Themes and Issues in American History 1492-1789

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Themes and Issues in American History

September 27, 2006
The Indians were a hospitable and sharing race and sharing was part and parcel of their culture. They were not influenced by the frenzy of the day, capitalism and feudalism. Columbus was motivated by his quest for gold to pay his backers. Gold was the new currency of the day, better than land because it could buy anything. After the wholesale slaughter of the Indians with no gold to show for it, Columbus and the Spaniards sought slaves under the premise that it was Christian like to do so. Slave labor and cruelty allowed millions of Indians to die between 1494 and 1508. It is amazing how cruel the Spaniards were and how docile and civilized the Indians were. Yet, we honor Columbus as a hero and adventurer. Columbus Day is dripping in blood of an innocent peaceful people. The early English settlements were also rife with terrorism of the Indian population. They looked for any small infraction by the Indians in order to severely punish the entire population and then would confiscate land and treasure. It reminded me that war throughout all the ages from Columbus to the present has been fought for reasons far and above the inconsequential initial grievance. Hitler and Poland, Israel and Lebanon, US and Iraq are all examples. As in the Spanish conquest, all the gold and blood did not change Spain’s ranking in the world. The Indian civilization was in fact much greater developed than the European civilization of its day. They had peace, prosperity, and development. Had their people been left alone without the European influence of slaughter, enslavement, and disease it might well have been the utopian society of its day. Who were the real savages and why to this day are the “Indians” still portrayed as primitive beings? Were the Incas, Mayans, Iroquois, Mohawk and other descendants of the great Bering Sea trek any less celebrated than the great civilizations in history, the Greeks or Romans? The Virginians of 1619 were desperate for labor in order to grow enough food to stay alive and tobacco for export. Hunger was so prevalent that many colonists reverted to cannibalism. They couldn’t force the Indians to work for they were outnumbered and the Indians were tough and resourceful. White servants were not brought over in sufficient quantities to matter and after a period of time their contract of work would expire. The free white settlers, many who were craftsman and men of leisure were little inclined to work the land. In fact John Smith in the earliest settlements had to resort to a kind of martial law to force them to work the fields for survival. It was probably the first utterance to what would become the mantra of the 20th century, “it’s not my job.” Edmond Morgan in his book American Slavery, American Freedom summed up the narrow mindedness of the early settlers feeling of superiority over the “savages” of the land; that they were capable of inflicting much terror on the Indian population which proved their superiority, however they couldn’t hunt or grow corn to survive. Black slaves were the answer. By 1619 over 1,000,000 blacks had already been brought from Africa to South America and the Caribbean to work the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Fifty years before Columbus the Portuguese took African blacks to Lisbon which was the start of the regular trade in slaves. Once again it was the superior European methods in cruelty that enabled them to conquer a civilization that was their equal in both societal and evolutionary practices. It was easier to make Africans slaves as they were far from home, exposed to immense cruelty, and generation after generation were raised to believe their in-superiority through racial hatred and the color line where white was master and black was slave. American slavery and cruelty was fed by the frenzy of profit to be made from capitalistic agriculture. By 1800 between 10 to 15...
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