Crèvecoeur: Freedom and Self-Government

I’m pulling together some quotations on freedom and self-government from J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer (1784):

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 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 […] We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and unrestrained, because each person works for himself. (67)

Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor 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. (71)

[H]e no sooner breathes our air than he forms schemes and embarks in designs he never would have thought of in his own country. There the plenitude of society confines many useful ideas and often extinguishes the most laudable schemes, which here ripen into maturity. Thus Europeans become Americans (82)

None among us suffer oppression either from government or religion; there are very few poor except the idle, and fortunately the force of example and the most ample encouragement soon create a new principle of activity, which had been extinguished perhaps in their native country for want of those opportunities which so often compel honest Europeans to seek shelter among us. (165)


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