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Letters on North America (Lettres sur l’Amérique du Nord): A New Complete Translation

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Archival Material

Date of this Version



LETTERS ON NORTH AMERICA by MICHEL CHEVALIER (2018 [1838]). Translated by Steven Rowan with an introduction by Steven Rowan and Carlos Schwantes.


Translation copyright (c) 2018 Steven Rowan.


The basis of this completely fresh translation is the third edition of Michel Chevalier, Lettres sur l’Amérique du Nord, used in the version published in Brussels in 1838 by Hauman et Cie., Société belge de librairie, in three volumes, and compared by me with the 1836 Paris edition. To increase the practical use of the text, the “Notes” originally placed at the end of each volume have been moved to follow the “Letter” to which they refer. For the same reason the footnotes of the author have been preserved at the bottom of the page (and have been made continuous for the whole book). This makes the author’s whole approach more understandable and opens up many of Chevalier’s insights. The notes have never been translated before. I do not agree with the brilliant John William Ward that they are unnecessary for understanding the whole work. The notes clarify Chevalier’s thoughts at the time, both on America and on Europe. It makes the entire book available in English for the first time. I compared the Belgian edition with the first Paris edition of 1836 in order to understand changes the text underwent. The results of that may be seen in the table of contents and at the head of the notes themselves. In Chevalier’s extensive discussions of Andrew Jackson’s attacks on the Second Bank of the United States, I have used an initial capital (Bank) to designate the Bank of the United States, while a lower-case initial letter is used for other American banks. The reader should note that Chevalier occasionally uses the word “democracy” as a direct synonym for the Democratic Party. When that is clear, the word is capitalized. The party continued to speak of itself as “The Democracy” into the twentieth century. The basic measures of distance and weight used in the text are metric, with only occasional references to English or American units. Prices have also been left in francs. The use of gold as a medium of value permits the conversion of a United States Dollar into 5.33 French francs, and the league (lieu), an archaic unit of distance, was officially converted at the time into four kilometers. This translation is uniform with my own translation of Chevalier’s History and Description of the Routes of Communication of the United States (1840-1843), which I have also completed and is to be published by the Saint Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.