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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 12th, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“I have gradually confused photography with life.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“The camera is afluid way of encountering that other reality.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“It’s equally hard and labor intensive to create an image on the computer as it is in a darkroom. Believe me.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Of course, in order to make art, the frustration of not working has to be greater than the frustration of working.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Did you hear about the old professor who dreamed that he was giving a lecture and woke up to find that he was?”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself. The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“I have gradually confused photography and life and as a result of this I believe I am able to work out of myself at an almost precognitive level.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Wynn Bullock is a uniquely gifted man whose personal photographic search has produced images that expand not only the possibilities of photography, but of life itself.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“My creative process begins when I get out with the camera and interact with the world. A camera is truly a license to explore. There are no uninteresting things. There are just uninterested people.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Editions made sense when people worked with engravings where the plate wore down as prints were made. An early number of the edition had slightly better quality. But that’s not the case with photography. To me, it’s a false way of creating value.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“The contemporary artist…is not bound to a fully conceived, previsioned end. His mind is kept alert to in-process discovery and a working rapport is established between the artist and his creation. While it may be true, as Nathan Lyons stated, ‘The eye and the camera see more than the mind knows,’ is it not also conceivable that the mind knows more than the eye and the camera can see?”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“And young people who are learning digital skills discover that the real challenge is coming up with an image that resonates, first of all, with your self and hopefully, with an audience. They can learn all these new techniques and think that they’re easier to use, but creating great images isn’t about the tools.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“Well, I do think, particularly the way I work, the better images occur when you’re moving to the fringes of your own understanding. That’s where self-doubt and risk taking are likely to occur. It’s when you trust what’s happening at a non-intellectual non-conscious level that you can produce work that later resonates, often in a way that you can’t articulate a response to.”
— Jerry Uelsmann

“One of the major changes in attitude that occurred in the world of art as we moved from the nineteenth into the twentieth century was that the twentieth century artist became more involved with personal expression than with celebrating exclusively the values of the society or the church. Along with this change came a broader acceptance of the belief that the artist can invent a reality that is more meaningful than the one that is literally given to the eye. I subscribe enthusiastically to this b”
— Jerry Uelsmann


Jerry Uelsmann (born: 1934)

Uelsmann_Portrait-SM Jerry N. Uelsmann is an American photographer.

Uelsmann was born in Detroit, Michigan. When he was in high school, his interest in photography sparked. He originally believed that using a camera could allow him to exist outside of himself, to live in a world captured through the lens. Despite poor grades, he managed to land a few jobs, primarily shooting weddings. Eventually Uelsmann went on to earn a B.F.A. degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and M.S. and M.F.A. degrees from Indiana University. He began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960. In 1967, Uelsmann had a solo exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art which opened up doors for his photography career.

Uelsmann-House on Roots Jerry Uelsmann began assembling his photographs from multiple negatives decades before digital tools like Photoshop were available. Using as many as seven enlargers to expose a single print, his darkroom skills allowed him to create evocative images that combined the realism of photography and the fluidity of our dreams. As an artist who is not threatened by digital photography, he is convinced that it is equally difficult to produce great images no matter what tool you use. But for him, “the alchemy of the photographic process” is inextricably tied to his creative vision. A teacher for most of his life, he has helped many photographers push past their limits and challenge their own expectations.


Uelsmann is a master printer producing composite photographs with multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work. He uses up to a dozen enlargers at a time to produce his final images. Similar in technique to Rejlander, Uelsmann is a champion of the idea that the final image need not be tied to a single negative, but may be composed of many. Unlike Rejlander, though, he does not seek to create narratives, but rather allegorical surrealist imagery of the unfathomable. Uelsmann is able to subsist on grants and teaching salary, rather than commercial work.

uelsmann_small_woods Today, with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop, photographers are able to create a work somewhat resembling Uelsmann’s in less than a day, however, at the time Uelsmann was considered to have almost "magical skill" with his completely analog tools. Uelsmann used the darkroom frequently, sometimes using three to ten enlargers to produce the expected effect. Photos were still widely regarded as documentary evidence of events, and Uelsmann, along with people like Lucas Samaras, was considered an avant garde shatterer of the popular conception.

Uelsmann_Floating Tree Yet if one fears that Uelsmann will begin taking advantage of modern day conveniences, he reassures, “I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer. However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.” Today he is retired from teaching and currently lives in Gainesville, Florida along with his third wife, Maggie Taylor. Uelsmann has one son, Andrew, who is a graduate student at the University of Florida. But to this day, Uelsmann still produces photos, sometimes creating more than a hundred in a single year. Out of these images, he likes to sit back and select the ten he likes the most, which is not an easy process.

Surrealism or Unclassified

Uelsmann’s surrealistic body of work is distinguished by its complex and poetic multiple image composition, revealing the extraordinary effects that the process of photography can accommodate. In a review of Uelsmann’s 1975 monograph Silver Meditations, the critic Hilton Kramer said Uelsmann was abundantly endowed with "technical mastery and … flawless confidence in … the inspired energies of the imagination."

Uelsmann_Female Stream Uelsmann makes the absurd appear believable and the incongruous convincing – which Surrealism rarely intends or achieves – by a method he has called "in-process discovery," a term he absorbed from colleagues in the painting department of the University of Florida. However, for Uelsmann, in-process discovery is more than a harmonious relationship between medium and cognition. It is in essence a gestalt position, in which creativity is viewed in terms of one’s ability to associate dissimilar elements in meaningful ways and to restructure the entire stimulus field. To disassociate known subject relationships (reality) and reassociate them in new but perhaps mysterious ways is the aesthetic thread that runs throughout his work. When Uelsmann speaks of "questions" in referring to his work, he is promoting "doubt" as a positive and essential force within in-process discovery.

Uelsmann-dreamtheater Jerry Uelsmann’s photomontages are perhaps the most significant silver printmaking achievement of the sixties. His photographs are a curious hybrid of themes, motifs, and sensibilities. In a single Uelsmann print one might find elements of Pop and Expressionism, photography as comedy, photography as self-knowledge, aspects of surreal and romantic fantasy, and formalist and conceptual experiment. Uelsmann’s prints are as pristine and seamless as Ansel Adams’s and as expressionistic as the work of his "photographic godfathers," as he calls them, Ralph Hattersley, Minor White, and Henry Holmes Smith. No current photographer has successfully imitated Uelsmann’s eclectic vision, but his influence can be traced widely to photographers as divergent as Meridel Rubinstein and Robert Cumming.

Uelsmann_Cracked Rock Uelsmann owes a great deal to Rauschenberg’s and Cornell’s notion of photography as a collecting activity, but he may also be seen as photography’s first successful answer to Pop Art. His work bears the same ironic and parodic relationship to traditional photographic aesthetics that Lichtenstein’s work bears to the aesthetics of traditional painting. Uelsmann’s prints are gatherings of the most extreme and frequently outrageous material. Like Rauschenberg and many Pop artists, Uelsmann employs subject matter that is prototypically American and peculiarly Southern. It is quintessential Americana: gimcracks, gewgaws, whim-whams, and whimsies of the nostalgic past. He peoples his photographs with old valentines, humorous ceramic figurines, old photographs, dolls, the American flag, an eagle, amusement park rides, Gothic statuary, and all sorts of bric-a-brac.

Uelsmann_Pool Door This basic Americana he combines with the most pretentious, shopworn romantic iconography: seed pods, a painter’s easel, floating eyes, decaying ruins, tombstones, cloaked women, dead birds, sunsets, and primary biological forms. At its best, the effect is a dazzling integration of the traditional mythology of art with American popular culture.

The critic William Parker has, with good reason, compared Uelsmann to the painter Magritte. The resemblance is, however, only superficial, for Magritte’s sensibility is ultimately European and too surreal for Uelsmann. Joseph Comell is a more fitting analogy. Cornell, like Uelsmann, managed to combine commonplace Americana with the sumptuous textures and images of high art. Both created mysterious objects, souvenirs, and merry amusements.

uelsmann_symbolic_mutation Uelsmann’s work was first read as deeply serious. Yet on re-evaluation it can be seen as a gentle mockery of the metaphoric tradition, a body of work equally concerned with visual puns, mental images, game playing, and process. The image of Uelsmann as a purely expressionistic photographer has been unfortunately antithetical to the development of his own work and flamboyant humor. It might be argued that Uelsmann, never having been acknowledged as the master Pop artist and humorist of contemporary photography, began to take his own work too seriously. It now appears that he has backed himself into a cornr, merely repeating without comic relief the mannerisms of the earlier work.

The above is from a letter written by Uelsmann to Peter Bunnell in February 1974, a year before publication of Silver Meditations, which marks the end of the period discussed in this section.

TODAY … NOW … GOD ONLY KNOWS. I keep imagining that I find notes on my desk like "Stieglitz phoned while you were out." If I could only have been there when he called ~ perhaps he would know what I’m up to. I range from paralyzing self-pity to incredible productivity, I have long been nourished by enigma. I’m not trying to solve anything. All my priorities are shifting. My questions have a better ‘feel" to them and I’m still learning about being Alive.

Believe me, there’s always doubt about what you are doing. It has never interfered much with my productivity but it’s always there, filling the air with questions. It took me a long time to realize that constant sustained questioning is capable of contributing to a healthy state. Offhand I would say two conditions must exist: first, the process (camera or darkroom) must be trusted to have equal responsibility informing the questions, and second, one must establish some sense of connoisseurship that helps the questioning process grow in terms of precision and intensity.

Awards and Honors

He has been graduate research professor of art at the university since 1974. Uelsmann received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1972. He is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, a founding member of the American Society for Photographic Education, and a trustee of the Friends of Photography.

Uelsman-randy-batista Uelsmann’s work has been exhibited in more than 100 individual shows in the United States and abroad over the past thirty years. His photographs are in the permanent collections of many museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the National Gallery of Canada, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

His other books are Jerry N. Uelsmann (Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1970); John L. Ward, The Criticism of Photography as Art: The Photographs of Jerry Uelsmann (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1970); Jerry Uelsmann: Silver Meditations (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan & Morgan, 1975); Jerry N. Uelsmann: Photography from 1975-79 (Chicago: Columbia College, 1980); Jerry N. Uelsmann – Twenty-five Years: A Retrospective (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1982); and Uelsmann: Process and Perception (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida,1985).

In 1981, a report by American Photographer ranked Uelsmann as being amongst the top ten photographers collected in America. His smaller works presently sell for between $1000 and $2500 at auction.

His photographs can be seen in the opening credits of The Outer Limits (1995). His artwork is also featured in the progressive metal band Dream Theater’s 7th studio album Train of Thought (2003).


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Jerry Uelsmann that can be found at…

Other References:

Interview with Jerry Uelsmann…

by Gerald Boerner


“Go west, young man.”
— Horace Greeley

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept one; they promised to take our land, and they did.”
— Mahpiua Luta "Red Cloud," Oglala Lakota

“We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny.”
— William McKinley

“It is America’s right to stretch from sea to shining sea. Not only do we have a responsibility to our citizens to gain valuable natural resources we also have a responsibility to civilize this beautiful land.”
— Author Unknown (but may have been Thomas Jefferson)

“The Great Spirit raised both the white man and the Indian. I think he raised the Indian first. He raised me in this land, it belongs to me. The white man was raised over the great waters, and his land is over there. Since they crossed the sea, I have given them room. There are now white people all about me. I have but a small spot of land left. The Great Spirit told me to keep it.”
— Mahpiua Luta "Red Cloud," Oglala Lakota

“We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here, you are taking my land from me, you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live.

Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them.”
— Chief “Crazy Horse,” Oglala Lakota

“I am tired of fighting, our chiefs are all killed, the old men are all dead, the little children are freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children see how many of them I can find, maybe I shall find them amoung the dead. Hear me my chiefs, I am tired, my heart is sick and sad from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
— Heinmot Tooyalaket "Chief Joseph," Nez Perce

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heapen and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples dream died there. It was a beautiful dream….the nations hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”
— “Black Elk,” Lakota

“All we wanted was peace and to be let alone! Soldiers came….in the winter….and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair, (Custer) came….They said we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape….but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. After that I lived in peace, but the government would not let me alone. I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting…. They tried to confine me….and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken.”
— Tashanka Witko "Chief Crazy Horse," Oglala Lakota


Veterans Day: Remembering the American Indian Wars

Cavalry_and_Indians Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between the colonial or federal government and the native people of North America.

The earliest English settlers in what would become the United States often enjoyed peaceful relations with nearby tribes. However, as early as the Pequot War of 1637, the colonists were taking sides in military rivalries between native nations in order to assure colonial security and open further land for settlement. The wars, which ranged from the seventeenth-century (King Philip’s War, King William’s War, and Queen Anne’s War at the opening of the eighteenth century) to the Wounded Knee massacre and "closing" of the American frontier in 1890, generally resulted in the opening of Native American lands to further colonization, the conquest of Native Americans and their assimilation, or forced relocation to Indian reservations.

Modern scholars take different positions in the ongoing genocide debate. Various statistics have been developed concerning the devastations of these wars on both the settler and Native peoples. The most reliable figures are derived from collated records of strictly military engagements such as by Gregory Michno which reveal 21,586 dead, wounded, and captured civilians and soldiers for the period of 1850–90 alone. Other figures are derived from extrapolations of rather cursory and unrelated government accounts such as that by Russell Thornton who calculated that some 45,000 Indians and 19,000 whites were killed. This later rough estimate includes women and children on both sides, since noncombatants were often killed in frontier massacres.

Tecumseh02 What is not disputed is that the savagery from both sides was such as to be noted in newspapers, historical archives, diplomatic reports and the United States Declaration of Independence. ("…[He] has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.")

The Indian Wars comprised a series of smaller wars. Native Americans, diverse peoples with their own distinct tribal histories, were no more a single people than the Europeans. Living in societies organized in a variety of ways, Native Americans usually made decisions about war and peace at local level, though they sometimes fought as part of formal alliances, such as the Iroquois Confederation, or in temporary confederacies inspired by leaders such as Tecumseh.

East of the Mississippi

Andrew_jackson_head These are wars fought primarily by the newly established United States against the Native Americans until shortly before the Mexican-American War.

  • American Revolution (1775–1783)
  • Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)
  • Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)
  • Nickajack Expedition (1794)
  • Sabine Expedition (1806)
  • War of 1812 (1811–1815), including:
    • Tecumseh’s War (1811–1813)
    • Creek War (1813–1814)
    • Peoria War (1813)
  • First Seminole War (1817–1818)
  • Winnebago War (1827)
  • Black Hawk War (1832)
  • Pawnee Indian Territory Campaign (1834)
  • Creek Alabama Uprising (1835–1837)
  • Florida-Georgia Border War (1836)
  • Second Seminole War (1835–1842)
  • Missouri-Iowa Border War (1836)
  • Southwestern Frontier (Sabine) disturbances (no fighting) (1836–1837)
  • Osage Indian War (1837)

Indian Wars
West of the Mississippi

Gen Custer The series of conflicts in the western United States between Native Americans, American settlers, and the United States Army are generally known as the Indian Wars. Many of the most well-known of these conflicts occurred during and after the Civil War until the closing of the frontier in about 1890, but in regions of the West that were settled before the Civil war such as Texas, Utah, Oregon, and New Mexico there were significant conflicts which predate the Civil War.

  • Texas-Indian Wars (1836–1875), including:
    • Great Raid of 1840 (1840)
    • Antelope Hills Expedition (1858)
    • Battle of Pease River (1860)
    • Red River War (1874–1875)
  • Apache Wars (1851-1886)
  • Puget Sound War (1855–1856)
  • Dakota War of 1862 (1862)
  • Colorado War (1863–1865)
  • Red Cloud’s War (1866–1868)
  • Comanche Campaign (1868–1874)
  • Great Sioux War of 1876-77
  • Nez Perce War (1877)
  • Pine Ridge Campaign (1890)
  • Battle of Bear Valley (1918)

In American history books, the Indian Wars have often been treated as a relatively minor part of the military history of the United States. Only in the last few decades of the 20th century did a significant number of historians begin to include the American Indian point of view in their writings about the wars, emphasizing the impact of the wars on native peoples and their cultures.

Tatanka_Lyotake A well-known and influential book in popular history was Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). In academic history, Francis Jennings’s The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (New York: Norton, 1975) was notable for its reversal of the traditional portrayal of Indian-European relations. A recent and important release from the perspective of both Indians and the soldiers is Jerome A. Greene’s Indian War Veterans: Memories of Army Life and Campaigns in the West, 1864–1898 (New York, 2007).

Some historians now emphasize that to see the Indian wars as a racial war between Indians and White Americans simplifies the complex historical reality of the struggle. Indians and whites often fought alongside each other; Indians often fought against Indians. For example, although the Battle of Horseshoe Bend is often described as an "American victory" over the Creek Indians, the victors were a combined force of Cherokees, Creeks, and Tennessee militia led by Andrew Jackson. From a broad perspective, the Indian wars were about the conquest of Native American peoples by the United States; up close it was rarely quite as simple as that.

In his book American Holocaust, David Stannard argues that the destruction of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, in a "string of genocide campaigns" by Europeans and their descendants, was the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. The genocide debate is ongoing, with scholars on either side.

[Editorial Note: The conflict was centered on the concept of land ownership. This put the native Indian nations (first nations) and the new immigrants at odds with each other. Most of these Indian nations viewed themselves as guardians of the land and its animal resources, not owners of it. This is in direct conflict with the notion of the European settlers who viewed land ownership as individual rights, not joint stewardship. In addition, the new American nation developed a concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ which viewed all the lands in North America as the birthright of this American nation. The following section gives a brief view overview of this concept. GLB]

Manifest Destiny

American_progress Manifest Destiny is a term that was used in the 19th century to designate the belief that the United States was destined, even divinely ordained, to expand across the North American continent, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes Manifest Destiny was interpreted so broadly as to include the eventual absorption of all North America: Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Central America. Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only ethical but that it was readily apparent ("manifest") and inexorable ("destiny"). Although initially used as a catch phrase to inspire the United States’ expansion across the North American continent, the 19th century phrase eventually became a standard historical term.

The term, which first appeared in print in 1839, was used in 1845 by a New York journalist, John L. O’Sullivan, to call for the annexation of Texas. Thereafter, it was used to encourage American settlement of European colonial and Indian lands in the Great Plains and the west. It was revived in the 1890s, this time with Republican supporters, as a theoretical justification for U.S. expansion outside of North America. The term fell out of usage by U.S. policy makers early in the 20th century, but some commentators believe that aspects of Manifest Destiny, particularly the belief in an American "mission" to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, continues to have an influence on American political ideology.

Context and interpretations


American westward expansion is idealized in Emanuel Leutze‘s famous painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1861). The title was a phrase often quoted in the era of Manifest Destiny, expressing a widely held belief that civilization had steadily moved westward throughout history.

Manifest Destiny was always a general notion rather than a specific policy. The term combined a belief in expansionism with other popular ideas of the era, including American exceptionalism, Romantic nationalism, and a belief in the natural superiority of what was then called the "Anglo-Saxon race". While many writers focus primarily upon American expansionism when discussing Manifest Destiny, others see in the term a broader expression of a belief in America’s "mission" in the world, which has meant different things to different people over the years. This variety of possible meanings was summed up by Ernest Lee Tuveson, who wrote:

A vast complex of ideas, policies, and actions is comprehended under the phrase ‘Manifest Destiny’. They are not, as we should expect, all compatible, nor do they come from any one source.

The concept of the Manifest Destiny has acquired a variety of meanings over the years, and its inherent ambiguity has been part of its power. In the generic political sense, however, it was usually used to refer to the idea that the American government was "destined" to establish uninterrupted political authority across the entire North American continent, from one ocean to the other.

John_O'Sullivan John L. O’Sullivan, sketched in 1874,
was an influential columnist as a
young man, but is now generally remembered only for his use of
the phrase "Manifest Destiny" to
advocate the annexation of
Texas and Oregon.

Journalist John L. O’Sullivan, an influential advocate for the Democratic Party, wrote an article in 1839 which, while not using the term "Manifest Destiny", did predict a "divine destiny" for the United States based upon values such as equality, rights of conscience, and personal enfranchisement– "to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man". This destiny was not explicitly territorial, but O’Sullivan predicted that the United States would be one of a "Union of many Republics" sharing those values.

Six years later O’Sullivan wrote another essay which first used the phrase Manifest Destiny. In 1845, he published a piece entitled Annexation in the Democratic Review, in which he urged the United States to annex the Republic of Texas, not only because Texas desired this, but because it was "our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions". Amid much controversy, Texas was annexed shortly thereafter, but O’Sullivan’s first usage of the phrase "Manifest Destiny" attracted little attention.

O’Sullivan’s second use of the phrase became extremely influential. On December 27, 1845 in his newspaper the New York Morning News, O’Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in the Oregon Country. O’Sullivan argued that the United States had the right to claim "the whole of Oregon":

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

That is, O’Sullivan believed that Providence had given the United States a mission to spread republican democracy ("the great experiment of liberty") throughout North America. Because Britain would not use Oregon for the purposes of spreading democracy, thought O’Sullivan, British claims to the territory should be overruled. O’Sullivan believed that Manifest Destiny was a moral ideal (a "higher law") that superseded other considerations.

Historian William E. Weeks has noted that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of Manifest Destiny:

  1. the virtue of the American people and their institutions;
  2. the mission to spread these institutions, thereby redeeming and remaking the world in the image of the U.S.; and
  3. the destiny under God to accomplish this work.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The American Indian Wars that can be found at…

Manifest Destiny that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is.”
— Gertrude Stein

“If you only knew, in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was fed and dressed!”
— John Hector St. John, in American Farmer

“From my earliest youth, I had a passion for taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture, tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned how to decipher), had for me an indefinable charm. A little later on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries; to examine the tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures.”
— John Hector St. John, in American Farmer

What is an American?

Crevecoeur Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur, naturalized in New York as John Hector St. John, was a French-American writer. He was born in Caen, Normandy, France, to the Comte and Comtesse de Crèvecœur (Count and Countess of Crèvecœur).

In 1755 he immigrated to New France in North America. There, he served in the French and Indian War as a surveyor in the French Colonial Militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Following the British defeat of the French Army in 1759 he moved to New York State, then the Province of New York, where he took out citizenship, adopted the English-American name of John Hector St. John, and in 1770 married an American woman, Mehitable Tippet. He bought a sizable farm in Orange County, N.Y., where he prospered as a farmer and took up writing about life in the American colonies and the emergence of an American society. In 1779, during the American Revolution, the faltering health of his father forced him to travel to Europe. Accompanied by his son, he crossed British-American lines to enter British-occupied New York City, where he was imprisoned as an American spy for three months without being heard. Eventually, he was able to leave for Britain.

In 1782, in London, he published a volume of narrative essays entitled the Letters from an American Farmer. The book quickly became the first literary success by an American author in Europe and turned Crèvecœur into a celebrated figure. He was the first writer to describe to Europeans–employing many American English terms–the life on the American frontier and to explore the concept of the American Dream, portraying American society as characterized by the principles of equal opportunity and self-determination. His work provided useful information and understanding of the “New World” that helped to create an American identity in the minds of Europeans by describing an entire country rather than another regional colony.

The writing celebrated American ingenuity and its uncomplicated lifestyle and spelled out the acceptance of religious diversity in a melting pot being created from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. His application of the Latin maxim “Ubi panis ibi patria” to early American settlers also shows an interesting insight. He once praised the middle colonies for “fair cities, substantial villages, extensive fields…decent houses, good roads, orchards, meadows, and bridges, where an hundred years ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated.”

What then is the American, this new man?…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. He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims who are the carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigor, and industry which began long since in the East, they will finish the great circle… (from “Letter III,” 1782)

From Britain, he sailed for France, where he was briefly reunited with his father. When the United States had been recognized by Britain following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Crèvecœur returned to New York City. He learned that, in his absence, his wife had died, his farm had been destroyed, and his children were now living with neighbors. Eventually, he was able to regain custody of his children. For most of the 1780s, Crèvecœur lived in New York City where he now served as the French consul for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions. . . . Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. . . . An [immigrant] when he first arrives . . . no sooner breathes our air than he forms new schemes, and embarks in designs he never would have thought of in his own country. . . . He begins to feel the effects of a sort of resurrection; hitherto he had not lived, but simply vegetated; he now feels himself a man . . . Judge what an alteration there must arise in the mind and thoughts of this man; . . . his heart involuntarily swells and glows; this first swell inspires him with those new thoughts which constitute an American.

In 1784, he published a two-volume version of his Letters from an American Farmer, enlarged and completely rewritten in French. A three-volume version followed in 1787. Both his English and his French books were translated into several other European languages and widely disseminated throughout Europe. For many years, Crèvecœur was identified by European readers with his fictional narrator, James, the ‘American farmer’, and held in high esteem by readers and fellow-writers across Europe. When he published another three-volume work in 1801, entitled Voyage dans la Haute-Pensylvanie et dans l’état de New-York, however, his fame had faded, and his book was ignored. An abbreviated German translation appeared in the following year. An English translation only appeared in 1964.

Much of his best work has only been published posthumously, most recently as More Letters from the American Farmer: An edition of the Essays in English Left Unpublished by Crèvecœur, edited by Dennis D. Moore (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1995).

Village_from_Harris_Hill,_St._Johnsbury,_VT Particularly concerned by the condition of slaves, he was a member of the ‘Société des Amis des Noirs’ , society of the Friends of the Blacks founded in Paris.

In 1789, during a stay in France, he was trapped by the political upheaval that was quickly turning into the French Revolution. As an aristocrat, he soon went into hiding, while secretly attempting to gain passage to the United States. The necessary papers were finally denied to him by the new American ambassador to France, James Monroe, in 1794. At the end of his life Crèvecœur settled permanently in France. On November 12, 1813, he died in Sarcelles, Val d’Oise, France.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1892…
    In Pittsburgh, William “Pudge” Heffelfinger becomes the first professional football player when he earns $500 playing for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club.
  • In 1942…
    The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal begins, a pivotal Allied victory in the Pacific.
  • In 1954…
    Ellis Island closes after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in New York Harbor in 1892.
  • In 1981…
    The space shuttle Columbia becomes the first manned spacecraft ever to be launched twice when it lifts off at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur that can be found at…

Letters From An American Farmer can be found at…