Discussion Questions

1. What is the ideal of the American farmer as set out by Thomas Jefferson and J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur? How do they contrast the European and the American? What is the social and political significance of the subsistence farmer in America? Was the farming occupation accessible to everyone?

2. Compare the farming practices of New Englanders with those of the Pennsylvania Germans depicted by Benjamin Rush (1789). Which practices might be associated with subsistence farming? Which Pennsylvania practices praised by Rush might be evidence of market-oriented farms? In what ways do these practices reflect or fall short of Jefferson's and Crevcoeur's agrarian ideal?

3. What were the transportation, market, and industrial revolutions and how are they exemplified in the accounts of Samuel Slater, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, John James Audubon, and Calvin Colton?

4. Discuss the environmental consequences of the growth of cities along the eastern seaboard.  What environmental and social interactions existed between city and countryside in the early Republic?

5. Compare the accounts of Carolyn Merchant and Theodore Steinberg on the transformation of New England.  What assumptions underlie each of these two different interpretations?

6. What differences in gender roles are revealed in the documents and essays? Were the sexes equal or unequal? In what ways?