Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Background Research for John Harris Project

The Iroquois, having absorbed several tribes to constantly combat several different European forces; and different combinations of which, depending on the year; had longstanding trade dependencies: first with the Dutch, who had arrived early to the New World, and then with France. This odd alliance was made easy by the English presence in Canada, as the Iroquois were from that northern and Great Lakes region. After trading with the Dutch for a long while, the Iroquois Nation -as they were sometimes called, began supporting the Dutch -perhaps forced or provoked by them, in a subtle campaign against the British; probably in exchange for usage of formerly-owned lands in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Years earlier, major constituents of the Iroquois Nation, the Lenape, had been driven from there and dissolved. New York being the Lenape's original homeland, during this period called New Amsterdam, was then controlled by the Dutch. The Dutch, of course, supported any reduction of British presence in the New World, as the British sat in the middle of the trade routes from the south and west of the eastern seaboard, and some ways inland, of the North American continent. This placed the British in a middleman position, enabling them to control the trade with New York, and inevitably driving up the cost of the goods en route to European markets.

Upon the start of the French and Indian Wars, the Iroquois, or Five Nations, as they were also known, made a public alliance with the English. This was made easy by the English presence in Canada many years hence, but was essentially determined by Dutch influence. When the Dutch gained control of England; disguised as inner-family religious conflict by the British Monarchy, called, the Glorious Revolution; they also gained control of the southern and western trade routes. As a result, the cost of American goods, especially furs, dropped in Europe. This would on the one hand stimulate the European economy, but on the other, would cost the English their sovereign and independent rule of England. The English, in order to establish this alliance, had apparently convinced the Iroquois Nation that the threat from France was greater than the threat from the Dutch. Since the Indian looked naturally for an opportunity to take vengeance of any European, the British/Dutch forces then had the benefit of all the native armies to fight the French. Though Spain was the overarching Indian concern, the lucrative fur trade with the Dutch in New York harbor seemed to be the immediate incentive for the Indians to fight in Queen Anne's Wars -as the bulk of this conflict is called. This seems to be true for all parties involved. The Rum trade was extremely popular as well, and may have also been a major factor deciding involvement, for all parties mentioned.

The Spanish were feared by the Indian, because Indian traders from the south and north, regularly interacted with vestiges in their former homeland; after having moved south and westward, especially in poor growing seasons; and were well aware of the Spanish dominance on the American continent @ large. Fearing stories of brutality @ the hands of the Spanish, Catholic symbols and clothing styles also became an important element in coagulating the Iroquois Nation and mobilizing them against the French in the northeast region of North America. Catholic nations were easily recognized by native forces because of the severity of the effects of the ongoing Inquisition in Europe. Most troops had @ least one Priest with them and individuals in common, wore as many Catholic symbols as they could afford, to show their loyalty to the Catholic Church. Even down to the length of the sleeve, or shape of an officer's cape, the Native could easily identify a Catholic from a considerable distance.

This public Iroquois alliance, however, did not deter the Iroquois from attacking the English and harassing them in general and regularly; especially as they most probably were continually encouraged by the Dutch to do so. This was done in secret for the most part, the Iroquois used modern-day ( 2012 ) guerrilla warfare -or night raids, as their standard military tactic. The Dutch, constantly threatened by all Europe; especially seen most evident in the Anglo-Dutch Wars consistently raging on the European continent; were, at this point of issue, just prior to 1702 when Queen Anne's reign began, finally victorious against the British, and had recently gained control of English trade. This was accomplished by the Glorious Revolution, which removed the recently-late-convert-Catholic, King James II, and placed King William of the Netherlands, and Queen Mary, James' daughter, on the throne of England.

The English were made aware of this conflict with the Dutch, in spite of the royal combination of William and Mary. The assumed, the intended, and expected, public cooperation between the two European powers did not disguise, apparently, this regular guerrilla behavior of the Iroquois. This knowledge helped Queen Anne quickly resolve the Dutch situation in England with her brother-in-law William, precisely because of that knowledge of the Iroquois conduct, passed on from the New World -possibly through non-conformist religious circles in Yorkshire, England.
The English also defended themselves against the Iroquois peacefully, without the destruction of their public alliance with the Indian nation, and maintained their relationship with the Dutch against the French and Spanish, precisely because of their good relations with the vestige tribes like the Shawanese, in spite of great difficulty caused by the radical behavior of Englishmen Nathanial Bacon and Governor William Berkeley, in Jamestown, Virginia. Bacon's Rebellion, like the John Harris event, also involved alcohol as the inciting influence -not the English Rum from Boston however; the French Brandy was used to lubricate Bacon's Rebellion.

The event which is @ this point of argument, took place along the Susquehanna River in what was to become Harrisburg, a city named in memorial of that bond, carefully cultivated with the friendly Shawanese Indian Tribe. Shawanese was the term referring to a Central Pennsylvanian native tribe, originally met by John Smith, and referred to as the Susquehannock Tribe, shortly after he had successfully re-founded the colony of Jamestown. The Susquehannock had first traded with the Dutch as the Iroquois had, and as a result, had been killed off almost entirely, by smallpox. The French then began influencing the trade routes in that region and the surviving group became known as the Shawanese. They had most likely absorbed some Lenape and other wounded, fractionate tribes, as the Iroquois had, before they were pushed to Ohio. They began to be called the Shawnee in Ohio, before the new American government, much later, relocated most to reservations in Oklahoma. The Sawanese had been long-time enemies of the Iroquois, even though they both spoke a similar Algonquin-dialect. Harrisburg lies within that tract of land acquired by William Penn, from the previously mentioned Lenape native group, some time after they had been driven from New York by the Dutch, and before they ceased to be referred to as a major influence in the north east of the North American continent. This positive relationship with the Shawanese tribe, was carefully maintained by Englishmen like John Harris. John Harris had moved from Philadelphia, where he laid roads in the young city, to what was to become Harrisburg, and ran a ferry-crossing and trading outpost on the opposite side of the Susquehanna River from the Shawanese. This was slightly inland, and directly in the path, of the Indian trade route along the east coast of North America, between the Dutch in the north, and the furs coming up from the south and west, in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania and Ohio were a hotly contested region by the Europeans, as it had been for centuries by the Indians. Even though all the native Indian tribes still favored the Ohio River Valley as hunting grounds, the beaver and other fur-animals had been vastly depleted from the region and the majority of any massive quantities of fur came from further away and inland. The Iroquois had claimed this region from the Shawanese with the Europeans' help by this time, even though most remaining Indians used it as a hunting ground.

It is easy therefore, to think of the Iroquois as the agressors in the John Harris event. One might imagine then, after a miserable hunting party, these Iroquois, made more and more unsuccessful because of the voracious European appetite for furs; with memories of their conquered homeland, paid and goaded by those same Dutch neighbors to venture a little ways down the Susquehanna to the south, in hopes of driving the English out by harassment and provoking a fight with their long-time enemies, the Shawanese. The Indian were often used to induce conflict, willing participants or not, for the Europeans; such as in the Boston Tea Party, when white terrorists dressed as Indians to attack British trade goods. So these Iroquois came willingly or not, to trade; what for them must have been a miserable bounty; for what they would inevitably determine; regardless of the fair-market-value, or quality of payment in exchange; to be far less than their perceived worth -that fur they had brought to trade for Rum. It would be then only another short step to the think of the Indians becoming enraged after drinking Rum. Tired, resentful, and looking for a fight, these bullying Iroquois, wanting to humiliate this white shop-keep, tied him to a tree and taunting his Indian protectors, easily in sight across the river, they started a fire beneath him. John Harris greatly played up the story of his potential burning @ the hands of these Iroquois -even going as far as being buried beneath the very Mulberry tree, upon that very spot, so as to re-enforce both the longstanding relationship with the Shawanese, and also to downplay Bacon's Rebellion in favor of John Smith's original trade with the Susquehannok peoples. This legend was an effective effort by the English to control the fur trade route and, "divide their forces" to the Indian perception. The English became both be ally and enemy, a tactic used often by the Indian, especially the Iroquois from the north, forced by their dependency on the Dutch, and resentment of all Europeans. This strange guerrilla tactic was adopted, almost immediately by the colonialists during the American Revolutionary Period, without it, they could not have gained freedom from Britian.

It is worth mentioning again, the obvious relevance of both John Harris and Queen Anne, being originally from Yorkshire, England. Queen Anne ruled England and held great influence in France, and Italy, as well as the Netherlands. Pope Clement XI; who had grown up near Tuscany as a wealthy landowner in Urbino, in northern Italy; had developed an unexpected alliance with Queen Anne against Spain and France in The War of Spanish Succession 1701-1714. This was merely four years before the Harris' event, said to have taken place in about 1718. This war in Europe was fought to prevent Philip V from obtaining the Spanish throne. This was an attempt by France of a union and absorption of Spain by France's Louis XIV by Royal appointment of Philip V. Philip V was the son of the Dauphin and the same family as Louis XIV. Spain, which had become an increasing threat to Papal territory as a result of their ruthless behavior in the New World and absorption of wealth from there, was well on their way to continuing expansion eastward, and was an immediate threat to the Papal territory, all of Europe, as well as the Pope's own family in Albania; and moreso if they had combined with France. The Iroquois were obviously unaware of the role of the Catholic church as an ally against the French in European conflicts of the day, and neither they nor the British seemed to let their guard down against the 'papists' ( the French and Spanish in the New World ), as they were insultingly referred to in the colonial outposts and by the Quaker leadership in Philadelphia. Britain had recently removed Catholic rule from it's shoulders in the Glorious Revolution,( 1688 ), and the resulting removal of James II, ( who was both Queen Anne and Queen Mary's father ). With the predictable death of all twenty or so of Mary's children ( most in the womb, and others near a decade alive ), her own death by smallpox infection in 1694, and William III's death on March 8, 1702, Queen Anne rid England of both Dutch rule, and Catholic influence, while obtaining control of Dutch trade in the New World, in one fell swoop, on April 23rd, 1702. The Iroquois however, were simply aware that the Spanish and French were Catholic because of their manner of dress, Priests that traveled with them, and symbols worn by the faithful. Therefore, the Catholic was the greatest threat to them. They may have otherwise been less willing to accept the Dutch and English, and the outcome of Queen Anne's Wars may have been quite different without their help in the fight. The severity of the Catholic Inquisition, in spite of the Pope's siding with the NonConformists against the Catholic forces of France and Spain, therefore prevented those forces from dominating, or even uniting in common goal. As a result, "An Attempt to Burn John Harris", becomes extremely important to the balance of power in Europe. John Harris insisted on being buried under that mulberry tree to mark an extremely important occasion in history. He sacrificed himself in death, to be a martyr in the grave, for English goodwill and purpose, to ensure that memory not be simply a myth or silly story, but to mark a true event that secured English power in North America. His family was not impressed and fought his decision to be buried, not in a proper cemetery, but under a tree, along the river. After his death, for years successive generations of his family tried to dig him up and move him.

Thus, the efforts of a mere ferry-crossing, patiently and quietly maintained by John Harris, was of extreme importance to world commerce @ the time of his alleged harassment in 1718. This event, involving a few natives and some Rum, determined the balance of power for all of Europe in the 18th century. The information maintained ( evidence against the fraudulent Iroquois and Dutch alliance ), and passed along through channels of trust of commonality ( namely the NonConformist religious sect and Yorkshire birthrights ), enabled the English rulers to accurately identify enemies and threats to the security of modern economic structure and commerce. If this scuffle for 'a quick dizzy' had not taken place, the American Revolution would not have been possible. It becomes obvious, that John Harris was in fact an important political agent when viewed from this perspective, and that his birth in Yorkshire was no coincidence or irrelevancy. That an Indian faction, which was probably Iroquois, allegedly stopped to harass John Harris was not an isolated event, or even an unlikely mythical retelling. The significance of his being buried @ the very spot also, from this same perspective, is discovered, a much more internationally-politically significant event, and much less a trite monument to subjective, singular colonial frontier life experience and it's hazards, than has previously been awarded to it. This event is therefore, one of the most important memorials in the formation of the United States of America in the pre-Revolutionary period.