“Extremism” and Abolition

Wilentz and Davis both discuss similar abolitionism themes in the north, Cincinnati and New York in particular, that helped gain traction for abolition movements. I was equally as shocked as Alex was in learning that abolitionists faced angry mobs in larger cities in New York and extreme hostility. The rhetoric of the abolitionist movement was certainly new and categorized as “extreme” for their time. Wilentz even goes as far as saying some abolitionist groups even alienated the more moderate abolitionists because of there fervor. However, this is not the only side of the slavery argument that can seem extreme.

Wilentz goes on to speak of the interesting postal service debacle that has become a point of note in the Jacksonian Presidency. When the AA-SS began to send large amounts of anti-slavery and abolitionist rhetoric in the form of mail and pamphlets in the south. Attempting to spread the new moralist and Christian ideologies fighting against the moral injustice of slavery in the United States. Angry southerners and even postmasters took part in the ransacking of post offices and public burning of the documents. Technically highly illegal, Jackson turned a relative blind eye to this situation at first and eventually attempted to institute federal censorship of the post, which would have been an incredibly extreme law. This was put down in votes and never was formalized, but the simple suggestion was somewhat extreme, as was the response against the abolitionists.

Therefore it seems there were two extreme sides that continually were increasing and eventually coming to a head. Davis in the last couple pages mentions that abolitionists were increasingly espousing violent rhetoric and condoning or even advocating violence. The Christian rhetoric of acceptance and moralist changed to an old testament violence. Demonizing the southern slaveholder, many of these groups decided to abandon the simple moral arguments, discussions, and pamphlets, realizing that much more would need to be done in order to exact any real change in the southern states. With their power being increasing with the Dread Scott case and expanding slave owning powers, they lamented but accepted that this could possibly be a cause that would lead to much bloodshed, a prophecy which would certainly become true in their own efforts and eventually culminating in the civil war.

The Rise of American Democracy: Chapter 13

In chapter 13 of The Rise of American Democracy, Wilentz touches up a variety of issues. In particular he focuses in on the Second Bank of the United States, the abolitionist movement, and Unions. Moreover, Wilentz highlights how the Jacksonian administration handled these particular issues, and rationalizes how these events set the stage for the emergence of a new type of American democracy.

I found it particularly interesting that abolitionists were targeted with violence in the North as well as the South. I had previously imagined the North as the primary breeding ground for abolitionism, and found it shocking that abolitionists were subjected to angry mobs and official repression by the government. Apparently, at least towards the beginnings of our nation, abolitionists were treated with the same disdain and concept in the North as they were in the South.

Wilentz made a good point when examining the Second Bank of the United States, and Jackson’s response to what he considered an impending crisis. Removing government deposits from the bank was a certainly a bold move, and gave Henry Clay and his rivals ample ammunition to use against him. His opponents could certainly construe his actions in a negative light, and ultimately were able to portray Jackson as a tyrannical despot who was overreaching the executive powers given to him. Previously, Wilentz had shown a certain bias for Jackson in his writing, yet I feel in this chapter he does a good job of highlighting both the good and the bad aspects of his character. In particular, he calls out Jackson for failing to enforce the 1836 Post Office Law, which left in question the relationship between national and state government.

The author of the post “Early 1800 Politics,” made a good point in his piece last week when he discussed the still developing system of American politics. Both national and state government officials were still trying to determine the appropriate balance of power in the recently formed government. In light of this, Jackson’s failure to uphold the 1836 Post Office Law is even more egregious. Jackson supposedly supported the notion of federal supremacy, and yet allowed states to violate the Post Office Law.  Here Jackson contradicts himself, and sets a dangerous precedent. Instead of clarifying the relationship between national and state governments, he violates his own principles simply because it was easier to do so, and threw into question the power of the federal government.

Ultimately, I feel as if Wilentz does an exceedingly good job with chapter 13 of The Rise of American Democracy.  In particular, I feel he rids his writing of a certain bias for Jackson that had shown up in previous chapters. In chapter 13 Wilentz does an excellent job of portraying both the good and the bad aspects of Jackson’s administration.

Jackson: Bankers, Abolitionists, and Unions

Wilentz goes through the second half of Jackson’s presidency in  chapter 13, taking the reader through first the drama of the Bank War, then through the growing abolitionist movement, and then through the Union movement taking place in urban centers, such as New York and Boston. Even before coming to the last section of Wilentz’s chapter, I found a peculiar amount of contradictions in Jackson’s stances, as well as how various groups alligned themselves politically.

Jackson first closes down the BUS by redistributing the dungs from the national bank to loyal state banks. Wilentz explains that Jackson’s motives were that the national bank was tied with northern industries, and did not support or fund frontier expansions. This fits with Jackson’s earlier moves, as Grey mentions in his post, around Georgia’s state power to deal with the Cherokees as they saw fit.

However, it is interesting that many people who backed Jackson initially saw this Bank War as Jackson’s lust for power. While he may have said that he did not want a powerful federal government, he also was able — as only one man — to bypass Congress in issues related to the Bank. Additionally, Jackson redistributed the funds to only a few states — showing a sort of favoritism in politics that he seemed vehemently against. This is an interesting contradiction.

Another contradiction I found was Wilentz’s reason for why Jackson did not become involved in some of the abolitionist issues that arose over censoring mail and abolitionist literature distribution. Some Southern states wanted to prohibit this literature from circulating. While Congress said this was unconstitutional, there was no enforcement in the states themselves. This was an issue of state rights over federal rights, so one might assume that Jackson might blindly favor state rights, allowing for the censorship of abolitionist literature. However, he was against this. Wilentz reasons that “though Jackson disapproved, he did not want to stir up more trouble” by calling states out in the unenforced laws. Wilentz seems to be, once again, painting a favorable picture of Jackson. Jackson had no problem stirring up trouble by redirecting funds from the National Bank, and speaking his mind on other issues, even when it directly threw him up against Congress. I don’t think it is fair for Wilentz to therefore reason this.

I see many similarities between the abolitionist movement and unionists that Wilentz does not interestingly spell out more clearly. This era seemed marked by many “for the people” movements, both for the workers (unions) and for slave laborers. While Wilentz discusses “a new humane model of equality, [and] freedom” in terms of abolitionist movements through the religious lens, I think this can be an interesting parallel to the unionizing and Workies in the Northeast.

Indian Removal on the Frontier

Genocides are usually thought of as the mass killing of a specific group of people. In the passage by Wolfe, we are shown the many different aspects of a genocide and how they can be related to the settler colonialism. There are many differences between the two, but the main goal and the way to get share many similarities.

Wolfe makes the distinction early on that the elimination of a group of people from a colonial settlement have less to do with race than to do with the culture. Those in an area being colonized are less advanced, usually agricultural, and sometimes nomadic. These aspects fueled the Indian Removal from the British colonies more so than the racial aspects of the people there. The incoming culture wants to spread their wealth and by holding the native people below them there is a superiority created by the newcomers. They want to remove the uncivilized in order to preserve themselves and their society. It was not racial as can be seen through a few of the Indians who were able to assimilate and become part of the American culture. Those who assimilated well were not removed because they had removed themselves from their culture and were no longer “savages.”

The removal of Indians did not change much when there were any changes in regime as said in Wolfe’s passage. This shows that it was different from many genocides we think of today. The people of the frontier continued to push out Indians to claim more land. When Britain tried to stop them the colonies revolted and continued to claim more and more Indian territory.This is different from other genocides like the holocaust where the mass killings and removal of the afflicted came about and left with the Nazi party. As said in “The Consequence of Colonial Settlement” the people on the frontier routinely destroyed Indian towns and people. They did this for the land, and probably to feel more safe. They saw the Indians as a threat not only to their society, but to their well being also. To drive the Indians farther and farther away would give them protection and continue the increase of wealth gained from new lands.

Wolfe argues that settler colonialism was a kind of genocide and I believe he is right. The reasoning for the removal of the Indians may not coincide with how many think of genocide, but the outcome is the same. The native people were killed, assimilated, and moved in order to destroy the culture and eliminate the culture on the native lands. The colonists wanted the land to use for themselves and saw the way to do that was to get rid of the native people. Their removal is as much a genocide as the removal of the Jewish population by the Nazi’s and many other genocides in history.


Indian Removal

The start of the Indian genocide really started with what we talked about in the first week of classes.  We discussed how each European imperial power derived its authority in taking over land from the Americas, whether it was from religious authority like the Pope, or being the first one to map a particular area, these things justified these European countries in taking the land and removing the Indians.  Like Emma touched on in her most recent post, some interesting points Wolfe brought up were how the Indians likely were not wiped out completely initially, because having alliances with them was a valuable tool in fighting other European nations, like in the 7 years war.  He also brought up how countries like the United States would “buy” the land from the Indians in order to once again justify it, but in reality the Indians had no choice but to accept the offer and lose their land.

The other major point Wolfe brought up in regards to the Indians involved the 5 Civilized Tribes.  He describes how they were assimilating nicely to United States culture, they had made their own plantations, they owned slaves, and they even had their own constitution, which I had never learned.  Wolfe said the United States didn’t consider assimilation a possibility because that would signify permanence.  That reminded me of Tuesday’s reading from Wilentz because it related to how the African Americans of the same time were also not given the possibility of assimilation, but instead were trying to be shipped back to Africa.

Wolfe’s closing argument I thought also related to the Frederick Jackson Turner piece on the demise of the frontier.  With the Louisiana Purchase, this enabled the United States to kick the Indians to the West.  But with the demise of the frontier, they were forced into smaller and smaller plots of land, often with many different tribes, and this was the main cause of the “cultural genocide” that Olivia mentioned in her post.

Genocide: does culture equal life?

I really enjoyed reading Patrick Wolfe’s article Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Wolfe’s arguments we not surprising to me because I have always understood Indian removal and assimilation in the context of cultural genocide. In middle and high school we talked a fair amount about forced assimilation, treaties and residential schools, and I think we should have had even more of a focus on those parts of our history.

I appreciated the progression of Wolfe’s argument beginning with exploring settler colonization as a structure rather than an event and moving through when settler colonization constitutes genocide, the social/ political contexts and constructs that lead to genocide and the vital role of culture in identity and genocide. At first I was surprised when Wolfe wrote that he doesn’t favor the term “cultural genocide” because it’s a term I have never questioned (398); I have never thought of “cultural genocide” as less than or completely distant from “biological” genocide. Olivia also address the differentiation of genocide and cultural genocide in her blog post “The Indian Removal: A Cultural Genocide”, arguing that the forced annihilation of Native culture cannot be ignored, but that it is unfair to say that the Indian removal was a genocide comparable to the Holocaust. I think the comparison of such horrific events is challenging in and of itself because in making a comparison it inevitably places a hierarchy on different experiences, diminishing one comparatively to the other. I think the argument that Wolfe is making here is that to qualify genocide as cultural, risks glossing over the murderous nature of genocide, by creating a distinction between culture and life. Wolfe argues that “cultural genocide” has a “direct impact on people’s capacity to stay alive” (399), which I would agree with and take one step further. Not only does “cultural genocide”, just like “biological” genocide, lead directly to many deaths (which leaves the community depleted and struggling) it also changes and undermines the identity of those individuals who survive, which has long term social, political and psychological impacts. I think that Wolfe begins to capture this intergenerational impact when he focuses on settler colonization as a structure and not an event, but I think he could have pushed this further. He is discussing the extent to which these policies and their effects were genocide and how they are the same/ different from our current understandings of genocide; it would have been thought provoking for him to address whether the intergenerational impacts resulting in social challenges and deaths decades after these initial policies can be included in genocide.

Briefly, I also thought that Wolfe’s discussion quantifying who qualified as Indian was really thought provoking. Wolfe writes “under the blood quantum regime, one’s Indianness progressively declines in accordance with a ‘biological’ calculus that is a construct of Euroamerican culture” (400). This can also be seen as a less overt form of cultural assimilation, by imposing empirical measures on someone’s identity and using this analysis to determine rights. This also raises the question for of legal vs. individual definitions of who is Native (particularly related to treaty rights) and how these different definitions can impact the way that statistics are presented, and impacts of policies, such as Indian removal, are tracked and quantified. (This may only apply to Canadian policy, but) are individuals who gave up their Indian status by moving off reserves, but still culturally define themselves as Native, included in impact statistics and if they are not included, does that mean that we overlook them in our historical analysis?

Works Cited:

Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (December 2006): 387-409.

The Consequence of Colonial Settlement

In Wolfe’s article, he argues that the colonist’s settlement process was an act of genocide towards Native Americans. He first defines genocide as a form of elimination, in which a group of people are forced to assimilate and are looked upon as “non-Indian,” thereby no longer racially stigmatized. In the colonists’ eyes, the “Indians” were no longer an obstacle to expansion once assimilated because they adapted to the colonial culture and treated land as the colonists did. They gave up their large territory and became part of the American culture.

Wolfe argues that genocide is not just the mass murder of a population but also the destruction of a society. A post below, believes that Wolfe’s argument for Native American genocide should be termed “cultural genocide.” However, Wolfe explicitly denies calling this act as cultural genocide because it devalues the experience of the Indigenous people who went through similar experiences, especially in comparison to the “prime” example of genocide, the Holocaust (402). He argues that the term “cultural genocide” implies an almost dismissive attitude towards the experience of the Native Americans specifically because people normally think of the Holocaust, a case of mass murder, as a much more malicious act. Wolfe states that what the Indigenous people went through was just as cruel as what occurred during World War II, only we as culture do not see it so because the natives were not outright killed but eliminated through assimilation. We forget that an entire culture was lost and forgotten, that the natives were forced to adapt or face death.

Others have pointed out that colonial settlement cannot be called genocide due to the intent behind expansion. The colonists had not removed the Native Americans with the intent of destroying a population, but rather, removed an obstacle out of their way and death was an unintentional consequence. While this may be partially true, we forget that for a lot of colonists, death was a consequence they knew but did not care about. Colonists would forcefully remove Native Americans by burning villages without warning or forcing them to march miles without the necessary supplies. I would argue that knowing death was a high possibility due to one’s actions and then ignoring it is just as bad or the same as purposefully murdering someone.

Kill the Indian, Save the Man

Patrick Wolfe’s analysis of genocide and settler colonization brings in the aspect of cultural and physical genocide in relation to Native American populations. A large part of his discussion consists of why genocide is used and how it is implemented. Racial stratification, he claims, is one of the tools that settlers use to justify removal. Permanence and ownership by these “inferior populations” were the great threats that spurred settler violence against indigenous peoples. Settler colonialism for Wolfe is an act of elimination, but not necessarily death. The land is the object of importance, and it is sought after by any means necessary. I believe that Wolfe is entirely correct in his judgment that the genocide used to terminate the culture not only comes from the destruction of their physical bodies, but also through the assimilation and/or coerced integration to the settler society. Olivia discusses this in her post, “Indian Removal: A Cultural Genocide.” I believe she has a strong point in saying that cultural destruction is a condemnable act and that it cannot be ignored as one of the most destructive tools used against Native populations.

I have had extensive experience with Native Americans in Montana, as sports teams, family vacations, and other academic endeavors often took me through the many reservations there. Though Wolfe may seem overly dramatic in his assessment of colonization, I cannot say that he is wrong. Assimilation was the most powerful genocidal tool in Montana. Many of the adult males were killed in conflict and the people were removed from their traditional lands, but the true devastation (and much of the long-lasting impact) came from assimilation practices. Wolfe interestingly does not spend much time discussing boarding schools and the forced extraction of Native children, particularly girls, that was done in order to “properly raise” them in white society. The children were taken away from the reservations at a very young age so that they could receive an education that would prepare them for life outside of the reservations, and they were simultaneously encouraged to look down on their birth culture and ancestry. The effects of this practice were profound and unbelievably destructive. In Montana in particular, this was a widely implemented practice driven by Federal programs. Pratt shines light on the goals of this mission, through his statement that “…all Indian that there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man” (397). These boarding school programs doubly achieved this initiative. Family connections, in the native cultures that I am familiar with, are extremely strong. Thus the families left behind were weakened, and the constant threat that their child would be hurt kept them subdued. The child was also raised in a way that Indian culture became unfamiliar.

The results of this practice, and the proximity of so many successful members of the settler society, have caused a precipitous decline in proud, active members of Native tribes. Many of the members have left tribes in search of the American dream. Many have not only become assimilated into standard American culture, but were eager to do so. Many in my generation loathe how destitute the reservations have become and leave them as soon as possible. Much of the cultural genocide has been thorough in Montana, and I believe that Wolfe expresses the connected nature of it all very well.

The Indian Removal: A Cultural Genocide

In “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native,” Patrick Wolfe argues that genocide and the elimination of the American Native population through colonial settlement are inextricably linked, though are not always the same. Wolfe cites numerous examples in the article, such as the Holocaust and the creation of the Israeli state, but predominately structures his argument around the Indian Removal of the 1830s. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, Indian tribes located in the Southeast United States were forcibly removed from their homes and ordered to relocate to the West, where federal territory was available for Indian reservations. Wolfe points out, however, that the removal was not mandatory—Indians could remain in the Southeast if they completely assimilated into American society and abandoned their tribal identities. Indians who assimilated into the white, American ideal were subject to a sort of genocide, because retaining their property was dependent upon the loss of their “Indigenous soul[s]” (Wolfe 397).

While I agree with Wolfe that the Indian Removal approached a genocide, I consider the term “cultural genocide” to be a more appropriate term for understanding the historical event and its implications. Indians who remained in the Southeast were not mass-murdered; therefore it would be unfair to label the Indian Removal as genocide equivalent to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews lost their lives. The forced annihilation of Native culture, however, must not be ignored as insignificant, justifiable, and forgivable. Therefore, I must completely disagree with one of my colleague’s blog posts, “Not Genocide.” My colleague argued that the Indian Removal was probably “a necessary evil,” for which white Americans could not have understood “the impact any of their actions would have on the future.” It is true that we cannot consider the Indian Removal from a modern-day context in which prejudices against Native peoples are politically incorrect. This does not mean, however, that the forced removal of Natives, which resulted in a loss of culture and a loss of lives, was a necessary and justifiable evil. The Indian Removal was just evil. Further, I do not believe that white Americans would have even cared to consider “the impact any of their actions would have on the future.” The people who forced Indians to flee their homes at gunpoint, would not have worried about the long-term implications of their actions. In actuality, these people wholeheartedly believed in Natives’ inferiority, and the only Natives who were not subject to removal were forced to reject their Indian identities. Thus, the Indian Removal was a cultural genocide, and its terribleness should not be undermined in historical study.

Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (December 2006): 387-409.

Not Genocide

Wolfe’s article titled Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native raised some very interesting points that I can’t say I have ever thought of before. Basically he was saying that in North America, the Native Americans experienced genocide by colonist settlers.  He defined this point by saying that “Even where native sovereignty was recognized, however, ultimate dominion over the territory in question was held to inhere in the European sovereign in whose name it had been “discovered.” (5) The Europeans claimed the land as their own, and disregarded the fact that the Native Americans were there first.  They wanted to “eliminate” the Native Americans by relocating them to other land. They justified their actions by saying the Native Americans were “unsettled, nomadic, rootless” and that the settlers could improve the land by creating new farms, mining etc. (10) One of my classmates references this by saying “Georgia, being the prime example, began eagerly removing the Cherokee people and were prepared to stand up to National military force to do so.” They were just uncomfortable with having them there. Wolfe ultimately explains his main point that once the frontier ran out and the settlers began the process of assimilation with the Native Americans, genocide occurred because they destroyed the collective group.


While this definitely made me think about the settlers actions, I can’t say that I am persuaded. Compared to other genocides he mentions like the Holocaust and Rwanda, I can’t follow his argument. Reading this article did make me realize that the settlers may not have treated the Native Americans in the best possible manner, but it by no means was genocide.  They did treat the Native Americans poorly, killed many, and assimilate a lot, but I still don’t classify that as genocide. It is not right, but it is not genocide.


Another aspect of this is that it is really easy for us to say now that the actions of the settlers were wrong. This is unfair because at the time, they had no idea the impact any of their actions would have on the future. It almost was a necessary evil. At the time, North America was growing, and expansion was the only concern. They were not concerned with the treatment of people of other races. I am not condoning their behavior, but I don’t believe it is our place to critique how they treated the Indians when it was such a different time period.