Tuesday, August 7, 2012

David Barton’s Capitol Tour: Did Thomas Jefferson Spend Federal Funds to Evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians?

From Warren Throckmorton here.


JMS said...

While Professor Throckmorton is right about the particulars of David Barton’s mischaracterization of Jefferson’s religion in the context of the 1803 U.S. treaty with the Kaskaskia nation, he is missing the “forest for the trees” by overlooking the fact that federal Indian law and policy, designed and implemented by the founders (including Washington, Knox, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe), resulted in egregious violations of separation of church and state that lasted throughout the 19th century.

Edwin Gaustad quotes Sec’y of State James Madison warning to President Jefferson that some might interpret the religious provisions of Article 3 in the treaty as being based upon “a principle not according with the exemption of religion from civil power.” (Sworn on the Altar of God, p. 102)

Whereas James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance (supported by Baptist evangelicals like Isaac Backus and John Leland) had defeated Patrick Henry’s “general assessment” plan for state-funded religion in Virginia, Jefferson’s and Madison’s Statute for Religious Freedom attempted to make the principle permanent. Here is one of the most famous quotes by Jefferson from that statute: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."

Jefferson and the other early presidents, along with Congresses and Supreme Court justices were all guilty of doing exactly what Throckmorton says Jefferson did not do: “mesh[ing] political policy with religious practice.

Forrest Church concluded that “a quick recap of American Indian policy reveals a continuous failure of moral imagination,” which he characterized as “heartless opportunism.” He went on to state that, “Federal executive policy toward Native Americans provoked remarkably little religious political friction. The church participated eagerly, with no complaint from the state, in what today would be called ‘faith-based initiatives,’ administered by the churches and funded by the Indian Affairs office, which was lodged in the War Department. Under Jefferson’s watch, the government sanctioned denominational efforts to pacify and educate Indians, … but was not adverse to evangelization to temper Indian savagery.” Up until 1819, “religious bodies received modest federal aid to help underwrite missions created to ‘civilize’ and ‘Christianize’ the natives. The Christian and government missions dovetailed,” “blurred the line between church and state,” and “inevitably failed.”(So Help Me God, Chapter 14, pp. 392-398)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Financing the priest to the Kaskaskia Indians even if for secular purposes was a Faith-based Initiative, you know.

For the record.


So much wanking about Barton nobody has actually realized it. 'Ceptin' yrs truly, natch.


Jason Pappas said...

But, JMS, why limit the analysis to religion? The general paternalistic government applied to Indian affairs was far from the kind of government policy applied outside Indian nations. One would think that Indian governmental policies are the "exceptions that prove the rules."

JMS said...

Jason - I agree. I was trying to stay on topic with the Throckmorton article Jon linked to, and the main focus of AC.

Very few Americans (let alone law school graduates)know that federal Indian law and policy was such an egregious violation of most of our founding principles, especially self-determination, consent of the governed and religious liberty (e.g., Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith, 1990 yes 1990, not 1790).

My point was that when in comes to American Indian affairs, there was no separation of church and state in the 19th century, and policy-makers used religion as a tool/weapon to undermine tribal sovereignty.