Re: New world populations

Douglas C Scott (
Fri, 23 Dec 1994 05:51:51 GMT

MBAWilliam ( wrote:


: Emotional arguments, aside, its seems we are slipping into our old habit
: of Eurocentricism here...Places and Dates? I assume you mean then, the
: *written European record*? Good thing we didn't require European Jews to
: have written documentation of every attrocity that occured in Nazi
: Germany...Then again, that is the argument many Holocaust critics use,
: isn't it? Native American oral tradition, which, then again, you may term
: *rumour*, is rife with the *intent* of European and their diseases...But
: to get back to 17th Century New England, although disease did decimate a
: number of the smaller groups (intentional or otherwise, over 85% mortality
: in fact), to excuse the burning of Fort Mistick as an act of *warfare*
: truly trivializes the episode. In fact, it was the first in a series of
: attempts to eradicate the Pequots, who had not suffered greatly in the
: epidemics...The colonial assembly even put bounties on Pequot heads...
: Over 3000 were killed at Mistick, the Fairfield Swamp or elsewhere, the
: rest sold into slavery to white settlers, Mohegans or plantation owners in
: the West Indies.... If this is not intentional genocide, could you give me
: a more appropriate example? (And I do have many, many European citations
: for these events, if you're interested, as it is my area of research)...
: Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident here in New England... it
: happened a mere 30 years later, this time to the other powerful,
: wampum-producing group (relatively unscathed by epidemics), the
: Narragansetts...Something called King Philips War?

: MB Williams
: Wesleyan

This topic came up before and two examples were cited of English settlers
giving small pox infected blankets to the Indians. But both examples
occured at a fort under seige by the Indians in the 18th century.
Do you think it was common practice by the English to store
such blankets in a storeroom in a glass case with a sign over it
saying in case of Indian attack break glass? A much more likely
senario is that both forts had small pox raging inside of them
during the seige. And trying to give your own plague to the
enemy had been common practice since the middle ages.

European knowledge of how diseases spread was very poor during
this period. I read an article some years ago about a Civil
War period doctor with Southern sympathies who is suspected of
having tried to help the Cause by spreading blankets from Yellow
Fever victims amoung Union troops. This, of course, had no
effect as Yellow Fever is in fact spread by mosquitoes. In
fact contrating on how such diseases as Yellow Fever and malaria
caused European science to be mislead into dropping the idea
for a while that diseases were carried from person to person.
Insead it was thought that diseases were propogated from
some source (swamps were a favorite for a time) and that people
got sick from vapors from this source.

Incidently the examples you cite do little to advance the thesis
that the Europeans were deliberatly spreading these plagues.
On the one hand if the settlers wanted to sell the Indians as
slaves wouldn't giving them some disease have reduced the potental
profit. On the other if the settlers had so little reguard for
stating openly that they intended to get rid of the Indians
then why do we have so few accounts of spreading disease amoung
them. Surely they would have boasted openly of their deeds
expecting to be honored by the other settlers.

Finally I should note that even your own account mentioned that
the Indians sold as slaves were sometimes sold to other Indian
tribes. It tends to be forgotten that the various Indians groups
were usually engaged in trying to destroy each other as a
matter of course. In fact other Indian tribes cooperated
with the settlers against these tribes. These were not
strictly speaking a white vs. Indians confrontation. They were
wars by one Indian tribe against an alliance of several other
groups, one of which happened to be the newly arrived settlers.

: MB Williams

Doug Scott
Arlington, Tx