Dueling Immigration: American Settlers vs. Moslem Refugees

If you're like me, your early education encouraged certain assumptions about why European settlement triumphed north of the Rio Grande.  They go something like this: the Indians had no written or common language, while Europeans possessed both plus a broad range of technologies including firearms, cannon, implements of iron and steel, domesticated animals, and woven cloth.  Rum figured in in a big way, too, because Indians had no head for it.  And social organization itself may have been yet a bigger factor, because the natives practiced an "every man a king" sort of tribal democracy instead of an effective government of laws and legislatures and had no tradition of military discipline.

Yet a closer look tells us that these common assumptions don't pass muster.   First, if having a written language really matters that much, how did the illiterate barbarians conquer Rome or the mostly illiterate Mongols conquer so much of the Earth's landmass?  Technology?  Well, an interesting perspective on that from accounts of the time is that Indians embraced Western technology rather quickly and rapidly became, for example, better horsemen and even better shots.  Then there's the fact that the technology question cuts both ways, because they were already better farmers – maybe the best agronomists in history.  Diaries written on the Sullivan expedition behind the lines in Iroquoia during the revolution report not only the colonial farm boys' amazement at Indians living in better homes, but at the cattle, the orchards, the sixteen-foot-high corn in vast fields.

And as far as war-fighting ability goes, one might want to consider the comments of Sir William Johnson, Indian superintendent, a British major general, victor of the battle of Lake George, and the veteran of a hundred frontier skirmishes.  He once wrote that "[g]entlemen talking so slightly of Indians ... would fly before a handful of them."

Here is an opinion borne out by countless accounts of streams of white settlers running for the rear, dragging their children and family dog behind them, whenever there was a rumor of frontier war.

Rum and later whiskey were of course big, as was the fact that the whites tried and sometimes did manage to deny Indians gunpowder and other items of manufacture.  But the more we examine the question of the Europeans' triumph, we find that at the end of the day, the deciding issue was numbers.

A horrible catastrophe began to destroy the Indians' overwhelming advantage in this regard some years before the first permanent European settlement.  Indeed, demographers now suggest that there were a lot more American Indians north of the Rio Grande than the three to five million we were taught about in grade school – maybe as many as there were people in all of Europe.  But at least nine out of ten of all those men, women, and children were wiped out by the spread of European diseases, which came ashore after the first fishing boats from Portugal, France, and Bristol reached the Grand Banks in the late fifteen-hundreds.  This is an unimaginable horror, which continued right up until the time of Lewis and Clark (see the Mandans).

In sum, there was a continuing human calamity in this "new" world about to be settled that dwarfed the Black Death, the Mfecane in Southern Africa, and any Chinese famine we know of.  Without it, there never would have been a United States.  Look at how long the six nations held up settlement in New York for generations with less than a thousand warriors.  Or the way in which the Comanche kept a grip on west Texas with a similar number.

But there's a further dimension to the issue, because despite the horrendous fall in the population of native Americans, it still wasn't until approximately 1750 (?) that the Europeans had an absolute advantage in numbers.  So given any sort of similar natural increase in both populations, the American Indian should have been able to hold his own or least keep his hand on a big piece of the continent right up until today.

So what happened?  The answer is something very tricky, so tricky we don't quite understand it: that whether it was culturally bred out of them by several centuries of plague or not, native Americans couldn't or wouldn't increase their remaining population.  Indeed, some seem to have chosen not to in some strange manner – much as the Japanese and white Europeans and upper-class Americans today tend to have less than even the 2.1 children necessary for replacement.

This means that the outcome of the struggle between Europeans settlers and native-Americans was foregone. 

Because the difference between the two races' population change wasn't marginal, it was huge.  Take James Polk, former speaker of the House and eleventh president of the United States, who had a pioneer grandfather named Ezekiel.  The man had eight children, eighty grandchildren, and eight hundred great grandchildren before he died.  He could clear land in some wilderness valley without a neighbor or anybody else within a day's travel and then, at the end of his life, saddle up and ride by thirty miles of his descendants' farms.

How do you beat that with your one or two children, one or two grandchildren and great grandchildren?  Answer: you can't.  Your people are just going to have to give way regardless of the fact that you're a better farmer or warrior.  Or in the right of it.

It's one of the great lessons of history we have to keep learning.  Rome fell because its population decreased both in absolute terms and relative to the barbarian tribes surrounding it.  The sexual lustfulness of the Europeans in the eighth century drew the lustful Vikings in and had them colonizing France, Sicily, England, even what is now western Russia.  (Rus means red, a common Viking hair color.)  Much the same thing happened in ancient Greece with the Dorians.  In fact, these invasions and takeovers were going on in pre-historical times, with what we call the Axe-Men moving west into Europe and the Bantu spilling east and south out of west central Africa.

But the particular lesson of America is that a successful colonization does not have to begin with a Mongol horde or a hundred Viking ships chock-a-block with fair-haired Norsemen waving axes.  All it takes is a foothold.  The main criterion beyond that is simply a reluctance or refusal to assimilate, maybe out of a sense of superiority, and a higher birth rate.

These are exactly the two traits displayed by Moslem immigrants...and dismissed by the liberal politically correct establishment.

Richard F. Miniter is the author of The Things I Want Most, Random House, BDD.  He lives and writes in the colonial-era hamlet of Stone Ridge, New York; blogs at richardfminiterblog.com; and can be reached at miniterhome@gmail.com.