WPT University Place: A Genealogy of “America”

– Now it’s my great
pleasure to introduce our guest speaker today,
Professor Florencia Mallon. We would like to thank
her in a heartfelt fashion for her acceptance
of our invitation to present a lecture
fitting the theme of the Peterson Lecture Series as well as the theme
of The Year of Mexico. Professor Mallon received
her doctorate degree in Nineteenth-century American
History from Yale University. In the past three
decades she has been teaching Modern 19th-century
American History, Modern Mexican History, Gender and Ethnic History of
Modern 19th-century America, and History of the
Revolutions and Uprisings in Modern 19th-century America, at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. In the meantime, through
her research, scholarship, and publications Professor
Mallon has established herself as one of the
leading scholars in the field of Latin
American History Studies. A list of her publications
is a long one, but today I can only name
three titles of her many books, partly because of the time
limit for this introduction, also partly because I don’t
have enough practice-time to pronounce the Spanish
titles of her books correctly. Book number one:
Courage Tastes of Blood:
The Mapuche Community
of Nicolas Ailio
and the Chilean
State, 1906 – 2001.
This history monograph was published by Duke
University Press.Peasant and Nation: The Making
of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru.
This history monograph
was published by the University
of California Press. Example number three:
The Defense of Community
in Peru’s Central
Highlands: Peasant Struggle
and Capitalist
Transition, 1860 – 1940.
This history monograph
was published by Princeton University Press. Not many historians
write history monographs as well as novels, but
Florencia does both. Recently she published
a novel titledBeyond the Ties of Blood,
a novel that is based on the turbulent history of
Chile in the 1970s and 1980s. For her tireless
pursuit of knowledge and her achievements
in pursuing it, she has been awarded
many academic honors, book awards, and
academic titles, including the most recent one:
Julieta Kirkwood Professor, a distinguished
endowed professorship at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. So for today’s program,
Florencia will talk about her most recent research:
the changing connotation and meaning of the
concept of America. Now let’s welcome
Professor Mallon to share her scholarship and
research with us. [applause] – Thank you very much for that very generous and
kind introduction. I also need to just say
that as I learned more about Dr. Edward
Peterson, I felt more and more honored at
having been invited to give a lecture that
is named after him. And I do have to
say that the more I understood about Dr.
Peterson, the more I understood that I actually do have a lot
in common with him in terms of thinking broadly
and globally; thinking in terms
of power relations; and thinking also in
terms of relationships among countries in the
Western Hemisphere. And in that sense I think
that my lecture does, hopefully in some
important ways, connect with the
sensibilities that he espoused as a teacher
and as a researcher. So, let me just get going. As you can see here
on the PowerPoint, this is a map of
America, the Americas from the period of the
so-called discovery, which I’m going to talk
about why some scholars got to the point
where they said it was not really a discovery
but an invention. But we can see the
ideas that it’s a new hemisphere and
a new, large continent that people didn’t
realize was there before. When José Martí,
the Cuban writer, published his polemical essay
“Nuestra América” in Mexico in January 1891, his use
of the term “Our America” was a call to unity among the republics south
of the Rio Grande. “For in what lands can
men take more pride than in our long-suffering
American republics?” he asked. And he continued: “Never in
history have such advanced and united nations
been forged in so short a time from such
disorganized elements.” Publishing the essay
in Mexico in 1891, more than three decades
after the US-Mexican War had dismembered the original territory of the Mexican nation, Martí was painfully
aware of the need to sound the alarm about
the country to the north. “The scorn of our formidable
neighbor,” he wrote, “who does not know us, is Our
America’s greatest danger. And since the day of
the visit is near, it is imperative that
our neighbor knows us, and soon, so that it
will not scorn us. Through ignorance it might
even come to lay hands on us.” Of course, as we know,
his comment was prescient, since a mere seven years
later the United States would invade Cuba
and Puerto Rico as part of the
Spanish-American War. My purpose here is
to trace a genealogy, in the Foucaultian sense, of the multiple
meanings of “America,” and how they evolved
from a hemispheric vision in the sixteenth through
eighteenth centuries, to a series of
disputed meanings, one of which was Martí’s, in the nineteenth
century and beyond. Following in the
“ensayista” tradition of Latin American authors, a tradition to which
Martí belonged, who have used this
medium to destabilize existing ideas or concepts, I use the term
“essay” in the French sense of “essayer,”
to try on or try out. In Spanish as well
“ensayo” comes from “ensayar”, to
rehearse or try out. The purpose is,
therefore, not to produce a definitive analysis,
but rather to open up new and unexplored
venues for discussion. I will begin by excavating
again in the Foucaultian sense “subjected knowledges” is what he called them that is, knowledge that has been buried by unequal relations of power. I will explore the numerous and changing meanings of “America,” placing them in the
context of evolving power relations in the
Western Hemisphere and in the Atlantic World
of which it formed apart. Returning then to the
multiple meanings of “America” and how they have
been debated, both in the United States and in
the rest of the hemisphere, I will conclude with what
Foucault has called a genealogy, in his word, an “attempt to emancipate historical
knowledges.” I will then conclude
with a reflection on how, in the northern country
of which we form a part, “America” became a synonym
for the United States. The Mexican intellectual historian Edmundo
O’Gorman struggled, from the 1940s, with the notion of the
“discovery” of America, coming to believe
that it should more properly be called “the
invention of America.” Shortly after publishing
the first Spanish edition of his book with this name, he was invited to give
a series of lectures at Indiana University,
where he was able to deepen his understanding of this
process of invention, placing its beginnings
in the need to account for the new knowledge
being produced by explorers as they uncovered the existence of lands to the
west, between Europe and Asia. This involved a conflictual
dialogue between this new knowledge and
the view of the world confirmed through
Christian theology, which denied the
possibility that antipodal lands
could be inhabited. O’Gorman concluded
that the crucial expeditions that had
provided the necessary additional information
for the formulation of the concept of
a “new world” had been Amerigo Vespucci’s
in 1501 and 1502, and Christopher Columbus’s last voyage between
1502 and 1504. Indeed, O’Gorman saw Columbus
and Vespucci as collaborators rather than as rivals
because, because although each explorer was moved by personal
interests and ambitions that were in competition
with each other, they both were attempting
to find a passage that, by sailing west,
would give them access to the Indian Ocean
and thus to Asia. The failures of
both explorers were essential, O’Gorman
explains, because and I quote, “They opened the way for an “unexpected and
decisive revelation.” Although each explained
his failure differently, Vespucci’s almost
interminable voyage toward the south forced him to accept
the existence of a new world. And here as you
can see hopefully you can read it
this is an image. It’s a representation
that was made by Bartolome Colon,
Christopher Columbus’s brother. And the idea was that
there was this idea that supposedly Asia
was supposed to be here. And this was Espanola,
right?, Hispaniola. But then as Amerigo
Vespucci began going down the edge of what we
know now to be South America, trying to find a passage
to the Indian Ocean, he was totally unsuccessful.
So the lower down he got, and the colder it got,
the clearer it became to him that there was no passage and that in fact this was
a new world, Mondo Novo. The final result of
this complicated process was the publication in
1507 of Cosmographiae Introductio by the
Academy of St. Dié. In addition to baptizing
the new lands as America, the most important
and transformational part of this document
was the recognition of America as a fourth continent along with Europe,
Africa, and Asia. This, O’Gorman argues,
changed everything, because of and here I quote him
“Modern man’s contempt “for and his rebellion
against the fetters “which he himself
had forged under “pressure of archaic
religious fears.” “It was not by chance
coincidence,” he continues, “that America appeared
on the historical scene “of Western culture as the
land of opportunities, “of the future, and of freedom.” We can put O’Gorman’s
reflections together with historian Jack P.
Greene’s suggestion that not only Vasco de
Quiroga in Mexico, but also the Jesuits in
Paraguay and the Puritans in New England desired
to find in America and I quote, “a site for
the realization of dreams “and hopes that could not be “achieved in the
Old World.” As Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra
makes clear, there was also an underside to
this shared utopian yearning. Both Spanish and British,
Catholic and Puritan, he writes, shared the “tradition of
Christian holy wars” from which they took common
images and understandings of their role in the New World, resulting in a broadly shared notion that European
colonization of the New World was in fact a mission
to liberate the American population from
oppression by the Devil. Indeed, he argues,
this was at the center of shared Catholic
and Protestant what he calls “demonological
discourses” that informed the colonization of the
Americas more broadly, reverberating with
biblical narratives of the conquest of a new Canaan in order to found
a new Jerusalem. It is also important
to remember that, by the time the Puritans set
their sights on North America, the Spanish and Portuguese
colonizations had been ongoing for nearly a century. The wealth reaching
Spain and Portugal from the Americas,
Greene explains, was a strong motivation for
other European countries to consider doing
something similar. At the same time, the Dutch
struggle for independence from the Hapsburg Empire
generated a deep enmity between Spain and
the Netherlands that, as Benjamin Schmidt argues,
reverberated in complex ways with narratives of the
Spanish conquest in America. Although scholars disagree
quite deeply about the origins and diffusion
of the Black Legend, one thing that seems
fairly clear is that most versions began from Father
Bartolomé de las Casas’s Very Brief Account of the
Destruction of the Indies. As Lewis Hanke has written, most of Las Casas’s
earlier writings, perhaps especially his
Very Brief Account, and I quote, “May be
considered as passionate “lawyer’s briefs put
together for a particular “occasion to achieve
a definite end” and “have the tone of
piping-hot pamphlets “designed to be hawked in
the streets to influence “men’s minds toward
some specific “and immediate action on
behalf of the Indians.” And Schmidt further
points out that and I quote, “Calculations
of casualties, “or what might anachronistically
be called ‘body counts,’ “occur obsessively throughout”
Las Casas’s narrative, adding that “the Dominican
never quite clarified “how he arrived at
these sturdy figures, “and, added all together,
the sum total of casualties “from the individual
islands and provinces “he assessed actually
tops twenty million.” Although we cannot
reconstruct the process through which Las Casas
calculated the numbers, we can definitely
reconstruct the origins and context of his
passionate denunciation. As a member of the first
colonizing generation in Hispaniola, he
received an “encomienda”, a Crown grant of Indian
tribute and labor in exchange for Christianizing and quote/unquote
“civilizing” the natives. Ironically, this was
given to him as a reward for participating in
the conquest of Cuba when already an ordained priest, and this conquest, along
with his travels in Mexico and Central America,
would form the main basis for his denunciations of
abuse in his later writings. Las Casas was also part
of a colonizing lineage, since his father and uncle
had earlier participated in Christopher Columbus’s final expedition to
Hispaniola in 1510. Oh, sorry Christopher
Columbus’s final expedition to the Caribbean and,
writes David Brading, brought him back an enslaved
Indian boy for his service. Summarizing Las Casas’s
own account, David Brading explains that the priest’s
change of heart began with the arrival of Dominican
friars to Hispaniola in 1510, where they quote,
“Soon won fame for “their austere life
and missionary zeal.” Still Las Casas
maintained his encomienda and his way of life until
at Easter his Dominican confessor refused to
grant him absolution and he was assigned
for his Easter sermon a passage from
Ecclesiastes that began and I quote, “If one
sacrifices from what has “been wrongfully obtained,
the offering is blemished; “the gifts of the lawless
are not acceptable”. The result of these
accumulated revelations was and to quote Brading once again, “That in 1514 Las Casas
decided to free his “Indians and seek reform
of the entire system.” This story of personal
transformation is central in explaining the passion
and missionary zeal with which Las Casas
wrote about Spanish cruelty to the Indians,
he had been a part of it. Whether or not his
numbers can be confirmed and there has been
much debate about this among historians of
colonial Spanish America his repeated attempts to
reform Spanish practices, as well as his entrance
into the Dominican Order, are most likely
connected to his need to seek atonement for
his earlier behavior. It is in this context as
well that we must understand the passion of his
Very Brief Account, which in its later
travels through Europe became the basis for
the Black Legend. Interestingly, this
central, personal, and moral element of the
story got lost in the many and passionate
historiographical scuffles over the Black Legend
that took place among historians of
colonial Spanish America in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. In addition to the
various and complex ways in which Las Casas’s
text was transformed through travel and
colonial competition, we must also point out that, even though conquest was violent and destructive everywhere, there were differences
from region to region. In the Aztec and Inca empires, for example, the conquerors
were able to benefit from divisions
among native peoples to garner at least some limited
support for their enterprise. And we can see here
that here is where the Aztec empire was located. The Inca empire
was located here. And both of these
empires were complex and multi-leveled
political systems. And because of this
there were divisions among native peoples due
to some of the political and violent forms of
conquests that both the Aztecs and Incas had used. And
these divisions the Spaniards were able to take
advantage of and garner at least some
limited support from native peoples for
their enterprise. Although Hernán Cortés initially
used extensive violence to quote unquote
“convince” the Tlaxcalans to become his allies
against the Aztecs, so much so that Charles
Gibson calls Cortés’s confrontation with them
“The conquest of Tlaxcala,” once the alliance was
forged it proved to be quite effective militarily
against the Aztecs, despite the horrific
costs of taking the capital city of
Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City. Although the Pizarro
brothers were two-faced and violent in
their dealing with the Inca emperor Atahualpa, who was ultimately executed, their conquest of the
Andean region benefited from the assistance
of the Wanka people of the Central
Highlands of Peru, recently conquered by the Incas. And the Wankas were more or less in this region here,
and this was the area where the Incas first
started and had moved up. The story was different
in regions like Chile and the Argentine pampas. If we look at the area today
of Chile and of Argentina, this area suffered from a
scarcity of precious metals. This limited the resources
that conquerors were willing to invest and
the peoples who inhabited the area were politically
decentralized, which also made it
much more difficult to actually conquer
them effectively. In fact, these regions would not come under the
formal authority of any centralized state until after the colonial
period was over. These differences better
explain the processes and outcomes of
different conquest and colonization processes
in the Americas than do the differences
between Spanish and Northern European cultures. So do the economic
opportunities in each region. Mining wealth was
concentrated, as I mentioned, in Mexico and Peru,
precisely where existing complex empires already
had labor systems the Spanish could
appropriate and extend. In the Caribbean and
Circum-Caribbean there were less easily captured
sources of wealth, although as we know,
in the long run, sugar production became central. In New England, local
wealth was embedded more in lumber, agriculture,
and fur trapping. Although market forces
were part of the equation from the very beginning,
the process of colonization, as Neal Salisbury has argued, began with a successful
trading economy in which French and
Dutch merchants exchanged European consumer
items, such as tools, cloth, copper pots, and
glass beads for pelts. In contrast to the
French and Dutch, Salisbury writes and I
quote, “English expeditions “from 1602 through
the late 1610s sought “to coerce and dominate
one or another of “the French allies in order
to obtain food, labor, “territory and to
assert political “authority and
cultural superiority.” For these reasons especially,
Salisbury explains, the English were
initially unsuccessful, and their fortunes
changed only after the first major epidemic
reduced the native population and I quote, “By about
ninety percent.” Indeed, he concludes
that in a similar way to other parts of the Americas,
it was quote, “epidemic “diseases for which the
natives lacked immunities” that became the most effective
weapon of colonization. Thus, although the timing and
character of the colonizations were clearly quite different, there was a dramatic similarity in the process of “conquest
through epidemic disease” quote unquote that
lends an especially ironic twist to the
notion of a Black Legend of cruelty that only applied
to Spanish colonists. We should also remember that
the Black Legend itself, and the use of Las Casas’s
Very Brief Account as evidence, followed a long and winding
trajectory repeatedly informed by struggles for
supremacy among aspiring colonial powers, not
only in the period from the 1500s to the
1800s, but through the beginning of the
twentieth century. Indeed, if we consider the
evolution of the Black Legend in a context of
international conflict among aspiring colonial powers, it is perhaps especially
interesting to note that the conservative Spanish
intellectual Julián Juderías, an avid supporter of
dictator Francisco Franco, published the first
edition of his denunciation of
this legend in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, and the second edition in 1917 when, in his own words,
“A war without precedent “in history is at its apogee. “This war, which has
destroyed with indescribable “brutality those nations
considered the most civilized, “has shattered many
of our illusions.” Although there is disagreement
as to the details, most scholars agree that the
Black Legend emerged in Europe in the context of the
Eighty Years’ War, during which the Dutch fought for their independence
from the Hapsburg Empire. Though there had been
anti-Spanish sentiment before, most notably in Italy, the
virulence and widespread diffusion of the Dutch
attacks was unprecedented. As K.W. Swart has written,
and I quote, “The Dutch “greatly surpassed the
Italians in the vehemence “with which they denounced
Spain’s political “and religious system
and in the success “which they achieved
in turning popular “hatred of Spain to
political ends.” Indeed, as Schmidt makes clear, the Spanish invasion of the
Low Countries was represented, in Dutch narratives,
in a parallel fashion to the
conquest of the Indies. “In the Low Countries
as in the West Indies,” he writes, “the Spanish waged a ‘war of fire and
blood’ In Antwerp as in the Antilles, they
pounced upon natives like ‘wolves’ or ‘lions,’
and they slaughtered innocent women and children
‘like so many sheep.’ ” It is also quite telling
to note that the same year, 1620, saw the
publication in Amsterdam of two books about
Spanish tyranny, one concerning the Netherlands and the other concerning
the West Indies. Both also sported
illustrations that graphically, and quite similarly,
detailed the horrific abuses of Spanish soldiers. As Schmidt points out,
the original images of Spanish cruelty in
the Indies reproduced in these editions
had appeared in Theodore de Bry’s 1598 Latin
translation ofLas Casas.So this is one of the
lithographs of Theodore de Bry, and as you can see this is
meant to be happening in Cuba, or Hispaniola really,
because here is the coast. There is the edge of the
Spanish sailing ship. And I’m not going to go
into a whole lot of detail about what is being
represented here, but among the things
that are going on are the burning of babies,
cannibalism, et cetera. So this is clearly an
especially ugly form of visual propaganda
against the Spaniards. It is especially
fascinating to learn, in this context, that Las
Casas’s Brief Account, with the Dutch illustrator Theodore de Bry’s
illustrations included, was dusted off,
repackaged, and circulated in the United States
in 1898 as part of a propaganda campaign to support the waging of the
Spanish-American War. Amy Kaplan and David
Blight have both argued that the Spanish-American
War constituted a potential resolution,
on foreign soil, of the deep contradictions
in US nation-state formation that had
culminated in the Civil War. Blight comments on a
cartoon that appeared in the Chicago Inter
Ocean in May 1898. And here I quote, “As
the United States went “to war with Spain in 1898,
this cartoon celebrated “the reconciliation
of the Confederate “and Union veteran, both
draped in the national flag.” So here we see the
two veterans draped in the national flag looking
out at a burning Cuba. Kaplan writes that
journalists and politicians and I quote, “represented
the war with Spain “as a nostalgic
recuperation of the heroism “of an earlier generation and
as a purgative final battle, “healing the wounds
and divisiveness “of their internecine
war while completing “its goals of national
reunification.” And what could be more
convenient, she suggests, than the fact that it all
occurred, “On the remote “islands of Cuba and
the Philippines, “leaving the American
landscape unscathed.” Finally, a crucial element
in her analysis is the focus, by US officers and
war correspondents, exclusively on the presence of US soldiers on
the battlefield. And she writes, “The
conspicuousness of “American bodies and the
corresponding invisibility “of all other combatants
had to be produced “ideologically as
subject positions, “not just perceived as
military positions. “The positions were
plotted in part by “a narrative that effaced
the prior history “of the Cuban war against Spain “and located the US
entry into the war “as the point of
historical origin.” Effacing the prior
history of the Cuban war against Spain was at the center of the reissuing, in 1898 by a New York
publishing house, of an English translation
of the 1620 French edition of Las Casas’s Brief Account. Entitled An Historical
and True Account of the Cruel Massacre and
Slaughter of 20,000,000 of People in the West Indies by the SPANIARDS,
in capital letters. It was said to be
“Written by again in “capital letters BISHOP LAS
CASAS, AN EYE-WITNESS.” After reproducing the
text of the French edition in a translation claimed
only by “N.M.L.,” this version goes on
to state and I quote, “The Spaniard of the
19th century differs but “little from the
Spaniard of the 16th. “True, he does not dare
commit such outrageous “actions as are narrated in
the foregoing pages; yet, “when we remember their
treatment of the defenseless “women and children in
the Province of Havana, “and the dastardly crime
of a Spanish officer who, “in his official report,
boasted of killing “an entire Cuban family, save
a girl of fourteen years, “who he kept as his
mistress, one sees “that he compares very favorably “with his ancestors.” In this section of
the retranslation, entitled “The
Spaniards Now in Cuba,” descriptions of abuse
by the Spanish army are accompanied, on
the facing pages, by engravings taken
originally from the Dutch versions of
the Las Casas text. And this you can see
it’s the same lithograph that I pointed to
before, but it appeared also in the retranslation
of Las Casas’s Brief Account that was circulated in
the United States in 1898. The positioning of the
illustrations is clearly meant to associate
what the Spanish were doing in Cuba in the 16th
century with what they were doing at the end
of the 19th century, providing in this
way a humanitarian justification for
US intervention. Toward the end of this section,
just in case the reader had not yet gotten the message, the following passage appears and I quote, “Nearly four
hundred years have passed “since Pizarro and
Cortez, and their band “of reckless and brutal
followers, devastated “the West Indies
and South America. “Today, there appears
a new Pizarro, “in the form of a
General Weyler.” In a moment I’ll explain who General Weyler is
in more detail. In the final section of
the retranslation titled “A Few Facts About Cuba,”
potential investors are provided with a description
of the geography and resources of the
island, with the assurance that quote, “About two
thirds of the coast, “is free from keys and reefs, “and of easy access.” By this point the message of the retranslation
could not be clearer. The United States
must intervene in Cuba to prevent further abuses by the bloodthirsty
Spaniards who, based on the eyewitness
account of Las Casas, have been responsible
for the deaths of millions of
innocents from the time of Pizarro and Cortés
to the present day. The reward for such
humanitarian action will, of course, be access
to the bountiful resources of the island, which are of quote unquote
“easy access.” But if we think through
this retranslation alongside Kaplan’s analysis, we
see how the erasure of the Cuban Independence
Wars against Spain, beginning in the 1860s,
transforms the substantial human rights abuses of
the Spanish army under the leadership of General
Valeriano Weyler from a tactic of counterinsurgency against
a powerful enemy in the form of a multiracial Cuban
revolutionary army into a simple continuation
of Spanish abuses dating back to the end
of the 15th century. And what could be
more convenient, from the standpoint
of an emerging international colonial
power, than being able to construct its actions
as the humanitarian defense of innocent
victims with no apparent agency of their
own in the conflict? It seems precisely at
this moment of increasing international ambition,
not only in the Western Hemisphere but also
in the Pacific, that the effective ownership,
from a US perspective, over the term “America” would most likely have been confirmed. It was also at this precise
moment that the Berlin Conference confirmed
the ambitions of European powers over
the African continent, creating an additional
and powerful motive for the United States, in
its constant competition with European powers,
to define its own sphere of influence between
the Caribbean and the Pacific. But we must also consider
the previous political history of the United
States, and explore the uneasy emergence of
a postcolonial nation that attempted to bring
together disparate and conflicting colonies
into a single entity. And I promise this
section is the shortest because it’s the part
I know least about. It’s US history and
it’s not my area, but I’ve really enjoyed getting
to know it a little better. So in any case, we
see here of course, and I think from the
standpoint of an image this is especially powerful,
because we see that at the moment of independence
this was the United States. That was it. French territory and Spanish
territories surrounded it. And if we look at it
that way, then perhaps it is understandable
why then the Founding Fathers would have been
a little bit worried about what happened with
the European powers. Indeed, as Leonard Sadosky
makes clear in his bookRevolutionary Negotiations,
“The process of US Independence, “as well as the
difficult negotiations “around confederation
vs. federation “that occupied
the period between “the Declaration of Independence “and the Ratification
of the Constitution, “can best be understood in
a broader Atlantic context “in which US aspirations to
form part of the broader “Westphalian system
that had emerged “after the Thirty Years’ War
were repeatedly thwarted, “in the context of a
confederation model, “by the lack of a centralized
diplomatic voice or policy.” All of this pushed hard in the direction of a
more unified polity, something especially difficult
given the deeply held sense of autonomy present
among the original colonies brought together
as a confederation, generating a deep
contradiction between the concepts of “the American
people” and “the States.” Indeed, in The
Federalist Papers, as we know written by
James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton
under the pseudonym Publius, when discussing the
relationship among the different sectors of the
national government, the authors write the
following and I quote, “The House of
Representatives will derive “its powers from the
people of America.” Then, almost immediately
afterward, they
add: “The Senate, “on the other hand, will derive
its powers from the States, “as political and
coequal societies.” Here we see both the contrast and the tension between
the notion of “America” as denoting union,
and “the States” as denoting autonomy
and separation. Since the purpose of this
document was to provide an explanation and
justification for the transition from a confederation to a federation with the
1787 Constitution, the tension is
especially interesting. We also see that the
notions of territory, prestige and legitimacy are
central to the development of the United States;
and, according to Publius, the lack of a unified
government makes their achievement
impossible, resulting in the nation’s
reaching and I quote, “Almost the last stage
of national humiliation.” There are, for example
and I quote, “valuable “territories and
important posts in “possession of a
foreign power, which, “by express
stipulations, ought long “since to have been
surrendered.” But it has not been possible to act in order to recuperate them, since quote, “We
have neither troops, “nor treasury, nor
government.” We can also read in this
section of The Federalist a strong current of
frustration that the new nation has not received that
to which it is entitled. And here I quote again,
“Are we entitled by nature “and compact to a
free participation in “the navigation of
the Mississippi? “Spain excludes us from it. “Is commerce of importance
to national wealth? “Ours is at the lowest
point of declension. “Is respectability in the
eyes of foreign powers “a safeguard against
foreign encroachments? “The imbecility of
our government even “forbids them to treat with us. “Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic
sovereignty.” With its origins in the
process of independence, this frustration, involved
not only the English, French, and Spanish, but
indigenous nations as well. The fear that the English,
Spanish, and French possibly with the aid of
discontented indigenous nations might stand in the way
of the full development of the United States of America was not entirely an illusion, giving further credence
to the argument, as Publius put it, that
the power to decide matters relating to national
interest and I quote, “Ought, in the first
instance, to be lodged “in the national
depository.” Across the last two decades
of the 18th century, the conflicts among
France, Spain, and Great Britain
intensified, prompted by the Haitian Revolution
in the Caribbean. Laurent Dubois has
demonstrated the global impact of these conflicts, and also that the
Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was part of the process,
lending further credence to the notion that US
continental expansion was intimately tied to the belief,
on the part of US leaders, that only through
expansion could the United States compete effectively with
European countries. And we see, of course,
the size of the expansion that the Louisiana Purchase provided the United
States of America. Perhaps the most telling
evidence concerning the interconnection
of all of these events and concerns can be
found in a November 1819 excerpt from John Quincy
Adams’s memoirs where, reacting to a conversation
with several other important political leaders where
concern had been expressed that both England and France
considered the United States to be quote “an ambitious and
encroaching people.” Adams wrote and here I quote, “I said I doubted
whether we ought to “give ourselves any
concern about it. “Great Britain, after vilifying
us twenty years as a mean, “low-minded, peddling nation,
having no generous ambitions “and no God but gold, has
now changed her tone, “and was endeavoring
to alarm the world “at the gigantic grasp
of our ambition. “Spain was doing the
same; and Europe, who, “even since the commencement
of our Government “under the present Constitution, “with the Indians and
to bound us by the Ohio, “has first been startled by
our acquisition of Louisiana, “and now by our
pretension to extend “to the South Sea
i.e. the Pacific “and readily gave credit to
the envious and jealous clamor “of Spain and England
against our ambition. “Nothing that we could say
would remove this impression “until the world shall be
familiarized with the idea “of considering our
proper dominion “to be the continent of
North America.” It is also in this
context that we must understand the War of 1812. As Sadosky makes clear,
there was an important southeastern
dimension to the War, for in the midst of that
conflict, a civil war erupted among factions
of the Creek nation, with a radical
anti-European faction known as the Red Sticks
confronting the more moderate and European sectors
of their people. In addition to a Red Stick
attack on the Fort Mims stockade in Alabama that
killed hundreds of settlers, it became known the Red
Sticks were procuring arms from British
suppliers through the Spanish at
Pensacola, Florida. So you can see how this, then, becomes a big issue
of national security. Fort Mims and a huge
massacre of settlers. And the Red Sticks
are getting their arms from British suppliers
through a port in what is still
Spanish Florida. In such a context, it is
not surprising that between 1812 and 1827 the
United States also waged two wars against the
Seminole in an attempt to limit Spain’s influence
on the Florida peninsula and prevent the Seminole from
harboring fugitive slaves. And indeed if you look at as
it says here in my explanation of the PowerPoint, this
photo of the Seminole family makes clear that
they are accepting into their families a series
of runaway slaves. Their phenotypes
are really quite representative of
that combination. Given the aspirations of US
leaders in the Atlantic World, it is perhaps not surprising
that the relationship with Europe should have
played such a central and defining role in the
development of US policy toward its neighbors
in the hemisphere. What is perhaps less well
analyzed is the similarity and interplay of US policy
toward Native American and toward Latin
American nations, and how both were
clearly subject to concerns about US
national security. As Sadosky argues, the purpose
of the Jackson Doctrine, which was quote, “To limit
the ability of the European “powers to interfere in the
Indian nations’ internal “affairs and the United
States’ diplomacy with them “is almost exactly what
the United States wanted “in terms of European
relations with the new “Latin American states, as
outlined by the Monroe
Doctrine.” Furthermore, he continues, “It
is especially ironic to note “the role that John
Quincy Adams played “in articulating both the
Monroe and Jackson doctrines.” These questions of
national security, in combination with
a demand for respect as an equal partner in
the Atlantic World system, were also intimately
interconnected, within the United
States, with ongoing and intense debates
about states’ rights. As we shall see, these
conflicts were deeply interconnected with
debates about slavery, and all of these tensions
would emerge again and again across the rest
of the nineteenth century as the dynamics of US
nation formation drove a westward expansion
in search of, as John Quincy Adams
so aptly put it, the “proper dominion” over “the
continent of North America.” An especially dramatic
flashpoint in this process would be the US-Mexican War. When US commercial penetration, especially of the Texas
region, intensified after Mexican
Independence in the 1820s, the issue of slavery
became a point of great conflict after Mexican
abolition in 1829, culminating in the Texas
Revolution of 1835. And as you can see
here, at that point this was the part of Texas
that was considered already to be part of
the US, and this was the part that was
under contention, and which of course
the settlers in Texas were interested in including
within their purview. As John Tutino writes
and I quote, “Anglo Texans “who had claimed
independence in 1835 “sought annexation to the
United States a decade later; “they were ready to
relinquish sovereignty “to preserve the cotton
and slave economy and “to take control of
the Rio Grande.” And you see here the Rio Grande,
of course, is right here. But also it’s important
to remember that this whole region
in blue was a part of Mexico before
the US-Mexican War. In A Wicked War Amy
Greenberg explores how the war with Mexico
between 1846 and 1848 was in part a consolidation
and reproduction of earlier ideologies and
practices of expansion and conquest against the native
peoples of North America. She describes how
the invading armies, the US armies, most notably
the Arkansas volunteer detachments that had prior
experience in the Indian Wars, used tactics that
included scalping against some of the
Mexican civilians. She also shows how the
War became a proving ground for military leaders
who would quickly emerge as the main officers of
the Civil War, especially Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S.
Grant, Stonewall Jackson, George Meade, and
Jefferson Davis. In addition to tracing
the connections between the US-Mexican War and
the Civil War, Greenberg’s analysis also suggests
a relationship between North-South sectional
conflict in the United States, and ideologies and
practices of expansionism. US territorial expansionism,
as we have seen so deeply motivated by the need
to be an equal player, so to speak, in the
Atlantic World system and the hemispheric conflicts among European colonial powers, also helped fuel and was
fueled by confrontations between North and South. Greenberg writes that the
War, “fractured the delicate sectional balance within
the United States.” And indeed, she concludes,
victory in Mexico spurred expansionists in
both sections of the country to push for more land, in
Hawaii, Central America, the Yucatán, and
particularly Cuba, further exacerbating
sectional tensions. The stage was set for secession. It was an argument that could
not be settled with words. At the same time, as
John Tutino argues, the US-Mexican war
resulted in an expansion of the United States into
Texas as well as what had been the Mexican
Northwest, what I pointed to and obviously
is now the US West and Southwest resulting
not only in a deeper conflict over
slavery, but also in a dramatic expansion
of the US economy. “Vast lands rich in
resources enhanced “the prospects for US economic
power,” Tutino writes. This claim merits
further consideration, especially in the
context of the existing narratives of US
economic history. In its more recognizable
textbook versions, US industrial development
is, to some extent, already predetermined
by the unique history of the
Thirteen Colonies. In other versions, a narrative
of technological development, the construction of
railroads, the outstanding forms of innovation
and invention, and the arrival of
industrially skilled immigrants helps explain the
unique development of industry in
the United States. While all of this is
clearly important, one is also left to
wonder whether the easier capital accumulation
that became possible as a result of the mining and agricultural
wealth incorporated with the US-Mexican War might have also played
an important role. Combining Tutino’s conclusion
that the US-Mexican War, and the wealth of the new
territories acquired through it, underwrote US economic
power, and Walter LaFeber’s argument concerning
the economically powered take-off
of US expansionism, this hypothesis gains
greater traction. As LaFeber writes,
“The economy reached its “take-off stage
between 1843 and 1857.” And he continues:
“These two facts that by 1860 “the industrial economy
was already moving “ahead rapidly and that
the Civil War marked “the transference of
power from planters “to industrialists and
financiers do much to explain “the dynamics
of the new empire.” If we place Tutino’s and
LaFeber’s arguments together, we can suggest a
mutually constitutive
relationship between economic growth and territorial
expansion that began to emerge most dramatically
with the US-Mexican War. In this context, the Civil
War was the last step in the reorganization of the
economic balance of power that would move the
United States toward expansion as a new empire
that set its sights beyond the territory
of North America. At the same time,
however, as we saw earlier in the work by David
Blight and Amy Kaplan, the Civil War was not an
entirely effective solution to the deep conflict
between North and South of the previous period, and
the Spanish-American War turned into an
additional attempt to move beyond
sectional confrontation. Indeed, the difficulty of
resolving the internal wounds and divisions left by the
Civil War and the attempt to heal these on foreign
soil also facilitated the emergence of a new
vision of the United States as the savior of those
still suffering under the weight of
Spanish colonialism. You’ll be happy to
know that you my exploration of how a term
that initially denoted the full Western
Hemisphere was transformed into a shorthand word meaning
the United States of America has now reached its final stage. A Foucaultian
archaeology of the term “America” has suggested
that, from the moment it was invented in dialogue with
initial European explorations, the term denoted new
possibilities and a sort of utopian imaginary. At the same time, the idea
that European colonizers were in the New World
in order to liberate the American population
from oppression by the Devil provided justification,
from a European perspective, for much of the
violence and the death by epidemic suffered by
the native population. In this way, throughout
the hemisphere, the process of conquest and
colonization complicated the utopianism of the
American imaginary with an underside of
violence and exploitation. This expropriation and
exploitation of native and Afrodescendant
peoples was covered over in a variety of ways
across the hemisphere, and nowhere with
more success than in the British
colonies that would become the United
States of America. The case of Spanish America
was somewhat different, given the passionate
interventions of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas. As becomes clear from an
examination of the debates among Latin Americanist
historians about
the Black Legend, the cruel treatment of
indigenous peoples remained a thorn in the side of
Spanish colonialism. So much so, that even at the beginning of
our current century, with the massive genocide
carried out against Guatemala’s indigenous
peoples by the military dictatorships during the
country’s extensive civil war, the effective comparison
of the two genocides was a powerful weapon,
a powerful weapon among analysts and activists
in favor of indigenous rights. And me just say a
couple of words about, this is the cover of a book
by a British law professor and human rights activist
Bartolome Clavero. A book about the
genocides in Guatemala. And as you can see,
he uses the term, the destruction of the
Indies yesterday and today. And he uses here a drawing
that was made by Victor Ivan, who is the son of
one of the more important Maya activists,
Victor Montejo, in Guatemala. At the same time, the use
of Las Casas’s Brief Account by competing colonial
powers tended to become a self-serving way
to shift attention to the abuses of Spain, so amply documented by
the Dominican friar. His passionate denunciations
of the cruelties inflicted upon native
peoples in the Americas proved to be excellent
ammunition in the
hands of the Dutch, French, and English during
their conflicts with Spain. And the Brief Account
would once again be dusted off in 1898 by a new emerging colonial power,
the United States. Although these
geopolitical conflicts shed a different kind of light
on the historical evolution of America as a
hemisphere, we should not lose track of the fact
that America, as a new, utopian, and exceptional
place, was a concept shared by all in the
hemisphere for centuries. Seen in this way,
the use of America as a term denoting the unity
of the different states within the United States
suggests a utopian imagining that would
be congruent with, maybe even recognizable to, other political thinkers
in the hemisphere. José Martí, for example,
had more than a small amount of utopian imagining in his
concept of “Nuestra América” when he wrote, as quoted at the
beginning: “Never in history “have such advanced and
united nations been “forged in so short a time from
such disorganized elements.” Nevertheless, given the
historical events explored here, the utopian imagining of
America ended up articulating itself to imperial
economic and military power in only one case,
the United States. We have seen how the
deep divisions between
North and South, inscribed at the very
heart of the federal system in the ideally productive
tension between America and the States, was an
important factor that helped generate continental
expansionism, even as that expansionism
itself generated deeper divisions, especially
concerning slavery, that ultimately led
to the Civil War. As Reconstruction failed
and the South re-segregated under the veil of state’s
rights essentially appropriating the notion of the States
what better use for America could be found than in the
baptism of the United States as the protector and
defender of freedom and democracy across
around the world? José Martí, given his presence at the beginning of this essay, seems the most relevant example
to provide as we conclude. At the end of 1889, before
his essay Nuestra América, while Cuba was already engaged
in its War of Independence against Spain and before the
US invasion of the island, Martí published an essay in the Argentine
newspaper La Nación in which he commented on
the Pan-American Congress being held in the
United States in October and November
of that year. “Never in America,” he wrote, “from its independence
to the present, “has there been a
matter requiring more “good judgment
or more vigilance, “or demanding a clearer and
more thorough examination, “than the invitation which
the powerful United States “glutted with
unsaleable merchandise “and determined to extend
its dominions in America “is sending to the less
powerful American nations “bound by free and useful
commerce to the European nations “for the purpose of arranging
an alliance against Europe “and cutting off transactions
with the rest of the world. “Spanish America learned
how to save itself “from the tyranny of Spain;
and now, after viewing “with judicial eyes the
antecedents, motives, “and ingredients of
the invitation, it
is essential to say, “for it is true, that
the time has come for “Spanish America to declare
its second independence.” Martí’s comment on the
Pan-American Congress serves as an important entry point
for the consideration, in dialogue with our reflections
and by way of conclusion, of a recent essay by
Michel Gobat which appeared in the American
Historical Review on The Invention
of Latin America. In this essay, Gobat moves
beyond John Leddy Phelan’s original suggestion that
the term “Latin America” was coined by the French
in preparation for the invasion of Mexico
in the 1860s to argue that the concept emerged
as a result of the fear of US expansionism
that took hold with the success of William
Walker’s filibuster expedition in
Nicaragua in the 1850s. “The term ‘Latin race’ fits
with the efforts of modernizing “liberals to disassociate
their societies from Spain,” Gobat writes, “which they
deemed hopelessly backward.” Yet as we think back on the
various conceptualizations by Latin American intellectuals
that we have analyzed in this essay, the issue of
America vs. Latin America vs. Spanish America seems a bit more complex and multi-faceted. To begin, it is particularly
interesting to note that, even at the end of the
1880s when Cuba was battling Spain in an independence
war, Martí did not use the term Latin America,
but instead America and Spanish America
in distinct contexts. As can be seen in the excerpt
quoted above, he used “America” to refer to the full hemisphere
when he was emphasizing the expansionist ambitions
of the United States, and Spanish America when
calling for the nations south of the Rio Grande to
declare a second independence. Finally, as we
saw in the work of Edmundo O’Gorman in particular, the notion of America was
seen, even in the 20th century, as an expansive and
utopian one that helped release Europeans from
their theological fetters. In this way, the
utopian meanings and yearnings attached
to America transcended specific locations
in the hemisphere. Ultimately, then, the
notion of America, as it emerged across the
period of exploration and into the postcolonial era,
continued to hold a utopian quality for intellectuals and political thinkers
across the hemisphere. At the same time,
as the United States began its process of imperial
expansion into the Pacific and the Caribbean, the
term took on for those north of the Rio
Grande a greater connection specifically
to the United States. Thank you. [applause]

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