History is one of my passions and one I share with the late Murray Rothbard. His examinations and refutations of the commonly accepted truth were one of my early inspirations into exploring libertarian thought. I urge you to consider this quote from Plato’s Apology: “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” This is the first in what should be a long series of weekly blurbs about common misconceptions and downright lies about history. I will be looking forward to responses and suggestions for future topics in the comments.
Weekly Wakeup for 01-17-2014
Myth: Early European colonists in North-America enacted a systemic genocide of native peoples from the start.
Reality: “The most hideous enemy of native Americans was not the white man and his weaponry, concludes Alfred Crosby,’but the invisible killers which those men brought in their blood and breath.’ It is thought that between 75 to 90 percent of all Indian deaths resulted from these killers.”
Another source confims:
“[B]ased on the data, the team estimates that the Native American population was at an all-time high about 5,000 years ago.
The population then reached a low point about 500 years ago—only a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World and before extensive European colonization began.
Study co-author Brendan O’Fallon, a population geneticist who conducted the research while at the University of Washington in Seattle, speculates that many of the early casualties may have been due to disease, which ‘would likely have traveled much faster than the European settlers themselves.’
For instance, the Franciscan friar Toribio de Benavente—one of the first Spanish missionaries to arrive in the New World in the early 1500s—wrote that Mexico was initially ‘extremely full of people, and when the smallpox began to attack the Indians, it became so great a pestilence among them … that in most provinces more than half the population died.'”
Myth: This disease epidemic was directly caused by settlers through planned biological warfare.
“Unfortunately for this thesis, we know of but a single instance of such warfare, and the documentary evidence is inconclusive. In 1763, [ed. Notably long after the “500 years ago” mark where the population was already markedly declined] a particularly serious uprising threatened the British garrisons west of the Allegheny mountains. Worried about his limited resources, and disgusted by what he saw as the Indians’ treacherous and savage modes of warfare, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote as follows to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: ‘You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.'”
I would like to point out that this attack, if it ever did actually happen, was initiated not by individual settlers but instead by the military government in that region. A group that I do not and would not defend under any circumstances. I would also like to preemptively say that I am not attempting to justify the forced relocation of Native peoples later in history, wars waged by either side or the murder of civilians by either group. Instead I merely wish to question the assertion that there was an intentional and premeditated genocide. A fact that seems obvious when you consider up to 90% of the native population was already dead from disease before the first colonists even arrived.