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(12/27/2008) Facing West: The Metaphysics Of Indian-Hating & Empire-Building by Richard Drinnon. Minneapolis. 1980. University Of Minnesota Press. keywords: American Indian History Racism. 571 pages. 0816609780.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'Thus we spent the day burning and spoiling the country,' wrote Puritan John Underhill, an eyewitness to Captain John Endicott's 1636 expedition of vengeance against the Pequot Indians of Connecticut. The destruction of the Pequots is emblematic, to Richard Drinnon, of the fate of other victims of the Anglo-American westward movement. From New England to Indochina, the author follows the white invaders and finds striking continuities in both actions and attitudes. Facing West draws upon the words and lives of selected individuals - 'the living substance of history' - to trace the course of American racism and imperialism. In the early republic, Drinnon finds Jefferson and Monroe the first advocates of Indian removal to territory west of the Mississippi. He also uncovers the fascinating and often tortuous views of less well known figures - novelists James Kirke Paulding and William G. Simms and an early head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Thomas L. McKenney, who helped set up mission schools in order to break the family and tribal ties of young Indians by the late nineteenth century American aims ranged beyond the west coast. A popular lecturer during the Centennial years was John Fiske, an advocate of social Darwinism and global empire who stirred audiences with his call for the Manifest Destiny of the 'English race. ' For Drinnon the same patterns of thought underlie the letters that Henry Adams wrote during an excursion to Samoa and the imperial acquisitions of his friend John Hay, secretary of state under McKinley and Roosevelt. The bloody 'pacification' of the Philippines at the turn of the century and the American war in Vietnam - amplified in the career of CIA counterinsurgent Edward Geary Lansdale bring Drinnon's book to a close. In the lives of Thomas Morton of Merrymount, novelist Mary Austin, George Catlin, Melville, and Thoreau, Drinnon finds a deeper understanding of the American Indian. Yet he maintains that the dominant mode in American thought and action, from the Connecticut River to Tippecanoe to My Lai, was the creed described by Melville as the 'metaphysics of Indian-hating. ' Frederick ackson Turner's frontier - 'the meeting point between savagery and civilization - Drinnon sees as a collision point between nature, on the one hand, and fraud, cant, and conquest on the other. 'No one seriously concerned with American history,' says Henry Nash Smith, 'will be able to avoid coming to terms with this book.'

 

 

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