«By Robert Hilliker M. A., Brown University, 2003 B. A., University of British Columbia, 2000 Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment of the ...»
Nos filles Sauvages externs venant à nos classes, nous leur avons fait voir le mal où elles se precipitant en suivant l’exemple de leur parens, elles n’ont pas remis depuis le pied chez-nous. Le naturel des Sauvages est comme cela : ils font tout ce qu’ils voient faire à ceux de leur Nation en matière de moeurs, à moins qu’ils ne soient bien affermis dans la morale Chrétienne. (Correspondance 681)111 The purpose behind Bradstreet’s and de l’Incarnation’s rhetoric is thus challenged; if education, as they have argued, produces identity, then what is to stop the children of French and English colonists from consorting with Native American families and succumbing to “l’appel des bois” (Bruneau “Anthropologie mystique” 181)?112 It is precisely this fear of “Indianization” (Mather 211), present to a much more limited extent in earlier writing about the dangers of American colonization, that comes to dominate North American writing (and European writing about the Americas, as witnessed by texts like Aphra Behn’s The Widdow Ranter) in the years following the publication of The Tenth Muse.
“The call of the woods” (translation mine).
See, for example, Teresa Toulouse’s “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God in 1682: Royal Authority, Female Captivity, and ‘Creole’ Male Identity.” Canadian historian W. J. Eccles notes the deleterious effects that the colonial authorities believed were produced by their strong ties with Native Americans: “The missionaries … were aghast at their adoption time, we find the persecuted coureur de bois, Pierre Esprit-Radisson, producing an English language manuscript account of his fur trading voyages that focuses on the potent symbolic connections between commercial, familial, and national identities.115 Only by examining how Bradstreet’s poetry and de l’Incarnation’s correspondence and religious writing place family-based education at the center of identity formation, however, can we begin to understand the terms on which these later writers approach this troubled terrain.
alike of Indian virtues and vices, and some of the royal officials expressed alarm at the effect they had on colonial society” (The Canadian Frontier 8).
For the most complete account of the production of Radisson’s manuscript see Germaine Warkentin’s “Who Was the Scribe of the Radisson Manuscript?”
ALL MY FRIENDS AND (INTERNATIONAL) RELATIONS: CUSTOM, KINSHIP,
AND THE STATE OF NATURE IN THE CAPTIVITY NARRATIVES OF MARY
Thus writes Cotton Mather at the climactic moment of his account of the captivity of Hannah Dustan, justifying her decision to kill and scalp her Native American captors.
Reading this passage so soon after Anne Bradstreet’s poetic evocation of the motherdaughter relations of England and New England we may be tempted to understand it in metaphorical terms: to see Dustan and her murdered infant as symbolic embodiments of a threat to the continued life of the colony that, at least in Bradstreet’s poetry, gave new life to a mother country in danger of disintegration. And yet, while Mather obliquely calls upon Bradstreet’s figure elsewhere in his vast literary output, the symbolic logic of this passage is strictly metonymic. Dustan represents New England synecdochally—she is a member of a larger body, not an embodiment of the entire colony.116 My understanding of synecdoche here is that, in replacing the whole with a part, it constitutes a variety of metonymy, which consists of substituting something’s name with the name of one of its attributes or something else directly associated with it, where a metaphor consists of a substitution of one thing for another that shares some attribute with it.
The significance of her actions, however, is not limited to her role as a colonist and a mother. Mather’s citation of the biblical precedent of Jael provides a second frame of reference for Dustan’s violent response to her daughter’s murder. In the story of Jael and Sisera (Judges 4.17-24), it is Jael’s entire people, the Israelites, who are captives, not merely Jael herself. Her murder of Sisera, the captain of the Canaanite army, is presented not as revenge for a child’s death, but as part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to the children of Abraham. Mather’s citation of this precedent places the Native Americans in the role of the Canaanites, with Dustan’s violent escape part of a pattern of providences that proves God’s larger plan for the New England colonies. Dustan herself, then, becomes both a mother avenging a child’s death and an agent of God’s will acting on behalf of her larger community.
This metonymic displacement, which enables Mather to imply the political and religious import of Dustan’s captivity more indirectly than Bradstreet’s metaphors would allow, is characteristic of a further shift in the developing relation between the discourse of custom and the figure of the family. By collapsing these two identities—mother and member of God’s chosen people—into one, Mather suggests that they are inseparable: Dustan’s role as a mother is to guarantee the continuation of her community. Put into Bradstreet’s terms, the nation is the child of the family. Bradstreet’s terms no longer quite work, however, since part of the larger discursive shift we see in this text is that the family is no longer simply the metaphorical site for identity reproduction, as in Marie de l’Incarnation’s writings, but has literally become the mechanism of that reproduction.
Thus we find ourselves one step further on the road towards the biological essentialism that underpins the modern conception of family outlined in Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse’s The Imaginary Puritan. And yet, as Armstrong and Tennenhouse have shown, this rhetoric thrives precisely on the aura of established necessity that obscures its very rhetoricity, an aura that is bolstered by the shift from metaphor to metonymy. In the writings of Mather, and his contemporary, Mary Rowlandson, whose Sovereignty and Goodness of God remains the paradigmatic AngloAmerican captivity narrative, the family can no longer be conceived as a metaphoric representation of nationhood. For them the nation is quite literally a collection of families bound by blood and marriage and reproduced through birth, a conception of nation that remotivates the genealogical focus of the Old Testament.
The shift here from family as metaphor for nation to family as synecdochal linchpin of nation is not without its problems, perhaps the greatest of which is that it plants the seeds for the eventual erosion of the significance of custom as a discursive ground for collective identity. This shift takes place in large part as a means of reducing the threat opened up by the transition, examined in my previous chapter, from custom as performed identity to custom as education. De l’Incarnation’s writings provide the most helpful touchstone here: though her educational mission among the Native Americans is never as successful as she once hoped it would be, it offers a model for how education can transform identity through the inculcation of appropriate customs. De l’Incarnation understands her role in metaphorical terms—she is Jesus’ bride and a symbolic mother to the Native American children she teaches—but the promise of identity transformation is that these family roles will be literalized. De l’Incarnation’s success, in other words, would mean that the Native Americans become French Catholics.117 If such a transformation is possible, however, the reverse can likewise be conceived.
While the discourse of custom developed as a means to rhetorically secure the Englishness and Frenchness of the colonists, that development was driven by a fear that these identities would be lost in a new land. By detaching national and religious identities from the soil and rooting them in custom instead, these authors opened up, alongside the more desirable conversion of Native Americans to Christianity, the conceptual possibility of Indianization.118 The captivity of white settlers among the Native Americans, particularly female settlers such as Dustan and Rowlandson—or their later counterpart, Eunice Williams, who married a Native American and refused to return to New England119—was thus viewed as a dangerous predicament emblematic of the larger threat Native American society. The possibility of such a transformation is precisely what Mather fears, and what drives him to flip the paradigm on its head, insisting on the literal family as the guarantor of national identity. In so doing, he hardly closes off the possibility of Indianization—nor does he want to, since it offers a As implausible as it seems to us now, this transformation was envisaged as a very real possibility by the French well into the seventeenth century. The intermarriage of French settlers and Native Americans continued to be promoted into the 1680s by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance and administrator of France’s colonial holdings (Brodhead and O’Callaghan 9.59).
As their metropolitan counterparts were more and more frequently pointing out, living in the Americas had produced just such a shift. Thus the discourse of custom, which, for earlier colonists, had provided an effective means of rhetorically deflecting the threat of identity change, was now used precisely as a means of insisting upon it. Aphra Behn’s The Widdow Ranter provides a perfect example of this in the title character, a morally questionable Virginian woman who drinks, smokes, and swears a blue streak across the pages of this play.
Eunice’s father, John, is well known for his 1707 Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion, but since the appearance of John Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive in 1994 Eunice’s story has become progressively better known.
convenient rhetorical brickbat with which to bludgeon his congregation and the larger New England Puritan community (as he does later in Decennium luctuosum: see 211ff.)—but he does undermine the status of those Native Americans who attempt to convert to an English, Christian way-of-life.
What we ultimately find is that Mather’s text—and, as we shall see, Rowlandson’s too— partake of an exclusionary binary logic based upon a definition of the family that is simultaneously restrictive (emphasizing the primacy of the nuclear unit) and expansive (capable of containing an entire nation in its compass). These poles (family and nation) are negotiated through the intermediate terms of kinship (friends and relations) which blur the distinction between blood relationships and political associations. Thus the poles become part of a larger continuum—family, kin, nation—rather than existing on distinct conceptual planes.
In order to neaten up the edges of this blurred distinction so as to keep the Native Americans apart, Mather insists on a radical lack of family and social institutions among their communities, an insistence manifest in his assertion that Dustan is unbound by any law in her relations with her captors. His language here appeals to Hugo Grotius’ conceptions of the “just war” and the “state of nature,” which he would have encountered in his reading of Grotius’ De jure belli ac pacis [The Law of War and Peace].120 In this A copy of Grotius’ book is listed in a catalog of Mather’s library made by his son, Samuel, sometime after his death in 1728. A copy, made by Isaiah Thomas, of this original catalog now resides at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA, though the book itself no longer remains part of the Mather Family Library housed there.
landmark text, Grotius provides a thorough analysis of the principles of divine, natural, and civil law that justify both war and the killing of another human being, as well as providing a germinal notion of a concept that would prove central to the later political thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke: the state of nature.
One of the key elements of Grotius’ argument is that political states do not have a monopoly on legitimate violence: private individuals or organizations can, in his assessment, also legally (and justly) wage war under certain conditions. This is most notably the case in situations “where judicial procedure ceases to be available,” such as “if one finds himself in places without inhabitants, as on the sea, in a wilderness, or on vacant lands, or in any other places where there is no state” (92); another important justification for such violence is “the mutual tie of kinship among men, which of itself affords sufficient ground for rendering assistance” in instances where a member of one’s kin group is threatened or hurt (582). Grotius likewise determines that it is perfectly in accordance “with moral justice (iusticia interna)” to kill someone when “we are able in no other way to protect our life and property” (723). These are, effectively, the three reasons that Mather gives to justify Dustan’s actions; they also imply a core principle underpinning the concept of the state of nature: namely, that in the absence of a clear political and legal authority, human beings are bound only by the laws of nature, which guarantee the right of self-preservation. In Mather’s text (explicitly) and in Rowlandson’s (implicitly) this concept serves not merely as a flipside to kinship, but as a justification for a refusal of all relations with the Native Americans and a minimization of the significance of any past relations with them.