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History that should be remembered but generally isn't...



  • I just thought of a way the Tubman $20 could be represented extremely awfully. Slaves were basically treated as currency. Having an ex-slave on the currency seems pretty terrible if you think of it that way.
  • Greg said:

    Andrew Jackson wanted what was best for the Indians. It is and always will be debated as to whether the outcome was what was best for the Indians (as plenty of people in academia have been debating for decades), but the motives and logic are clear. The whole situation was a Kobayashi Maru. Let me explain.

    For the two hundred years before Andrew Jackson took office, the dominant Indian policy was this thing called "acculturation". It was a belief that white people and Indians would coexist with Indians slowly assimilating into white culture. This policy was humane on paper, but impractical at its premise. The assumption was that Indians were savages who would join the superior white culture because it was so much better. In reality, Indians enjoyed their way of life and had been doing so for centuries. They didn't want to assimilate. This refusal to assimilate combined with the white man's expansionism is what caused countless 17th century conflicts. The French learned that this was foolish and dealt with Indians more like any other foreign power, leading most tribes to side with them in the French and Indian War, a war that turned out well for neither the French nor the Indians.

    With the French mostly removed from the game during the Seven Years War, English acculturation became dominant. By the early 19th century, acculturation was praised by everyone who didn't actually interact with Indians. Jefferson was a strong believer in acculturation in the 1780s, but once he entered the Presidency he realized how much it didn't align with Indian interests and started saying things like "if we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi." Jackson didn't share this disdain for tribes who didn't join white culture.

    “What the [Indians] become when surrounded by a dense population and by mixing with the whites may be seen in the miserable remnants of a few Eastern tribes, deprived of political and civil rights, forbidden to make contracts, and subjected to guardians, dragging out a wretched existence, without excitement, without hope, and almost without thought” – Andrew Jackson, third annual message to Congress

    Jackson had personally fought with Cherokee and Choctaw forces against a great threat to the Union, Tecumseh. Jackson didn't want these tribes following the same destiny as the Eastern tribes he mentions above. Washington and Jefferson before him had tried to police white settlers and prevent them from settling on Indian land. It was a Sisyphean task that cost more lives than it saved. Not helped by the fact that Indian governments (in that case the Creeks) had trouble controlling their citizens as well. Indians would frequently sell their tribe's land to individual white men, which had no legal grounds in either the Indian nation or in America. Things like this are why raids on settlements (Indian and white alike) were so common on the frontier, and they always lead to race war.

    Jackson saw that he had to pioneer a new policy. He didn't know how well it would work. He wasn't naive. He knew that a migration so massive would have many casualties, especially given Congressional resistance to funding it, but he saw the 10,000 lives lost to the Trail as the cost that had to be paid to protect the remaining 50,000 lives that reached the reservations safely. This is not to say that any of what I've just posted is good. I have read a lot on the details and brutalities of the Trail. I am aware of the horrific conditions that accompanied the staggering casualties. I dare you to read Alexis De Tocqueville's account without breaking down. But the most depressing part, to me at least, is that that was the best thing that could be done at that time.


    I don't mean this as a defense for Jackson on the twenty, if you think that's where this is coming from. Slave owners shouldn't be on money (even and especially if they're Washington or Jefferson). Tubman embodies all the outlaw anti-establishment qualities I love about Jackson with even more astounding record of what she personally did and without any of the problematic characteristics that accompany Jackson. But, all the discussion around this has highlighted a misunderstanding of Old Hickory in the populous.

    While I disagree with this analysis, I find focusing on the genocide of my people makes me so nauseous and depressed that the amount of time I would have to spend on these particular crimes against humanity, to use the more modern term, in order to make this a real discussion wouldn't be worth it. I don't know why you have decided to dwell on this, but here is some friendly advice: Don't make this the hill you want to die defending.
  • While I disagree with this analysis, I find focusing on the genocide of my people makes me so nauseous and depressed that the amount of time I would have to spend on these particular crimes against humanity, to use the more modern term, in order to make this a real discussion wouldn't be worth it. I don't know why you have decided to dwell on this, but here is some friendly advice: Don't make this the hill you want to die defending.

    I should've put a trigger warning on that post. I'm sorry.
  • Greg said:

    While I disagree with this analysis, I find focusing on the genocide of my people makes me so nauseous and depressed that the amount of time I would have to spend on these particular crimes against humanity, to use the more modern term, in order to make this a real discussion wouldn't be worth it. I don't know why you have decided to dwell on this, but here is some friendly advice: Don't make this the hill you want to die defending.

    I should've put a trigger warning on that post. I'm sorry.
    Thank you for being more understanding than most people on the internet. The lack of TWs weren’t the problem I had with the post. Even stepping away from the casualties of ethnic cleansing I find the thesis wanting. The argument relies on a brief sketch over 200 years of history, which could fill a book on just the topic of "Indian Removal" and it doesn't do justice to the subject.
  • That's fair. I've got a big blind spot in American history from Metacom's War through the French and Indian War. I started researching the British and French policies across that period, but I burned out on war crimes so I'm reading other stuff for now. Thank you for the feedback. I posted that because I was looking for the holes in it, and this is the only place on the internet I go to where I can get a reasonable conversation.
  • So my job is now at the Boston tourism agency The Freedom Trail Foundation. I work as a Redcoat reenacting the announcement of the Riot Act of 1768. What I have learned in the last month of doing this is that we really don't like to acknowledge the moral ambiguity of the American Revolution. Prior to the formation of the Continental army, British forces were largely being called up on to quell domestic terrorism. They were far less aggressive than the rebels, who would tar and feather their political enemies (told that to one of the hecklers and he had no comeback). You all know I adore early American history and am a staunch supporter of the Founding Fathers, but we have to also recognize that many of perceived assaults on the colonies were reasonable responses to try to prevent a violent insurrection. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, since loyalists were rarely treated as people in this part of the colonies back in the eighteenth century (the south was much less worried by the British prior to the Declaration of Independence) so why would we change?
  • Stonewall Jackson was such a bookworm that he taught slaves how to read (a violation of Virginia law) in exchange for pine knots which he used to read late into the night.
  • edited August 2016
    One of the things that made Andrew Jackson such a successful commander in 1812 was his willingness to disregard racial barriers for the security of the Union. The Creek and Choctaw nations joined him in the war against Tecumseh's coalition, but did not continue to aid against the oncoming British threat. Appointed Major General of the Federal army (before he was a Major General for the Tennessee Militia) for his decisive victory (to put it gently) against the Red Sticks, he invited any Creek or Choctaw individuals to join his army and put them on payroll of the Federal government. Shortly after this, Jackson received a letter from officials at New Orleans fearing that the numerous immigrants, slaves, and free black people would defect or revolt against the American government in the event of war. Jackson's take on it? "Start thinking about your black neighbors as allies instead of enemies. He gave a rousing speech to Louisiana's free black population, inspiring patriotism and loyalty rather than intimidation and fear.

    TL;DR Jackson had a strange relationship with race to put it mildly.
    Post edited by Greg on
  • Greg you probably know, which president was it that allegedly peed out of the White House window or off the roof or something? I want to say either Garfield or Cleveland.
  • All the Gilded Age Presidents kind of blend together. I have a huge blackout period from the Grant Administration to the election of 1896, so I don't know.
  • Yeah I get that. They all sort of blend together into one chubby guy with a big mustache.
  • Something I'd love to see more in history education is the function of propaganda and revisionist history in shaping national identity and global political choices.
  • I had that in my 8th grade US history class. It was thoroughly slanted against conservative revisionism, though liberal reinterpretations arent always right either, but it wasnt nothing.
  • We did a unit on that in 10th grade. We talked about shifting perception of the nature and impact of the Civil War in America through the 20th century, and how it was taught from increasingly revisionist perspectives in schools for a while.
  • It still is taught from a revisionist perspective, but which revision varies regionally. At Boston Latin, we were taught that the war was fought for industrialization and forcing the South to leave their agrarian economy. Slavery was downplayed. Lincoln was painted as a cold and stoic strategist and disinterested in the cause of the slaves, omitting the assaults on slavery he preached before entering the Federal Congress. The social and political mobility of black people that grew throughout the 1840s and 50s was ignored. Strangely enough, in trying to paint the North as equally racist, they never mentioned the draft riots where they Irish brutalized black neighborhoods in New York.

    So yeah I got in a big fight with Ms Kirkpatrick over that one.
  • I strongly believe those were outliers, otherwise the course of American identity and policy would be very different at the moment. America #1 education does not teach that their shit also stinks. It would be interesting as a theme for an entire course of study, e.g. following the trend through the American timeline (using world history of global powers as a template), from the pre-founding to the present.
    Rym said:

    for a while

    see: the south

  • Our current system isn't designed to teach history, it's designed to teach propaganda. Until we abolish text books, emphasize document analysis, and teach perspective bias, we are just teaching propaganda of one side or another.
  • RymRym
    edited August 2016

    Rym said:

    for a while

    see: the south

    I honestly believe that the premature end of Reconstruction and re-admittance of those states to the Union is a primary cause of many current problems.

    No excuses for the Union's own problems, but the south acted culturally, politically, and economically like a separate nation: our coddling of that identity post-war enabled generations of institutionalized de facto discrimination and a myth of a better time "before the evil North attacked our way of life."

    Under the occupation, black Americans were represented in government. Real representation. Had that continued de jure, even in the face of the very real extra-judicial discrimination and reprisals, for a generation or two, a real black polity could have emerged in the south, capable of better fighting against the reactionary wave that was inevitable.

    Instead, we let the old slavemasters regain the reigns of government as a unified force.

    Imagine if the VRA had also extended to things like education in the former confederacy. History generally is written by the victors, but we let the south write its own history and infect the rest of the nation with it.
    Post edited by Rym on
  • Reconstruction had too much of an emphasis on representative government and not enough emphasis on welfare programs. Reconstruction wasn't going to last forever under any circumstance. We should have been building infrastructure to enable class mobility economically in addition to politically. But Andrew Johnson was kind of a dick so that wasn't gonna happen.
  • I imagine him having actually been removed from office as a linchpin moment in American history, a profound divergence from the path we're on now.
  • Ooh if we're doing alt history, I want to pitch my short story: Calhoun is elected in 1828, permits secession and then resigns the Presidency to found whatever equivalent of the CSA he would've made was. Jackson assumes the office after Calhoun's resignation (VP was still the runner up in the election, not picked by the President, so Jackson would have that power) and fights to reclaim the South for the Union. Civil War erupts 30 years earlier.
  • “No man is more sensible of the evils of slavery as I am, nor regrets them more.” – Henry Clay, Senator from Kentucky responsible for the expansion of slavery into Missouri and the Fugitive Slave Act, slaveholder at time of writing.
  • The opposition to the Indian Removal Act is interesting. Most politicians were not interested in protecting the sovereign Cherokee and Chicasaw people. They had voiced actions to obtain those lands for decades prior. However, once Jackson was in office, opposition to him had greater political capital than expansions, thus white supremacists like Henry Clay pivoting at the last minute. Genuine, longtime allies to the Indian nations involved were also exceptionally racist. The most progressive of the legislators in 1830, Daniel Webster most prominently, still referred to the Indians as "savages". A greater portion of the genuine opposition was in line with Davy Crockett -- a man who had no moral qualms at Horseshoe Bend (the greatest massacre of any Indian War up to that point) or The Alamo (see page 1 for an explanation of that war) -- whose rhetoric was more in line with Teddy Roosevelt's conservation of wildlife programs than Roger Williams' treating the Native inhabitants as a sovereign nation. They still wanted the Federal Government to strictly control the Indian nations, the point of contention was simply where the Feds would be forcing their oppression.

    Congress did not perfectly reflect the position of the American populous. Citizens on the Frontier were often sympathetic to the relocated Natives. Those who felt they did need removal were unsatisfied with how the Federal Government approached the policy -- as Congress had been afraid to allocate sufficient funds for Winfield Scott to properly aid the Natives, or his own soldiers for that matter, lest Jackson use the resources to cross a metaphorical Rubicon as they had been insisting he would for nearly ten years. Many many churches in towns across the Trail brought food or water or clothes and (small pox free) blankets to help the march. Reading Vicki Rosenma's books on the subject reveal a true compassion in the people that doesn't exist in the Federal rhetoric. The generosity of individuals in spite of what their nation is doing is actually kind of beautiful.
  • Am I the only one that wants Greg to do a podcast about Andrew Jackson's presidency? You know a crazy amount of stuff about this period and I have no doubt it would be fascinating listening.
  • I'd listen.
  • edited August 2016
    Should've come to ConnectiCon 2015. Presented "Sex Death and Populism: The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson". Got a bigger crowd than I'd expect given the subject material. There was a guy there with a degree in Andrew Jackson (technically it was "Jacksonian Politics" but close enough) but I taught him something new.

    There was an episode of the Whistlestop Podcast recently that had some interesting information on the Election of 1824, but his conclusions were so absurdly ignorant I can't in good conscious recommend it.

    EDIT: There is a concept album on the way, which you'll hear about when the liner notes win a Grammy and Pulitzer.
    Post edited by Greg on
  • In 1619 the Virginia Assembly passed a law requiring farmers to grow at least one hundred hemp plants. It was commonly used as legal tender in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland (Source: PBS).
  • Naoza said:

    I'd listen.

  • Just reached the Nullification Crisis and Tariff of Abominations in my current Jackson book, and it reminded me of the satirical French proponent of tariffs, Frederic Bastiat, which Scott found on a Geeknights that was at least three years ago. I love bitter satire, I love the 19th century, and I love hearing the losing side of history, so it's all up my alley.
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