Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny

Overview

Manifest Destiny, as a term for westward expansion, was not used until the 1840s. Its predecessor was the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal tradition by which Europeans and Americans laid legal claim to the land of the indigenous people that they discovered. In the United States, the British colonists who had recently become Americans were competing with the English, French, and Spanish for control of lands west of the Mississippi. Who would be the discoverers of the Indians and their lands, the United States or the...

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Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny (Native America: Yesterday and Today Series)

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Overview

Manifest Destiny, as a term for westward expansion, was not used until the 1840s. Its predecessor was the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal tradition by which Europeans and Americans laid legal claim to the land of the indigenous people that they discovered. In the United States, the British colonists who had recently become Americans were competing with the English, French, and Spanish for control of lands west of the Mississippi. Who would be the discoverers of the Indians and their lands, the United States or the European countries? We know the answer, of course, but in this book, Miller explains for the first time exactly how the United States achieved victory, not only on the ground, but also in the developing legal thought of the day.

The American effort began with Thomas Jefferson's authorization of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which set out in 1803 to lay claim to the West. Lewis and Clark had several charges, among them the discovery of a Northwest Passage—a land route across the continent—in order to establish an American fur trade with China. In addition, the Corps of Northwestern Discovery, as the expedition was called, cataloged new plant and animal life, and performed detailed ethnographic research on the Indians they encountered. This fascinating book lays out how that ethnographic research became the legal basis for Indian removal practices implemented decades later, explaining how the Doctrine of Discovery became part of American law, as it still is today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"To say this book is required reading for those wishing to understand American history is an understatement. Miller has provided an opportunity for readers with varying interests from Constitutional law professor to tribal advocate to public lands users of all types to gain valuable insight into the interconnected web of religion, conquest, human rights, land and equity. One comes away from reading Miller's Native America with a meaningful sense of how irresponsible, and illusory, a folly it is to allow a sense of Providence to blindly guide such things as constitutionally protected rights, domestic and foreign policy with other nations and the relationship and dominion over Nature and other nonbelievers. This is an important time for this book to be published, and one can hope that it will be well read."

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Journalstar.com (Lincoln, NE)

"Robert Miller, in his voluminous work Native America, Discovered and Conquered, very ably and methodically deconstructs the winking inexorableness that permeates narrative history of the American West. In a wholly new and focused voice, Miller traces the Doctrine of Discovery from its European roots through to its present-day ramifications on the land tenure of Native American tribes and resource scarcity issues in the West….What makes Miller's Native America such a compelling read is not only his unique style but also his commitment to original scholarly legal research….To say this book is required reading for those wishing to understand American history is an understatement. Robert Miller has provided an opportunity for readers with varying interests….[t]o gain valuable insight into the interconnected web of religion, conquest, human rights, land and equity….This is an important time for this book to be published, and one can hope that it will be well read."

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We Proceeded On

"Former Oregon Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse introduces the shocking neglect of Indian issues and laws by members of Congress and the education system. As a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and Chief Justice, Court of Appeals, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Community of Oregon, Miller, notes the book's conception out of ambivalence over the bicentennial anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He traces how the Doctrine of Discovery still continues to limit Native rights and calls for its end."

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Reference & Research Book News

"In rationales for the invasion of the Americas, one legal instrument stands out in high relief: Europe's so-called Doctrine of Discovery. In the first third of the 19th century, it morphed into the purely US doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Modern US historians know this much, but nearly none know the legal complexity or sweep of these ideas. When they are laid shockingly bare, as in Miller's important book, they are quickly seen to have been both idiotic and revered. Americans easily grasped the Doctrine of Discovery's ten legalisms for land seizure and incidental genocide before the 20th century, with the later Manifest Destiny dashing even the pretense of Native rights. Miller walks readers through deep, consistent evidence that Thomas Jefferson patterned his Louisiana expansionism upon the legal pretexts of discovery, setting up removal in the process. Miller carefully traces the racist, greedy religiosity of Manifest Destiny next used to seize Indian land, especially in Oregon, showing it also as the basis for laws applied to Native Americans that appallingly continue in effect into the present. A must read. Essential. All libraries serving students of any period of US history."

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Choice

"[T]akes a fresh approach in placing the discovery doctrine at the center of analysis of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and he proves an interesting discussion of the explorers' use of rituals and symbols that echoed earlier European practices….[M]iller's legal insights provide a useful contribution to scholarship on Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Northwest, American expansionism, and U.S. Indian policy."

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American Historial Review

"[P]ersuasive in making his case that a central legal ideology played a crucial role in justifying American assertions of jurisdiction over western territory and Native peoples. Miller convincingly demonstrates that Jefferson understood and applied elements of the doctrine of discovery in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries….[M]iller's legal insights provide a useful contribution to scholarship on Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Northwest, American expansionism, and U.S. Indian policy."

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American Historical Review

"This history has been examined thoroughly by previous scholars; what Miller adds to the discussion is a thorough study of Jefferson's infatuation with the principle and a determination to link doctrine of discovery to the emergence of the American belief in Manifest Destiny….Miller's thoroughly researched and determined argument is significant for at least three other reasons. First, he points out that the doctrine of discovery was not only the foundation of American territorial and political hegemony over our nation's indigenous peoples, but that it is a living, breathing principle that courses through contemporary American Indian law and political calculations. Second, the book complements an important and expanding historiography on the ideology and cant of Euro-American conquest. Finally, Miller does not simply lament the tragedies wrought by the doctrine of discovery; he offers the United States an honorable way out of the legal miasma produced by two centuries of adherence to the doctrine"

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Oregon Historical Quarterly

"This is an easy-to-read, informative, and well-researched book. Miller manages to describe a complex international doctrine in layman terms and keep the readers' interest along the way. It will be enjoyed by those studying legal, U.S. or Native American history."

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Tribal College Journal

"In recent decades, scholars have reshaped our understanding of conquest, and as a result the idea of conquest is an unsettling one. Robert J. Miller's original and important work should launch a similar transformation for the idea of discovery. . . . Whether or not historians agree with Miller's analysis of westward expansion, they must now address the Doctrine of Discovery and reckon with his aggressive arguments and compelling conclusions."

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Great Plains Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275990114
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2006
  • Series: Native America: Yesterday and Today Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT J. MILLER is Associate Professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, and Chief Justice, Court of Appeals, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. He is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

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