J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur's Letters from an American Farmer includes memorable scenes in which the farmer revives bees he has rescued from the craw of a king bird, and welcomes a hornet's nest inside his house. As I will argue, the book represented insects in a sentimental manner, as a retort to theories advanced by Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, and Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, that insects were noxious and overabundant in America. Insects played a key role in the late eighteenth-century controversy Antonio Gerbi called “the Dispute of the New World,” in which Crèvecœur's book weighed in to promote the North American colonies. In the collection of manuscript essays Crèvecœur presented to London publisher Davis and Davies in 1781, some described plagues ruining crops, or swarms biting colonists, but these texts were passed over, and not published until the 1920s. The article traces Crèvecœur's interactions with Buffon and with Raynal, who were variously rivals and mentors to him, as well as examining how the French-American soldier, farmer, author, and diplomat survived two revolutions and laid down principles today associated with sustainable agriculture.

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