Roger Williams llega a América

Roger Williams llega a América

Roger Williams, el fundador de Rhode Island y un importante líder religioso estadounidense, llega a Boston en la colonia de la bahía de Massachusetts desde Inglaterra. Williams, un puritano, trabajó como maestro antes de servir brevemente como pastor colorido en Plymouth y luego en Salem. A los pocos años de su llegada, alarmó a la oligarquía puritana de Massachusetts al hablar en contra del derecho de las autoridades civiles a castigar la disensión religiosa y confiscar tierras indígenas. En octubre de 1635, el Tribunal General lo desterró de la Colonia de la Bahía de Massachusetts.

Después de dejar Massachusetts, Williams, con la ayuda de la tribu Narragansett, estableció un asentamiento en el cruce de dos ríos cerca de la bahía Narragansett, ubicada en la actual Rhode Island. Declaró que el asentamiento estaba abierto a todos aquellos que buscaban la libertad de conciencia y la remoción de la iglesia de los asuntos civiles, y vinieron muchos puritanos insatisfechos. Tomando el éxito de la empresa como una señal de Dios, Williams llamó a la comunidad "Providencia".

Entre los que encontraron refugio en el refugio religioso y político de la colonia de Rhode Island se encontraban Anne Hutchinson, como Williams, exiliada de Massachusetts por motivos religiosos; algunos de los primeros judíos que se establecieron en América del Norte; y los cuáqueros. En Providence, Roger Williams también fundó la primera iglesia bautista en América y editó el primer diccionario de lenguas nativas americanas.

LEER MÁS: ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre puritanos y peregrinos?


Roger Williams

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Roger Williams, (nacido en 1603 ?, Londres, Inglaterra; murió el 27 de enero / 15 de marzo de 1683, Providence, Rhode Island [EE. UU.]), colono inglés en Nueva Inglaterra, fundador de la colonia de Rhode Island y pionero de la libertad religiosa.

Hijo de un sastre comerciante, fue protegido del jurista Sir Edward Coke y se educó en Cambridge. En 1630 dejó su puesto de capellán a Sir William Masham, que lo había puesto en contacto con puritanos tan políticamente activos como Oliver Cromwell y Thomas Hooker, para perseguir sus ideales religiosos completamente inconformistas en Nueva Inglaterra.

Al llegar a Boston en 1631, Williams se negó a asociarse con los puritanos anglicanos y al año siguiente se trasladó a la colonia separatista de Plymouth. En 1633 estaba de regreso en Salem después de un desacuerdo con Plymouth en el que insistió en que la patente del rey no era válida y que solo la compra directa a los indios otorgaba un título justo sobre la tierra.

Invitado por la iglesia de Salem para convertirse en pastor en 1634, Williams fue desterrado de la bahía de Massachusetts por las autoridades civiles por sus peligrosas opiniones: además de las relativas a los derechos territoriales, sostenía que los magistrados no tenían derecho a interferir en cuestiones religiosas. En consecuencia, en enero de 1636 Williams partió hacia la bahía de Narragansett, y en la primavera, en un terreno comprado a los indios Narragansett, fundó la ciudad de Providence y la colonia de Rhode Island. La Providencia se convirtió en un refugio para anabautistas, cuáqueros y otros a quienes se les negó la expresión pública de sus creencias. Williams fue brevemente anabautista, pero en 1639 se declaró Buscador. Siguió siendo un firme creyente en la teología calvinista. Williams fue a Inglaterra en 1643 para obtener un estatuto para Rhode Island y nuevamente en 1651–54 para confirmarlo, durante cuya visita se hizo amigo del poeta John Milton. Fue el primer presidente de Rhode Island según su estatuto y hasta su muerte siempre ocupó algún cargo público. Estuvo al servicio constante de Rhode Island y las colonias vecinas como pacificador con los indios Narragansett, cuyo idioma conocía y cuya confianza se había ganado, aunque ayudó a defender Rhode Island contra ellos durante la Guerra del Rey Felipe (1675-1676). Desde 1636 hasta su muerte se mantuvo de la agricultura y el comercio.

Williams fue un polémico vigoroso y un escritor prolífico. Su mayor trabajo fue La tienda de persecución Bloudy (1644).

Este artículo fue revisado y actualizado más recientemente por Amy Tikkanen, Gerente de Correcciones.


Fechas clave en la historia religiosa colonial estadounidense

El intercambio de cartas entre George Washington y la congregación hebrea de Newport no fue el único evento histórico en la historia temprana de Estados Unidos que trató temas de libertad religiosa e identidad. La carta de Seixas y la subsiguiente respuesta de Washington existen dentro de una línea de tiempo de muchos otros eventos durante los cuales el país recién formado enfrentó esos problemas. Continúe leyendo a continuación para obtener información sobre algunos de esos eventos.

Los colonos de Gran Bretaña se establecen a lo largo de la costa este de América en áreas ahora conocidas como Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut y Virginia.

La mayoría de las colonias inglesas establecen iglesias oficiales respaldadas por el gobierno local. En Nueva Inglaterra, la iglesia apoyada por el público que paga impuestos es el congregacionalismo (o puritanismo). En Nueva York y las colonias del sur, la Iglesia Anglicana disfruta de este estatus privilegiado (con la excepción de Pensilvania). Los ciudadanos deben pagar el diezmo (un impuesto) para mantener a la iglesia de la colonia y, en algunos casos, la asistencia a la iglesia es obligatoria. Rhode Island es una excepción, convirtiéndose en uno de los primeros puestos de la libertad religiosa.

Los colonos de Europa también se adentran en un paisaje de diversas religiones indígenas que, al igual que el cristianismo, presentan sus propias cosmologías del mundo y del más allá. Entre las culturas que encuentran los colonos se encuentran los Pequot del sureste de Connecticut y Rhode Island, los Powhatan de Virginia, los Narragansett y Mohegan de Rhode Island y los Wampanoag de Massachusetts. Muchos colonos se consideran misioneros de la Providencia en el Nuevo Mundo e intentan cristianizar y civilizar tanto a los nativos americanos como a los esclavos que llegan de África (de los cuales un gran número son musulmanes). En algunos casos, las creencias de los nativos americanos se ignoran en otros, los colonos buscan encontrar un medio de convivencia.

Se establece la primera parroquia protestante episcopal en la primera colonia exitosa de Estados Unidos, Jamestown, Virginia. Adhiriéndose en su mayor parte a la Iglesia de Inglaterra, se convierte en la religión oficial de la colonia y atrae a sus miembros de su élite económica y cultural.

Frente a la controversia y la persecución religiosa en Inglaterra, los puritanos (disidentes dentro de la Iglesia de Inglaterra que desean "purificarla" pero se sienten frustrados por la falta de cambio) buscan nuevos lugares para el culto. Ese año, un grupo de ellos aborda el muguete en Plymouth, Inglaterra, y llegan a Estados Unidos después de un agotador viaje de dos meses. Aterrizando en Massachusetts, establecen la segunda colonia exitosa en América, también llamada Plymouth, y se les conoce como los Peregrinos.

Los puritanos, que son en su mayoría calvinistas, rechazan algunos de los rituales, la liturgia y la jerarquía de la Iglesia Anglicana, cuyas raíces están en el catolicismo romano. A diferencia de la Iglesia Anglicana, se alejan de la tradición de los obispos y la autoridad de la iglesia central, y fomentan un mayor grado de autonomía para cada congregación (congregacionalismo).

Aunque a menudo se les describe como huyendo de Inglaterra en busca de libertad religiosa, de hecho utilizan su nueva autonomía religiosa para imponer su forma estricta de protestantismo tanto a los puritanos como a los no puritanos. Los líderes de la iglesia, que están estrechamente relacionados con el gobierno civil colonial, quieren que el gobierno ayude a imponer la conformidad religiosa y el comportamiento moral en la comunidad.

Otros colonos puritanos aterrizan en América, se establecen en Salem y comienzan la colonia de la bahía de Massachusetts.

Llegada a Boston de Roger Williams, un ministro de Londres que se convertirá en un líder influyente en la libertad religiosa en las colonias.

A lo largo del período colonial, los misioneros católicos de España y Francia operan en áreas como la frontera canadiense, los Grandes Lagos, a lo largo del Mississippi, Florida y el suroeste, en paralelo con los esfuerzos de los protestantes ingleses en sus esfuerzos por convertir a los nativos americanos a su fe. .

Aunque los católicos franceses (y antes, españoles) se han asentado en áreas que ahora son parte de los Estados Unidos, solo un puñado de ellos vive en las trece colonias de habla inglesa. Los primeros católicos ingleses hacen su entrada en las colonias cuando un grupo de 128 católicos ingleses llega a Maryland.

Anne Hutchinson llega a la colonia de la bahía de Massachusetts e involucra a las mujeres en estudios bíblicos en casa. La práctica atrae a muchos que cuestionan los supuestos del puritanismo, incluido su énfasis en la autoridad clerical en asuntos civiles y personales, y hace caso omiso de los derechos de las mujeres y los nativos americanos. Al igual que otros protestantes radicales, Hutchinson cree que la fe sola puede garantizar la salvación de uno ("justificación por la fe" o sola fide). Además, descarta la creencia de que seguir la ley bíblica y la dirección clerical podría asegurar la salvación de uno (antinomianismo), una posición que le gana la ira de las autoridades coloniales que buscan expulsarla.

Roger Williams, que llegó a Estados Unidos varios años antes, es desterrado de Massachusetts por sus opiniones heréticas sobre la iglesia y los poderes civiles. Williams, en efecto, presenta el primer argumento en las colonias a favor de la separación de religión y gobierno: exige que no se permita a los gobiernos civiles tomar ninguna determinación sobre las creencias religiosas de sus súbditos.

Él es el primero en usar la frase un "muro de separación" entre el gobierno y la religión, palabras que luego hizo famosa Thomas Jefferson en 1802. Conocido por su preocupación y buenas relaciones con los nativos americanos en la región, Williams viaja con sus ayuda a Rhode Island, donde comienza una colonia que llama Providence Plantations. Invita a todas las denominaciones religiosas y disidentes a unirse a la nueva colonia. Tres años más tarde funda la primera iglesia bautista de las colonias.


Cronología de la historia americana: 1626-1650

Entre 1626 y 1650, las nuevas colonias americanas se irritaban por estar tan cerca de sus rivales políticos y se peleaban entre sí por las fronteras, la libertad religiosa y el autogobierno. Los eventos clave durante este tiempo incluyen las guerras en curso con los residentes indígenas y las disputas con el gobierno de Carlos I de Inglaterra.

Mayo 4: El colono y político holandés Peter Minuit (1580-1585) llega para su segunda visita a la desembocadura del río Hudson en Nueva Holanda.

Septiembre: Minuit compra Manhattan a los pueblos indígenas por artículos por un valor aproximado de $ 24 (60 florines: aunque la cantidad no se agrega a la historia hasta 1846). Luego nombra la isla Nueva Amsterdam.

Comienzan a cotizar Plymouth Colony y New Amsterdam.

Sir Edwin Sandys (1561-1629) envía un cargamento de aproximadamente 1.500 niños secuestrados desde Inglaterra a la colonia de Virginia. Es uno de varios programas problemáticos utilizados por Sandys y otros en los que se enviaron desempleados, vagabundos y otras multitudes indeseables al Nuevo Mundo para compensar las horribles tasas de mortalidad en las colonias.

20 de junio: Un grupo de colonos liderados por John Endecott se instala en Salem. Este es el comienzo de la Colonia de la Bahía de Massachusetts.

La Collegiate School, la primera escuela independiente en América, es establecida por la Dutch West India School y la Dutch Reformed Church en New Amsterdam.

18 de marzo: El rey Carlos I firma una carta real que establece la bahía de Massachusetts.

La Compañía Holandesa de las Indias Occidentales comienza a otorgar concesiones de tierras a patrocinadores que traerán al menos 50 colonos a las colonias.

20 de octubre: John Winthrop (1588–1649) es elegido gobernador de la Colonia de la Bahía de Massachusetts.

30 de octubre: El rey Carlos I otorga a Sir Robert Heath un territorio en América del Norte que se llamará Carolina.

El fundador de Maine, Ferdinand Gorges (ca. 1565-1647), cede la parte sur de la colonia al cofundador John Mason (1586-1635), que se convierte en la provincia de New Hampshire.

Abril 8: La Flota de Winthrop, 11 barcos con más de 800 colonos ingleses liderados por John Winthrop, salen de Inglaterra para establecerse en la Colonia de la Bahía de Massachusetts. Esta es la primera gran ola de inmigración de Inglaterra.

Después de su llegada, Winthrop comienza a escribir los cuadernos de su vida y experiencias en la colonia, parte de los cuales se publicarán como el Historia de Nueva Inglaterra en 1825 y 1826.

Boston se establece oficialmente.

William Bradford (1590-1657), gobernador de la colonia de Plymouth, comienza a escribir "Historia de la plantación de Plymouth".

Mayo: A pesar del estatuto de la Colonia de la Bahía de Massachusetts, se decide que solo los miembros de la iglesia pueden convertirse en hombres libres que pueden votar por los funcionarios de la colonia.

En Massachusetts Bay Colony, se están comenzando a abordar cuestiones como la ausencia de impuestos sin representación y un gobierno representativo.

El rey Carlos I concede a George Calvert, el primer Lord Baltimore, un estatuto real para fundar la colonia de Maryland. Dado que Baltimore es católico romano, el derecho a la libertad religiosa se otorga a Maryland.

8 de octubre: El primer gobierno municipal se organiza en la ciudad de Dorchester dentro de la colonia de la bahía de Massachusetts.

Marcha: Los primeros colonos ingleses de la nueva colonia de Maryland llegan a América del Norte.

23 de abril: La Boston Latin School, la primera escuela pública en lo que se convertiría en los Estados Unidos, se establece en Boston, Massachusetts.

23 de abril: Se produce una batalla naval entre Virginia y Maryland, uno de varios enfrentamientos sobre disputas de límites entre las dos colonias.

25 de abril: El Consejo de Nueva Inglaterra revoca el estatuto de la Massachusetts Bay Company. Sin embargo, la colonia se niega a ceder a esto.

Roger Williams recibe la orden de desterrar de Massachusetts después de criticar a la colonia y promover la idea de la separación de la iglesia y el estado.

La Ley de la ciudad se aprueba en el tribunal general de la bahía de Massachusetts, lo que otorga a las ciudades la capacidad de gobernarse a sí mismas hasta cierto punto, incluido el poder de asignar tierras y ocuparse de los negocios locales.

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647) llega a Hartford, Connecticut y funda la primera iglesia del territorio.

Junio: Roger Williams (1603–1683) funda la actual ciudad de Providence, Rhode Island.

20 de julio: La guerra abierta comienza entre las colonias de la Bahía de Massachusetts, Plymouth y Saybrook y el pueblo indígena Pequot después de la muerte del comerciante de Nueva Inglaterra John Oldham.

8 de septiembre: Se funda la Universidad de Harvard.

26 de mayo: Después de numerosos encuentros, la tribu Pequot es masacrada por una fuerza de colonos de Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay y Plymouth. La tribu es virtualmente eliminada en lo que se conoce como la Masacre Mística.

8 de noviembre: Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) es expulsada de la colonia de la bahía de Massachusetts debido a diferencias teológicas.

Anne Hutchinson se va a Rhode Island y funda Pocasset (más tarde rebautizada como Portsmouth) con William Coddington (1601-1678) y John Clarke (1609-1676).

Agosto 5: Peter Minuit muere en un naufragio en el Caribe.

14 de enero: Se promulgan las Órdenes Fundamentales de Connecticut, que describen el gobierno establecido por las ciudades a lo largo del río Connecticut.

Sir Ferdinando Gorges es nombrado gobernador de Maine por carta real.

4 de agosto: Los colonos de New Hampshire Colony firman el Pacto de Exeter, estableciendo su libertad de estrictas reglas religiosas y económicas.

Los colonos holandeses se establecen en el área del río Delaware, después de expulsar a los colonos ingleses de Virginia y Connecticut.

New Hampshire busca la ayuda gubernamental de Massachusetts Bay Colony, siempre que las ciudades tengan autogobierno y que no se requiera ser miembro de la iglesia.

En lo que se conocería como la Guerra de Kieft, Nueva Holanda lucha contra los pueblos indígenas del valle del río Hudson que han estado haciendo redadas contra la colonia. Willem Kieft fue director de la colonia entre 1638 y 1647. Ambas partes firmarán una tregua en 1645 que durará un año.

Mayo: Se forma la Confederación de Nueva Inglaterra, también conocida como Colonias Unidas de Nueva Inglaterra, una confederación de Connecticut, Massachusetts, Plymouth y New Hampshire.

Agosto: Anne Hutchinson es asesinada con su familia por guerreros Siwanoy en Long Island.

Roger Williams regresa a Inglaterra, donde gana una carta real para Rhode Island y ofende a los políticos conservadores ingleses al pedir la tolerancia religiosa y la separación de la iglesia y el estado.

Agosto: Los holandeses y los pueblos indígenas del valle del río Hudson firman un tratado de paz que pone fin a cuatro años de guerra.

La Confederación de Nueva Inglaterra firma un tratado de paz con la tribu Narragansett.

4 de noviembre: Massachusetts se vuelve cada vez más intolerante a medida que aprueban una ley que castiga la herejía con la muerte.

Peter Stuyvesant (1610-1672) asume el liderazgo de Nueva Holanda. Sería el último director general holandés de la colonia, cuando sea cedida a los ingleses y rebautizada como Nueva York en 1664.

19-21 de mayo: La Asamblea General de Rhode Island redacta una constitución que permite la separación de la iglesia y el estado.

Los holandeses y los suecos compiten por la tierra que rodea la actual Filadelfia en el río Schuylkill. Cada uno de ellos construye fuertes y los suecos queman el fuerte holandés dos veces.

30 de enero: El rey Carlos I de la Casa de Estuardo es ejecutado en Inglaterra por alta traición. Virginia, Barbados, Bermudas y Antigua continúan apoyando a su familia la Casa de Estuardo.

21 de abril: La Ley de Tolerancia de Maryland es aprobada por la asamblea de la colonia, lo que permite la libertad religiosa.

Maine también aprueba leyes que permiten la libertad religiosa.

6 de abril: Maryland puede tener una legislatura bicameral por orden de Lord Baltimore.

Agosto: Virginia es bloqueada por Inglaterra después de declarar lealtad a la Casa de Stuart.


Empleo y tradiciones económicas

Los galeses estadounidenses trabajaron tradicionalmente en la agricultura o, durante la era industrial, en las industrias pesadas del carbón, el hierro y el acero. Debido a que estas industrias se habían desarrollado antes en Gales, los inmigrantes tendían a conocer mejor su trabajo que los trabajadores de otros lugares. Por lo tanto, los inmigrantes galeses asumieron roles de liderazgo en las industrias en desarrollo de Estados Unidos. Los jefes industriales galeses estadounidenses preferían especialmente contratar trabajadores galeses estadounidenses, y más específicamente, a los de su propia denominación religiosa. Como resultado, los estadounidenses de Gales dominaron la minería del carbón, y muchas minas de carbón se llenaron principalmente con una denominación particular de estadounidenses de Gales. Los propios jefes eran miembros de los masones. En toda la región del carbón, aunque solo los hombres trabajaban como mineros y jefes, niños, niñas y mujeres trabajaban alrededor de las minas.


Colón, los indios y el & # 039descubrimiento & # 039 de América

Howard Zinn sobre el "descubrimiento" de América, el tratamiento de la población nativa y cómo se justificó como "progreso".

Estos arahuacos de las islas Bahamas se parecían mucho a los indios del continente, que eran notables (los observadores europeos decían una y otra vez) por su hospitalidad y su fe en compartir. Estos rasgos no se destacaron en la Europa del Renacimiento, dominada como estaba por la religión de los papas, el gobierno de los reyes, el frenesí por el dinero que marcó a la civilización occidental y su primer mensajero a América, Cristóbal Colón.

La información que más quería Colón era: ¿Dónde está el oro? Había persuadido al rey y la reina de España para que financiaran una expedición a las tierras, la riqueza que esperaba estaría al otro lado del Atlántico: las Indias y Asia, oro y especias. Porque, como otras personas informadas de su tiempo, sabía que el mundo era redondo y que podía navegar hacia el oeste para llegar al Lejano Oriente.

España se unificó recientemente, uno de los nuevos estados-nación modernos, como Francia, Inglaterra y Portugal. Su población, en su mayoría campesinos pobres, trabajaba para la nobleza, que era el 2 por ciento de la población y poseía el 95 por ciento de la tierra. España se había atado a la Iglesia católica, había expulsado a todos los judíos, había expulsado a los moros. Como otros estados del mundo moderno, España buscaba el oro, que se estaba convirtiendo en la nueva marca de la riqueza, más útil que la tierra porque podía comprar cualquier cosa.

Se pensaba que había oro en Asia, y ciertamente sedas y especias, porque Marco Polo y otros habían traído cosas maravillosas de sus expediciones por tierra siglos atrás. Ahora que los turcos habían conquistado Constantinopla y el Mediterráneo oriental y controlaban las rutas terrestres a Asia, se necesitaba una ruta marítima. Los marineros portugueses se abrían camino alrededor del extremo sur de África. España decidió apostar por una larga vela a través de un océano desconocido.

A cambio de traer oro y especias, le prometieron a Colón el 10 por ciento de las ganancias, la gobernación de las tierras recién descubiertas y la fama que iría con una nueva marea: Almirante del Mar del Océano. Era empleado de un comerciante de la ciudad italiana de Génova, tejedor a tiempo parcial (hijo de un hábil tejedor) y experto marinero. Partió con tres veleros, el mayor de los cuales era el Santa Maria, quizás 30 metros de largo y treinta y nueve miembros de la tripulación.

Colón nunca habría llegado a Asia, que estaba a miles de kilómetros más lejos de lo que había calculado, imaginando un mundo más pequeño. Habría sido condenado por esa gran extensión de mar. Pero tuvo suerte. Una cuarta parte del camino allí se encontró con una tierra desconocida e inexplorada que se encontraba entre Europa y Asia: las Américas. Era principios de octubre de 1492 y treinta y tres días desde que él y su tripulación habían abandonado las Islas Canarias, frente a la costa atlántica de África. Ahora vieron ramas y palos flotando en el agua. Vieron bandadas de pájaros.

Eran señales de tierra. Luego, el 12 de octubre, un marinero llamado Rodrigo vio la luna de la madrugada brillando sobre las arenas blancas y gritó. Era una isla en las Bahamas, el mar Caribe. Se suponía que el primer hombre en avistar tierras recibiría una pensión anual de 10.000 maravedíes de por vida, pero Rodrigo nunca la obtuvo. Colón afirmó que había visto una luz la noche anterior. Obtuvo la recompensa.

Entonces, acercándose a tierra, se encontraron con los indios Arawak, que nadaron para recibirlos. Los Arawaks vivían en comunas aldeanas, tenían una agricultura desarrollada de maíz, ñame y mandioca. Sabían hilar y tejer, pero no tenían caballos ni animales de trabajo. No tenían hierro, pero llevaban diminutos adornos de oro en las orejas.

Esto iba a tener enormes consecuencias: llevó a Colón a llevar a algunos de ellos a bordo del barco como prisioneros porque insistió en que lo guiaran hasta la fuente del oro. Luego navegó a lo que hoy es Cuba, luego a La Española (la isla que hoy está formada por Haití y la República Dominicana). Allí, trozos de oro visible en los ríos y una máscara de oro que un jefe indio local le regaló a Colón, llevaron a visiones salvajes de campos de oro.

En Hispaniola, con maderas de la Santa Maria, que había encallado, Colón construyó un fuerte, la primera base militar europea en el hemisferio occidental. Lo llamó Navidad (Navidad) y dejó a treinta y nueve tripulantes allí, con instrucciones para encontrar y almacenar el oro. Tomó más prisioneros indios y los puso a bordo de los dos barcos que le quedaban. En una parte de la isla se peleó con los indios que se negaron a intercambiar tantos arcos y flechas como él y sus hombres querían. Dos fueron atravesados ​​con espadas y desangrados hasta morir. Entonces el Nina y el Pinta zarpe hacia las Azores y España. Cuando el clima se volvió frío, los prisioneros indios comenzaron a morir.

El informe de Colón a la Corte de Madrid fue extravagante. Insistió en que había llegado a Asia (era Cuba) y una isla frente a la costa de China (Hispaniola). Sus descripciones eran en parte hechos, en parte ficción:

Los indios, informó Colón, "son tan ingenuos y tan libres con sus posesiones que nadie que no los haya visto lo creería. Cuando les pides algo que tienen, nunca dicen que no. Al contrario, ofrecen compartir con ellos. cualquiera ". Concluyó su informe pidiendo un poco de ayuda a Sus Majestades, ya cambio les traería de su próximo viaje" tanto oro como necesiten y tantos esclavos como pidan ". Estaba lleno de charlas religiosas: "Así el Dios eterno, nuestro Señor, da la victoria a los que siguen su camino sobre imposibilidades aparentes".

Debido al informe exagerado y las promesas de Colón, su segunda expedición recibió diecisiete barcos y más de mil doscientos hombres. El objetivo estaba claro: esclavos y oro. Fueron de isla en isla en el Caribe, llevando cautivos a los indios. Pero a medida que se corrió la voz de la intención de los europeos, encontraron más y más pueblos vacíos. En Haití, descubrieron que los marineros que quedaron en Fort Navidad habían muerto en una batalla con los indios, después de haber vagado por la isla en bandas en busca de oro, tomando mujeres y niños como esclavos para el sexo y el trabajo.

Ahora, desde su base en Haití, Colón envió expedición tras expedición al interior. No encontraron yacimientos de oro, pero tuvieron que llenar los barcos que regresaban a España con algún tipo de dividendo. En el año 1495, realizaron una gran incursión de esclavos, reunieron a mil quinientos hombres, mujeres y niños arawak, los pusieron en corrales custodiados por españoles y perros, y luego recogieron los quinientos mejores especímenes para cargarlos en los barcos. De esos quinientos, doscientos murieron en el camino. El resto llegó vivo a España y fue puesto a la venta por el arcediano de la localidad, quien informó que, aunque los esclavos estaban "desnudos como el día en que nacieron", no mostraban "más vergüenza que los animales". Colón escribió más tarde: "En nombre de la Santísima Trinidad, sigamos enviando todos los esclavos que puedan venderse".

Pero muchos de los esclavos murieron en cautiverio. Y así Colón, desesperado por devolver dividendos a quienes habían invertido, tuvo que cumplir su promesa de llenar los barcos de oro. En la provincia de Cicao en Haití, donde él y sus hombres imaginaron que existían enormes campos de oro, ordenaron a todas las personas de catorce años o más que recolectaran una cierta cantidad de oro cada tres meses. Cuando lo trajeron, les dieron fichas de cobre para que las colgaran del cuello. A los indios encontrados sin una ficha de cobre les cortaron las manos y los desangraron hasta morir.

A los indios se les había encomendado una tarea imposible. El único oro alrededor eran pedazos de polvo recogidos de los arroyos. Así que huyeron, fueron perseguidos con perros y asesinados.

Tratando de armar un ejército de resistencia, los arahuacos se enfrentaron a españoles que tenían armaduras, mosquetes, espadas, caballos. Cuando los españoles tomaban prisioneros los colgaban o los quemaban hasta morir. Entre los arahuacos, comenzaron los suicidios masivos, con veneno de mandioca. Los infantes fueron asesinados para salvarlos de los españoles. En dos años, por asesinato, mutilación o suicidio, la mitad de los 250.000 indios de Haití habían muerto.

Cuando quedó claro que no quedaba oro, los indios fueron tomados como mano de obra esclava en grandes haciendas, conocidas más tarde como encomiendas. Fueron trabajados a un ritmo feroz y murieron por miles. Para el año 1515, tal vez quedaban cincuenta mil indios. Para 1550, había quinientos. Un informe del año 1650 muestra que ninguno de los Arawaks originales o sus descendientes quedaron en la isla.

La fuente principal -y, en muchos aspectos, la única- de información sobre lo que sucedió en las islas después de la llegada de Colón es Bartolomé de las Casas, quien, siendo un joven sacerdote, participó en la conquista de Cuba. Durante un tiempo fue propietario de una plantación en la que trabajaban esclavos indios, pero renunció a ella y se convirtió en un crítico vehemente de la crueldad española. Las Casas transcribió el diario de Colón y, a los cincuenta, comenzó una Historia de las Indias en varios volúmenes. En él describe a los indios. Son ágiles, dice, y pueden nadar largas distancias, especialmente las mujeres. No son completamente pacíficos, porque luchan de vez en cuando con otras tribus, pero sus bajas parecen pequeñas, y luchan cuando son movidos individualmente a hacerlo debido a algún agravio, no por orden de capitanes o reyes.

Las mujeres en la sociedad india eran tratadas tan bien como para asustar a los españoles. Las Casas describe las relaciones sexuales:

Las Casas cuenta cómo los españoles "se volvían cada día más presuntuosos" y al cabo de un tiempo se negaban a caminar distancia alguna. "Cabalgaban a lomos de indios si tenían prisa" o eran transportados en hamacas por indios que corrían en relevos. "En este caso también hicieron que los indios llevaran hojas grandes para protegerse del sol y otros para abanicarlos con alas de ganso".

El control total condujo a una crueldad total. A los españoles "no les importaba apuñalar a los indios por decenas y veinte y cortarlos en rodajas para comprobar el filo de sus hojas". Las Casas cuenta cómo "dos de estos supuestos cristianos se encontraron un día con dos niños indios, cada uno con un loro, se llevaron a los loros y para divertirse decapitaron a los niños".

Los intentos de los indios por defenderse fracasaron. Y cuando huyeron a las colinas, los encontraron y los mataron. Así, informa Las Casas, "sufrieron y murieron en las minas y otras labores en un silencio desesperado, sin conocer ni un alma en el mundo a quien acudir en busca de ayuda". Describe su trabajo en las minas:

Después de cada seis u ocho meses de trabajo en las minas, que era el tiempo que requería cada equipo para extraer suficiente oro para fundir, hasta un tercio de los hombres morían.

Mientras los hombres fueron enviados a muchas millas de distancia a las minas, las esposas se quedaron para trabajar la tierra, forzadas a la insoportable tarea de cavar y construir miles de colinas para plantas de mandioca.

Cuando llegó a La Española en 1508, dice Las Casas, "había 60.000 personas viviendo en esta isla, incluidos los indios, por lo que desde 1494 hasta 1508, más de tres millones de personas habían perecido a causa de la guerra, la esclavitud y las minas. Quién en el futuro ¿Las generaciones van a creer esto? Yo mismo lo escribo como un testigo ocular informado y difícilmente puedo creerlo ".

Así comenzó la historia, hace quinientos años, de la invasión europea de los asentamientos indígenas en las Américas. Ese comienzo, cuando lees a Las Casas, aunque sus cifras sean exageradas (¿eran 3 millones de indios para empezar, como él dice, o menos de un millón, como han calculado algunos historiadores, u 8 millones como ahora creen otros?) -es conquista, esclavitud, muerte. Cuando leemos los libros de historia que se dan a los niños en los Estados Unidos, todo comienza con una aventura heroica, no hay derramamiento de sangre, y el Día de la Raza es una celebración.

Más allá de las escuelas primarias y secundarias, solo hay indicios ocasionales de algo más. Samuel Eliot Morison, el historiador de Harvard, fue el escritor más distinguido sobre Colón, el autor de una biografía de varios volúmenes, y él mismo fue un marinero que volvió sobre la ruta de Colón a través del Atlántico. En su popular libro Christopher Columbus, Mariner, escrito en 1954, habla de la esclavitud y el asesinato: "La política cruel iniciada por Colón y seguida por sus sucesores resultó en un completo genocidio".

Eso está en una página, enterrado a mitad de camino en la narración de un gran romance. En el último párrafo del libro, Morison resume su visión de Colón:

Uno puede mentir abiertamente sobre el pasado. O se pueden omitir hechos que podrían llevar a conclusiones inaceptables. Morison no hace ninguna de las dos cosas. Se niega a mentir sobre Colón. No omite la historia del asesinato en masa, de hecho la describe con la palabra más dura que se puede usar: genocidio.

Pero hace otra cosa: menciona la verdad rápidamente y pasa a otras cosas más importantes para él. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

"History is the memory of states," wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen's policies. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from the standpoint of others.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don't want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is."

I don't want to invent victories for people's movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico came out of the heritage of Mayan, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood. It also engaged in (let us not overlook this) the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts (horses), clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.

That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back. (The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune.)

Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed. And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes's small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man. Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards.

All this is told in the Spaniards' own accounts.

In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call "the primitive accumulation of capital." These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In 1585, before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village.

Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people's land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their "starving time" in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with "noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers." Some soldiers were therefore sent out "to take Revenge." They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard "and shoteinge owit their Braynes in the water." The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death.

Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good. They went on a rampage and massacred 347 men, women, and children. From then on it was total war.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the NarraganseIt Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:

The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully. -"

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortes and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethno historian Francis Jennings's interpretation of Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: "Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy's will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective."

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: "The Captain also said, We must Burn Them and immediately stepping into the Wigwam . brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire." William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason's raid on the Pequot village:

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:

A footnote in Virgil Vogel's book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: "The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons."

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsuttas brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: "All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive."

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would the from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that "the Indians . affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died." When the English first settled Martha's Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was

Was all this bloodshed and deceit-from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans-a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made-as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable ("Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done") to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and "advanced" countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?

If there están necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on the Indians of the Americas? For a brief period in history, there was the glory of a Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. As Hans Koning sums it up in his book Columbus: His Enterprise:

Beyond all that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside, who peered out of the forests at the first white settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts?

Columbus called them Indians, because he miscalculated the size of the earth. In this book we too call them Indians, with some reluctance, because it happens too often that people are saddled with names given them by their conquerors.

And yet, there is some reason to call them Indians, because they did come, perhaps 25,000 years ago, from Asia, across the land bridge of the Bering Straits (later to disappear under water) to Alaska. Then they moved southward, seeking warmth and land, in a trek lasting thousands of years that took them into North America, then Central and South America. In Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador their petrified footprints can still be seen, along with the print of bison, who disappeared about five thousand years ago, so they must have reached South America at least that far back

Widely dispersed over the great land mass of the Americas, they numbered approximately 75 million people by the rime Columbus came, perhaps 25 million in North America. Responding to the different environments of soil and climate, they developed hundreds of different tribal cultures, perhaps two thousand different languages. They perfected the art of agriculture, and figured out how to grow maize (corn), which cannot grow by itself and must be planted, cultivated, fertilized, harvested, husked, shelled. They ingeniously developed a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as peanuts and chocolate and tobacco and rubber.

On their own, the Indians were engaged in the great agricultural revolution that other peoples in Asia, Europe, Africa were going through about the same time.

While many of the tribes remained nomadic hunters and food gatherers in wandering, egalitarian communes, others began to live in more settled communities where there was more food, larger populations, more divisions of labor among men and women, more surplus to feed chiefs and priests, more leisure time for artistic and social work, for building houses. About a thousand years before Christ, while comparable constructions were going on in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Zuni and Hopi Indians of what is now New Mexico had begun to build villages consisting of large terraced buildings, nestled in among cliffs and mountains for protection from enemies, with hundreds of rooms in each village. Before the arrival of the European explorers, they were using irrigation canals, dams, were doing ceramics, weaving baskets, making cloth out of cotton.

By the time of Christ and Julius Caesar, there had developed in the Ohio River Valley a culture of so-called Moundbuilders, Indians who constructed thousands of enormous sculptures out of earth, sometimes in the shapes of huge humans, birds, or serpents, sometimes as burial sites, sometimes as fortifications. One of them was 3 1/2 miles long, enclosing 100 acres. These Moundbuilders seem to have been part of a complex trading system of ornaments and weapons from as far off as the Great Lakes, the Far West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

About A.D. 500, as this Moundbuilder culture of the Ohio Valley was beginning to decline, another culture was developing westward, in the valley of the Mississippi, centered on what is now St. Louis. It had an advanced agriculture, included thousands of villages, and also built huge earthen mounds as burial and ceremonial places near a vast Indian metropolis that may have had thirty thousand people. The largest mound was 100 feet high, with a rectangular base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. In the city, known as Cahokia, were toolmakers, hide dressers, potters, jewelry makers, weavers, salt makers, copper engravers, and magnificent ceramists. One funeral blanket was made of twelve thousand shell beads.

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.

In the vision of the Mohawk chief Iliawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: "We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other's hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness."

In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: "No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers.. . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common."

Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives' families. Each extended family lived in a "long house." When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband's things outside the door.

Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.

The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: "Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society."

Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, hut gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.

All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: "And surely there is in all children . a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon."

Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture:

So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.

They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.

John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: "Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace."

Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that "myth." Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.


Remembering Roger Williams

On October 9, 1635, Roger Williams was exiled from the colony of Massachusetts–banished for having “broached and divulged diverse new and dangerous opinions, against the authority of magistrates,” and “also writ[ten] letters of defamation, both of the magistrates and churches here.” This month, on our sister site, Religion In America, we consider two letters written by Williams that

The first, written shortly after his exile to John Winthrop shows how Williams accepted the right of particular covenant communities to establish their own membership and reminds us that although we might see his banishment as unwarranted, it was seen as a relatively reasonable measure in the seventeenth century. The second, written to his “well-beloved friends and neighbors” after he had secured royal recognition for his control over the colony indicates that Williams did, in fact, move away from this view, attempting to mitigate the tension between the need for unity and the disagreements that necessarily followed from toleration.

Talented and charismatic as a minister, Roger Williams was a radical even by the standards of Puritan Massachusetts when it came to the pursuit of holiness. Williams—who is most often remembered today as a champion of religious liberty—was something of a schismatic in his own time, refusing to worship or share communion with those whose positions on certain theological questions differed from his own. Williams’ criticisms extended to civil matters as well, leading him into conflicts with the government of the colony. After several years of stirring up trouble in Massachusetts Bay, Williams was banished from the colony. Rather than face deportation, Williams fled the colony and spent the winter among the local Wampanoag tribe. By the spring of 1636, he had negotiated agreements with both the Wampanoag and the neighboring Narragansett tribe for land at the headwaters of Narragansett Bay in 1636. There, joined by several families from his previous congregation, Williams established the first settlement, eventually known as Providence, in what would eventually become the colony of Rhode Island.

A dissenter, exiled for his rigid pursuit of church purity, Williams became an advocate of a more minimal vision of civil unity. The community he built would not commit itself to a single theological view. Instead, it would commit to respecting the equal rights of all members in matters of conscience, even if that meant tolerating a rather robust debate on such matters.


John Hughes

Born in Ireland, John Hughes immigrated to the United States as a young man. Harassed by Protestants in his native country, he looked to the Unites States as a bastion of religious freedom. But he discovered that freedom had its limits. By 1850 he was appointed archbishop of New York. In the mid-1800s, Catholic immigrants were swelling the population of the city, and Catholic children were offered the option to attend the public schools of New York. These schools were nominally nondenominational, but Hughes and his fellow Catholics recognized that they were, in fact, highly influenced by the prevailing Protestant ethos. Textbooks reflected a widespread prejudice against Catholics.

Hughes assumed leadership of the Catholic cause and took on the Protestant establishment. In speeches, sermons and writings, he demanded that public funds be used to support Catholic schools in addition to the Protestant public schools. The state Legislature refused. Hughes then set his sights on the creation of a separate Catholic school system where Catholic children could be educated according to the tenets of their faith. Spurned by Protestants, Catholics established a series of their own institutions -- churches, hospitals and orphanages -- that paralleled those of the Protestant establishment.

Tension between Catholics and Protestants erupted over the traditional practice of daily Bible reading. Public schools used the King James Bible Catholics argued that this Bible was Protestant and that the daily readings undermined their beliefs. They demanded that the schools offer students the Catholic version of the Bible, the Douay-Rheims approved by the Vatican. School officials declined.

Hughes assumed leadership of the Catholic cause and took on the Protestant establishment. In speeches, sermons and writings, he demanded that public funds be used to support Catholic schools in addition to the Protestant public schools. The state Legislature refused.

Hughes then set his sights on the creation of a separate Catholic school system where Catholic children could be educated according to the tenets of their faith. Spurned by Protestants, Catholics established a series of their own institutions -- churches, hospitals and orphanages -- that paralleled those of the Protestant establishment. In 1858, in a ceremony that fulfilled his dream of announcing the arrival of Catholicism in America, Hughes laid the cornerstone of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which upon completion years later would become the crowning symbol of Catholic determination in the country.

Known as "Dagger John," Hughes could be aggressive, demanding and insistent. He made enemies but was beloved by the Catholic immigrant community.


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Roger Williams saw Native Americans (whom he called “Natives:) as either “rude or clownish”. Williams believes it was the English “desire to civilize them” He found natives as civil and courteous towards Americans. He wrote what he observed and interpreted about Natives in this book.

The following are the recorded observations Williams had of Natives:

The Natives found tobacco refreshing and reviving and also useful in curing toothaches.

Natives offered food to strangers. Williams found Natives often were more generous than were Christians.

Natives believed bad dreams were warnings from God. They responded to a bad dream with prayers.

Natives held a brother accountable for a brother’s debt, including murder, If a man murdered someone and fled, his brother could be executed.

Natives took care of fatherless children.

Natives kept their doors open day and night.

Natives were intelligent and quickly made correct decisions. Williams observed God “hath not made them inferior to Europeans.”

Natives were capable of wartime treachery. There was a tale of a Native warrior who pretended to desert and then killed the enemy Chief Leader and Captain.

When attacked in war, a messenger would run to nearby settlements and seek assistance.

Williams found Natives as practical.

Natives would pray during droughts and continue praying until it rained.

Natives had a “revered esteem” for squirrels:,

The Natives believed there is a God would rewarded hose “that diligently seek Him.” Natives believed that the British God created the English people and Earth and Heaven in English. They believed their God created them and their world. Natives believed the souls of murderers, thieves, and liars did not go to Heaven but would “wander restless.”

Natives were unfamiliar with the concept of working six day s and resting on the sabbath.

Natives governed with a monarchy. There were an elder Sachim and a younger Sachim. The elder would not be offended by the younger’s actions while the younger strove to never do anything to displease the elder.

The Sachims were absolute monarchs. Yet they used gentle persuasion and would do nothing their people would consider adverse Punishments were beatings or executions.

The Natives allowed sex before marriage Marriage occurred upon parental consent and public acknowledgement. Adultery was not permitted. An adulterer would be beaten, something to death.

A husband would pay a dowry to the wife’s parents. If a husband was poor, neighbors would contribute to the dowry.

The Narrigansets usually had one wife per husband A second was sometimes permitted to increase wealth.

The Natives were unaware of the coinage system. They bartered with beads, shell fish, and furs, Many Natives believed the English cheated them when trading, The Natives were willing to take on debt.

The Natives were gamblers. They had dice games that would attract up to thousands. It was believes that holding a crystal-like stone called a Thunderbolt would induct God to help them win.


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