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The Tribes and the States

W. J. Sidis




        17. An Invading Race.  The new experiment in national administration, that of federation, was not to have a good chance to develop among the red people of America, where it was naturally best adapted. Almost immediately on the heels of the first trial of this new form of organization, came a most destructive series of invasions from across the Atlantic, by the same white race which, thousands of years before, had descended like a plague on Europe and wiped out the European branches of the red race. And now on they came across the Atlantic Ocean in great numbers, bringing with them the host of infections that had destroyed the red men of Europe and that was to wreak similar destruction in America. They not only brought with them weapons of warfare infinitely more destructive than any that had been known in America, but also conducted warfare with such ferocity as had never been known among red peoples from one end of America to the other. They brought over alcohol, an agent which, while destroying its victims, also in the process rendered the victim dependent on his destroyers; and, like the white man's infections, its effects were infinitely more destructive on the red man than on the whites, who had been accustomed to it for generations. Infections and alcohol were probably the most effective of the invaders' destroying agents, more than wars or other means of destruction that the white invaders brought over with them.

        It is probably no coincidence that the white invasion happened at just this juncture. Federation was in reality an attempt to reorganize North America after the break-up of the Mound-Builders' empire, and it was only in the interregnumbetween the breakdown of the old empire and the building up of a new federated nationthat an invasion could have become successful, especially from such a hopelessly disunited and wrangling set of peoples as have always inhabited Europe. It therefore seems probable, especially in view of the fact that contact between the two continents was never quite interrupted, that the white invasion simply awaited its best opportunity, and then used it, striking before federation could develop among the red people sufficiently to make invasion impossible.

        The social institutions brought over by the white invaders were in sharp contrast to what they found in effect on the shores of North America, though they fitted in very well in Mexico. The whites were accustomed to despotic forms of government, stratified into higher and lower castes, and were totally unable to conceive of government apart from kings. Even in dealing with red tribes, they would often notice some unimportant tribal official, decide that he was the king of the tribe, and deal with him as though the whole tribe were his property. But in the long run, the whites who settled on the Penacook coast quickly picked up from the red people a few of the rudiments of democratic administration, though never so well that they were ever able to make it work completely.

        Another institution which the white invaders introduced into North America, and which was a complete stranger on these shores, was that of private property, whereby not only land, but everything required by the community as a whole, was under exclusive control of a few individuals, while others could only get these things by selling themselves to those who held the property; in fact, most people were born owing allegiance to some lord for such services, and were practically slaves. This institution introduced by the white race into America is the one stumbling-block that democracy has encountered among the whites, so it could never be adequately democratized. It is true that, in the course of contact with the red institutions, a new compromise form of these economic institutions has resulted, but it still remains the one important feature which prevents the communities of the whites from attaining true democracy.

        The white people's beliefs, being highly dogmatic and intolerant in character, and administered by an aristocratic clique, contrasted and conflicted sharply with the ideas of the Penacook peoples, and of their immediate neighbors in northeastern North America. Here, again, contact with the red peoples has succeeded in softening, but never in actually overcoming, this feature of the white peoples in America.

        The white peoples invading America did, however, possess a slightly superior knowledge of certain arts, but a knowledge which they were never able to utilize for the general benefit of their own people, for lack of that knowledge of social organization which their red neighbors possessed. This fact might have been used to help the growth of the red institutions, especially the Penacook institutions, had that knowledge been transmitted to the red nations instead of its products being imposed by a process of conquest and extermination.

        18. Rights of Conquest and Discovery.  The various white nations invading the Western Hemisphere all claimed what they called "rights of discovery." The fundamental idea was that America was treated as uninhabited country and reserved for the first white nation whose representatives caught sight of a bit of the land. And the reason given for ignoring the existence of America's inhabitants was a difference of religion!

        It is equally true that the various white nations that claimed "rights of discovery" never respected each other's alleged rights in that respect, so that it was largely a matter of actual occupation, and that resulted in the nations of Europe fighting plenty of wars among themselves over the right to occupy large portions of America which had never even been seen by any but the red peoples which inhabited them. Thus a competition began between the various European nations, each of which claimed some "discovery" of this or that portion of Americaa discovery which amounted to the finding of articles which the original holder never lost, and as though anything could be discovered which had always been known.

        The first and most general such "discovery" claim was on the part of Spain, which claimed the entire Western Hemisphere because one Cristobal Colon, in 1492, had sailed to an island in the Antilles! This alleged "discovery" was a case of a raider sailing to attack India under the Spanish flag, and, under the delusion that he had landed in India, occupying the island of Haiti, and enslaving the Arawak people of that island. It is on account of Colon's delusion that the red race is miscalled "Indian," and the Antilles archipelago is called the West Indies. Since this expedition contained some Basque sailors who had previously been across the ocean, and as it was guided largely by an Italian map showing a fairly good outline of the North American coast line with Asiatic labels, it could hardly be said that anything unexpected was found by the expedition at all. This attack on Haiti resulted in deportations and massacres of the inhabitants of Haiti by Colon on behalf of Spain, and their ultimate replacement by blacks Imported from Africa.

        And, as in 1500 a Portuguese sailor, Cabral, was blown off his course and across the ocean, Portugal also claimed rights of discovery to the Western Hemisphere, and the Pope was called on to adjudicate the dispute between Spain and Portugal. This he did by drawing an imaginary line around the earth, giving Portugal the rights to the east side of the line, and giving Spain the rights to the west side of the line! This "line of demarcation" was later adjusted, but it formed the basis for the "rights of conquest" which the Spanish and Portuguese claimed in their respective halves of the world. The theory of this was that of the feudal system of property: God gave all land on earth to the Pope, who sublet it to kings, and the kings again to their nobles, etc.  Consequently title to all lands in heathen lands was, on this theory, vacant, so the Pope could apportion "rights of conquest" to whomever he choseand he chose Spain and Portugal. The kings of Spain and Portugal, on "discovering" new territory, apportioned their rights of conquest to their various generals; and so the chain of subinfeudation was carried out on this continent.

        Also, the expedition of the Cabots, coasting along Newfoundland and the Quoddy and Penacook coasts, was considered a "discovery" of North America by England; subsequent" discoveries" of parts of the same continent were also made by France and Holland. France, though a Catholic country, did not resognize the Pope's apportionment of the "rights of conquest," but preferred to claim her own "discoveries."

        Portugal found little Western Hemisphere land on its own side of the line of demarcation, but sent a fleet under Amerigo Vespucci to explore that region, which a German geographer consequently named "America." This name was later extended to the entire Western Hemisphere, and the Portuguese part, to which the name was originally intended to apply, was instead named Brazil (after the Irish legendary island of Hy-Brasail, which was probably a hazy account of some actual transatlantic voyage). Portugal, however, found land in the Orient within its "demarcation" boundaries, and so undertook to conquer the Malay islands, India, and China.

        Spain quickly began to take advantage of its "rights of conquest" in the western hemisphere. Thus, in 1517, came the first large-scale invasion of North America when an army headed by Cortez landed in Mexico, and, after some attempts to stir up rebellion in the Aztec empire, finally subdued that empire while it was suffering from an epidemic of smallpox introduced by the invaders. This meant the conquest of a powerful nation with a population of about 30,000,000, and whose capital city (called Mexico or Tenoctitlan) alone was a city of over 3,000,000 peopleprobably the largest city in the world at that period.

        In the meantime a Spanish landing had been made on North America proper, on the Arawak peninsula. Since the lauding was made on Easter Sunday, the Spanish gave it the name of the Land of the Flowery Easter Festival, Tierra de la Fiesta de la Pascua Florida. This first landing was followed soon afterwards by a Spanish invasion of the peninsula, forming the Spanish colony of Florida, which began pushing westward, capturing the Maskoki city of Mauvilla and occupying it as a fortification. (This is now the city of Mobile.)

       Just as Spain and Portugal apportioned their "rights of conquest," so, later on, England and France apportioned their "rights of discovery" by granting various persons and groups "charters" to possess and take title to various parts of their "discoveries"―these countries, of course, being very free with land which they did not have.

        The Spanish policy, wherever they managed to establish themselves, involved the enslaving of the red men as far as possible, moving in a few Spanish aristocrats to take charge. In the case of the Aztec empire in Mexico, this actually involved merely a change of rulers, and no substantial change of actual social organization; but everywhere north of the Aztec empire, in North America, this policy encountered difficulties, as it was almost impossible to enslave the red tribes to any great extent. In the Antilles Islands, the red people were destroyed and replaced by negro slaves; while in Florida only a few Spanish settlements were started on the coast, the Spaniards never really succeeding in conquering the inhabitants. In other places, there were constant rebellions of the native population, so that Spain's sovereignty was merely a paper claim as against other white peoples, but actual occupation had to be abandoned.

        The Portuguese, although they had no claim to any part of North America, constantly made slave raids. Wabanake territory suffered from such Portuguese raids, and emphasized to the Wabanake and Penacook nations the necessity for some sort of concerted action, reviving the old cry of "No slave upon our land!"

        19. French Invasion.  In the meantime France disregarded the "rights of conquest" as apportioned by the Catholic Church, and insisted on getting a portion of the new lands that appeared so open. The idea that South America was India, and that North America was China (with Nova Scotia playing the part of Japan) was still current, and, at most, it was supposed that America was merely a narrow barrier on the ocean route from Europe to China. Therefore explorers kept on looking for a "Northwest Passage," a passage through North America to China, which it was expected would be found a few hundred miles back of the American coast. French expeditions sailed along the Quoddy and Penacook coasts, and, in 1534, Jacques Cartier led an expedition up the Hochlega River, which he named St. Laurent (St. Lawrence). This was an actual invading expedition, which set up a fort at a place where the Iroquois, some two hundred years before, had a town called Stadacone, and which was now taken over by the Algonquin tribes and called Kebago (the River Crossing). As this name reminded some of the Breton sailors in the expedition of the Breton town of Québec, that was the name given to the French fort; and, though this fort was soon abandoned, it was revived later as a city by that name, which became the chief French city in America. The invaders named the country New France, but apparently tried to find a native name for it; and, when they asked their Huron interpreters on the boat what the name of the country was, they did so by a sweeping gesture which the Hurons interpreted as asking the word for "towns" (as they were passing some), so that the Horons said "Kannata." Thus the country is still called Canada.

        To such an extent did the notion persist that China was somewhere just back of the coast, that when Cartier's expedition, sailing up the river, reached the Iroquois frontier post of Hochlega, and encountered there rapids in the river, he named the rapids Lachine (La Chine being French for China); and, later on, a missionary, penetrating the upper Great Lakes, landed dressed in a Chinese robe!

        Permanent settlement was not made until 1609, when Champlain obtained a "charter" from the King of France, giving him an alleged title to the entire American continent north of the fortieth parallel, that is to say, the present location of Philadelphia. The expedition he brought over resettled Quebec, and the area was apportioned into provinces under lesser lords, there being, besides the Province of Quebec, a Province of Acadie, including the Quoddy Peninsula (the name being a corruption of Quoddy, but intended to resemble the Biblical name Acadia) and the Passamaquoddy peninsula on the adjoining mainland; and the Province of Maine, which included the Wabanake land south of the St. Lawrence valley, (which remained a paper province) named after the French province south of Normandy and Brittany. The Wabanake country is therefore known as Maine to the present day.

        While the French tried to settle the Provinces of Quebec and Acadie, they encouraged friendly relations with the Wabanake peoples, who had no idea that the French were claiming the land as their own. Not long after that, an alliance was actually made with the Wabanake peoples, and the French made use of them to fight the Iroquois Federation, which was the chief block to French penetration into the interior. The French helped to repel an Iroquois raid into the Winooski mountain region, and this made the French and Iroquois lasting enemies; this region was named by the French Les Verts Monts (the Green Mountains), a name which survives, not only in the present name of the mountains, but in the name Vermont now given to that region. Attacks were also frequently made on Hochelaga, as that frontier post held the key to the interior; the French called this place Mont Royal, and, when finally it was conquered and a French settlement placed there, the town was named Montréal, and this served as a base of operations for further invasions into the interior of North America.

        20. British Invasions.  In the early sixteenth century, when the first concerted white raiding and invading expeditions in America were carried on, England was merely a weak insular power whose only activity in the general raids on America was by way of piracy. England did not neglect to lay claim to the entire North American coast, because some of it had been sighted by the Cabots in 1497, but England was not yet powerful enough to dispute claims to the land with France and Spain, or with the nations already inhabiting North America.

        The revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule in 1577 gave England its opportunity to start colonizing. One of the charters with which white nations were so free, was given to Sir Walter Raleigh, to own the entire continent, under the title of "Virginia" (named after the so-called virgin queen, Elizabeth), and three successive colonizing expeditions were sent to the islands off the Maskoki coast, forming the "City of Raleigh." This colony was not in what is now called Virginia, which is not in Maskoki territory proper; it was in what is now called North Carolina. Its history seems to have been almost a duplicate of that of the attempted Norse colony on the Penacook shores six centuries beforethose of the invaders who did not return at once were captured and adopted by the red tribes, and the third expedition found merely a deserted town, with no clue to what became of the inhabitants except a mysterious sign reading "Croatan," which has never been deciphered. It probably represents the name of some place that the colonists were taken to.

        The first permanent English settlement in Virginia was made in 1608, farther north, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, and named Jamestown after King James I. Meanwhilke scouting and raiding expeditions by English ships were  busy along the coast, especially the Penacook shores, and another charter was given out purporting to vast title of Penacook and Wabanake lands to Englishmen, organized under the name of the "New England Company." They attempted to colonize at Pemaquid as early as 1608, but they were unable to make any permanent settlement until 1621. The Virginia settlements at and around Jamestown were used as centers for raiding and burning all tribal towns within reach, since the aristocrats who went there preferred to obtain their supplies in that manner rather than cultivate the ground themselves.

        In the meantime Holland, which had recently revolted from Spain, and considered itself somewhat of a successor to Spanish claims in America, proceeded to "explore" North America. One Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing under the Dutch flag, coasted the Penacook shores and sailed up the Shatemuck River (to which he gave his own name), through Lenape territory to the land of the Five Nations, where he was welcomed at the Mohawk town of Skanetade (now Albany). Not realizing that Hudson was merely a scout for an overwhelming invasion, the tribes all along the river welcomed Hudson with highest honors; and he returned this hospitality by introducing liquor, which was to work more destruction among red men than wars. This was apparently the first introduction of "fire-water" to North American peoples; and that was Hudson's outstanding achievement, rather than his alleged discoveries. It is said that some of the Manhattan nation, after sampling the new importation, decided that the Shatemuck River must have its source in a spring of fire-water, because the river ran crooked.

        The Netherlands followed up this "discovery" by granting to the Dutch West India Company the exclusive trading rights with what was termed the "New Netherlands," and, of course, complete ownership of the territory which was actually in possession of the red nations that had always been living there. A trading post of this company was soon after that established on Manhattan Island, and formed the basis for subsequent Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley.

        England and France were so free with their charters granting supposed title to lands they did not have, that many conflicts arose, many of which have not been yet settled. The New England Compoany's charter conflicted not only with Champlain's French charter, but also with Virginia's charter; and, while the French settled their province of Acadie, King James of England granted a charter deed for the same region (under the title "Nova Scotia" or New Scotland) to a Scotch poet named Alexander, though it was not until over a hundred years later that the British were able to make any start in occupying that peninsula. These charters have been interpreted as actual land titles resulting from discovery of uninhabited country; actually they were equivalent to what the Spanish more openly and frankly called rights of conquest. The fact that American land titles are to a great extent based on these conflicting charters, which were actually rights of conquest for whoever could get there first, has resulted in many territorial disputes which have proved almost impossible to settle.

        21. White Administrations.  The white settlements that were thus backed by their respective governments were organized by those governments according to the institutions in use in the original countries in Europe. Nevertheless, there was a constant tendency for development in a different direction, and, in many cases, the assimilation of institutions from the neighboring red tribes. The more fighting there was between the whites and the reds, the faster this process of assimilation proceeded, since both sides found imitating the enemy to be a very effective form of defense. There were, however, numerous exceptions to this assimilation process; but, as a whole, there was an increasing tendency for the social organization and institutions of white colonies in America to resemble red forms rather than white.

        All the white colonies brought along with them the institution of property, as well as more or less caste distinction. But, even when the rulers attempted to copy in America the governmental details taken from the home country in Europe, it proved to be more easily done on paper than in reality. The most that could actually be transplanted was the general outlines, while the population's inexperience in governmental affairs prevented too detailed a copying of organization, even when written instructions from Europe were used as a means of governing, it was from the red tribes that further details had to be filled in, as a general rule.

        The French and Spanish colonies were put in charge of governors sent over from Europe, who were absolute monarchs within their territory, and who established the same forms of aristocracy as at home. In the Spanish colonies, it was mainly aristocrats that were sent over, the lower ranks being supplied by enslaving the native population wherever possible, or else exterminating the natives and replacing them with slaves brought from Africa. But, in many instances, the red peoples were successful in resisting enslavement, and, where this was the case, Spanish colonization could not proceed far, as was the case in Florida and in parts of New Mexico; while, in Mexico, where slavery and aristocracy were highly developed before the conquest, the original institutions of the country made it easy to enslave the inhabitants.

        The French colonies, however, instead of attempting to enslave the natives, relied on bringing over serfs from France as well as landlords, keeping them in the same feudal relations in Canada as they were in France; they did not introduce slavery, but its equivalent was feudal serfdom. But the fact that the red tribes had such opposite institutions made it easy for serfs to escape to the tribes, and thus gradually softened the feudal relationship from serfdom to a less personal form of tenancy, which also had the effect of both toning down the absolutism of the lords and keeping the spirit of rebellion smoldering among the population. This process was facilitated by the fact that each French settlement served as a trading-post for the exchange of goods with the red people, and it became necessary to cultivate friendship with the Algonquin neighbors, even to the extent of helping to defend them against Iroquois raids.

        The southern English colonies in North America were backed by the aristocracy, and that principle was introduced from the beginning. It was also present to some extent among the red men in the South, but in a much vaguer form, and the white aristocracy in the South was gradually assimilated to the red men's form. Slavery was introduced very early into Virginia, and took hold very rapidly in all the southern colonies founded by the English. These colonies were primarily colonies founded by aristocracy, and have retained something of that character ever since.

        The so-called "New England" colonies had a different environment. Some of them, as we shall see, even had a different origin from the aristocratic southern colonies. But, even where it was attempted to transplant the feudal institutions of New England to the Penacook coast, the complete conflict with the red institutions made it totally impossible to do so successfully. What largely guided New England organization was the refugee colonies who introduced property and a few other institutions of Europe, who believed as did all their compatriots in having rulers to obey, but who largely let the red men guide them as to actual forms, and emerged with a combination which had some of the bureaucracy and property institutions of Europe, and to some extent a group of authorities who were trying to assert their authority forcibly as a matter of principle, and on the other hand, a theoretical democracy acquired from the Penacook Tribes, which governed much of the outward forms of government in New England, as well as ultimately dominating the people's conception of the functioning of government. The result was a constant but never quite successful fight for freedom and popular rule. New England's spirit of freedom consists, not in achievement of the goal, but a constant striving after it, which is not to be stopped by anything.

        Thus a sharp distinction existed from the beginning between northern and southern English colonies, which correspond roughly to the distinction between Maskoki and the non-slaveholding Algonquins and Iroquois. Even when the gap between the two was geographically bridged, this distinction has always been sharp.


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