Europe in the Americas

“The Present and Probable Future Condition of the Three Races Which Inhabit the Territory of the United States.” That is the rarely discussed chapter 18 of de Tocqueville’s famous – and much-touted – Democracy in America. The three races to whom he refers are Native American Indians, Black Americans (Afrodescendants and Africans trafficked to this part of North America), and Europeans. Yet there is nothing democratic, and a lot that is both frightening and shocking, about the extraordinarily derogatory way French visitor de Tocqueville writes about Black Americans, and also about American Indians. I know of no political or academic commentator who has published a detailed critque of what de Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s about the people – my people – who were both forcibly bred, and enslaved, in the U.S. (and earlier when the U.S. still was a highly profitable British colony). The section on Native Americans: “The Present And Probable Future Condition Of The Indian Tribes Which Inhabit The Territory Possessed By The Union” – “The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did they even succeed in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose with singular felicity; tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity.” Then he writes about Black Americans. “Situation of the Black Population in the United States and Dangers with which Its Presence threatens the White.” That is the section’s title. The Frenchman wrote: “The most formidable of all the ills which threaten the future existence of the Union arises from the presence of a black population upon its territory; and in contemplating the cause of the present embarrassments or of the future dangers of the United States, the observer is invariably led to consider this as a primary fact.” How do Europeans discuss de Tocqueville today, and other social interpreters with views similar to these? Or do we just continue as though none of this history (nor the Blacks or American Indians) ever existed?? When it comes to Europe’s history in the Americas & its bearing on human rights in the Americas, what are Europe’s trans-Atlantic policies today? Or does she have any?

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