Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gathering the Bones, 19: Sinners In the Hands Of An Angry He Who Wears Human Heads as Earrings


It's properly time to for me to be reviewing technology news from March of 1947, but I have some time off this week, and my last post leaves me dissatisfied. I mean, who cares that Veronica is dark and brunette, or that George Washington was a redhead?* She's rich! He's a President! Rich and famous people get away with stuff like being racially fluid. The real question is what this means to a poor redhead like Archie Andrews, who has to worry that other people might get to choose his racial identity for him. (1,2, 3). 

If America was, in its origins, and is, still, a mixed race society that pretends that there is a firm, clear, and unambiguous colour line that just happens to coincide with class, then its central social question isn't goings on in the Lodge lodge. It is, rather, who polices the colour line? Lower class Americans do not have social power. That's kind of the point of being poor. In Latin America, the poor really are victims of a moving race/colour lline. Why on the right bank of the Rio Grande? How do they own their own history in the North? 

The answer is "Religion."  Next week, Postblogging Technology, March 1947, II.

No, wait, video time! 
More specifically, I mean, religious continuity between Eastern Woodland religious practice and the America of small sect Christianity. That's where this spooky, powerful song comes in. It is weighed down by history. Seemingly, a  longer and heavier history than America has had time to accumulate. Even America's historical crimes aren't this old! 

The Shenandoah is the most southerly reach of a series of "carrying-place" linked, approximately north-south rivers above the Fall Line, extending from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin via Oswego River, the Mohawk, the Susquehanna, the Potomac, and, finally, the Shenandoah. Iroquian-speaking communities extend along the route, from the Neutral Nations in the far north to the Cherokee in the furthest southern reaches of the Shenandoah Valley.

America is older than it says. Not convinced? Here's Alison Krause taking us down to the river to pray.

The datestone says 1752, but Pittsburgh's Old Stone Tavern just must have been built in 1782, because, after all, 1752 was before Braddock's defeat, and Pittsburgh didn't exist yet. Well, there was a town, but it was an Indian town, and Indians didn't make bricks. I mean, they made pots, but that was, you know, long ago. Now they live in wigwams. No, I'm not racist, you're racist. By Lee Paxton - self-madeTransferred from en.wikipedia, GFDL,

Tom Worthington and the other members of the Chillicothe Junto may, or may not, have "platted" the town of Chillicothe directly onto the site of the last of perhaps five Shawnee Chillicothe towns. It seems to be a bit controversial. In some respects, it is also irrelevant. The Scioto valley is crammed with ancient remains, probably for the same good economic reasons that the Junto chose to speculate on its real estate. Arthur St. Clair, the long-suffering governor of the Northwest Territory, had chosen his capital, Cincinnati, for other, and, it looks, better reasons, but the choice between the two towns came down to party plans for carving states out of the Old Northwest. St. Clair's vision favoured the Federalist Party, the Junto's that of the Democratic-Republicans, Jefferson won the 1800 election, and the upshot was Ohio and an odd-looking state capitol building in downtown Chillicothe that may or may not deliberately recall an Earth Lodge. The capital of Ohio would move again (It was a familiar game in the Old Northwest that I could compare to the old Indian habit of moving "Chillicothes") but the Worthington fortune would stay.

In the case of Chillicothe, there's a mild frisson of scandal to the effect that the Virginians of the Junto brought up slaves from the plantations there and freed them, forming a substantial community of free Ohio blacks. Ohioans were not, in general, enthusiastic about the idea of having blacks north of the Ohio.  Nevertheless, the community persisted, and Chilicothe's free blacks would play an important role in the Underground Railway, with its basic organising principle that freedom started at the Ohio River. You hardly need to imagine the community's reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act.

A million deaths were not enough for Yueh!

I want to stop and think about that. Blackness is the other, and incomparably more important dimension of North American colour --outside the far Northwest-- If we reject the essentialist idea that race is just given, the dreadful march of slavery through law and courts in the 1850s announced that the commanding heights of American society were making the Southern move: In the future, a poor person would be liable to be seized and sold into slavery if they could not prove who they are,and their only protection was the essentialist fantasy that you can just look at someone and tell their race.

It helps, of course, that you often can.There are excellent paradigmatic examples like Mr. Scott, his race revealed in black and white. It helps even more that cosmetics are a female thing [pdf].**  Ladies, amiright? 

I had such a crush on Lisa Bonet back in the day. Now do an image search for her sister, Sondra.
 But I'm old enough to remember when Michael Jackson was black. So how does racial ambiguity interact with Dred Scott?  

One answer is that real estate isn't some high calling. You're in it to get rich(er), not to be an agent of progress. (That's the architect's job. Just ask "him.") Buy low, sell high. But, actually, it's even easier than that, because it is simple to buy low.  Just ask me, and I'll set you up with a quarter acre lot twenty miles from Vancouver for less than a months' rent downtown. (Actually, you'll probably have to buy a multi-acre site for significantly more money; but you can subdivide!) The tricky part is selling high, because it requires a buyer, not a seller.

Early America, as it turns out, was an awesome real estate play. The history of eastern Woodland North America in the peri-contact period can be told by the westward movement of fur producing lands, leaving good arable behind. That might not be enough, had never been enough before, but technological change and world war meant that by 1792, America was climbing out of  its crippling post-Revolution depression on the strength of grain exports.  English speculators were increasingly inclined to buy American land. There's a probably a reason that there was a member of Scotland's vastly rich and aristocratic Sinclair ("St. Clair") family living in Cahokia, Illinois, and corresponding regularly with Governor St. Clair in the 1790s, and I doubt that it is that he found the Mississippi Bottom more salubrious and urbane than London. So arable land can sell high, but, as Tom Worthington shows us, there is an additional, political dimension to it.

Selling farm land looks easy. People need to live and work somewhere, and if it is a farm, it's both! The trick comes when there is more farmland than farmers. You need to pitch to your buyers, and there is quite a pitch to be made, because the farmer has to invest in the land. That's fine, in the sense that the law of farm leases provides for recovering the investment if the lease doesn't work out. It is less fine in that the legal situation for a farmer who has improved land which has been illegally leased is less clear. Anywhere but America, the farmer is out of luck. Should have paid more attention to the legal title! In America, all title is vulnerable. Plymouth Colony "founded" America (leaving Jamestown aside, for reasons that will soon be clear), and was itself a squat. A few years later, it found itself squabbling with sub-squatters. Another squat turned up later (Salem is involved, interestingly enough) and eventually the colony was dissolved over the whole thing. With a lesson like that in mind, it is not surprising that the American colonies passed preemption laws to give the improving squatter some protection, but only some protections, and subordinated to the judgement of local juries.  Needless to say, there were those who were going to have problems before a frontier jury. Seriously, check out the linked monograph by Hernando de Soto Polar , of all people.  The American sense of egalitarian justice would seem like a natural fit with people squatting on land parceled out by the section to the wealthy, to be sold or rented to the poor, but that sense of justice and equity quickly collapses at the thought of just how awful those people must be. After all, they're the ones who're really stealing the land from the Indians.

Yondu was created in 1969 as an awful space-Indian stereotype. So what did James Gunn do when he decided to rehabilitate the character? Give him a hillbilly accent. I swear, this subtext isn't very sub.

Exemption, pre-emption, and, eventually, the Homestead Act of 1862, would seem to demand more attention than they get; given the drift of this discussion so far. Free Soil marched with Anti-Slavery , but I've more than enough on my plate here for now.

First, the demographic details: I think that we can all concede that the bright sunlight of American civil society casts a shadow of marginalised Ravagers and Reavers. (Nice work, making Space-Confederates into heroes, by the way, Joss.) Our reflexive reaction is that these "Wilden," "renegados," "peons," Metis, and "half-breeds" were few in number. The Dorset men who danced around the maypole and consorted with Indians at Mount Wollaston were a tiny minority compared with the good family folk of Plymouth.

Without going over the ground again, suffice it to say that this is not the case.  For it to be true, the hypothesis requires several unlikely sub-hypotheses. First, undocumented Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century trans-Atlantic emigration has to be magnitudes greater than anything we can see or plausibly support from the documents and contemporary history of technology. Second, the doubling time of these established, White European populations has to be something like a third of that documented for traditional societies. (The best established doubling time for a rural population without modern public health and medicine is 70 years; we require 25 in the American case. I once worked this out as an average of almost 11 pregnancies per woman. You don't have to take my estimate seriously to go to RootsWeb and count average family size in colonial times and see the problem.) Third, the existing, indigenous population must have reacted to disease epidemics in a way not documented in any existing human or animal population. The fact that the Wikipedia article on "virgin soil epidemics" quotes Alfred Crosby rather than an epidemiologist tells us just how uninterested we are in subjecting this "The Indians were wiped out by disease" thesis to anything like scientific scrutiny.

What are we left with? An indigenous population of roughly one person per square mile in the Eastern Woodlands in the early 1600s, and an incoming White emigration of comparatively wealthy would be agricultural entrepeneurs typically in the tens and twenties each year, and occasionally spiking to as much as 200 in the Walloon emigration to the New Netherlands, 600 to 800 at the founding of Boston; Or, a truly dominating movement, 2000 Palatine Germans to New York. In these circumstances, the dominating demographic fact is the "leak" from the annual movement of 50,000 or so fisheries workers across the Atlantic to the Newfoundland fisheries and back to Europe. If one percent of these poor boys jumped ship each year, they would swamp  sponsored immigration and also be a significant proportion of overall population increase (that is, increase including Indians) in the immediate vicinity of the early colonies.

The "half-breed" John Brant, Thayendanegea of the Mohawk Nation

Thus, for population increase to have occurred in the colonies, there must have been an "ethnogenesis" of Americans. That is, people must have just stopped being Algonquins and Iroquois and such, and started being Yankees, Knickerbockers, and so on. (Emphatically including Canadians.) When and where they did so is dictated by larger social trends, but at any point in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century, most of the "English colonists" in the background could equally well be Indians. Most of the candidate buyers for the land that Hiram Lodge's ancestors are selling are "wild men."

Gradually, of course, over the course of the Eighteenth Century, the demographic dominance of the northern passage was taken over by the Middle Passage, and, starting in the mid-Nineteenth Century, by steamship-driven mass migration from Europe, but that doesn't really change the facts. I assume that if it had the potential to change the facts, Nicholas Bacon's boys wouldn't have burned down the Jamestown Courthouse with all the birth and marriage records in it --scarcely the last time that happened in the South. First Indians, then Blacks, then Whites. It's all a tapestry.

Pocahontas was an Indian, damnit!
I promised that religion would turn out to be explanation at the head. Actually, I more than promised, by jamming together Jonathan Edwards and the Eastern Woodlands culture hero, He Who Wears Human Heads as Earrings. The first is implied to be the prototype fire-and-brimstone revivalist preacher, although the role would sit very uncomfortably with him. The second is a mythical figure you dress up as when you welcome an up-and-coming young man into the medicine society with the promise of spiritual power (and, more practically, social prestige), if he can collect enough scalps, heads, or other grisly trophies.

Indians have great abs. Fact.
The Reverend Jonathan Edwards was the son-in-law of the controversial Solomon Stoddard, whose Halfway Covenant has confused generations of historians of New England religion. (If all New Englanders are lily-white English emigres, why did there have to be a special, halfway status for new members of New England churches? Since it is obviously not that most of them are recent converts, it must be that New England Christians have such precious and delicate consciences that they volunteer not to be real Christians until they really, truly, feel it. Masses of new converts. Ha ha. What a crazy idea. The Indians were all wiped out by disease!)

In his youth, Edwards got tied up in a controversy at Yale College, when it was belatedly realised that the emigrant New English colonists were not, in fact, Anglicans, but members of a new Christian sect, the Congregationalists, who didn't like bishops, at all. A few years later, this religious dispute got tangled up with political divisions between east and west Connecticut, and, then, because colonial American history wasn't weird enough already, a war between Pennsylvania and Connecticut over some valley bottom on the upper Susequehanna. (Just can't get away from the sources of the Susquehanna.) Meanwhile, the Reverend Edwards had decided that since he was already a Congregationalist, he might as well be a Presbyterian. Or maybe a Calvinist. Whatever. The important thing was that Princeton ruled, Yale drooled, and there were to be no bishops in America.

My facetious tone here is meant to suggest that I think that far too much Eighteenth Century American religious history is hurt by failures to distinguish and properly understand labels like "Calvinist." However, I have difficulty believing that the reader cares deeply about these things, and I loved Philip Benedict's history of the "Calvinist church," so I am just going to link to what I hope is the first page of a review of that fine, 2002 book, and try to cut to what I think is important, which is the rejection of episcopalian government.

Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, "Calvinism," the Dutch Reformed Church, and many other Christian denominations, reject the idea that the head of a church community is an ordained official, sort of a higher rank of priest, called a "bishop." Way back in the earliest and most radical phases of the Protestant Reformation, the argument was that bishops were actually a Roman invention, intended to neuter the rising Christian movement and, I don't know, inaugurate Satan's rule on Earth. I think we're past that, but the Sixteenth Century anti-episcopalian movement  was about a lot more than ancient history. Bishops ruled and regulated churches, parish councils, and all the other institutions of a Christian society, and so they had a lot of power, which was used in various ways that, again, it would be getting too far into the weeds to discuss in contexts like the Bohemian Crisis, the Netherlands Revolt, or John Knox and the Stewarts.

This is especially true in that America was an English colony, and the Anglican Church was episcopalian. The view from London was that America had an established Church, that that church was ruled by a bishop, specifically the Bishop of London, and that this was extremely administratively cumbersome, and that at the first opportune moment, bishops should be established in the American colonies. Instead, the decade-and-a-bit after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 was roiled by controversies over tentative movements to establish these bishops. Since there were other causes of friction between Americans and London at the time, and rather a breakdown in relations at the end, this controversy tends to be a bit overshadowed, although I am not the only historian out there playing with the idea of a "religious origin of the American Revolution."  (There's a fashion in French Revolutionary history of titling would-be paradigm-changing books The Fill-in-the-Blank Origins of the French Revolution, and leading Americanist Bernard Bailyn lifted the trope for his Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. I happened to think that Dale Van Kley's Religious Origins of the French Revolution was a damn good book, so why not play the same game in America?)

Who cares about bishops, you ask? Why, one Mrs. Widow-Bewitched Abbott, of Templeton, Otsego County, New York. Confronted with the unexpected return to America of the rich and stately Effinghams, and, above all, their marriageable heiress, Eve, this lowborn American sectarian woman, with a keen sense of human nature combined with a malicious spirit and a taste for gossip, quickly notices the presence of one Paul Powis at the Effingham mansion, formerly known as Temple Hall, now the Wigwam. (Maybe you thought I was reaching by leading with Veronica Lodge?) Paul is generally thought to be the natural-born son of a wayward daughter of the aristocratic Warrender clan of the north of England, wasting some electrons and your patience with extraneous details because I think that there is an intended connection with the Lieutenant Warley of The Deerslayer.

Anyway, bastard son of an aristocratic rhymes-with-bore and eligible heiress. I think you can see where this is going! One of the interesting things about Home as Found is that, as far as Widow-Bewitched is concerned, she's right. Paul eventually proves that he is actually the son of a wayward Effingham heir, born of a legal marriage, and so a suitable partner for Eve. Also, a cousin, but that's another story. As I've suggested, I think that's a plot point in The Pioneers, but it is not spelled out explicitly there. However, his proof is confined to the word of the canon of the Episcopalian cathedral in Philadelphia. There is no documentary evidence. As the Effingham patriarch puts it, that this is enough within the walls of the Wigwam, will have to do. The outside world can think what they like; America has no laws preventing him from deeding his property to whoever he pleases.

However, if you've wondered how Mrs. Widow-Bewitched Abbott signs her cheques, wonder no more, because, in an absurd culmination of the confusions of identity which have driven this novel, Mrs. Widow-Bewitched Abbott reveals her secret. She, and her neighbours, just borrow each others names when they go to market. (Actually, she lends it. She might be a shrew, but she, personally, is a good credit risk.)

At another point in the novel, Eve waxes indignant about what might not be the greatest social evil in antebellum America, but which certainly exercises James Fenimore Cooper: Because America has so many small sects, and because the only proof of legal status is a baptismal certificate, American states have begun to charge for them. Poor people who cannot afford a baptismal certificate will also not be extended the privilege of Holy Communion. (Cf. the blither-blather about the Halfway Covenant, above.) You have to pay to be a Christian in America.

From James Fenimore Cooper's perspective, this bit is the real crime. From every other aspect, we can see a bigger one; American identity is fluid and dependent on church membership (baptismal certificates). In the absence of established identity, yes, it is hard to buy and sell in the market --but it is also hard to buy and sell land.

So how can the poor negotiate their passings of the colour line? By joining a "small sect" that will have them. The existential threat posed by the extension of episcopal government becomes clear. I might be reaching a bit further in seeing the small sect as a continuation of the medicine society, but not far, I think. Why do we all put up with this? Well, who else is there to buy"your" land? Racial identity is fluid --You can join the medicine society as long as you come through with the money.

*The link may seem a little mysterious. George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington, is often painted as an odd woman in recent sources. This is because her few interactions with history take the form of imperious demands for money that went to his employer (Congress!) When the General could not be reached. Apart from that, there's  nothing: No portraits --the ones you see on the Internet are imaginary-- and not much genealogy. The conclusion I'm trying to imply, because, God know,s I sure can't prove it, is that Mary Ball Washington was an Iroquois heiress.  I say Iroquois to make sense of Washington's relationship with the Half King.but the Five Nations did have an old trading connection with the Northern Neck. Anyway, if Mary Ball Washington carried enough of the sage brush that  her son inherited typically Metis auburn hair, she herself was more than normally Indian-looking, which would account for her social reserve better than tales of domineering mothers out of Psychology Today. Just saying. . 

**It turns out that discussions of the career of Bernarr MacFadden make less of his advocacy of tanning than I realised. I'm sure that there's a big social history of tanning out there; but, like skin lightening, it seems to get less academic attention than it deserves. 


  1. The problem with this thesis is that the (for example) 23andme genetic sample indicates something like 0.2% native ancestry in "white americans". And it's a big sample even if it is a voluntary one.

  2. Oh, yes, certainly. Even given that the number probably goes up if we consider haplogroups not unambiguously American, it is a small number. On the other hand, given that there were likely no more than 2 million Native Americans in North America in 1500, there's a case to be made that it's a testimony to their reproductive success that there's even that much.

    The dominant genetic-demographic contributions to overall North American history are:
    i) Steamship migration, beginning with the Irish and those Mormon-sponsored Anglos in the 1840s;
    ii) The Middle Passage of Africans to America;
    iii) The "leaky pump" of the Newfoundland fishery;
    iii) The autochtonous Neolithic American population;
    iv) European emigration before the 1840s;
    v) The eastward spread of the Pacific littoral gene pool, with its Hawaiian, east and South Asian admixtures.