Early US Literature

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The Logic in Lydia Maria Child’s An Appeal for the Indians


In the nineteenth century, the American expansion into the western frontier led to the destruction of the Indian way of life. The Indians were not only being murdered, but also their culture was being exterminated. Many abolitionists have appealed for social justice to Indians in either speeches or pamphlets delivering their account on Indian rights. In 1868, The Indian Peace Commission issued a report condemning white American’s annihilation of Indians for two centuries (214). However, this report was claimed to be promoting ‘a war of extermination against Indian culture” (214). In An Appeal for the Indians, Child responds to this report and calls for justice to Indians who underwent one of the worst genocides in their encounters with the settlers. Child’s thinking in this pamphlet astounds readers due to its logic, powerful ideas, and well-supported arguments.

 The report states, “Let polygamy be punished”(219). Child refutes this idea and espouses a new approach that advantages those who are not polygamists. She writes, “In this way, the fixed habit of many generations might be weakened” (219). Child makes a good argument when she reasons that force would not be the preeminent way to embrace. She adds, “Indians, like other human beings, are more easily led by the angel Attraction, than driven by the Demon Penalty” (220). Child proceeds to support this claim by negating another claim that “Indians are incapable of civilization”(220). Child believes that although Indian’s mode of warfare is ferocious; yet, it does not define them entirely. “All wars are barbarous to a shocking degree,” exclaims Child. Furthering this argument, Child brings historical element in her refutation. She writes, “If this proves incapacity for civilization, the Greeks and Romans were incapable of it; for they did the same” (220).

Child attempts in her appeal to show how Indians can be perceived by others. Clearly she writes, “Simply as younger members of the same great human family, who need to be protected, instructed and encouraged, till they are capable of appreciating and sharing all our advantages” (220). When reading these words, it becomes very evident that Child has an altruistic thinking to tell and humanitarian cause to advocate. A simple logic, Indians are humans like every one else. Hence, people have to get along even if one of them is less advanced. In this case,  help and support are given.

Then, Child wonders about the contradictions that reside between American religious beliefs and their actions. She argues that Indians would not embrace the teachings of Christianity because they do not see them applied. Child asks, “How could those simple people believe in a religion whose professors manifested no sense of justice or mercy toward them?”(222). At least Indians, as Child points out, have consistent beliefs. She writes, “ [Indians] profess to believe in revenge, and practice accordingly; whole we profess a religion of love and forgiveness, and do such things as these!” (223). Reading through such astute words appear to prove that Child has sound logic. Ostensibly, Child declares that Indians are as smart as others, but because they don’t share the same cultural traditions as others, they lack of civilization is attributed to them.

Works Cited

Child, Lydia Maria. Homomok & Other Writing on Indians. Ed. Carolyn L. Karcher. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press: 1986. Print.


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