A New Kind of Country
Put yourself on the North American continent at the end of the eighteenth century. It's a raw land, inhabited by Native Americans. In Florida and New Mexico and California, some Spaniards have settled in Catholic colonies. In Canada, the French have sent fur traders and trappers. But it is the people who are settling a narrow band of land along the Atlantic coast who will cause most of the changes that are ahead. Those peoplethere are about three million of themwill fight ferociously for their freedom. What will make them do it? One of them is a Frenchman named Hector St. John Crevecoeur. Listen to one of the things he said: "The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions."
Crevecoeur was a mapmaker who had come to this country in the 1750s to help the French fight against the British army and the colonies. But when he saw the English colonies and the freedom they offered, he decided to move. He settled on a farm in what is now New York state. Hector St. John Crevecoeur fell in love with America. And he wrote about what he admired most in his newly adopted country: "Here man is free as he ought to be.... We have no princes, for whom we toil, starve and bleed. We are the most perfect society now existing in the world." Crevecoeur's name in French means "broken heart." And, sadly, his name would come true. Crevecoeur would take his son to Europe to get his book about America published. When he came back, his wife was dead, his house was burned, and his two other children were gone. Indians had attacked. His heart was broken. Later he found the children alive, and that mended his heart, at least a little. But even that broken heart never caused Crevecoeur to lose faith in the basic decency of all the peoplesIndian, English, French, Spanish, African, German, Dutch and otherswho were forming a new kind of society in a land he now loved. This is what he said about America: "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men whose labors and posterity will one day cause great change in the world ." Crevecoeur was warning Europe. Americans had new ideas and those ideas might even spread beyond the seas. But it was the kind of warning George III of England wasn't listening to.