The Founding of America: The Founding of Fallacy?
Every American citizen who was raised here knows about Christopher Columbus and the pilgrims, they know about how the American settlers carved a society out of a harsh and untamed land and they know about the Constitution; but do they know that the supposed “facts” on these subjects in the history textbooks they grow up with are incorrect? I would claim that they do not; after all, few of us have an inclination to delve into American history post-history class.
However, some of the information is false and I will explain how with the following details – going in a forward temporal manner, starting with the earliest piece of evidence. Anyone who listened during the history lessons in elementary school knows that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492”, as the song goes. And yet, few are the teachers that mention Columbus was not the first to sail across the Atlantic as the Vikings did so before him and two Native Americans sailed across the Atlantic and to Holland in 60 B.C. before them. Going back to Columbus, and this is back in 1492, I would like to continue to point out the many historical fallacies surrounding this man – the saying “the man, the myth, the legend” really rings home for good ol’ Columbus.
First off, the voyage for him and his crew was not perilous, no mutiny was ever threatened against him and, despite most textbooks claiming he thought he landed in India and sailed back home, Columbus did come back multiple times and on his third voyage to the Americas he noted in his journal, “I have come to believe that this is a mighty continent which was hitherto unknown.” Continuing, after Columbus sailed home for the first, and last in many textbooks, time, the details on him trail off; most students presume he died a man of poor to average wealth despite his immense discovery. Whether it is an attempt to mask who he really was or the writers of textbooks really don’t know, Columbus and his crew stole significant amounts of gold from the Native Americans and, when the supply of his beloved metal was exhausted, he started enslaving them for profits. Christopher Columbus passed away as a wealthy but morally reprehensible man. That being said, Columbus was not the worst thing that would happen to the Native Americans of that fateful area. Approximately two years before the Mayflower landed in 1620, the entire Native American population along the East Coast was hit with one of the worst plagues in human history: a plague that caused the deaths of almost 96% of the population and it then went west, killing off approximately 90% of the whole Native American population which was estimated to be between 20 and 100 million – for comparison, at that time, Europe’s population was 70 million and the bubonic plague killed 30-60% of Europe’s population.
Perhaps that is why the pilgrims had a relatively easy time settling there. It was not as difficult to settle as textbooks may have you believe: Charles C. Mann writes in his book, 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, that the forests naturally contained an “ecological kaleidoscope of garden plots”. This may sound shocking because, with no disrespect intended, a lot of history textbooks portray Native Americans as primitive or, at best, portray the settlers as the superior race. In regards to the former, many textbooks simply describe Native American tribes as “hunter-gatherers” which many students will know as the main description of the lifestyles of the ancient Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens.
In regards to the latter, the settlers did have superior technology, but you could make the claim that the Native Americans were more hygienic and civilized. In fact, a Native American city named Cahokia (located in modern day St. Louis) was bigger than London and had a complex urban center and that’s not even the most astounding part of it: a pyramid built in Cahokia completely outdoes the Pyramid of Giza in both size and difficulty. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it, Monk Mound was never really brought into global spotlight like other ancient structures. Surprisingly, that is not the only great thing created by Native Americans that was hidden from the literary spotlight. The U.
S. Constitution: the beginning of the great American democracy and the foundation for the society we live in today. Yet, it did not come from solely the great minds of the men in our government back then. That being said, there are a few things you should keep in mind before I reveal just what exactly “inspired” the famed document. Colonists had a difficult time keeping civilians from joining the Native American culture – those in it were affectionately named “savages” – and Benjamin Franklin even stated, “No European who has tasted the Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.” Now, he did not mean that as an insult and actually, to a degree, admired their lifestyle.
Is that why parts of the U.S. Constitution and the seeds of our society are borrowed from the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. If you think that is ridiculous then you may be shocked to know that Cornell University held a conference in 1987 that agreed the Iroquois Great Law of Peace “includes ‘freedom of speech, freedom of religion [..
.] separation of power in government and checks and balances.” and Senate passed a resolution acknowledging that the Iroquois Confederacy had a direct influence on the U.S. Constitution.
Every American knows about the founding of America, but do they really? So much information in the history textbooks that children learn as facts are fallacies and even more is simply omitted. Perhaps even the teachers don’t know it’s false; after all, it’s the information they grew up believing. Regardless of how it’s portrayed in textbooks, the founding of America was a seminal part of history and true facts or false facts, that will never change.