Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Dark Age of America

Smithsonian reports on the violence and slavery of the early days, saying:
Bailyn does not let either of the two adversary cultures off the hook. He recounts little vignettes of the original inhabitants’ behavior such as this: Following the ambush of four Dutch traders, Bailyn quotes a report, one “had been eaten after having [been] well roasted. The [other two] they burnt. The Indians carried a leg and an arm home to be divided amongst their families.”

And, on the other side, consider that fixture of grade school Thanksgiving pageants, Miles Standish, an upstanding, godly Pilgrim stalwart who does not at all seem the sort of man who would have cut off the head of a chief and “brought it back to Plymouth in triumph [where] it was displayed on the blockhouse together with a flag made of a cloth soaked in the victim’s blood.” (Happy Thanksgiving!)

“What happened,” Bailyn continues, “is a legacy of brutality in intercultural relations developed through this period of which, of course, the overwhelming legacy was slavery.” Bailyn points out that although there were only “a few thousand” slaves in the colonies toward the end of King Philip’s War in the 1670s, when he concludes The Barbarous Years, “The rules for chattel slavery were set.” (Read entire article.)

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