Originality in the early US
So, on to the United States of America, where we finally get to hear more from women, although they’re still mostly all White and upper class. When John Adams was helping to draw up the Constitution of the US in 1777, his wife Abigail wrote,
Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.
If only he’d listened. Then again, she wasn’t the only sage voice we’ve ended up ignoring. History has unfortunately largely forgotten the decisive role played by American Indians (primarily the Iroquois) in shaping the ideas of our Founding Parents.
There’s good reason for our foreparents to have listened to the Iroquois. The people of the Six Nations are today still the oldest living participatory democracy on Earth — currently over eight and a half centuries — as opposed to our (theoretically) representative form of democracy. However, immigrants from Europe often borrow from native people, then forget the origins of the new knowledge, remembering it only as their own.
Is this book really “politically motivated assassination” by the “demon multiculturalism,” or fascinating, formerly forgotten fact? Buy the book, or read the on-line version. Don’t forget to thank the author!
As I initially noted, when a literate society gets to define history, things get changed. The reconstruction of true, complex history can take quite a bit of effort, since you not only have to buck cherished cultural myths and canons, but also try to find material on something lost and long forgotten.
Today, due to popular culture, American Indians are often viewed as primitive savages “uplifted” by the White settlers. At that time, however, the opposite situation often seemed to be in effect. The Iroquois extended education, political power, and liberty to women as well as to men. Women controlled allocation from communal stores, and communicated culture from generation to generation. Also, the men were known as such skilled and sophisticated orators that the White people of the time frequently admiringly compared them to the Romans and Greeks.
Was one man-one woman marriage the cornerstone of the Iroquois nation? I don’t know yet — I’m still reading up on them. However, I do know this is quite possibly the only civilization worthy of the name, to be mentioned in our quick review. I find it peculiarly fascinating that the sole society which treated people, women included, with respect — is the one whose influence has been mostly (deliberately?) forgotten.
So how did the White women see the White men of this (extensive) time period, regarding their definitions and use of marriage? A sister of President Madison wrote: “We southern ladies are complimented with the name of wives: but we are only the mistresses of seraglios.” A southern planter’s wife described herself as “the chief slave of the harem.” The wife of a Confederate general wrote: “God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system… Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines.”
Many of these quotes are from this fascinating, much-debated book. Read, enjoy, and decide for yourself:|
Regarding the argument of one-man-one-woman marriage being a cornerstone of civilization, I’ll close this section with a quote from Briffault (emphasis mine):
The patriarchal “family” of academic social science is but a euphemism for the individualistic male with his subordinate dependents. As a social unit the family means the (male) individual, activated by his most aggressively individualistic instincts; it is not the foundation, but the negation of society…
That’s it in a nutshell, regarding legislated one-man-one-woman marriage in the historical civilizations which gave rise to the US society we live in today. Put bluntly, enforcing this type of marriage has been extremely good for property-owning men — but disastrously bad for women and slaves of both genders. Furthermore, any so-called civilization which requires the ritualized brutalization of any class of people does not deserve the appellation of “civilized.”