On reading Crevecoeur

I just finished Crevecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer. An interesting book in many ways, although rather miscellaneous, and it’s hard to know when he’s telling the truth. One interesting feature: he emphasizes the effect of immigration, national diversity, freedom, and economic opportunity in producing a common American type: decent, orderly, enterprising, prosperous, politically-minded, litigious, self-centered and religiously indifferent—in short, whiggish.

5 thoughts on “On reading Crevecoeur”

  1. Oh, no, another paleocon
    Oh, no, another paleocon nail in what some might see as (or hope to see as?) the coffin of the Founding. As a possible corrective, I just started reading “Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, and Religion,” by David Barton, which I’m told is a convincing argument on the explicit elements of Christianity in the Founding period. Also, Ellis Sandoz’s “A Government of Laws” is a profound explication of the same theme and well worth reading.

    That’s the good news. Then there’s the bad news. Even if all those religious elements were present and active and explicit in the American society of the time, that would not change the fact that the governing instruments themselves represented a self-sufficient system, which, even though originally based in a Protestant Christian culture and all kinds of traditional understandings, would tend to evolve in a secular, man-centered direction.

  2. Every Europrean nation is
    Every Europrean nation is swimming in good Christian tradition, yet they are all worse than the United States. After all, even a government of laws is managed by men. If the people go bad, what’s there to do?

  3. It’s true that the American
    It’s true that the American Founding wasn’t an isolated event but an instance of much broader tendencies that were also active elsewhere. The question though is what in it and the past generally can serve as a guide to help get us out of the swamp we’re stuck in, and what must be viewed as part of what got us here. It seems to me the attempt to design a self-contained political system was part of what got us here.

  4. You can’t say the Whigs were
    You can’t say the Whigs were of essense religiously indifferent. The original term whiggamore was a slur against Scottish Presbyterians that was later embraced. They denied the divine right of kings. What’s not to like?

  5. It sounds from what you say
    It sounds from what you say that even protowhiggery tended to make religion a matter of private conviction rather than public authority. That’s part of what Crevecoeur describes – religious diversity, political freedom and economic opportunity mean that what’s important publicly is prosperity, neighborliness and good citizenship. No-one cares what your private religious opinions are, and as a result people become indifferent themselves.


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