Survey of American LiteratureNovember 13, 1996THE NEW LAND OF NEW IDEASThe 18th century Americans turned their backs on the old ideas of thePuritans. The Puritans believed in the population acting within the religiousways of the times. The 18th century population turned their lifestyles to alifestyle of self interest. This lifestyle was dedicated to the goal of obtainingwealth and prestige among the community. DeCrevecouer writes:He is arrived on a new continent; a modern society offers itself to hiscontemptation, different from what he had hitherto seen.
It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess every thing and of aherd of people who have nothing. Here are no aristocratical families, nocourts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible powergiving to a few a very visible one; no great manufacturers employingthousands, no great refinements of luxury. The rich and the poor are not sofar removed from each other as they are in Europe. In the old mother land, one could work all day and still not produce verymuch.
However, in the new land there was more opportunity forentrepreneurship. This led to a increase in the self-interest principle and adecrease in the principles of religion. In Old England, it was believed that thefew that had the wealth were blessed. Even the King was viewed as theLord’s represantive on Earth. In the new land one had to work to gain faith. Wealth that the individual created was viewed as being faithful to the Lord.
The new America gives birth to a true entrepreneurship among the races, ifthey are going to have anything at all they are going to have to work for it. DeCrevecouer explains this:Men are like plants; the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceedsfrom the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothingbut what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, thegovernment we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature ofour employmentThis was not the land where wealth would be left to you in a will, this was theland of sweat labor. This passage indicates that a man is only as good as theproduct that he produces. This means the wealth that his tract of landcreated. Furthermore, it holds meaning for how is family was taking care of. Also, the community enters the picture here. If man is not active in hiscommunity the community is nothing. We are only as good as what we putin. The 18th century Americans moved to these principles of increasing self-interest and that has carried over to today.
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