The term American has been discussed variously in an attempt to define an American. The question of what an American is aiming to gain an understanding of the distinguishing characteristics of the American. De Crevecoeur attempts to answer the question in his work, ‘Letters from an American Farmer’, as he describes an Englishman’s experience in the United States. This paper aims to answer the question, what is an American, by describing the characteristics of an American with reference to the works of de Crevecoeur, Jonathan Edwards, and Benjamin Franklin.
According to de Crevecoeur, America is a product of European emigration and has inherited much of European culture and traditions in arts and sciences (de Crevecoeur 48). Unlike Europe, an American exists in a free and modern country without aristocratic rule, lives in unison among the rich and poor, mainly works as a cultivator, is “united by government [and rule of law] as an equitable citizen” (de Crevecoeur 49). The American enjoys freedoms unlike his English counterpart who is enslaved by the ruling class and segregated on the basis of social class (Franklin 634-635). The American is accorded with new opportunities in the un-inhabited land though laws, living conditions and social systems. The American freedom is transitional and allows the American farmer the dignity to socialize and congregate with others like him (de Crevecoeur 50). This dignity and decency has been generational and accords the young Americans with respect in other continents.
An American is a mixed race. The American comes from an emigrated people of diverse nationalities and races from Europe. An American is a mixed race of English, Scottish, French, Dutch, German and Irish (de Crevecoeur 51) and can be considered as a descendant of the Englishmen. Through interaction with other Americans, he becomes part of a united mixed race where his grandfather could be an Englishman, Dutch wife, French daughter-in-law and an extended family from different nations (de Crevecoeur 54). This mixed race is free from prejudices and manners characteristic of European nationalities.
An American is an industrious and loyal race that has amassed great knowledge in arts, sciences and industry. Referred as western pilgrims, Americans work with vigor to develop sophisticated political, economic and social systems quite different from the West (de Crevecoeur 55). While previously scattered in Europe, restricted to national resources by virtue of their social status as poor people, the American has learnt how to integrate various elements or systems to support government structures. These systems have enhanced citizen loyalty to the country (de Crevecoeur 55). This loyalty is exhibited by the American people’s love for their country which could be due to the fact that they benefit from rights and freedoms that were previously non-existent.
An American has access to rights and freedoms protected by government structures that guarantee political, economic, and social privileges (Franklin 36). While these freedoms created controversy in Europe, Americans are privileged to have free access to information, political participation, and religious affiliation. As Christians, they are not inhibited to express their opinions and can indulge in spiritual matters without interference (de Crevecoeur 58). These freedoms however have negative impacts as seen in the number of litigations and religious indifferences that can be solved by godly humility to achieve national glory (Edwards and Smolinski 13-14).
In summary, the paper has presented characteristics of an American as enjoying freedoms and dignities absent in other continents, a descendant of a mixed European race, and an industrious and knowledgeable people in sciences and arts. Though a descendant of western pilgrims, Americans are unified people in a continent that allows them equitable rights and freedoms through modern laws, political and economic systems, and social structures.