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Diacritics 28.4 (1998) 5-24

The Archive, The Native American, and Jefferson's Convulsions

Jonathan Elmer


Saxa loquuntur

Trauma theory proposes that there are inscriptions that befuddle any clean divide between present and past, records that have been neither selected nor destroyed by evolutionary veto but remain in some kind of limbo, "in abeyance," as Jacques Lacan phrases it, "awaiting attention." In a typical maneuver, Lacan emphasizes a double meaning in the French--the "reality" awaiting attention is "en souffrance" [Lacan 56]. Lacan's wordplay injects a note of pathos into what might otherwise seem a merely cognitive or epistemological question about how, or whether, we can adequately access the historical archive, whether of individuals or of cultures. At its most basic, the psychoanalytic concept of trauma insists on this ambiguous coupling between affect and event, feeling and knowing: trauma names a happening about which one never fully knows how to feel, or feels how to know. In trauma theory--as in its various avatars in current debates about canons, about historical memory and forgetting, about cultural identity as imperiled or reclaimed or repressed--this ambiguity about the relation between affect and event becomes codified as an entanglement between the ethical and the cognitive. In "Archive Fever," Jacques Derrida notes that the term "archive" itself harbors this ambiguity: the archive is at once the beginning and the authority, it puts into play two "orders of order," the "sequential" and the "jussive," "the commencement and the commandment" [9]. The divine fiat of creation is an image of the perfect coincidence of these two orders of order, while historical consciousness, in the West at least, might be understood as the progressive elaboration of the dissociation of commencement and commandment. Such a dissociation is never, perhaps, complete, which is why the question of knowing the commencement, the order of sequence of past events, always seems shadowed by an encounter with commandment, authority, ethical obligation.

Derrida emphasizes a drive toward unification in the archive, what he calls the act of "consignation," or "gathering together signs": "Consignation aims to coordinate a single corpus, in a system or a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the unity of an ideal configuration. In an archive, there should not be any absolute dissociation, any heterogeneity or secret which could separate . . . or partition, in an absolute manner" [10]. Because his primary topic in this essay is Freud, Derrida goes on to demonstrate how this practice and ideal of consignation deconstruct themselves in the psychoanalytic archive. On the one hand, Freud's innovations "made possible," or so Derrida contends, the notion of an archive that "cannot be reduced to memory: neither to memory as conscious reserve, nor to memory as rememoration, as act of recalling" [58]. On the other hand, and despite his development of this concept of an immemorial archive, however, Freud "was incessantly [End Page 5] tempted to redirect the original interest he had for the psychic archive toward archeology." Derrida quotes an astonishing passage from the 1896 paper "The Aetiology of Hysteria," in which Freud indulges in the fantasy that never leaves psychoanalysis, and that evinces the profound implication of this theory with other archival projects, here the imperialist dramas of ethnography. The fantasy is one in which "stones talk":

Imagine that an explorer arrives in a little-known region where his interest is aroused by an expanse of ruins, with remains of walls, fragments of columns, and tablets with half-effaced and unreadable inscriptions. He may content himself with inspecting what lies exposed to view, with questioning the inhabitants--perhaps semi-barbaric people--who live in the vicinity, about what tradition tells them of the history and meaning of these archaeological remains, and with noting down what they tell him--and he may then proceed on his journey. But he may act differently. He may have brought picks, shovels and spades with him, and he may set the inhabitants to work with these implements. Together with them he may start upon the ruins, clear away the rubbish, and, beginning from the visible remains, uncover what is buried. If his work is crowned with success, the discoveries are self-explanatory: the ruined walls are part of the ramparts of a palace or a treasure-house; the fragments of columns can be filled out into a temple; the numerous inscriptions, which, by good luck, may be bilingual, reveal an alphabet and a language, and, when they have been deciphered and translated, yield undreamed-of information about the events of the remote past, to commemorate which the monuments were built. Saxa loquuntur! [qtd. in Derrida 58-59]

This passage, so rife with all the ethnocentric assumptions of Enlightenment science, is, as Derrida remarks, "properly hallucinatory" [59]. The hallucination is both epistemological and historical: epistemological because it concerns an "ecstatic instant" in which "the origin . . . speaks by itself," apparently unaffected by the labor of the traveler and his workers [58]; it is historical because the effacement is not merely of the accumulated "rubbish" around the site, but of the very situatedness of the site in the "vicinity" of these "semi-barbaric people" whose "tradition" respecting the ruins cannot count as explanation, but who are subtly or violently incorporated into this laborious return to the origin by being "set to work with these implements." By being drawn into this technical project, by being armed with these "implements," the luckless locals would seem to efface themselves along with their history. The dream of a perfect technical reappropriation of the past, neither mediated nor obscured by the rubbishy "inhabitants," reveals itself also in the transformation during the course of the passage of the "inscriptions" themselves, which are "unreadable" at first, but later are described as, astonishingly, accompanied by their own translation (the inscriptions may "by good luck" already be "bilingual"--Freud here imagines himself as Champollion), thus ensuring in principle their translatability.1

This dream of confronting the speaking stones beyond the detritus of decay and the misinformation of the locals' traditions is still, however, at least one step from any kind of origin, since the stones themselves are "monuments," they are there to "commemorate" the "events of the remote past." Their stoniness may seem to promise the primal, but their speaking still mediates between the present and an even more "remote past." Indeed, like the local inhabitants, the speaking stones must, if they are to provide the "hallucinatory" sense of access to the origin, efface themselves in the labor of scientific decipherment. [End Page 6] They must appear so as to disappear. The ecstatic figure of "saxa loquuntur" condenses this contradictory requirement: the stones' status as communication--their very "commemorative" gesture--must give way to their material nature as message. Archive, as a never-ending process of "commemoration" and communication, as an endless series of monuments to a past constitutively out of reach, must give way to archaeology. The past as the topic and product of communication within the present is both accessed and erased in favor of the hallucination of a communication from the past to a present not defined as such, that could be anytime, the eternal present of the scientific apprehension, in which the figure doing the speaking and the hearing must not be merely an "I" or a "you," but must be a "one."

In Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), Thomas Jefferson describes some amateur excavating he performed on an Indian burial mound, work that has led him to be characterized as having "anticipated by a century the aims and methods of modern archaeological science."2 As with Freud's fantasy, an equivocation about "monuments" attends this precocious foray into archaeology: "I know of no such thing existing as an Indian monument: for I would not honour with that name arrow points, stone hatchets, stone pipes, and half-shapen images" [97]. Such cultural artifacts presumably count as what Freud called "rubbish," and Jefferson, like Freud, is in search of something rather grander: "Of labour on a large scale, I think there is no remain as respectable as would be a common ditch for the draining of lands: unless indeed it be the Barrows, of which many are to be found all over this country" [97]. The strange about-face here, in which what has just been erased is made to appear again, and in profusion, "all over this country," is striking, as though a kind of mental weeding had proved itself just as ineffectual as the normal kind. The Indian monuments pass immediately from nonexistence to "obviousness": "That they were repositories of the dead, has been obvious to all: but on what particular occasion constructed, was a matter of doubt" [97]. Jefferson rehearses several such opinions, including a "tradition, said to be handed down from the Aboriginal Indians" [98]. Like Freud's traveler, however, he does not rest satisfied with such opinions, but rather begins to dig, eventually making a "perpendicular cut through the body of the barrow . . . wide enough for a man to walk through and examine its sides" [99]. What he discovers in this barrow containing perhaps "a thousand skeletons" convinces him that it is neither for fallen warriors, nor is it the "common sepulchre of a town" (as the Indian tradition had it), but rather what he calls the "accustomary collection of bones, and deposition of them together" [100] over several disparate periods of time. The bones are, as it were, just bones, "lying in the utmost confusion" [98]; this is why Jefferson does not think they rise to the status of "monument."

But like Freud in his hallucinated encounter with the past, Jefferson simultaneously admits and negates what these bones might be speaking. If the barrow is no monument, but merely an "accustomary collection of bones," then this is because the "custom" involved in such a "collection . . . and deposition" seems too rudimentary and unelaborated as commemorative impulse. The barrow evinces an archiving impulse, certainly, a purposeful gathering together, but the "utmost confusion" of this "collection" and "deposition" disturbs Jefferson. Moreover, the inscrutability of the impulse to collect and deposit them is merely exacerbated by the ambiguous behavior of present-day Indians, who now make a final appearance: "But on whatever occasion they may have been made, they are of considerable notoriety among the Indians: for a party passing, about thirty years ago, through the part of the country where this barrow is, went through the woods [End Page 7] directly to it, without any instructions or enquiry, and . . . staid about it some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow" [100]. Everything about this native archive seems ambiguous and unreliable, for even the Indians' "expressions" at the site can only be "construed to be those of sorrow." One might expect them to have been forgotten, and yet the barrows "are of a considerable notoriety," now, in the present. In this aboriginal archive, both affect and event seem bound to each other by relations only uncertainly graspable by Jefferson.3 This is a monument which is not really recognized as such: no longer nature but not yet culture, it is inscribed in Jefferson's text as the speaking stones are in Freud's fantasy, as something appearing as disappearing. Its trace in Jefferson's text is as an archive which is not one, where the practice and the ideal of the archive diverge, with unsettling results.

I offer this juxtaposition of Freud and Jefferson for a variety of reasons. The first is to suggest that any assessment of the usefulness of trauma as an analytic tool in cultural studies does well to take a long-range historical view, one which can see both psychoanalysis and, say, archaeology as homologous elaborations of changing Western understandings of the notion of archive, with all that notion implies about articulations of the psychic and the social, of affect and event. Psychoanalysis cannot thus pose as some "key" to the question of trauma, in other words, any more than can archaeology. The second reason to juxtapose these passages from Freud and Jefferson is to focus attention on the problem presented to the West's archive by racial and cultural otherness, and the legacies of domination and violence, as well as of syncretism and hybridity, that form the present consequences of this unfinished, and unfinishable, history. This is hardly news, of course: "trouble in the archives" has been a central trope for much of the work over the past generation that has sought to invigorate research on racialized discourses--in the so-called "canon wars," in postcolonial and subaltern studies. Finally, whatever it is that creates resonances between the passages from Freud and Jefferson is necessarily both historical (they share a referential "exoticism" that places them squarely within the history of European imperial expansion) and formal (psychoanalysis and archaeology share an understanding of archive that determines the equivocal status accorded the non-European figures in their scenes). There is a tendency in some contemporary cultural criticism to express impatience with "theory," inasmuch as obsessions with rather abstract epistemological and formal topics are seen to reproduce the exclusion or erasure of the historical themes and details so essential to further troubling of the archive. Such criticism is often convincing, but it sometimes seems powered by a desire to imagine history and form as antithetical. Both the formalist and the historicist risk stabilizing a distinction into an opposition, and in this very impulse might be seen to be in the grip of trauma, for to the extent that the concept of trauma supposes a synchronic system that harbors within, without assimilating, a diachronic event or encounter, it names a space that is neither the identity of form and history nor their opposition, but something else altogether. [End Page 8]

In what follows, I will offer an example of a way of reading hopefully attentive to this intrication of history and form. The historical horizon concerns the entirely unresolved relations between the United States and Native Americans. Contemporary conflicts about the sovereignty of native nations--conflicts affecting everything from lawsuits seeking restitution of expropriated lands, to the rights of tribes to set up on-line gambling, to attempts to protect sacred sites from developers or (Jefferson redux) archaeological excavation--testify to the apparent inability of American political and legal discourses to "process" the Indian presence "within" its borders. Everything about this history calls into question the very principle of the American "state," understood as the dream of a total integration of its "own" archive in a present synchronous totality. When Derrida writes about "consignation" as an act that involves "assigning residence or . . . entrusting so as to put in reserve" [10], we can hear the echoes of at least two centuries' effort to archive the Native American both materially and discursively.4 The failure of the project of "incorporation" so central to early national efforts to deal with native peoples, for example, can be seen as repeated, rather than conceded, in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, for this deadly expedient was clearly continuous with the archiving impulse behind incorporation, both in the thinking of its advocates and in its basic desire to "assign residence" and "put in reserve" (on "reservations") a whole range of communities that had proven refractory, apparently unable to assume a stable "coordinate" in the American corpus.5

The hoped-for "gathering of signs" has not worked. In contemporary political battles, as in the textual archives, the Indian as "sign" disturbs the "synchrony or system" to which he had ostensibly been subordinated. Because it is such an exemplary archival project, Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia offers an excellent test-case for this assertion. Its influential combination of scientific nationalism, Enlightenment epistemology, and environmentalist assumptions conspire to force the Native American into the role of vanishing mediator between Jefferson and the "American" political state, between the progressive Enlightenment gaze and the archive of natural creation itself. The immediate location of the "reality awaiting attention" in Jefferson's text is not so much the account of the barrows as the inscription of another ambiguously mournful presence, Chief
Logan, whose speech delivered at the conclusion of Lord Dunmore's War Jefferson considers an example of eloquence equal to the "whole orations of Demosthenes and Cicero" [62]. But Logan fails to perform his mediating function; rather, he remains inscribed in a form never fully assimilated or processed. The effects of this "souffrance" are legible elsewhere in Jefferson's text, in certain "convulsions" that traverse its surface, affective traces that, like any traumatic affect, seem at once to allude to and diverge from some primal historical violence.


Jefferson's Convulsions

It would be hard to find a figure or a text in US history more prey to "archive fever" than Jefferson and his Notes. The text has a phagocytic relation to information that, for anyone who reads it cover to cover, can produce a vertigo, or a numbing. Tables go on for pages, appendices are piled one after another, commentaries from friends are folded into the text. [End Page 9] The modern edition from which scholars work includes all of Jefferson's annotations subsequent to the several publications of Notes, some of them made nearly forty years after the initial composition. Indeed, one of the striking features of Notes is the way its commitment to the presentation and unification of the "state" necessitates a prolonged encounter with heterogeneity, an unfinishable task of data collection.6 The Notes are best grasped, in other words, neither as the finished archive nor as the heterogeneity of all that is archived, but as the record of a process of archiving itself.

This process requires the stabilization of all that is anomalous, either through explanation or, failing that, through principled refusal to offer spurious explanations not corroborated by available data. That the equanimity of certitude can be expressed through a profession of ignorance as effectively as through the act of explanation is one of the signal achievements of the modern scientific posture, from Descartes to Freud.7 One catches its accents quite often in Jefferson: "Abandoning this fact, therefore, the three hypotheses are equally unsatisfactory; and we must be contented to acknowledge, that this great phænomenon is as yet unsolved. Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong" [33]. The archive here stands at some distance from the archivist: one can, indeed must, gather the anomalous details and phenomena, review the mutually contradictory hypotheses, but such heterogeneity need be no threat to the principle of order, since that principle resides in the relation between archive and archivist, between data and reason. Admissions of ignorance keep that relation visible, while overhasty conclusions made in error close the gap.

The "great phænomenon" in the above passage refers to the presence of the fossilized remains of marine animals at the tops of mountains. Among the possible explanations, Jefferson considers some "great convulsion of nature" which could have "heaved" the "bed of the ocean" [32] to mountainous heights. But Jefferson rejects this convulsion theory, commenting that its proponents "do well to suppose the great events on which it rests to have taken place beyond all æras of history; for within these, certainly none such are to be found" [32]. This apparently reasonable skepticism about prehistoric convulsions of the earth is more telling than it might at first appear. As Charles Miller writes, Jefferson did not "have a niche" for geology in his "cosmology of a perfected nature. Geology asked about the interior of the earth, which no naturalist could explore. It asked about time so old that no one could properly reckon it. It seemed to be a nearly imaginary science, unobservable in its processes and unverifiable as to most of its operations" [Miller 46]. In the light of the scientific requirement to align space and time, visibility and reckoning, the theory of "convulsions" produces an explanation that is doubly unsettling. On the one hand, such convulsions look like an external breach, busting open the legibility of history through a violent origin that neither transcends (in some extratemporal fiat, for example), nor safely lies within, the measurability of time. On the other hand, the convulsions presuppose a fissure within, a kind of spasmodic churning of the very bowels [End Page 10] of the earth. Jefferson preferred the theory that rocks grow, primarily because "the potential of what he called a chasm in nature threatened his assumption of a perfect or near-perfect creation of the world" [Miller 48]. The whole topic aggravated Jefferson. In a letter to a friend, he uncharacteristically dismissed the need for further investigation: "Why seek further the solution of this phenomenon?" [Miller 47]. His defensiveness here throws an interesting light back on the earlier discussion in Notes, for there, at the moment he dismisses the theories about mountainous fossils, Jefferson comments ambiguously, "[t]here is a wonder somewhere" [33]. One senses here an attempt to stabilize the "wonder" by finding it a proper place, which means also finding an appropriate vantage for the scientific eye.

The tissue of themes in the preceding discussion--great masses of earth and rock thrown up into mountains or down into chasms, confrontations with the unimaginable or the immeasurable, circuits of meaning between the objective and the subjective such that one is led to ask whether the "wonder" is outside or inside, whether the convulsion is recorded in the past or reproduced in the present beholder--such themes recall the most enduring discursive technique for aligning affect and event throughout Jefferson's life: the discourse of the sublime. And indeed, early on in Notes, we see Jefferson making use of this discourse to regulate another confrontation with the "convulsions" of nature. The description is of the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge in what is now Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature":

You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain an hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea. The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion, that this earth has been created in time, that the mountains were formed first, that the rivers began to flow afterwards . . . [until] continuing to rise they have at length broken over at this spot, and have torn the mountain down from its summit to its base. [19]

Here the violence of nature can be converted into a sign of power in the beholder, provided it is processed from the requisite safe distance of a "very high point of land." Geological movements do not pose problems of measurement, since their essential function is to play a part in an allegory of history in which the stasis of the mountains gives way to the dynamism of the rivers. Indeed, Jefferson's encounter with the sublime at Harper's Ferry is in the service of a species of poetic nationalism, for this natural scene is an emblem of the specifically blessed conjunction of land and vision that underwrites Jefferson's secular progressivism.8 The river's dynamism provides a passage, literally and figuratively, from the sublime to the beautiful, from nature to the realm of humanity. This [End Page 11] passage is provided figuratively by the way the rivers' "rushing" vigor communicates itself to the mind, now capable of incorporating this vast scene in thought: "The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion, that this earth has been created in time." As the rivers rush, so the senses "hurry," and the violence of both make way for a more "composed" picture, simultaneously that of land improved by human hands and the "opinion" that makes the meaning of such improvement clear:

But the distant finishing which nature has given to the picture is of a very different character. It is a true contrast to the fore-ground. It is as placid and delightful, as that is wild and tremendous. For the mountain being cloven asunder, she presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the breach and participate of the calm below. Here the eye ultimately composes itself; and that way too the road happens actually to lead . . . to Frederic town and the fine country around that. [19]

Here the former obduracy of the mountains is converted into a species of sexual "invitation": the sublimity of riot and tumult is also a sexual encounter, where the penetrative assault of the rushing rivers has created the very conditions for a passage "through the breach." This glimpse "through the cleft" allows for the classically sublime act of reconstructing subjective identity through a confrontation with its threatened discomposure: "here the eye"--also the "I"--"ultimately composes itself." Jefferson is unusually in the grip of poetic conventions here, evident not merely in the anthropomorphizing of the description but also in the indication of the "infinite distance" presented to the eye. Frederic town itself, as Jefferson quickly goes on to specify, is only about twenty miles away, but the sociable, "participatory" calm it represents partakes of the "infinite horizon" of a progressive future.

This passage on the sublime proposes that one can convert the convulsive power of nature to one's own ends if one adopts the proper perspective. This perspective is the product of the sublime formula, a process of self-abstraction that allows one to seize one's own cognitive, imaginative, or existential limits and do signifying work with them. My iteration here of the neutral third person--"one"--is calculated, since what is at work in the sublime is the production of this "one"--less a subject, a him or a her with a birth and a death date, than a movement of signification that creates a vantage, seemingly from without, on that embodiment and that finitude. As Frances Ferguson has argued, the discourse of the sublime, especially in its thematization of solitude, concerns the formal, semiotic basis of individuation: "solitude represents the difficulties of arriving at any account of any one whatever outside a process of systematic formalization" [Ferguson 32]. One way to read Notes on the State of Virginia, I would suggest, is as the record of this attempted formalization: as the archivist takes up his proper position vis-à-vis all that is heterogeneous, unverifiable, or convulsive in the archive, he will secure the needed formal closure of the one, not through projection onto the objective archive, but through introjection of the very limits to knowledge presented by his own finitude and particularity. One's very lack of coincidence with the objective archive--the latter's immeasurable magnitude or power or sheer heterogeneity relative to the observing archivist's vantage--becomes a source of strength, because the limits brought to visibility in this encounter are suddenly revalued as that which secures the separability, and hence the productivity, of signification in its relation to empirical reality.

This is why epistemological questions shade into sublime dramas, and why the questions of convulsions and oneness and historicity distribute themselves in Jefferson's text across such a range of registers. If questions of natural history, of geologic [End Page 12] convulsions, can seem to take on the significance of historical, cultural events in Jefferson's text, it is no less the case that political and cultural phenomena seem tied, often in disturbing ways, to nature. In one of his most sustained meditations on the political future of the American "state," Jefferson appeals, as he had with regard to scientific debate earlier, to the importance of maintaining a proper perspective. The passage is his famous defense of religious freedom: "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. . . . Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error" [159]. To be fixed in error, whether that happens through the zeal of the scientist to produce explanation or is the product of "constraint," is a kind of sickness for which reason is the only "cure." The "truer man" keeps his distance from belief and neither imposes on nor is subsumed by some imagined uniformity. Jefferson goes on: "But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. . . . Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity" [160]. Uniformity here comes under a double proscription: it is both undesirable and impossible, we should not want it and we can not have it. One senses in this double proscription that, in this context, uniformity is an equivocal concept, straddling the frontier between an understanding of nature, framed by notions of necessity and impossibility, and the cultural sphere, where what is possible or impossible takes on additional determination as either allowed or prohibited.

This straddling of nature and culture is, in one sense, the very essence of Jefferson's Enlightenment archival project, where the commitment to unity must account for politics and geology, natural history and belles lettres, within a single comprehensive plan. (Joshua Reynolds, Discourse of Art (1776): "beauty or truth, . . . is formed on the uniform, eternal, and immutable laws of nature, and . . . of necessity can be but one" [qtd. in Miller 104].) Easier said than done, however, and one sees how Jefferson, when in the process of saving the principle of unity through abstraction from, rather than false projection onto, the resistant particulars of nature, becomes unsure of what counts as nature itself. Thus, for example, he argues that the republic must follow the examples of Pennsylvania and New York and enact into law guarantees of religious freedom: "It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest and ourselves united" [161]. "Essential rights," also known to Jefferson as "natural" rights, cannot be left to fend for themselves, but must be fixed at another, legal level. What is natural must become archived in order to be saved:

From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion. [161]

Jefferson's task here is to contain, at the level of explanation, a phenomenon whose very violence seems to be that of a contest between nature and culture. The fact of difference must be accepted--free inquiry, freedom of conscience--but it must be controlled and unified at another level, the archive of scientific explanation, or the legal, constitutional order. Left to itself, without this archiving supplement, natural differences will become antagonisms that produce convulsions which, for Jefferson, make a hash of the essential notion of the unity of nature. For inasmuch as natural rights--of an oppressed citizenry, [End Page 13] for example--can either "revive or expire in a convulsion," such an event presents itself as simultaneously natural and against nature.

When it appears as the threat of a social antagonism at once natural and unnatural, the "convulsion" poses the greatest challenge to Jefferson's archival project. Convulsion represents a fissure within the social body that imperils the ability of Jefferson to maintain a proper perspective--historical, scientific, political--on the "state." As a figure for a violence at once of affect and event, convulsion names a confusion between the two, an epistemological sinkhole or traumatic eruption which threatens the very legibility of the archive. We appear to reach the most extreme edge of the threat of convulsion in Jefferson's discussion of the need both to emancipate and to expel the slaves. Just how much the prospect of a convulsive race war agitates Jefferson can be seen in his quite uncharacteristic invocation of "supernatural interference": "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!" [163]. Such an "exchange of situation" of course is nearly unimaginable, and leads Jefferson to pile up reasons for deportation of slaves once they have been freed:

It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. [138]

In his discussion of religious tolerance, Jefferson had proposed instituting legal protections as a way of managing difference within the state, so that it did not become a convulsion. But racial difference here--the "real distinctions nature has made"--seems beyond the power of Jefferson's imagination to manage: difference cannot be incorporated but must be expelled, lest it become some apocalyptic spasm leading to an "extermination" as unimaginable scientifically (Jefferson's commitment to nature's "perfection" entailed the belief that no separable element of natural design had ever become extinct [Miller 32]) as it was politically. The terrible sublimity of this prospect is, as usual, as much epistemological as moral, for what is at stake in this unmanageable difference is a certain principle of legibility. Where in earlier discussions the threat of uniformity had been the danger of becoming "fixed in error," here the "difference fixed in nature" rises up as a pure opacity:

And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or lesser share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? [138]

Here, at an extreme edge of his attempt to archive the "state," to reconstitute at another level the unity of the heterogeneous, Jefferson encounters an unassimilable difference. This difference is unassimilable because it cannot be adequately determined. The antagonism between blacks and whites is both natural and cultural, the product at once of history and nature. The future cannot be protected from the resurgence of the past, in the form of "ten thousand recollections" or "[d]eep rooted prejudices." Along with this temporal confusion is simultaneously an affective one, for what is this "eternal monotony," [End Page 14] this "immoveable veil of black," but a figure for an antagonism that cannot be read in the emotions of the other, that remains constitutively illegible?

But what is most striking about Jefferson's passage on the slaves is the way its rejection of the possibility of social incorporation brings forward themes and terms that would seem more directly applicable to the other racial antagonism of Jefferson's day, that between Native Americans and Euro-Americans. For where would it be more appropriate to speak of "white settlers" "supplying . . . vacancies," or of the vicious cycle of prejudice, "recollections" of "injuries," and "new provocations," than in the context of ongoing conflict on the frontier? Indeed, the concept of "incorporation" itself was, throughout the early national period, much more central to Indian policy than to discussions about slavery and emancipation. As, indeed, was its antithesis in that policy, for the specter of "extinction" conjured in Jefferson's panicked passages about race war already had in his day a more prominent and resonant place in the lexicon of Indian-White relations than in that about slavery and race: Indians signified "extinction" in a way Africans did not. One gets the sense, reading this passage in Notes, that some of the repressed doubts about those relations and that policy are emerging here in a displaced form. For more even than the nightmare of slavery, the Native American posed for Jefferson the very problem of the archive.


Not One

I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan's cabin hungry and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, "Logan is the friend of the white men." I had even thought to have lived with you, but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan?--Not one.

--Chief Logan, as cited in Notes on the State of Virginia

Across the range of its references and associations, the term "convulsion" connotes for Jefferson an unstable relation between affect and event, trouble in the archives. In a way that is more than merely a figure, Jefferson finds the ground shifting under his feet, the stones speaking a little too much. I want now to suggest that we read these convulsions as symptomatic displacements of what is repressed in the figure of "saxa loquuntur," especially as that figure crystallizes the effort to archive the Native American precedence. The most enduring version of this figure is the "vanishing race," the "last of the X," the Native American cut adrift from the current of history and frozen, petrified, into a posture of impossible mourning. The speech of Logan is an early and influential example of this trope. The figure of the speaking stone is, like any compromise formation, the site of a repression. The "convulsions" are the return.

Some six years before he began work on his text, what Jefferson might well have [End Page 15] termed a convulsion took place on the northwestern frontier of his state, a bloody months-long conflict between land-jobbers along the Ohio and local Indians, largely Shawnee, among whom one John Logan (Tah-Ga-Jute) was living, although himself by birth a displaced Cayuga, or Mingo. Hostilities were apparently provoked by a series of murders supervised by Michael Cresap, or endorsed by him, actions in which members of Logan's family were killed. This conflict gained more notoriety than it might otherwise have done primarily because of the speech made by Chief Logan at the conclusion of peace in the autumn of 1774. As Jefferson recalled, Logan's speech became the "theme of every conversation, in Williamsburgh particularly, and generally, indeed, wheresoever any of the officers resided or resorted" [227]. But Logan's speech quickly went beyond mere word-of-mouth notoriety. Jefferson himself, ever the inscriber, thought enough of it to copy it in his "pocket-book" [227], and very soon the speech "flew through all the public papers of the continent, and through the magazines and other periodical publications of Great Britain" [227].9 Even before Jefferson gave it a special prominence in Notes, it had penetrated the colonial culture deep enough to serve as a "school exercise for repetition" (227).10 Moreover, some years after the first publication of Notes, Jefferson was drawn, quite against his inclination, into a public discussion of the the historical circumstances of the speech--namely, the murders of Logan's family members and the original provocations for the frontier war. Beginning in 1797, a Maryland Federalist and political enemy of Jefferson with the funhouse-mirror name of Luther Martin "began addressing abusive letters to Jefferson through the medium of the newspapers" [298], questioning the authenticity of the speech and charging Jefferson with having impugned Cresap's good name. It was in indirect response to these charges that Jefferson undertook a several-years-long investigation of the matter, eventually compiling a dossier of eyewitness testimony that he tacked onto the 1800 edition of Notes under the title "Appendix Relative to the Murder of Logan's Family."

Why would such a record of injustice and destruction disseminate itself so widely? What is at work when cultures inscribe their own crimes? "L'Un se garde de l'autre. The One guards against/keeps some of the other" [Derrida 51]. The double meaning harbored within "se garde"--both "defend against" and "preserve within"--captures this ambivalent violence in which a drive for purity or uniformity, in its very annihilatory approach to its "other," cannot but archive that otherness within. The archiving is not the same as the violence, but neither is it entirely different from it, and this failure to stabilize difference through opposition, or nullify it through incorporation, is the structural condition for anything we might call trauma. We could say that between the violence and the archive there is a temporal hitch--in the sense both of a "hitch" between two vehicles, a linkup or coupling, and in the sense of encountering a "hitch" in some plan, a misfire or snag. Derrida tries to capture this nuance when he writes: "At once, at the same time, but in a same time which is out of joint, the One forgets to remember itself to itself, it keeps and erases the archive of this injustice that it is" [51]. What is a "same time which is out of joint"? At the very least, it would be a temporal relation not subject to mere successiveness. It would be a relation or link in a temporal dimension which is also a snag [End Page 16] or misfire in that same dimension. Between the violence--and "[a]s soon as there is the One, there is murder, wounding, traumatism" [51]--and the archiving, there is a temporal hitch, a relation that is not quite one, a blinking on and off of the other within the space of the archive, a blinking that is the very process of the One "forgetting to remember itself to itself."

The relation between Logan and the white world to which Logan addresses himself is an example of this temporal hitch, a "same time which is out of joint." Where does Logan belong in time? He is both here, now, in his address, yet he is already past, he is the end of the line; there is no future for him because there is also no past, no embrace by the future of his pastness: there is no one to mourn him, "not one." Logan is not embraced by the future, but he is inscribed in an archive, and this inscription both defends against and preserves his singularity. From within the One of the archive, as it were, his "not one" points outward, to the destruction of a people that can now never be archived. But as himself one of these people under the sign of the "not one," Logan carries into the archive, in the Trojan Horse of his own singularity, the "not one" itself. Logan carries the One and the Not One in a same time which is out of joint, and if he refers to the impossibility of mourning him, such a reference is also the disguise for the archive's "forgetting to remember itself to itself." For if Logan thus comes to stand for the out-of-joint nature of the archive itself, its status as One and Not One, his preservation of this knowledge must at the same time be misrecognized, defended against. And this preservation that is also a forgetting is made possible by the illusion that it is always Logan performing these operations. Thus it is Logan himself who both affirms and negates his singularity, by seeming to accept a peace, even an extinction, while at the same time exempting himself, singularly, from it: "For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan?--Not one." If Logan can take the part of his "country," he must also except himself; even at the level of grammar, Logan divides himself between the "I" here and now communicating and the "Logan" who has been left alone, incommunicado.

As ethnohistorians have increasingly argued, contact between the Europeans and Indians is best understood not as an opposition between two identities, but rather as a hybridizing process of mutual inscription, an inscription that must be understood as material and technological before it is ideational.11 If we understand the "technological" in a sense broad enough to include discursive structures like tropes or literary forms, European archiving is a record of hybridity, even as it is an idea of unification. This gap between record and idea would be the place of trauma, an inscription within an archive that the archive itself cannot fully understand or assimilate. Such, I would argue, is Logan's "not one." As a matter of reference, Logan's "not one" indicates a zero, the end of the line, but as an inscription in an archive its negation carries a different and more complex force. And as the archiving extends itself along this strange temporal hitch, that force manifests itself across a range of details. In Jefferson's 1800 appendix, for example, we see the effort of "consignation," the unification of signs, merely introducing ambiguity at every turn. For Logan himself is not one--he is both friend and enemy, many and none. And as the dossier of materials makes clear, his own relation to the archive is itself mediated by ostensibly "white" figures who are already and complementarily inscribed in a native archive. General John Gibson, for example, whose wife was one of Cresap's victims and sister to Logan, worked as an envoy for Lord Dunmore to Logan himself, and is apparently the figure responsible for the "translation" of the speech.12 William [End Page 17] Robinson, captured in the early stages of the conflict and saved from torture by Logan's adoption of him, mirrors Gibson's mediating role by writing a letter at Logan's dictation, a declaration of war (as opposed to Gibson's declaration of peace) that Logan subsequently "left, tied to a war club, in a house, where a family was murdered" [243]. At both origin and end of Logan's inscription, then, there stand other hybrid, mediating figures: both Gibson and Robinson are figures of translation--within kinship structures, across linguistic and archival borders. They, too, are not one.13

But all this is not immediately legible in the archive. Like any repression, Logan's singularity aims to hold apart the One of the archive and the "not one" of all it negates. And like any repression, it has a certain durability. The trope of the "last" Indian is, indeed, extraordinarily hardy. But also like any repression, it is in constant need of reassertion, in constant battle against "returns" issuing from points further along associative pathways. Jefferson's "convulsions," I have argued, are instances of such returns, and it is the associative links that need to be drawn now.

Jefferson's original use of Logan's speech in Notes is bound to an environmentalist thesis. Logan is a synecdoche for the land, which is why he appears in the chapter concerning "Productions Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal." This part of Jefferson's text contains an extended refutation of Buffon's environmentalist position that climate and other factors conspired to produce an organic degeneracy in the regions of the New World, affecting everything from the size of mammals to the "ardor" of Native Americans for each other. Such an argument from environment was understood, implicitly at least, to extend to the European newcomers to North America as well. To argue for the "genius" of Logan's oratory was, then, to refute Buffon's thesis about the entire continent, and thus to assert a species of nationalism.14 [End Page 18]

The environmentalist thesis, linking everything from complexion, body type, customs, and styles of affective display to the climatological and physical character of an ethnic group's environment, produced an identification of the Indian with the land that served many and various ideological functions. One such purpose was the creation of what we might call the "ethnic sublime," a sort of triangulation between the natural landscape, historicity, and affect. The identification of the Indian with the land meant that the two never fully distinguished themselves from each other: throughout American literature and history, the Native American is forever appearing as disappearing, into a land determined both spatially, as wilderness or frontier, and temporally, as the theater of history and "manifest destiny." This blinking effect is the consequence of the submission of the Indian to a kind of sublime conversion. Kant had proposed two versions of the sublime, dynamic and mathematical, the first turning essentially on the affective disturbances created by exhibitions of power, the second on the difficulty of comprehending temporal series or magnitudes beyond human powers of apprehension. In the ethnic sublime, something like these two registers appear as the axes of affect and historicity. For Euro-Americans, little was more fascinating than the affective comportment of Indians. Ethnographic and literary discourses strove to "fix" this comportment, as is evident in the way they focused so resolutely on extremes, at the cost of subtler shades. Thus, Indians were represented, sometimes within sentences of each other, as both unimaginably violent in their affective responses (codes of vengeance were a favorite topic here) and preternaturally controlled and stoical (here the uncomplaining endurance of physical hardship, on the hunt or under torture, were time and again described). But running parallel to this effort to fix Native Americans according to schemes of affectivity was the effort to fix them in time. As many historians have noted, the mere fact of the priority of indigenous people in the New World posed a puzzle: where did these people belong in the scheme of history? And as with the predilection for representations of extreme affect, this need to inscribe the Indian's origin is shadowed as it were with a ferocious attention to his end, the inevitable extinction to which this discourse condemned him.

In what I have called sublime conversion, one pole of each of these axes is converted into the other. Thus, the problem of origin, the priority of Native Americans, is converted into the certitude of their end. This conversion is accompanied by the transformation of violence into an affective dissipation or stoical resignation in the face of extinction. We see these motifs at work in Logan's speech. For those not living on the frontier, like Jefferson and his primary readership, Logan stands as a synecdoche for the unfinished social and historical convulsions issuing from contact and violence between Euro-Americans and Indians. By invoking in his speech a peace at once accepted and personally repudiated, Logan's status as index of the origin of the conflict is converted into the end of that conflict, an end both wishful and melancholy. So, too, with his affective comportment: Logan's violence is at once present--"I have fully glutted my vengeance"--and surpassed. This conversion produces an image of a sublime solitude that manages, through repression, an alignment of affect and event, pathos and history, that can be lived with. But if sublime conversions in one sense succeed in producing such an alignment, they also present, to recall Ferguson's formulation, the "difficulties of arriving at any account of any one whatever outside a process of systematic formalization" [emphasis added]. And as such difficulties are ignored in the inscription of Logan, they return with more enigmatic force elsewhere in Jefferson's text, in those convulsions promising or indicating social antagonism, racial war, the very "disrupture" of the land itself, that emblem of the blessed conjunction of nature and an enlightened, American progress. [End Page 19]


Reckoning with the Indians

There was, however, a fatal deficiency in Indian society, in the non-existence of a progressive spirit. The same rounds of amusement, of business, of warfare, of the chase, and of domestic intercourse continued from generation to generation. . . . The hunter state is the zero of human society, and while the red man was bound by its spell, there was no hope of his elevation.

--Lewis Henry Morgan, League of the Ho-Dé-No-Sau-Nee, or Iroquois

The problem of the articulation of cultural difference is not the problem of free-wheeling pragmatist pluralism or the "diversity" of the many; it is the problem of the not-one, the minus in the origin and repetition of cultural signs in a doubling that will not be sublated into a similitude. What is in modernity more than modernity is this signifying "cut" or temporal break. . . . [I]t opposes both cultural pluralism with its spurious egalitarianism--different cultures in the same time . . . --or cultural relativism--different cultural temporalities in the same "universal" space.

--Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture

A community reckoning itself among possible futures is not a finite archive.

--James Clifford, "Identity in Mashpee"

Enumeration has always been an issue in Indian-White relations. Already in Notes, Jefferson is tallying the dwindling numbers of various tribes, a kind of watchful, anxious exercise in demography that, as Brian Dippie has shown, has accompanied every twist and turn of US policy toward native peoples. This process continues in the present day, as historical demography attempts to assess the extent of the catastrophe brought on by the clash of cultures. Such work with numbers everywhere shows itself as a moral matter, as in David Stannard's use of "pre-contact" population estimates in his presentation of the "American Holocaust." When James Clifford speaks of "reckoning" in the above quotation, a slight twist to the word brings out this double-edged project: every formal reckoning can seem to shade into a moral or historical reckoning, every accounting seems also to involve being called to account.

From Jefferson's day throughout the nineteenth century, the difficulty of incorporating the Native American into the state turned on the problem of incommensurate temporal series. As Homi Bhabha remarks, the two main strategies of pluralism and relativism are alike in attempting to sublate difference into similitude, by subordinating it to a single measure. When the Democratic Review writes, in 1844, that the Indian and the American represent "the alpha and omega of the ethnological chain," we can see this operation at work [qtd. in Maddox 30-31]. But the homogeneity promised by the series is only secured through the creation of a metasubject, as it were, a vantage from which one can see the whole chain. This "extra" one, the observer both inside and outside the chain, is accompanied by the "not one" that is the Indian, both origin and default, the "minus in the origin," of the chain. Lewis Henry Morgan's characterization of the "non-progressive" nature of Indian life as the "zero of human society" captures this dilemma with particular formal clarity. The difficulties of incorporating the Native American into the archive, of performing the wishful sublation Bhabha refers to, can be formalized as the difficulty of getting from the "zero of human society" to the "one" of the archive. The archive itself, the archive as record, does not allow such an incorporation. As Bhabha comments, and as Logan's speech enigmatically expresses, the archive is subject to a temporal hitch, what [End Page 20] Bhabha might call a "time-lag," that produces merely a collection of inscriptions in which the one "se garde de l'autre."

As I have interpreted it, Logan's "not one" as a referential phrase participates in a discursive technique, the sublime, designed to combat a present threat to unity by converting it into an already completed story. As a self-referential phrase, however, as an inscription archiving itself, as it were, it becomes visible as a kind of remainder of the sublime conversion. I want now to offer some concluding thoughts on the theoretical stakes involved in the kind of reading I have offered thus far of the archive and trauma. The sublime formula is tremendously efficient, and its basic scheme is far more general than one might at first assume. Indeed, one could argue that, in the hands of Burke or of Kant, the sublime represents merely one particularly enduring codification of a fundamental mechanism of evolutionary change, namely differentiations between systems and environments, a process powered by the productivity of limits, selectivity, and closure and the variations in auto-referential and hetero-referential schemas they make possible.15 Something like this view is at work in Ferguson's meditations on the systematic formalizations behind the production of the sublime one. But it is telling, in this regard, that when she reviews the deconstructive revision of the sublime--her primary example is de Man--she charges that account with being insufficiently formal. The terms she uses to question what she sees as de Man's "empiricism" secrete an encounter with the confusions of affect and event at the heart of the question of trauma.

In "Pascal's Allegory of Persuasion," de Man presents an interpretation of L'esprit de la géometrie that resonates in both its theme--the difficulties posed by the numbers one and zero--and its method with the reading of Jefferson and Logan I have offered here. Ferguson's objection to de Man's approach could apply equally well to mine:

In having preserved the terms of Pascal's text intact, as if they said something about the truth of language, he has made textual form the ongoing repository of contradiction because the text preserves truth and falsehoods, accuracies and mistakes alike. One, having once looked as if it were simultaneously number and nonnumber, must continue to be treated as the bearer of such contradiction. And if the historical development of numbers might make it look like a mistake to say that one is not a number, what is most interesting about de Man's renunciation of history and agency is that it suggests that language continually resurrects irreconcilable contradictions by eliminating the possibility of the formal intention that would make it possible to see an account different from one's own as if it were not infinitely extended. This leaves him to suffer the terms of a text, its truth and its errors alike, and to discover meaningfulness and meaninglessness on the same plane. [162]

What interests me in this presentation is how it makes de Man's text sound so much like the psychoanalytic unconscious. For de Man, according to Ferguson, "textual form" is the "ongoing repository of contradiction"; it is an archive less of positive contents than of a kind of structure that works at odds with "history and agency" because it does not apparently know contradiction--"meaningfulness and meaninglessness" exist "on the same plane"--or even time, since whatever opposes "formal intention" cannot help seeming "infinitely extended." De Man's posture before this "repository" is even given a peculiarly psychoanalytic pathos: he can do no more than "suffer the terms of a text, its truth and errors alike." Invoking theoretical advances in the handling of natural numbers, [End Page 21] Ferguson argues that such a bracketing of issues of truth and error is highly dubious and hints, in a gentle gesture that might well appeal to those exasperated by the pathos-drenched discourse of contemporary trauma theory, at the louche quality of the "suffering" involved. Doesn't de Man take seriously the fact that "one can change the terms of a discussion" (here the discussion about natural numbers, zero and one), and that such a change can make "one kind of account consign[] the other to mistakenness" [161]?

A different account of the problem of the zero suggests why Ferguson's apparently sensible skepticism may not be so easy to sustain. In Signifying Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero, Brian Rotman traces homologous advances in abstraction in the mathematical approaches to zero, the codification of perspective in painting, and the introduction of paper money untethered to particular bearers. In each register, and through a succession of changes, there emerges a pattern of abstraction whereby the gap between signification and empirical reality is recognized anew, and made productive, by the "introduction into [the] code of a particular meta-sign for the absence of other signs" [57]. Rotman's semiotic account of these processes suggests, however, that such conversions, or internal self-abstractions of codes, do not occur without producing some remainder or opacity. He insists on this avowedly deconstructive observation as a counter to the codes' "own" understanding of each new self-referential abstraction as a "loss of anteriority" [57]. It is not that such a loss of anteriority is merely illusory: indeed, what is understood as history, anteriority, temporality is in fact always decisively altered--and often attenuated--with each semiotic transformation. But Rotman sees such "deconstructive movements" within each code as necessarily accompanied by an always partially misrecognized "metasubject" who makes possible such "declarations" of the loss of anteriority. In other words, metasigns and metasubjects emerge together but in and as a kind of bipolar disturbance, an appearing as disappearing each to the other. If the declaration of a "loss of anteriority" is belied by some remainder, then, it is not any residue "out there" in some presemiotic history, but rather is the trace of the lack of fit, internal to the given semiotic system, between metasigns and metasubjects.

In Notes on the State of Virginia, we can see Jefferson's vigilance in maintaining the proper distance from the archive, his assiduous effort not to collapse into the bad uniformity of error, as exemplary of a discursive production of a metasubject. Most challenging to this project is the kind of sign represented by the Native American. If Logan, for example, is through sublime conversion transformed into a kind of "metasign"--a sign for the American, the historical, even the human that simultaneously signifies the absence or surpassing of those predicates--his status is coupled by the meta-subject Jefferson creates out of himself, the "one" of the scientific, enlightened archivist. I have argued that we can read this strange encounter between Logan and Jefferson, this face-to-face that never comes off as such, as the record of a trauma that is not reducible to the psychological but obtains at the level of discourse, an affair between metasubjects and metasigns. When his original, illustrative use of Logan's speech snowballs into an historical argument about guilt and innocence, Jefferson strives to maintain his characteristic, skeptical distance on this new site of ambiguity. Introducing his 1800 appendix, he writes: "[the] material question is; was Logan's family murdered, and by whom? That it was murdered has not, I believe, been denied; that it was by one of the Cresaps, Logan affirms. This is a question which concerns the memories of Logan and Cresap; to the issue of which I am as indifferent as if I had never heard the name of either" [228]. There is no reason to suspect Jefferson of dissimulation here. He probably was, as a matter of personal investment, "indifferent" to the "memories" of either Logan or Cresap. What he was not indifferent to, however, was the position from which he might plausibly maintain that distance. This is an important point, for what is at work in the archiving of Logan is not, finally, reducible to the level of psychology. It bears on discursive structures, on the production and maintenance of the "one." [End Page 22]

My argument throughout has been that such a production creates remainders, that the "signifying cut" of which Bhabha speaks creates a fracture within the archive itself. I want to emphasize that such inscribed remainders do not leap out at us, there is no pseudonatural or immanent resurgence of the trace of trauma. They require reading; they are, as Lacan says, "in abeyance," "awaiting attention." But why should their recovery and reactivation--Lacan might also say their realization ("the unconscious . . . is neither being, nor non-being, but the unrealized" [30])--seem, then, to be an engagement with a kind of "souffrance," at once abstract and moral, a formal counting that is also a moral accounting--a "reckoning"? I, too, am suspicious of the pathos apparently lurking in such encounters. Contemporary trauma theory--in which the psychoanalytic and the deconstructive join hands--often seems to mobilize a pathos that never seems entirely appropriable by a subject, nor entirely free of the charge of being contrived. But perhaps this is because the engagement with such traces as Logan's "not one" takes place between a nonhuman archive and a "one" to which a given subject can never entirely accede. It is perfectly possible, even necessary, as Ferguson suggests, to maintain a kind of historical vantage on questions of truth and error. It is just such a vantage, we might say, that Jefferson adopts with respect to the archive concerning the murders of Logan's family, about whose "memories" he was as "indifferent as if [he] had never heard their names." I do not believe one can be "against" such skeptical postures as are adopted by Jefferson or Ferguson. One must, indeed, change the terms of a discussion; it is doubtful that one has much choice in the matter. But if any communicative, not to say critical, endeavor requires the subject to identify with this one, he or she will find it impossible to wholly shake off the "not one" shadowing such an identification. It is this conviction about the nature of the archive that makes it important to return to the "gathering of signs," and work to find what is awaiting attention in that place where, maybe in the distant past, "one kind of account consign[ed] the other to mistakenness."

Jonathan Elmer is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Indiana University. He has published work on Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Wright, Jacques Lacan, and Hannibal Lecter. He is currently at work on a project analyzing rhetorics of affect and event in early America.


1. For a full consideration of the topic of translation in a range of imperial contexts, see Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism. David Murray, in Forked Tongues, has some acute pages on the issue in his first chapter.

2. The words are William Peden's, editor of the modern edition of Jefferson's text. See Jefferson, Notes [281n8]. Peden's edition reproduces the Stockdale edition of 1787, the first that appeared under Jefferson's name (an earlier edition, with a run of 200 copies and intended for private distribution, had been published in 1785 in France), along with Jefferson's subsequent appendices and manuscript emendations. Further references to Notes will be to this edition.

3. It is suggestive that in "Traits of Indian Character," a kind of digest of received ideas on Indian character and history circa 1820, Washington Irving invokes this Jeffersonian scene in order to codify Native American mourning as a "sublime and holy feeling": "The Indians are remarkable for the reverence which they entertain for the sepulchres of their kindred. Tribes that have passed generations exiled from the abodes of their ancestors, when by chance they have been traveling in the vicinity, have been known to turn aside from the highway, and, guided by some wonderfully accurate tradition, have crossed the country for miles to some tumulus, buried perhaps in woods, where the bones of their tribe were anciently deposited; and there have passed hours in silent meditation" [Irving 243]. Jefferson's doubtful "expressions of sorrow" are here simplified to a stoical "silent meditation," according to a logic I will examine in more detail later in the essay: mourner and mourned are equally silent as the tomb, which makes sense given that the present-day mourners are "buried . . . in woods" as effectively as their forebears are in the "tumulus."

4. For a history of US policy toward Indians that keeps close to some of the tropes investigated in this essay, see Dippie, The Vanishing American.

5. For a history of the transition from "incorporation" to "removal" in early national America, see Sheehan, Seeds of Extinction, esp. ch. 5.

6. If Jefferson stands as a synecdoche for the American archive, it is not merely his status as "founding father," or proprietor of the most famous domiciliary archive in US history--Monticello--but also because he was himself some a compulsive archivist. Commenting on Jefferson's studies in natural history, Charles A. Miller writes: "the collection of data was . . . the most important and at times the only step in Jefferson's studies. At this task of collection, however, he was compulsive. His formal record keeping is scarcely to be believed. In 1766 he began a Garden Book, on the planting, the blossoming, and, where appropriate, the harvesting of flowers, fruits, and vegetables at Monticello. With the exception of time spent away from his estate, he maintained the book for fifty-eight years. . . . From 1776 until 1820 he made entries in a weather memorandum book and twice summarized portions of these, with commentary, noting how many thousands of meteorological observations contributed to his conclusions" [Miller 41].

7. See Lacan's comments on this geneaology in The Four Fundamental Concepts 29-41.

8. Jefferson's appropriative relation to this scene is even more in evidence in the other sublime landscape in Notes, the Natural Bridge, which he purchased in 1774, between his original drafting of the passage on it in Notes and the volume's publication: the Natural Bridge thus gets archived twice over [see Miller 105]. The scene at Harper's Ferry is also still held to emblematize some essential relation between the American nation and the land, as its choice as backdrop for President Clinton's appearance on Earth Day 1998 makes clear.

The translation of geological into political history is suggested by the fact that Jefferson uses "avulsion" rather than his more usual "convulsion" to describe the rocks' "disrupture . . . from their beds" [19]. The OED defines avulsion as the "action of pulling off, plucking out, or tearing away; forcible separation" and cites Jefferson himself in 1775, only a few years after writing the above passage, referring to the "condition of everlasting avulsion from Great Britain." Avulsion seems available to Jefferson as a term for a kind of historical parthenogenesis.

9. It appears that, through the agency of James Madison, Logan's speech was first published in the Pennsylvania Journal on February 1, 1775, with copies or alternate versions quickly following in the New York Gazette and Virginia Gazette. For details about Madison's role, as well as a copy of the version of Logan's speech he sent in a letter as early as January 20, 1775, see Brant 281-91. As Brant points out, Jefferson's version in Notes is a near-verbatim copy of Madison's.

10. Peden [Notes 298] comments that the speech maintained this special pedagogical function well into the nineteenth century, via McGuffey's Reader and Irving's Sketch-Book, whose "Traits of Indian Character," discussed earlier, has an epigraph from the speech. Pearce says the speech was a test piece in McGuffey's Fourth and Fifth Readers, during the 1850s and 1860s [see Pearce 79]. For details on different versions and the variety of reception, see Seeber, "Critical Views."

11. For a good overview of work in this area, see Calloway, New Worlds for All.

12. It is perhaps worth remarking that even in this transaction there remains some doubt about the suture between archives. Although proficient in English, Logan chose to have Gibson serve as translator. Jefferson has difficulty tracking the material identity of this speech, however: Logan "gave" the speech to Gibson, who then "carried" it to Dunmore [228]. Both terms could refer either to oral or written communications, but later Jefferson suggests a material object when he writes that Gibson claims to have "received" the speech "from Logan's hand" [252].

13. This process of mutual inscription might be seen at work in other ways as well. Native American oratory was regularly superimposed onto European ideals, whether Ossianic or classical (as in Jefferson's reference to Demosthenes and Cicero). Father Lafitau saw the Iroquois as avatars of the societies of the ancient Near East, and Jefferson's contemporaries may well have been reassured by Logan's echoes of the gospel of Matthew [see Pearce 79]. For a good recent exploration of ethnographic primitivism, see Carr. As David Murray has remarked, texts like Logan's speech are "produced for, and shaped by, the cultural expectations of a white readership" so that "the speakers are 'framed'" in a way that "what they are saying is less important than the fact . . . of their saying it. This . . . is one way of explaining the appetite for speeches whose content offered an often devastating criticism of white actions" [36]. But the inscriptions may run the other way as well. Thus, we might interpret the form, if not the content, of Logan's speech as a version of the Indian death song, one fashioned for white consumption. The expression of undiminished bravery--"Logan never felt fear"--and affective control in the face of definitive defeat functions like the singing and taunting directed at his tormentors by the victim of ritual torture. (For a thoughtful consideration of the fascination exerted on Europeans by death songs and scenes of torture, see Sayre, 296-304.) As with such symbolic exchanges in native warfare, the conflict itself, now so decisively concluded, can be archived as itself honorable only if the defeated warrior comports himself with the proper gravitas and disdain for weakness.

14. Jefferson shared the environmentalist position with Buffon, even if he disagreed with the latter's interpretations. Dismissing doubts as to the authenticity of Logan's speech, Jefferson remarks: "In 1797 however, for the first time, not only the whole transaction respecting Logan was affirmed in the public papers to be false, but the speech itself suggested to be a forgery, and even a forgery of mine, to aid me in proving that the man of America was equal in body and mind, to the man of Europe. But wherefore the forgery? Whether Logan's or mine, it would still have been American" [230].

15. I allude here to a systems-theoretical approach in general, but specifically to the thinking of Niklas Luhmann [see Social Systems]. For systems-theoretical analysis of the kind of "signifying cut" of the "not-one," an anlysis turning in large measure on the problems of zero and one, see Wilden, "Analog and Digital Communication."

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