Hagoth wrote: ↑
Sat Aug 01, 2020 7:34 am
GM, can you expand on this a bit?
Some general backgound: Clinton was the Governor of New York at the time and was responsible for the Erie Canal project. He also came this close
to winning the US presidency. He was one of the most important people in bringing the Mound Builder Myth to the attention of the masses. He gave lectures to large audiences that were then covered by newspaper reports that showed up in local newspapers, including the Palmyra papers. Clinton also perpetuated the idea that Native Americans denied any knowledge of or connection to the mounds. In fact, he outright accused the Seneca of lying about their ancestral connection and accused them of trying to steal someone else's thunder.
I would be happy to discuss some of the information I have on this. As you mentioned, according to Jason Colavito's book The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the and the Hunt for a "Lost White Race" published by Oklahoma University Press, during the late 1700's and early 1800's the discussion of the identity of the Mound Builders was largely a conversation happening solely among the academics of the United States. However, starting in the 1810-20's DeWitt Clinton's interest and discussion of the subject popularized the discussion. As Hagoth has correctly stated, DeWitt Clinton perpetuated the idea that Native Americans denied any knowledge of or connection to the mounds.There are likely multiple easy answers to why the Smith's may have been interested in the mounds- for example their digging in these very mounds. However, why would Joseph Smith have been willing to listen to DeWitt Clinton in particular? I would suggest that there are various reasons why the Smith's would have been drawn to DeWitt Clinton in particular.
First, as farmers, economic success came from the ability to transport excess crops for sale abroad (either in a big city like New York or overseas) at a price low enough as to still make a profit. Living in Palmyra/Manchester, the Smith's farm would have become profitable due to the construction of the Erie Canal, which of course was the feat of DeWitt Clinton. Thus they would have been partial to DeWitt Clinton. Second, the Smith's were interested in education. Hyrum Smith and Joseph Smith Sr. were interested in the creation of an educational system in Palmyra/Manchester. With this interest in education, DeWitt Clinton also would have been their man. DeWitt Clinton was actively pushing for state money in support of local education initiatives. Third, as Masons, both Hyrum (Hiram) Smith and Joseph Smith Sr. would have been drawn to DeWitt Clinton who served as the head of the Royal Arch Masons in New York. As a major leader in Masonry at the time, his ideas would have held more weight than ideas from others. Fifth, along the same lines, the Morgan Affair happened in the Smith's back yard; and Joseph Smith Sr. belonged to the very lodge (the lodge in Canandaigua) which orchestrated the abduction of William Morgan. My own research suggests that Joseph Smith Sr. likely disagreed with this action by the lodge, and therefore, DeWitt Clinton's actions in trying to clean up the mess caused by the abduction would have placed DeWitt Clinton on the side likely favored by Joseph Smith Sr. and Hyrum Smith.
Given the likely affinity for DeWitt Clinton, I also think it likely that his discussion of the mounds would have been particularly interesting to the Smiths.
Hagoth- As I read the book I began to wonder about how Joseph Smith's view would have diverged from those of his peers. Colavito's thesis is that the colonialist views had the political/economic agenda to divorce the Native Americans from the construction of the mounds because it would have taken a highly sophisticated culture to have built then mounds, and if the Indians were to extricated from their lands, that the European colonialists needed to divorce the Indians from an impressive past. Joseph Smith's view don't exactly fix this mold. The Book of Mormon seems to attribute the construction of the mounds to the Nephites, but it seems to me that it also suggests that Lamanites also built similar fortifications. In addition, the white Nephite (mound builders) are also from the same family as the Lamanites. Thus Joseph Smith's views diverge by softening the popular colonialist view, and suggesting that the Native Americans DID have a right to the land and a shared heritage with the advanced culture of the mound builders. The Book of Mormon's message drastically diverges from Jacksonian era notions of kicking the Native Americans off their land because the Native Americans were savages without a legitimate right to the land, but instead advocates for peacefully integration of the Native Americans who had a noble past and a right to the land with the modern day European/Christian cultures who had been brought to the land of promise. Joseph seeks a society in which the European Christians and the Native American Indians are integrated under a new society which worships the ancient Christian religion of the Native Americans.
I was wondering what your thoughts on this were Hagoth. In your opinion, are Joseph Smith's views on the Mound Builders more, similar, or less colonialist than his New England peers? How do his views accord/vary from his peers? Don't get me wrong, the Book of Mormon's view is NOT devoid of anti-Native America sentiments which are frankly racist by modern standards, but my opinion is that Joseph's view is much softer and more accepting than those of his peers.