[Marxism] Re: Help on Hitchens (or Ignatieff) on railroad and indian geno...

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 10 09:48:17 MDT 2004

Rachel wrote:
>Well, there was an unmistakable romanticism where Amerindians and liberal
>Victorians were concerned.    The highly idealized portraits of the 
>Iroquois or
>the Sioux by writers like Morgan or Helen Hunt Jackson were hardly a sound
>basis for extrapolating generalities concerning Native American life.

Morgan? Idealized?

 From my article on Cherokee removal:

In the 1840s and 1850s, one such "scientific" theory was based on 
polygenism, which asserted the racial inferiority of both Indians and 
Blacks. Philadelphia physician and phrenologist Samuel G. Morton wrote:

"Was it not for this same mental superiority, these happy climes which we 
now inhabit would not be possessed by the wild and untutored Indian, and 
that soil which now rejoices in the hearts of millions of freemen, would 
not be overrun by the lawless tribes of contending barbarians."

Morton's "theory" was based on the examination of hundreds of native skulls 
which he rated as more capacious than blacks, but less so than whites. 
Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz, one of Morton's disciples, asserted that 
the black cranium housed a brain no larger than the "imperfect brain of a 7 
month's infant in the womb of the white."

With this kind of racism enshrined at places like Harvard University, the 
infant science of ethnology would be ill equipped to treat Indians as equal 
human beings. We discover from Wallace that there is a direct lineage 
between Lewis Cass and Lewis Henry Morgan. While less disposed to the sort 
of phrenological analyses found in Agassiz and company, the early 
ethnologists all subscribed to the notion that Indians had to be suppressed 
because their "hunting" based societies were a threat to the advancement of 

Henry R. Schoolcraft was an aide to Lewis Cass in Michigan, who studied 
Indian languages, customs and traditions in the interest of scientifically 
classifying a species that would soon be extinct. In 1845, Schoolcraft gave 
a lecture at the club Lewis Henry Morgan had organized in Rochester, New 
York for the scientific study of indigenous peoples. There is little doubt 
that Cass's influence was transmitted to Morgan through Schoolcraft who 
published "Notes on the Iroquois" in 1847. Indeed, Morgan invited Cass to 
become a member of his Rochester club of Iroquoianists. Showing Cass's 
influence, Morgan wrote in "League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois":

"The passion of the red man for the hunter life has proved to be a 
principle too deeply inwrought, to be controlled by efforts of legislation. 
His government, if one was sought to be established, must have conformed to 
this irresistible tendency of his mind, this inborn sentiment; otherwise it 
would have been disregarded. The effect of this powerful principle has been 
to enchain the tribes of North America to their primitive state."

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/indian/Cherokee_Removal.htm

>Franklin's views of the Indian, like his views of the African Negro, were
>patronizing and racist.

For those who want to find out more about these questions, I recommend the 
book "Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois and the Rationale 
for the American Revolution" by Bruce E. Johansen, which is available 
online at: http://www.ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/FF.html

Here's an excerpt from Chapter Four:

The commissioners then repeated, almost word for word, [Iroquois leader] 
Canassatego's advice that the colonies form a federal union like that of 
the Iroquois, as it had appeared in the treaty account published by 
Franklin's press. The commissioners continued their speech:

These were the words of Canassatego. Brothers, Our forefathers rejoiced to 
hear Canassatego speak these words. They sunk deep into our hearts. The 
advice was good. It was kind. They said to one another: "The Six Nations 
are a wise people, Let us hearken to them, and take their counsel, and 
teach our children to follow it." Our old men have done so. They have 
frequently taken a single arrow and said, Children, see how easily it is 
broken. Then they have taken and tied twelve arrows together with a strong 
string or cord and our strongest men could not break them. See, said they, 
this is what the Six Nations mean. Divided, a single man may destroy you; 
united, you are a match for the whole world. We thank the great God that we 
are all united; that we have a strong confederacy, composed of twelve 
provinces. . . . These provinces have lighted a great council fire at 
Philadelphia and sent sixty-five counsellors to speak and act in the name 
of the whole, and to consult for the common good of the people. . . .

>  And it is simply wrong to ascribe unsullied
>egalitarianism to societies at such low levels of development.

It is not the low level of development that is important. It is the absence 
of private property that matters.

>  Mussolini, we are told,
>was an admirer of such native warrior societies as the Cheyenne.  Native
>Americans, surely, are all things to all people.

Yes, and Hitler was an admirer of those who slaughtered the Indians:

"Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of 
genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United 
States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and 
for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the 
efficiency of America's extermination--by starvation and uneven combat--of 
the 'Red Savages' who could not be tamed by captivity." ("Adolf Hitler" by 
John Toland, p. 702)

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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