Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pg. 99: "Native America, Discovered and Conquered"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Robert J. Miller's Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny.

About the book, from the author's blog:
Manifest Destiny, as a term for westward expansion, was not used until the 1840s. Its predecessor was the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal tradition by which Europeans and Americans laid legal claim to the land of the indigenous people that they “discovered.” Thus the competition among the United States and European nations to establish claims of who got there first became very important. In the United States, the British colonists who had recently become Americans were competing with the English, French, and Spanish for control of lands west of the Mississippi. Who would be the “discoverers” of the Indians and their lands, the United States or the European countries? We know the answer, of course, but in this book, Miller for the first time explains exactly how the United States achieved victory, not only on the ground, but also in the developing legal thought of the day.

The American effort began with Thomas Jefferson’s authorization of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which set out in 1803 to lay claim to the West. Lewis and Clark had several charges, among them the discovery of a Northwest Passage – a land route across the continent – in order to establish an American fur trade with China. In addition, the Corps of Northwestern Discovery, as the expedition was called, cataloged new plant and animal life, and performed detailed ethnographic research on the Indians they encountered. This fascinating book lays out how that ethnographic research became the legal basis for Indian removal practices implemented decades later, explaining how the Doctrine of Discovery became part of American law, as it still is today.
Among the reviews and endorsements for Native America, Discovered and Conquered:
"In rationales for the invasion of the Americas, one legal instrument stands out in high relief: Europe's so-called 'Doctrine of Discovery.' In the first third of the 19th century, it morphed into the purely US doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Modern US historians know this much, but nearly none know the legal complexity or sweep of these ideas. When they are laid shockingly bare, as in Miller's important book, they are quickly seen to have been both idiotic and revered. Americans easily grasped the Doctrine of Discovery's ten legalisms for land seizure and incidental genocide before the 20th century, with the later Manifest Destiny dashing even the pretense of Native rights. Miller walks readers through deep, consistent evidence that Thomas Jefferson patterned his Louisiana expansionism upon the legal pretexts of discovery, setting up removal in the process. Miller carefully traces the racist, greedy religiosity of Manifest Destiny next used to seize Indian land, especially in Oregon, showing it also as the basis for laws applied to Native Americans that appallingly continue in effect into the present. A must read."
Choice, May 2007

"[P]ersuasive in making his case that a central legal ideology played a crucial role in justifying American assertions of jurisdiction over western territory and Native peoples. Miller convincingly demonstrates that Jefferson understood and applied elements of the doctrine of discovery in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.... [M]iller's legal insights provide a useful contribution to scholarship on Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Northwest, American expansionism, and U.S. Indian policy."
American Historical Review, June 2007

"Through its focus on the Doctrine of Discovery, Miller's book offers fascinating new insights into Jefferson's Indian policy, the significance of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and the origins of Manifest Destiny ideology in 19th- century America. Miller forces readers to confront the raw assertion of colonial power embodied in the Doctrine of Discovery, and its consistent deployment by the United States in the guise of law."
—Carole Goldberg, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Law School, co-author of American Indian Law: Native Nations and the Federal System

"Professor Miller's treatment of the Doctrine of Discovery shows us that we still have much to learn about how we came to legitimize our jurisdiction over this continent. He illustrates the dense interlacing of law, ideology, and politics at work in the making of the 'New World.' Everyone who is interested in Indian Law and the West will have to read this book."
Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair, University of Texas Law School
Read more about Native America, Discovered and Conquered, visit the book's blog, and see Robert Miller's faculty website.

The Page 99 Test: Native America, Discovered and Conquered.

--Marshal Zeringue