Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur Collection, [1769]-1790

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, February 2010

Summary Information
Title: John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur collection
Creator: St. John de Crèvecoeur, J Hector, 1735-1813
Inclusive dates: [1769]-1790
Extent: 50 documents (4 items)
The John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur collection contains one copybook of official certificates, endorsements, and testimonies, and three original documents, used to prove his children's inheritance rights to his French estate.
Language: The material is in English and French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1994, 2005. M-3023; M-4491.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection contains 1 volume of copied letters and documents and 3 original documents. The items are organized chronologically.


Born Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, the writer and government official John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) came to North America from Normandy during the French and Indian War to map French land in Canada. He was called into military service during the conflict, rising to lieutenant in 1758. After the war, Crèvecoeur anglicized his name and traveled extensively throughout the colonies as an explorer and trader. He was made a citizen of New York State in 1765, and in 1769 he married Mehitable Tippet of Yonkers; they had three children. Though he remained neutral during the Revolution, in 1779 the British imprisoned him without trial on suspicion of being a spy. After he was released, at the end of 1779, he set off for Europe with his son, but was shipwrecked off Ireland, where he stayed until arriving at Normandy in 1781. He is best remembered for writing Letters from an American Farmer, a well-known work on late colonial America, published in 1782. Crèvecoeur was considered a important thinker of his day and maintained correspondence with such prominent Americans as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Ethan Allen. He returned to America in 1783, after Louis XVI appointed him consul to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Upon arrival, however, he found that his estate had been burned by Indians, his wife killed, and his children missing. He was reunited with his children weeks later in Boston, where they were under the care of an English merchant named Gustavus Fellows. Crèvecoeur was anxious about his children's French legal status, since he had married outside France and outside the Catholic Church. Through the 1780s, he worked tirelessly to ensure that France recognized their legitimacy, so that they could inherit his father's lands in Normandy. Crèvecoeur returned to France in 1790 and died in Sarcelles in 1813.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur collection contains one copybook of official certificates, endorsements, and testimonies, and three original documents, used to prove his children's inheritance rights to his French estate. Crèvecoeur needed to provide documentation to the French government, because his children were born in America to a protestant American mother, and because he and his wife were married outside the Catholic Church.

The volume (147 pages) was assembled in 1786 with documents translated from the original English by Monsieur de Lisle. The volume opens with a table of contents that lists 47 documents, though the volume only contains the first 24 items. Pages 1-78 are primarily English language documents, and pages 79-140 are the French translations of these documents. Several documents, such as nos. 12 and 14, were originally in French and not translated into English. Crèvecoeur petitioned the French Consul General with copies of marriage and baptism records along with notarized accounts and public endorsements attesting to his children's legitimacy. Contributors included New York Governor George Clinton; clerk official of Orange County, New York, Thomas Moffat; the politician and jurist Robert R. Livingston; Mayor of New Haven Roger Sherman; Revolutionary War Colonel Jesse Woodhull; and numerous other notaries and officials from New York and Connecticut. Friends also offered testimony and accounts of the Crèvecoeur marriage, such as item 15, which contains letters from Dorothy and Verdine Elsworth, mentioning Crèvecoeur's wife in 1776.

The collection holds 3 original items with signatures and wax seals. The first two items are labeled No. 16 and No. 12, corresponding with document numbers in the copybook, and dated February 11, 1784, and February 5, 1785, respectively. Both are in French. The first document is an official copy of Crèvecoeur's commission as diplomat to New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The second item is a two-page document concerning the citizenship of Crèvecoeur's two sons. The third item, April 10, 1790, is a four-page document with an English translation, certifying that William Alexander St. John, Crèvecoeur's 17-year-old son, is an American citizen.

Subject Terms

    • Children--Legal status, laws, etc.--France.
    • Citizenship--United States.
    • Diplomacy.
    • France.
    • Inheritance and succession--France.
    • Marriage.
    Genre Terms:
    • Baptismal certificates.
    • Birth certificates.
    • Documents.
    • Marriage certificates.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   45, Small Collections  
    John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur collection [series]
    Folder   27  
     1784 February 11
     1785 February 5
     1790 April 10
    Folder   28  
    Copy and translation book,  1769 September 20-1785 June
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Sir Henry Clinton papers contains a letter from Peter Dubois to Clinton about Crèvecoeur, after May 1, 1779

    The Humphrey and Moses Marshall papers contain 3 letters concerning Crèvecoeur.

    The Clements Library owns multiple books written by John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, which may be identified in the University of Michigan online catalog.


    Emerson, Katherine. "Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John de."American National Biography Online . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.