Native America, Discovered and Conquered
Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny
Robert J. Miller
Foreword by Elizabeth Furse
Manifest Destiny, as a term for American westward expansion, was not used until the 1840s. Its predecessor was the Doctrine of Discovery, an international legal principle by which Europeans and Americans laid legal claim to the lands and rights of the Indigenous peoples that they “discovered.” Thus, there was a competition among the United States and European nations to establish claims of Discovery by getting somewhere “first.” In North America, the United States was competing with the English, French, and Spanish for control of the lands west of the Mississippi. Who would be deemed to be the “discoverers” of the Indians and their lands? We know how this race turned out, of course, but in his book, Miller for the first time explains exactly how the United States achieved victory, not only on the ground, but also in the developing legal thought of the day.
The American effort to control the Louisiana Territory and to claim the Pacific Northwest really began with Thomas Jefferson’s authorization of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Lewis and Clark were given several objectives: 1. find the Northwest Passage–a land route across the continent–to establish an American fur trade with China; 2. open American trade with Indians and tribes in the Louisiana Territory; 3. help steal the Indian fur trade from England; 4. strengthen America’s claim to the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Country; and 5. pursue Jefferson’s personal interest in studying American Indians and tribal groups, and cataloge new plant and animal life.
This book describes how the English colonies, the American states, and the federal government all used the Doctrine of Discovery in their conquest of North America and how this international legal principle became part of American law, as it still is today. American Indians and Indian Nations still live today under the limitations that the euro-centric, feudal, and racially oriented Doctrine of Discovery placed on them centuries ago.