Pearce, Roy Harvey. Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind. University of California Press, Berkeley. 1953.
Forward: Arnold Krupat
(x) It would be Pearce’s task to show the way in which “the history of American civilization would…be conceived as three dimensional, progressing from past to present, from east to west, from lower to higher,” (49), and how that conception, for almost two hundred and fifty years, would establish itself in relation to very specific social definitions of the Indian.
(xi) Pearce identifies 3 ways that early Americans perceived the Indians of America:
- 1600s-mid 1700s: Wild Men who are seduced by Satan, but capable of salvation/conversion
- mid 1700s - early 1800s: more as noble savage as then minion of Satan, one that may not be able to be converted, but who is nonetheless an obstacle to inevitable westward progress
- early to mid 1800s: a “zero of human society,” for non civilization is not life
(xviii) I have given the terms Idea, Symbol, and Image somewhat specialized, narrow meanings…The terms are meant to categorize, however roughly, stages in the history of an idea as it becomes part of a system of thought and action. By Idea I mean a predication, explicit or implicit, which offers a solution of a major human problem. By Symbol I mean a vehicle for an Idea: a concrete, emotionally powerful sign for an abstract proposition. By Image I mean a vehicle for a Symbol: a particular mode of expounding and comprehending a Symbol and the Idea it bodies forth. In this study, the Idea…is the savage and his savigism; the Symbol is the Indian; and the Images are those found in social, historical, and imaginative writing of the period [the subject of this book].
- Idea (savage), Symbol (Indian), Image (writing/art of the period defined)
(xx) It is a fact of our lives that, in Penn Warren’s words, we were all of us born in “the shadow of the forest,” and have yet to come out.
Part 1. Antecedents and Origins, 1609-1777
Ch 1. Spirituals and Temporals: The Indian in Colonial Civilization
(3) The Renaissance Englishmen who became Americans were sustained by an idea of order. There were sure, above all, of the existence of an eternal and immutable principle which guaranteed the intelligibility of their relations to each tore and to their world and thus made possible their life in society. It was a principle to be expressed in the progress and elevation of civilized men who, striving to imitate their God, would bring order to chaos. America was such a chaos, a new found chaos. Her natural wealth was there for the taking because it was there for the ordering. So were her natural men.
(4) The colonial concern with the savage Indian was an attempt to see the savage, the ignoble savage, as a European manqué [manqué: having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled]. When, by the 1770’s, the attempt had obviously failed, Americans were coming to understand the Indian as one radically different from their proper selves; they knew he was bound inextricably in a primitive past, a primitive society, and a primitive environment, to be destroyed by God, Nature, and Progress to make way for Civilized Man. Americans after the 1770’s worked out a theory of the savage which depended on an idea of a new order in which the Indian could have no part.
Since it is an aspect of a specifically nationalistic self-consciousness, the American understanding of the Indian after the 1770’s is the major concern of this study.
(5) The lesson to be learned everywhere in the Americas was a deep and powerful one for civilized Christians whose intellect was essentially medieval but whose world was fast becoming the one we call modern. For in the New World the Englishman might search in vain for microcosms within the macrocosm, for men whose lives reproduced in little the order of the universe. In America, he might see clearly what he himself would become did he not live according to his highest nature. The Indian became important for the English mind, not for what he was in and of himself, but rather for what he showed civilized men they were not, and must not be.
Aboriginal Americans, so English voyagers were again and again to find, denied their holy, human selves and lived like beasts; they were, in the traditional terminology, more animal than rational.
(6) American Indians were…religiously and politically incomplete…The practical problem of bringing savages to civilization was to be solved by bringing them to the Christianity which was at its heart. Success in empire building and trade was to be measured by success in civilizing and Christianizing…Meantime, the Indian, in his savage nature, stood everywhere as a challenge to order and reason and civilization.
(7) [Samuel] Purchas writes like a voyager of the 1570’s and 80’s: The Indians are “so bad people, having little humanity but shape, ignorant of civility, of arts, of religion; more brutish than the beasts they hunt, more wild and unmanly than that unmanned wild country, which they range rather than inhabit; captivated also to Satan’s tyranny…[and] wicked idelenss..”, (Hakluytus Posthumous, or Purchas His Pilgrimes, 1625).
(8) In 1609, Sir Thomas Gates, as Governor of the colony, was told by the Virginia Company that his missionaries should work with the Indian children , that he must even have children taken from their parents if necessary, since they were “so wrapped up in the fog and misery of their iniquity, and so terrified with their continual tyranny, chained under the bond of death unto the devil” that they very likely would have to be forced, when young, into the good Christian life,” (Records of the Virginia Company III, 1607-1622).
- the good Christian life and God that openly supports genocide, slavery, and ecological disaster..
(12) In his New Brittania (1609), Richard Johnson reports briefly and straightforwardly. Virginia, he writes, “is inhabited with wild and savage people that live an die up and down in groups like herds of deer in a forest. They have no law but nature, their apparel skins of beasts, but most go naked. The better sort have houses, but poor ones. They have no arts nor science, yet they live under superior command such as it is, they are generally very living and gentle, and do entertain and relieve our people with great kindness. They are easy to be brought to good, and would feign embrace a better condition.”
(12) Of religion, he [Henry Spelman in Relations of Virginia, 1613) observes that…”for the most part, they worship the devil.”
- yes, the indigenous people of this new land worship the devil of the European/Christian bible.
(14) Captain John Smith in his Map of Virginia (1612) writes, “their chief god they worship is the Devil.”
(19) In 1634, John Winthrop writes to an English friend, “the natives are near all dead of the small pox, so as the Lord has cleared our title to what we possess.” (Winthrop Papers, III).
- In true Old Testament fashion.
(20) The Puritans carried to its extreme the logic of seventeenth century Christian imperialism. God had meant the savage Indians’ land for the civilized English and, moreover, had meant the savage state itself as a sign of Satan’s power and savage warfare as a sign of earthly struggle and sin. The colonial enterprise was in all ways a religious enterprise. For Puritans, as for the pilgrims before them, land tenure was finally to be demonstrated from theology…The fact was that the Indians possessed their lands only as a natural right, since that possession existed anterior to and outside of a properly civilized state and since that possession was not in accordance with God’s commandment to men to occupy the earth, increase, and multiply; what followed then was that the land was technically vacuum domicilium, and that the English, who would farm the land and make it fructify, who would give it order, were obliged to take over. Thus characteristically, the Puritan in his eager orthodoxy was little interested in natural law and went directly to divine law, to divine logic. For John Winthrop in 1629, it was a matter of such logic:
“the whole earth is the Lord’s Garden, and he hath given it to the sons of Adam to be tilled and improved by them. Why then should we stand starving here for the places of habitation…and in the meantime suffer whole countries, as profitable for the use of men, to lie waste without any improvement.”
- see John Locke’s Second Treatise for the principle of vacuum domicilium: only those who “mix their labor with the land,” i.e. farm/cultivate have a civic (and divine) right to land possession. This right supplants any “natural right” that natives might have. If land is not “improved,” (farmed, industrialized, and Christianized), then it is wasted, which is in direct disobedience of God. This moral disobedience is more important/fundamental than any economic irresponsibility that might be involved in land-wasting.
- see Turner’s Beyond Geography and Drinnon’s Facing West: the Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building for colonialism as a mostly religious activity, carrying on the biblical tradition of genocide and land taking.
(21) Convinced this of his divine right to Indian Lands, the Puritan discovered in the Indians themselves evidence of a Satanic opposition to the very principle of divinity. In a world in which the divine plan was clear, in a world through which the Bible would guide all men in all things, in a world in which civilization and divinely illuminated human reason had to count for everything, the Indian might well be a terrifying anomaly, at best a symbol of what men might become if they lived far from God’s Word. Yet he also was a man who had to be brought to the civilized responsibilities of Christian manhood, a wild man to be improved along with wild lands, a creature who had to be made into a Puritan if he was to be saved. Save him, and you saved on of Satan’s victims. Destroy him, and you destroyed one of Satan’s partisans.
The logic was inexorable and unrelieved. Wherever the Indian opposed the puritan, there Satan opposed God.
- and leaving him alone was never an option, as is the case in modern colonialism/nationalism/economic occupation.
(22) Racial and cultural tension mounted throughout the century, until, in the 1690’s, the very presence of Indian devil worshipers was taken as part of the evidence of that great visitation of witches to New England, which we call the Witchcraft Craze. Indian witch doctors were sharing diabolically in the wonders of the invisible world.
- and such a craze ironically illustrates the social/psychological instability of the colonialists…the madness/frantic myopia of civilized progress.
(23) When as late as 1703 it was recommended that troublesome Indians be hunted down with dogs, the argument from Christian violence was an old one. Some 65 years before a military man [Reverend Solomon Stoddard] had argued with saintly authority in defense of the massacre of the Pequots:
“It may be demanded, why should you be so furious?…Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But I would refer you to David’s War. When a people is grown to such a height of blood, and sin against God and man, and all confederates in the action, then he hath no respect to persons, but harrows them, and saws them, and puts them to the sword, and the most terriblest death that may be. Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters; but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings,” (John Underhill, News From America, in Orr, History of the Pequot War, [1636-38]).
(24) William Hubbard was sure that King Philip’s War [1675-78] was nothing less than a Satanic plot against God’s chosen people, and both Mathers [Increase and Cotton] took the Indian wars as evidence that Satan was putting up a last fight against his Puritan adversary. For the Puritan, history was everywhere cosmically and eternally meaningful. A Satanic principle was part of that meaningfulness; and the New England Indians somehow embodied that principle.
- similar to “evil terrorists” of the present…the unlogic of non-context.
(37) John Richardson [Quaker minister, 1667-1753] observes [of the New England Indians], “they did not, nor I suppose never do speak two at a time, nor interfere in the least one with another that way in all their councils…Their eating and drinking was in much stillness and quietness.”
(47) Henry Timberlake [explorer, 1730-1765] on the Cherokee, “…who would seek to live by labor, who can live by amusement? The sole occupations of an Indian life are hunting and warring abroad, and lazying at home. Want is said to be the mother of industry, but their wants are supplied at an easier rate.”
(49) The Indian was the remnant of a savage past away from which civilized men had struggled to grow. To study him was to study the past. To civilize him was to triumph over the past. To kill him was to kill the past. History would thus be the key to the moral worth of cultures; the history of American civilization would thus be conceived of as three dimensional, progressing from past to present, from east to west, from lower to higher.
Part 2: The Life and Death of the American Savage, 1771-1851
Ch 2. A Melancholy Fact: The Indian in American Life
(54) The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Constitution of 1789 set forth an Indian policy whose central tenet was that Indian title to western land, even though it be conquered land, had to be extinguished formally before Americans might move onto it and that, further, Indians were to be settled on farms and to be civilized as their lands were taken over. Impatient frontiersmen broke the law while they forced Indians to obey it.
(55) One of the sovereignties finally achieved in the War of 1812 was that of American over Indian. A 4th of July toast drunk by officers in John Sullivan’s expedition in 1779 had expressed essentially what was to be proved a great and eternal frontier truth: “Civilization or death to all American Savages.”
(57) President Jackson in his Second Annual Message, Dec 6, 1830: “…What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousands savages to our extensive republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute..?”
(58) With the Indian Removal Act of 1830 [Andrew Jackson]…The way to begin to know savages, and through it civilization, was simply enough, to destroy savages.
(65) “The Indians’ bones must enrich the soil, before the plough of civilized man can open it,” Thomas Farnham, 1843.
(67) “Those who labor in the earth,” wrote Jefferson had written in 1784, “are the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people…” This agrarian idealism, the belief that men, having a natural right to their land by occupation and labor, achieve status and dignity by exercising that right and becoming freeloading farmers. It is a deep rooted belief, whose theoretical ground derives from the Lockean theory of the free individual and the metaphysics and sociology of his freedom. For Locke - and virtually all Americans were, in the most general sense, Lockeans - man achieved his highest humanity by taking something out of nature and converting it with his labor into part of himself…All, indeed, that an Indian would need to be on his way to civilization was, in the words of the Secretary of War in 1789 [Henry Knox], “a love for exclusive property,”
(69) “I cannot persuade myself that this country will remain long in so cultivated a state; especially when I consider that to people fully this earth was in the original plan of the benevolent Deity. I am confident that sooner or later there will be a full accomplishment of the original system; and that no men will be suffered to live by hunting on lands capable of improvement, and which would support more people under a state of cultivation,” (Benjamin Lincoln, Revolutionary War General).
(70) Jefferson addressed the Potawatomis in 1802: “The resources of farming are certain. They will never disappoint you, while those of hunting may fail, and expose your women and children to the miseries of hunger and cold. We will with pleasure furnish you with implements for the most necessary arts, and with persons who may instruct you how to make use of them.”
(71) Seventeenth century dependence upon Genesis had shifted to nineteenth century dependence upon natural law. American progress could be rationalized and comprehended in predominantly naturalistic terms. The Indian’s way and its fatal weakness could placed in intelligible relationship to the white man’s way and its glorious strength. Westward civilized destiny was clearly manifest even in the state of the savages who were about to die.
Thus the history of American relations with the Indians came to make orderly sense. For the law of nations might be squared with the civilized morality which developed out of the sense private property, and these in turn with the facts of westward moving American life.
(72) “…the insecurity of property, or rather the entire absence of all ideas of property, is the chief cause of their barbarism,” (James Hall, 1835).
Ch 3. Character and Circumstance: The Idea of Savagism
(82) The Scots held that it might be conjectured back from empirical evidence how God was revealing His Word to modern man slowly but surely, how modern man was thus slowly but surely progressing to high civilization, how he had left behind him forever his savage, primitive state. This was the grand Christian, civilized Idea of Progress.
- and still is today
(83) Progress meant growth upward, growth for the better, because as a man, his institutions, and his customs developed, they became, logically enough, more and more “social.” Living fully in society - this was man’s highest aim and the destiny toward which his self and his institutions and customs were evolving. Social, technical, moral progress were identical.
- natured-based peoples, therefore, are not, and cannot be, “social,” or be a “society.”
(85) “The savage, or barbarian, who must build and plant, and fabricate for himself, prefers, in the interval of great alarms and fatigues, the enjoyments of sloth to the improvement of his fortune: he Is, perhaps, by the diversity of his wants, discouraged from industry; or by his divided attention, prevented from acquiring skill in the management of any particular skill,” (Adam Ferguson, Essay on the History of Civil Society, 1767).
Savage virtues are undeniably virtues, for they are incident to man’s essential “sociality.” Yet they need to be matured in rich, complex, civilized humanity. The primary means to this are private property and the division of labor, as these mark the end of human progress toward its goal of high civilization.
What generally emerges from Ferguson’s Essay, and from others like it, is a simple and clear demonstration from conjectural history of a proposition which Americans, in their feelings of pity and censure over the fate of the Indians, needed desperately to believe: that men in becoming civilized had gained much more than they had lost; and that civilization, the act of civilizing, for all of its destruction of primitive virtues put something higher and greater in their place.
(104) The idea of history as progress made it possible fully to comprehend the culturally earlier as the morally inferior…Savagism could only be known in terms of the civilization to which, by the law of nature, it had to give way.
Ch 4. The Zero of Human Society: The Idea of Savage
(120) James Hall explains that Mckenney’s Indians savages and barbarians, hunters and wanderers, having not that sense of permanence which comes from private property and settled government and which makes for high civilization. His key terms are: “roaming from place to place,” “want of a home,” “the absence of property,” and “the habit of invading without scruple the lands of others.” (History of the Indian Tribes of North America, Mckenney and Hall, 1836-1844).
- irony of “want of a home” and “invading lands of others”
(126) For [H.R. Schoolcraft] the Indian’s state explicitly represents a fall from a God-ordained agrarian state. He envisages Indians who came as wanderers to America where “…the continent itself presented features which were calculated to lead the mind from the intellectual, the mechanical, and the industrial, to the erratic, physical, and gross.” Filling out the volume with facts and figures, he yet ends it with an essay on the “Importance of the Pastoral State to the Races of Men,” in which he concludes, “Labor, law, and arts, must triumph, and they have triumphed in America as in Europe,” (Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1851-1857).
- the unfortunate Christian mode of the physical (world) being erratic and gross (with the implication of the mental/spiritual/Platonic world being the real, refined world).
(127) “Man was created, not a savage, a hunter, or warrior, but a horticulturist and a raiser of grain, and a keeper of cattle - a smith, a musician - a worshiper, not of the sun, moon and stars, but of God. The savage condition is a declension from this high type; Greece and Rome were in error on this point. The civil and social state was the original type of society for man, and it was just, therefore, to require a return to it,” (Schoolcraft).
In Schoolcraft’s last thinking, savagsim has become so abhorrent as to be abolished from human history. The is perhaps the logical end to the process we have been observing.
- as taught in any good Creationist elementary classroom.
- “abolished from human history,” as with modern Muslims, and non-Christians in general.
(132) “The Hunter is the zero of human society, and while the red man was bound by its spell, there was no hope of his elevation.” (The League of the Iroquois,) Lewis Henry Morgan, 1851.
Ch 5. An Impassable Gulf: The Social and Historical Image
(148) “As a man has two natures - one like that of the plants and animals, adapted to the uses and enjoyments of this planet, another which presages and demands a higher sphere - he is constantly breaking bounds, in proportion as the mental gets the better of the mere instinctive existence. As yet, he loses in harmony of being what he gains in height and extension; the civilized man is a larger mind but a more imperfect nature than the savage,” (Writings, Margaret Fuller, 1856).
- compare to Berman’s “larger” mind of nature-based horizontal awareness.
(149) “The history of the white man is a history of improvement, that of the red man a history of fixed habits and stagnation,” (Thoreau, 1858).
(153) “To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe.
Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science, and manufactures,” (Complete Writings, Tom Paine).
(158) “Man himself, the one being preeminently free, is liable to [nature’s] influence, in proportion as he neglects the exertion of those superior faculties wherewith he is endowed for the conquest and subjugation of that nature which was intended, not to govern, but to serve him,” (Lowell Lectures, Arnold Guyot, 1849).
- the power of reason is the proof that conquest and nature-subduing is justified. The fact that primitives don’t subdue nature (to a civilized state) is proof that their power of reason is subpar or altogether lacking.
(159) The only freedom worth possessing is that which gives enlargement to a people’s energy, intellect, and virtues. The savage makes his boast of freedom. But what is it worth? Free as he is, he continues for ages in the same ignorance, leads the same comfortless life, sees the same untamed wilderness spread around him. He is indeed free from what he calls the yoke of civil institutions. But other and worse chains bind him. The very privation of civil government is in effect a chain; for, by withholding protection from property, it virtually shackles the arm of industry, and forbids exertion for the melioration of his lot. Progress, the growth of power, is the end and boon of liberty; and, without this, a people may have the name, but want the substance and spirit of freedom,” (William Ellery Channing, 1830).
(161) “The independence of which the savage was so fond, was never designed for man; and it is only in the improvements of civil society, that the human race can find the greatest increase of their numbers, knowledge, safety, and happiness,” (Natural and Civil History of Vermont I, Samuel Williams, 1794).
(162) George Bancroft notes “the absence of all reflective consciousness, and of all logical analysis of ideas,” and “no conception of an absolute substance, of a self-existent being.” He can only conclude, “equalling the white man in the sagacity of the sense, and in judgments resting on them, [the Indian] is inferior in reason and the moral qualities. Nor is this inferiority simply attached to the individual; it is connected with organization and is the character of the race,” (History of the United States, 1866).
(165) “He will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together,” (The Conspiracy of the Pontiac, Francis Parkman, 1851).
(166) “All children, says Sir Walter Scott, are naturally liars; and truth and honor are developments of later education. Barbarism is to civilization what childhood is to maturity; and all savages, whatever their county, their color, or their lineage, are prone to treachery and deceit,” (Parkman).
(167) “Would the Iroquois, left undisturbed to work out their own destiny ever have emerged from the savage state? Advanced as they were beyond most other American tribes, there is no indication whatever of a tendency to overpass the confines of a wild hunter and warrior life. They were inveterably attached to it, impracticable conservatisms of barbarism, and in ferocity and cruelty they matched the worst of their race,” (Jesuits in North America, Parkman, 1867).
The good society could sustain and price itself only by destroying the remnant of the savage past.
Ch 7. Red Gifts and White: The Image in Fiction
(202) We may observe in [James Fenimore] Cooper’s Indians and the part they play in the Leatherstocking Tales exactly what we have observed in the evolution of the idea of the savage upon which the Tales depend. The interest is not in the Indian as Indian, but in the Indian as a vehicle for understanding the white man, in the savage defined in terms of the ideas and needs of civilized life.
(207) For all the aboriginal blood and thunder of the Tales, the savage Indians are not at the center of the narrative and its meaning; rather they are at one side, with the civilized Americans at the other. Focus is on the middle world of the frontier. Cooper can assume that his civilization automatically argues its own virtues; so he lets it be symbolized almost entirely by a group of static, typed dignitaries whose function is to stand ready to replace the frontiersmen who go before them and die just for the replacing.
- Frontier as the place of (inevitable) becoming. The liminal/paradoxical place. The place of transformation. A place for Biblical trials, where one can prove to God that one is worthy of taking the Promised Land.
Ch 8. After a Century of Dishonor: The Idea of Civilization
(250) The historical fact surely is that our civilization, in subduing the Indian, killed its own creature, the savage. The living fact is that it has not yet been able to entirely kill the Indian, but having subdued him, no longer needs or cares to. Still, it might be that there will always be somebody who needs to be subdued - men to play the part of Indians and so become savages standing in the way of civilization.
- the word “savages” has been replaced by “evil” terrorists, Muslims. They, the Other.