Front Page Titles (by Subject) Indian Freedom & the American Revolution - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Indian Freedom & the American Revolution - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Indian Freedom & the American Revolution
“Liberty: The Indian Contribution to the American Revolution.” The Midwest Quarterly 23 (Spring 1981):279–298.
In 1791, the French writer Chateaubri and speculated on the relationship between the presence of Indians and the rise of the revolutionary doctrine of liberty espoused by the American colonists. In his view, there were two forms of liberty: a youthful liberty springing from manners and a mature liberty springing from knowledge. Chateaubriand praised America because, in that land, the mature, rational version of freedom had come to replace the Indian form. Yet, he felt that the continued presence of Indian liberty was the most compelling reason to hope that the mature form would thrive. For Chateaubriand, Indian liberty was a necessary but not a sufficient condition of the freedom of the American nation.
Of course, Indian societies were not as free and irresponsible as early observers judged them to be. Indian society was highly structured with universal kinship obligations. Nonetheless, the meaning of the key Revolutionary concept of “liberty” turned in large part upon the unfettered image held by both sides of Indian freedom. To the British, the Indian was a manifestation of the evils of democracy; to Americans, the Indian way of life symbolized freedom and individualism.
Patriots donned Indian masks at the Boston Tea Party primarily because Indians represented the type of freedom that allowed for revolt against the established political order. The famous frontier soldier, Robert Rogers, told a London audience a decade before the Revolution that: “In short, the great and fundamental principles of their (Indians') policy are that every man is naturally free and independent; that no one or more on earth has any right to deprive him of his freedom and independency and that nothing can be a compensation for the loss of it.”
The image of the Indian as a free man was complicated by the fact that his liberty was, for so many of the literate genteel generation of '76, a “savage” freedom, a freedom opposed to what most colonial thinkers considered as “civilization.” Nonetheless, the strong attraction of Indian culture to less refined colonials led to many of them becoming “indianized”—wholly or partially adopting Indian customs.
Indian captives, European spouses of Indians, as well as frontiersmen having close contact with the tribes experienced the extraordinary appeal of Indian life. It was an important truism among colonial thinkers that whites brought up in an Indian environment almost never could be induced to leave it, whereas Indians brought up in a white environment could almost never be induced to remain.
The colonists' taste for the unlimited freedom of the woods intensified their already strong love for liberty. The over-whelming desire for freedom caused some frontiersmen to resent even the light control exercised over them by British authorities. This shirking of all limits evoked the opposite reaction among other frontiersmen, who fought the same British authorities because they did not exercise enough control over “wild” frontier elements.
The wild, radical elements among colonials were clearly not inspired by the libertarian, philosophical principles enunciated by, say, a Locke or a Tom Paine. Their spirit may, in part, be explained by the empty, untamed milieu in which they settled. Along with a wild, untamed environment, therefore, assimilation of independent Indian mores contributed significantly to the formation of the grass-roots colonial spirit, a spirit which largely despised the constraints of European civilization. The fact of Indian influence upon the colonies was apparent even to Englishmen, one of whom wrote in 1776: “The darling passion of the American is liberty and that in its fullest extent; nor is it the original natives to whom this passion is confined; our colonists sent thither seem to have imbibed the same principles.”
Economic History & Theory
The following summaries range, historically, from Adam Smith to Ludwig von Mises and, theoretically, from supply-side economics to the socialist calculation debate. In economics, theory and history interpenetrate one another. A failure of historical knowledge can lead to gross theoretical misunderstanding (as argued by Fores concerning the ‘myth’ of the industrial revolution, and by Lamoreaux concerning the historical failure of governmental intervention in the American economy). Likewise, as implied in Rashid's study of “Adam Smith's Rise to Fame,” a falsely impressionistic picture of Adam Smith's role in economic theory arises from ignorance of the details of Smith's historical context and contemporary documents. On the other hand, crucial deviations and historical retrogression may occur when economists fail to theoretically grasp conceptual meanings. Teichgraeber's study demonstrates this regarding das Adam Smith Problem. An even more significant example of the unfortunate consequences of a failure of theoretical understanding is given by Richard M. Ebeling's detailed anatomy of how the ‘neoclassicals’ misperceived the very terms of Mises' Austrian or dynamic critique of socialist calculation.