Spring 2020, Vol. 18.2
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In September 1817 officials of the Russian colony of Ross drafted a protocol of a meeting held with the Kashaya Pomos, the Bodega Miwoks, and other Native Americans. The protocol described how the Russians had promised gifts and military protection to their Native American allies in exchange for the right to continue occupying Métini, a Kashaya Pomo–controlled territory about eighty-five miles north of San Francisco. Soon, reports of the meeting had made their way up and down the coast and across the Pacific, as Native Americans, Russian imperial ministers, and diplomats from Russia's imperial rivals debated its significance. This essay describes how the Russian-American Company used the protocol and other agreements with Native Americans to lay claim to coastal territories, and how Russia's imperial rivals disputed such claims. It argues that company officials used documentation of Native American signs of consent, such as speeches and gestures, to assert ownership of Métini, while Spain disputed the validity of agreements with Native Americans. The meaning that Russian officials assigned to Native Americans' consent enabled the Kashaya Pomos, the Bodega Miwoks, and other groups to exert some influence over Russian colonization and trade.
When Carmelite nuns from Europe crossed the Atlantic in the late eighteenth century to found the first women's convent in the original United States, they brought with them a poetic tradition that can be traced back to the founder of the reformed Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila. In poems that describe their struggles in Europe to escape religious repression, their arduous ocean voyage to America, and finally the foundation of the first convent for religious women in the state of Maryland, the Carmelites who traveled from Europe to the United States both recounted their extraordinary experiences and paid homage to their spiritual mother, Teresa of Avila, who had instigated a tradition of convent poetry in sixteenth-century Spain hundreds of years earlier. These previously unstudied and unpublished poems, presented in this article for the first time, are the earliest known evidence of the spirituality and literary tradition of Teresa of Avila in the United States.
A controversy over land in the Grand River Valley of Michigan reached the United States Attorney General's office in 1837. The quarrel warrants attention not only because the lands had value but because it engaged several groups with competing understandings of their rights to property. Native Americans confronted settlers, who confronted one another. At one level, the dispute pitted two forms of customary rights—one exercised by Indians and the other by squatters—against the demands of capital and the discipline of the state. But on another level, the contest reveals how in the early national period, irregular settlers could look to law, Native people could speak the language of improvement and look to text, and advocates of federal order could invoke imaginary violence.
Lewis Henry Morgan has long been regarded as one of U.S. anthropology's founders. Much of the recent scholarship on Morgan explores his depiction of indigenous culture and his theory of progress. Focusing on his early thought, this article demonstrates how in the 1840s he moved from a moralistic to an increasingly ethnological understanding of advancement, and how his evolving view of Native peoples and the human passions underpinned this change. As a temperance reformer in the early 1840s, Morgan equated progress with economic growth, territorial expansion, and the spread of democracy. Additionally, he feared that the immoral passions of drinkers, radicals, and Native peoples threatened these gains. By 1843 he began attributing to European colonists the destructive passions he had formerly assigned to indigenous peoples, and came to view progress as a destructive force detached from human agency and morality. His 1851 League of the Iroquois links the passions to progress, but he saw these drives primarily as social phenomena, some of which stymie advancement while others enhance it. This study thus links Morgan's early temperance work to the ideas expressed in League of the Iroquois and in his 1871 Ancient Society, illuminating the symbols that Victorian Americans employed to represent progress.
Summer 2019, Vol. 17.3
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This article investigates European and Euro-American desecrations of Native American graves from the early colonial period through the era of Indian Removal. It shows that though colonial-era grave desecration was driven by a variety of motives, such as animosity and greed for looted grave goods, from the time of the American Revolution grave desecration acquired an ideological dimension. By plundering and destroying the resting place of the Native dead, white American soldiers and citizens symbolically contested the continued indigenous ownership of territory claimed by the expansionistic U.S. republic. These acts of erasure represented a facet of the early republican myth of the "Vanishing Indian," and in the increasingly racialized climate of the early nineteenth-century era of Indian Removal, grave desecration imbued the ongoing process of dispossession and territorial conquest with scientific legitimacy, as the study and display of stolen Native remains and artifacts provided tangible evidence of the allegedly inevitable decline and disappearance of Native populations.
In response to a 1695 report of silver discovered in an "uninhabited" part of Carolina, the English Board of Trade commissioned the Carolina silver project. Richard Traunter, a factor in Colonel William Byrd's Virginia Indian trade and a partner in the silver project, led two overland journeys, in 1698 and 1699, to locate the silver mines and assess the viability of mineral extraction. Traunter traveled on Indian trade paths from Byrd's store at Appomattox, Virginia, to James Moore's residence on Goose Creek in South Carolina, and he recorded his journeys in "The Travels of Richard Traunter," an unpublished travel narrative. This article examines Traunter's "Travels" along with the silver project records of the Board of Trade and Treasury to investigate Moore's efforts to undermine the project and its partners so that he could secure for himself a similar royal patent for silver discovery. Additionally, this article analyzes Traunter's claims in "Travels" that his journeys contributed to the "common Good" of the English colonial enterprise, not only through the silver project, but by providing traders with route guidance and by establishing Anglo-Indian alliances he thought necessary to advance intercolonial commerce.
This study examines the role that British convict transportation and penal servitude in America played in the early history of humanitarianism. During the eighteenth century Britons' and Americans' ideas about moral obligations and suffering changed drastically toward traditionally detested people, including transported convicts, enslaved Africans, sailors, and the poor. Historians have made it clear that people in the eighteenth century created unprecedented ways to understand the human condition, and studying coerced labor of all kinds tells scholars more about how unfreedom shaped the language, ethics, and practices of the early stages of humanitarianism. In the eighteenth century British courts banished over 50,000 convicted men, women, and children to the American colonies, many of whom were sold as convict servants. This study argues that emerging ideas of punishment, morality, and unfreedom evoked by convict labor created new moral responsibilities, widened the plane of sympathies, and inspired novel denunciations of suffering in eighteenth century Anglo-American culture. Institutional banishment and convict servitude had unintentional consequences for both Britain and America, and moralists and elites constructed a new discursive environment that raised complex questions and generated new debates about labor, coercion, and cruelty in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution.
Swiss Myths: The Swiss Model and the American Constitution
Robert W. Smith
The founding generation made extensive use of history in the framing of the American republic. The Swiss confederation did not figure as prominently in American thought as ancient and English history, but it does illustrate how American statesmen used history in political arguments. John Adams saw the histories of the individual Swiss cantons as proof that every society, no matter how simple, needed a balanced government to preserve liberty. For the Federalists, the Swiss, along with all other loose confederacies, demonstrated the inadequacy of a league of friendship, as provided by the Articles of Confederation, and the need for a stronger union. The Anti-Federalists made great use of Swiss history in two particulars. First, they saw the Swiss as a successful confederacy, pointing to its survival rather than its instability. The Swiss demonstrated there was no need for a stronger union. Furthermore, the Anti-Federalists believed the Swiss proved that a nation could survive in the midst of hostile nations without recourse to a standing army. The Framers' use of Swiss history demonstrated how their reading of history was shaped by their political agendas.