Posted by Elaine on July 27, 2000 at 15:18:26:
In Reply to: Re: The unenviable fates of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence posted by Zapata on July 27, 2000 at 12:58:53:
: I was pleasantly surprised to see such a great response to the both the "...unenviable fates..." piece. When I stumbled onto this site yesterday and wrote my (Zapata) response, I wondered if it would still be up today given the warning about "revisionist history."
: Having said that, I disagree with Kathleen's or Vita's (I'm not sure who wrote this response)belief that the signers of the DOI were not personally repsonsible for what eventually happened to the Lands of Native Americans. Thomas Jefferson himself was a proponent of the belief that it was the destiny and god-given right of the United States to expand from ocean to ocean. The Louisiana Purchase and the War with Mexico were all steps towards that end.
: I also disagree with the contention that the "warlords" of the the peoples who inhabited much of the territory that lay to the west of the original colonies would have be as apt to go out and conquer other people just to have more land. We have to understand that the Europeans had a very different view of property and "lebensraum" than many Native Americans. Native Americans did not have the same "the-one-who-has-the-most-toys-wins" view of the world. In fact, many of these peoples lived on the bear necessities given that they had to move around a lot and simply could not take so many things with them. (Read "The Changing Land" for more on the changes that occured to both the landscape and the peoples of what is now the US as a result of the arrival of the Europeans.)
: That's not to say that they were not warriors nor that they themselves did not engage in warfare with each other for hunting ground. I'm not trying to idealize them and outright demonize the writers of the DOI. This is just the "other" side of the story that is often neglected, forgotten, or outright denied.
: Finally, human life, human existence, this thing we call human history IS about cause and effect. And if we ignore this simply for the sake of the idea of "can't we all just get along?" then we are doomed to failure. Those who do not know--or act upon--history, are destined to repeat it.
"This forum is NOT intended to be a soapbox for hidden agendas nor is it to be used as a platform for espousing revisionist history."
Hi Zapata -
The above 'warning' states we will not allow the board to be used as a soapbox for HIDDEN Agendas nor as a platform for ESPOUSING revisionist history. We didn't read your post that way at all. To question the motives and morals of men, or to discuss the other side of the historical coin is commendable when honest.
As you've seen, your post has ignited a good discussion.
Regarding Jefferson & slavery; no one can say ANY of the signers "meant" only white, landowning males because the document itself says no such thing. 'ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed BY their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness, that TO SECURE these rights governments are instituted among men.'
So says the document penned by such men. This phrase says much & warrants careful consideration; deserves thoughtful deliberation before rendering indictment or supposition.
For men of a slave holding world, very dependent upon slavery to survive economically, to write ALL men, endowed BY their Creator, & TO SECURE, rather than PRESERVE rights ... they knew well of what they thought, expected, & hoped for.
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have REMOVED A CONVICTION that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot SLEEP FOREVER. Commerce between master and slave is DESPOTISM. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that THESE PEOPLE ARE TO BE FREE."
So said Thomas Jefferson on slavery.
We are all creatures of our times & honesty requires us to refrain from judging another era by our own. Yes, all men will be held accountable for their own sins ... thankfully, they'll be judged by one more wise & merciful than each of us.
What did the signers expect from this amazing declaration? From law?
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in law and constitutions, but laws and constitutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must ADVANCE also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their BARBAROUS ANCESTORS."
I believe Jefferson reveals he knew well his time & felt very confident the words penned adequately professed & compensated for law's eventual advancement.
"With all the imperfections of our present government, it is without comparison the best existing or that ever did exist."
He acknowledged readily the 'imperfections' of the government & his use of the word "present" combined with his expressed hopes for law's 'advancement' reveal he fully expected wrongs to be righted in time.
We are mistaken when we seek to limit the freedoms & possibilities bequeathed to 'the people' by indicting the character or failings of those who debated, penned, & signed the declaration.
"It would be a dangerous DELUSION were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is everywhere the parent of depotism ... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of CONFIDENCE IN MEN, but bind him down FROM MISCHIEF BY THE CHAINS OF THE CONSTITUTION."
Did Jefferson believe the Constitution to be law written in stone by men of celestial footing?
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than himan, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I know that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it ... But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind."
These men, warts & all, penned documents which safe guarded basic rights of all men & allocated, compensated for an evolution - both social & legal - that would EVENTUALLY lead further along to a political pseudo-utopian free society. Were these men hypocrites or did they write with foresight? Had they lived up to their own philosophies? Have we lived up to the expectations? Have we squandered our own inheritance?
Zapata, I disagree with your tempered assertion regarding American Indians;
"That's not to say that they were not warriors nor that they themselves did not engage in warfare with each other for hunting ground."
War was had for lesser purposes than hunting ground. Hatreds & vengeance abounded here, like everywhere. I believe the Algonquian peoples of northeastern America/southeastern Canada experienced their own treatment of aggressive imperialism at the hand of the powerful confederation of the Iroquois. This doesn't demonize anyone either.
"This is just the "other" side of the story that is often
neglected, forgotten, or outright denied."
In truth, this statement, though once true, is no longer so. There is no shortage of voices for 'the other side of the coin.'
"Thomas Jefferson himself was a
proponent of the belief that it was the destiny and god-given right of the United States to
expand from ocean to ocean. The Louisiana Purchase and the War with Mexico were all
steps towards that end. "
This is true. 'To the victor goes the spoils' - right or wrong, it's true. Were America's actions, whether by war or by expansionism, a bit Machiavellian? Of course! (Hold on, Ilse!!! I'm not advocating the means being justified by the ends!!!! I'm saying that philosophy, in varying degree, is present in the machinations of government because self-interest rather than morals tend to rule political decisions. When one calls itself a democracy one might disguise its objectives, or manipulate events to justify particular action.)
PERSONALLY responsible for what EVENTUALLY happened? No, they were not. Personally responsible for things they did they knew to be wrong? Yes. Was Massasoit personally responsible for what eventually happened to 'native lands' because he treated favorably with English settlers? Weren't the Wampanoags' actions related to conflicts & loss of lands by the Narragansetts & the Pequots, etc. & motivated by self interest? The cause & effect you cite would apply here as well.
Also - you said;
"Native Americans did not have the same "the-one-who-has-the-most-toys-wins" view of the world."
The same as whom? The rebel/patriots? I doubt they held such a viewpoint. They had recently taken on the most powerful, fully toyed army in the world ... and won. They won with great determination & much bloodshed; not with armament toys. They, like the Indian warriors you spoke for, most likely held the view that bravery, skill, & determination, along WITH weaponry, led to victory.
A & E plans to broadcast a series (I believe) this fall called "The Founding Fathers." It's a look at these men on a personal level; very relevant to this discussion.
Good topic ...
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