To many people, Europeans and Americans alike, the long-term survival of the United States as a nation was questionable. The young country's most noteworthy characteristics-its vast size, its democratic government, the diversity of its population-were viewed by some observers as fatal weaknesses, while others considered these very traits to be the nation's greatest strengths.
Read the passages below written by Europeans who traveled to America and wrote their opinions about its future upon their return home. Then answer the questions that follow.
Pessimistic View of America - Andrew Burnaby, British clergyman in Burnaby's Travels Through North America, 1775
America is formed for happiness, but not for empire. In a route of 1,200 miles I did not see a single person who asked for charity. But I saw insurmountable causes for weakness that will prevent America from being a powerful state.
The Southern Colonies (Maryland, the smallest, being the only exception) will never be thickly populated. These colonies have no set boundaries and extend westward indefinitely. People, therefore, rather than take up too laborious occupations, will gradually move westward and settle upon fresh lands which are said to be more fertile. There, with the service of a slave or two, they may enjoy all the satisfaction of an easy and lazy independence. Hence, the lands along the coast will remain thin of inhabitants....
The Northern Colonies have other difficulties and disadvantages to struggle with. Their boundaries being already defined, they will undoubtedly become very populous. Though people will readily move back toward the frontier of their own colony, they will not be so easily induced to settle beyond that colony, where different laws and policies prevail.
The Northern Colonies have still other disadvantages to contend with. They are composed of people of different nations, different manners, different religions, and different languages. They have a mutual jealousy of each other that is bred by considerations of self interest and power.
Religious zeal, too, is secretly burning in the hearts of the different sects that inhabit these colonies; if it was not restrained by laws, it would soon burst out into a flame of universal persecution.
In short, such is the difference of character, manners, religion, and interest of the different colonies that if they were left to themselves, there would soon be a civil war from one end of the continent to another.
Optimistic View of America - J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer, 1793
What then is the American, this new man? He is either a European, or the descendant of a European, hence that strange mixture of blood that you will find in no other country. I could point out a family whose grandfather was English, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons now have four wives of different nations.
He is an American who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds.... Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.
Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigor, and industry which began long ago in the East. They will finish the great circle. The Americans were once scattered all over Europe. Here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population that has ever appeared and which will hereafter become distinct by the power of the different climates they inhabit.
The American, therefore, ought to love this country much better than that wherein either he or his ancestors were born. Here the rewards of his effort equally match the amount of his labor.
The American is a new man who acts on new principles. He must, therefore, entertain ideas and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, poverty, and useless labor, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. This is an American.
A New World View - Thomas Pownall, former governor of Massachusetts, in A Memorial Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, 1780
In this New World we see all the inhabitants not only free but allowing a universal naturalization to all who wish to be so; and an uncontrolled liberty of using any mode of life they choose, or any means of getting a livelihood that their talents lead them to. Free of all restraints which take the property of themselves out of their own hands, their souls are their own, and their reason; they are their own masters, and they act; their labor is employed on their own property, and what they produce is their own. In a country like this, where every man has the full and free exertion of his powers, where every man may acquire any share of the good things thereof, or of interest and power which his spirit can work him up to there, an unabated application of the powers of individuals and a perpetual struggle of their spirits sharpens their wits and gives constant training to the mind....
Let us view it as it now is AN INDEPENDENT STATE that has taken its equal station amid the nations of the earth as an empire, the spirit of whose government extends from the center to its extreme parts, exactly in proportion as the will of those parts does reciprocally unite in that center. Here we shall find. . . "That universal participation of council creates reciprocation of universal obedience. The seat of government will be well informed of the state and condition of the remote and extreme parts; and the remote and extreme parts, by participation in the legislature, will from self consciousness, be informed and satisfied in the reasons and necessity of the measures of government ......
This might have been, indeed, the spirit of the British Empire, America being a part of it. This is the spirit of the government of the new empire of America, Great Britain being no part of it. It is a vitality liable, indeed, to many disorders, many dangerous diseases; but it is young and strong, and will struggle, by the vigor of internal healing principles of life, against those evils and surmount them. Like the infant Hercules, it will strangle these serpents in its cradle. Its strength will grow with its years, and it will establish its constitution, and perfect adultness in growth of state.