Re:New World Populations

Lee Sultzman (
Wed, 21 Dec 1994 07:49:39 GMT

>The big killers were the European diseases that they inadvertently brought
>with them which quickly spread into areas that the Spanish never
>reached. In the southeastern United States, these are believed to have
>been responsible for the deaths of three quarters of the original population
>by 1600.

>Lee, what evidence is there that these diseases were "INADVERTENTLY brought
>with them"? Biochemical warfare is as old as monkeys throwing feces at one
>another. Some argue the AIDS epidemic in the human population resulted
>because of immoral research done on chimps over the years, etc. At what
>point were TB invested blankets found to be the cause of native american
>deaths? When the cause was discovered, how long before the practice of
>giving such blankets to native americans subsided? What role, if any, did
>Jesuit priests play in such warfare?

Isn't it stretching things a bit to suggest that monkeys throwing feces at each other marked the beginning of biochemical least so far as we understand the meaning of this term in 1994. As for AIDS, I have heard several different versions of this, but the CIA, KGB, Defense Department, or other accused culprits are not saying much. Pathogens have always demonstrated an ability to mutate on their own volition without human assistance, and until some real evidence emerges, that is were the matter
will have to rest. Meanwhile we have a very serious public health problem to deal with.

Getting back to the first fifty years of the Spanish invasion of the New World, you are obviously taking issue with the use of "INADVERTENTLY brought with them." If the epidemics were not inadvertently brought them, then we would have to conclude that the Spanish deliberately introduced European diseases into the Western Hemisphere...supposedly to facilitate conquest. This is not a completely illogical conclusion considering the devastating effect upon native populations, but one with which there are serio
us problems.

Despite the recent proliferation of books suggesting that the use of "germ warfare" dates from the earliest times, I would suggest that it has never been used extensively, simply because once a disease is released, how can its effects be limited to only the enemy. Examples of infected corpses being hurled over medieval battlements during sieges are isolated exceptions. Where did they get the bodies in the first place. Obviously because the army involved already had some form of plague in its midst and was
more than willing to share this affliction with their enemies just to keep things even. Even today, with all of the potential of modern science to improve on nature's own arsenal, only a madman would consider the use of this weapon.

The Spanish may have been brutal, but they were not crazy. Those epidemics were perfectly capable of killing Europeans as well as Native Americans. If the European diseases were deliberately transferred across the Atlantic, how was this done? Can you imagine a Spanish captain who would knowingly allow infected persons or material to be brought aboard his ship? Can you think of a crew that would sail with him? Was there a colonial governor who would permit such a cargo to land at his port, and what person w
as going to transport the infected people or goods from the ship to the Indians?

Hernando Cortez was probably the ultimate conquistador. On his first visit to the Aztec in 1519, smallpox was "inadvertently" introduced into the population through infected Spanish soldiers. Driven out during the revolt against Moctezuma, he returned the next year and conquered Tenochtitlan. Without doubt, the smallpox epidemic made this possible, but did Cortez deliberately use "germ warfare?" Only if he was nuts! With only two hundred Spanish soldiers, he could not afford to lose any of his own men, and
if their "white gods" suddenly started dying from from a horrible disease, the 100,000 native allies who helped the Spanish overthrow the Aztec empire would probably have deserted them, or started dying themselves. No matter how opportune, logic dictates that the introduction of smallpox among the Aztec was probably inadvertent.

In any event, there were enough men of conscience among the Spanish to have blown the whistle, if "germ warfare" had been used. The protests of Spanish clergy to Charles V in 1530 ended the enforced slavery of the encomienda by the conquistadors. The royal proclamation was ignored until a secret letter by Bishop Zumarraga was smuggled to Spain in 1535. Afterwards, Don Antonio de Mendoza was sent to the Americas as viceroy with specific instructions to end the practice.

There have been many rumors of deliberate infection, but only one event can be proven since 1492. This occurred at Fort Pitt during the Pontiac rebellion in 1763 when the British commander, Colonel Henry Gladwin, attempted to break a siege by distributing blankets from smallpox victims to the Seneca, Delaware, and Shawnee. He was apparently acting in accordance with a policy suggested by Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the British commander in North America. Now I am just paranoid enough to suspect that somewhere or
someplace during the last 500 years, unscrupulous whites could have used blankets infected with smallpox, measles, cholera, TB, or what-have-you to kill Indians. If you have anything solid with names, places, and dates, I would really appreciate hearing about it. Polite flames accepted but no rumors or unfounded suspicions, please!

I'm not entirely comfortable with the history of medicine, but the knowledge of what could be used to infect people was fairly well-known by 1700. As to what organisms were responsible, vaccination, prevention, and proper treatment...that took another hundred years. Incidentally, Napoleon was so pleased with the success of William Jenner's vaccination in preventing smallpox within his army, that he would grant him almost any personal request, even while England and France were at war. In 1810 disease was s
till dangerous to both the conqueror and conquered.

As to the role of the Jesuits, their role in the first fifty years of the Spanish conquest was virtually nil since the order was not founded by Ignatius Loyola until 1539. Afterwards they served as missionaries and as such were an important parts of both the French and Spanish explorations. At first the Spanish Jesuits were inclined to be over-zealous and their missions in Florida created rebellion. The French Jesuits were also interested in conversions but were more concerned with the welfare of Native Am
ericans. Concerned about the corruption and warfare that the fur trade was creating, they were responsible for the French Crown suspending the fur trade in 1698. Later Spanish Jesuits like Father Kino in Arizona offered both conversion and assistance. Eventually the Jesuits became such a thorn in the side of colonial administrations that they were expelled from all Spanish dominions in 1767. An old movie from about five years ago, "The Mission" tells part of this story.

Not that they were all saints. In the Orient they got a little too worldly and involved in some questionable financial dealings. In the United States, the "Black Robes" have a rather sinister reputation among non-Catholics. Part of this stems from their role as secret agents from the Vatican to the Stuarts during the 1600s. Actually their missionary activities in the Pacific Northwest (DeSmet and Blanchet) are noteworthy, although whether this was good or bad depends on your opinion of the value of Christi
an conversion for Native Americans. IMHO they usually did what they sincerely thought was in the best interests of Native Americans. So much so that American soldiers burned the St. Joseph mission to the Yakima during the Yakima War (1855-56) and accused the Sacred Heart mission at Coeur d'Alene of inciting the Kutenai to attack Americans. If you were asking if the Jesuits deliberately infected Indians. NO!

Hope this helps. Sorry to rattle on for so long, but you really asked a lot of questions. Enjoy the Holidays!