- October 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm
- I think some answer to the question of what if the Indians had adjusted to the presence of Whites can be found in the period after that covered in the book. In my own area, the Delaware lived more or less at peace with Whites for a considerable time. There was some warfare with the Dutch in the vicinity of New York, but that was not the norm. Most of the land lost by the Delaware was purchased by Quakers and others. The Delaware were hard pressed by other tribes and sometimes relied on the Crown for protection/mediation from Indian overlords.
Recently, I was amused to read an account of Delawares acting as interpreters on one occasion between Dutch settlers and an English colonial official in the wilds of what is now Sussex County NJ. “The reason, “they spoke both English and Low Dutch. Until they were drawn into the revolutionary war the Delaware and Whites lived in relative harmony in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. Even in the warfare that followed, many Indian and White combatants knew each other by name.
Sadly, the Eastern Indians never quite adapted in time with reference to land issues. They grew crops by slash and burn agriculture. That requires much too much land to coexist with European norms.
Finally, Indian/White conflict cannot be understood outside the larger picture of Empire. Many “American” Indians sided with the British at the time of both the Revolution and the War of 1812. That sealed their fate.
Gene Callahan says:
- October 24, 2013 at 5:53 pm
- @ Thomas O Meehan: “Many “American” Indians sided with the British at the time of both the Revolution and the War of 1812. That sealed their fate.” This is understandable,
- Considering that the crown was trying to get the colonists to abide by treaties made with the Indians, which the colonists largely did not want to do.
- Thomas O. Meehan says:
October 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm
Gene Callahan wrote in response to my citation of Indian alliance with the crown in two wars. “This is understandable, considering that the crown was trying to get the colonists to abide by treaties made with the Indians, which the colonists largely did not want to do.”
This is an valuable point. Crown policy in America, Australia and I think Africa actually placed indigenous people on a higher legal plain than White colonists. That is, White colonists were held responsible for payment of taxes, adherence to the law, etc. while Indians were held to a lower standard of behavior. The Crown Government usually sought to ameliorate Indian infractions through treaty negotiations, bribery of chiefs etc.
This led to hostility to both Crown and Indians by settlers. The insistence of many colonists to settle in the Ohio Territory was one cause of the Revolution. Similarly, Australian settlers took great exception to Crown policy toward the aborigines.
The unpleasant fact is that settlers who lived in proximity to primitive pastoral people took a lot harsher view of them than people in Great Britain who had the luxury of romanticizing them. That same Crown government who treated the Indians with paternalism also paid the same Indians good money for the scalps of white colonists. This included the scalps of children town from the wombs of their not quite dead mothers. It’s also “Understandable” that Americans had a somewhat jaundiced view of their native neighbors.
- Thomas O. Meehan says:
October 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm
Ooops! That’s “Torn.” In the third from the last sentence from the bottom.
- Gene Callahan says:
- October 26, 2013 at 10:28 pm
- @Thomas O. Meehan: “White colonists were held responsible for payment of taxes, adherence to the law, etc. while Indians were held to a lower standard of behavior”
- So, the Indians, who, you know, were here before the British, should have been obligated to pay taxes to Britain and obey British laws?! The colonists WERE British, so of course they ought to do so.
Gene Callahan says:
- October 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm
- @Thomas O. Meehan: “Similarly, Australian settlers took great exception to Crown policy toward the aborigines.”
- Yes, I’m sure they were upset the Crown wanted them to stop hunting aborigines for sport. 12. 7. 1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
- October 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm
@Thomas O. Meehan: “White colonists were held responsible for payment of taxes, adherence to the law, etc. while Indians were held to a lower standard of behavior”
So, the Indians, who, you know, were here before the British, should have been obligated to pay taxes to Britain and obey British laws?! The colonists WERE British, so of course they ought to do so.
Not so! My point is that both the Indians and the Colonists were subjects of the same King. That king treated the Indians as one sort of subject while treating his British subjects as quite another sort of subject. Perhaps this was inevitable given the different states of civilization. But it was a fact.
My comment sought to explain the mechanism by which natural and inevitable resentment arose on the part of the colonists who were responsible to English law while Indians living side by side with them, were held to a lesser standard of behavior. If a colonist broke the law he was dealt with immediately by local authority. An Indian killing the same colonist could expect some measure of leniency is he put himself out of sight and under the protection of his local chief. The Crown’s interest was usually bent toward pacifying Indian tribes. It is simply undeniable that such a paternalistic policy made life on the frontier more costly and occasionally, dangerous for colonists.
Aussies didn’t hunt Aborigines because they ran out of other game, or out of sheer savagery. They did it because Aborigines killed and ate livestock and occasionally, settlers. Once again, the crown saw the Aborigines as the Kings own noble savages to be protected. Is it reasonable to expect the colonists, who’s livestock and lives were at stake to take the same view? Would you in their place?
It is a commonplace in the study of American westward History that hostility towards Indians increased in direct proportion to contact with them. Eastern newspapers tended to romanticize Indians. Westerners who experienced Indian depredations were a lot less likely to see Indians as simple victims.
Non of this is to justify White misbehavior. But all behavior is better understood than simply categorized. Seeing Indians as innocent victims in all matters and cases is an unfortunate reflex of our time. Civilized people of all races and times have had great difficulty in living beside people of an earlier state of civilization and organization. In the end you either see our Western Civilization as worth spreading or you don’t. If you don’t, then I ask this question. Would you be happier that some other civilization occupied all the land West of Pittsburg?
- As yet (10/30/13) Professor Callahan has not replied.