Friday, April 14, 2017

Gathering the Bones, 18: Hew Down the Bridge!

Then none was for a party—
  Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
  And the poor man loved the great;
Then lands were fairly portioned!
  Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
  In the brave days of old.

The week, and the circumstances, militate for a shorter post. but instead of writing a technological appendix about Fortune's hot take about the bright future of coal, relevant as it is, I find that I have a burr under my saddle. Yes, it is about the last of the race of Uncas the Mohican again. Race matters, after all.

Just to review here, this is about Gathering the Bones. Buried ossuaries are very common in Eastern Woodlands cultural horizons. At least, that is how we have interpreted the remains of buried structures filled with bones, set on fire, and then buried under earthen mounds. European ossuaries, which are sacred spaces filled with bones, next to overcrowded graveyards, have an obvious function which is much less obvious in a Hopewell horizono context --the last thing they were short of, was burial grounds! (Although ground that could be dug with stone tools might have been harder to come by.). In his ground-breaking,perplexing  reinterpretation of the Hopewell horizon, Martin Byers presents an alternative interpretation: bones, the immanent remnants of dead humans, were deemed to have some kind of transcendent power, and various sodalities competed to gather those bones and exercise power over them. Some details of this struck me as similar to the horrifying ritual execution of Jamestown Governor John Ratcliffe in 1607, at the end of which, Powhattan incorporated the man's flensed bones in an ossuary. This adds a bit of the sinister, and of social domination to the process. Gathering the bones is all about seizing power in current social life by appropriating the past: privatising history, if you will. In a long-ago post, I even suggested a specific (and debatable) example, the national monument to the dead of the massacre of the Christian Munsee Indians at Gnaddenhutten, in eastern Ohio. (The specific example is important because this is where James Fenimore Cooper's Chingachgook had "his people" "cut off." (Cooper can never say what he means, so it is not obvious that he intends to be ambiguous in not specifying which of Chingachgook's relatives were killed, but the "cut off" isn't ambiguous in early Nineteenth Century usage, even if the metaphor demands attention.) Speaking of ambiguous, the linked post contains more explicit examples of formerly public cemeteries which have since been "privatised," so that you know that I'm not just straining and making stuff up.

Thus, "Gathering the bones:" American history is constantly under threat of privatisation, as means of both constructing and rendering mysterious the American social hierarchy. In this way, a landed aristocracy can exist in what is constantly described as an egalitarian, freeholder republic obscure. Thrown in something about a guy with adamantium-laced bones with a secret identity, who lives on the Hudson Valley estate of a rich guy with a Dutch name, and there's even a tie-in to the thumbnail image!

So why am I returning to this topic? Because of  an extraordinary article in The New Republic this week, Ganesh Sitaraman announced that the United States is in a constitutional crisis, and that it is due to the fact that the constitution fails to make provision for economic inequality, and that this is because, "in the brave days of old," there was no inequality. America differed from Europe in having no hereditary, landed aristocracy. Various assertions about the fundamental equality of settler farmers and free land in the west follow, like some 1950s paen to the Frontier thesis. (Note: The Homestead Act was only passed in 1862A deep knowledge of American history might even reveal some more profound significance to the year.)

Last week, we were in 1947, and, just to remind everyone, next year's elections are rushing on, as they always are. The Democratic nominee will be the President, because he owns this mess. Seeking to salvage things, and lacking a Vice-President as a successor, he has thrown over a party boss as Secretary of State, with a Virginia tidewater aristocrat, One of his potential opponents is an Ohio-important member of a collateral lineage of another Virginia tidewater clan. This is not a state without a hereditary aristocracy! (And remember that there is a lot we do not know about the origins of this group, due to the not-at-all-accidental burning of Jamestown courthouse in Bacon's Rebellion.) 
But, you say, Virginia is a state, not a country, and the Republican candidate in 1948 will be Thomas Dewey, who, per his biography, paid his way through the first year of college with a summer job, and is rich because he was such an awesome trial lawyer.

Well, yes, but this is Dapplemere, near Pawley, New York,

Remember: Dewey is young for a presidential candidate. A 1926 law school graduate, Dewey has been continuously in public service since 1935. An earlier period of service in the New York district attorney's office means that he had rather less than a total of nine years in private legal practice. By his own account, he made $75,000 in his last, eighteen month period in private practice, and this is a very large amount of money by the standards of the day, but it is also a very convenient number, in that it makes him a "Fifty thousand a year" men at a time when America was sufficiently more egalitarian than today to account this as a morally-justifiable maximum professional/business wage. (The amount of money you need to afford a ticky-tacky box on a hillside.)

Could Dewey afford Dapplemere in 1939? Well, obviously, he could. It's just that, given that he was a long-time governor of New York, I am assuming that his ownership was entirely aboveboard, since otherwise there would be rumours. I mean, if the national press could publish insinuations about his sexuality*corruption in Albany ought to have been on the table. Anyway, I'm suggesting that Dapplemere reveals a man living comfortably on family money as much as earnings. If you ask, "Which Dewey?" It's because some of the famous Deweys of the previous two centuries were related.

Who cares, right? Well, I've already mentioned the X-Mansion. More relevant, and more real is Franklin Roosevelt's Springwood (and Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-kill) at Hyde Park. No-one is going to contest  FDR's status as an American landed aristocrat. He is even related to a previous President. The name and the location might have been designed to recall the old Dutch patroons. Even if Hyde park was  was actually patented in 1697, under English rule, and the Roosevelts came into possession of Springwood in 1866, a Dutch name, and a Hudson Valley estate is going to bring Renssellaers and Cortlandts, and, yes, de Lanceys to mind. These are not just nominal American landed aristocrats. The patents under which these lands were issued, ostentatiously transplanted the privileges of the European First Estate onto American soil; those privileges included the right to command the votes of their tenants, and those rights were exercised into the Nineteenth Century --under that egalitarian, freeholder's republic of our imagination.

I am going to suggest that postcards showing Thomas Dewey's New York estate are intended to bring these things to mind. Or, shorter: No American landed aristocracy? At least in 1948, ha!

That's just land, though, and the only really sinister thing I've dug up so far (ha! Again!) is that a postcard that shows "Dapplemere, residence of Thomas E. Dewey" is playing semiotic games. It's not telling you that it is important that the President should own a rural estate: It is subliminally suggesting it, and as political discourse goes, that's not all that shady. You could even say that it just shows that Dewey is a farmer in his heart of hearts, and there's nothing wrong with that!

"Privatising history" needs something a bit more sinister, and I owe the reader an explanation for why I've captioned a publicity still from Logan with an outtake from Thomas Macaualay's Horatius at the Gate, that many people are going to consider mawkish. (Me too!) It's certainly not to celebrate Thomas Macaulay. because I think that he is an arrogant dilettante who did more to screw up India than any single other man in history. (Timur the Lame? Amateur. Should have fucked with tax policy instead of wasting his time sacking cities.)

Rather, it is because in this passage, he has adopted the voice of a conservative speaker who is telling the story of brave Horatius, at least in part, to implicitly criticise the populares.  (It turns out that early Roman history has progressed to the point where we are not even sure that there were consuls to hew down bridges behind Horatius in those days. I had no idea.) This is a sweet move. We don't just tell stories about egalitarian pasts because they feature heroic guys who defend bridges. We tell them to play political games. That's what I'm talking about here.

Professor Sitaraman is pretty much inventing Eighteenth Century history for the purposes of reinforcing his point about very real modern concerns that I share. I'm not so tribally possessive about the profession of history that I won't allow that. I just think that he's gone playing into his opponents' hands. Gathering the bones is a real thing, and it has a purpose.

Here's yet another concrete example of bone-gathering. Adena, on the Worthington Estate, near Chilichothe, Ohio.

As far as privatising history goes, you don't get more on-the nose than this. The house gives its name to the Adena cultural horizon, of which the Hopewell phase was the climax. That's because the Adena type site is on the Worthington estate, not surprisingly, considering that the estate is on a commanding hill above this small, southeastern Ohio town, which was the capital of Ohio for a hot minute in the beginning, so it will not surprise that Tom Worthingon was an important early Ohio politician, that he parlayed his prominence into a sufficient fortune to patent 18,000 acres, of which a small portion is still attached to Adena. The Worthingtons have long since receded into local wealth in a rural corner of a large state, while the mansion itself is just another wedding palace, in common with so many old, big houses that no-one wants to live in any more. (Any rich modern descendants of Governor Worthington live somewhere that, at the very minimum, has better wifi.)

Having discussed this before, I'm only bringing up Adena this time because it was designed by Benjamin Latrobe, and may be the object of some shade cast by James Fenimore Cooper in his later novel, Home as Found. (One of the secondary antagonists of The Pioneers: or, The Sources of the Susquehanna is a self-taught architect who has already ruined "Temple Hall" with a grafted-on "Doric" portico. He is mentioned in the much later Home as Foundn as having gone on to fame and fortune "beautifying" other American homes and public buildings with grafted-on neo-Classical elements. Doric porticoes are like "Roman noses," and if Elizabeth Temple's "Grecian nose" in The Pioneers is a pointer to her being not-so secretly Metis, and I think it is, than what Cooper is getting at here, is pretty clear. I'll spell it out in a moment, but I should probably stop and say that I don't really have any evidence at all that Tom Worthington himself was not a lily-white Anglo-Saxon who could trace his every ancestor back to the Battle of Hastings. It's just the architecture that matters here.

Le Longue Carabine and the Great Serpent look at me skeptically. Sometimes I wonder if James Fenimore was entirely satisfied in his marriage.
Yes, yes, James Fenimore Cooper, again. Why? Well, inequality, of course. He's a landed aristocrat! And he's the most impactful author in the early American canon. (I can't say "important," because academia vastly prefers to write about Irving, Hawthorne and Melville, but in terms of who was read. . . ) And he's the biggest apologist for landed aristocracy in early American literature. And he's a Jeffersonian Democrat.

I've gone back to the Squire of Cooperstown thirteen times, if the search function can be trusted, and way back in 2011, I have talked about him in the context of economic inequality. In 2012, I returned to the subject when I got onto politics, and explicated parallels I saw between Cooper's family history novel, The Pioneers, and the origin story of the Book of Mormon, because it seemed important to the long contest between the Democratic Party and its frequently reincarnated rival, currently known as the Republican Party, and running a Mormon for President back in 2012. 

In general, I think that the early Mormons get a bad rap, that Joseph Smith's oblique critique of Cooper demands more attention, that we should concern ourselves less with New England Federalists than with upstate New York Anti-Masons. Yes, Joseph Smith dressed it up in a weirdly off-putting cod-mythology and promulgated a racial vision that is out there even by long-run Republican standards. radically obsolete message about race and assimilation. Yes, by the time of the 2012 election campaign, the American Mormon community was just as lined up behind bone-gathering financial oligarchs as any other breed of American. But! Smith reads Cooper, understands Cooper, and citicises Cooper. No-one seems to do so. It is not just Professor Sitaram who is driven squirrelly by the question of the origins of American economic inequality. 

So, back to Cooper. If you've paid attention to my previous adventurs into this topic, you may have noticed me straining to argue that Cooper's fiction is trying to communicate the fact that his received family history is a polite fiction that conceals his family's real descent from fur trader George Croghan, and, more controversially(!), the Penn family via Benjamin Franklin. The former is, at best, a bit controversial. It's the latter where Cooper really has to strain, because such a radical revision of Franklin's history is going to be hugely important to American history, as it broadly implies that Franklin's prominence in early Philadelphia is due to his being the common-law husband of a Metis Penn daughter, probably of William, Jr. Crazy stuff, and tinfoil hat territory, so more of that today.

The facts will serve here. James Fenimore Cooper was the son of Judge William Cooper and his wife, Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper. Judge Cooper is the documentable source of the Croghan connection, as by controversial legal means, he became the owner of Croghan's 50,000 acre Otsego Patent, surrounding what became the community of Cooperstown, at the outlet of the Susquehanna River from Lake Otsego, a 73 mile drive from Albany. This estate has been called a "wilderness," in part because Judge Cooper wrote a book about establishing settlements in the wilderness, in part because Americans like overstating the presence of the frontier in early American life. It is true that there was very little European settlement around Cooperstown in 1786, but it was because the town lies on a long-known and well-used inland waterway that connects the Hudson River Valley with the Potomac-Shenandoah valleys via the Susquehanna. Iroquois canoes had been passing through Cooperstown on their way to trade pelts with the English at what is now Washington, D.C. since the mid-1620s, and the Mohawk nobility had a very firm hold on the land. The fact that George Croghan was able to put together large "patents" of alienated Indian land, including at Cooperstown, is certainly an interesting fact about Croghan, but all that this means for Judge Cooper is that we are underestimating the importance and centrality of Cooperstown in his day. A map that came into public hands, probably from the private archives of Croghan's old business partners, shows that Judge Cooper was just one of many prominent New York interests to take up land in and around Cooperstown in the same era. It looks as though the real grounds for complaint lie with John Christian Hartwick, who could pipped out of the actual outlet of the lake, and in another place, I think these facts justify speculation about who William Cooper and Elizabeth Fenimore's real parents were --but there I go, breaking my resolution not to talk about tin-foil hat stuff, today. 

Complicating the story is some family business, in that James Fenimore Cooper was not the heir of Otsego Hall, and only became the master of the house much later. The fact is not irrelevant. While he inherited a trust fund from his father, and married into the distinguished New York family of the de Lanceys, it is unlikely that he would have ventured into the world of literature had he been entirely secure in his station, or that he would have written so much, so fast, had he not appreciated his earnings. 

On to Cooper as author:  James Fenimore was not always very original. His models were Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Nicholas Marryat. It's an electic set of models, of which Scott was probably the most prominent.   

Have something maudlin.

They were also well chosen, in that Cooper had been to sea, was a landed aristocrat, and, well, had history. If Scott had the Jacobite Rising to write around, New York had equally savage, unhealed wounds. In 1776 and 1777, the lower Hudson Valley had been the main theatre of the Revolutionary War. People had fought, spied, and betrayed. In its wake, a victorious Patriot-dominated New York Assembly had passed Bills of Attainder to expropriate the property of Loyalist landholders. Cooper's wife's family had been affected, and the plot of The Pioneers turns around the expropriation of the Effingham family. (The fact that the family that owns the old Temple Hall in Home as Found are the Effinghams tells you how the novel came out, unfortunately in this spoiler-phobic modern day.) Cooper went at the subject directly in his second novel, after an Austen-inspired confection. The Spy was perfect for the spirit of the Age of Good Feelings, made some money and encouraged Cooper to write --another novel of property.

I'm not sure that that was what his agent would have told him to do, but you know American authors, always writing semi-autobiographical novels set in fictionalised versions of their hometown.  As the first real American author, it isn't surprising that Cooper originated the genre in The Pioneers, Or, The Source of the Susquehanna. What is surprising is that the careful framework of a Regency domestic novel is turned on its head when this guy emerges from the woods. 
No, not Jeremy Renner: "Hawkeye." The Deerslayer. The Pathfinder. La Longue Carabine. The Trapper. Natty Bumppo.

Boom. Drop the mic, as they say today. The American hero is born. The knight without armour, having gun, able to travel. Shrouded in obscurity, of mysterious origins, wearing mask or alias,  rootless figure, at home only in wilderness, upholder of a personal code, and shadowed by violence. Perhaps longing for a homeperhaps cast out of it forever, the hero fights for the home that will be forever denied him, for a society that cannot defend itself. 

This is all the more amazing in that Natty has a very-well defined role in the novel. He is Eumaios to Edward Effingham's Odysseus. Cooper has some messaging to put in his mouth, but that ought not carry Bumppo out of his assigned role. Perhaps it is because, as I speculate wildly, Bumppo is based on someone Cooper knew and loved well. Perhaps it is because the message is such a huge burden.

As I read The Pioneers, the message is this: Long ago, Edward Effingham and Edward Effingham married two girls of the "Mohican nation." (Cooper admits in the introduction that he means Mohawk, but chooses to change the tribe for various reasons, which, incidentally, include a desire to link the First Nations clan at the centre of his fiction to the historical Uncas.)  By this marriage, Effingham and Temple each become heirs to the Indian property rights to the "Temple [Effingham] Patent. This part is tricky, because property rights are gendered. The right to settle descends matrilinearly, while the right to hunt descends to males, who also have executive authority, but through the female line. In the absence of a law of primogeniture, both Oliver Effingham and Elizabeth Temple have inheritance rights to the Patent, while Major Effingham is the effective landowner in his lifetime; Judge Temple is purely an interloper. It is only when everyone becomes Christian that these Indian property laws are negated, and English inheritance laws substituted, and since Chingachgook --in my reading, the grandfather of Oliver and Elizabeth, but that bit's tricky, even if Lauren Groff has got there from another direction-- it is these laws that still hold.

Natty has to get all this across, allusively, because otherwise, the cousin-marriage at the end isn't really motivated. Unfortunately, if you're not reading for this context, he comes across as some kind of crackpot libertarian who thinks that men ought to live in a state of nature, wandering the wilderness, shooting the things they eat.

So that's the story. Stripped of all mystification, it is that the origins of the "Effingham" estate lie in a marriage with "Indian princesses." Approximately a million American families have stories like this, so, you know, no big deal. What is a big deal is if Cooper is saying that that's what actually happened in his family. 

Let's go back to Hyde Park --and nearby Pawling, with its Quaker's Hill district, where Dapplemere is located. Hyde Park is part of the Great Nine Partners' Patent of 1697, in which John Evertson (also shown as Jan Aarston), William Creed, James Emott (or James Emmot), Hendrick ten Eyck, Lt. Colonel Henry Filkin, Major Augustin Graham, Colonel Caleb Heathcote, David Johnstone and Jarvis Marshall "cleared" 145,000 acres (590 km2) of land, in a regio stretching 6 km along the left bank of the Hudson and stretching east between 10 and 16km to the Connecticut border. It belonged to the "native Indian proprietors" of central Dutchess County: Perpuwas, Sasaragua, Makerin, Memram, Shawanachko, Shawasquo, Tounis (son of Shawasquo), Acgans, Nimham, Ouracgacguis, Tagahams, Seeck, Cocewyn, Mamany, A rye (Seeck's Son), Wappenas, Tintgeme, Ayawatask, Nonnaparee, and Kindtquaw, who presumably were not reluctant to disgorge such a relatively small hunting ground, from which the beaver was already disappearing, in exchange for "5 kettles; Rugs 4; another 8 shirts; Blankets 4; another 8 pairs of stockings; Duffels 4; Gunpowder 12 lbs; Lead 25 staves; Guns 4; Sewant [wampum] 300 guilders, black and white; Axes 12; Knives 20; Tobacco 2 rolls; Adzes 12; 1 barrel of cider; 1 half barrel of good beer; 2 hats; 1 anker of rum; 2 fine coats; 2 shirts, fine; and 2 pair of stocking [defect]."

But here's the thing: going back to Judge Cooper, and, for that matter, The Pioneers, or, for that matter the Worthington Estate, we quickly learn that it isn't the land that matters: it is finding tenants to live on it. That was Judge Cooper's magic; for that matter, it was Tom Worthington's magic. (Although in his case, it is well known that he brought up slaves from his father's Virginia plantations and emancipated them.) The Pioneers paints a picture of a community on the brink of dissolution. Indeed, from the creation of Vermont down through the Anti-Rent War, this kind of thing absolutely did happen in antebellum New York. In The Pioneers, the marriage of Oliver and Elizabeth puts everything into order. For all of his aristocratic pretensions, hierarchy must build on consent. It is the idealised aristcratic vision that the common plebs will consent to be ruled by their betters of natural justice is maintained, and that's why the marriage ends things. 

In pragmatic terms, the question is --How did the Nine Partners secure tenants? The problem is one of finding tenants willing to take on long-term lease and improve land. For that to happen, property rights are secure. Having launched into this inquiry in the last few minutes, Indeed, the conventional history of central Dutchess County has it that settlement began after the Treaty of Dover established the Connecticut-New York border and made land title there secure, but this seems to be a simplification. the old New York lawbooks are on line, and an 1816 challenge to title turns up, apparently the end of almost seventy years of litigation. In The Pioneers, social disorder is indicated by people cutting down trees and shooting cannons at passenger pigeons. In the real world, people bring "Indian patents" with conflicting boundaries to court. "The Indians," often reduced to hapless victims in this story, actually have a very considerable power, because there is nothing to keep them from continuing to issue patents, and it is not as though the boundaries in the patents are clear enough to prevent confusion.

In Cooper's idealised world, the Native American signatories had to be satisfied, and they are not the rightful owners of the land, even if they dispose of it. Ownership belongs to his wife or sister, and will pass to his daughter or niece, and be exercised by his son or nephew-in-law. The Great Patent cannot have legal force as a document of English law until those rights are satisfied, and the sway of Indian law is extinguished, when the "Indians" living here cease to be Indian by becoming Christian. Then, everything is fine forever!

Or not so much. In 1763, a Wappinger sachem named David Nimham came from Stockbridge to protest that the land rightfully belonged to him, etc. 

He has a statue! By Keropian - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
An irenic version of this exists, in which one "Nimhan (fl. 1667-1744), whose totem resembles a ghost waving a hand, also called "Squahikkon" or "Quahiccon,"and "likely" an ancestor of Daniel Nimham, was one of the 1697 signatories. On the contrary, the relationship between various Nimhams is not clear. There are several early Nimhams, as far as can be told from statistical analysis of early land deeds, and the principal one was involved in a lot of patents, including the Great Nine Partners Patent, and seems to have died in 1746. As for who succeeded him as the Nimham, this is not clear. 

What is clear is that, in the 1760s, David Nimham was granting leases in the eastern parts of the Great Nine Partners Patent to anti-rent activists fleeing leases on Livingston and Philipse land --a tactic that, a little further north, eventually produced the state of Vermont. [pdf] The Nimhan story, it turns out, is very definitely and very prominently one in which the patent process breaks down. The fact that David Nimham's trip to London to petition the King was funded by land speculattors also shows that it would be a mistake to see this in terms of a battle between White and Red, hegemonic versus subaltern. (Even if Native Americans got the short end of the stick.)

Do the kinds of marriages that Cooper implies (and explicitly describes in Wept of Wish-ton-Wish) lie in the background of the Nine Great Partners Patent? Is Hendrik Ten Eyck's wife, Petronella de Witt, something other than meets the eye? Given the state of the genealogical record --for one thing, Petronella seems to have had two husbands at the same time, which I assume is bad record keeping-- I have no idea. The point of this post is that this is the story, and that you'll have to take it on faith, because the history has been privatised. For the purposes of refuting Professor Santaram, it suffices to point out the patroons. To go beyond that, we step into the murky territory of interracial marriages and find ourselves mired in a fever swamp of insinuation, rumour and confusion. Who, then, is what race? Doesn't that depend on who has the power to make racial categories stick? When Cooper says "race," he means lineage, after all. The race of Uncas is his descent ---the people who inherit his property. As the number of patents signed by Nimham the Wappinger shows, that could be a very great amount of property, and, by the standards of current real estate valuations, almost unimaginable wealthy. Actually, given that some of the deeds are in Brooklyn, probably literally unimaginable wealth.

By the time of David Nimham, or, perhaps, of us, looking back, "race" has become about the colour of one's skin, and that's something else entirely, until we come to the case of Elizabeth Temple and Oliver Effingham, who look like Indians, but are, in fact, gentry. 

Strange, that. Good thing that Oliver and Elizabeth are made up, or we'd have real problems wity our categories! And yet there is plenty of intimation that they are not just made up. It is just that, to go beyond this point, we step into the murky territory of interracial marriages and find ourselves mired in a fever swamp of insinuation, rumour and confusion. History has been privatised by people with the power to do so. 

So here's a question: if they have the power to privatise history, do they have the power to decide what race a person belongs to? Because that seems like it would be a pretty potent power in modern North America.

*Actually a link to Herbert Hoover promoting the slander, but a reminder of what kind of man Herbert Hoover actually was is never out of place.

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