By Nathan Barton
Reason Magazine recently told the story of the tiny Liberty County (Texas) Vindicator’s fight with Facebook. In short, the Vindicator was not able to publish part of its serialization of the Declaration of Independence because a Facebook robot declared something (probably the 31st article against King George) a violation of their policy against hate speech and racism.
Read it for yourself in any honest copy of that Declaration:
“… the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”
The article at Reason Magazine brands this as racist and hate speech, but protected because it is part of a historical document. So it needs to be allowed, but explained.
I call foul.
(Please note, I get a free pass for saying this, because at least some of my ancestors were these “merciless Indian Savages” at the time, back in the 1770s. And later. I’ll explain below.)
Why do I say this? First, because the statement was true. Maybe a bit exaggerated: the frontier was unlikely to collapse. But the British did orchestrate and encourage raids against the frontier population. And the people doing that – members of the Cherokee Nation, among others, were indeed merciless Savages. Civilized? Yes, but still waging war as merciless savages. A fact that English and Scots troopers in the Royal Army would be highly aware of. Why? Because their ancestors, both by blood and occupation (as royal troops, and before that as troops of the noble houses of England and the princely dynasties and the clans of Scotland – were merciless savages themselves.
(Some of which were also my ancestors – and those of my wife.)
Get this: it is NOT racist, and it is NOT hate speech, to state what is true.
The wars which ravaged the British Isles for 1500 years (and probably longer) were conducted by savages – merciless savages – who destroyed all ages and sexes and conditions (such as priests and holy men and women, physicians, and – gasp – even engineers and postmen). So too were the wars waged between the nations of the British and their hated enemies the French – wars that would continue for a half-century after Jefferson pinned these words. Read about the Spanish campaigns of the Napoleonic wars, and not just the various wars between French and British colonial forces in North America, India, and elsewhere from about 1600 to the early 19th century.
I am not talking about the justice or injustice of those wars, how they got started, what the causes were, or which side (if any) was on the right side. I am writing of how those wars were waged. Without mercy, in a savage manner. By “civilized” people. Who behaved like savages. Were savages. Despite many efforts on the part of peacemakers and religious people (not just Catholic priests and the Roman heirarchy). In which children and women and the elderly and just about anyone else were hacked down without mercy, left to die in agony or starvation, robbed, raped and more.
It was a kind of warfare that was very familiar to the AmerInd peoples of North America (and even more so to the peoples of MesoAmerica: Aztec and Toltec and Maya and their neighbors). Indeed, historians have pointed out that at least some truly savage customs that we now associate with the Lakota (Sioux), Inde (Apache), Kii-i-gwu (Kiowa), Numu (Comanche) and others, actually were introduced by French, English, and Spanish armies and colonists. Things like scalping. Ah! Civilization!
But many others were and had been quaint local customs going back for centuries if not millennia. Practices such as torturing people (either to warn others of their sinful condition or to give the victims the opportunity to demonstrate their bravery), enslaving women and children (and sometimes even men!), mutilating enemies or enemy bodies, and more. Denying medical care to wounded and dying people – and even denying spiritual consolation.
I think the appropriate word IS savage. Barbarians do not have to be savages.
It is not racist to point out that Scots clans’ warriors were savages and without mercy. Any more than Edward’s forces invading Scotland, or Cromwell’s forces invading Ireland were merciless and behaved in a savage manner. Nor to say the same thing about Japanese troops in the 1930s and 1940s, or Russian (Soviet) troopers in 1945 Germany. Nor Spanish troops (and their AmerInd allies) destroying the Azteca in the early 1500s. Nor Muslim conquerors in Iberia and Asia Minor and even early France in the 700s.
And it is not racist to report the truth and say the same thing about the Creeks and Muskogee and even the Iroquois in the 1700s. And about the Comanche and Lakota and Crow and Chiricahua and Mimbreno (both Apache tribes) in the 1700s and 1800s. Or for that matter, the Khymer Rouge of Cambodia, the Chinese Communists, Viet Minh, Viet Cong, and many others.
People can be savage and merciless without government, but it takes government to really bring out those “qualities” in people. As happened in colonial North America and in today’s bloody “civilization.”
If we are too finicky to tell the truth about being savages and without mercy, we will make sure that more and more people fail to understand history and the true nature of mankind. And human government.
(As I said I would in opening, my ancestors include Numu (Comanche), Inde (Chiricahua Apache), and Tsalagi (Cherokee), including one great-great-grandmother, a half-breed Numu-Inde (and therefore probably the daughter of a slave) who married a Texian man whose first wife (also Texian; Anglo) was killed by Comanche raiders. I’m a shirttail relative of a Numu (Comanche) war- and peace-chief who was himself half-breed Numu-Texian (Anglo) by his mother, another Comanche war captive and slave. My wife and I share Scots, Scots-Irish, Welsh, and East Anglian ancestors. All not just “barbarians” but “savages” and worse. There aren’t many ethnic ancestries of mine I could not be “insulted about” if I let such things bother me.)