American Elephants

Thanksgiving Thoughts by The Elephant's Child

     They must come into, and go through a vast and a roaring Wilderness, where they must be bruised with many pressures, humbled under many overbearing difficulties…before they could possess that good Land which abounded with all prosperity, flowed with milk and honey.

— The Reverend Thomas Hooker
The Application of Redemption, 1659


     The Puritans in the Wilderness—away from Old World centers of learning, far from great university libraries, threatened daily by the thousand and one hardships and perils of a savage “America—were poorly situated for elaborating a theology and disputing its fine points. For such an enterprise John Calvin in Switzerland or William Ames in Holland was much better located. But for testing a theology, for seeing whether Zion could be rebuilt if men abandoned the false foundations of the centuries since Jesus—for this New England offered a rare opportunity.
 …..So it was that although the Puritans in the New World made the Calvinist theology their point of departure, they made it precisely that and nothing else. From it they departed at once into the practical life. Down to the middle of the 18th century, there was hardly an important work of speculative theology produced in New England.

—Daniel J. Boorstin
The Americans: The Colonial Experience

     Perhaps because their basic theoretical questions had been settled, the Puritans were able to concentrate on human and practical problems. And strangely enough, those problems were a preview of the ones which would continue to trouble American political thought. They were concerned less with the ends of society than with its organization and less with making the community good than with making it effective, with insuring the integrity and self-restraint of its leaders, and with preventing its government from being oppressive.

— Daniel J. Boorstin
The Americans: The Colonial Experience


     If the world is becoming rapidly Americanized as once it became Romanized, the reason lies not in our weapons, but in the fact that others want what we have and are willing, often eager, to adopt our ways in order to have them too. The relentless spread of democracy and capitalism in recent decades, to a large extent in the light of the American example, is a peaceful and largely welcomed conquest —at least by the people if often not by the elites who have seen their own power slipping away. It is a conquest more subtle, more pervasive, and, in a likelihood, more permanent than any known before.

— John Steele Gordon
An Empire of Wealth

     Technologically the eastern Indians were Neolithic, using sophisticated tools but lacking metal. Their culture was a highly advanced one, however, using hundreds of different materials and techniques in what James Fenimore Cooper, two centuries later would call “the gentle art of the forest.” Developed over thousands of years of extracting a living from the land, these arts, taught to the e=settlers, would more than once save them from disaster and even extinction as they struggled to establish themselves in the unfamiliar New World.
…..The more technologically advanced culture that these settlers brought with them and traded with the Indians, however, would, in turn destroy the latter. Once the Indians became used to the superior metal tools,cloth, and firearms of the Europeans, the skills needed to use the raw materials at hand began to disappear. Before long, the Indians had no choice but to trade for what they needed on increasingly unequal terms and inevitably, lost their economic sovereignty. Once that was gone, their political sovereignty and the rest of their culture soon followed.

— John Steele Gordon
An Empire of Wealth


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