FARMERS IN THE
During the colonial period and at least until the first half of the nineteenth century, American values were largely shaped by country life. Even spokesmen for city people realized that their audience had largely been reared on the farm. For many American writers and leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur, the yeoman farmer was admired for his honest industry, his independence, his spirit of equality, and his ability to produce and enjoy a simple abundance.
As the nineteenth century unfolded American farmers were drawn into the commercial aspects of farming and were concerned with making money, but those who saw farm life as an ideal stressed the nonpecuniary, self-sufficient aspects of American farm life. The American mind was attached to rural living and held the yeoman farmer as the ideal man and the ideal citizen. Praise for the virtues of farmers and the special values of rural life were coupled with the belief that agriculture was uniquely productive and important to society and had a right to the protection of government. The yeoman who owned a small farm and worked it with the aid of his family was seen as the incarnation of the simple, honest, independent, healthy human being. As he lived in close communion with nature his life was believed to have a wholesomeness and integrity not possible for city populations. The farmer's well-being was both physical and moral, not merely personal but central to civic virtue. Since the yeoman was believed to be both happy and honest and since he had a secure, propertied stake in society as a landowner, he was believed to be the best and most reliable sort of citizen.