Post by Dorothy J Heydt Post by Quadibloc
Some people - Ayn Rand included, but I don't believe she is alone in this - have
attempted to rationalize the colonial theft of continents on the basis that
since the indigenous people hunted on the land, rather than farming it, they did
not have title to the land in which they hunted, because they did nothing to
Dear me. That's the line Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother used.
"They don't farm it, they just roam around on it!"
An attitude that goes back to the memory of man runneth not to
the contrary. For another point of view, in Genesis God rejected
the cereal crops of Cain (a farmer) and accepted the meat products
of Abel (a pastoralist).
"I'd like to say a word for the farmer.
He came out here and made a lot of changes."
"He came out here and built a lot of fences,
And built 'em right across our cattle ranges!"
---Oscar Hammerstein, _Oklahoma!_
The Eastern Woodland Indians tribes did some farming.
I grew up on Long Island, and the local Lenape/Delaware, the
Matinecock and Patchogue, and the Pequot - related tribes
the Shinnecock and Montaukett did a lot of gathering, fishing
and hunting, and some farming or gardening.
The transfer of land from natives to settlers by sale was recognized by
the Dutch and the English, but, seen from the point of view of the tribes,
may have been of dubious legality. Did any one chief or leader have the
authority to alienate the land? Some would say not, just as Irish clan
chiefs had no right to surrender land to the Tudor kings, and accept
a regrant from the English king, now an overlord.
The Algonquian peoples were not united, and a canny sachem might use the
Europeans as allies against his enemies, even if that meant giving up
sovereignty, as we moderns would call it, over once-tribal land.
On Fair Pomonauk (LI) Wyandanch was particularly good at this.
There's conquest, and there's being swindled. The invaders and
settlers used whatever was in the toolbox.
I say this as someone who prefers a system of allodial title to
a feudal model. That doesn't change our getting there by less
than honest methods.
Most "private property" in the US is held "in fee simple," and
as such is subject to taxation. One can consider the annual
property tax as equivalent to feudal rent, in which case few
in the US actually "own" their land. It would be unusual to
hear of someone living on a property with a "99-year leasehold"
from the local or state government, here in the US, though in many
Commonwealth countries that would not be strange.
As for Rand and her Lockean explanation of the justice of colonization,
there are facts in evidence against it. The "Lockean Proviso" reads:
Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice
to any other man, since there was still enough and as good left, and more than
the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left
for others because of his enclosure for himself. For he that leaves as much
as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all. Nobody could
think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good
draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst.
And the case of land and water, where there is enough of both, is perfectly the
— John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter V, paragraph 33
Leaving the "non-farming" tribespeople with the worst land, and not
enough of it, violates Locke's dictum.
(putting his ol' PoliSci degree to use, for once.)