A Letter to America

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These sponsors were often monarchs or noblemen, rich enough to finance oceanic exploration and personally interested in the establishment of new and better trade routes. In order to make sure these funds were being well spent, explorers were called upon to make regular reports on their findings to their European sponsors.

They did so via letters, which were carried back across the ocean while the explorers continued investigating the new lands. Most of these early American letters described the New World as a paradise beyond human imagining. In one sense this is because the cultures and climates the explorers observed were so wildly different from anything they had seen in Europe that the allure of the exotic overwhelmed their senses.

While fleet admirals and conquistadors might have been in the exploration business at least partly for personal glory and sheer curiosity, European sponsors were mostly concerned with the increase in their wealth new lands might provide. In order to continue their financial support for such expeditions, the sponsors needed to be constantly reassured that their investment would reap rewards.

For this reason, letters coming back from the New World invariably spoke of Eden-like surroundings, abundant food and resources, and friendly, compliant natives who seemed practically to yearn for conversion to Christianity.

Paul's Letter to American Christians

In a letter to the treasurer of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus extolled the beauty of islands he had claimed for Spain and the intelligence and generosity of their people. Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian merchant and explorer who gave his name to the Americas, also wrote letters detailing his experiences in the new world.

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Many of these [trees] yield fruits delectable to the taste and beneficial to the human body. They have there no metals of any description except gold, of which those regions have a great plenty. These letters were the first glimpse many Europeans had of the new world, and they helped to popularize the idea of its existence as a separate continent heretofore unknown. Unfortunate deception!

Early American Letter Writing

Certainly not, because no Authority had been given by the People to conclude it, nor to this very hour have they authorized its ratification-the Articles of Confederation remain still unsigned. In the firm persuasion, therefore, that the private Judgment of any Individual Citizen of this Country is as free from all Conventional Restraints since, as before the Insidious offers of France, I preferred those from Great Britain, thinking it infinitely wiser and safer to cast my Confidence upon her Justice and Generosity, than to trust a Monarchy too feeble to establish your Independency, so Perilous to her distant Dominions; the Enemy of the Protestant Faith, and fraudulently avowing an affection for the liberties of mankind, while she holds her Native Sons in Vassalage and Chains.

I affect no disguise, and therefore Frankly declare that in these Principles, I had determined to retain my arms and Command for an opportunity to surrender them to Great Britain, and in concerting the Measures for a purpose, in my Opinion, as grateful as it would have been beneficial to my Country; I was only solicitous to accomplish an event of decisive Importance, and to prevent, as much as possible in the Execution of it, the Effusion of blood.

With the highest satisfaction I bear testimony to my old Fellow Soldiers and Citizens; that I find solid Ground to rely upon the Clemency of our Sovereign, and abundant Conviction that it is the generous Intention of Great Britain, not only to have the Rights and privileges of the Colonies unimpaired, together with their perpetual exemption from taxation, but to superadd such further benefits as may consist with the Common prosperity of the Empire. In short, I fought for much less than the Parent Country is as willing to grant to her Colonies, as they can be to receive or enjoy.

Some may think I continued in the struggle of those unhappy days too long, and others that I quitted it too soon. To the first I reply, that I did not see with their Eyes, nor perhaps had so favorable a situation to look from, and that to one Common Master I am willing to stand or fall. In behalf of the Candid among the latter, some of whom I believe serve blindly but honestly in the Ranks I have left, I pray God to give them all the lights requisite to their Own Safety before it is too late; and with respect to that kind of Censurers whose Enmity to me Originates in their hatred to the Principles, by which I am now led to devote my life to the Reunion of the British Empire, as the best and only means to dry up the streams of misery that have deluged this country, they may be assured that, Conscious of the Rectitude of my Intentions, I shall treat their Malice and Calumnies with Contempt and neglect.

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A Letter To America

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