Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

June 5, 2007

The Requirement, The Manifest Destiny, and The White Man’s Burden

Filed under: history — codesmithy @ 6:52 am

I don’t know if the requirement is taught in history in America’s public schools. I don’t remember coming across it until later. Although, the Manifest Destiny and White Man’s Burden definitely were in my AP History course.   However, I don’t remember any teacher trying to connect the two.  I feel that these three sanctions are connected, that the requirement of conquistadors evolved into the Manifest Destiny, which eventually became the “White Man’s Burden” which is still alive today.

The requirement was read by Spanish conquistadors before engaging in hostilities with natives. Here is the text from the Spanish Requirement of 1513 off of Wikipedia.

On the part of the king, Don Fernando, and of Doña Juana, his daughter, queen of Castile and León, subduers of the barbarous nations, we their servants notify and make known to you, as best we can, that the Lord our God, living and eternal, created the heaven and the earth, and one man and one woman, of whom you and we, and all the men of the world, were and are descendants, and all those who come after us.

Of all these nations God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be lord and superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole human race, wherever men should live, and under whatever law, sect, or belief they should be; and he gave him the world for his kingdom and jurisdiction.

One of these pontiffs, who succeeded that St. Peter as lord of the world in the dignity and seat which I have before mentioned, made donation of these isles and Terra-firma to the aforesaid king and queen and to their successors, our lords, with all that there are in these territories,

Wherefore, as best we can, we ask and require you that you consider what we have said to you, and that you take the time that shall be necessary to understand and deliberate upon it, and that you acknowledge the Church as the ruler and superior of the whole world,

But if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him: and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.

Now, it should be noted that this must be read in Latin or Spanish, a language that native people of the America’s had little hope of knowing.   It demands that native people immediately convert to Christianity, although, I don’t know how they could have demonstrated their will to convert even if they could understand the Spanish or Latin.  If they didn’t convert, they were taken to be heathens and had rejected God and could be dealt with as such.

The goal of the conquistadors wasn’t to spread civilization or peacefully convert those to Christianity.  It was to enslave and grab riches, hopefully of gold.  So why did the conquistadors even bother?  Sanction.  It was God’s will.  Was this just a rationalization?  Yes, but it is still essential that leaders felt the need to justify the blatant exploitation to the church and themselves, and to have an air of righteousness in their actions; if God is with us, then who is against us?

We see a similar theme hundreds of years later in the Manifest Destiny.  The Spanish and the Americans are separated by the fact that the Spanish conquistadors just wanted the quick grab of riches, American’s wanted the land.  Fundamentally, land means wealth.  Where can you grow the crops, or mine the coal if you didn’t have access to the land?  There is no wealth without land, and North America has a lot of it.  Some of the best land in the entire world.  A great swath of the land in the temperate zone in North America belongs to the United States.

This isn’t just coincidence.  The American people knew the land was great.  The Louisiana purchase removed French claims.  America usurped Texas and California from Mexico, and practically annihilated the indigenous people who originally occupied the land.  How was America justified to annex parts of sovereign nations?  A sanction given by God.  Was this just a rationalization?  Yes, just like the Spanish requirement was, but it is still essential to understand how people justified their actions.

When the frontier closed, America almost immediately turned to imperial ambitions.  This time, it was the “White Man’s Burden.”  White men were given a special rationality, and needed teach civilization and culture to backwards people around the world.   Woodrow Wilson also provided the crucial mix of Godly mission, and making the world safe for democracy.  How much did we help Cuba or Philippines when we invaded after the Spanish-American War?  If America is making the world safe for democracy, and other democracies are important for support, then why did we help overthrow Allende in Chile, Mosaddeq in Iran, or support numerous military juntas in El Salvador?

Which brings us to our modern era.  What sanction do we see our leaders invoke?  In what ways are we going to better the lands we conquer?  What evidence do we have that the claims are actually true?  Does this best explain the reasons why we are there or is it just a rationalization for another reason that we don’t want to admit?

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