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Jean de Crevecoeur

Biography
by

Sara Hordyńska

on 16 October 2012

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Transcript of Jean de Crevecoeur

Jean de Crevecoeur 1735-1813 St. Jean de Crevecoeur was born in 1735 in Caen, Normandy. His birth name was Michel-Guilliaume-Jean de Crevecoeur. In 1754 he was sent to live with relatives in England, where he learned the English language and also fell in love. Sadly, his fiancé died before they could marry. Crevecoeur left the country and went to Canada. There, he served in the French and Indian War. Following the British defeat of the French Army in 1759 he moved to New York State This move signaled a complete change for Crevecoeur; he became a new man. Thomas Philbrick explains: "Lieutenant Michel Jean de Crevecoeur, scion of the Norman aristocracy and officer in His Most Christian Majesty's army, vanishes, and in his place appears J. Hector St. John, itinerant surveyor and merchant." Crevecoeur spent his time exploring British North America, parts of the Atlantic colonies, the Ohio Valley, and the Great Lakes. He also began farming; the occupation that he would later discuss in his writings. The year 1765 was an important one for Crevecoeur; he met Mehitable Tippet and he also became a naturalized citizen of New York. Mehitable and Crevecoeur were married on September 20, 1769, and he bought one hundred and twenty acres so that he could be a farmer. The land was quickly made into a homestead, and Crevecoeur called his home "Pine Hill." Crevecoeur's first child was born on December 14, 1770, and he named the little girl "America-Frances." He and Mehitable also had two other children; Guillaume-Alexandre was born in 1772 and Phillipe-Louis was born in 1774. Crevecoeur spent these years in a relaxing manner. He talked with his well-educated friends, painted, traveled, and began writing. He wrote about Americans and their lives, his work describes the Revolutionary War's effect upon America. In his work, Letters from an American Farmer, Crevecoeur explains, "The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions." This work provided useful information and understanding of the "New World" that helped to create an American identity in the minds of Europeans by describing an entire country rather than another regional colony. He was the first writer to explore the concept of the "American Dream." Crevecoeur's contented lifestyle did not last long. The Revolutionary War broke out, and Pine Hill was right in the middle of the fighting. Crevecoeur most likely took an oath of loyalty to the new government because his land was not confiscated.
In spite of the danger, Crevecoeur left his wife and two of the children at Pine Hill and left for New York City, which was occupied by the British. He wanted to take his oldest son back to France so that he could claim his inheritance. In 1780 he returned to France where he stayed for a few years before coming back to New York City as the French Consul.
Letters from an American Farmer was published in 1782 and it was quite a success. Crevecoeur began writing a French version of it and returned to America. He was shocked to discover that Pine Hill had been burned down, Mehitable was dead, and his children were sent to live with friends. Crevecoeur focused on strengthening the relationship between America and France. Crevecoeur was made a member of the American Philosophical Society. He was an honorary citizen of various cities and the town of St. Johnsbury was named after him. However, Crevecoeur felt torn between France and America, and he returned to France. Although Crevecoeur did go back to America for a short time, in 1790 he left America permanently and spent his final years in France. He passed away on November 12, 1813 in Sarcelles, France. He died because of heart trouble after he had been arrested as an American spy. Thank you for attention :)
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