Abbé Montesquiou journal  ca. 1798
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Montesquiou's 'journal' is not a standard travel account: it goes beyond pure description to include discussions of the philosophy and the history, the people and government of the nation. The journal appears to have been written following the Abbé's return to France with internal evidence suggesting 1798 as the most likely date. Perhaps because of the time that had elapsed between his voyage and its writing, the journal includes as many opinions on his experiences in North America as it does actual description of what he has seen. Montesquiou is naturally analytical in his writing style, and he has a penchant for 'augmenting' his personal observations with views and opinions that appear to have been culled from written sources. Thus his discussion of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 contains information that may have been derived from the opinions of contemporary scientists, and his discussions of the relative merits of monarchy and democracy are sufficiently generic that the American context seems almost incidental.

Montesquiou is generally an unsympathetic observer of the young United States; while he appreciates the scenery and the productivity of the nation he is strongly critical of the hypocrisy of 'Republican' slaveholders, of the nation's leaders -- particularly Washington and Jefferson. While he admires the Philadelphia prison system, he is repelled by what he considers the crass, ultra-capitalist sensibilities of Americans. Among the more interesting aspects of the 'journal' are his extended discussions of the prison system and a theory of crime and punishment, slavery, the American character, and democracy and monarchy.

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