288 America the Great

Joelle Del Signore

According to Farmer James, America was once a hostile, savage place that the Europeans colonized and tamed with their European culture, thereby giving the land what is so needed in order to blossom and reach its full potential. Europeans have brought their manners and culture to America, imposing their teachings upon the land to shape it into the beautiful hybrid landscape that proves fruitful when worked diligently.

America is a place of prosperity and opportunity, one that, when filled with hard-working men, will be fostered into a perfect modern society. The land allows its inhabitants to work for themselves and sustain themselves on their own plots of land, something less possible in most of Europe. America is where men will go to live ‘better’ lives, away from the large class divides and toil of working for lords who reap all the rewards of one’s hard work. America allows for any man to be his own employer and benefit from his time and efforts spent nurturing his crops, cattle, home, and country. The opportunities of America will encourage zealous men to come and become a part of this new land and society of self-employed men.

Strong communities of self providing-men will make for a profitable society. The draw of a land so rich in possibility will create upstanding men. It will inspire its inhabitants to work harder and put in more effort as the fertile land gives them the opportunity to sustain them and even give the possibility of wealth. Moving away from European living, where their homelands are not so forgiving and are unable to provide bread, motivates the American man because of the new robust landscape.

Farmer James highlights that in the wake of idleness these hard-working men will quickly devolve into chaos, fighting  drinking, and harboring a disregard for the law. He also talks about the kinds of cultures that will be developed based on a colony’s geographical location within America, pointing out that those who live near ‘the great woods’ will become far from the government’s reach. Living among the wilderness where wildness runs rampant. These men have disregard for the laws of man, following the laws of animals when handling their disputes.

Living in close proximity to these harsh environments will force men to become hunters, thus laying down their plow for bows and guns. Such lands teeming with life will force its inhabitants to change and adapt to its conditions, even to those conditions of survival purely through hunting rather than agriculture. Farmer James also describes how selfishness will become more prevalent among Americans as anxieties of land and property will push them to lawsuits; they will want to bring all issues with their neighbors to a judge to be handled ‘properly’. Putting land in the hands of citizens will invoke a sense of greed in them as they will want to push for the best deal for themselves. The land will become their top priority and their own personal gain shall be the forefront of their interests.

Throughout the Letters, Farmer James gives backhanded comments to the complex structure of America. He praises the fertile lands that beg for men to live on them and pull resources from them, while also looking down on the rough nature of the ‘mixed breed’ that shall cultivate the land in time. He suggests that hybridity will ‘taint’ the purity of European roots and cause the Americans to pull away from the established cultural practices of Europeans.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Joelle Del Signore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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