From: email@example.com (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Iroquois and Cherokee statehood
Date: 09 Jan 1996
A book well worth reading is Ian K. Steele's "Warpaths," subtitled
'Invasions of North America.' Steele points out the obvious but often
overlooked fact that while European conquest of Mexico and South America
(Aztec & Inca specifically) was swift and complete, taking only a
generation or so, the European conquest of North America took centuries.
His book covers the years from 1513, when Ponce de Leon and his
conquistadores landed in Florida and were driven off (de Leon himself
being killed) to the negotiated balance of power the British achieved with
the native powers in 1765.
One of the best things about the book is that Steele doesn't treat the
Indians as innocent, helpless victims of the wicked, nasty Europeans. He
pretty much destroys the old sterotype of technologically advanced
Europeans overrunning primitive savages. Instead, he reveals how the
North American Indians rose to the challenge of each successive invasion
from Europe with martial and diplomatic skill. In war after war, the
American Indians and Europeans battled in a precarious balance, adapting
each other's technology and tactics and seeking each other out as allies
and as supply sources for food and weapons. He discusses a vast range of
Indian strategies for coping with the invaders. He explains their shrewd
recognition of European rivalries, which they played on. He also shows
how the Five Nations, Creek and Cherokee confederations used the Europeans
to extend their own power. He examines how Indian strategy changed with
the arrival of European regulars in 1755 and the British victory over the
French--they successfully responded with a powerful campaign against
outlying British posts that forced the British to accept a military
stalemate in 1765 (at which point Steele's book ends).
This stalemate was broken not by the British, but by the Scotch-Irish.
These people made up the largest migration of English-speaking peoples
into North America. Some 250,000 moved from the borders of North Britain
and northern Ireland to the Appalachian back country between 1718 and
1775--one-third in the four years before the Revolution. In fact, they had
much to do with the revolution happening at all. (The mother of Patrick
"Give me liberty or give me death!" Henry [a Scotch-Irishman] dismissed
the revolution as "More lowland border trouble."). The Scotch-Irish did
not recognize British treaties with the Indians and moved beyond treaty
lines to settle.
These poeple came from specific English counties: Cumberland,
Westmorland, parts of Lancashire on the western side of the Pennines,
Northumberland, Durham and parts of eastern Yorkshire. They also came
from five counties of southern Scotland: Ayr, Dumfries, Wigtwon, Roxburgh
and Berwick. In addition, they came from the Ulster counties of Derry,
Down, Armagh, Antrim and Tyrone. The areas of heaviest emigration
bordered the Irish Sea and formed a single cultural region. The culture
was unique from both Scotland and England, and was dominated by one
central and overwhelming fact: From 1040 to 1745 it was the scene of
almost constant warfare between Scotland and England. Quintessentialy
"American" phrases, such as "He died with his boots on," originated in
this culture long before it was transplanted to North America. The
borders people stole cattle, which they called "rustling," robbed
outsiders in a ractice called "reiving" (recall Faulkner's "The Reivers").
Powerful border families extracted protection money from their weaker
neighbors, a practice called "blackmail." They lived in huts they called
"cabins" that were isolated in the wilderness. They scorned village
Typical male dress consisted of a wide-shouldered leather hunting shirt
that emphasized the upper torso and leather leggings (which they called
stockings, thus "leather stockings," as in James Fenimore Cooper's
"Leather Stocking Tales"). Typical female dress consisted of a
low-bodiced blouse emphasizing the breasts and tight-waisted, short skirt.
Women preferred to go barefoot in warm weather. Women were sexually
active from puberty. One minister who performed marriages among them
estimated that nine out of ten girls were pregnant when they wed.
Puritans they were not. But rape or abandoment of a pregnant woman was
rare because her male relatives would hunt down and kill the irresponsible
man. Children generally ran naked till the weather got cold. For an idea
of how they lived, read Sir Walter Scott's "Rob Roy."
They scandalized the English and appalled the German settlers when they
arrived in Pennsylvania. They were fighters, drinkers, whorers--and
damnably independent-minded. In earlier years, some had been brought to
North America as slaves to work the tobacco plantations,but these
immediately revolted, killing their masters and kidnapping their dead
masters' prettiest women. They kept peace among themselves by use of
"Regulators" and "Vigilance Committees," but were compelled to personal
vengence if one of their family were killed. They held grudges over
generations and would endeaver to wipe out utterly a clan (or Indian
tribe--same thing, to them) that had shed the blood of a family member.
The Scotch-Irish took to the backwoods of America as if they had been
destined for it. They had come from one violent frontier to another.
They brought with them a culture used to violence, skilled in warfare,
distrusting of distant authority, and totally self-reliant.
Historian Dale Van Every labled these people the first Americans. The
seminal influnce on them was the 18th century Indian wars. He wrote (in
"Forth to the Wilderness"): "To the Scotch-Irish settler, the principal
theater of war was his own clearing. He could never know when howling
savages might not burst from the woods enclosing it to burn his home, ax
his children, disembowel his wife. If he was near, he fell beside them
and his fears for them which so long had haunted him were over. If he was
at a little distance, he was confronted with the dreadful choice of
returning to share their fate or seeking his own safety in flight. If,
for a time, Indian attack passed him by to strike at his neighbor, this
but made his dread more harrowing, for the postponement made it ever more
likely that the next would not spare him.... This perpetually hovering
horror which darkened his existence was an agonizingly familiar
The people upon whom this long torment was inflicted were to breed a race
of conquerors.... They were the progenitors of the long hunter, the
Kentucky frontiersman, the Ohio boatman, the Missouri trader, the
transcontinental explorer, the mountain man, the Santa Fe trail driver,
the covered-wagon pioneer, the gold seeker, pony-express rider, the
cowboy--in short, the American."
It was the Scotch-Irish who defeated, finally, the North American Indians.
In the process, they ceased being Europeans and became something
new--Americans--and in that process, they also, in a very real sense,
finally drove the Europeans out of North America, as well.