Sex, Race and Holy War

excerpted from the book

American Holocaust

by David Stannard

Oxford University Press, 1992



... the Jewish Holocaust-the inhuman destruction of 6,000,000 people-was not an abominably unique event.(It was.) So, too, for reasons of its own, was the mass murder of about 1,000,000 Armenians in Turkey a few decades prior to the Holocaust. So, too, was the deliberately caused "terror-famine" in Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s, which killed more than 14,000,000 people. So, too, have been each of the genocidal slaughters of many millions more, decades after the Holocaust, in Burundi, Bangladesh, Kampuchea, East Timor, the Brazilian Amazon, and elsewhere. Additionally, within the framework of the Holocaust itself, there were aspects that were unique in the campaign of genocide conducted by the Nazis against Europe's Romani (Gypsy) people, which resulted in the mass murder of perhaps 1,500,000 men, women, and children. Of course, there also were the unique horrors of the African slave trade, during the course of which at least 30,000,000-and possibly as many as 40,000,000 to 60,000,000-Africans were killed, most of them in the prime of their lives, before they even had a chance to begin working as human chattel on plantations in the Indies and the Americas. And finally, there is the unique subject of this book, the total extermination of many American Indian peoples and the near-extermination of others, in numbers that eventually totaled close to 100,000,000.

Each of these genocides was distinct and unique, for one reason or another (as were (and are) others that go unmentioned here. In one case the sheer numbers of people killed may make it unique. In another case, the percentage of people killed may make it unique. In still a different case, the greatly compressed time period in which the genocide took place may make it unique. In a further case, the greatly extended time period in which the genocide took place may make it unique. No doubt the targeting of a specific group or groups for extermination by a particular nation's official policy may mark a given genocide as unique. So too might another group's being unofficially (but unmistakably) targeted for elimination by the actions of a multinational phalanx bent on total extirpation. Certainly the chilling utilization of technological instruments of destruction, such as gas chambers, and its assembly-line, bureaucratic, systematic methods of destruction makes the Holocaust unique. On the other hand, the savage employment of non-technological instruments of destruction, such as the unleashing of trained and hungry dogs to devour infants, and the burning and crude hacking to death of the inhabitants of entire cities, also makes the Spanish anti-Indian genocide unique.

A list of distinctions marking the uniqueness of one or another group that has suffered from genocidal mass destruction or near (or total) extermination could go on at length. Additional problems emerge because of a looseness in the terminology commonly used to describe categories and communities of genocidal victims. A traditional Eurocentric bias that lumps undifferentiated masses of "Africans" into one single category and undifferentiated masses of "Indians" into another, while making fine distinctions among the different populations of Europe, permits the ignoring of cases in which genocide against Africans and American Indians has resulted in the total extermination-purposefully carried out-of entire cultural, social, religious, and ethnic groups.

A secondary tragedy of all these genocides, moreover, is that partisan representatives among the survivors of particular afflicted groups not uncommonly hold up their peoples' experience as so fundamentally different from the others that not only is scholarly comparison rejected out of hand, but mere cross-referencing or discussion of other genocidal events within the context of their own flatly is prohibited. It is almost as though the preemptive conclusion that one's own group has suffered more than others is something of a horrible award of distinction that will be diminished if the true extent of another group's suffering is acknowledged.

... despite an often expressed contempt for Christianity, in Mein Kampf Hitler had written that his plan for a triumphant Nazism was modeled on the Catholic Church's traditional "tenacious adherence to dogma" and its "fanatical intolerance," particularly in the Church's past when, as Arno J. Mayer has noted, Hitler observed approvingly that in "building 'its own altar,' Christianity had not hesitated to 'destroy the altars of the heathen.' ', 15 Had Hitler required supporting evidence for this contention he would have needed to look no further than the Puritans' godly justifications for exterminating New England's Indians in the seventeenth century or, before that, the sanctimonious Spanish legitimation of genocide, as ordained by Christian Truth, in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Meso- and South America. (It is worth noting also that the Fuhrer from time to time expressed admiration for the "efficiency" of the American genocide campaign against the Indians, viewing it as a forerunner for his own plans and programs.) But the roots of the tradition run far deeper than that-back to the high Middle Ages and before-when at least part of the Christians' willingness to destroy the infidels who lived in what was considered to be a spiritual wilderness was rooted in a rabid need to kill the sinful wilderness that lived within themselves. To understand the horrors that were inflicted by Europeans and white Americans on the Indians of the Americas it is necessary to begin with a look at the core of European thought and culture-Christianity-and in particular its ideas on sex and race and violence.



From the moment of its birth Christianity had envisioned the end of the world. Saints and theologians differed on many details about the end, but few disagreements were as intense as those concerned with the nature and timing of the events involved. There were those who believed that as the end drew near conditions on earth would grow progressively dire, evil would increase, love would diminish, the final tribulations would be unleashed-and then suddenly the Son of Man would appear: he would overcome Satan, judge mankind, and bring an end to history. Others had what is generally thought to be a more optimistic view: before reaching the final grand conclusion, they claimed, there would be a long reign of peace, justice, abundance, and bliss; the Jews would be converted, while the heathens would be either converted or annihilated; and, in certain versions of the prophecy, this Messianic Age of Gold would be ushered in by a Last World Emperor-a human saviour-who would prepare the way for the final cataclysmic but glorious struggle between Good and Evil, whereupon history would end with the triumphant Second Coming.

Among the innumerable forecasters of the end of time who adopted a variation that combined elements of both versions of the prophecy was the twelfth-century Calabrian abbot Joachim of Fiore. Joachim's ideas became much more influential than most, however, largely because they were adopted and transmitted by the Spiritual branch of the Church's Franciscan Order during the thirteenth through the fifteenth century. He and his followers made calculations from evidence contained in Scriptural texts, calculations purporting to show that the sequence of events leading to the end of time would soon be-or perhaps already was-appearing. As word of these predictions spread, the most fundamental affairs of both Church and state were affected. And there had been no previous time in human history when ideas were able to circulate further or more rapidly, for it was in the late 1430s that Johann Gutenberg developed the technique of printing with movable type cast in molds. It has been estimated that as many as 20 million books-and an incalculable number of pamphlets and tracts-were produced and distributed in Europe between just 1450 and 1500."

The fifteenth century in Italy was especially marked by presentiments that the end was near, as Marjorie Reeves has shown in exhaustive detail, with "general anxiety . . . building up to a peak in the 1480s and 1490s." Since at least the middle of the century, the streets of Florence, Rome, Milan, Siena, and other Italian cities-including Genoa, where Columbus was born and spent his youth-had been filled with wandering prophets, while popular tracts were being published and distributed by the tens of thousands, and "astrological prognostications were sweeping" the country. "The significant point to grasp," Reeves demonstrates, "is that we are not dealing here with two opposed viewpoints or groups-optimistic humanists hailing the Age of Gold on the one hand, and medieval-style prophets and astrologers proclaiming 'Woe!' on the other." Rather, "foreboding and great hope lived side by side in the same people.... Thus the Joachimist marriage of woe and exaltation exactly fitted the mood of late fifteenth-century Italy, where the concept of a humanist Age of Gold had to be brought into relation with the ingrained expectation of Antichrist."

The political implications of this escalating fever of both disquietude and anticipation grew out of the fact that Joachim and those who were popularizing his ideas placed the final struggle between ultimate good and ultimate evil after the blissful Golden Age. Thus, "Joachim's central message remained his affirmation of a real-though incomplete-achievement of peace and beatitude within history," a belief that, in the minds of many, "was quickly vulgarized into dreams of world-wide empire." Different European nations and their leaders, naturally, tried to claim this mantle- and with it the title of Messiah-Emperor-as their own. But a prominent follower of Joachim in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century, Arnold of Villanova, had prophesied that the man who would lead humanity to its glorious new day would come from Spain. As we shall see, Columbus knew of this prophecy (though he misidentified it with Joachim himself) and spoke and wrote of it, but he was not alone; for, in the words of Leonard I. Sweet, as the fifteenth century was drawing to a close the Joachimite scheme regarding the end of time "burst the bounds of Franciscan piety to submerge Spanish society in a messianic milieu."

To a stranger visiting Europe during these years, optimism would seem the most improbable of attitudes. For quite some time the war with the infidel had been going rather badly; indeed, as one historian has remarked: "as late as 1490 it would have seemed that in the eight-centuries-old struggle between the Cross and the Crescent, the latter was on its way to final triumph. The future seemed to lie not with Christ but with the Prophet.'' At the end of the thirteenth century Jaffa and Antioch and Tripoli and Acre, the last of the Christian strongholds in the Holy Land, had fallen to the Muslims, and in 1453 Constantinople had been taken by Sultan Muhammed II. Despite all the rivers of blood that had been shed since the days of the first Crusade, the influence of Christianity at this moment in time was confined once again to the restricted boundaries of Europe. And within those boundaries things were not going well, either.

Since the late fourteenth century, when John Wyclif and his followers in England had publicly attacked the Church's doctrine of transubstantiation and claimed that all godly authority resided in the Scriptures and not to any degree in the good offices of the Church, the rumblings of reformation had been evident. In the fifteenth century the criticism continued, from a variety of directions and on a variety of matters. On one side, for instance, there was John Huss, an advocate of some of Wyclif's views and a critic of papal infallibility and the practice of granting indulgences. For his troubles, in 1415 Huss was burned at the stake-after the Inquisitors first stripped him of his vestments, cut the shape of a cross in his hair, and placed on his head a conical paper hat painted with pictures of devils- following which war broke out between Hussites and Catholics, war in which politics and religion were inextricably intertwined, and war that continued throughout most of the fifteenth century...

The papacy itself, meanwhile, recently had suffered through forty years of the so-called Great Schism, during which time there were two and even three rival claimants as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. After the schism was ended at the Council of Constance in 1418, for the rest of the century the papacy's behavior and enduring legacy continued to be one of enormous extravagance and moral corruption. As many of the late Middle Ages' "most pious minds" long had feared, observes the great historian of the Inquisition, Henry Charles Lea, "Christianity was practically a failure . . . The Church, instead of elevating man, had been dragged down to his level." This, of course, only further fanned the hot embers of reformation which would burst into flame during the first decades of the century to follow.

On the level of everyday life, we saw in an earlier chapter the atrocious conditions under which most of the peoples of Europe were forced to live as the late Middle Ages crept forward. It was only a hundred years before Columbus's mid-fifteenth-century birth that the Black Death had shattered European society along with enormous masses of its population. Within short order millions had died-about one out of every three people across the entirety of Europe was killed by the pandemic-and recovery was achieved only with excruciating slowness. "Those few discreet folk who remained alive," recalled the Florentine historian Matteo Villani, "expected many things":

They believed that those whom God's grace had saved from death, having beheld the destruction of their neighbours . . . would become better conditioned, humble, virtuous and Catholic; that they would guard themselves from iniquity and sin and would be full of love and charity towards one another. But no sooner had the plague ceased than we saw the contrary . . . [People] gave themselves up to a more shameful and disordered life than they had led before.... Men thought that, by reason of the fewness of mankind, there should be abundance of all produce of the land; yet, on the contrary, by reason of men's ingratitude, everything came to unwonted scarcity and remained long thus; nay, in certain countries . . . there were grievous and unwonted famines. Again, men dreamed of wealth and abundance ~n garments . . . yet, in fact, things turned out widely different, for most commodities were more costly, by twice or more, than before the plague And the price of labour and the work of all trades and crafts, rose in disorderly fashion beyond the double. Lawsuits and disputes and quarrels and riots rose elsewhere among citizens in every land.

Modern historical analysis has, in general terms, confirmed Villani's description, with one important difference: it was far too sanguine. For example, although wages did increase in the century immediately following the explosion of the plague in the middle of the fourteenth century, after that time they spiraled drastically downward. The real wages of a typical English carpenter serve as a vivid point of illustration: between 13S0 and 1450 his pay increased by about 64 percent; then his wages started falling precipitously throughout the entirety of the next two centuries, at last bottoming out at approximately half of what they had been at the outbreak of the plague in 1348, fully three centuries earlier. Meanwhile, during this same period, prices of foodstuffs and other commodities were soaring upward at an equivalent rate and more, ultimately achieving a 500 percent overall increase during the sixteenth century.

The combination of simultaneously collapsing wages and escalating prices in an already devastated social environment was bad enough for an English carpenter, but English carpenters were by no means poorly off compared with other laborers in Europe-and other laborers were positively well off compared with the starving multitudes who had no work at all. At the same time that the Black Death was wiping out a third of Europe's population, and bouts of famine were destroying many thousands more with each incident, the Hundred Years War was raging; it began in 1337 and did not end until 1453. And while the war was on, marauding bands of discharged soldiers turned brigands and highwaymen-aptly named ecorcheurs or "flayers"-were raping and pillaging the countryside. Finally, the requirements of a war economy forced governments to increase taxes. Immanuel Wallerstein explains how it all added up:

The taxes, coming on top of already heavy feudal dues, were too much for the producers, creating a liquidity crisis which in turn led to a return to indirect taxes and taxes in kind. Thus started a downward cycle: The fiscal burden led to a reduction in consumption which led to a reduction in production and money circulation which increased further the liquidity difficulties which led to royal borrowing and eventually the insolvency of the limited royal treasuries, which in turn created a credit crisis, leading to hoarding of bullion, which in turn upset the pattern of international trade. A rapid rise in prices occurred, further reducing the margin of subsistence, and this began to take its toll in population.

In sum, all the while that the popes and other elites were indulging themselves in profligacy and decadence, the basic political and economic frameworks of Europe-to say nothing of the entire social order-were in a state of near collapse. Certain states, of course, were worse off than others, and there are various ways in which such comparative misery can be assayed. One measure that we shall soon see has particular relevance for what happened in the aftermath of Columbus's voyages to the New World ~s the balance and nature of intra-European trade. In England and northwestern Europe generally legislative and other efforts during this time

Discouraged the export of raw materials such as wool in the case of England and encouraged the export of manufactured goods. Thus, by the close of the fifteenth century Britain was exporting 50,000 bolts of cloth annually rising to more than two and a half times that figure within the next five decades. Spain and Portugal at the same time remained exporters of raw materials (wool, iron ore, salt oil and other items) and importers of textiles hardwares and other manufactured products. The Iberian nations with their backward and inflexible economic systems were rapidly becoming economic dependencies of the expanding-if themselves still impoverished-early capitalist states of northwest Europe.

This then was the Old World on the eve of Columbus's departure in 1492. For almost half a millennium Christians had been launching hideously destructive holy wars and massive enslavement campaigns against external enemies they viewed as carnal demons and described as infidels- all m an effort to recapture the Holy Land and all of which, it now seemed to many effectively had come to naught. During those same long centuries they had further expressed their ruthless intolerance of all persons and thugs that were non-Christian by conducting pogroms against the Jews who lived among them and whom they regarded as the embodiment of
the Antichrist imposing torture exile and mass destruction on those who refused to succumb to evangelical persuasion. These great efforts too, appeared to have largely failed. Hundreds of thousands of openly practicing Jews remained in the Europeans' midst, and even those who had converted were suspected of being the Devil's agents and spies treacherously boring from within them.

Dominated by a theocratic culture and world view that for a thousand years and more had been obsessed with things sensual and sexual, and had demonstrated its obsession in the only way its priesthood permitted-by intense and violent sensual and sexual repression and "purification"-the religious mood of Christendom's people at this moment was near the boiling point. At its head the Church was mired in corruption, while the ranks below were disappointed and increasingly disillusioned. These are the sorts of conditions that, given the proper spark lend themselves to what anthropologists and historians describe as "millenarian" rebellion and upheaval or revitalization movements." In point of fact this historical moment seen m retrospect, was the inception of the Reformation which means that it truly was nothing less than the eve of a massive revolution. And when finally that revolution did explode, Catholic would kill Protestant and Protestant would kill Catholic with the same zeal and ferocity that their common Christian ancestors had reserved for Muslims and Jews.

Don t let them live any longer the evil-doers who turn us away from God " the Protestant radical Thomas Muntzer soon would be crying to his followers. "For a godless man"-he was referring to Catholics-has no right to live if he hinders the godly.... The sword is necessary to exterminate them.... If they resist, let them be slaughtered without mercy.

And, again and again, that is precisely what happened: Catholics were indeed slaughtered without mercy. The Church, of course, was more than eager to return such compliments in deed as well as in word. Thus, for instance, Catholic vengeance against Calvinists in sixteenth-century France resulted in the killing of thousands. Infants were stabbed to death, women had their hands cut off to remove gold bracelets, publishers of heretical works were burned to death atop bonfires made from their books. The treatment of Gaspard de Coligny, a Protestant leader was not atypical after murdering him the Catholic mob mutilated his body, cutting off his head, his hands, and his genitals-and then dragged it through the streets, set fire to it and dumped it in the river.... [B]ut then deciding that it was not worthy of being food for the fish, they hauled it out again ... [and] dragged what was left of the body to the gallows of Montfaucon, 'to be meat and carrion for maggots and crows.' Such furious rage continued well into the seventeenth century, as, for example, m the Catholic sacking of the Protestant city of Magdeburg, when at least 30 000 Protestants were slain: "In a single church fifty-three women were found beheaded," reported Friedrich Schiller while elsewhere babies were stabbed and thrown into fires. "Horrible and revolting to humanity was the scene that presented itself," Schiller wrote, "the living crawling from under the dead, children wandering about with heart-rending cries, calling for their parents; and infants still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers.

And this was Christian against Christian. European against European. "Civilized" against "civilized." There were all Europeans knew "wild" races, carnal and un-Christian and uncivilized who lived m as-yet unexplored lands on the far distant margins of the earth. Some of them were beasts, some of them were human, and some of them hovered in the darkness in between. One day-perhaps one day soon-they would be encountered and important decisions would then have to be made. If they possessed souls, if they were capable of understanding and embracing the holy faith, every effort would be made to convert them-just as every effort had always been made to convert Muslims and Jews. If they proved incapable of conversion, if they had no souls-if they were, that as children of the Devil-they would be slain. God demanded as much.

For this era in the history of Christian Europe appeared to many to be the threshold of the end of time. Three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse clearly were loose in the land: the rider on the red horse who is war, the rider on the black horse who is famine; and the rider on the pale horse, who is death. Only the rider on the white horse-who in most interpretations of the biblical allegory is Christ-had not yet made his presence known. And, although the signs were everywhere that the time of his return was not far off, it remained his godly children's responsibility to prepare the way for him.

Before Christ would return, all Christians knew, the gospel had to be spread throughout the entire world, and the entire world was not yet known. Spreading the gospel throughout the world meant acceptance of its message by all the world's people, once they had been located-and that in turn meant the total conversion or extermination of all non-Christians. It also meant the liberation of Zion, symbol of the Holy Land, and it likely meant the discovery of the earthly paradise as well.

Christopher Columbus knew all these things. Indeed, as we soon shall see, he was obsessed by them. In her own way, Isabella, the queen of Spain, shared his grandiose vision and his obsession. Still, in his first approach to the Spanish court in 1486, seeking support for his planned venture, he had been rebuffed. It was, in retrospect, understandable. Spain was at that moment engaged intensely in its war with the Moors in Granada. The Crown was impoverished. And Columbus offered a far from secure investment. Five years later, however, the king and queen relented. The reason for their change of heart in 1491 has never been made entirely clear, but Isabella's unquenchable thirst for victory over Islam almost certainly was part of the equation. "A successful voyage would bring Spain into contact with the nations of the East, whose help was needed in the struggle with the Turk," writes J.H. Elliott. "It might also, with luck, bring back Columbus by way of Jerusalem, opening up a route for attacking the Ottoman Empire in the rear. Isabella was naturally attracted, too, by the possibility of laying the foundations of a great Christian mission in the East. In the climate of intense religious excitement which characterized the last months of the Grenada campaign even the wildest projects suddenly seemed possible of accomplishment."

And then, on January 2, 1492, the Muslims who controlled Granada surrendered. The first real victory of Christian over infidel in a very long time, dearly it was a sign that God looked favorably upon the decision to fund the enterprise of the man whose given name meant "Christ-bearer." On March 30th of that year the Jews of Spain were allowed four months to convert to Catholicism or suffer expulsion-an ultimatum the Moors also would be presented with before the following decade had ended. And on April 30th, one month later, a royal decree was issued suspending all Judicial proceedings against any criminals who would agree to ship out with Columbus, because, the document stated, "it is said that it is necessary to grant safe-conduct to the persons who might join him, since under no other conditions would they be willing to sail with him on the said voyage." With the exception of four men wanted for murder, no known felons accepted the offer. From what historians have been able to tell, the great majority of the crews of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria-together probably numbering a good deal fewer than a hundred-were not at that moment being pursued by the law, although, no doubt, they were a far from genteel lot.

The three small ships left the harbor at Palos ... The world would never again be the same: before long, the bloodbath would begin.



... during most of the sixteenth century the Old World was awash in what military historian Robert L. O'Connell calls a "harvest of blood," as European killed European with an extraordinary unleashing of passion. And, of course, Spain was in the thick of it.

In 1568, to cite but one example among many, Philip ordered the duke of Alva-"probably the finest soldier of his day," says O'Connell, "and certainly the cruelest"-to the Netherlands, where Philip was using the Inquisition to root out and persecute Protestants. The duke promptly passed a death sentence upon the entire population of the Netherlands: "he would have utter submission or genocide," O'Connell writes, "and the veterans of Spain stood ready to enforce his will." Massacre followed upon massacre, on one occasion leading to the mass drowning of 6000 to 7000 Netherlanders, "a disaster which the burghers of Emden first realized when several thousand broad-brimmed Dutch hats floated by."

As with most of his other debts, Philip did not pay his soldiers on time, if at all, which created ruptures in discipline and converted the Spanish troops into angry marauders who compensated themselves with whatever they could take. As O'Connell notes:

Gradually, it came to be understood that should the Spanish succeed in taking a town, the population and its possessions would constitute, in essence, the rewards. So it was that, as the [Netherlands] revolt dragged on, predatory behavior reinforced by economic self-interest came to assume a very pure form. Thus, in addition to plunder, not only did the slaughter of adult males and ritual rape of females increasingly become routine, but other more esoteric acts began to crop up. Repeatedly, according to John Motley, Spanish troops took to drinking the blood of their victims ....

If this was the sort of thing that became routine within Europe-as a consequence of "predatory behavior reinforced by economic self-interest" on the part of the Spanish troops-little other than unremitting genocide could be expected from those very same troops when they were loosed upon native peoples in the Caribbean and Meso- and South America- peoples considered by the soldiers, as by most of their priestly and secular betters, to be racially inferior, un-Christian, carnal beasts, or, at best, in Bernardino de Minaya's words quoted earlier, "a third species of animal between man and monkey" that was created by God specifically to provide slave labor for Christian caballeros and their designated representatives. Indeed, ferocious and savage though Spanish violence in Europe was during the sixteenth century, European contemporaries of the conquistadors well recognized that by "serving as an outlet for the energies of the unruly," in J.H. Elliott's words, the New World saved Europe, and Spain itself, from even worse carnage. "It is an established fact," the sixteenth century Frenchman Henri de la Popeliniere wrote with dry understatement, "that if the Spaniard had not sent to the Indies discovered by Columbus all the rogues in his realm, and especially those who refused to return to their ordinary employment after the wars of Granada against the Moors, these would have stirred up the country or given rise to certain novelties in Spain."

To the front-line Spanish troops, then, once they had conquered and stolen from the Indians all the treasure the natives had accumulated for themselves, the remaining indigenous population represented only an immense and bestial labor force to be used by the Christians to pry gold and silver from the earth. Moreover, so enormous was the native population- at least during the early years of each successive stage in the overall conquest-that the terrorism of torture, mutilation, and mass murder was the simplest means for motivating the Indians to work; and for the same reason-the seemingly endless supply of otherwise superfluous population- the cheapest way of maximizing their profits was for the conquistadors to work their Indian slaves until they dropped. Replacing the dead with new captives, who themselves could be worked to death, was far cheaper than feeding and caring for a long-term resident slave population.



Just as social thought does not bloom in a political vacuum ... neither do institutions come into being and sustain themselves without the inspiration of economic or political necessity. In sixteenth-century Spain, as we have seen that necessity was created by an impoverished and financially dependent small nation that made itself into an empire, an empire that engaged in ambitious wars of expansion (and vicious Inquisitorial repression of suspected non-believers within), but an empire with a huge and gaping hole in its treasury: no sooner were gold or silver deposited than they drained away to creditors. The only remedy for this, since control of expenditures did not fit with imperial visions, was to accelerate the appropriation of wealth. And this demanded the theft and mining of more and more New World gold and silver.

... As with Hispaniola, Tenochtitlan, Cuzco, and elsewhere, the Spaniards' mammoth destruction of whole societies generally was a by-product of conquest and native enslavement, a genocidal means to an economic end, not an end in itself. And therein lies the central difference between the genocide committed by the Spanish and that of the Anglo-Americans: in British America extermination was the primary goal, and it was so precisely because it made economic sense.

... By the close of the sixteenth century bullion, primarily silver, made up more than 95 percent of all exports leaving Spanish America for Europe. Nearly that same percentage of the indigenous population had been destroyed in the process of seizing those riches. In its insatiable hunger, Spain
was devouring all that was of most value in its conquered New World ~J territories-the fabulous wealth in people, culture, and precious metals that \ had so excited the European imagination in the heady era that immediately followed Columbus's return from his first voyage. The number of indigenous people in the Caribbean and Meso- and South America in 1492 probably had been at least equal to that of all Europe, including Russia, at the time. Not much more than a century later it was barely equal to that of England. Entire rich and elaborate and ancient cultures had been erased from the face of the earth.


The story of British conquest and colonization in North America is, in economic terms, almost precisely the opposite of Spain's experience to the south. In the north, without a cornucopia of treasure to devour and people to exploit, the English were forced to engage in endeavors that led to long-term development rather than short-term growth, particularly in New England. Far fewer native people greeted the British explorers and colonists than had welcomed the Spanish, in part because the population of the continent north of Mexico had always been smaller and less densely settled, and in part because by the time British colonists arrived European diseases had had more time to spread and destroy large numbers of Indians in Virginia, New England, and beyond. These regions also contained nothing even remotely comparable to the exportable mineral wealth the Spanish had found in the areas they invaded. The most the northern climes had to offer in this regard was fish. To be sure, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the English imported huge amounts of cod from America's North Atlantic waters, and later tobacco and furs were brought in. But fish, tobacco, and furs were not the same as gold or silver.

Nevertheless, despite the very dissimilar economic and native demographic situations they found, the British wasted little time in exterminating the indigenous people. The English and later the Americans, in fact, destroyed at least as high a percentage of the Indians they encountered as earlier had the Spanish, probably higher; it was only their means and motivation that contrasted with those of the conquistadors.


In recent years some historians have begun pointing out that the British colonists in Virginia and New England greatly intensified their hostility toward and their barbarous treatment of the Indians as time wore on. One of the principal causes of this change in temperament, according to these scholars, was the Europeans' realization that the native people were going to persist in their reluctance to adopt English religious and cultural habits, no matter how intense the British efforts to convert them...

... the Europeans' predisposition to racist enmity regarding the Indians had long been both deeply embedded in Western thought and was intimately entwined with attitudes toward nature, sensuality, and the body. That there were some Europeans who appreciated and even idealized native cultural values-and some settlers who ran off to live with the Indians because they found their lifeways preferable to their own-is undeniable. But these were rarities, and rarities with little influence, within a steadily rising floodtide of racist opinion to the contrary.

What in fact was happening in those initial years of contact between the British and America's native peoples was a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy, though one with genocidal consequences. Beginning with a false prejudgment of the Indians as somehow other than conventionally human in European terms (whether describing them as living "after the manner of the Golden Age" or as "wild beasts and unreasonable creatures"), everything the Indians did that marked them as incorrigibly non-European and non-Christian-and therefore permanently non-civilized n British eyes-enhanced their definitionally less -than-human status. Treating them according to this false definition naturally brought on a resentful response from the Indians-one which only "proved" (albeit spuriously) that the definition had been valid from the start. In his famous study of this phenomenon Robert K. Merton-after quoting the sociological dictum that "if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences"- pointed out that "the specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error." In the early and subsequent years of British-Indian contact, however, it produced and perpetuated a reign of terror because it was bound up with an English lust for power, land, and wealth, and because the specific characteristics that the English found problematic in the Indians were attributes that fit closely with ancient but persistently held ideas about the anti-Christian hallmarks of infidels, witches, and wild men.

It was only to be expected, therefore, that when the witchcraft crisis at Salem broke out as the seventeenth century was ending, it would be blamed by New England's foremost clergyman on "the Indians, whose chief Sagamores are well known unto some our Captives, to have been horrid Sorcerers, and hellish Conjurers, and such as Conversed with Daemons." Indeed, as Richard Slotkin has shown, the fusion of the satanic and the native in the minds of the English settlers by this time had become so self-evident as to require no argument. Thus, when a young woman named Mercy Short became possessed by the Devil, she described the beast who had visited her as "a wretch no taller than an ordinary Walking-Staff; he was not of a Negro, but of a Tawney, or an Indian colour; he wore a high-crowned Hat, with straight Hair; and had one Cloven-foot." Observes Slotkin: "He was, in fact, a figure out of the American Puritan nightmare . . . Indian-colored, dressed in a Christian's hat, with a beast s foot-a kind of Indian-Puritan, man-animal half-breed.


... Probably never before in Christian history had the idea that humankind was naturally corrupt and debased reached and influenced the daily lives of a larger proportion of the lay community than during New England's seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.


... from the earliest days of settlement the British colonists repeatedly expressed a haunting fear that they would be "contaminated" by the presence of the Indians, a contamination that must be avoided lest it become the beginning of a terrifying downward slide toward their own bestial degeneration. Thus, unlike the Spanish before them, British men in the colonies from the Carolinas to New England rarely engaged in sexual relations with the Indians, even during those times when there were few if any English women available. Legislation was passed that "banished forever" such mixed race couples, referring to their offspring in animalistic terms as "abominable mixture and spurious issue," though even without formal prohibitions such intimate encounters were commonly "reckoned a horrid crime with us," in the words of one colonial Pennsylvanian." It is little wonder, then, that Mercy Short described the creature that possessed her as both a demon and, in Slotkin's words, "a kind of Indian-Puritan, man-animal half-breed," for this was the ultimate and fated consequence of racial contamination.

Again, however, such theological, psychological, and legislative preoccupations did not proceed to the rationalization of genocide without a social foundation and impetus. And if possessive and tightly constricted attitude toward sex, an abhorrence of racial intermixture, and a belief in humankind's innate depravity had for centuries been hallmarks of Christianity and therefore of the West's definition of civilization, by the time the British exploration and settlement of America had begun, the very essence of humanity also was coming to be associated in European thought with a similarly possessive, exclusive, and constricted attitude toward property. For it is precisely of this time that R.H. Tawney was writing when he observed the movement away from the earlier medieval belief that "private property is a necessary institution, at least in a fallen world . . . but it is to be tolerated as a concession to human frailty, not applauded as desirable in itself," to the notion that "the individual is absolute master of his own, and, within the limits set by positive law, may exploit it with a single eye to his pecuniary advantage, unrestrained by any obligation to postpone his own profit to the well-being of his neighbors, or to give account of his actions to a higher authority."

The concept of private property as a positive good and even an insignia of civilization took hold among both Catholics and Protestants during the sixteenth century. Thus, for example, in Spain, Juan Gines de Sepulveda argued that the absence of private property was one of the characteristics of people lacking "even vestiges of humanity," and in Germany at the same time Martin Luther was contending "that the possession of private property was an essential difference between men and beasts." In England, meanwhile, Sir Thomas More was proclaiming that land justifiably could be taken from "any people [who] holdeth a piece of ground void and vacant to no good or profitable use," an idea that also was being independently advanced in other countries by Calvin, Melanchthon, and others. Typically, though, none was as churlish as Luther, who pointed out that the Catholic St. Francis had urged his followers to get rid of their property and give it to the poor: "I do not maintain that St. Francis was simply wicked," wrote Luther, "but his works show that he was a weak-minded and freakish man, or to say the truth, a fool."

The idea that failure to put property to "good or profitable use" was grounds for seizing it became especially popular with Protestants, who thereby advocated confiscating the lands owned by Catholic monks. As Richard Schlatter explains:

The monks were condemned, not for owning property, but because they did not use that property in an economically productive fashion. At best they used it to produce prayers. Luther and the other Reformation leaders insisted that it should be used, not to relieve men from the necessity of working, but as a tool for making more goods. The attitude of the Reformation was practically, "not prayers, but production." And production, not for consumption, but for more production.

The idea of production for the sake of production, of course, was one of the central components of what Max Weber was to call the Protestant Ethic.



As early as the first explorations at Roanoke, Thomas Hariot had observed that whenever the English visited an Indian village, "within a few days after our departure . . . the people began to die very fast, and many in a short space: in some towns about twenty, in some forty, in some sixty, and in one six score, which in truth was very many in respect of their numbers." As usual, the British were unaffected by these mysterious plagues. In initial explanation, Hariot could only report that "some astrologers, knowing of the Eclipse of the Sun, which we saw the same year before on our voyage thitherward," thought that might have some bearing on the matter. But such events as solar eclipses and comets (which Hariot also mentions as possibly having some relevance) were, like the epidemics themselves, the work of God. No other interpretation was possible. And that was why, before long, Hariot also was reporting that there seemed to be a divinely drawn pattern to the diseases: miraculously, he said, they affected only those Indian communities "where we had any subtle device practiced against us." In other words, the Lord was selectively punishing only those Indians who plotted against the English.

Needless to say, the reverse of that logic was equally satisfying-that is, that only those Indians who went unpunished were not evil. And if virtually all were punished? The answer was obvious. As William Bradford was to conclude some years later when epidemics almost totally destroyed the Indian population of Plymouth Colony, without affecting the English: "It pleased God to visit these Indians with a great sickness and such a mortality that of a thousand, above nine and a half hundred of them died, and many of them did rot above the ground for want of burial." All followers of the Lord could only give thanks to "the marvelous goodness and providence of God," Bradford concluded. It was a refrain that soon would be heard throughout the land. After all, prior to the Europeans' arrival, the New World had been but "a hideous and desolate wilderness," Bradford said elsewhere, a land "full of wild beasts and wild men." In killing the Indians in massive numbers, then, the English were only doing their sacred duty, working hand in hand with the God who was protecting them.

For nothing else, only divine intervention, could account for the "prodigious Pestilence" that repeatedly swept the land of nineteen out of every twenty Indian inhabitants, wrote Cotton Mather, "so that the Woods were almost cleared of these pernicious Creatures, to make room for a better Growth." Often this teamwork of God and man seemed to be perfection itself, as in King Philip's War. Mather recalled that in one battle of that war the English attacked the native people with such ferocity that "their city was laid in ashes. Above twenty of their chief captains were killed; a proportionable desolation cut off the interior salvages; mortal sickness, and horrid famine pursued the remainders of 'em, so we can hardly tell where any of 'em are left alive upon the face of the earth."

Thus the militant agencies of God and his chosen people became as one. Mather believed, with many others, that at some time in the distant past the "miserable salvages" known as Indians had been "decoyed" by the Devil to live in isolation in America "in hopes that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would never come here to destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them."' But God had located the evil brutes and sent his holiest Christian warriors over from England where-with the help of some divinely sprinkled plagues - they joyously had "Irradiated an Indian wilderness." It truly was, as another New England saint entitled his own history of the holy settlement, a "wonder-working providence."


Again and again the explanatory circle closed upon itself. Although they carried with them the same thousand years and more of repressed, intolerant, and violent history that earlier had guided the conquistadors, in their explorations and settlements the English both left behind and confronted before them very different material worlds than had the Spanish. For those who were their victims it didn't matter very much. In addition to being un-Christian, the Indians were uncivilized and perhaps not even fully human. The English had been told that by the Spanish, but there were many other proofs of it; one was the simple fact (untrue, but that was immaterial) that the natives "roamed" the woods like wild beasts, with no understanding of private property holdings or the need to make "improvements" on the land. In their generosity the Christian English would bring to these benighted creatures the word of Christ and guidance out of the dark forest of their barbarism. For these great gifts the English only demanded in return-it was, after all, their God-given right-whatever land they felt they needed, to bound and fence at will, and quick capitulation to their religious ways.

In fact, no serious effort ever was made by the British colonists or their ministers to convert the Indians to the Christian faith. Nor were the Indians especially receptive to the token gestures that were proffered: they were quite content with their peoples' ancient ways.' In addition, it was not long before the English had outworn their welcome with demands for more and more of the natives' ancestral lands. Failure of the Indians to capitulate in either the sacred or the secular realms, however, was to the English all the evidence they needed-indeed, all that they were seeking- to prove that in their dangerous and possibly contaminating bestiality the natives were an incorrigible and inferior race. But God was making a place for his Christian children in this wilderness by slaying the Indians with plagues of such destructive power that only in the Bible could precedents for them be found. His divine message was too plain for misinterpretation. And the fact that it fit so closely with the settlers' material desires only made it all the more compelling. There was little hope for these devil's helpers of the forest. God's desire, proved by his unleashing wave upon wave of horrendous pestilence-and pestilence that killed selectively only Indians-was a command to the saints to join his holy war.



Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address delivered less than two centuries since the founding of the first permanent English colomes:

A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of the mortal eye-when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking.

It was in pursuit of these and other grand visions that Jefferson later would write of the remaining Indians in America that the government was obliged "now to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach." For the native peoples of Jefferson's "rising nation," of his "beloved country"-far from being Bolivar's "legitimate owners"- were in truth, most Americans believed, little more than dangerous wolves. Andrew Jackson said this plainly in urging American troops to root out from their "dens" and kill Indian women and their "whelps," adding in his second annual message to Congress that while some people tended to grow "melancholy" over the Indians' being driven by white Americans to their "tomb," an understanding of "true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another."

Before either Jefferson or Jackson, George Washington, the father of the country, had said much the same thing: the Indians were wolves and beasts who deserved nothing from the whites but "total ruin." And Washington himself was only repeating what by then was a very traditional observation. Less than a decade after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, for example, it was made illegal to "shoot off a gun on any unnecessary occasion, or at any game except an Indian or a wolf." As Barry Lopez has noted, this was far from a single-incident comparison. So alike did Indians and wolves appear to even the earliest land hungry New England colonist that the colonist "fell to dealing with them in similar ways":

He set out poisoned meat for the wolf and gave the Indian blankets infected with smallpox. He raided the wolf's den to dig out and destroy the pups, and stole the Indian's children .... When he was accused of butchery for killing wolves and Indians, he spun tales of Mohawk cruelty and of wolves who ate fawns while they were still alive.... Indians and wolves who later came into areas where there were no more of either were called renegades. Wolves that lay around among the buffalo herds were called loafer wolves and Indians that hung around the forts were called loafer Indians.

As is so often the case, it was New England's religious elite who made the point more graphically than anyone. Referring to some Indians who had given offense to the colonists, the Reverend Cotton Mather wrote: "Once you have but got the Track of those Ravenous howling Wolves, then pursue them vigourously; Turn not back till they are consumed.... Beat them small as the Dust before the Wind." Lest this be regarded as mere rhetoric, empty of literal intent, consider that another of New England's most esteemed religious leaders, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard, as late as 1703 formally proposed to the Massachusetts Governor that the colonists be given the financial wherewithal to purchase and train large packs of dogs "to hunt Indians as they do bears." There were relatively few Indians remaining alive in New England by this time, but those few were too many for the likes of Mather and Stoddard. "The dogs would be an extreme terror to the Indians," Stoddard wrote, adding that such "dogs would do a great deal of execution upon the enemy and catch many an Indian that would be too light of foot for us." Then, turning from his equating of native men and women and children with bears deserving to be hunted down and destroyed, Stoddard became more conventional in his imagery: "if the Indians were as other people," he acknowledged, ". . . it might be looked upon as inhumane to pursue them in such a manner"; but, in fact, the Indians were wolves, he said, "and are to be dealt withal as wolves." For two hundred years to come Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and other leaders, representing the wishes of virtually the entire white nation, followed these ministers' genocidal instructions with great care. It was their Christian duty as well as their destiny.



... when in 1492 the seal was broken on the membrane that for tens of thousands of years had kept the residents of North and South America isolated from the inhabitants of the earth's other inhabited continents, the European adventurers and colonists who rushed through the breach were representatives of a religious culture that was as theologically arrogant and violence-justifying as any the world had ever seen. Nourished by a moral history that despised the self and that regarded the body and things sensual as evil, repulsive, and bestial, it was a culture whose holiest exemplars not only sought out pain and degradation as the foundation of their faith, but who simultaneously both feared and pursued what they regarded as the dark terrors of the wilderness-the wilderness in the world outside as well as the wilderness of the soul within. It was a faith that considered all humanity in its natural state to be "sick, suffering, and helpless" because its earliest mythical progenitors-who for a time had been the unclothed inhabitants of an innocent Earthly Paradise-had succumbed to a sensual temptation that was prohibited by a jealous and angry god, thereby committing an "original sin" that thenceforth polluted the very essence of every infant who had the poor luck to be born. Ghastly and disgusting as the things of this world-including their own persons-were to these people, they were certain of at least one thing: that their beliefs were absolute truth, and that those who persisted in believing otherwise could not be tolerated. For to tolerate evil was to encourage evil, and no sin was greater than that. Moreover, if the flame of intolerance that these Christian saints lit to purge humanity of those who persisted down a path of error became a sacred conflagration in the form of a crusade or holy war-that was only so much the better. Such holocausts themselves were part of God's divine plan, after all, and perhaps even were harbingers of his Son's imminent Second Coming.

It is impossible to know today how many of the very worldly men who first crossed the Atlantic divide were piously ardent advocates of this worldview, and how many merely unthinkingly accepted it as the religious frame within which they pursued their avaricious quests for land and wealth and power. Some were seeking souls. Most were craving treasure, or land on which to settle. But whatever their individual levels of theological consciousness, they encountered in this New World astonishing numbers of beings who at first seemed to be the guardians of a latter-day Eden, but who soon became for them the very picture of Satanic corruption.

And through it all, as with their treatment of Europe's Jews for the preceding half-millennium-and as with their response to wildness and wilderness since the earliest dawning of their faith-the Christian Europeans continued to display a seemingly antithetical set of tendencies: revulsion from the terror of pagan or heretical pollution and, simultaneously, eagerness to make all the world's repulsive heretics and pagans into followers of Christ. In its most benign racial manifestation, this was the same inner prompting that drove missionaries to the ends of the earth to Christianize people of color, but to insist that their new converts worship in segregated churches. Beginning in the late eighteenth century in America, this conflict of racial abhorrence and mission-and along with it a redefined concept of holy war-became secularized in the form of an internally contradictory political ideology. In the same way that the Protestant Ethic was transformed into the Spirit of Capitalism, while the Christian right to private property became justifiable in wholly secular terms, America as Redeemer Nation became Imperial America, fulfilling its irresistible and manifest destiny.

During the country's early national period this took the form of declarations that America should withdraw from world affairs into moral isolation (to preserve the chaste new nation from the depravities of the Old World and the miserable lands beyond) that was uttered in the same breath as the call to export the "Rising Glory of America," to bring democracy and American-style civilization to less fortunate corners of the earth. Less than a century later, during the peak era of American imperialism, the same contradictory mission presented itself again: while those Americans who most opposed expansion into the Philippines shared the imperialists' belief in the nation's predestined right to rule the world, they resisted efforts to annex a nation of "inferior" dark-skinned people largely because of fears they had of racial contamination. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., said it most straightforwardly when he referred to America's virulent treatment of the Indians as the lesson to recall in all such cases, because, harsh though he admitted such treatment was, it had "saved the Anglo-Saxon stock from being a nation of half-breeds." In these few words were both a terrible echo of past warrants for genocidal race war and a chilling anticipation of eugenic justifications for genocide yet to come, for to this famous scion of America's proudest family, the would-be extermination of an entire race of people was preferable to the "pollution" of racial intermixture.

It was long before this time, however, that the notion of the deserved and fated extermination of America's native peoples had become a commonplace and secularized ideology. In 1784 a British visitor to America observed that "white Americans have the most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians; nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children." And this visitor was not speaking only of the opinion of those whites who lived on the frontier. Wrote the distinguished early nineteenth century scientist, Samuel G. Morton: "The benevolent mind may regret the inaptitude of the Indian for civilization," but the fact of the matter was that the "structure of [the Indian's] mind appears to be different from that of the white man, nor can the two harmonize in the social relations except on the most limited scale." "Thenceforth," added Francis Parkman, the most honored American historian of his time, the natives-whom he described as "man, wolf, and devil all in one"-"were destined to melt and vanish before the advancing waves of Anglo-American power, which now rolled westward unchecked and unopposed." The Indian, he wrote, was in fact responsible for his own destruction, for he "will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together."

But by this time it was not just the native peoples of America who were being identified as the inevitable and proper victims of genocidal providence and progress. In Australia, whose aboriginal population had been in steep decline (from mass murder and disease) ever since the arrival of the white man, it commonly was being said in scientific and scholarly publications, that to the Aryan . . . apparently belong the destinies of the future. The races whose institutions and inventions are despotism, fetishism, and cannibalism-the races who rest content in . . . placid sensuality and unprogressive decrepitude, can hardly hope to contend permanently in the great struggle for existence with the noblest division of the human species.... The survival of the fittest means that might-wisely used-is right. And thus we invoke and remorselessly fulfill the inexorable law of natural selection when exterminating the inferior Australian.

Meanwhile, by the 1860s, with only a remnant of America's indigenous people still alive, in Hawaii the Reverend Rufus Anderson surveyed the carnage that by then had reduced those islands' native population by 90 percent or more, and he declined to see it as a tragedy; the expected total die-off of the Hawaiian people was only natural, this missionary said, somewhat equivalent to "the amputation of diseased members of the body." Two decades later, in New Zealand, whose native Maori people also had suffered a huge population collapse from introduced disease and warfare with invading British armies, one A.K. Newman spoke for many whites in that country when he observed that "taking all things into consideration, the disappearance of the race is scarcely subject for much regret. They are dying out in a quick, easy way, and are being supplanted by a superior race."

Returning to America, the famed Harvard physician and social commentator Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in 1855 that Indians were nothing more than a "half-filled outline of humanity" whose "extermination" was the necessary "solution of the problem of his relation to the white race." Describing native peoples as "a sketch in red crayons of a rudimental manhood," he added that it was only natural for the white man to "hate" the Indian and to "hunt him down like the wild beasts of the forest, and so the red-crayon sketch is rubbed out, and the canvas is ready for a picture of manhood a little more like God's own image."

Two decades later, on the occasion of the nation's 1876 centennial celebration, the country's leading literary intellectual took time out in an essay expressing his "thrill of patriotic pride" flatly to advocate "the extermination of the red savages of the plains." Wrote William Dean Howells to the influential readers of the Atlantic Monthly:

The red man, as he appears in effigy and in photograph in this collection [at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition], is a hideous demon, whose malign traits can hardly inspire any emotion softer than abhorrence. In blaming our Indian agents for malfeasance in office, perhaps we do not sufficiently account for the demoralizing influence of merely beholding those false and pitiless savage faces; moldy flour and corrupt beef must seem altogether too good for them.

Not to be outdone by the most eminent historians, scientists, and cultural critics of the previous generation, several decades later still, America's leading psychologist and educator, G. Stanley Hall, imperiously surveyed the human wreckage that Western exploration and colonization had created across the globe, and wrote:

Never, perhaps, were lower races being extirpated as weeds in the human garden, both by conscious and organic processes, so rapidly as to-day. In many minds this is inevitable and not without justification. Pity and sympathy, says Nietzsche, are now a disease, and we are summoned to rise above morals and clear the world's stage for the survival of those who are fittest because strongest.... The world will soon be overcrowded, and we must begin to take selective agencies into our own hands. Primitive races are either hopelessly decadent and moribund, or at best have demonstrated their inability to domesticate or civilize themselves.

And not to be outdone by the exalted likes of Morton, Parkman, Holmes, Howells, Adams, or Hall, the man who became America's first truly twentieth century President, Theodore Roosevelt, added his opinion that the extermination of the American Indians and the expropriation of their lands "was as ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable. Such conquests," he continued, "are sure to come when a masterful people, still in its raw barbarian prime, finds itself face to face with the weaker and wholly alien race which holds a coveted prize in its feeble grasp." It is perhaps not surprising, then, that this beloved American hero and Nobel Peace Prize recipient (who once happily remarked that "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth") also believed that "degenerates" as well as "criminals . . . and feeble-minded persons [should] be forbidden to leave offspring behind them." The better classes of white Americans were being overwhelmed, he feared, by "the unrestricted breeding" of inferior racial stocks, the "utterly shiftless," and the "worthless."

These were sentiments, applied to others, that the world would hear much of during the 1930s and 1940s. (Indeed, one well-known scholar of the history of race and racism, Pierre L. van den Berghe, places Roosevelt within an unholy triumvirate of the modern world's leading racist statesmen; the other two, according to van den Berghe, are Adolf Hitler and Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa's original architect of apartheid.)'47 For the "extirpation" of the "lower races" that Hall and Roosevelt were celebrating drew its justification from the same updated version of the Great Chain of Being that eventually inspired Nazi pseudoscience. Nothing could be more evident than the fundamental agreement of both these men (and countless others who preceded them) with the central moral principle underlying that pseudoscience, as expressed by the man who has been called Germany's "major prophet of political biology," Ernst Haeckel, when he wrote that the "lower races"-Sepulveda's "homunculi" with few "vestiges of humanity"; Mather's "ravenous howling wolves"; Holmes's "half-filled outline of humanity"; Howells's "hideous demons"; Hall's "weeds in the human garden"; Roosevelt's "weaker and wholly alien races"-were so fundamentally different from the "civilized Europeans [that] we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives." Nor could anything be clearer, as Robert Jay Lifton has pointed out in his exhaustive study of the psychology of genocide, than that such thinking was nothing less than the "harsh, apocalyptic, deadly rationality" that drove forward the perverse holy war of the Nazi extermination campaign.

The first Europeans to visit the continents of North and South America and the islands of the Caribbean, like the Nazis in Europe after them, produced many volumes of grandiloquently racist apologia for the genocidal holocaust they carried out. Not only were the "lower races" they encountered in the New World dark and sinful, carnal and exotic, proud, inhuman, un-Christian inhabitants of the nether territories of humanity- contact with whom, by civilized people, threatened morally fatal contamination-but God, as always, was on the Christians' side. And God's desire, which became the Christians' marching orders, was that such dangerous beasts and brutes must be annihilated.

Elie Wiesel is right: the road to Auschwitz was being paved in the earliest days of Christendom. But another conclusion now is equally evident: on the way to Auschwitz the road's pathway led straight through the heart of the Indies and of North and South America.

American Holocaust