Appendix 2 from American Farmer Letters by Crevecoeur

Letters From An American Farmer

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur


Text: Letters From an American Farmer, by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, reprinted from the original ed., with a prefatory note by W. P. Trent and an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.

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[Translated from the French edition, 1784.]

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur From Lettres d'un cultivateur américain (the French edition of Letters from an American Farmer), published by Cuchet in Paris, 1784, via Wikimedia Commons.

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur
From Lettres d’un cultivateur américain (the French edition of Letters from an American Farmer), published by Cuchet in Paris, 1784, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The city of New York is handsome, although irregular. This irregularity proceeds from the nature of the soil, from the steepness of the peninsula on which the first houses were built, as well as from the necessity of continually forming artificial ground to increase the extent of the city and procure for its trade the needful warehouses and quays. The inhabitants derive this taste for building on the water from the early Dutch settlers, and the admirable skill with which they accomplish it from their own wisdom. There is not, I believe, another city on this Continent, where the art of laying the foundations of quays and of constructing them has been pushed further. I have seen one built in forty feet of water. This was done with trunks of pine trees fastened together, which they drive in with rocks, the surface of which is then covered with earth.–Beaver


Beaver Street, which to-day is so far distant from the sea, was named thus because formerly it was a small bay in which these animals had formed an embankment. I have conversed with old inhabitants who told me that they had seen the sea mount up to the very neighbor- hood of the City Hall.

Certain streets have side-walks on both sides paved with slabs of rock, and adorned with plane-trees whose shade in summer is equally pleasant to the passers by and to the houses. Here one finds a union of Dutch neatness with English taste and architecture. The houses are finished, placed, and painted with the greatest care. Here the merchants are intelligent, able, and rich; and the artisans very skillful, especially the carpenters, the cabinet makers and the joiners. Stone being rare, nearly the whole city is built of bricks. Let those who like myself have experienced the extreme hospitality of the New Yorkers praise it as it deserves. New York being the constant meeting place of the English packet-boats, this city is necessarily the first that European strangers enter. The reception which they receive here is enough to give them a high idea of American generosity, as well as of the simple and cordial friendliness which they are to expect in the other cities of this Continent.


The streets are frequently cleaned, and are lighted during the dark nights. The city contains three thousand four hundred houses, twenty-eight thousand inhabitants, and twenty churches belonging to different sects. It is a pleasure to see also a College beautifully built. It is furnished with an excellent library and with a great number of costly mathematical instruments. One regrets only that this new academy has not been erected far from the city, in some rural retreat, where the scholars had been far removed from the tumults of busi- ness, and the dissipations and pleasures that are so numerous in large cities.–Recently there was built at a convenient distance from New York, on an eminence not far from the Hudson River, a magnificent hospital for sailors, the architecture, situation, and establishing of which do great honor to the good citizens who founded it. But nothing is more beautiful, and nothing gives the reflective spectator a higher idea of the city’s wealth, or of the nature of its free and happy commerce, than the multitude of ships of all sizes, which continually tack about in the bay, either to sail free of the harbor, or to reach the city.

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