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Chapter VI

The Infidel: Vanishing Races

The picture of the unequal contest inspires a compassion which is honorable to humanity. The weak demand sympathy. If a melancholy interest attaches to the fall of a hero, who is overpowered by superior force, shall we not drop a tear at the fate of nations, whose defeat foreboded exile, if it did not indeed shadow forth the decline and ultimate extinction of a race?


And thus forever with reverted look
The mystic volume of the world they read,
Spelling it backward, like a Hebrew book,
Till life became a Legend of the Dead.

LONGFELLOW, "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport"

Besides the Teutonic nations and the "southern" Catholics, Bancroft, Prescott, and Parkman portrayed, among them, three other "races." Indian, Moor, and Jew round out the cast of antiprogressive characters in the romantic histories, and in portraying them all three historians again followed literary convention. The Indians posed some perplexing moral problems for Bancroft and Prescott, but the literary conventions allowed the historians to use these "races," too, as valuable illustrations of progressive law, and to fulfill the sentimental requirements of contemporary fiction. In their relationship to progress, their sentimental and moral function, and some of their "racial traits," Indian, Moor, and Jew were literary kindred.


In Bancroft's system the Indian was an anomaly. Like the Connecticut colonists, he was "near to nature"; like Daniel Boone, "ever fond of tracking the deer on foot"; like George Washington, "a pupil of the wilderness." Almost wholly dependent on Nature and his own instincts for instruction and livelihood, he lived in the most extreme simplicity. Yet his nearness

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to Nature was embarrassing. He might seem a valuable property when one wanted to prove that language was the gift of Providence rather than the product of civilization; Bancroft, following Emerson's Nature, argued that even the Indian dialects were vocal symbols of Nature. But lacking the corrupt motives of George III and Parliament for opposing American progress, the Indian stood squarely in the path of the English colonies, which were growing according to natural law. He was an incorrigible pagan. Nearer to Nature than the simple Greeks had been, he had almost nothing to show for his opportunity: no Homer, no "gentle philosophers," no simple architects and sculptors. He was deficient in the faculty of abstraction, and his "knowledge of architecture [was] surpassed both in strength and durability by the skill of the beaver."1

The answer to this problem lay in a distinction between simplicity and barbarism. The Indian was little more than a part of physical Nature; "not yet disenthralled from Nature," he was "still in that earliest stage of intellectual culture where reflection has not yet begun." Nature, then, held him to what Bancroft considered the most damnable conclusion of Voltaire's philosophy, "the despotism of the senses":

As the languages of the American tribes were limited by the material world, so, in private life, the senses held dominion. The passion of the savage was liberty; he demanded license to gratify his animal instincts. To act out himself, to follow the propensities of his nature, seemed his system of morals. The supremacy of conscience, the rights of reason, were not subjects of reflection for those who had no name for continence . . . . their love never became a frenzy or a devotion; for indulgence destroyed its energy and its purity.

It was a virtue for the natural man to "follow the propensities of his nature," but the Indian was not natural; he was savage.2

To clarify this distinction, Bancroft used a device that Parkman also used again and again. He placed the Indian in "harmony" with the wildest of forest settings, emphasizing the sublime, Gothic characteristics of Nature in the New York of 1609. This was a scene in which "sombre forests shed a melancholy grandeur over the useless magnificence of nature," a scene made grotesque by "the fantastic forms of withered limbs," a scene where "reptiles sported in the stagnant pools." "Vegetable life and death were mingled hideously together. The horrors of corruption frowned on the fruitless fertility of uncultivated nature." The Indian, of course,

was wild as the savage scene, in harmony with the rude nature by which he was surrounded; a vagrant over the continent, in constant warfare with his fellow man; . . . his religion the adoration of nature; his morals the promptings of undisciplined instinct; disputing with wolves and bears the lordship of the soil.

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Against this scene Bancroft placed the Arcadian order in which the natural man of the nineteenth century lived a useful, virtuous life. There, man was "still in harmony with nature, which he has subdued, cultivated, and adorned . . . . The passions of society are chastened into purity; manners are made benevolent by civilization; and the virtue of the country is the guardian of its peace."3

Had the Indian's condition before the European invasion been the only problem, this distinction might have sufficed, with slight changes in emphasis and rhetoric, for Bancroft found some evidence on which to base hope for improvement. In conflicts between the corrupted European and the Indian, he was able to show that the corruptions of the thralls of tyranny were often worse than those of Nature's bondmen. Bancroft's Indian never submitted to the persecutions of priestcraft; he had at least the instinct of religion, and he never succumbed, as did the eighteenth-century materialist, to a "worship of humanity." Although he was a "faithless treaty-breaker," he did not "exalt falsehood into the dignity of a political science." He had no fear of death, he believed in immortality, his political organizations were democratic, and he respected the marriage vows. In conflict with a De Soto or even a Frontenac, such Indians could be described as "wild republicans."4

What made the distinction unsatisfactory was the problem of progress. One had to defend the Indian not only to prove that some of his customs and instincts were superior to corrupt "civilized" practices, but also to show "that the moral affections are planted everywhere," that the human race is one. As the Jeffersonian had done, Bancroft argued that "the fellowship which we should cherish with the race, receives the Comanche warrior and the Caffre within the pale of equality. Their functions may not have been exercised, but they exist." There was an "exact correspondence" between the powers of Caucasian and Indian, but a "comparison" of the powers in different races showed "the existence of degrees." The Indian was "inferior in reason and the moral qualities," and this inferiority was not "simply attached to the individual; it is connected with organization, and is the characteristic of the race." The Indian, it is true, had made some progress by learning to use modern weapons and farming tools, and the Cherokees had even increased in population. But Bancroft added this hopeful information only after a long argument leading to gloomy conclusions respecting the Indians' moral "inflexibility."5

How could Nature be relieved of responsibility for the Indian's failings? If the Indian had the instinct to worship a supreme Deity, why had

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he not been quick to embrace the truths of Christianity? Marie de l'Incarnation had said that the Indian showed "even a greater tendency to devotion" than the Frenchman; but Bancroft had to report that the total efforts of the Jesuits, Roger Williams, John Eliot, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, and the Quakers and Moravians had failed to instruct or elevate the Indian. Even enrollment at Harvard College "could not close the gulf between the Indian character and the Anglo-American." Human progress was a natural law, but the Indian, one with Nature, clung to the Past as tightly as the corrupt prelacy of France:

The copper-colored men are characterized by a moral inflexibility, a rigidity of attachment to their hereditary customs and manners. The birds and brooks, as they chime forth their unwearied canticles, chime them ever to the same ancient melodies; and the Indian child, as it grows up, displays a propensity to the habits of its ancestors.6

This view of the Indian foretold his doom in all his conflicts with natural men in Bancroft's History. Bancroft's treatment of the Indian follows a fairly consistent pattern. When the Indian stands alone against the corrupted European, he represents natural virtue; when he clashes with the natural man, he is an opponent of progress, often a merciless butcher of defenseless mothers, maidens, and babes.

The point of view can even shift within the account of a given episode. Bancroft's account of South Carolina's Indian relations during the Seven Years' War shows how the method worked when an antiprogressive governor and natural colonists were involved at different stages of the conflict. Lyttleton, the royal governor, had been trying to reestablish his authority over the colonists, and his love of power and lack of natural understanding brought on a war with the Cherokees: "He could not discern in the red man's morals the eternal principles which inspire all justice; and as he brought the maxims of civilized society into conflict with the unwritten law of the Cherokees, the European rule proved the most treacherous and cruel." In 1758 "the backwoodsmen of Virginia" had killed and scalped several of their Cherokee allies--as punishment for a series of thefts. The Cherokees, following their eye-for-an-eye code, had killed the same number of colonists, and had then sued for peace. The South Carolina legislature had consented--for the natural man understood "eternal principles"--but Lyttleton, representing royal authority, "could not hear the voice of humanity as it spoke from the glades." Insisting on war, he executed twenty-seven Indians who had come to sue for peace. In turn, although they had captured 200 Englishmen, the Cherokees executed four

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officers and twenty-three privates. "The Cherokees were very exact in that number, as being the amount of hostages Lyttleton had killed to start the war." They still wanted peace, but Lyttleton would not treat with them.7

In narrating this episode Bancroft sympathized entirely with the Indians. He stated their grievances carefully and pointed out their integrity and their loyalty to the colonists against the French. A logical conclusion would have been to take the Cherokees' point of view in describing the war. Bancroft, however, used the same method that William Gilmore Simms had used in The Yemassee; after he had presented a good case for the Indian, he shifted his sympathies as soon as the colonists became involved against them. In this battle the change came when the Indians ambushed "the provincials": "the Highlanders and provincials drove the enemy from their lurking-places; and returning to their yells three huzzas and three waves of their bonnets and hats, they chased them from height and hollow."8

Here the Indian, though "inferior" in moral capacity, represents eternal principles of justice and "the voice of humanity" until the colonists' entry into the war consigns him to a "lurking-place." Had the corrupted European alone collided with the Indian, Bancroft might have been able to praise consistently the Indian's resistance to unjustified encroachment on his rights. Had the Indian been capable of adapting himself quickly to civilization and Christianity, he would have fitted neatly into the progressive pattern. But contact with civilized man began his degradation, and when he became dependent on civilization, he was at the mercy of both corrupt and virtuous European.

Natural law was another problem. When the Indian tried to retain possession of his own land, he was certainly in harmony with a natural law. Bancroft had no great problem so long as he was describing the record of New Englanders, who "had never, except in the territory of the Pequods, taken possession of a foot of land without first obtaining land title from the Indians." Unlike Washington Irving, he did not pass moral judgment on the prices paid or on what the colonists' purchase did to Indian ability to make a livelihood.9

There was only one real solution to this problem, and that solution violated Bancroft's contention that no natural law can contradict another. By invoking the natural law that guaranteed him his native lands, the Indian obstructed progress, represented by the American who sought new dominions for the common man. Guided by a favoring Providence, the colonists

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were an irresistible force. "Nothing," Bancroft said, "could restrain the Americans from peopling the wilderness." The final appeal, then, was to what Theodore Parker called the international principle of eminent domain, what John L. O'Sullivan called Manifest Destiny, what Prescott and Bancroft called, simply, destiny. Bancroft's Indian chief knew as well as Simms's Sanutee, Cooper's Chingachgook, and Prescott's Montezuma which was the higher law. After the colonists had pushed back the Cherokee frontier more than seventy miles, Attakulla-kulla went to Charleston to ask for peace. " 'As to what has happened,' he added, 'I believe it has been ordered by our Great Father above."' The Indians, Bancroft said, "knew that they had come into the presence of a race more powerful than their own; and the course of their destiny was irrevocably changed."10

This was not, for the transcendentalist, a perfect answer, because of the conflict of natural laws. But it was at least the better choice in a plain dilemma. Arguing that the Indian had never had a right to his lands would have denied him the rights of Nature, denied that "the gifts of mind and heart" were universally diffused, and denied the unity of the race. At the same time, the destinarian method gave the historian the same sentimental advantages enjoyed by dramatists and historical romancers. He could now sympathize with both sides. The Indian could be the heroic child of Nature destined to death or exile in the cause of human freedom; serving history by touching the reader's heart and--in the best manner of the fiction of sensibility--calling forth his more benevolent instincts. Bancroft made it quite clear that the "compassion" inspired by contemplation of the Indian's sad destiny is "honorable to humanity." Under this dispensation it was even possible to explain the Indian's method of fighting without doing him too much dishonor. Although his attacks on innocent civilians still left him open to pejorative language, the Indian's awareness of his fate explained his general ferocity:

The individual, growing giddy by danger, rushes, as it were, towards his fate; so did the Indians of New England. Frenzy prompted their rising. It was but the storm in which the ancient inhabitants of the land were to vanish away. They rose without hope, and therefore they fought without mercy. For them as a nation, there was no tomorrow.11

The problem of the colonists' land title also disappeared. The New Englanders and the first Kentuckians had paid for their land, but the general movement beyond the Alleghanies did not depend on a conveyance

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of title from the Indians: "Every where an intrepid, hardy and industrious population was moving westward through all the gates of the Alleghanies; . . . accepting from Nature their title deeds to the unoccupied wilderness."12


The Indian's complex role as child of Nature, slave to his "animal instincts," and sentimental victim of destiny must be kept constantly in mind by anyone who compares Bancroft's and Parkman's histories. It is well known that Parkman, relying on his own experience of western Indians, set out to prove that the Indian was no fit subject for the romances in which some nineteenth-century fiction and poetry had cast him. But the difference between Parkman's attitude and that of other writers has been exaggerated.13 Even Bancroft's most laudatory language shows agreement with Parkman's contention that the Indian race was inferior. And Bancroft also used extremely uncomplimentary rhetoric when he described the Indian as an ally of reaction. The British government's most unnatural crime during the Revolution had been the hiring of German mercenaries and the encouragement of slaves and Indians to fight against the colonists. The French, Bancroft said, had had more reason than the English for using Indian allies, for they had adopted the policy "from despair at their own relative inferiority in numbers," and they had not been fighting against "their own colonies and kindred." What made the use of the Indian worse was his barbarous method of fighting:

. . . he was a deadly foe only as he skulked in ambush; or prowled on the frontier; or burned the defenceless farmhouse; or struck the laborer in the field; or smote the mother at her household task; or crashed the infant's head against the rock or a tree; or tortured the prisoner on whose flesh he was to gorge.14

Here the tone, revealed largely through Bancroft's monosyllabic verbs, is very close to Parkman's.

Although Parkman measured the moral actions of many countries and individuals against the natural standard, he was not so intent as Bancroft on proving a "natural" thesis. His subject, too, helps to account for differences between his emphasis and Bancroft's. In Parkman's "forest drama" individual exploits and small skirmishes were much more important than in Bancroft's history of English colonization and the Revolution. Parkman was unencumbered by the details of English colonial problems, of English mercantile policies, of the settlement and growth of English colonial towns, and of the Revolutionary battles. Indian diplomacy and Indian methods

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of fighting had a prominent place in his history. Before considering Parkman's Indians, one should also notice Parkman's own delineation of the issue in two frank letters that he wrote to Bancroft in 1882. The indefatigable Bancroft, at eighty-two, was revising his History, and he had asked Parkman to send him a list of errors in the ten volumes. Parkman could not "recall a single point where the statement of fact seems to me to call for correction." He suggested, however, that Bancroft's "interpretation of the facts" (a question, he confessed, "of opinion") had not always agreed with his own. When Bancroft, persisting, asked for details, Parkman discussed only two major questions: Bancroft's partiality to the colonial legislatures, including the Quaker-dominated Assembly in Pennsylvania, in his account of their struggle with royal governors over funds for defending the West; and Bancroft's partiality to the Acadians whom the English had expelled. He did not criticize Bancroft's Indian.15

The difference between Parkman's and Bancroft's treatment of the Indian is a difference of degree, based largely on different reactions to three "traits" that the Indian revealed during the colonial period: his use of deceit in diplomacy, his method of fighting, and his cruelty. With a much more elaborate role in Parkman's history than in Bancroft's, the Indian displays these unattractive "characteristics" more consistently there than in Bancroft's work.

Even in his long "philosophical" discussion of Indian habits and traits, Parkman used much more consistently critical language than Bancroft's, although both described the same "faults." Instead of vacillating between a kind and a critical judgment, as Bancroft's language seems to do, Parkman's prose is that of a man who, convinced that the race is inferior, has organized his essay clearly around his conviction. Thus, while Bancroft had said that the Indian was deficient in the faculty of abstraction, Parkman concluded his discussion of religion with a blunt announcement: "The primitive Indian, yielding his untutored homage to One All-pervading and Omnipotent Spirit, is a dream of poets, rhetoricians, and sentimentalists." Although these differences in emphasis produce a different over-all effect, the Indian's function in the scheme of progress is the same in both histories, and in both he has the same limitations. He is baffled by abstractions, dominated by his senses, limited to materialism, difficult to improve, addicted to treachery, loose in morals, irresolute in formal combat.16

In Parkman's "forest drama" the Indian's role was more often that of Bancroft's "skulker" than that of his "wild republican." Parkman said that the savage lived in a stage of culture that had not yet developed the

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concept of honor. Echoing Scott's statement that all children are habitual liars, he confessed that even "the barbarous ancestors of our own frank and manly race" had been "prone to treachery and deceit." But within eight pages he was again alluding to "the deep dissimulation which seems native to [Indian] blood." Two later examples of Indian honor were only "a ray of light out of Egyptian darkness" to show that "the principle of honor was not extinct in these wild hearts."17 However persuasive the "childhood" theory might have been, it was apt to be forgotten in a fast-moving dramatic narrative in which the historian's sympathies and moral preferences were engaged. The key to Parkman's portrayal of the Indians is in their place in his drama.

From the very beginning Parkman's hostile Indians form an integral part of the wild forest scene. By using the Indians' own imagery, he portrays them as forest beasts. The widespread group of tribes which Frontenac tried to keep together as allies was, for example, "like a vast menagerie of wild animals; and the lynx bristled at the wolf, and the panther grinned fury at the bear, in spite of all [Frontenac's] efforts." The connotation, however, more often displays the European's than the Indian's attitude toward the animal, and "panther" and "wolf" are Parkman's favorite epithets for fighting Indians. The forest, too, is consistently characterized in this imagery. In The Conspiracy of Pontiac, the "surrounding forests" of the West are "peopled by a race dark and subtle as their own sunless mazes." In Montcalm and Wolfe, the marauding Indians, "a pack of human wolves," are "sudden as the leaping panther"; they would not have been so terrifying, Parkman says, had they lived on the open plains,

but the forest was everywhere, rolled over hill and valley in billows of interminable green,--a leafy maze, a mystery of shade, a universal hiding-place, where murder might lurk unseen at its victim's side, and Nature seemed formed to nurse the mind with wild imaginings.18

This is not only the Gothic Nature that Bancroft used and that Prescott praised Brockden Brown for describing; it is the Nature of Herman Melville--wild, "subtle," deceptive; overpowering the individual settler with an appalling loneliness and a hidden terror. By the time he wrote A Half-Century of Conflict, Parkman was incorporating Darwinism into this kind of picture, but the fundamental relationship of Indian and forest remained the same. Describing the "savage waste of vegetation" in the ancient forest of Maine, he wrote a brief essay on the constant, brutal war of the plants and trees--"the same struggle for existence and mutual havoc

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that mark all organized beings, from men to mushrooms." Using the same device of contrasting points of view that Melville had used in Pierre, Parkman again emphasized the deceptive appearance of the forest: "Seen from above, their mingled tops spread in a sea of verdure basking in light; seen from below, all is shadow, through which spots of timid sunshine steal down among the legions of lank, mossy trunks, toadstools and rank ferns, protruding bushes, and rotting carcasses of fallen trees."19

One cannot make a Melville out of Parkman; this passage is part of an ill-executed analogy which compares the suffocation of young saplings in the forest and the leveling that "is said" to go on in a "democratic society." One must recognize, however, that the passage depicts a deceptively vicious tangle of which the Indians form a harmonious part. Parkman moves from "this grim solitude" to "the life and light" in its "countless streams and lakes," then to "its beasts of prey"--including "savage, cowardly, and mean" wolves--and finally to "the human denizens of this wilderness." Quickly, then, he recounts another example of these denizens' duplicity.20

The Iroquois, especially, are a consistently destructive force of Nature. From Champlain to Montcalm, they are "the destroyers," "the scourge of Canada." It would have been factually accurate for Parkman, especially in his first four volumes, to devote only a single chapter to the Iroquois' destructive effect on French evangelism and colonization. He chose instead to bring them onto his stage periodically, trying to approximate the terror of their constant presence in the wings and the suddenness of their attacks. By this method and by his manipulation of point of view, he conveys the impression that the Iroquois were a really determining force in the ruin of French plans. There were, of course, many reasons why the Jesuit missions failed, but always present, always the same while other conditions changed, was the Iroquois terror. Whenever diplomatic or religious victory seemed achieved, there were the Iroquois to destroy the priests' gains. The imagery, often trite, is consistently natural: a "portentous cloud of war," a storm "gathering in the east," "the crash of a thunderbolt." In less hackneyed imagery, Parkman associates the Iroquois with other natural blights: "Famine, destitution, disease, and the Iroquois were making Canada their prey." And he makes their regularity seem as certain as Nature's: "Spring came at length, and brought with it the swallows, the bluebirds, and the Iroquois."21

Natural imagery, however, did not suffice. Parkman's fighting Indian was not only man and wolf; he was "man, wolf, and devil, all in one." With a consistency and thoroughness rivaled only by Cotton Mather's

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Decennium Luctuosum, Parkman emphasized supernatural as well as natural analogies to Indian behavior. Indian duplicity was, of course, one of the qualities in this portrayal, for the Indians were "forest Machiavels." Parkman also used his own experience of the western Indians' facial characteristics to add force to the caricature. In a passage in La Salle, frankly based on his own experience, he described what La Salle's aide Tonty must have seen when the Iroquois attacked the Illinois: "the contorted forms, bounding, crouching, twisting, to deal or dodge the shot; the small keen eyes that shone like an angry snake's; the parted lips pealing their fiendish yells; the painted features writhing with fear and fury, and every passion of an Indian fight."22

The diabolical imagery gains its power not only from this emphasis on "fiendish" appearance, but also (as in Mather's Decennium Luctuosum) from the Indian's invisibility, his ubiquity, and the difficulty of catching him. And all of these qualities grow more mysterious in the ghastly forest. "The Iroquois were everywhere, and nowhere." The Iroquois "seemed invulnerable as ghosts." "To hunt Indians with an endless forest behind them was like chasing shadows." The Indians were "a wily enemy, silent and secret as fate, choosing their own time and place of attack." Retreating Indians "glided away through the gloom with the silence of shadows." The Indian attacked stealthily, fled mysteriously into the forest which was as much "his element" as the sea was a sailor's, and disliked "civilized" warfare in the open. Pontiac, the most gifted Indian leader, was "the Satan of this forest paradise."23

One explanation for all this rhetoric is, of course, Parkman's desire to bring history alive on his pages, to re-create the actual experience. The ghost imagery, and even the simile invoking the snake's eyes, can be justified in this way, especially in Parkman's account of what a character such as Tonty, or a settler returning to his clearing after an Indian attack on his family, must have felt. The devil comparison, moreover, had been made by some of the Jesuits themselves before Cotton Mather wrote his Decennium Luctuosum. But Parkman does not always maintain this integrity in point of view. The rhetoric often reveals Parkman's own judgment of Indian appearance, Indian tactics, Indian character, and he himself seems to become a partisan. Montcalm, for example, has advised the defeated English officers to stave in their rum barrels before letting the French and Indian force take over, and the English have followed his advice;

but the Indians were drunk already with homicidal rage, and the glitter of their vicious eyes told of the devil within. They roamed among the tents, intrusive,

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insolent, their visages besmirched with war-paint; grinning like fiends as they handled, in anticipation of the knife, the long hair of cowering women, of whom, as well as of children, there were many in the camp, all crazed with fright.

Parkman might use the survival of the fittest to explain the development of Iroquois cruelty, but his picture of the fighting Indians and their forest had evolved from the seventeenth century.24

One can defend the battle cries of Parkman's Indians on the same ground of accuracy. But they also reinforce the diabolical impression, and Parkman uses them to distinguish Indian racial traits from "white" traits, savage from civilized man. At the crisis of a battle between Indians and "whites," the romantic historian is apt to distinguish between "the deliberate courage" of civilized man and the "impulse of savage passion." The words are Bancroft's, but Parkman underscores the same distinction. Reminiscent of Prescott's juxtaposition of French "impetuosity" and Spanish "coolness," this idea is often reserved for battles in which the Indian is not necessarily cruel or vicious. Like Bancroft's "huzzas," Parkman's "shouts and cheers" suggest harmoniously the "whites"' "steadiness and coolness in using their guns"; the Indians' "whoops," wolf-like "howls," and "enraged yells" accompany their "greater agility and skill in hiding and sheltering themselves." Like the contrast between French and Spanish character, this contrast displays the "rock-like strength of the Anglo-Saxon," against which "all the combined tribes of the forest might have chafed in vain rage."25

One feature of Parkman's portrayal of the unattractive in Indian culture has no counterpart in Bancroft or Prescott; it is the sense of grotesque, repulsive dirt that overpowered a civilized gentleman who visited an Indian village. Into the Indian village scenes scattered throughout his history Parkman regularly paints the "shrivelled hags" of the village. Their condition not only invalidates the ideal picture of Indian love that had been painted by "poets and sentimentalists," but it also stands as a severe indictment of Indian culture. In his long essay on the Indians Parkman has already remarked that "the Huron woman" was a "wanton" before marriage and "a drudge" afterward, and he has used this information to explain the number of hags who snarl in every village. Later, in the scene dramatizing the Jesuits' first baptism of a Huron adult, he contrasts the splendor of the priests' ceremonial equipment with the Indians' squalor:

It was a strange scene. Indians were there in throngs, and the house was closely packed: warriors, old and young, glistening in grease and sunflower-oil, with uncouth locks, a trifle less coarse than a horse's mane, and faces perhaps smeared

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with paint in honor of the occasion; wenches in gay attire; hags muffled in a filthy discarded deerskin, their leathery visages corrugated with age and malice, and their hard, glittering eyes riveted on the spectacle before them.26

Whether the Indian was a "child" with "the passions of a devil," a "wily" enemy, or merely a childlike savage "unstable as water," all the characteristics that I have described support the fundamental justification for the Anglo-Saxon's conquest of the continent. For Parkman as well as Bancroft, that justification was progressive destiny. Pausing to survey the forest before beginning his account of Pontiac's War, Parkman, too, emphasized the vast area of "waste fertility," where only a few Indian squaws "turned the black mould" in an occasional meadow. Despite the sadness with which he viewed the passing of the forest and of the Indian's highest virtues, he considered it inevitable and proper that an energetic race colonizing according to natural law would cover the continent and use it more efficiently.27

But this aggressively unsentimental picture of the Indian race did not prevent Parkman from exploiting the sentimental value of Indian destiny. Even his worst tribes have a positive progressive role, a clear instructive value, and when their destiny becomes most clear he withholds his severest rhetoric and uses their sad fate to illustrate the cost of progress.

The Indian's chief virtue, like that of Parkman's good Jesuit missionaries, is courage and endurance. Although he can rarely attain the "whites"' courage in open battle, or their concept of honesty, the Indian can endure extreme torture without effeminate complaint, and he has a characteristic respect for the European's martial courage. Bloodthirsty and treacherous though they often are, the Iroquois are morally superior to the Hurons and to the Illinois, and this superiority determines the fate of both. Indeed, Parkman's Iroquois even teach a moral lesson to corrupt European officials. They are the agents of retribution against the venal La Barre, the contemptible governor of New France whom Parkman characterizes as a lawyer rather than a soldier. The eloquence of their leader Big Mouth reproves La Barre's dishonesty, declares the Iroquois' independence of both French and English, and demonstrates the justified contempt that La Barre's "rhodomontade" and cowardice have inspired in the brave Indians.28

The spirit of nationality was so important to these historians that Parkman used the Iroquois' exemplary political union as a moral example for the Anglo-Saxon himself. In his essay on Indian culture, Parkman said that no nation since Sparta had "fused" individual and national life so completely as did the Iroquois; and in Montcalm and Wolfe he used the

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courage, eloquence, and nationalism of an Iroquois chief to emphasize the worst political fault of the English colonies. Sneering at English cowardice after the English had retreated from Crown Point, an Onondaga chief lectured an American delegation on courage and preparedness: "'You desire us to speak from the bottom of our hearts, and we shall do it. Look at the French: they are men; they are fortifying everywhere. But you are all like women, bare and open, without fortification.' " The scene was the Albany Congress of 1754; before introducing Franklin's plan of union, Parkman mentioned a contemporary writer who also "held up the Five Nations for emulation." Neither the Crown nor the colonies were as wise as the Iroquois orator, and both rejected Franklin's plan.29

Like many antiprogressive Europeans, Parkman's antiprogressive Iroquois were, from the very beginning of his history, involuntary agents of progress. As "destroyers," they were the "obvious" cause of the failure of the Jesuit missions; although the will of Providence must have seemed "dark and inexplicable" to the Jesuits, Parkman said, it was "clear as the sun at noon" to anyone looking from the viewpoint of "Liberty." As Liberty could thank "the fatuity of Louis XV and his Pompadour," she owed thanks to "the Iroquois, that, by their insensate fury, the plans of her adversary were brought to nought, and a peril and a woe averted from her future." In the seventeenth century they destroyed the western allies of the French; a hundred years later they forgot what their "cooler judgment" must have told them, that French and Indian interests were one, and they foolishly helped to destroy New France.30

While engaged in savage battle, Parkman's Indian is contemptible or loathsome, but when confronted by his destiny he is pathetic. In the long "march of humanity" the Iroquois represents an inevitable casualty. He appears at his noblest when he recognizes his doom in the actions of the two European powers between whom his tribes have been squeezed. An Onondaga chief tells Sir William Johnson, the Indians' best friend among colonial officials, that

"we don't know what you Christians, English and French, intend . . . . We are so hemmed in by you both that we have hardly a hunting-place left. In a little while, if we find a bear in a tree, there will immediately appear an owner of the land to claim the property and hinder us from killing it, by which we live. We are so perplexed between you that we hardly know what to say or think."

This is the lament of Natty Bumppo, and the only humane response is Bancroft's "tear of compassion." There are no tears in Parkman, but the

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leaders of a race doomed to vanish stand up and speak eloquently of the cruelty of civilized progress, the pretentiousness of European royalty. Before reporting the speech of the Onondaga chief who laughs at the English as "women" without fortifications, Parkman quotes his blunt reproof of both England and France: "'The Governor of Virginia and the Governor of Canada are quarreling about lands which belong to us, and their quarrel may end in our destruction.'"31

The most pathetic victims of destiny in Parkman's history are the Hurons ("A Doomed Nation"), the Acadians, and those Canadians who are trapped between the conflicting threats of their own governor and General Wolfe. As in Bancroft, the behavior of Parkman's Indians "when the knell of their common ruin had already sounded" hastens their ruin. "It was a strange and miserable spectacle" to see the Indians, "in this crisis of their destiny, . . . tearing each other's throats in a wolfish fury, joined to an intelligence that served little purpose but mutual destruction." This not very sympathetic analysis prepares for the Huron-Iroquois war. In the following chapters the stories of Jesuit martyrdom are mixed in with the destruction of the Huron nation, of which Brébeuf's death is the symbol. And when the Hurons are actually ready to die as a nation, they have no more "wolfish fury" left in them; they are merely pathetic. "All was over with the Hurons. The death-knell of their nation had struck. Without a leader, without organization, without union, crazed with fright and paralyzed with misery, they yielded to their doom without a blow. Their only thought was flight." Stumbling wretchedly through the wilderness, and then reaching Isle St. Joseph, they make a pathetic picture: "groups of famished wretches, with dark, haggard visages and uncombed hair, in every posture of despondency and woe." Here, during the winter, they die "by scores daily" as the priests try to comfort and cure them. Some dig up the bodies of their own relatives to avoid starvation. Most of them have become Christians, since misery has "softened their hearts." Half of the 6,000 to 8,000 refugees perish.

An important ingredient in such sentimental pictures is the enforced migration. Parkman follows the survivors of the war through more terror and misery until he comes to "the last of the Hurons." "It is a matter of some interest," he says, "to trace the fortunes of the shattered fragments of a nation once prosperous, and, in its own eyes and those of its neighbors, powerful and great. None were left alive within their ancient domain." Some join other Indian tribes, including the Iroquois, but the Iroquois,

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meanwhile, pursue the last surviving group, the Tobacco Nation, even into the islands of Lake Michigan. Some reach the Sioux country, but the Sioux drive them out. A much smaller remnant move at last to Quebec, even there to be moved about several times, until they finally settle on

a wild spot, covered with the primitive forest, and seamed by a deep and tortuous ravine, where the St. Charles foams, white as a snow-drift, over the black ledges, and where the spotted sunlight struggles through matted boughs of the pine and fir, to bask for brief moments on the mossy rocks or flash on the hurrying waters.

There one can still find "the remnant of a lost people, harmless weavers of baskets and sewers of moccasins, the Huron blood fast bleaching out of them, as, with every generation, they mingle and fade away in the French population around."32

The fall of this doomed race was also the end of the Jesuit mission, symbolizing the failure of Catholicism and the Indian's inability to progress. The pathetic description of the vanishing, or expelled, or doomed "race" is a common picture in the romantic histories--inspiring honorable compassion, showing the force of destiny, suggesting one's proper attitude toward the Indian. Although Parkman argued persuasively that the Acadians immortalized by Longfellow had brought on their own expulsion by obeying the treacherous advice of their missionaries, when he came to the actual scenes of expulsion, he treated them in much the same way.33


Prescott's infidels include not only Indians, but Moors and Jews. From the very first Prescott regarded the subject of the Moors as "a rich study for the poet and the novelist," and Irving's decision to write The Conquest of Granada troubled him, he said, because "this would have formed the most interesting part of my narrative." As "Orientals" and as victims of progressive destiny, the Moors were just as "poetic" a subject as Montezuma. They had contributed to Spanish progress by "fertilizing" the European intellect at the moment when "the long night of darkness, which divides the modern from the ancient world," had descended on Europe. By the end of the fifteenth century, of course, their progressive value had been exhausted, and they stood in the way of the natural law which guaranteed Peninsular unity. The climate of Spain and their contact with Christian Europeans had prolonged their moment of cultivation, but by the nineteenth century they had inevitably lapsed into their original barbarism. Like any ruin, the decline of their empire deserved a few moments

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of melancholy contemplation, and Prescott introduced his account of the conquest of Granada by pointing the moral in a melancholy picture worthy of Irving:

The empire, which once embraced more than half of the ancient world, has now shrunk within its original limits; and the Bedouin wanders over his native desert as free, and almost as uncivilized, as before the coming of his apostle . . . . Darkness has again settled over those regions of Africa, which were illumined by the light of learning. The elegant dialect of the Koran is studied as a dead language, even in the birth-place of the prophet. Not a printing press at this day is to be found throughout the whole Arabian Peninsula. Even in Spain, in Christian Spain, alas! the contrast is scarcely less degrading. A death-like torpor has succeeded to her former intellectual activity . . . . Her most interesting monuments are those constructed by the Arabs; and the traveller, as he wanders amid their desolate, but beautiful ruins, ponders on the destinies of a people, whose very existence seems now to have been almost as fanciful as the magical creations in one of their own fairy tales.34

The Moorish infidel has the characteristics of both decadent civilized man and savage. As an Oriental who loves splendor, he has been weakened by "effeminate indulgence" and by his "sensual religion." For all the Moors' accomplishments and all their industry, Prescott said,

they had long since reached their utmost limit of advancement as a people. The light shed over their history shines from distant ages; for, during the later period of their existence, they appear to have reposed in a state of torpid, luxurious indulgence, which would seem to argue, that, when causes of external excitement were withdrawn, the inherent vices of their social institutions had incapacitated them for the further production of excellence.

This corruption justifies the "wise" Providential decree under which the Spaniards appropriated the Moors' lands, for the Spaniards' religion and government, "however frequently misunderstood or perverted, qualified them for advancing still higher the interests of humanity."35

The Moor's savage characteristics appear most plainly in the battle scenes. Like Parkman's Indian, he is "impetuous," easily discouraged, and thus no match for Spanish firmness. Ali Atar's impulsive charge cannot succeed against "Ferdinand's coolness." Like Parkman's Indians, the Moors "wantonly" fight a war among themselves at the very time when they should stand united against the Spaniards. Later on, having lured the Spaniards into wild, mountainous country, they show that they are "trained to the wild tactics of mountain warfare," but they cannot fight so well in "an open reach of valley." In a dark Gothic scene they appear on the mountain

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tops at night, and their own fires show them "flitting to and fro like so many spectres"; to harass the retreating Spanish army, they use not only guns and crossbows but wild Nature itself as a weapon--rolling masses of rock down onto the compact groups of Spaniards. To this weird scene their "shrill war-cries," which seem to come from every quarter, add more terror and confusion. When the Spaniards decide to climb the sierra and at least die fighting, the Moors, fighting from the higher ground, keep retreating, avoiding frontal attack, and they seem to have "the powers of ubiquity."36 The defeat of the Spaniards is comparable in kind and degree to that of Braddock by the French and Indians.

The final result, however, is inevitable. Spanish resolution and ingenuity go to work, and "the moorish garrisons, perched on their mountain fastnesses, which, like the eyry of some bird of prey, seemed almost inaccessible to man," watch "with astonishment the heavy trains of artillery emerging from the passes, where the foot of the hunter had scarcely been known to venture." Inspired by some timely eloquence from their commander, the Spaniards win.37

Even Moorish imagery resembles that of the Indians. Prescott relieves his accounts of these battles with tales of individual generosity to show the "romantic" character of the war and the chivalry of an occasional Moor. The Moors fight fiercely, as do Bancroft's Indians, out of "despair," but in this war they do not butcher children. One Moorish noble tells some displaced Spanish children to go back to their mothers, and when his comrades ask him why he let the children escape so easily, he answers: "'Because I saw no beard upon their chins."' Later the deposed king Abdallah heaves his famous last sigh as he takes his last look at Granada from "a rocky eminence." His "more masculine mother" tells him that he does well " 'to weep like a woman, for what you could not defend like a man!'"38

In the two deposed kings, Abdallah and El Zagal, Prescott has perfect "poetic" subjects, and he exploits both opportunities for pathos, increasing the effect by his emphasis on destiny. Like the great but unsuccessful Indian chiefs, Prescott's Abdallah recognizes the divine hand in his fate, and he tells Ferdinand to honor his Providential good fortune by following a policy of "clemency and moderation." On hearing his mother's rebuke as they move off into the Alpuxarras, he exclaims, "'when were woes ever equal to mine!' " Prescott not only compares his fate to that of his uncle, El Zagal, but uses the same expression--"pined away"--to describe the reaction of both to life without a kingdom. The one, he says, went to Africa, where he was "plundered" and "condemned to starve out the remainder

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of his days in miserable indigence"; the other was killed in Africa while serving under a royal relative. The account of Abdallah ends with a sentence on the sealed gate of Granada, "a memorial to the sad destiny" of her kings.39

In the war for Granada the Moors were the victims of progress, but when they rebelled against Philip II in the next century, they were the victims of tyranny. The long story of this rebellion begins as a tale of retribution. Here little of the chivalry that marked the earlier war appears in Prescott's pages. Philip II, at the advice of a junta including the Duke of Alva, has decided to destroy the Moriscoes' past by forbidding them to observe their customs, and, eventually, to read their literature or speak their language. This edict was the more unnatural, Prescott observes, because Philip II destroyed their past and then denied them any future. The war is ferocious on both sides from the start. The Moriscoes who begin the rebellion in the Alpuxarras are "barbarians." Like Pontiac's followers, they have successfully masked their deep-seated hatred of the Spaniards. The Christians, who have not anticipated the uprising, flee to the churches, to the protection of the priests, who have had charge of Morisco and Spaniard alike. "But the wild animal of the forest, now that he had regained his freedom, gave little heed to the call of his former keeper,--unless it were to turn and rend him." In his description of the ensuing battles, Prescott again takes advantage of wild scenery which is not only sublime but "gloomy." Again he consistently describes the fighting Moriscoes as savages; again he emphasizes, in almost identical language, their skill "in the mountain wilds in which they had been nurtured from infancy," their astonishment at Spanish resourcefulness, the grotesqueness of their mountain "watchfires" and their "shrill war-cries," their "wily tactics" (which depend on "ambushes and surprises"), their loss of heart if these tactics failed--a discouragement like that of "the lion, who, if balked in the first spring upon his prey, is said rarely to attempt another"--and their ferocious cruelty even to women and children. This "diabolical cruelty," Prescott says, is as extreme "as anything recorded of our North-American savages."40

The behavior of the Spaniards as conquerors is, of course, no better, but in dramatizing the battles themselves Prescott always writes from the Spanish point of view. It is before the battles and after the victories, when the Moriscoes can appear as a doomed people, that he condemns Spanish bigotry and cruelty. Again the accounts of battles precede a scene of pathetic exile, but this time (as in Parkman) the exile of an entire people:

It was a sad and solemn spectacle, that of this company of exiles, as they moved with slow and uncertain step, bound together by cords, and escorted, or rather

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driven along like a gang of convicts, by the fierce soldiery. There they were, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, now, alas! brought to the same level, the forms of most of them bowed down, less by the weight of years than of sorrow, their hands meekly folded on their breasts, their cheeks wet with tears, as they gazed for the last time on their beautiful city, the sweet home of their infancy, the proud seat of ancient empire, endeared to them by so many tender and glorious recollections.

As they leave the city, the morning light breaks "on the red towers of the Alhambra," and they turn "their faces toward new homes,--homes which many of them were destined never to behold." Prescott summarizes the wretched demise of many of the ill-provisioned exiles and then turns to the decay of their "light and airy edifices," their "exotic" gardens, the "sparkling fountains" in their courtyards and public squares.41

This scene precedes the assassination of the Moriscoes' heroic leader, Aben-Aboo. As Parkman's Pontiac, who showed some of "the high emotion of the patriot hero," was still "a thorough savage" who represented, "in strongest light and shadow, the native faults and virtues of the Indian race"; so Aben-Aboo, though "remarkably free from some of the greatest defects in the Moorish character," though "temperate in his appetites," though "cool and circumspect in his judgments," showed clearly in his faults and virtues that "the blood of the Moor flowed in his veins." He stood firm under inhuman tortures, and he remained so loyal to his race and his creed that he preferred living and dying "'as a Mussulman'" to " 'all the favors which the king of Spain could heap on him."' Yet he was, Prescott reminds the reader, "a despot, and a despot of the Oriental type." Here Prescott's emphasis differs from Parkman's, for he argues that Aben-Aboo's faults were those of his "race" and its institutions; but whatever the reasons, Aben-Aboo is a member of that large literary family of admirable, pitiable heroes whose greatness is restricted by their racial traits.42

Despite Ferdinand's "shrewd" device of exorbitant ransom, the original conquest of Granada had been justified by its good moral results as well as by progressive necessity. The religious war against the infidel, Prescott said, had planted the sentiment of nationality firmly in the Spanish consciousness. The Moriscoes' rebellion, however, taught an opposite moral. Religious "enthusiasm" had become "the blindest fanaticism," which provoked the rebellion, motivated the Spaniards' atrocities, and prompted the foolish expulsion of the Moriscoes from Granada. After he had described the pathetic scene of exile and the subsequent ruin of Granada, Prescott drove home the moral of retribution: the hatred and cruelty encouraged by these acts led inevitably to the Moriscoes' expulsion from the Peninsula by

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"the imbecile Philip the Third"--to one of the "principal causes" of the ruin of Spain.43

Although Prescott did not describe the Jews in language reserved for savages, they, too, vanished from Spain during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and they bear a marked literary relationship to his Moors. Not only their pathetic destiny but their "racial" traits mark them as literary kindred of Moor and Indian alike. Prescott's experience of Jews was largely literary, and he went to tradition and literature, including Sir Walter Scott, for their traits. There is nothing unique in this. Motley, for example, set off against the "Teutonic" blonde heroine of his Morton's Hope a Jewess whose

features, although very Jewish, were very handsome. Her eyes were long and black as death; her nose was of the handsomest Hebrew cut, slightly aquiline, but thin and expressive . . . . Her figure was certainly superb, and the rounded luxuriance of the outlines, and the majestic fullness of the whole development, accorded well with her Eastern origin.44

Here the "Oriental" qualities in the conventional dark heroine are quite explicit, as indeed they are in Scott's Rebecca and Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, Zenobia, and Miriam Schaeffer (a Jewess); as they are in Zahara, the Moorish beauty whose "voluptuous" dancing and "bewitching" singing and lute-playing lead one of Prescott's Moriscoes to his death. Motley, moreover, gave his Jewess a "large greasy looking" corrupt banker for a father, and in his history itself he manipulated the evidence to show that the Jewish doctor who agreed to poison Queen Elizabeth for Philip II had "stipulated for a handsome provision in marriage" for his daughters.45

Prescott, too, regarded the Jews as Oriental, and he used this common origin to explain their affinity with the Moors. Like the Moors and the American Indians, the Jews had an unshakable attachment to the customs of their ancestors. No other "nation" except the Spanish, Prescott said, revealed so intense a feeling of nationality. They had "preserved their unity of character unbroken, amid the thousand fragments" into which they had been scattered. Choosing the Spanish Jews as the typical subjects through whom to explain the techniques of the Inquisition, he relied repeatedly on this conception of "racial" character, both in criticizing and in defending the Jews. Under the benevolent tolerance of the Moors, they had "accumulated wealth with their usual diligence"; despite their lack of originality in "speculative philosophy" (which might have been the result of their excessive attachment to ancestral traditions), their "natural aptitude" for financial

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work and their skill in "practical and experimental science" won them national respect and royal patronage. Even this high favor, however, could not protect them after they had done so well as "to excite popular envy, augmented, as it was, by that profuse ostentation of equipage and apparel, for which this singular people, notwithstanding their avarice, have usually shown a predilection." Here Prescott referred the reader to Ivanhoe, in which Scott had portrayed these "opposite traits" in Rebecca and Isaac as a means of contrasting "the lights and shades of the Jewish character." Scott's picture was not at all analogous to the Jews' financial, social, or intellectual condition in Spain, Prescott admitted, but it represented accurately the "race's" character.46

All this is but a prelude to wholly unjustified persecution. Although the traits of Prescott's Jews include "their usual crafty policy," and although he might have considered "profuse ostentation" a source of understandable malice, he always sympathizes with the Jews rather than the Spaniards. The sense of destiny here comes from the Bible rather than "Nature," for Spanish Jewry was already a "fragment"; the "race" had already been scattered. Prescott begins by reminding the reader of the Jews' Biblical destiny, introducing them as "the unfortunate race of Israel, on whom the sins of their fathers have been so unsparingly visited by every nation in Christendom, among whom they have sojourned, almost to the present century." From this hint of what is to come, he moves to their prosperity and respectability, and then to the nonreligious motives various Spaniards had had for persecuting them. After he has ridiculed the various slanders against them, he describes their downfall, noticing not only the number destroyed in autos da fé but also the illogicality in governmental decrees that completely trapped them. He points out, for example, that giving a child a Hebrew name was evidence of relapse, although a previous law had forbidden Jews to use Christian names.47

Prescott also made the inevitability of Jewish destiny more poignant by underscoring the greed and envy of their persecutors. Even their ability brought this people into trouble. The "wealthy," Prescott said, were "the least pardonable offenders during times of proscription." Moreover, the "thrift and dexterity peculiar to their race" made the common people as well as the wealthy relatively prosperous, and the whole people thus became "personally more sensitive to physical annoyance, and less fitted to encounter the perils and privations of their dreary pilgrimage." Before they were expelled, the Jews of Aragon were cheated out of their property on the pretext, Prescott said, that their debts exceeded their assets. It was "strange

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indeed, that the balance should be found against a people, who have been everywhere conspicuous for their commercial sagacity and resources!"48

The expulsion began another series of dilemmas that narrowed further and further the possible alternatives of the marked "race." In his conventional paragraph on the pathetic condition of an exiled nation, Prescott stressed the unique stigma attached to these exiles:

They were to go forth as exiles from the land of their birth; the land where all, whom they ever loved, had lived or died; the land, not so much of their adoption, as of inheritance; which had been the home of their ancestors for centuries, and with whose prosperity and glory they were of course as intimately associated, as was any ancient Spaniard. They were to be cast out helpless and defenceless, with a brand of infamy set on them, among nations who had always held them in derision and hatred.

Following the different groups of Jews along Spanish roads that were "swarming with emigrants," Prescott exploited thoroughly the effect of the traditional stigma. Not only had Torquemada forbidden Spaniards all gestures of sympathy or "succour" to the exiles, but those who went to Africa were attacked by "roving tribes," who "ripped open" dead bodies in their search for concealed gold. The survivors were later charged a heavy ransom by the Algerian Moors who, defeated by Ximenes, had to agree to surrender all their Christian captives. Here the Jews' position was that of Parkman's Canadians, Iroquois, and Acadians, for "it was of little moment to the wretched Israelite which party won the day, Christian or Mussulman; he was sure to be stripped in either case." Those Jews who went to Italy carried with them a deadly symbol of their infamous brand, "an infectious disorder" that killed 20,000 people in Naples during the first year and spread "over the whole Italian peninsula." The law allowed them to stay in Genoa only three days, long enough to deposit the germs of their plague, before they were forced to move on again.49

Like the tale of the Moriscoes, this story serves the triple purpose of inspiring compassion, characterizing the exiles, and showing the evils of bigotry. As the Inquisition was the major cause of Spain's decline, so the expulsion of the Jews was the moral turning point in Spanish history. Prescott not only stressed the tremendous cost which the loss of both "industrious races" forced the country to pay; he gave added moral force to the expulsion of the Jews by showing that it came at the high point of Spanish achievement. He placed his chapter on expulsion just after his description of Columbus' departure for America, which had followed immediately after his last chapter on the conquest of Granada. The "most disastrous edict"

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against the Jews had been published before either of these achievements,50 but Prescott placed it where it would have its most emphatic moral significance. By signing the edict, "as it were, with the same pen which drew up the glorious capitulation of Granada and the treaty with Columbus," Ferdinand and Isabella revealed Spain's fatal flaw. At the moment when they most clearly represented natural law, they accepted the advice of inquisitors and violated an essential natural law. Prescott made the moral more impressive by arguing that, whatever the greed of the Pope and the inquisitors and whatever the envy of some of the people, the motives of Ferdinand and Isabella were religious. Although, in defense of Ferdinand and Isabella, he pointed out that similarly atrocious acts were decreed in England, France, and Portugal "a few years later," these countries had no permanent Inquisition, and they had other industrious subjects. The faults of the age might entitle Ferdinand and Isabella to clemency, but the punishment of Spain was inevitable.51


This sentimental, Oriental, and moral context is the proper one in which to read Prescott's portrayal, in his volumes on Mexico and Peru, of American Indians. It is obvious that besides the amazing endurance and unparalleled "romantic" achievements of two resolute adventurers, these subjects gave Prescott the advantage of describing the destruction of two empires. The reader of both histories is intended to have from the beginning a sense of doom. The grand subject combines progressive enterprise, however unscrupulous its agents and their methods, and the symptoms of national death. The founding of Vera Cruz, for example, leads Prescott to a melancholy observation that he echoes frequently in both histories. The "simple natives" were pleased, but

alas! they could not read the future, or they would have found no cause to rejoice . . . . Their fetters, indeed, would be broken; and their wrongs be amply avenged on the proud head of the Aztec. But it was to be by that strong arm, which should bow down equally the oppressor and the oppressed. The light of civilization would be poured on their land. But it would be the light of a consuming fire, before which their barbaric glory, their institutions, their very existence and name as a nation, would wither and become extinct! Their doom was sealed, when the white man had set his foot on their soil.52

These natives are the Totonacs, who have been forced to pay tribute to the Aztecs. The doom of the Aztecs and the Peruvians is just as clear as theirs, but those powerful nations are not to be liberated, except from their

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emperors. It is in this distinction that the Oriental theme is important. Both Aztecs and Peruvians are at once civilized, in an Oriental fashion, and savage. The Oriental comparison is not confined to speculation about the origins of the two empires. When Prescott told Bancroft that the Aztec "civilization smacks strongly of the Oriental," he named an essential ingredient of his literary and moral recipe for the Indian.' 53

The analogy pervades the histories from the beginning of The Conquest of Mexico. Prescott's Cholula resembles his Granada. His first picture of the Valley of Tenochtitlan makes "the fair city of Mexico, with her white towers and pyramidal temples," look like "some Indian empress with her coronal of pearls." Both Aztec and Peruvian love splendor and display their taste richly. The lavish use of jewels, gold, and silver in the temples corresponds to the first picture of Tenochtitlan, and a later allusion to Mecca and Jerusalem adds to the exotic effect.

Obviously this kind of emphasis provides "color," and it shows that in these episodes romance and history are one, that the Spanish knight-errant had, in a way, really found the Indies. But the Oriental analogy applies also to the character of the two nations. Their very institutions are Oriental. Both governments are despotisms that require a slavish obedience--"an Oriental adulation"--of their subjects. The "truly Oriental" pomp of the emperors and subordinate kings, who travel in splendid litters; the institution of polygamy; the vacillating weakness of both Montezuma and the Inca Atahuallpa--in these qualities Prescott shows a languor produced by the same kind of "effeminate indulgence" that ruined the kings of Granada. The religion of Mexico, moreover, is even more grossly "sensual" than that of the Moors. Like fifteenth-century Spanish Moors, Prescott's Aztecs have corrupted an older civilization, and their religion is the main source of corruption. Human sacrifice, though horrible, is not, Prescott says, wholly degrading; but cannibalism, though in Mexico a religious rite, makes any great "moral or intellectual" progress "impossible." Like the fifteenth-century Moors and the Jews, the Aztecs do show some "proficiency" in "that material culture . . . which ministers to the gratification of the senses," but they can make no "purely intellectual progress."54

The Peruvian is no cannibal, his despotism is benevolent, and his religion is relatively pure; but he, too, is a materialist, and "the great law of progress was not for him." The suffocating benevolence of the Incas' welfare state supplies his material needs but destroys his moral identity by denying him "free agency" and by deliberately keeping him in ignorance. As Prescott compares the Incas' method of proselyting to the Mohammedans',

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so the character of the Peruvian people has its Oriental analogy: "patient and tranquil," they more nearly resemble "the Oriental nations, as the Hindoos and Chinese, than . . . the members of the great Anglo-Saxon family, whose hardy temper has driven them to seek their fortunes on the stormy ocean." The Peruvian has not corrupted his inherited religion, but "the defects" of his government are "those of over-refinement in legislation,--the last defects to have been looked for . . . in the American aborigines." This overrefinement, Prescott says, caused a passivity that enervates patriotism and bows too quickly to the invaders.55

This is not to say that Prescott minimized the attainments of either the Aztecs or the Peruvians. He had high praise for different accomplishments of both civilizations. The comparisons of Indian and Oriental character, government, and religion had an important function, however, in Prescott's application of progressive law. He was frankly troubled by the problem of the "right of conquest," and his doubts produced some confusion, if not downright self-contradiction. The problem was made more perplexing by several plain facts about both conquerors and conquered. These Indians, unlike Parkman's, had not roved over vast areas of "waste fertility"; they had been industrious farmers and artisans. Nor had the conquerors been religious exiles or the industrious overflow of an expanding society; they had been greedy, occasionally or consistently perfidious, and consistently cruel. In his own time, moreover, Prescott opposed the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War, and in both The Conquest of Mexico and The Conquest of Peru he criticized his contemporaries' belief that they had a "mission" of conquest.56

In "Reflections" prompted by Cortés' massacre of the Cholulans, Prescott questioned both Spanish and "Protestant" arguments for the right of conquest, referring the reader finally to Diedrich Knickerbocker's ridicule of European pretentiousness. Here his explicit solution was twofold: to compare sixteenth-century Spanish atrocities to even more horrible French and British atrocities in the more recent Peninsular War; and to assume the right of conquest in order to judge the men of the sixteenth century by the standards of their own time. He did not, he said, mean to "vindicate the cruel deeds of the Conquerors," which should properly "lie heavy on their heads." But he insisted that judging the men fairly required the historian to use the standards of their own time in order to give them "the same justice which we shall have occasion to ask from Posterity, when, by the light of a higher civilization, it surveys the dark or doubtful passages in our own history, which hardly arrest the eye of the contemporary."57

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Although one might say that using sixteenth-century Spanish standards would "vindicate" the "cruel deeds," Prescott moved on in his next paragraph from morality to "policy." Whatever the massacre's "moral" worth, he said, "as a stroke of policy, it was unquestionable." This statement might surprise the reader who has noticed the regularity with which Prescott insisted that "principle and policy go together"--an axiom that he had used in this very moral discussion when praising Cortés for a humane action! The contradiction, however, reveals a moral pattern. The wisdom in Cortés' policy lay in his exploitation of Aztec superstition. The massacre proved that the Spaniards were "white gods," and the natives "trembled." "None trembled more," Prescott said, than Montezuma, whose superstitious fatalism "read in these events the dark characters traced by the finger of Destiny." Frightened by the defection of some of his subject tribes, he again asked the advice of "his impotent deities; but, although the altars smoked with fresh hecatombs of human victims, he obtained no cheering response."58

As Prescott has picked up the thread of his narrative after a pause for reflective moral doubts, he has also recovered his moral control of the narrative. Properly impressed by the smoking hecatombs, one reads of Cortés' desire to convert the Cholulans as quickly as possible; when his enthusiasm is tempered by the "wise" restraint of his chaplain, he at least has "the satisfaction" of liberating the Cholulans' intended sacrificial victims and of building a "gigantic" Cross on the great Cholulan temple. On this spot, Prescott observes, "where his ancestors celebrated the sanguinary rites of the mystic Quetzalcoatl," an Indian "descendant of the Cholulans [now] performs the peaceful services of the Roman Catholic communion."59

Despite Prescott's "reflective" doubts about the right of conquest, he has supplied the answer in his narrative technique. The way has been prepared not only for one's judgment of Montezuma within the narrative, but for one's long-range judgment of the conquest itself. Immediately after this passage Prescott turns to the behavior of Montezuma, which he finds so "pusillanimous" that he cannot contemplate it "without mingled feelings of pity and contempt." Not until he has completed the narrative of Montezuma's life does he ask one to judge "superstitious fatalism" from Montezuma's point of view. Montezuma's perception of his destiny, unlike that of Bancroft's and Parkman's chiefs, is not the recognition of natural law. Based on superstition, it produces conduct as effeminate as that of the Moor Abdallah. He is not a brave man standing against the forces of destiny,

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but a decadent despot whose "lofty and naturally courageous spirit" has been "subdued by the influence of superstition." Courage is an absolute virtue, the highest virtue of the Indian; when Montezuma is measured against this standard, one can see that his Oriental institutions have subverted the strength of his Indian character. On the same page Prescott measures Cortés against the same standard. Montezuma's effort to bribe Cortés is ridiculous; "the man, whom the hostile array of armies could not daunt, was not to be turned from his purpose by a woman's prayers."60

Similar weaknesses also taint the nobler Inca Atahuallpa, who reads his doom in the appearance of a strange comet, and who, although he later dies resolutely, is at first "unmanned" by the news of his sentence by Pizarro's drumhead court. Throughout this Inca's melancholy story, moreover, Prescott emphasizes his misdeeds as well as Pizarro's treachery. The Inca's execution of his brother was striking proof that polygamy weakened the natural "bonds of brotherhood"; "the arm of the despot" was quick to sweep away "any obstacle that lay in his path."61

The moral function of this Orientalism, then, was to help account for the "beneficent" decree of Providence that destined both empires to ruin. "The debasing institutions of the Aztecs" were "the best apology for their conquest." Although the Spaniards brought the Inquisition with them, the purer truths of Christianity, destined to outlive "fanaticism," destroyed "those dark forms of horror which had so long brooded over" Mexico. Despite the relative purity of the Peruvians' religion, their institutions were both "artificial" and "repugnant to the essential principles of our nature." The justification for Anglo-Saxon conquests has been reversed. No roving savage, but a farmer and a builder of cities, Prescott's Indian is too civilized; to denote the fault, Prescott chose the word "semi-civilized."62

In Prescott's "reflective" passages the question of the right of conquest is never settled. When he considers Pizarro's character for the last time, he contrasts "the ferocious cupidity of the conquerors with the mild and inoffensive manners of the conquered"; in such a contrast, he says, "our sympathies, the sympathies even of the Spaniard, are necessarily thrown into the scale of the Indian." Although he insists that Cortés' primarily religious motive entitles him, rather than the Aztecs, to our "sympathies," these differing judgments do not alter Prescott's faith in the wisdom of Providential decrees. Despite Pizarro's greed and cruelty, the Peruvian is as clearly the cause of his own downfall as was the Aztec. The Conquest of Peru ends with a symbolic return from the "artificiality" of Incan institutions and the vicious corruption of the conquerors to the method of

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Nature. The conquerors are defeated by "a humble missionary" whose greatest powers are his virtue, his "common sense," and his mastery of moral persuasion. His methods and the permanence of his achievements resemble "the slow, insensible manner in which Nature works out her great changes in the material world, that are to endure when the ravages of the hurricane are passed away and forgotten."63

While the Oriental comparison helped to explain the ruin of "semi-civilized" nations, Prescott's Indian, both in his faults and his virtues, is also a savage. His greatest virtues are courage and endurance, a strong spirit of independence (confined largely to leaders, many of whom behave less passively than "Hindoos"), and an intense tribal or racial loyalty.

The proper course for the hero of a doomed or vanishing race is resistance to the end. Prescott is not content to make the point only in his pitying and contemptuous judgment of Montezuma. As if to emphasize the distinction between Oriental and savage, he presents several Indian leaders whose resistance to the conquerors is "manly" and uncompromising. In both Mexico and Peru he contrasts these chiefs with their more effeminate predecessors, and he calls their constancy an Indian virtue. The "spirit" of Guatemozin, Montezuma's successor, is admirable in spite of the "vicious system" that he has inherited. And Xicotencatl, defeated chief of the Tlascalans, stands forth in the posture of the Byronic hero; the impartial reader, Prescott says, "may find much to admire in that high, unconquerable spirit, like some proud column, standing alone in its majesty amidst the fragments and ruins around it." The Inca Manco, eventual successor to Atahuallpa, also dies fighting, having reverted to the heroic type of his ancient predecessors. "With the ancient institutions of his ancestors lying a wreck around him, he yet struggled bravely, like Guatemozin, the last of the Aztecs, to uphold her tottering fortunes, or to bury his oppressors under her ruins." This resolution forces him to retreat to the "mountain fastnesses," where he maintains his "savage independence" instead of living as "a slave in the land" once ruled by his ancestors.64

The Indian has a natural aptitude for dying well. "Passive fortitude [is] the virtue of the Indian warrior; and it was the glory of the Aztec, as of the other races on the North American continent, to show how the spirit of the brave man may triumph over torture and the agonies of death." Even the once "craven" Montezuma and the once "unmanned" Atahuallpa recover their spirit in time to die like true Indians. Manco's wife also dies properly under torture, and Indians leap from the tops of towers to avoid slavery under the conqueror."65

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However clearly the Indians deserved "our sympathies" in the reflective passages, Prescott's allegiance was again with the Europeans in the narratives of battles. Treachery and "stratagem" were the common weapons of Indian warfare and diplomacy; the Indian was "a wily foe" addicted to "wily tactics"; even the noble Manco, once he had begun to fight Pizarro, became "crafty." "Secrecy and silence" were almost as much a part of the American Indian "as the peculiar color of his skin." At the same time, embattled Peruvians, though fighting for their country, were capable of "fiendish exultation." Watching "with gloomy satisfaction" a battle among their conquerors, they descended from the mountains "like a pack of wolves" after the battle was over.66

For Prescott as well as Parkman the ethics of warfare are absolute, and the fighting Indian can rarely measure up to them except in single combat. In such a situation the best he can do is to die "like a Roman," as does one noble Peruvian who refuses to be captured by Spaniards who want very much to take him alive. Even in the open battles on the plains or on the flat top of a pyramid, where he can rarely do better than show a willing spirit, the Indian usually demonstrates his racial inferiority not only by losing but also by his behavior. In groups the Indians form "a multitude," "a torrent," "clouds," "swarms," "dark lines," "dense masses," "countless multitudes." Under the Spaniards' resolute attacks and superior science, the Indian masses are "seized with a panic" or with "superstitious awe," or they are "filled with consternation." The descriptions of these battles suggest, as Parkman's battle rhetoric implies, that there is something unfair about "entangling" the enemy in streets and "narrow lanes," or in "mountain fastnesses," from which rocks can be rolled down on him. The nobler method is to fight on an open field. The rhetorical odds are against the savage because of his superiority in numbers, his methods of fighting, his obedience to passion rather than discipline. Even when they fight courageously, a "mob of barbarians" have little chance for praise in the account of a battle with "the Christians," for if they do not stand "petrified with dismay," they sound "their hideous war-shriek" and rush "impetuously on the Christians." The eloquence, the resolution, the discipline, and the coolness of the European rarely fail in these conflicts with savage "passion":

The barbarian, when brought into contact with the white man, would seem to have been rebuked by his superior genius, in the same manner as the wild animal of the forest is said to quail before the steady glance of the hunter.67

In the battles of Mexico and Peru Prescott naturally found many opportunities for the Gothic emphasis of the other histories. Here, with the

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presence of "frantic priests" and smoking human hearts; with "the wild, barbaric minstrelsy of shell, atabal, and trumpet"; with the sublimely terrible heights of mountain and pyramidal temple as battle scenes--here the most impressive battle scenes are inevitably Gothic. The most symbolic of these grand battles was fought by Christians and Mexicans on the "aerial battlefield" of the great temple's summit in Mexico City--a flat area interrupted only by the Aztecs' sacrificial stone and the "two temples of stone," one of which was dedicated to each religion. Emphasizing the height and the fact that the whole population of the city watched from below, Prescott built his picture of this scene toward the religious symbols, and completed it with a view of the Indian priests, who, "running to and fro, with their hair wildly streaming over their sable mantles, seemed hovering in mid air, like so many demons of darkness urging on the work of slaughter!" In this sublime arena, from which there was no escape but victory or death, the savage's military "science" was on trial as well as his religion. Since the Aztecs outnumbered the Spaniards two to one, "it seemed" as though "brute force" was certain to defeat "superior science." But of course the Spaniard's "science" and equipment were as superior as his religion, and the best that could be said for the Aztec was that he fought to the death with "the courage of despair." The climax of the sublime scene was the burning of the sacrificial temple, "the funeral pyre of Paganism."68

Despite the "swollen tide of passion" that could control his mobs, the dissension that ruined his resistance to the Spaniards, despite his "Oriental" faults and his cruelty, his craftiness, his idolatry, and his materialism; the savage's virtues and his fate entitled him to sentimental treatment. In war he rarely received this sympathy until after his defeat or after the slaughter and pillage had begun; but, especially in Peru, his "patient industry," his enlightened treatment of defeated tribes, his respect for their religion, and his indifference to the value of gold were a rebuke to the gold-lusty conquerors. For all his faults, moreover, the Inca Atahuallpa was perceptive enough to rebuke papal pretension as explained by a "monk"; his eyes "flashed fire, and his dark brow grew darker" during the explanation of Catholic theology and Spanish supremacy, and he told Father Valverde that the Pope " 'must be crazy to talk of giving away countries which don't belong to him.'"69

It was the Indians' pathetic fate, however, that most clearly deserved sentimental contemplation. They were robbed of their wealth, consigned to slavery, murdered like "herds of deer." In both Mexico and Peru their civilization was not only superseded but virtually destroyed; the ruin was

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astoundingly rapid--one generation accomplished the work in Cholula, and in Peru the few years of Pizarro's presence sufficed. Except for his introduction to Christianity, progress was made at the Indian's expense; nor was he expelled or allowed to escape, as were other Indians, the Moors, and the Jews. "He was an alien in the land of his fathers." The fall of Montezuma and of Atahuallpa foreshadowed the ruin of their race, and Prescott emphasized the distance and suddenness of the descent. The facts of such demises were themselves sufficiently melancholy, but Prescott also stressed the emperors' own sense of melancholy. Wounded by his own people, before whom he had degraded himself, Montezuma "resolved to die," and Prescott insisted that he died of spiritual as well as physical wounds; again the dying Indian leader became "a stately tree, the pride of his own Indian forests," but this tree was "the first" rather than the last "victim of the tempest." As "the sad victim of destiny," he was like the Peruvian people who lived on under the Spaniards: "a lonely outcast in the heart of his own capital!" The "refinement" of Atahuallpa, who was condemned to die "the death of a vile malefactor," was "the more interesting that it was touched with melancholy." With his pathetic death began the fatal quarrels of the conquerors.70


Prescott's concluding remarks on Montezuma compare him to Louis XIV, not only as an "'actor of majesty,'" but because of the "deep" stain of "bigotry" on his character, a bigotry that led him "to forego his nature."71 The comparison is not unique, for it suggests a relationship between primitive and civilized opponents of progress that Bancroft and Parkman also exploited. With varying thoroughness, all three historians worked out the affinity of Catholic and infidel. Except for the Jew, each infidel group had fought against progress, and all, including the Jew, were portrayed as materialistic. Whether "enthralled" by Nature or sunk in Oriental indulgence, the infidel was too obedient to his senses.

Whatever their concessions to the spiritual intent behind Catholic material symbols, Parkman and Prescott drove this point right through the heart of the central "fault" in Catholic worship. The distinction between the spiritual and the material was "lost on" Indian and zealot alike. Both Catholic and North American Indian had an unhealthy reverence for "relics of mortality"; the Catholic and all Indians suffered from "superstitious credulity." Because of its overwhelming appeal to the senses, Prescott believed that Catholicism provided its missionary to the Indians with

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"some decided advantages" over his Protestant competitor; in fact, Parkman said, Catholicism "was the only form of Christianity likely to take root" in the Indian's "crude and barbarous nature." The priestcraft of Aztec, Inca, and Moor; the Aztec's and Inca's monasteries and convents; the Aztec's "confessional" and his "fasts and flagellations"--these similarities strengthened the connection. From mutual susceptibility to materialism, the relationship extended even to national traits. All the infidels were "crafty," and French trapper and Peruvian alike became licentious as soon as they were released from the control of paternalism. The Jesuits, experts in "dissimulation," were "amazed at the depth" of Indian "duplicity."'72

Many of these resemblances are, of course, superficial. But the superficial likenesses were intended to suggest the underlying affinity. Historians who dramatized the march of humanity in "natural" and racial terms were happy to show that antiprogressives of every sort were basically sensual.73 Parkman had the advantage of a theater in which Catholic and infidel interests could be merged, and he often exploited his opportunity by uniting priest and pagan on his stage. He portrayed the Indian and Catholic allies not only to emphasize contrasts of splendor and squalor, but also to demonstrate the consanguinity of antiprogressive forces. The very first tableau in his history--the conjuration of New France's "departed shades"-- cast "a fitful light" on "lord and vassal and black-robed priest, mingled with wild forms of savage warriors, knit in close fellowship on the same stern errand." With both savage and priest, both fiend and ghost, located in a dark forest setting, Parkman thus achieved the alignment of diabolical forces that Cotton Mather had formerly arranged. But even when the subject is a splendid army gathered under the noble Montcalm, the same moral prevails; in the fight against progress, "the brightest civilization" joins forces with "the darkest barbarism." The "scholar-soldier Montcalm" is therefore obliged to accept as ally "the foulest man-eating savage of the uttermost northwest."'74

There is a major difference, however, between the infidel's and the Catholic's devotion to the Past. The infidel's devotion to the Past is pathetic. When he fights by the rules, not only his courage, but even his loyalty to the Past is noble. Although he stands against progress, he follows his nature, and he often defends a subordinate natural law that can be superseded only by the law of progress. The racial inadequacy that binds him to this inferior law--that denies him a future--leaves him only one noble choice: to oppose progress courageously. Since his extinction or ruin is inevitable, and since the agents of his ruin are sometimes unscrupulous, he is a pitiable

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casualty of progress. The historians' sentimental contemplation of the infidel's fate sometimes underscores the injustices of unnatural tyranny. As the sufferings of William of Orange and Washington remind the American reader that he is the beneficiary of progress, the infidel's fate reminds him of the mortality of nations. By inspiring an "honorable compassion," it also reminds him that he is a man of "humanity."