By Susan Scheckel
This an invaluable examine, unique in its use of basic resource fabric (e.g. guidebooks to the Capitol) and thoroughly argued by way of its conclusions. It resists the sweeping generalizations that too usually symbolize poco literary feedback, illuminating in its place the complicated, usually contradictory responses of nineteenth-century US writers and artists as they strove to house the ethical concerns raised by way of "the Indian problem." As such it's a helpful supplement to reports via Helen Carr and Joshua Bellin, and fascinating to learn when it comes to Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities."
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He was strong and they were women, and he helped them. No C O O P E R A N D N AT I O N A L I D E N T I T Y 23 Delaware would kill a deer that ran in his woods, nor stop a bird that flew over his land: for it was his. Has John lived in peace? Daughter, since John was young, he has seen the white man from Frontenac come down on his white brothers at Albany and fight. Did they fear God? He has seen his English and his American fathers burying their tomahawks in each other’s brains, for this very land.
This is not because Cooper rejects the authority of the law or romanticizes Natty as the rebellious individual but rather because Natty fulfills a strategic function in Cooper’s management of the conflict between natural and civil C O O P E R A N D N AT I O N A L I D E N T I T Y 31 law as it intersects with the problem of race—a conflict that was becoming ever more apparent and troubling to nineteenth-century Americans (including Cooper). Natty, the white man who lives as an Indian and urges Chingachgook to seek revenge for the injuries to his race, is set in clear opposition to Temple, the Indians’ “worst enemy of all,” the champion of settlement and the representative of civil law.
The sig- C O O P E R A N D N AT I O N A L I D E N T I T Y 29 nificance of this change in terms of national identity formation becomes clear in light of the American Revolution. According to White, “The idea that human beings, by virtue of their humanity, had been tacitly granted certain freedoms . . was given a dramatic reformulation in the eighteenth century, when it was associated with republican forms of government, the sovereignty of the people, and the proposition that ‘all men are created equal’ ” (676).