Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
M. Lee Steinmetz
The purpose of this study is to show how the different groups who settled in the English American colonies which later became the United States described themselves during the colonial period. The focal work is Letters from an American Farmer by Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. In his chapter "What is an American?" Crevecoeur goes into detail in his descriptions of settlers living in the American colonies just before the Revolutionary War.
Crevecoeur's descriptions are compared with those of earlier writers who wrote at the time of settlement. These writers are selected to be representative of their colony or region. All of them lived at some time in the colony about which they write.
The most significant writers and their works are William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation; John Smith of Virginia, Description of Virginia and Proceedings of the Colonie, Generall Historie of Virginia, and A True Relation; William Penn, Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania, Letter from William Penn to the Committee of the Free Society of Traders, and A Further Account of the Province of Pennsylvania, and Lord Baltimore's Instructions to the Colonists.
The study shows that over the entire colonial period the writers were remarkably in agreement in their descriptions of themselves and those they wanted to persuade to join them in America.
Crevecoeur insists that a settler who succeeds in America and becomes a good citizen of the colony must be industrious. This industry includes both study and diligence; hard work is not enough. Penn frequently writes of the need for industrious people to settle Pennsylvania. And throughout Penn's writings one notices the attention to detail which he gives to setting up his colony. Bradford tells how carefully the Plymouth colony studies and plans their move and how diligent they are in carrying out their plans. John Smith relates both the possibilities of Virginia when the settlers work with industry and the failures when they slack off or lose sight of their purpose.
In addition to their own industry, the settlers throughout the period recognize the providence of God in their lives. Although the settlers have widely varying forms of worship, they believe that God has opened up the American continent so that the settlers may glorify Him at the same time they create new and betters lives for themselves.
Richards, Judith, "Americans Define Themselves in the New World" (1991). Masters Theses. 2237.