1493: The Democratic American Government declares: America for Americans

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Good evening Escapists,

Imagine Native Americans formed a democratic government before Columbus discovered America. Would they have had the right to forbid Europeans to enter the continent? Would it be immoral for them to have discriminatory laws against white people?!

I'd like to write a long story to explain this, but I can't really think of anything relevant to add. I'm interested in your replies.

I can't help but feel Europe wouldn't have given a fuck either way. If they wanted land, they were going to get it. They'd have every right to tell the immigrants to bugger off, but then everyone would just say "fuck the police" and expansion away.

Shadowstar38:
I can't help but feel Europe wouldn't have given a fuck either way. If they wanted land, they were going to get it. They'd have every right to tell the immigrants to bugger off, but then everyone would just say "fuck the police" and expansion away.

But should they have given a fuck? Do you have the right* to claim a territory and tell others "this is mine, stay away"?

* Yes, I know there is no supernatural divine law of rights, but I just mean whether it's something we should respect.

Danyal:

Shadowstar38:
I can't help but feel Europe wouldn't have given a fuck either way. If they wanted land, they were going to get it. They'd have every right to tell the immigrants to bugger off, but then everyone would just say "fuck the police" and expansion away.

But should they have given a fuck? Do you have the right to claim a territory and tell others "this is mine, stay away"?

Yes. They would have every right to. It's their land after all.

Shadowstar38:
Yes. They would have every right to. It's their land after all.

America is property of the Native Americans because they were the first human beings who set foot on the American continent?

I'm thinking about North America, btw. South America had densely populated cities, but AFAIK, North America was rather... empty.

Well considering the disease killed millions off and emptied the land.. which helped the settlers. I doubt it would do much if you cant enforce it.

Danyal. Like I said before - Might makes Right. Motives at the time are rather obvious, but the perception of land ownership, etc. in the North Americas was vastly different from that in Europe. Compare the agriculture, etc.

BTW S. Africa didn't have as many cities as you might think. Most population concentration was in our Inca Empire. Portuguese didn't have huge cities of natives to fight against, you're thinking of the Spanish.

Danyal:

Shadowstar38:
Yes. They would have every right to. It's their land after all.

America is property of the Native Americans because they were the first human beings who set foot on the American continent?

I'm thinking about North America, btw. South America had densely populated cities, but AFAIK, North America was rather... empty.

I'm thinking yes. If they lay claim to it, other nations should have respected that.

With practicality involved, you have to question why they would do that with their being stretches of open land. But there's always the threat of invasion when you have these people setting up near you.

Danyal:

Shadowstar38:
Yes. They would have every right to. It's their land after all.

America is property of the Native Americans because they were the first human beings who set foot on the American continent?

I'm thinking about North America, btw. South America had densely populated cities, but AFAIK, North America was rather... empty.

Well disease killed off a good chunk of the population hence why N.A was empty when the settlers came in.

Let me guess, this thread will eventually end with you, Danyal, telling us that if we think it was alright for the native americans to pass discriminatory and isolationist laws, then we would be hypocrites if we said that european nations doesn't have the same rights in regards to muslims?

My answer, either way, is this: This is a silly question as it not only poses a great "what if" (besides, the native americans had already formed the first vestiges of larger "nations", they just had entirely different concepts of what a nation really was and what the purpose of nations were) in regards to what the native americans should have done, it also relies on our knowledge of what european colonization eventually brought with it (disease, war, persecution and in many cases extermination). It is also worth noting that in most cases the europeans didn't care for native americans anyway, but just took what they wanted and didn't hesitate to use extreme violence if "negotiations" failed (read: The europeans didn't get what they demanded). Any concept of legal codes fly right out the window when once side unilaterally refuses to recognize them and the other party has no ability to enforce them.

If I had to give an answer it would be no though. The native americans would not have been in the right to deny europeans entry to their lands or to pass discriminatory laws. It would have been within their right to demand that the europeans followed their laws though.

Zef Otter:
Well considering the disease killed millions off and emptied the land.. which helped the settlers. I doubt it would do much if you cant enforce it.

But would it have been moral to enforce a no-immigration-policy if you 'occupy' an entire continent with a few million people? Indeed, I don't think they could have enforced it - but what if they did? Would it be wrong for Europeans to break that law?

TheIronRuler:
Danyal. Like I said before - Might makes Right

No, it doesn't. You know a lot about the Israel-Palestine-conflict. There are lots of justifications for the existence of Israel - "we've got more tanks than the Arabs" isn't one that's commonly used.

TheIronRuler:
BTW S. Africa didn't have as many cities as you might think.

You mean America instead of Africa, I hope? ;) But AFAIK, Meso-America was relatively densely populated.

Considering Europeans couldn't even respect each other's boundaries up until 1950, I don't think they would have given a shit of the practices of a pre-steel civilization on the other side of a sea.

Hell, look at how the Spanish approached the Central and South American Civilizations. They had empires and the Spanish had no problem enslaving them.

Zef Otter:
Well disease killed off a good chunk of the population hence why N.A was empty when the settlers came in.

Well, AFAIK, Native North Americans didn't really adopt agriculture, certainly not on the scale Europeans did. They didn't build cities. There were no nation-states. Native Americans never populated North American as densely as Europeans did in either Europe or later in America.

Gethsemani:
Let me guess, this thread will eventually end with you, Danyal, telling us that if we think it was alright for the native americans to pass discriminatory and isolationist laws, then we would be hypocrites if we said that european nations doesn't have the same rights in regards to muslims?

No, I was thinking about the legitimacy of the powers of a democratic nation-state.

Gethsemani:
My answer, either way, is this: This is a silly question as it not only poses a great "what if" (besides, the native americans had already formed the first vestiges of larger "nations", they just had entirely different concepts of what a nation really was and what the purpose of nations were) in regards to what the native americans should have done, it also relies on our knowledge of what european colonization eventually brought with it (disease, war, persecution and in many cases extermination). It is also worth noting that in most cases the europeans didn't care for native americans anyway, but just took what they wanted and didn't hesitate to use extreme violence if "negotiations" failed (read: The europeans didn't get what they demanded). Any concept of legal codes fly right out the window when once side unilaterally refuses to recognize them and the other party has no ability to enforce them.

I understand that my hypothetical situation is not exactly realistic or practical.

Gethsemani:
If I had to give an answer it would be no though. The native americans would not have been in the right to deny europeans entry to their lands or to pass discriminatory laws. It would have been within their right to demand that the europeans followed their laws though.

So Europeans should have followed Native American laws, but they could not have made special laws for Europeans and they could not forbid immigration?

Danyal:
[quote="Zef Otter" post="528.394036.15948328"]Well disease killed off a good chunk of the population hence why N.A was empty when the settlers came in.

Well, AFAIK, Native North Americans didn't really adopt agriculture, certainly not on the scale Europeans did. They didn't build cities. There were no nation-states. Native Americans never populated North American as densely as Europeans did in either Europe or later in America.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

North American tribes did practice agriculture.Sure they dont have huge cities like Paris or London but they did build cities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Pueblo_Peoples

Sorry

Danyal:
Good evening Escapists,

Imagine Native Americans formed a democratic government before Columbus discovered America. Would they have had the right to forbid Europeans to enter the continent? Would it be immoral for them to have discriminatory laws against white people?!

I'd like to write a long story to explain this, but I can't really think of anything relevant to add. I'm interested in your replies.

1. That isn't particularly realistic. Communication and trade between tribes that are not right next to each other didn't really exist. The more "advanced" civilliantions, such as the Aztecs, and Incas, who lived fairly close to each other (Southern Mexico and Peru, respectively) didn't trade because of all the mountains and jungles between their people. Since most of the people in North America were either hunter gathers or farmers, almost all work was directed at those ends, and their is few government choices that can really be voted on. "Do we follow the animals normal migration patterns or starve?" There was also very few written languages on the continent, the few that did mostly were in Southern Mexico, since the Mayans did invent it, but without trade, the idea never spread that far. Even if they could solve all those problems, you still have the problem of thousands of tribes, each with distinct needs, beliefs, and methods of food gather/production, all agreeing to making a single government, would be basically impossible. Even today I doubt we could get the world to agree to that.

2. Democracy had been viewed as "rule by the drunken masses" in Europe since Plato, who described it as a single step above dictatorship in his book "The Republic." Every "nation" in Europe had some form of monoarchy (with the sole exception being the Papal States and Florence). The idea that the serfs could have power in government, as Europe viewed it at the time, was both insane and dangerous (both to the power of the noblility/clergy, and to society as a whole).

3. Enlightened ideas do not stop small pox or bullets.

Danyal:

Zef Otter:
Well disease killed off a good chunk of the population hence why N.A was empty when the settlers came in.

Well, AFAIK, Native North Americans didn't really adopt agriculture, certainly not on the scale Europeans did. They didn't build cities. There were no nation-states. Native Americans never populated North American as densely as Europeans did in either Europe or later in America.

Actually, agriculture and development in the Amerindian nations was quite extensive. The vast forest that covered the eastern half of North America that the European settlers knew was NEW forest. It had grown back in the region after the indigenous nations were devastated by the diseases that had been brought by the first European visitors. That forest had roughly 100 years of time to grow after the Spanish arrival but before the British had begun setting up their own permanent settlements. Also, 100 years for the various plagues to work their way through the Native American nations of North America.

Some estimates put the survival rate of those diseases at only 20%. There was a reason North America was relatively empty by the time of the later colonists.

Danyal:

So Europeans should have followed Native American laws, but they could not have made special laws for Europeans and they could not forbid immigration?

Pretty much. The entire idea of a social contract becomes deeply problematic if that contract imposes special penalties (or rewards) on some of the people affected by it because of arbitrary limitations. Just like "special" laws because of gender or ethnicity are usually inane drivel (or to be perfectly blunt: sexist or racist) so too are laws based on the notion of whatever or not you were born within a state or not.

Danyal:
[
Well, AFAIK, Native North Americans didn't really adopt agriculture, certainly not on the scale Europeans did. They didn't build cities. There were no nation-states. Native Americans never populated North American as densely as Europeans did in either Europe or later in America.

But there was both agriculture and nations (do note that the Iroquis were mainly farmers) to be found. Their concept of nation, as I said in my previous post, might not have been the same as that of the European states nor was their concept of property or national borders but that doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Really Danyal, your entire premise here seems to be based on a fatal lack of understanding about pre-colonial North America.

Danyal:
Good evening Escapists,

Imagine Native Americans formed a democratic government before Columbus discovered America. Would they have had the right to forbid Europeans to enter the continent? Would it be immoral for them to have discriminatory laws against white people?!

I'd like to write a long story to explain this, but I can't really think of anything relevant to add. I'm interested in your replies.

They would have had the right yes. Any such racial discrimination would have been immoral by today's standards, although it might have been necessary from the standpoint of maintaining control.

They did not do so however, had no means to enforce such a measure, and we all know the Europeans wouldn't have given a damn either way.

Better question is whether or not it matters today. The Europeans and, later on, early "United Statians" had no right to steal this land from its natives. But the deed was done a long time ago, and those who are responsible for it are long dead. Those who occupy the land now are not at fault, and have just as much of a claim as the original natives.

Depends, if they are banning immigration then I don't imagine that would go over well; however they would have my full support if they were banning colonization/imperialism.

What can I say? My ancestors screwed over theirs rather harshly.

Although the true irony was that, besides the sickness, death, pollution, and overall terrible things that threatened the colonies, the largest threat to colonial stability was the sheer amount of people that ran off to join the colonies.

And could you really blame them? They had a choice between pollution filled rickety village under the constant threat of destruction by other european colonial powers along with insane puritans who believed that bathing was sinful and the only "just" thing to do in life was to go to church and not have any real moments of joy... Or some free spirited native americans who, while "technologically backwards" (and given the fact that even a few europeans started using the bow over the musket when hunting, it's debatable how "backwards" they supposedly were) didn't honestly care about things such as sexuality, religion, and in some cases even race. Compared to western civilization, the native americans lived in a freaking paradise.

If they'd had anything resembling a centralized power with full democratic legitimacy, then it'd be reasonable to say that a social contract had been established. With the participants being able to choose who should be allowed into it, and who shouldn't.

If an outsider was allowed into such hypothetical nation, there'd be no room for discriminatory treatment, be it of the positive or the negative variety. Every individual is equal before the law.

In the end, even current foreign policy is in itself a lawless area though, no more advanced than the tribal rules they had. There is no centralized power to oversee and enforce it (the UN being a joke at the mercy of the real world powers), so ultimately it is meaningless to talk of "rights" in regard to it. Invoking a "right" that you know can't be enforced is like an atheist praying to god.

Zef Otter:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture

I didn't know about that and it looks very interesting. Thanks!

Zef Otter:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Pueblo_Peoples

I actually visited that place in the first picture :)

But as I said, those places were relatively small and there weren't that much compared to Europe.

davidmc1158:
Actually, agriculture and development in the Amerindian nations was quite extensive. The vast forest that covered the eastern half of North America that the European settlers knew was NEW forest. It had grown back in the region after the indigenous nations were devastated by the diseases that had been brought by the first European visitors. That forest had roughly 100 years of time to grow after the Spanish arrival but before the British had begun setting up their own permanent settlements. Also, 100 years for the various plagues to work their way through the Native American nations of North America.

Interesting. Source?

davidmc1158:
Some estimates put the survival rate of those diseases at only 20%. There was a reason North America was relatively empty by the time of the later colonists.

While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus,[5] estimates range from a low of 2.1 million (Ubelaker 1976) to 7 million people (Russell Thornton) to a high of 18 million (Dobyns 1983).[6]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

Let's assume 7 million is the correct number for North America. Compare this to Europe in 1500...

British Isles: 5 million
Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark): 2 million
France: 15 million
Belgium and Luxembourg: 1.25 million
The Netherlands: 900,000
Germany: 9 million
Poland: 4 million
Czechoslovakia: 3 million
Switzerland: 800,000
Austria: 2 million
Hungary: 1.25 million
Romania: 2 million
Spain: 6.5 million
Portugal: 1.25 million
Italy: 10 million
The Balkans: 4.5 million

http://archive.worldhistoria.com/population-sizes-in-16th-century-europe_topic23046.html

...and realize that North America is way bigger than Europe. I can only conclude that North America was way less densely populated than Europe.

Gethsemani:

Danyal:

Well, AFAIK, Native North Americans didn't really adopt agriculture, certainly not on the scale Europeans did. They didn't build cities. There were no nation-states. Native Americans never populated North American as densely as Europeans did in either Europe or later in America.

But there was both agriculture and nations (do note that the Iroquis were mainly farmers) to be found. Their concept of nation, as I said in my previous post, might not have been the same as that of the European states nor was their concept of property or national borders but that doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Really Danyal, your entire premise here seems to be based on a fatal lack of understanding about pre-colonial North America.

Aren't you the one who tells me not to interpret 'holy' texts so literally? Again, AFAIK, Europe was populated way more densely than North America, and there was nearly no urbanization in pre-Columbian North America. Your link about the Iroquois talks about a federation in the 17th century, it's not about 1493.

Heronblade:
They would have had the right yes.

Witty Name Here:
Depends, if they are banning immigration then I don't imagine that would go over well; however they would have my full support if they were banning colonization/imperialism.

Imperator_DK:
If they'd had anything resembling a centralized power with full democratic legitimacy, then it'd be reasonable to say that a social contract had been established. With the participants being able to choose who should be allowed into it, and who shouldn't.

It would be perfectly fine for Native Americans to forcibly remove anyone who tried to enter the North American continent?

Witty Name Here:
And could you really blame them? They had a choice between pollution filled rickety village under the constant threat of destruction by other european colonial powers along with insane puritans who believed that bathing was sinful and the only "just" thing to do in life was to go to church and not have any real moments of joy... Or some free spirited native americans who, while "technologically backwards" (and given the fact that even a few europeans started using the bow over the musket when hunting, it's debatable how "backwards" they supposedly were) didn't honestly care about things such as sexuality, religion, and in some cases even race. Compared to western civilization, the native americans lived in a freaking paradise.

AFAIK, European villages were not more rickety than North American villages. Nor were European villages all under control of crazy theocratic dictatorships that outlawed all forms of joy. And you're acting like all Native Americans were 'free spirited' liberals - that did not seem to be the case. They weren't noble savages'.

Danyal:

It would be perfectly fine for Native Americans to forcibly remove anyone who tried to enter the North American continent?

A nation is able to define their own borders and choose who can cross them. Whether or not they are capable of enforcing that policy, and whether or not that policy will go uncontested are another matter.

If you are asking whether or not such a claim is moral, that is more difficult. In order for a nation to have any kind of stability, it must be able to control what happens in its territory, so there's no problem with the concept itself. You'd have to judge things on a case by case basis. Here, the Native Americans had a prior claim going back generations, would have been protecting themselves from hostile xenophobes, and those they would have been turning away tended to have homes to return to. So, overall, yes it would have been fine.

I would say that they would have needed a central organization of some kind before any kind of border control would have been a practical claim to try and enforce, but the way you phrased the OP suggests that this is not an issue in this scenario.

Seriously, at the time European powers arrived in North America a country which didn't have a monarch or a hereditary aristocracy was considered to be in a state of anarchy, so no, the word or laws of a "democratic" government, by the standards of the time, would have been considered completely worthless.

So, you're asking me, a person in the 21st century, to imagine what someone in the 15th century would do if they magically had the mentality and social views of someone else from the 21st century. Why not just come out and ask me a question about the 21st century? There's clearly something you want to demonstrate about the world so why phrase it in terms of this weird anachronism?

But no, by the standards of the 21st century I don't think any "democratic" government should be able to make laws which prohibit citizenship to people on the basis of race. I also feel they should have a social responsibility to allow some level of immigration or to provide asylum, because after all not everyone moved to America to shoot the natives and take their stuff. Some were trying to escape their own persecution back home.

Why does there have to be a democratic government? Colonising an entire country isn't a legitimate thing to do whilst someone is living there, no matter what sort of governance they have.

That said, not having some form of central government like monarchy/democracy/communism does make countries more vulnerable to attack.

If you take the issue of immigration alone, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, a people should have the sovereign right to control their own affairs within reason (i.e., I wouldn't object to intervening in a society which had extremely immoral practices such as genocide for example). This hypothetical situation is not particularly helpful however as North America was composed of thousands of different tribes and nations, albeit without the Western concepts of borders or sovereignty, each with it's own views and systems. There never could have been one policy on immigration.

In answer to the question posed in the OP, had a government existed back then with the capacity to stop European's colonising North America and decided such a policy should be enacted, then I would believe that to be justifiable: their nation, their decision. Doesn't say anything about the decisions we should make in today's world though where the situation is completely different. I am personally for immigration but I think we should encourage immigration from nations culturally similar to our own. I don't give a shit about race or ethnicity but I don't want Western values to be diluted over time. They are something worth protecting.

Danyal:
Good evening Escapists,

Imagine Native Americans formed a democratic government before Columbus discovered America. Would they have had the right to forbid Europeans to enter the continent? Would it be immoral for them to have discriminatory laws against white people?!

Of course it would be immoral; in fact it would be closed-minded and bigoted of them. The Native Americans should have welcomed multiculturalism!

Seriously though Danyal, what are you getting at here?

Question 1: Yes, they would have, but it really wouldn't have done them much good, since the Europeans would have just come in and wrecked the place anyway, government or no.

Question 2: Yes, it would be immoral. They would be racist policies; I consider that highly immoral.

Danyal:

It would be perfectly fine for Native Americans to forcibly remove anyone who tried to enter the North American continent?

That depends, if the U.S. suddenly came to your town, planted the flag down there, and said "This is now territory of the united states of America, apply for citizenship or get out; also, only white protestant anglo-americans can apply for citizenship." would you have a problem with it?

I said I would have a problem with them banning immigration, not colonization. There's a difference, Danyal. Immigration is going to a new place and becoming a citizen of that place, colonization is going to a new place and saying "this is mine now". Colonization is just imperialism, except your sending some citizens there instead of conquering the citizens of the country you have your eyes on.

That's the problem with this... Really pointless thread Danyal. You're acting like Europeans were immigrating not colonizing America in the 15th century.

AFAIK, European villages were not more rickety than North American villages. Nor were European villages all under control of crazy theocratic dictatorships that outlawed all forms of joy. And you're acting like all Native Americans were 'free spirited' liberals - that did not seem to be the case. They weren't noble savages'.

I'm sure villages in Europe looked quite nice... However the colonial towns themselves, at their founding, looked like hell holes compared to the native villages. In some cases colonists would piss in the same wells they got water from. And regardless of what you may think of the Native Americans, as a whole they definitely seemed to go about things much more liberally then the rest of europe at that time.

You're comparing sovereignty to rational immigration laws. Those European sailors came for land slaves and glory not with the intention of becoming citizens of the new world but of conquering it. The brown people you seem to loathe so much come to your country seeking opportunity, not to expand the perimeter of the empires of their homelands.

This is a total bait thread and I can't wait to watch it turn up and burn a lot of people. Nice one Danyal. I'll be watching this thread and the answers quite closely.

As far as I'm concerned, of course the Native Americans had every right to impose immigration with the way they saw fit.

Unfortunately they were going to be squeezed out by invaders coming in from both sides of the country. Russia was actually already moving in on the Pacific side as the Europeans were moving across the Atlantic. It was a forgone conclusion that the natives were outmatched in every way possible and were going to fall to either side. It just happened the Europeans filled in faster and something happened (I forget what) in Russia that caused them to stop expanding across the Pacific.

Revnak:
You're comparing sovereignty to rational immigration laws. Those European sailors came for land slaves and glory not with the intention of becoming citizens of the new world but of conquering it. The brown people you seem to loathe so much come to your country seeking opportunity, not to expand the perimeter of the empires of their homelands.

Are you sure about their intentions? How do you know?

According to La Raza and the Reconquista of Aztlan they are here specifically to expand their empire.

Danyal:

davidmc1158:
Actually, agriculture and development in the Amerindian nations was quite extensive. The vast forest that covered the eastern half of North America that the European settlers knew was NEW forest. It had grown back in the region after the indigenous nations were devastated by the diseases that had been brought by the first European visitors. That forest had roughly 100 years of time to grow after the Spanish arrival but before the British had begun setting up their own permanent settlements. Also, 100 years for the various plagues to work their way through the Native American nations of North America.

Interesting. Source?

A lot of this research is scattered all over the place. A fairly good, in-depth look at the issue is Charles C Mann's book 1491 (published 2005, ISBN-13: 978-1-4000-3205-1) {Yes, I'm old fashioned and still do a great deal of research and reading off-line}

Captcha: know your rights
OK, Captcha is really starting to freak me out!

The North American people all got together and formed one government spanning the US?

Um...that would sort of imply the US was one big powerful nation state. If they could overcome the logistics of that, they'd be a mighty force, something I could imagine the Europeans would want to tread much more carefully around.

It's not like borders were particularly well respected 500 years ago, Europe was and for many years remained a battleground, so I'm with Shadowstar38 on this: Even if they had founded a (or probably several independent) formalized state(s), I doubt the people wanting to explore and exploit this fresh area ripe with resources would've cared. Danyal, you yourself bring up the city states of South and Middle America, well, did the Conquistadors respect their sovereignity? Not really.

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