Archive for American Indians

Puritan Contamination of America

Posted in Atheism, Atheist, belief, Christianity, faith, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2010 by chouck017894

During the reign of James the First, King of Great Britain from 1603 to 1625, the spirit of Puritanism had invaded English society and the Parliament, reaching a brief triumph in the person of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).  The first permanent English-Puritan colonists in America founded Jamestown in Virginia in 1607.  When these “Pilgrim Fathers” began to colonize New England, the native Americans—the Indians—were originally open-hearted and kind.  In every case, with the exception of William Penn (1682), after the Christian colonists had established their god-focused colony they had turned upon their benefactors and protectors, and without any attempt at moral behavior had robbed and murdered the Indians. 

In this timeframe, the founder and Head Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy of Virginia had at first sought friendly interaction with the whites.  Chief Powhatan was astonished and then embittered by the treachery, deceit and thievery indulged in by the Puritan crowd.  Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas (1595-1617), is alleged to have saved the life of the colony leader Captain John Smith in 1607.  The Captain was supposedly held captive by the Indians and was to be slain, but Pocahontas risked her own life to stop it.  At least that was the romantic tale related in a letter to future Queen Elizabeth in 1616.

By myth and tradition, however, the year 1620 is regarded in the United States as when the “Pilgrims” first set foot in the Americas.  Although the ship Mayflower did indeed reach the bleak shore of what is today Massachusetts in 1620, the Pilgrims were at that location due to bad weather and poor navigation.  Their intended destination had been Jamestown and “The Old Dominion” of Virginia, 500 miles to the south which had been established in 1607.  And tradition has it that the Puritans brought by the Mayflower were fleeing religious persecution in England, but the bulk of them had lived for eleven years in Holland where they were not persecuted.  The real reason for the Puritans to strike out  for the New World was to bring aid and support to the Puritan element in Virginia, for the Puritan deputy governor, Samuel Argall, had been deposed by the Episcopalians in 1619—a great set-back for the Whig/Puritan cause.  But the newly arrived “pilgrims” chose to end their travel traumas and instead establish a new colony in Massachusetts on the tenets of harsh intolerance for any belief other than their own. 

In the course of the next twenty years thousands of Puritans settled in what is now Massachusetts.  The situation in England changed, however, and in 1640 emigration by Puritans to America came to a standstill.  The Puritans that had come to the New World considered themselves to be members of the Church of England, and they held no desire to separate.  The Pilgrims that preceded them in the new land in 1607 were already separate from English communion and were independent in their church government.  The influence of the earlier Pilgrims, aided by the Puritans’ sense of being cut off from their home country, led to the Puritans grudging adoption of the Congregational or Independent form of church government.  But the strictness, bigotry, intolerance toward other forms of worship, and the Puritan “blue laws” were to cast their long kinky shadow of Puritanism even into the 21st century.

One example (out of  many that could be cited) of Christian-Puritan piety among the New England settlers is the disgraceful carnage known as the Cos Cob Massacre that occurred December 24, 1641.  The New England settlers had been kindly received by the Cos Cob Indians at Stamford and vicinity (Connecticut).  The Indians had taught the settlers how to make a living from the sea and from the forest.  But when the number of settlers had grown and they attained sufficient firearms, they displayed their Christian understanding of love by creeping out on Christmas Eve to the Indian village of Petudquapen.  In the spirit of Christ they built a huge fire at each of the  village gates and then shot down every man, woman and child that sought to escape.  Every inhabitant of the village perished—400 “savage” souls.

The Puritans who remained in England disliked the useless, misleading and unscriptural forms and ceremonies—especially when those forms and ceremonies were obligatory for all and the observance of them enforced by civil authority.  This, they felt, hampered their faith.  But Elizabeth I was queen, and she leaned toward more colorful tastes and disliked the simplicity and bareness of Puritanism.  The suggestion of puritanical modification of the Prayer Book and ceremonies in the church led to Elizabeth’s first Parliament passing, the Act of Uniformity(1662).  In that Act it was declared unlawful for any form of public worship but the Prayer Book, and acknowledged the Queen as supreme governor of the realm in spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs.  The situation grew steadily harsher for the Puritans, reaching such a state of severity under Charles I (1625-1649) that the Puritans and Separatists again set sail for America.

To the Puritans the idea of religious tolerance was an utterly devilish concept.  Once they reached the American shore that devotion to intolerance could and was made more rigid than permitted in Europe.  Among the first to feel Puritan prejudice were the Baptists.  Indeed, Roger Williams had to flee from them c. 1636 into the wilderness region that became Rhode Island.  His comment on Puritan persecution of Protestants and Papists are on record with open reference to the blood of so many thousands of victims.  On record too is the account of four Quakers being hanged by Puritans for having differing religious beliefs. 

The Puritan movement, like the Roman Catholic Church, embraced a drastically literal interpretation of the priest-written Genesis version of Creation.  The Puritan movement embraced such interpretation influenced mainly by the English Puritan poet John Milton’s epic work Paradise Lost, composed from 1658 to 1665 and published in 1667.  As noted in Time Frames and Taboo Data: So influential was this poetic epic that Milton’s elaborate rendition of Creation was termed the “Miltonic  hypothesis” by Thomas Henry Huxley.  Theologians swarmed upon what they termed Milton’s “natural” interpretation, and special criticism of an allegorical interpretation was taken up as a fad-craze of Christian thought.  Like most fads, literal interpretation of Bible accounts would crumble before scientific research and the rationality presented by Charles Robert Darwin in the 19th century.

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U. S. Constitution: Thank the Indians

Posted in culture, Government, history, Inspiration, life, politics, random, thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2009 by chouck017894

The Constitution of the United States of America was drafted in 1787 and became effective in 1789.  It is an extraordinary document, to which all laws of the land must conform.  By its carefully worded provisions, however, the field of its law stipulations is self-limiting, for the powers of sovereignty of the United States are divided between Federal and State governments.  All states have constitutions of their own, but state laws must conform to both the Federal and to the State constitution.  The Preamble of the Federal Constitution is a stirring declaration, which, unfortunately, is little remembered in today’s hustle and bustle.  We should pause now and then to reconsider the ideals that were set forth in the short Preamble.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

These wonderful and stirring ideals and intent did not blossom forth out of European models with its long and troubled line of kings, emperors, tyrants and heavy church domination.  The inspiration for such a declaration of noble purpose has been little acknowledged: the democratic principles came from the American Indians—the Iroquois Federation of five native nations which included the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida and Cayuga tribes.  The Iroquois Federation had, at the time of drafting of the U. S. Constitution, been in existence from around 1500—or for some 287 years.

Each of the five tribes was self-governing, and no king presided over the Federation.  Each tribe was represented in a grand council, and members of the council decided upon a collective policy such as defense and trade agreements, but each tribe followed their own customs and tribal laws. 

The author/consultant/teacher Stan Steiner, whose interest was focused largely on western Indian cultures, wrote that Benjamin Franklin became intrigued with Indian forms of government around 1744.  Franklin attended a meeting of colonial governors in that year which was addressed by Chief Canasatego of the Iroquois Federation.  The Chief explained the Indian confederacy, saying that their means of governing were the same methods established by their wise forefathers.  He also asserted to the assembled governors that by observing the same methods “…you will acquire such strength and power…” as their union had provided.

In 1754 delegates to the Albany Congress met to discuss matters of governing.  Benjamin Franklin was there and his suggestion was to study the Iroquois Federation system of governing.  His recommendation noted that the Indian system “…had subsisted for ages and appears indissoluble.”  But it would be decades before the Iroquois Federation model would inspire the gathering of statesmen in 1787.  Franklin was in attendance then as well when the democratic principles expressed by the Iroquois Federation became incorporated into the U. S. Constitution.