This mound marks the grave of an adolescent boy from the “Maritime Archaic” people of Labrador. Roughly 7,500 years ago, his body was wrapped in a shroud of bark or hide and placed face down in the grave with his head facing to the west. At that point, a large mound of rocks was erected over his burial place.
Courtesy of Brian Bursey
Samuel Huntington (1927–2008) was an influential political scientist who taught for most of his career at Harvard University. He was the author of numerous books and articles on politics and government, including the Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil–Military Relations (1957) and The Political Order in Changing Societies (1968). The latter provided a critique of modernization theory, which had driven much of U.S. policy in the developing world in the prior decade. In Clash of Civilizations, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs, Huntington argues that the main drivers of history in this century will not be political or ideological, as they have been in the past, but civilizational. Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world.
From Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pp. 209–18.
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was an American philosopher who taught at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Virginia. Rorty became associated with a form of American philosophy known as pragmatism, which followed the writing of the philosopher John Dewey. He came to believe, following Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, that meaning was a sociolinguistic product and did not exist in and of itself. In Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, Rorty, an avowed atheist, argues that we should not ignore the inspirational qualities of great works such as the gospels, or the Communist Manifesto, simply because their predictions fell short of reality. Christianity and Communism, he wrote, need not be judged for their predictive qualities but for their appeals to what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the “Better Angels of our Nature.” They stirred men and women to good deeds, which arguably benefitted society in general.
From Richard Rorty, Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, 1998.
James Madison (1751–1836) was one of Virginia’s leading patriots during the Revolutionary War, was elected fourth president of United States, and led the nation during the War of 1812 with Britain. But he is probably most remembered for his pivotal role in the crafting and ratification of the United States Constitution (ratified in 1789) and its first ten amendments, more commonly known as the Bill of Rights (1791). Known and respected among his contemporaries for his skilled writing and argumentation, Madison was one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers.
The Federalist Papers are considered one of the most significant collection of documents in American political thought. Written primarily by Madison and Alexander Hamilton in 1787–1788 under the pseudonym Publius the eighty-five essays promoted the provisions and philosophy of the proposed new Constitution. In Federalist Paper No. 10, Madison discussed the threat of “factions” that could undermine the basic rights and liberties of citizens. Distrustful of democracy, he advocated a representative government made up of wise and propertied male citizens who might better discern “the true interests” of the country. Although some critics have charged that Madison and the other Founding Fathers were more concerned with protecting property than they were with liberty or equality, others credit Madison for establishing a stable and responsive government that has survived the test of time.
From The Federalist, A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States, Being a Collection of Essays Written in Support of the Constitution Agreed upon September 17, 1787, by the Federal Convention. From the original text of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. With an introduction by Edward Mead Earle. (New York: The Modern Library), 53–62.
The Jesuit Relations are the most important documents attesting to the encounter between Europeans and native North Americans in the seventeenth century. These annual reports of French missionaries from the Society of Jesus document the conversions—or attempted conversions—of the various indigenous peoples in what is today the St. Lawrence River basin and the Great Lakes region. When they arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence in 1625, French Jesuits were entering a continent still very much under control of First Nations peoples, who were divided by their own ethnic and linguistic differences. Even the catch-all terms “Huron” and “Iroquois” masked their nature as confederacies, composed of several distinct nations, who had joined together prior to the arrival of Europeans.
When the Jesuits made headway with one group, they usually lost initiative with the group’s rivals—and sometimes found themselves in the midst of a conflict that they could barely understand or appreciate. This section of the Relations concerns the torture and murder of Jean Brébeuf, who had lived among the Hurons at various points from the 1620s through the 1640s, observing their culture and systematically attempting to convert them to Catholicism. However, when an Iroquois raiding party invaded his settlement, the depth of the Hurons’ Christian commitment—and his own—would be tested.
Paul Ragueneau, “Relation of 1648–49,” in Allan Greer, ed., The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin–s, 2000), 112–115.
Josiah Strong (1847–1916) was an eminent Congregationalist minister, head of the influential American Evangelical Alliance, and a leading spokesman of a movement for social activism among white Protestant Christians known as the Social Gospel. In essence, Strong believed that a Protestant America was destined to lead the world to an earthly Christian Kingdom of faith, prosperity, and social justice. He held that American superiority was based on its Anglo-Saxon “race,” its pure, spiritual Protestant Christianity, its love of civil liberty, and its material abundance. Hence he supported a specific ethnic and cultural view of who constitutes a good American, and he combined this with a social Darwinist and imperialist view of America’s racial and cultural superiority and its world mission. The work excerpted here, Our Country, was published in 1885, republished more than once, and translated into numerous languages.
Josiah Strong. Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, rev. ed. New York: American Home Missionary Society (1891): 15, 20, 44–45, 54–61.
The witch hunt that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 has been frequently (if sensationally) depicted in modern films and plays. But a reading of the extant documents used in the trial of the supposed witches provides a more nuanced insight into the process of denunciation, conviction, and execution that unfolded in this persecution, which was among the last in the Western world. Although the Salem witch hunt resulted in the conviction of 30 and the execution of 19, the total number of persons who had been formally accused reached 164. Doubts about the guilt of those executed eventually led to a reconsideration of the procedures used in the trial, and the governor of the colony abruptly suspended the trials in the autumn of 1692. In spite of the admission by some of the Salem jurors that they had been mistaken, the judgments passed on seven of the convicted were not reversed until 2001.
Brian P. Levack, ed., The Witchcraft Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 2004), 225–226, 228–229.
George W. Bush
Less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Congress. In his speech he attempted to walk a fine line between pointing the finger at the Muslim terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and reassuring Muslims that America was not an enemy of Islam. He argued that the Muslims who carried out the attacks “blasphemed the name of Allah,” that they were “traitors to their own faith.” In the speech he defined what was to become his “War on Terror,” vowing not only to bring the terrorists to justice, but also to take on any government that harbored them (such as Afghanistan and its Taliban). He also claimed that the terrorists acted because they “hate our freedoms,” pitting Islamic militancy staunchly against democracy.
From George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation.” Washington, DC, September 20, 2001. http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/speeches/09.20.01.html (accessed November 24, 2012).
Franklin D. Roosevelt
During his first inaugural address as the president of the United States in March 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt had warned his fellow Americans, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Through a series of radio broadcasts called “fireside chats,” the president continued to reassure the American public during the darkest days of the Depression. He would go on, in January 1941, to enumerate the “four freedoms” to which every American, and perhaps every person around the globe, was entitled. Among these were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and, perhaps most importantly, freedom from fear.
Suffering from debilitating illness in the final years of the war, Roosevelt persisted in envisioning a world in which those four freedoms could be guaranteed—and in which the unprecedented and horrific suffering of World War II could be transformed into a new period of human development. As Thomas Paine had argued about the American Revolution, there was now a chance “to begin the world over again.” Roosevelt prepared an oration on the subject to be delivered on the occasion of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. The war was drawing to its close in Europe, and would end several months later in Asia—but Roosevelt did not live to see the achievement of peace. Although he died on April 12, 1945, the day before he was to deliver this address, the prepared speech demonstrates the tenor of Roosevelt’s thought at this point in his life.
Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, the American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16602.
United Nations Drafting Committee
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, was one of the most significant and lasting results of the World War II. The League of Nations, created after the World War I, had failed to prevent the beginning of another, even more catastrophic and costly conflict. The United Nations was planned throughout the war as a substitute mechanism for global peace and security, but world leaders also believed that a document was necessary to affirm the rights of individuals throughout the entire world. A formal drafting committee, consisting of members from eight countries, was charged with the task. The committee chair was Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Roosevelt and a strong advocate for human rights in her own right. By its resolution 217 A (III), the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eight nations abstained from the vote, but none dissented.