January 20th, 2011
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported January 13, that members of Tennessee tea parties presented state legislators with five action priorities, including “educating students the truth about America.”
About two dozen tea party activists held a news conference and said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”
According to these folks, telling the “truth” about American history and the Founding Fathers requires lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums and textbook selection so that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”
A Fayette County attorney said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.
I strongly disagree with these views because the “true history” of the United States, the true history that still isn’t told or taught to Americans is that the Founding Fathers and the English/American colonists did come to this continent with the express goal of “intruding on the Indians . . . .”
I have written at great length about the international law Doctrine of Discovery which expressly provided for, and justified, European/American claims over Indigenous peoples and to own their lands. If that isn’t an “intrusion” then I don’t know what one is. See for example, Robert J. Miller, Jacinta Ruru, Larissa Behrendt, & Tracy Lindberg, Discovering Indigenous Lands: The Doctrine of Discovery in the English Colonies (Oxford University Press 2010); Robert J. Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny (University of Nebraska Press 2008).
As an example of the views of two of our most prominent Founding Fathers towards American Indians, note what General George Washington wrote to Congress in 1783. Washington was asked his views on how the U.S. should deal with the tribal governments that had supported the English during the Revolutionary War. In his letter to a congressional committee, Washington advised Congress that the United States did not have to fight tribes to acquire their lands. George Washington to James Duane, September 7, 1783, in Writings of George Washington 135-36 (John C. Fitzpatrick ed. 1975); accord Documents of United States Indian Policy 2 (Francis Paul Prucha ed., 3d ed. 2000) (reprinting an abridged version). Instead, Washington foresaw that “the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire” and that Indian lands would pass naturally to the United States and much more cheaply by purchase than by warfare. George Washington to James Duane, September 7, 1783; accord Documents of United States Indian Policy, at 2. It is obvious, at least to me, that Washington intended to “intrude” on American Indians.
And, Thomas Jefferson stated several times that the U.S. would exterminate American Indians if they dared impede U.S. expansion, and he was among the first to talk about removing all Indians west of the Mississippi River. Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered, at 78, 90-94. In fact, in 1812, ex-President Jefferson stated that the U.S. should deal with the “backward” tribes by “driv[ing] them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony [Rocky] mountains.” Vol. II The Adams-Jefferson Letters 308 (University of North Carolina Press, Lester J. Cappon, ed. 1959).