Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Contemporary View of America - 'What is an American?'

Global Power and Prominence

'Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labour and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world'

This quote was taken from the third letter 'What is an American?' of De Crevecoeur's 'Letters from an American Farmer', which is probably the most quoted and referenced part of his book. I chose this specific quote to represent a contemporary image of America because of what was interpreted in the 18th Century and how it has been developed into what we see as a 'modern day America'. 
To me De Crevecoeur is trying to elaborate how diverse and influential the United States was at that time and how he predicted big things to happen in the world. This is highly relative to today in that America is the leading power globally, economically etc. with China on their tail. I think that it's within the diversity of the settlers of the 13 colonies that has give the United States it's work force and it's power in the sense that it has been blessed with a variety of different cultures and lifestyles. Within these cultures is contrasting methodologies and viewpoints that have all been moulding into one, creating a completely new 'man', 'the American' as he puts it. Also the term 'continent' was used to describe America. This evokes a sense of space and sheer size; again - directly relating to power. This was no mere country that the settlers had discovered, it was on a far broader spectrum.

Another direct quotation that can still be relative in a contemporary manner is 'Here they [the settlers] are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared'. Again this term of incorporation and this overall metaphor of the 'melting pot', which was directly assimilated to the Europeans that colonised the western boarder of America. 'The finest' I think is probably the most powerful part of that quote, which can still be related to the way America works today. They are always striving to be the best and to be on top in the world. As a country they can't settle for anything less.


'It is not composed as in Europe, of great lords who possess every thing, 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 ver visible one, no great manufactures 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'.

I decided to use the entirety of this quote because of how it summarises the direct cause of the Europeans immigrating to America and how it shows the foundation of their independence. The direct point of this quotation that De Crevecoeur puts forward is to compare the new colonies of America to the different political and governmental stance of Europe. He explains that within America there is no class and no higher power that pushes them around, and that from this they are free to start their own governmental infrastructure. Another key point he raises is 'the rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe', this shows a level of equality from all of the settlers which wouldn't have been so prominent in Europe at the time, it was a 'new race' of people being created.
I think as well with all of the different elements of Europe he describes he is having a 'dig' or a stab at the leaders of the European countries for being responsible for the millions that emigrated to America to start with. I'm not saying that it's a solid criticism but more of a calling card to make the point clear that these people are leaving their country of origin to start a new life and they're going to be more healthy, happier, wealthier than they could ever be in Europe. One other important thing I noticed whilst reading this chapter was how De Crevecoeur realised that not everyone who worked was actually able to put food on their table. He uses an examples that relate to a man being a farmer of wheat and not being to get a loaf of bread for himself. That on hand he then explains that in America whoever farms or works will be directly rewarded for their hardwork and everyone will have an equal share.

De Crevecoeur is trying to imply here the foundation of the American independence, which is still so prominent today. America is known for it's at times over-the-top patriotism and love for it's country. To be honest I don't blame them because when you look at the whole scheme of the founding of America it was a very courageous and bold thing for these Europeans to have to do - to sail across the North Atlantic ocean 3000 miles without knowing what was going to confront them when they got to their final destination. Again I don't feel that he is anti-Europe, but more in the way of explaining how this new America or 'new American' will prosper because of their decisions to move.

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