Monday, December 6, 2010

American Exceptionalism?

An excerpt from Howard Zinn’s excellent book, ‘A People’s History of The United States’. This unvarnished look at the plight of Indians, women, blacks, poor whites and immigrants during the formation of our country should be required reading for every high school Junior. Except in Texas, where The Bible is seemingly the only educational document accepted by that learned populace:

Under (President) Andrew Jackson, and the man he chose to succeed, him, Martin Van Buren, seventy thousand Indians east of the Mississippi were forced westward. In the North, there weren’t that many, and the Iroquois Confederation in New York stayed. But the Sac and Fox Indians of Illinois were removed, after the Black Hawk War (in which Abraham Lincoln was an officer, although he was not in combat). When Chief Black Hawk was defeated and captured in 1832, he made a surrender speech:

“I fought hard. But your guns were well aimed. The bullets flew like birds in the air, and whizzed by our ears like the wind through the trees in the winter. My warriors fell around me… The sun rose dim on us in the morning, and at night it sunk in a dark cloud, and looked like a ball of fire. That was the last sun that shown on Black Hawk… He is now prisoner to the white men… He has done nothing for which an Indian ought to be ashamed. He has fought for his countrymen, the squaws and papooses, against white men, who came year after year, to cheat them and take away their lands. You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it. Indians are not deceitful. The white men speak bad of the Indian and look at him spitefully. But the Indian does not tell lies. Indians do not steal.”

“An Indian who is as bad as the white men could not live in our nation; he would be put to death, and eaten up by wolves. The white men are bad schoolmasters; they carry false books, and deal in false actions; they smile in the face of the poor Indian to cheat him; they shake them by the hand to gain their confidence, to make them drunk, to deceive them, and to ruin our wives. We told them to leave us alone, and keep away from us; they followed on, and beset our paths, and they coiled themselves among us, like the snake. They poisoned us by their touch. We were not safe. We lived in danger. We were becoming like them, hypocrites and liars, adulterous lazy drones, all talkers and no workers…”

“The white men do not scalp the head; but they do worse – they poison the heart… Farewell, my nation!... Farewell to Black Hawk.”

Image of Chief Black Hawk courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Jackson was a tough guy in the sense that his character would not allow him to ignore opposition. There is a story of a drunk in a bar who refused to come along with the cops until then Judge Andrew Jackson left the bench, went to the bar himself and brought the guy in. When the drunk was asked why he went with Jackson, he said, "I looked at the shoot in his eye and I decided I’d better come in."

    But other than that story I find Jackson to be like an unguided missile. His economic decisions were hideous. It is a sick joke that his picture appears on the $20 bill. I believe the last time a State in the USA went bankrupt was under Jackson because he made terrible economic decisions. He hated banks, refusing to believe that the USA economy is dependent on them.

    Since it is near Christmas time you might be interested to know that a Charles Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol" mentions the results of Andrew Jackson's economic policies. Let's see if I can find the quote... "...his was a great relief, because 'three days after sight of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or his order,' and so forth, would have become a mere United States’ security if there were no days to count by." In other words... "worthless". A US Security is what we call a Treasury Bill nowadays, I believe.

    But Andrew Jackson was hardly the first to betray the Indians. He merely formalized a policy that was set in place by Thomas Jefferson. In case anyone would like to adjust their political affiliations... both were Democrats.