What Was an American?
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What Was an American?
During the eighteenth century, thousands of Western Europeans fled their homes of England, Scotland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands to come to the newly discovered America. For most, it was a long, stressful journey that seemed to have no end. They arrived to a country experiencing colonization, growth, slavery, oppression, and hope. Some came for better economic aspirations, some came to escape the cruel living conditions of their previous homes, and some were shipped out of their homeland to be sold and treated as property. The American was a man of innovation, searching for personal interests and a common unity, which were not accessible from his land of origin.
St. John Crevecoeur described the American as something new, his belief of an American, “is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions.” Arriving to a new continent, where there was no ruling of kings and queens, the American were establishing “new laws, a new mode of living, and a new social system.” Americans are descendents of Europeans who all shared the same vision for starting a new life, hence a “strange mixture of blood,” where “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.”
The American was the merchant who came from Germany, who had never witnessed the land he was relocating to, he could have possibly been divided from his children for the rest of his life; all because he wanted a better life for his family and the opportunity to attain freedom. The journey across the Atlantic even given the most favorable winds took seven weeks. The ships were crowded with putrid smells, mouth-rot, scurvy, diarrhea, and shortage of food. These men endured such misery, they cried for home: “Oh! If only I were back at home, even lying in my pig-sty!” When they finally arrived to Philadelphia, they had to pay for the unbearable voyage so they were forced “to remain on board until purchased by Englishmen, Dutchmen, and the High Germans,” where they were separated from families, and wives and children, based on health. Kids the ages of ten to fifteen would have to bind themselves to contracts to work until the age of twenty-one. They believed all this sacrifice was for the better of the future and more promising than their prior gloomy lives.
The American was a determined force, wanting to take over the land with brute force, with no regard to the Indians who had lived there years before. Chief Tecumseh gives us a glimpse into the Native American account of how the settlers took over the land: “Our beloved chief Moluntha stood with the American flag in front of him and that very peace treaty in his hand, but his head was chopped by an American officer, and that American was never punished.” To the Native Americans it sounded ridiculous to sell land; land was not to be owned, but to be shared amongst everyone, “sell a Country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the Great Sea.” An American was like the deceitful Captain William Tucker who even after having signed a treaty invited the Native Americans for a toast and celebration, but secretly poisoned them, and then proceeded to burn down their villages, and collect their heads.
The American was the Southern plantation owner,