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[199]

Of books at present existing, Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia will give the best idea of this part of the continent to a foreigner; and the American Farmer's letters, written by Mr. Cravecoeur's (commonly called Mr. St. John), the French consul in New York, who actually resided twenty years as a farmer in that State, will afford a great deal of profitable and amusive information, respecting the private life of the Americans, as well as the progress of agriculture, manufactures, and arts in their country. Perhaps the picture he gives, though founded on fact, is in some instances embellished with rather too flattering circumstances.

“The name of our Family is St. Jean, in English St. John, a name as Antient as the Conquest of England by William the Bastard.” So writes St. Jean de Crevecoeur, but he puts “J. Hector St. John” on the title-page of his imaginary Letters from an American Farmer. Born at Caen, 31 January, 1735, at the age of sixteen he went to England. A seven years education there may explain the superiority of his English style over his French. Emigrating to Canada, he subsequently was resident in Pennsylvania, and in 1764 became a citizen of New York. After five years he settled as a farmer in Ulster County; at a mature age for the colonies he married Mehetable Tippet of Yonkers. He made journeys in New York and Pennsylvania, and to the west, to the south as far as Charleston-possibly to Jamaica, and into New England. In 1779, on attempting to return to France, he was imprisoned in New York City as a spy. When released, he went to England, sold his Letters for thirty guineas, and crossed to Normandy; we find him writing from Caen in 1781. Through the Countess de Houdetot of Rousseau's Confessions he was enabled to send a copy of his book to Franklin, then (1782) on a mission abroad. Instrumental in helping Americans in England to return to this country, when Crevecoeur himself came back, in 1783, it was to find his wife just dead, and his children in the care of strangers. Meanwhile he had been appointed French consul in New York. His travels with Franklin gave rise to a three-volume work, not so interesting as the Letters, entitled Voyage dans la Haute Pennsylvanie. From 1790 until his death at Sarcelles, 12 November, 1813, he lived in France.

The Letters of this “farmer of feelings” to a doubtless hypothetical

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