochefoucauld, Liancourt, d'Estissac, Breteuil, Rohan-Chabot,
Beauvau, Necker; to the academicians d'Alembert, La Harpe, Grimm,
Suard, Rulbriere; to the poet-academician Delille. We have in the
Memoires of Brissot an allusion to his entrance into this society,
under the wing of his elderly protectress:--

"Proud of possessing an American savage, she wished to form him, and
to launch him in society. He had the good sense to refuse and to
confine himself to the picked society of men of letters."

It was at a later period that Brissot and Crevecoeur were to meet;
their quarrel, naturally, came later still.

Madame d'Houdetot did more than entertain the Farmer, whose father
had been one of her oldest friends. She secured his nomination as
Consul-General to the United States, now recognised by France; it
was at New York that he took up residence. Through the influence of
Madame d'Houdetot and her friends, he retained the appointment
through the stormy years that followed, though in the end he was
obliged to make way for a successor more in sympathy with the
violent republicanism of the age. Throughout the years of the French
Revolution, the ex-farmer lived a life of retirement, and, if never
of conspicuous danger, of embarrassment enough, and of humiliation.
We need not discuss those years spent at Paris; or the visits paid,
after the close of the Revolution, to his son-in-law and daughter,
for his daughter Frances-America was married to a French Secretary
of Legation, who became a Count of the Empire. Now he was in Paris
or the suburbs; now in London, or Munich. Five years of the Farmer's
later life were spent at the Bavarian capital; Maximilian
entertained him there, and told him that he had read his book with
the keenest pleasure and great profit too. He busied himself in
preparing his three-volume Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie (sic) et
dans l'Etat de New York, and in adding to his paper on potato
culture,[Footnote: Traite de la Culture des Pommes de Terre, 1782.]
a second on the false acacia; but his best work was done and he knew
it. Crevecoeur lived on until 1813, dying in the same year with
Madame d'Houdetot, who was so much his elder. He paid a worthy
tribute to that lady's character; perhaps we do her an injustice in
knowing her only for the liaison with Jean-Jacques. He died on
November 12, 1813: member of agricultural societies and of the
Academy (section of moral and political science), and of Franklin's
Philosophical Society at Philadelphia. A town in Vermont had been
named St. Johnsbury in his honour; he had the freedom of more than
one New England city. It is, none the less, as the author of Letters
from an American Farmer, published in 1782, and written, for the
most part, years before that date, that we remember him--so far as
we do remember.


Much remains unsaid--much, even, of the essential. Some of the facts
are still unknown; others may be looked for in the biography written
by his great-grandson, Robert de Crevecoeur, and published at Paris
some eighty years ago. There is hardly occasion to discuss here what
Crevecoeur did, as consul at New York, to encourage the exchange of
French manufactures and American exports; or to tell of his packet-
line--the first established between New York and a French port; or
to set down the story of his children; or to describe those last sad
years, at home and abroad, after the close of his consular career.
There is no room at all for the words of praise that were spoken of
the Letters by Franklin and Washington, who recommended them to
intending immigrants as a faithful, albeit "highly coloured"
picture. We must let the writings of the American Farmer speak for
themselves: they belong, after all, to literature.

It was a modest man--a modest life; a life filled, none the less,
with romantic incident. All this throws into relief the beauty of
its best fruits. Crevecoeur made no claim to artistry when he wrote
his simple, heartfelt Letters; and yet his style, in spite of
occasional defects and extra flourishes, seems to us worthy of his
theme. These Letters from an American Farmer have been an
inspiration to poets--and they "smell of the woods."

In a prose age, Crevecoeur lived a kind of pastoral poetry; in an
age largely blind, he saw the beauties of nature, less through
readings in the Nouvelle Heloise and Bernardin's Etudes than with
his own keen eyes; he was a true idealist, besides, and as such
kindles one's enthusiasm. The man's optimism, his grateful
personality, his saneness, too--for here is a dreamer neither idle
nor morbid--are qualities no less enduring, or endearing, than his
fame as "poet-naturalist." The American Farmer might have used
Cotton's Retirement for an epigraph on his title-page:--

"Farewell, thou busy world, and may
We never meet again,
Here I can eat and sleep and pray. ..."

but for the fact that he found time to turn the clods, withal, and
eyes to watch the earth blackening behind the plough. "Our
necessities," wrote Poe, who contended, in a half-hearted way, that
the Americans of his generation were as poetical a people as any
other, "have been mistaken for our propensities. Having been forced
to make railroads, it has been deemed impossible that we should make
verse." But here was Saint-John de Crevecoeur writing, in the
eighteenth century, his idyllic Letters, while, if he did not build
railways, he interested himself in the experiments of Fitch and
Rumsey and Parmentier, and organised a packet-line between New York
and Lorient, in Brittany. This Crevecoeur should from the first have
appealed to the imagination--especially to the American imagination-
-combining as he did the faculty of the ideal and the achievement of
the actual. It is not too late for him to appeal to-day; in spite of
all his quaintness, Crevecoeur is a contemporary of our own.




Letters from an American Farmer (London), 1782, 1783; (Dublin),
1782; (Belfast), 1783; (Philadelphia), 1793; (New York), 1904;
(London), 1908; translated into French (with gratuitous additions)
as Lettres d'un cultivateur Americain (Paris), 1784 and 1787; into
German as Briefe eines Amerikanischen Landmanns (Leipzig), 1788,
1789. Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l'etat de New York
(Paris), 1801.


INTRODUCTION by Warren Barton Blake



















[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 style
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 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 public, a second volume,
equally interesting with those now published, may soon be expected.


[To the Second Edition, 1783.]

Since the publication of this volume, we hear that Mr. St. John has
accepted a public employment at New York. It is therefore, perhaps,
doubtful whether he will soon be at leisure to revise his papers,
and give the world a second collection of the American Farmer


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 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 America 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
neither titles nor places, who never rose above the humble rank of a
farmer, may appear insignificant; yet, as the sentiments I have
expressed are also the echo of those of my countrymen; on their
behalf, as well as on my own, give me leave to subscribe myself,

Your very sincere admirer,




Who would have thought that because I received you with hospitality
and kindness, you should imagine me capable of writing with
propriety and perspicuity? Your gratitude misleads your judgment.
The knowledge which I acquired from your conversation has amply
repaid me for your five weeks' entertainment. I gave you nothing
more than what common hospitality dictated; but could any other
guest have instructed me as you did? You conducted me, on the map,
from one European country to another; told me many extraordinary
things of our famed mother-country, of which I knew very little; of
its internal navigation, agriculture, arts, manufactures, and trade:
you guided me through an extensive maze, and I abundantly profited
by the journey; the contrast therefore proves the debt of gratitude
to be on my side. The treatment you received at my house proceeded
from the warmth of my heart, and from the corresponding sensibility
of my wife; what you now desire must flow from a very limited power
of mind: the task requires recollection, and a variety of talents
which I do not possess. It is true I can describe our American modes
of farming, our manners, and peculiar customs, with some degree of
propriety, because I have ever attentively studied them; but my
knowledge extends no farther. And is this local and unadorned
information sufficient to answer all your expectations, and to
satisfy your curiosity? I am surprised that in the course of your
American travels you should not have found out persons more
enlightened and better educated than I am; your predilection excites
my wonder much more than my vanity; my share of the latter being
confined merely to the neatness of my rural operations.

My father left me a few musty books, which his father brought from
England with him; but what help can I draw from a library consisting
mostly of Scotch Divinity, the Navigation of Sir Francis Drake, the
History of Queen Elizabeth, and a few miscellaneous volumes? Our
minister often comes to see me, though he lives upwards of twenty
miles distant. I have shown him your letter, asked his advice, and
solicited his assistance; he tells me, that he hath no time to
spare, for that like the rest of us must till his farm, and is
moreover to study what he is to say on the sabbath. My wife (and I
never do anything without consulting her) laughs, and tells me that
you cannot be in earnest. What! says she, James, wouldst thee
pretend to send epistles to a great European man, who hath lived
abundance of time in that big house called Cambridge; where, they
say, that worldly learning is so abundant, that people gets it only
by breathing the air of the place? Wouldst not thee be ashamed to
write unto a man who has never in his life done a single day's work,
no, not even felled a tree; who hath expended the Lord knows how
many years in studying stars, geometry, stones, and flies, and in
reading folio books? Who hath travelled, as he told us, to the city
of Rome itself! Only think of a London man going to Rome! Where is
it that these English folks won't go? One who hath seen the factory
of brimstone at Suvius, and town of Pompey under ground! wouldst
thou pretend to letter it with a person who hath been to Paris, to
the Alps, to Petersburg, and who hath seen so many fine things up
and down the old countries; who hath come over the great sea unto
us, and hath journeyed from our New Hampshire in the East to our
Charles Town in the South; who hath visited all our great cities,
knows most of our famous lawyers and cunning folks; who hath
conversed with very many king's men, governors, and counsellors, and
yet pitches upon thee for his correspondent, as thee calls it?
surely he means to jeer thee! I am sure he does, he cannot be in a
real fair earnest. James, thee must read this letter over again,
paragraph by paragraph, and warily observe whether thee can'st
perceive some words of jesting; something that hath more than one
meaning: and now I think on it, husband, I wish thee wouldst let me
see his letter; though I am but a woman, as thee mayest say, yet I
understand the purport of words in good measure, for when I was a
girl, father sent us to the very best master in the precinct.--She
then read it herself very attentively: our minister was present, we
listened to, and weighed every syllable: we all unanimously
concluded that you must have been in a sober earnest intention, as
my wife calls it; and your request appeared to be candid and
sincere. Then again, on recollecting the difference between your
sphere of life and mine, a new fit of astonishment seized us all!

Our minister took the letter from my wife, and read it to himself;
he made us observe the two last phrases, and we weighed the contents
to the best of our abilities. The conclusion we all drew made me
resolve at last to write.--You say you want nothing of me but what
lies within the reach of my experience and knowledge; this I
understand very well; the difficulty is, how to collect, digest, and
arrange what I know? Next you assert, that writing letters is
nothing more than talking on paper; which, I must confess, appeared
to me quite a new thought.--Well then, observed our minister,
neighbour James, as you can talk well, I am sure you must write
tolerably well also; imagine, then, that Mr. F. B. is still here,
and simply write down what you would say to him. Suppose the
questions be will put to you in his future letters to be asked by
his viva voce, as we used to call it at the college; then let your
answers be conceived and expressed exactly in the same language as
if he was present. This is all that he requires from you, and I am
sure the task is not difficult. He is your friend: who would be
ashamed to write to such a person? Although he is a man of learning
and taste, yet I am sure he will read your letters with pleasure: if
they be not elegant, they will smell of the woods, and be a little
wild; I know your turn, they will contain some matters which he
never knew before. Some people are so fond of novelty, that they
will overlook many errors of language for the sake of information.
We are all apt to love and admire exotics, tho' they may be often
inferior to what we possess; and that is the reason I imagine why so
many persons are continually going to visit Italy.--That country is
the daily resort of modern travellers.

James: I should like to know what is there to be seen so goodly and
profitable, that so many should wish to visit no other country?

Minister: I do not very well know. I fancy their object is to trace
the vestiges of a once flourishing people now extinct. There they
amuse themselves in viewing the ruins of temples and other buildings
which have very little affinity with those of the present age, and
must therefore impart a knowledge which appears useless and
trifling. I have often wondered that no skilful botanists or learned
men should come over here; methinks there would be much more real
satisfaction in observing among us the humble rudiments and embryos
of societies spreading everywhere, the recent foundation of our
towns, and the settlements of so many rural districts. I am sure
that the rapidity of their growth would be more pleasing to behold,
than the ruins of old towers, useless aqueducts, or impending

James: What you say, minister, seems very true: do go on: I always
love to hear you talk.

Minister: Don't you think, neighbour James, that the mind of a good
and enlightened Englishman would be more improved in remarking
throughout these provinces the causes which render so many people
happy? In delineating the unnoticed means by which we daily increase
the extent of our settlements? How we convert huge forests into
pleasing fields, and exhibit through these thirteen provinces so
singular a display of easy subsistence and political felicity.

In Italy all the objects of contemplation, all the reveries of the
traveller, must have a reference to ancient generations, and to very
distant periods, clouded with the mist of ages.--Here, on the
contrary, everything is modern, peaceful, and benign. Here we have
had no war to desolate our fields: [Footnote: The troubles that now
convulse the American colonies had not broke out when this and some
of the following letters were written.] our religion does not
oppress the cultivators: we are strangers to those feudal
institutions which have enslaved so many. Here nature opens her
broad lap to receive the perpetual accession of new comers, and to
supply them with food. I am sure I cannot be called a partial
American when I say that the spectacle afforded by these pleasing
scenes must be more entertaining and more philosophical than that
which arises from beholding the musty ruins of Rome. Here everything
would inspire the reflecting traveller with the most philanthropic
ideas; his imagination, instead of submitting to the painful and
useless retrospect of revolutions, desolations, and plagues, would,
on the contrary, wisely spring forward to the anticipated fields of
future cultivation and improvement, to the future extent of those
generations which are to replenish and embellish this boundless
continent. There the half-ruined amphitheatres, and the putrid
fevers of the Campania, must fill the mind with the most melancholy
reflections, whilst he is seeking for the origin and the intention
of those structures with which he is surrounded, and for the cause
of so great a decay. Here he might contemplate the very beginnings
and outlines of human society, which can be traced nowhere now but
in this part of the world. The rest of the earth, I am told, is in
some places too full, in others half depopulated. Misguided
religion, tyranny, and absurd laws everywhere depress and afflict
mankind. Here we have in some measure regained the ancient dignity
of our species; our laws are simple and just, we are a race of
cultivators, our cultivation is unrestrained, and therefore
everything is prosperous and flourishing. For my part I had rather
admire the ample barn of one of our opulent farmers, who himself
felled the first tree in his plantation, and was the first founder
of his settlement, than study the dimensions of the temple of Ceres.
I had rather record the progressive steps of this industrious
farmer, throughout all the stages of his labours and other
operations, than examine how modern Italian convents can be
supported without doing anything but singing and praying.

However confined the field of speculation might be here, the time of
English travellers would not be wholly lost. The new and unexpected
aspect of our extensive settlements; of our fine rivers; that great
field of action everywhere visible; that ease, that peace with which
so many people live together, would greatly interest the observer:
for whatever difficulties there might happen in the object of their
researches, that hospitality which prevails from one end of the
continent to the other would in all parts facilitate their
excursions. As it is from the surface of the ground which we till
that we have gathered the wealth we possess, the surface of that
ground is therefore the only thing that has hitherto been known. It
will require the industry of subsequent ages, the energy of future
generations, ere mankind here will have leisure and abilities to
penetrate deep, and, in the bowels of this continent, search for the
subterranean riches it no doubt contains.--Neighbour James, we want
much the assistance of men of leisure and knowledge, we want eminent
chemists to inform our iron masters; to teach us how to make and
prepare most of the colours we use. Here we have none equal to this
task. If any useful discoveries are therefore made among us, they
are the effects of chance, or else arise from that restless industry
which is the principal characteristic of these colonies.

James: Oh! could I express myself as you do, my friend, I should not
balance a single instant, I should rather be anxious to commence a
correspondence which would do me credit.

Minister: You can write full as well as you need, and will improve
very fast; trust to my prophecy, your letters, at least, will have
the merit of coming from the edge of the great wilderness, three
hundred miles from the sea, and three thousand miles over that sea:
this will be no detriment to them, take my word for it. You intend
one of your children for the gown, who knows but Mr. F. B. may give
you some assistance when the lad comes to have concerns with the
bishop; it is good for American farmers to have friends even in
England. What he requires of you is but simple--what we speak out
among ourselves we call conversation, and a letter is only
conversation put down in black and white.

James: You quite persuade me--if he laughs at my awkwardness, surely
he will be pleased with my ready compliance. On my part, it will be
well meant let the execution be what it may. I will write enough,
and so let him have the trouble of sifting the good from the bad,
the useful from the trifling; let him select what he may want, and
reject what may not answer his purpose. After all, it is but
treating Mr. F. B. now that he is in London, as I treated him when
he was in America under this roof; that is with the best things I
had; given with a good intention; and the best manner I was able.
Very different, James, very different indeed, said my wife, I like
not thy comparison; our small house and cellar, our orchard and
garden afforded what he wanted; one half of his time Mr. F. B., poor
man, lived upon nothing but fruit-pies, or peaches and milk. Now
these things were such as God had given us, myself and wench did the
rest; we were not the creators of these victuals, we only cooked
them as well and as neat as we could. The first thing, James, is to
know what sort of materials thee hast within thy own self, and then
whether thee canst dish them up.--Well, well, wife, thee art wrong
for once; if I was filled with worldly vanity, thy rebuke would be
timely, but thee knowest that I have but little of that. How shall I
know what I am capable of till I try? Hadst thee never employed
thyself in thy father's house to learn and to practise the many
branches of house-keeping that thy parents were famous for, thee
wouldst have made but a sorry wife for an American farmer; thee
never shouldst have been mine. I married thee not for what thee
hadst, but for what thee knewest; doest not thee observe what Mr. F.
B. says beside; he tells me, that the art of writing is just like
unto every other art of man; that it is acquired by habit, and by
perseverance. That is singularly true, said our minister, he that
shall write a letter every day of the week, will on Saturday
perceive the sixth flowing from his pen much more readily than the
first. I observed when I first entered into the ministry and began
to preach the word, I felt perplexed and dry, my mind was like unto
a parched soil, which produced nothing, not even weeds. By the
blessing of heaven, and my perseverance in study, I grew richer in
thoughts, phrases, and words; I felt copious, and now I can
abundantly preach from any text that occurs to my mind. So will it
be with you, neighbour James; begin therefore without delay; and Mr.
F. B.'s letters may be of great service to you: he will, no doubt,
inform you of many things: correspondence consists in reciprocal
letters. Leave off your diffidence, and I will do my best to help
you whenever I have any leisure. Well then, I am resolved, I said,
to follow your counsel; my letters shall not be sent, nor will I
receive any, without reading them to you and my wife; women are
curious, they love to know their husband's secrets; it will not be
the first thing which I have submitted to your joint opinions.
Whenever you come to dine with us, these shall be the last dish on
the table. Nor will they be the most unpalatable, answered the good
man. Nature hath given you a tolerable share of sense, and that is
one of her best gifts let me tell you. She has given you besides
some perspicuity, which qualifies you to distinguish interesting
objects; a warmth of imagination which enables you to think with
quickness; you often extract useful reflections from objects which
presented none to my mind: you have a tender and a well meaning
heart, you love description, and your pencil, assure yourself, is
not a bad one for the pencil of a farmer; it seems to be held
without any labour; your mind is what we called at Yale college a
Tabula rasa, where spontaneous and strong impressions are delineated
with facility. Ah, neighbour! had you received but half the
education of Mr. F. B. you had been a worthy correspondent indeed.
But perhaps you will be a more entertaining one dressed in your
simple American garb, than if you were clad in all the gowns of
Cambridge. You will appear to him something like one of our wild
American plants, irregularly luxuriant in its various branches,
which an European scholar may probably think ill placed and useless.
If our soil is not remarkable as yet for the excellence of its
fruits, this exuberance is however a strong proof of fertility,
which wants nothing but the progressive knowledge acquired by time
to amend and to correct. It is easier to retrench than it is to add;
I do not mean to flatter you, neighbour James, adulation would ill
become my character, you may therefore believe what your pastor
says. Were I in Europe I should be tired with perpetually seeing
espaliers, plashed hedges, and trees dwarfed into pigmies. Do let
Mr. F. B. see on paper a few American wild cherry trees, such as
nature forms them here, in all her unconfined vigour, in all the
amplitude of their extended limbs and spreading ramifications--let
him see that we are possessed with strong vegetative embryos. After
all, why should not a farmer be allowed to make use of his mental
faculties as well as others; because a man works, is not he to
think, and if he thinks usefully, why should not he in his leisure
hours set down his thoughts? I have composed many a good sermon as I
followed my plough. The eyes not being then engaged on any
particular object, leaves the mind free for the introduction of many
useful ideas. It is not in the noisy shop of a blacksmith or of a
carpenter, that these studious moments can be enjoyed; it is as we
silently till the ground, and muse along the odoriferous furrows of
our low lands, uninterrupted either by stones or stumps; it is there
that the salubrious effluvia of the earth animate our spirits and
serve to inspire us; every other avocation of our farms are severe
labours compared to this pleasing occupation: of all the tasks which
mine imposes on me ploughing is the most agreeable, because I can
think as I work; my mind is at leisure; my labour flows from
instinct, as well as that of my horses; there is no kind of
difference between us in our different shares of that operation; one
of them keeps the furrow, the other avoids it; at the end of my
field they turn either to the right or left as they are bid, whilst
I thoughtlessly hold and guide the plough to which they are
harnessed. Do therefore, neighbour, begin this correspondence, and
persevere, difficulties will vanish in proportion as you draw near
them; you'll be surprised at yourself by and by: when you come to
look back you'll say as I have often said to myself; had I been
diffident I had never proceeded thus far. Would you painfully till
your stony up-land and neglect the fine rich bottom which lies
before your door? Had you never tried, you never had learned how to
mend and make your ploughs. It will be no small pleasure to your
children to tell hereafter, that their father was not only one of
the most industrious farmers in the country, but one of the best
writers. When you have once begun, do as when you begin breaking up
your summer fallow, you never consider what remains to be done, you
view only what you have ploughed. Therefore, neighbour James, take
my advice; it will go well with you, I am sure it will.--And do you
really think so, Sir? Your counsel, which I have long followed,
weighs much with me, I verily believe that I must write to Mr. F. B.
by the first vessel.--If thee persistest in being such a foolhardy
man, said my wife, for God's sake let it be kept a profound secret
among us; if it were once known abroad that thee writest to a great
and rich man over at London, there would be no end of the talk of
the people; some would vow that thee art going to turn an author,
others would pretend to foresee some great alterations in the
welfare of thy family; some would say this, some would say that: Who
would wish to become the subject of public talk? Weigh this matter
well before thee beginnest, James--consider that a great deal of thy
time, and of thy reputation is at stake as I may say. Wert thee to
write as well as friend Edmund, whose speeches I often see in our
papers, it would be the very self same thing; thee wouldst be
equally accused of idleness, and vain notions not befitting thy
condition. Our colonel would be often coming here to know what it is
that thee canst write so much about. Some would imagine that thee
wantest to become either an assembly-man or a magistrate, which God
forbid; and that thee art telling the king's men abundance of
things. Instead of being well looked upon as now, and living in
peace with all the world, our neighbours would be making strange
surmises: I had rather be as we are, neither better nor worse than
the rest of our country folks. Thee knowest what I mean, though I
should be sorry to deprive thee of any honest recreation. Therefore
as I have said before, let it be as great a secret as if it was some
heinous crime; the minister, I am sure, will not divulge it; as for
my part, though I am a woman, yet I know what it is to be a wife.--I
would not have thee, James, pass for what the world calleth a
writer; no, not for a peck of gold, as the saying is. Thy father
before thee was a plain dealing honest man, punctual in all things;
he was one of yea and nay, of few words, all he minded was his farm
and his work. I wonder from whence thee hast got this love of the
pen? Had he spent his time in sending epistles to and fro, he never
would have left thee this goodly plantation, free from debt. All I
say is in good meaning; great people over sea may write to our
town's folks, because they have nothing else to do. These Englishmen
are strange people; because they can live upon what they call bank
notes, without working, they think that all the world can do the
same. This goodly country never would have been tilled and cleared
with these notes. I am sure when Mr. F. B. was here, he saw thee
sweat and take abundance of pains; he often told me how the
Americans worked a great deal harder than the home Englishmen; for
there he told us, that they have no trees to cut down, no fences to
make, no negroes to buy and to clothe: and now I think on it, when
wilt thee send him those trees he bespoke? But if they have no trees
to cut down, they have gold in abundance, they say; for they rake it
and scrape it from all parts far and near. I have often heard my
grandfather tell how they live there by writing. By writing they
send this cargo unto us, that to the West, and the other to the East
Indies. But, James, thee knowest that it is not by writing that we
shall pay the blacksmith, the minister, the weaver, the tailor, and
the English shop. But as thee art an early man follow thine own
inclinations; thee wantest some rest, I am sure, and why shouldst
thee not employ it as it may seem meet unto thee.--However let it be
a great secret; how wouldst thee bear to be called at our country
meetings, the man of the pen? If this scheme of thine was once
known, travellers as they go along would point out to our house,
saying, here liveth the scribbling fanner; better hear them as usual
observe, here liveth the warm substantial family, that never
begrudgeth a meal of victuals, or a mess of oats, to any one that
steps in. Look how fat and well clad their negroes are.

Thus, Sir, have I given you an unaffected and candid detail of the
conversation which determined me to accept of your invitation. I
thought it necessary thus to begin, and to let you into these
primary secrets, to the end that you may not hereafter reproach me
with any degree of presumption. You'll plainly see the motives which
have induced me to begin, the fears which I have entertained, and
the principles on which my diffidence hath been founded. I have now
nothing to do but to prosecute my task--Remember you are to give me
my subjects, and on no other shall I write, lest you should blame me
for an injudicious choice--However incorrect my style, however
unexpert my methods, however trifling my observations may hereafter
appear to you, assure yourself they will all be the genuine dictates
of my mind, and I hope will prove acceptable on that account.
Remember that you have laid the foundation of this correspondence;
you well know that I am neither a philosopher, politician, divine,
nor naturalist, but a simple farmer. I flatter myself, therefore,
that you'll receive my letters as conceived, not according to
scientific rules to which I am a perfect stranger, but agreeable to
the spontaneous impressions which each subject may inspire. This is
the only line I am able to follow, the line which nature has herself
traced for me; this was the covenant which I made with you, and with
which you seemed to be well pleased. Had you wanted the style of the
learned, the reflections of the patriot, the discussions of the
politician, the curious observations of the naturalist, the pleasing
garb of the man of taste, surely you would have applied to some of
those men of letters with which our cities abound. But since on the
contrary, and for what reason I know not, you wish to correspond
with a cultivator of the earth, with a simple citizen, you must
receive my letters for better or worse.



As you are the first enlightened European I have ever had the
pleasure of being acquainted with, you will not be surprised that I
should, according to your earnest desire and my promise, appear
anxious of preserving your friendship and correspondence. By your
accounts, I observe a material difference subsists between your
husbandry, modes, and customs, and ours; everything is local; could
we enjoy the advantages of the English farmer, we should be much
happier, indeed, but this wish, like many others, implies a
contradiction; and could the English farmer have some of those
privileges we possess, they would be the first of their class in the
world. Good and evil I see is to be found in all societies, and it
is in vain to seek for any spot where those ingredients are not
mixed. I therefore rest satisfied, and thank God that my lot is to
be an American farmer, instead of a Russian boor, or an Hungarian
peasant. I thank you kindly for the idea, however dreadful, which
you have given me of their lot and condition; your observations have
confirmed me in the justness of my ideas, and I am happier now than
I thought myself before. It is strange that misery, when viewed in
others, should become to us a sort of real good, though I am far
from rejoicing to hear that there are in the world men so thoroughly
wretched; they are no doubt as harmless, industrious, and willing to
work as we are. Hard is their fate to be thus condemned to a slavery
worse than that of our negroes. Yet when young I entertained some
thoughts of selling my farm. I thought it afforded but a dull
repetition of the same labours and pleasures. I thought the former
tedious and heavy, the latter few and insipid; but when I came to
consider myself as divested of my farm, I then found the world so
wide, and every place so full, that I began to fear lest there would
be no room for me. My farm, my house, my barn, presented to my
imagination objects from which I adduced quite new ideas; they were
more forcible than before. Why should not I find myself happy, said
I, where my father was before? He left me no good books it is true,
he gave me no other education than the art of reading and writing;
but he left me a good farm, and his experience; he left me free from
debts, and no kind of difficulties to struggle with.--I married, and
this perfectly reconciled me to my situation; my wife rendered my
house all at once cheerful and pleasing; it no longer appeared
gloomy and solitary as before; when I went to work in my fields I
worked with more alacrity and sprightliness; I felt that I did not
work for myself alone, and this encouraged me much. My wife would
often come with her knitting in her hand, and sit under the shady
trees, praising the straightness of my furrows, and the docility of
my horses; this swelled my heart and made everything light and
pleasant, and I regretted that I had not married before.

I felt myself happy in my new situation, and where is that station
which can confer a more substantial system of felicity than that of
an American farmer, possessing freedom of action, freedom of
thoughts, ruled by a mode of government which requires but little
from us? I owe nothing, but a pepper corn to my country, a small
tribute to my king, with loyalty and due respect; I know no other
landlord than the lord of all land, to whom I owe the most sincere
gratitude. My father left me three hundred and seventy-one acres of
land, forty-seven of which are good timothy meadow, an excellent
orchard, a good house, and a substantial barn. It is my duty to
think how happy I am that he lived to build and to pay for all these
improvements; what are the labours which I have to undergo, what are
my fatigues when compared to his, who had everything to do, from the
first tree he felled to the finishing of his house? Every year I
kill from 1500 to 2000 weight of pork, 1200 of beef, half a dozen of
good wethers in harvest: of fowls my wife has always a great stock:
what can I wish more? My negroes are tolerably faithful and healthy;
by a long series of industry and honest dealings, my father left
behind him the name of a good man; I have but to tread his paths to
be happy and a good man like him. I know enough of the law to
regulate my little concerns with propriety, nor do I dread its
power; these are the grand outlines of my situation, but as I can
feel much more than I am able to express, I hardly know how to

When my first son was born, the whole train of my ideas were
suddenly altered; never was there a charm that acted so quickly and
powerfully; I ceased to ramble in imagination through the wide
world; my excursions since have not exceeded the bounds of my farm,
and all my principal pleasures are now centred within its scanty
limits: but at the same time there is not an operation belonging to
it in which I do not find some food for useful reflections. This is
the reason, I suppose, that when you was here, you used, in your
refined style, to denominate me the farmer of feelings; how rude
must those feelings be in him who daily holds the axe or the plough,
how much more refined on the contrary those of the European, whose
mind is improved by education, example, books, and by every acquired
advantage! Those feelings, however, I will delineate as well as I
can, agreeably to your earnest request.

When I contemplate my wife, by my fire-side, while she either spins,
knits, darns, or suckles our child, I cannot describe the various
emotions of love, of gratitude, of conscious pride, which thrill in
my heart and often overflow in involuntary tears. I feel the
necessity, the sweet pleasure of acting my part, the part of an
husband and father, with an attention and propriety which may
entitle me to my good fortune. It is true these pleasing images
vanish with the smoke of my pipe, but though they disappear from my
mind, the impression they have made on my heart is indelible. When I
play with the infant, my warm imagination runs forward, and eagerly
anticipates his future temper and constitution. I would willingly
open the book of fate, and know in which page his destiny is
delineated; alas! where is the father who in those moments of
paternal ecstasy can delineate one half of the thoughts which dilate
his heart? I am sure I cannot; then again I fear for the health of
those who are become so dear to me, and in their sicknesses I
severely pay for the joys I experienced while they were well.
Whenever I go abroad it is always involuntary. I never return home
without feeling some pleasing emotion, which I often suppress as
useless and foolish. The instant I enter on my own land, the bright
idea of property, of exclusive right, of independence exalt my mind.
Precious soil, I say to myself, by what singular custom of law is it
that thou wast made to constitute the riches of the freeholder? What
should we American farmers be without the distinct possession of
that soil? It feeds, it clothes us, from it we draw even a great
exuberancy, our best meat, our richest drink, the very honey of our
bees comes from this. privileged spot. No wonder we should thus
cherish its possession, no wonder that so many Europeans who have
never been able to say that such portion of land was theirs, cross
the Atlantic to realise that happiness. This formerly rude soil has
been converted by my father into a pleasant farm, and in return it
has established all our rights; on it is founded our rank, our
freedom, our power as citizens, our importance as inhabitants of
such a district. These images I must confess I always behold with
pleasure, and extend them as far as my imagination can reach: for
this is what may be called the true and the only philosophy of an
American farmer.

Pray do not laugh in thus seeing an artless countryman tracing
himself through the simple modifications of his life; remember that
you have required it, therefore with candour, though with
diffidence, I endeavour to follow the thread of my feelings, but I
cannot tell you all. Often when I plough my low ground, I place my
little boy on a chair which screws to the beam of the plough--its
motion and that of the horses please him; he is perfectly happy and
begins to chat. As I lean over the handle, various are the thoughts
which crowd into my mind. I am now doing for him, I say, what my
father formerly did for me, may God enable him to live that he may
perform the same operations for the same purposes when I am worn out
and old! I relieve his mother of some trouble while I have him with
me, the odoriferous furrow exhilarates his spirits, and seems to do
the child a great deal of good, for he looks more blooming since I
have adopted that practice; can more pleasure, more dignity be added
to that primary occupation? The father thus ploughing with his
child, and to feed his family, is inferior only to the emperor of
China ploughing as an example to his kingdom. In the evening when I
return home through my low grounds, I am astonished at the myriads
of insects which I perceive dancing in the beams of the setting sun.
I was before scarcely acquainted with their existence, they are so
small that it is difficult to distinguish them; they are carefully
improving this short evening space, not daring to expose themselves
to the blaze of our meridian sun. I never see an egg brought on my
table but I feel penetrated with the wonderful change it would have
undergone but for my gluttony; it might have been a gentle useful
hen leading her chickens with a care and vigilance which speaks
shame to many women. A cock perhaps, arrayed with the most majestic
plumes, tender to its mate, bold, courageous, endowed with an
astonishing instinct, with thoughts, with memory, and every
distinguishing characteristic of the reason of man. I never see my
trees drop their leaves and their fruit in the autumn, and bud again
in the spring, without wonder; the sagacity of those animals which
have long been the tenants of my farm astonish me: some of them seem
to surpass even men in memory and sagacity. I could tell you
singular instances of that kind. What then is this instinct which we
so debase, and of which we are taught to entertain so diminutive an
idea? My bees, above any other tenants of my farm, attract my
attention and respect; I am astonished to see that nothing exists
but what has its enemy, one species pursue and live upon the other:
unfortunately our kingbirds are the destroyers of those industrious
insects; but on the other hand, these birds preserve our fields from
the depredation of crows which they pursue on the wing with great
vigilance and astonishing dexterity.

Thus divided by two interested motives, I have long resisted the
desire I had to kill them, until last year, when I thought they
increased too much, and my indulgence had been carried too far; it
was at the time of swarming when they all came and fixed themselves
on the neighbouring trees, from whence they catched those that
returned loaded from the fields. This made me resolve to kill as
many as I could, and I was just ready to fire, when a bunch of bees
as big as my fist, issued from one of the hives, rushed on one of
the birds, and probably stung him, for he instantly screamed, and
flew, not as before, in an irregular manner, but in a direct line.
He was followed by the same bold phalanx, at a considerable
distance, which unfortunately becoming too sure of victory, quitted
their military array and disbanded themselves. By this inconsiderate
step they lost all that aggregate of force which had made the bird
fly off. Perceiving their disorder he immediately returned and
snapped as many as he wanted; nay, he had even the impudence to
alight on the very twig from which the bees had drove him. I killed
him and immediately opened his craw, from which I took 171 bees; I
laid them all on a blanket in the sun, and to my great surprise 54
returned to life, licked themselves clean, and joyfully went back to
the hive; where they probably informed their companions of such an
adventure and escape, as I believe had never happened before to
American bees! I draw a great fund of pleasure from the quails which
inhabit my farm; they abundantly repay me, by their various notes
and peculiar tameness, for the inviolable hospitality I constantly
show them in the winter. Instead of perfidiously taking advantage of
their great and affecting distress, when nature offers nothing but a
barren universal bed of snow, when irresistible necessity forces
them to my barn doors, I permit them to feed unmolested; and it is
not the least agreeable spectacle which that dreary season presents,
when I see those beautiful birds, tamed by hunger, intermingling
with all my cattle and sheep, seeking in security for the poor
scanty grain which but for them would be useless and lost. Often in
the angles of the fences where the motion of the wind prevents the
snow from settling, I carry them both chaff and grain; the one to
feed them, the other to prevent their tender feet from freezing fast
to the earth as I have frequently observed them to do.

I do not know an instance in which the singular barbarity of man is
so strongly delineated, as in the catching and murthering those
harmless birds, at that cruel season of the year. Mr.---, one of the
most famous and extraordinary farmers that has ever done honour to
the province of Connecticut, by his timely and humane assistance in
a hard winter, saved this species from being entirely destroyed.
They perished all over the country, none of their delightful
whistlings were heard the next spring, but upon this gentleman's
farm; and to his humanity we owe the continuation of their music.
When the severities of that season have dispirited all my cattle, no
farmer ever attends them with more pleasure than I do; it is one of
those duties which is sweetened with the most rational satisfaction.
I amuse myself in beholding their different tempers, actions, and
the various effects of their instinct now powerfully impelled by the
force of hunger. I trace their various inclinations, and the
different effects of their passions, which are exactly the same as
among men; the law is to us precisely what I am in my barn yard, a
bridle and check to prevent the strong and greedy from oppressing
the timid and weak. Conscious of superiority, they always strive to
encroach on their neighbours; unsatisfied with their portion, they
eagerly swallow it in order to have an opportunity of taking what is
given to others, except they are prevented. Some I chide, others,
unmindful of my admonitions, receive some blows. Could victuals thus
be given to men without the assistance of any language, I am sure
they would not behave better to one another, nor more
philosophically than my cattle do.

The same spirit prevails in the stable; but there I have to do with
more generous animals, there my well-known voice has immediate
influence, and soon restores peace and tranquillity. Thus by
superior knowledge I govern all my cattle as wise men are obliged to
govern fools and the ignorant. A variety of other thoughts crowd on
my mind at that peculiar instant, but they all vanish by the time I
return home. If in a cold night I swiftly travel in my sledge,
carried along at the rate of twelve miles an hour, many are the
reflections excited by surrounding circumstances. I ask myself what
sort of an agent is that which we call frost? Our minister compares
it to needles, the points of which enter our pores. What is become
of the heat of the summer; in what part of the world is it that the
N. W. keeps these grand magazines of nitre? when I see in the
morning a river over which I can travel, that in the evening before
was liquid, I am astonished indeed! What is become of those millions
of insects which played in our summer fields, and in our evening
meadows; they were so puny and so delicate, the period of their
existence was so short, that one cannot help wondering how they
could learn, in that short space, the sublime art to hide themselves
and their offspring in so perfect a manner as to baffle the rigour
of the season, and preserve that precious embryo of life, that small
portion of ethereal heat, which if once destroyed would destroy the
species! Whence that irresistible propensity to sleep so common in
all those who are severely attacked by the frost. Dreary as this
season appears, yet it has like all others its miracles, it presents
to man a variety of problems which he can never resolve; among the
rest, we have here a set of small birds which never appear until the
snow falls; contrary to all others, they dwell and appear to delight
in that element.

It is my bees, however, which afford me the most pleasing and
extensive themes; let me look at them when I will, their government,
their industry, their quarrels, their passions, always present me
with something new; for which reason, when weary with labour, my
common place of rest is under my locust-tree, close by my bee-house.
By their movements I can predict the weather, and can tell the day
of their swarming; but the most difficult point is, when on the
wing, to know whether they want to go to the woods or not. If they
have previously pitched in some hollow trees, it is not the
allurements of salt and water, of fennel, hickory leaves, etc., nor
the finest box, that can induce them to stay; they will prefer those
rude, rough habitations to the best polished mahogany hive. When
that is the case with mine, I seldom thwart their inclinations; it
is in freedom that they work: were I to confine them, they would
dwindle away and quit their labour. In such excursions we only part
for a while; I am generally sure to find them again the following
fall. This elopement of theirs only adds to my recreations; I know
how to deceive even their superlative instinct; nor do I fear losing
them, though eighteen miles from my house, and lodged in the most
lofty trees, in the most impervious of our forests. I once took you
along with me in one of these rambles, and yet you insist on my
repeating the detail of our operations: it brings back into my mind
many of the useful and entertaining reflections with which you so
happily beguiled our tedious hours.

After I have done sowing, by way of recreation, I prepare for a
week's jaunt in the woods, not to hunt either the deer or the bears,
as my neighbours do, but to catch the more harmless bees. I cannot
boast that this chase is so noble, or so famous among men, but I
find it less fatiguing, and full as profitable; and the last
consideration is the only one that moves me. I take with me my dog,
as a companion, for he is useless as to this game; my gun, for no
man you know ought to enter the woods without one; my blanket, some
provisions, some wax, vermilion, honey, and a small pocket compass.
With these implements I proceed to such woods as are at a
considerable distance from any settlements. I carefully examine
whether they abound with large trees, if so, I make a small fire on
some flat stones, in a convenient place; on the fire I put some wax;
close by this fire, on another stone, I drop honey in distinct
drops, which I surround with small quantities of vermilion, laid on
the stone; and then I retire carefully to watch whether any bees
appear. If there are any in that neighbourhood, I rest assured that
the smell of the burnt wax will unavoidably attract them; they will
soon find out the honey, for they are fond of preying on that which
is not their own; and in their approach they will necessarily tinge
themselves with some particles of vermilion, which will adhere long
to their bodies. I next fix my compass, to find out their course,
which they keep invariably straight, when they are returning home
loaded. By the assistance of my watch, I observe how long those are
returning which are marked with vermilion. Thus possessed of the
course, and, in some measure, of the distance, which I can easily
guess at, I follow the first, and seldom fail of coming to the tree
where those republics are lodged. I then mark it; and thus, with
patience, I have found out sometimes eleven swarms in a season; and
it is inconceivable what a quantity of honey these trees will
sometimes afford. It entirely depends on the size of the hollow, as
the bees never rest nor swarm till it is all replenished; for like
men, it is only the want of room that induces them to quit the
maternal hive. Next I proceed to some of the nearest settlements,
where I procure proper assistance to cut down the trees, get all my
prey secured, and then return home with my prize. The first bees I
ever procured were thus found in the woods, by mere accident; for at
that time I had no kind of skill in this method of tracing them. The
body of the tree being perfectly sound, they had lodged themselves
in the hollow of one of its principal limbs, which I carefully sawed
off and with a good deal of labour and industry brought it home,
where I fixed it up again in the same position in which I found it
growing. This was in April; I had five swarms that year, and they
have been ever since very prosperous. This business generally takes
up a week of my time every fall, and to me it is a week of solitary
ease and relaxation.

The seed is by that time committed to the ground; there is nothing
very material to do at home, and this additional quantity of honey
enables me to be more generous to my home bees, and my wife to make
a due quantity of mead. The reason, Sir, that you found mine better
than that of others is, that she puts two gallons of brandy in each
barrel, which ripens it, and takes off that sweet, luscious taste,
which it is apt to retain a long time. If we find anywhere in the
woods (no matter on whose land) what is called a bee-tree, we must
mark it; in the fall of the year when we propose to cut it down, our
duty is to inform the proprietor of the land, who is entitled to
half the contents; if this is not complied with we are exposed to an
action of trespass, as well as he who should go and cut down a bee-
tree which he had neither found out nor marked.

We have twice a year the pleasure of catching pigeons, whose numbers
are sometimes so astonishing as to obscure the sun in their flight.
Where is it that they hatch? for such multitudes must require an
immense quantity of food. I fancy they breed toward the plains of
Ohio, and those about lake Michigan, which abound in wild oats;
though I have never killed any that had that grain in their craws.
In one of them, last year, I found some undigested rice. Now the
nearest rice fields from where I live must be at least 560 miles;
and either their digestion must be suspended while they are flying,
or else they must fly with the celerity of the wind. We catch them
with a net extended on the ground, to which they are allured by what
we call TAME WILD PIGEONS, made blind, and fastened to a long
string; his short flights, and his repeated calls, never fail to
bring them down. The greatest number I ever catched was fourteen
dozen, though much larger quantities have often been trapped. I have
frequently seen them at the market so cheap, that for a penny you
might have as many as you could carry away; and yet from the extreme
cheapness you must not conclude, that they are but an ordinary food;
on the contrary, I think they are excellent. Every farmer has a tame
wild pigeon in a cage at his door all the year round, in order to be
ready whenever the season comes for catching them.

The pleasure I receive from the warblings of the birds in the
spring, is superior to my poor description, as the continual
succession of their tuneful notes is for ever new to me. I generally
rise from bed about that indistinct interval, which, properly
speaking, is neither night or day; for this is the moment of the
most universal vocal choir. Who can listen unmoved to the sweet love
tales of our robins, told from tree to tree? or to the shrill cat
birds? The sublime accents of the thrush from on high always retard
my steps that I may listen to the delicious music. The variegated
appearances of the dew drops, as they hang to the different objects,
must present even to a clownish imagination, the most voluptuous
ideas. The astonishing art which all birds display in the
construction of their nests, ill provided as we may suppose them
with proper tools, their neatness, their convenience, always make me
ashamed of the slovenliness of our houses; their love to their dame,
their incessant careful attention, and the peculiar songs they
address to her while she tediously incubates their eggs, remind me
of my duty could I ever forget it. Their affection to their helpless
little ones, is a lively precept; and in short, the whole economy of
what we proudly call the brute creation, is admirable in every
circumstance; and vain man, though adorned with the additional gift
of reason, might learn from the perfection of instinct, how to
regulate the follies, and how to temper the errors which this second
gift often makes him commit. This is a subject, on which I have
often bestowed the most serious thoughts; I have often blushed
within myself, and been greatly astonished, when I have compared the
unerring path they all follow, all just, all proper, all wise, up to
the necessary degree of perfection, with the coarse, the imperfect
systems of men, not merely as governors and kings, but as masters,
as husbands, as fathers, as citizens. But this is a sanctuary in
which an ignorant farmer must not presume to enter.

If ever man was permitted to receive and enjoy some blessings that
might alleviate the many sorrows to which he is exposed, it is
certainly in the country, when he attentively considers those
ravishing scenes with which he is everywhere surrounded. This is the
only time of the year in which I am avaricious of every moment, I
therefore lose none that can add to this simple and inoffensive
happiness. I roam early throughout all my fields; not the least
operation do I perform, which is not accompanied with the most
pleasing observations; were I to extend them as far as I have
carried them, I should become tedious; you would think me guilty of
affectation, and I should perhaps represent many things as
pleasurable from which you might not perhaps receive the least
agreeable emotions. But, believe me, what I write is all true and

Some time ago, as I sat smoking a contemplative pipe in my piazza, I
saw with amazement a remarkable instance of selfishness displayed in
a very small bird, which I had hitherto respected for its
inoffensiveness. Three nests were placed almost contiguous to each
other in my piazza: that of a swallow was affixed in the corner next
to the house, that of a phebe in the other, a wren possessed a
little box which I had made on purpose, and hung between. Be not
surprised at their tameness, all my family had long been taught to
respect them as well as myself. The wren had shown before signs of
dislike to the box which I had given it, but I knew not on what
account; at last it resolved, small as it was, to drive the swallow
from its own habitation, and to my very great surprise it succeeded.
Impudence often gets the better of modesty, and this exploit was no
sooner performed, than it removed every material to its own box with
the most admirable dexterity; the signs of triumph appeared very
visible, it fluttered its wings with uncommon velocity, an universal
joy was perceivable in all its movements. Where did this little bird
learn that spirit of injustice? It was not endowed with what we term
reason! Here then is a proof that both those gifts border very near
on one another; for we see the perfection of the one mixing with the
errors of the other! The peaceable swallow, like the passive Quaker,
meekly sat at a small distance and never offered the least
resistance; but no sooner was the plunder carried away, than the
injured bird went to work with unabated ardour, and in a few days
the depredations were repaired. To prevent however a repetition of
the same violence, I removed the wren's box to another part of the

In the middle of my new parlour I have, you may remember, a curious
republic of industrious hornets; their nest hangs to the ceiling, by
the same twig on which it was so admirably built and contrived in
the woods. Its removal did not displease them, for they find in my
house plenty of food; and I have left a hole open in one of the
panes of the window, which answers all their purposes. By this kind
usage they are become quite harmless; they live on the flies, which
are very troublesome to us throughout the summer; they are
constantly busy in catching them, even on the eyelids of my
children. It is surprising how quickly they smear them with a sort
of glue, lest they might escape, and when thus prepared, they carry
them to their nests, as food for their young ones. These globular
nests are most ingeniously divided into many stories, all provided
with cells, and proper communications. The materials with which this
fabric is built, they procure from the cottony furze, with which our
oak rails are covered; this substance tempered with glue, produces a
sort of pasteboard, which is very strong, and resists all the
inclemencies of the weather. By their assistance, I am but little
troubled with flies. All my family are so accustomed to their strong
buzzing, that no one takes any notice of them; and though they are
fierce and vindictive, yet kindness and hospitality has made them
useful and harmless.

We have a great variety of wasps; most of them build their nests in
mud, which they fix against the shingles of our roofs, as nigh the
pitch as they can. These aggregates represent nothing, at first
view, but coarse and irregular lumps, but if you break them, you
will observe, that the inside of them contains a great number of
oblong cells, in which they deposit their eggs, and in which they
bury themselves in the fall of the year. Thus immured they securely
pass through the severity of that season, and on the return of the
sun are enabled to perforate their cells, and to open themselves a
passage from these recesses into the sunshine. The yellow wasps,
which build under ground, in our meadows, are much more to be
dreaded, for when the mower unwittingly passes his scythe over their
holes they immediately sally forth with a fury and velocity superior
even to the strength of man. They make the boldest fly, and the only
remedy is to lie down and cover our heads with hay, for it is only
at the head they aim their blows; nor is there any possibility of
finishing that part of the work until, by means of fire and
brimstone, they are all silenced. But though I have been obliged to
execute this dreadful sentence in my own defence, I have often
thought it a great pity, for the sake of a little hay, to lay waste
so ingenious a subterranean town, furnished with every conveniency,
and built with a most surprising mechanism.

I never should have done were I to recount the many objects which
involuntarily strike my imagination in the midst of my work, and
spontaneously afford me the most pleasing relief. These appear
insignificant trifles to a person who has travelled through Europe
and America, and is acquainted with books and with many sciences;
but such simple objects of contemplation suffice me, who have no
time to bestow on more extensive observations. Happily these require
no study, they are obvious, they gild the moments I dedicate to
them, and enliven the severe labours which I perform. At home my
happiness springs from very different objects; the gradual unfolding
of my children's reason, the study of their dawning tempers attract
all my paternal attention. I have to contrive little punishments for
their little faults, small encouragements for their good actions,
and a variety of other expedients dictated by various occasions. But
these are themes unworthy your perusal, and which ought not to be
carried beyond the walls of my house, being domestic mysteries
adapted only to the locality of the small sanctuary wherein my
family resides. Sometimes I delight in inventing and executing
machines, which simplify my wife's labour. I have been tolerably
successful that way; and these, Sir, are the narrow circles within
which I constantly revolve, and what can I wish for beyond them? I
bless God for all the good he has given me; I envy no man's
prosperity, and with no other portion of happiness than that I may
live to teach the same philosophy to my children; and give each of
them a farm, show them how to cultivate it, and be like their
father, good substantial independent American farmers--an
appellation which will be the most fortunate one a man of my class
can possess, so long as our civil government continues to shed
blessings on our husbandry. Adieu.



I wish I could be acquainted with the feelings and thoughts which
must agitate the heart and present themselves to the mind of an
enlightened Englishman, when he first lands on this continent. He
must greatly rejoice that he lived at a time to see this fair
country discovered and settled; he must necessarily feel a share of
national pride, when he views the chain of settlements which
embellishes these extended shores. When he says to himself, this is
the work of my countrymen, who, when convulsed by factions,
afflicted by a variety of miseries and wants, restless and
impatient, took refuge here. They brought along with them their
national genius, to which they principally owe what liberty they
enjoy, and what substance they possess. Here he sees the industry of
his native country displayed in a new manner, and traces in their
works the embryos of all the arts, sciences, and ingenuity which
nourish in Europe. Here he beholds fair cities, substantial
villages, extensive fields, an immense country filled with decent
houses, good roads, orchards, meadows, and bridges, where an hundred
years ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated! What a train of
pleasing ideas this fair spectacle must suggest; it is a prospect
which must inspire a good citizen with the most heartfelt pleasure.
The difficulty consists in the manner of viewing so extensive a
scene. He is arrived on a new continent; a modern society offers
itself to his contemplation, different from what he had hitherto
seen. It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess
everything, and of a herd of people who have nothing. Here are no
aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no
ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very
visible one; no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great
refinements of luxury. The rich and the poor are not so far removed
from each other as they are in Europe. Some few towns excepted, we
are all tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida. We
are a people of cultivators, scattered over an immense territory,
communicating with each other by means of good roads and navigable
rivers, united by the silken bands of mild government, all
respecting the laws, without dreading their power, because they are
equitable. We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which
is unfettered and unrestrained, because each person works for
himself. If he travels through our rural districts he views not the
hostile castle, and the haughty mansion, contrasted with the clay-
built hut and miserable cabin, where cattle and men help to keep
each other warm, and dwell in meanness, smoke, and indigence. A
pleasing uniformity of decent competence appears throughout our
habitations. The meanest of our log-houses is a dry and comfortable
habitation. Lawyer or merchant are the fairest titles our towns
afford; that of a farmer is the only appellation of the rural
inhabitants of our country. It must take some time ere he can
reconcile himself to our dictionary, which is but short in words of
dignity, and names of honour. There, on a Sunday, he sees a
congregation of respectable farmers and their wives, all clad in
neat homespun, well mounted, or riding in their own humble waggons.
There is not among them an esquire, saving the unlettered
magistrate. There he sees a parson as simple as his flock, a farmer
who does not riot on the labour of others. We have no princes, for
whom we toil, starve, and bleed: we are the most perfect society now
existing in the world. Here man is free as he ought to be; nor is
this pleasing equality so transitory as many others are. Many ages
will not see the shores of our great lakes replenished with inland
nations, nor the unknown bounds of North America entirely peopled.
Who can tell how far it extends? Who can tell the millions of men
whom it will feed and contain? for no European foot has as yet
travelled half the extent of this mighty continent!

The next wish of this traveller will be to know whence came all
these people? they are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French,
Dutch, Germans, and Swedes. From this promiscuous breed, that race
now called Americans have arisen. The eastern provinces must indeed
be excepted, as being the unmixed descendants of Englishmen. I have
heard many wish that they had been more intermixed also: for my
part, I am no wisher, and think it much better as it has happened.
They exhibit a most conspicuous figure in this great and variegated
picture; they too enter for a great share in the pleasing
perspective displayed in these thirteen provinces. I know it is
fashionable to reflect on them, but I respect them for what they
have done; for the accuracy and wisdom with which they have settled
their territory; for the decency of their manners; for their early
love of letters; their ancient college, the first in this
hemisphere; for their industry; which to me who am but a farmer, is
the criterion of everything. There never was a people, situated as
they are, who with so ungrateful a soil have done more in so short a
time. Do you think that the monarchical ingredients which are more
prevalent in other governments, have purged them from all foul
stains? Their histories assert the contrary.

In this great American asylum, the poor of Europe have by some means
met together, and in consequence of various causes; to what purpose
should they ask one another what countrymen they are? Alas, two
thirds of them had no country. Can a wretch who wanders about, who
works and starves, whose life is a continual scene of sore
affliction or pinching penury; can that man call England or any
other kingdom his country? A country that had no bread for him,
whose fields procured him no harvest, who met with nothing but the
frowns of the rich, the severity of the laws, with jails and
punishments; who owned not a single foot of the extensive surface of
this planet? No! urged by a variety of motives, here they came.
Every thing has tended to regenerate them; new laws, a new mode of
living, a new social system; here they are become men: in Europe
they were as so many useless plants, wanting vegetative mould, and
refreshing showers; they withered, and were mowed down by want,
hunger, and war; but now by the power of transplantation, like all
other plants they have taken root and flourished! Formerly they were
not numbered in any civil lists of their country, except in those of
the poor; here they rank as citizens. By what invisible power has
this surprising metamorphosis been performed? By that of the laws
and that of their industry. The laws, the indulgent laws, protect
them as they arrive, stamping on them the symbol of adoption; they
receive ample rewards for their labours; these accumulated rewards
procure them lands; those lands confer on them the title of freemen,
and to that title every benefit is affixed which men can possibly
require. This is the great operation daily performed by our laws.
From whence proceed these laws? From our government. Whence the
government? It is derived from the original genius and strong desire
of the people ratified and confirmed by the crown. This is the great
chain which links us all, this is the picture which every province
exhibits, Nova Scotia excepted.

There the crown has done all; either there were no people who had
genius, or it was not much attended to: the consequence is, that the
province is very thinly inhabited indeed; the power of the crown in
conjunction with the musketos has prevented men from settling there.
Yet some parts of it flourished once, and it contained a mild
harmless set of people. But for the fault of a few leaders, the
whole were banished. The greatest political error the crown ever
committed in America, was to cut off men from a country which wanted
nothing but men!

What attachment can a poor European emigrant have for a country
where he had nothing? The knowledge of the language, the love of a
few kindred as poor as himself, were the only cords that tied him:
his country is now that which gives him land, bread, protection, and
consequence: Ubi panis ibi patria, is the motto of all emigrants.
What then is the American, this new man? He is either an European,
or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of
blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to
you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was
Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons
have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who,
leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives
new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new
government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an
American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men,
whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the
world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along
with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry
which began long since in the east; they will finish the great
circle. The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they
are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which
has ever appeared, and which will hereafter become distinct by the
power of the different climates they inhabit. The American ought
therefore to love this country much better than that wherein either
he or his forefathers were born. Here the rewards of his industry
follow with equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is
founded on the basis of nature, SELF-INTEREST: can it want a
stronger allurement? Wives and children, who before in vain demanded
of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicsome, gladly help their
father to clear those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to
feed and to clothe them all; without any part being claimed, either
by a despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord. Here religion
demands but little of him; a small voluntary salary to the minister,
and gratitude to God; can he refuse these? The American is a new
man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new
ideas, and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile
dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a
very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence.--This is an

British America is divided into many provinces, forming a large
association, scattered along a coast 1500 miles extent and about 200
wide. This society I would fain examine, at least such as it appears
in the middle provinces; if it does not afford that variety of
tinges and gradations which may be observed in Europe, we have
colours peculiar to ourselves. For instance, it is natural to
conceive that those who live near the sea, must be very different
from those who live in the woods; the intermediate space will afford
a separate and distinct class.

Men are like plants; the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds
from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are
nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we
inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess,
and the nature of our employment. Here you will find but few crimes;
these have acquired as yet no root among us. I wish I was able to
trace all my ideas; if my ignorance prevents me from describing them
properly, I hope I shall be able to delineate a few of the outlines,
which are all I propose.

Those who live near the sea, feed more on fish than on flesh, and
often encounter that boisterous element. This renders them more bold
and enterprising; this leads them to neglect the confined
occupations of the land. They see and converse with a variety of
people, their intercourse with mankind becomes extensive. The sea
inspires them with a love of traffic, a desire of transporting
produce from one place to another; and leads them to a variety of
resources which supply the place of labour. Those who inhabit the
middle settlements, by far the most numerous, must be very
different; the simple cultivation of the earth purifies them, but
the indulgences of the government, the soft remonstrances of
religion, the rank of independent freeholders, must necessarily
inspire them with sentiments, very little known in Europe among
people of the same class. What do I say? Europe has no such class of
men; the early knowledge they acquire, the early bargains they make,
give them a great degree of sagacity. As freemen they will be
litigious; pride and obstinacy are often the cause of law suits; the
nature of our laws and governments may be another. As citizens it is
easy to imagine, that they will carefully read the newspapers, enter
into every political disquisition, freely blame or censure governors
and others. As farmers they will be careful and anxious to get as
much as they can, because what they get is their own. As northern
men they will love the cheerful cup. As Christians, religion curbs
them not in their opinions; the general indulgence leaves every one
to think for themselves in spiritual matters; the laws inspect our
actions, our thoughts are left to God. Industry, good living,
selfishness, litigiousness, country politics, the pride of freemen,
religious indifference, are their characteristics. If you recede
still farther from the sea, you will come into more modern
settlements; they exhibit the same strong lineaments, in a ruder
appearance. Religion seems to have still less influence, and their
manners are less improved.

Now we arrive near the great woods, near the last inhabited
districts; there men seem to be placed still farther beyond the
reach of government, which in some measure leaves them to
themselves. How can it pervade every corner; as they were driven
there by misfortunes, necessity of beginnings, desire of acquiring
large tracts of land, idleness, frequent want of economy, ancient
debts; the re-union of such people does not afford a very pleasing
spectacle. When discord, want of unity and friendship; when either
drunkenness or idleness prevail in such remote districts;
contention, inactivity, and wretchedness must ensue. There are not
the same remedies to these evils as in a long established community.
The few magistrates they have, are in general little better than the
rest; they are often in a perfect state of war; that of man against
man, sometimes decided by blows, sometimes by means of the law; that
of man against every wild inhabitant of these venerable woods, of
which they are come to dispossess them. There men appear to be no
better than carnivorous animals of a superior rank, living on the
flesh of wild animals when they can catch them, and when they are
not able, they subsist on grain. He who would wish to see America in
its proper light, and have a true idea of its feeble beginnings and
barbarous rudiments, must visit our extended line of frontiers where
the last settlers dwell, and where he may see the first labours of
settlement, the mode of clearing the earth, in all their different
appearances; where men are wholly left dependent on their native
tempers, and on the spur of uncertain industry, which often fails
when not sanctified by the efficacy of a few moral rules. There,
remote from the power of example and check of shame, many families
exhibit the most hideous parts of our society. They are a kind of
forlorn hope, preceding by ten or twelve years the most respectable
army of veterans which come after them. In that space, prosperity
will polish some, vice and the law will drive off the rest, who
uniting again with others like themselves will recede still farther;
making room for more industrious people, who will finish their
improvements, convert the loghouse into a convenient habitation, and
rejoicing that the first heavy labours are finished, will change in
a few years that hitherto barbarous country into a fine fertile,
well regulated district. Such is our progress, such is the march of
the Europeans toward the interior parts of this continent. In all
societies there are off-casts; this impure part serves as our
precursors or pioneers; my father himself was one of that class, but
he came upon honest principles, and was therefore one of the few who
held fast; by good conduct and temperance, he transmitted to me his
fair inheritance, when not above one in fourteen of his
contemporaries had the same good fortune.

Forty years ago this smiling country was thus inhabited; it is now
purged, a general decency of manners prevails throughout, and such
has been the fate of our best countries.

Exclusive of those general characteristics, each province has its
own, founded on the government, climate, mode of husbandry, customs,
and peculiarity of circumstances. Europeans submit insensibly to
these great powers, and become, in the course of a few generations,
not only Americans in general, but either Pennsylvanians,
Virginians, or provincials under some other name. Whoever traverses
the continent must easily observe those strong differences, which
will grow more evident in time. The inhabitants of Canada,
Massachusetts, the middle provinces, the southern ones will be as
different as their climates; their only points of unity will be
those of religion and language.

As I have endeavoured to show you how Europeans become Americans; it
may not be disagreeable to show you likewise how the various
Christian sects introduced, wear out, and how religious indifference
becomes prevalent. When any considerable number of a particular sect
happen to dwell contiguous to each other, they immediately erect a
temple, and there worship the Divinity agreeably to their own
peculiar ideas. Nobody disturbs them. If any new sect springs up in
Europe it may happen that many of its professors will come and
settle in American. As they bring their zeal with them, they are at
liberty to make proselytes if they can, and to build a meeting and
to follow the dictates of their consciences; for neither the
government nor any other power interferes. If they are peaceable
subjects, and are industrious, what is it to their neighbours how
and in what manner they think fit to address their prayers to the
Supreme Being? But if the sectaries are not settled close together,
if they are mixed with other denominations, their zeal will cool for
want of fuel, and will be extinguished in a little time. Then the
Americans become as to religion, what they are as to country, allied
to all. In them the name of Englishman, Frenchman, and European is
lost, and in like manner, the strict modes of Christianity as
practised in Europe are lost also. This effect will extend itself
still farther hereafter, and though this may appear to you as a
strange idea, yet it is a very true one. I shall be able perhaps
hereafter to explain myself better; in the meanwhile, let the
following example serve as my first justification.

Let us suppose you and I to be travelling; we observe that in this
house, to the right, lives a Catholic, who prays to God as he has
been taught, and believes in transubstantiation; he works and raises
wheat, he has a large family of children, all hale and robust; his
belief, his prayers offend nobody. About one mile farther on the

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