James Fenimore Cooper and the American National Myth
Presented at the Cooper Panel of the 2006 Conference of the American Literature Association in San Francisco.
Copyright © 2006, James Fenimore Cooper Society.
Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers No. 23, June 2006, pp. 9-17.
[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]
In the 20ᵗʰ century and now the 21ˢᵗ century, the title of national poet laureate for classic American literature has been the province of Samuel Clemens or Herman Melville. 1 In modern and post modern America, James Fenimore Cooper has not been considered for a place with such lofty literary company. Posthumously stung by criticism of his style and technical skills by Clemens in the 19 ᵗʰ century and from the social and literary critics of his romances in the 20 th century, Cooper who was the nation’s first popular author may seem to some a relic of the past. How many classes in American literature in the last half century have altogether ignored him? 2
Yet Cooper has managed to remain in the focus of some of the most distinguished American cultural analysts in spite of his waning interest among the reading audience and contemporary teachers of American literature. What D.H. Lawrence, Leslie Fielder, Henry Nash Smith, and Richard Slotkin found as profound, others have eschewed. Why? Very likely the theme of racial purity in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, and the validation of an established social and political order, has translated poorly to post-modern sensibilities
In The Pioneers, Cooper’s first Leatherstocking novel, the white cleric Reverend Grant says “in a low tone, to his affrighted daughter” about Oliver Edwards, a brooding young man thought to be half Native:
’He is mixed with the blood of Indians, you have heard; and neither the refinements of education, nor the advantages of our excellent liturgy, have been able entirely to eradicate the evil.’ 3
The underlying assumption in the statement is that being Indian is inherently evil, and unredeemable. In the last of the Leatherstocking novels, The Deerslayer, Hurry Harry [March] who “had all the prejudices and antipathies of a white hunter” explains to Deerslayer, Cooper’s archetypal protagonist Natty Bumppo, the natural social order based on race:
’But, this is what I call reason. Here’s three colours on ‘arth; white, black and red. White is the highest colour, and therefore the best man; black comes next, and is put to live in the neighborhood of the white man, as tolerable and fit to be made use of; and red comes last, which shows those that made ‘em never expected an Indian to be accounted as more than half human.’ 4
Deerslayer responds “God made all three, alike, Hurry — “, and Hurry exclaims back in response:
’Alike! Do you call a nigger like a white man, or me like an Indian?’
In the first Leatherstocking novel, and in the last of the series, Cooper raises the specter of racial exclusivity in American society. Progressive and post Civil Rights era America was not distracted by the lure of Cooper’s romantic “perpetual blood-brother theme”, posing as racial tolerance. They read to the end of the novels and placed the lofty sentiments into the context of an unchanged social order in Cooper’s plots.
Another criticism of Cooper is his validation of the American Founding that is tied to the concept of American exceptionalism. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner ascribed to the frontier wilderness the whole cloth out of which the rugged individualism and democratic spirit of the new republic was milled. It was Cooper who fabricated the original myth of the American wilderness, from the legacy of Native America in the Leatherstocking Tales and ties it to “democracy not republicanism” 5 as the most radical expression of freedom. Turner actually acknowledges that creation when he writes that Cooper’s preoccupation with the frontier caused him to become “the distinctive painter of its life” and a place in which to find “a new American scene and new native material”. 6 Richard Slotkin is less restrained, citing Cooper’s “preeminence among mythologizers of the American frontier.” 7 For Turner, that frontier produced a “democracy born of free land”, 8 the heart of America’s national mythology. “Space, the final frontier”, the home of the American Western, was the cultural myth that rested behind our political founding.
If we combine what D.H. Lawrence termed “wish-fulfillment” 9 in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales with the American conundrum of racial exclusivity in a democratic society, the blend creates the semblance of an inclusive, heroic and democratic national myth while paradoxically producing the very opposite. The Western became a vehicle to romanticize the pursuit of individual interests as freedom, and at the same time mask racial and other forms of exclusivity as a kind of free market competition. For these sins, that are also associated with a lack of depth and sophistication in his writing by detractors, Cooper has been relegated to the second tier in the pantheon of American literati.
Perhaps America needs a new, more honest assessment of James Fenimore Cooper. While we may disagree with his romance, and object to his deceptive western myth, it may be that his use of wish-fulfillment was and is the most perfect and accurate descriptor of American culture, a culture steeped in denial. Our beginning was entangled with what historian Edmund S. Morgan has termed the “paradox of American history.” 10 All Americans should recall that appearance over reality was first blessed in the American Constitutional Convention when the “Great Compromise’, that produced the Founding, masked slavery behind the lovely landscape of federalism. 11
The rise of American freedom occurred along side with the establishment of American slavery, and the dispossession of Native America. This was no less a conundrum for American myth makers than it was for political actors. Political theorist Hannah Arendt suggested that race, in the form of slavery, was America’s “primordial crime,” a weakness in the structure of the Founding that conflicted with the almost messianic vision of America as “a grand scheme and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind”, 12 or as Henry Luce, the founder of “Time”, “Life”, and “Fortune” magazines wrote:
[W]e have the indefinable, unmistakable sign of leadership: prestige. And unlike the prestige of Rome or Genghis Khan or 19ᵗʰ century England, American prestige throughout the world is [the result of] faith in the good intentions as well as in the ultimate intelligence and strength of the whole of the American people. 13
That messianic vision was an integral part of the pretty setting of Cooper’s civilized westerns. He captured its symbolism in the indomitable and uncompromising presentation of his frontier protagonist, Natty Bumppo. Anne C. Lynch, in the pages of “Harper’s” in 1852, expressed the power of the messianic vision and by extension Cooper’s symbolic representation of American exceptionalism:
“ ... it would seem that here [in America] the human mind is destined to develop its highest powers, and that, while on one side its influence will roll back upon the tottering monarchies of Europe, on the other its advancing tide of freedom and civilization will stretch across the Pacific, to the shores of Asia, and pour upon them its fertilizing flood.”
At the time she wrote these words from Washington D.C., marveling at the unfinished expansion of the Capital building then under construction, she conveniently had forgotten the slave pens removed just two years earlier and the poor blacks who toiled in obscurity to service the city’s every need. Cooper’s novels work similarly, waxing philosophic and eloquently about rights and principles, and yet masking the calculating racial exclusivity that rests in the background.
D.H. Lawrence speaks to how Cooper fashioned into Natty Bumppo’s characterization the element of wish-fulfillment for the American public that made the irresolvable problem of race in America, melt into the background and remain obscured from our view. He says of the friendship of America’s first in a long line of biracial buddy pairs:
“ ... this perpetual blood-brother theme of the Leatherstocking novels, Natty and Chingachgook, the Great Serpent. At present it is a sheer myth ... . There is something unproud, underhand in it.
He claims this deception works because of “Pictures! Some of the loveliest, most glamorous pictures in all literature ... . Alas, without the cruel iron of reality.” 14
Cooper replaced the fundamental conflict of race in America that he dutifully makes a part of American exceptionalism that is necessary for America’s mythical lineage 15, but is not real. Lawrence says that in Cooper’s ” ... immortal friendship of Chingachgook and Natty he dreamed the nucleus of a new society.” But he also says that these “loveliest, most glamorous pictures in all literature” contain a “slightly devilish resistance in the American landscape”, a resistance emanating from the distance between the pictures and reality, one that in Lawrence’s terms “Cooper glosses ... over.”
It is because of this gap between theory and practice, ideal and real, myth and substance, that Cooper’s triumph in the origination of the Western motif is dismissed by the post-modern audience. His pre-eminence among frontier mythologizers, and his brilliance in creating a mythic hero “to which [according to Slotkin] all subsequent versions of the hero had perforce to refer”, 16 is uncomfortable genius to our progressive literary elite. What is both brilliant and deeply troubling about Cooper’s success in creating a national myth that [to use Lawrence’s terms] ‘glosses over’ the issue of race in America is how as a nation we seem to reflect his romantic method. 17 Issues in our social conduct and public policy across time seem to disappear behind a fog of optimism and exceptionalism aimed at validating our society. In order to cover the defects in his romance forced by the complexity of the American setting, Cooper’s first Leatherstocking novel The Pioneersoffers a plot that avoids the more visceral issue of African slavery, and opts instead for nostalgia in the tragic story of Native American dispossession. By presenting two different and paradoxically co-existing ways of viewing America in that story, one draped over the other, he attempts to resolve their conflict with a new dynamic that emerges from the chaotic frontier setting. It is “a myth of self-creation and self-renewal” that allows Americans to forge a new identity. The rise of democracy on the frontier and the myth of American exceptionalism are layered over the passing of Native America and the reinforcement of racial exclusion.
Richard Slotkin has noted that Sir Walter Scott, when writing the British romance novel, was looking to create the myth of the British nation out of a story of assimilation and inclusion. 18 He describes the historical romance as the “myth of progress through conflict and Christian reconciliation.” 19 In America our social reality did not offer the same model for amalgamation of the disparate groups that Scott found so effective in Britain. Cooper’s literary contribution, the western, structurally eliminated irreconcilable conflicts and issues through a moral warfare waged between symbolically posed opposites from the romance novel’s tradition. 21 But in Cooper’s American romance, moral judgments were also tied to races that could not blend. Consequently he chose, or perceived that it was necessary, to forge a national myth in America out of the remnants of a clash in which only one side of the symbolic conflict remained standing after the showdown. This was not assimilation or synthesis, it was more like warfare. James K. Folsom termed the outcome of the philosophic conflict in The Pioneersas “spoliation and death.” He suggests that the novel’s motto could be taken from the description of Rome’s conquest of Britain in Tacitus: “desertum faciunt pacem vocant — they make a desolation, and call it peace.” 21
As in a frontier gunfight, the side still standing would then move the community forward in light of the principles it represented. In The Pioneers, slaves and Native Americans could never be assimilated into the fabric of white American society dedicated to self-interest and progress born of Calvinist individualism. A priori these darker races were destined to be excluded from the vision of a new American nation. Frederick Jackson Turner would later describe this frontier methodology as the “disintegration of savagery” and the basis of our national development:
“This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. ... It begins with the Indian and the hunter; it goes on to tell of the disintegration of savagery by the entrance of the trader, the path-finder of civilization ... ” 22
Historian Winthrop Jordan recounts a similar story of African exclusion in the search for an American identity. He notes that after the American Revolution and the War of 1812, nation-forming included “the compelling necessity for finding the inner logic — the raison d’être — of the new republic. ... Independence itself was not sufficiently explanatory. ... Positive identification and delineation of American culture were needed.” Like Turner, Jordan traces the radical amalgamation of white peoples in America, but in his analysis it was based on the clearly defined line created by enslavement of black people. 23 Once again racial competition served to establish American identity. Both forms of racial exclusion work in Cooper’s methodology of moral racialism that validates the separation of non-whites from other Americans in his national myth of righteous conflict on the frontier, and the building of a new America. Maurice Lee sees this bifurcation between American idealism and racial exclusion charted in the work of other ante-bellum writers as well, and he cites Jay Grossman who describes this methodology in American letters when commenting on F. O. Matthiessen. Grossman says that Matthiessen “built ... a literary ‘fortress’ that so narrowly conceives of political questions as to neglect such issues as slavery and race.” A fortress of denial; what Cooper pioneered in his Leatherstocking Tales America so fully embraced as to make it transparent, and thus invisible in our social attitudes and cultural character. 24
For Cooper’s audience, at the dawn of the new republic’s cultural development, this winner-take-all motif conveniently reinforced long-held social attitudes presented in a civilized, acceptable manner. It also fashions a belief that justice and fairness are achieved through an unfettered competition for victory, between the forces of nature and savagery and those of civilization, a conflict posing as a sort of fair-play. It did not matter that the competitors were not equals as long as they were all admitted into the competition. At the same time, by creating the appearance of a formal challenge to an established social order Cooper’s romances appealed to Americans who saw themselves as outsiders who had waged (1776) and then defended (1812), a revolution for independence and self-respect. 25 Frederick Jackson Turner describes in his history of ante-bellum America, that ours:
“ ... was not only a society in which the love of equality was prominent: it was also a competitive society. To its socialist critics it has seemed not so much a democracy as a society whose members were ‘expectant capitalists ... . The self-made man was the ideal of this society.” 26
And it is in this competition among separate racial contenders that Cooper validates the myth of civilized progress and colored disintegration in America, granting the title of self-made man to the white settlers. He resolves the conflict between the Native past and the immigrant future through an act of appropriation at the end of the contest rather than inclusion, and he altogether avoids black exclusion at the same time.
In The Pioneersthe story flirts for chapters with a promise of progressive change as the supposed half-breed Oliver Edwards and the daughter of the town leader, Elizabeth Temple, seem to grow close. But the denouement of the plot delivers anything but social equality and inclusion. Just as Richard Jones, early in the novel, endeavors to use paint to cover the defects of the roof that he has built for his cousin Judge Temple, so Cooper’s conscious use of the romance’s format cleverly paints over the exclusion of non-white races in the plot. From the son of a Delaware Chieftain and Natty’s rustic half-breed companion in poverty in the wilderness, Oliver Edwards is of necessity miraculously transformed into Oliver Effingham, English owner of half of the property of consequence in the novel. Then he is eligible to marry into the inheritance of the other half. 27 With the death of Chingachgook, the last of the Mohicans, and the marginalization of blacks, Cooper achieves for Oliver and Elizabeth Effingham what Frederick Jackson Turner later described thusly: ” ... the frontier promoted the formation of a composite nationality for the American people. ... In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated and fused into a mixed race.” Cooper creates his own mythical mixed race of ex-Europeans and so preserves white society — a satisfactory maintenance of the status quo for his audience. 28 The moral victory of Oliver Effingham’s restoration and Natty’s escape West, are therefore, also elements of the racial victory over the other contenders for America’s cultural identity. Civilization comes to the frontier, and Natty will, as the novel says in its last line, open “the way for the march of the nation across the continent.”
Cooper may present his method most clearly in the “Turkey Shoot” chapter of The Pioneers. In the scene fairness appears to triumph in a smaller version of the novel’s greater symbolic racial competition. But in fact fairness is undermined by power and manipulation resulting in another affirmation of the status quo. In the story Cooper sets up a formal contest to shoot the Christmas turkey. In the background of this competition is a free black character we only meet in this chapter, aptly named Abraham Freeborn, or Brom. Brom is responsible for staging the Turkey Shoot. The contest is ostensibly among the white men in the community. But when Natty’s first shot fails because of a malfunction of his flint, the real contest in the chapter ensues between Natty and Brom. They argue over the rules of the contest which Cooper frames, as he does most of the novel, between the rules of the clearings and the rules of the forest, between new rules and an older, natural wisdom, between equal protection under the law and due process. Natty articulates the racial and cultural divide that separates Europe’s 3ʳᵈ Estate from proximity with its own painful past when he exclaims to Brom: “Natty Bumppo hit a nigger.” The black entrepreneur, presented as shrill, loud, and excitable then makes, as Cooper describes it, an “appeal to the justice of his auditors, which the degraded condition of his caste so naturally suggested.” Cooper, who has carefully crafted the romance’s greater conflict between the paradigms of the Native past and the immigrant future, now conflates it with one between his heroic white protagonist and one of the novel’s lowly black characters. 29 Richard Jones, who plays the role of the town’s sheriff in the novel, becomes referee at the request of the Negro who yells: “’Gib a nigger fair play,’” ... , “’Ebbery body know dat snap as good as fire. Leab it to Massa Jone — ... he know ebbery ting.’” 31 Instead of two of the most vulnerable members of the community joining to oppose the oppressive power structure in the town that keeps them both at the margins, they end up confronting each other.
Richard decides against the old rules and the denizen of the forest in a clear sign of the novel’s intention to validate progress. He says, ” ... I am bound to preserve the peace of the county; ... I therefore am of opinion, that Nathaniel Bumppo has lost his chance, and must pay another shilling before he renews his right.” Ironically, Richard seems to give the black character Brom Freeborn fair-play. But in fact, he has divided and conquered on behalf of Templeton’s existing social order using the new rules. This strategy is reminiscent of how white indentured labor was divided from African slaves, in 17 th century colonial America, through the use of laws to purposely put them at odds with each other. Abraham Freeborn prostrates himself to authority that Frederick Douglass would later describe as “the shadow of the slave master” as opposed to the “majesty of the free state.” 31 Brom has earned the right to maintain his own hapless identity and degradation, by triumphing over Natty another outsider. So while Cooper makes it appear that black people receive justice in America, in fact he has carefully dismissed both outcasts and symbolically validated America’s founding.
Later, after Elizabeth enlists Natty to compete one more time, and pays Brom Freeborn when old hunter kills the bird, her father, the real power in the town, arrives. At that moment, at the end of the scene, the sheriff confirms the confluence of private interests posing as public good that will ultimately resolve the novel’s greater competition as it did in this scene. The division of people of color from poor white men is effectively achieved in Cooper’s western showdown in the Turkey Shoot. Richard says to Judge Temple: ” ... we are sister’s children; and you may use me like one of your horses; ride me or drive me, ‘duke, I am wholly yours.” The sheriff has taken this microcosm of the plot’s drama about justice and fair-play and made it about serving the interests of the Judge, his family, and his social order. By doing so, Cooper has symbolically affirmed not only the status quo, but the notion of an established American political structure. There will be no questioning the constitutional bargain that accepted black exclusion into the American founding, as there will be no “demi-savage” in the bed of Elizabeth Temple. Those who must be excluded from the romance to make its charming mythology work for the audience are effectively removed from the shape and rise of the new American people and national identity.
Since the real issue of race in America in 1823 when the novel was written was black subordination in the social and political order, the outcome of the scene reinforces the audience’s expectations about the roles played by whites and blacks without dragging the novel or the audience into the anxiety-ridden quagmire of American slavery. At the same time, rich and poor are also kept in the proper places, all in the name of fair-play. In some sense, this chapter is the broader plot of the novel writ small.
American history has seemed to follow this myth. One could argue that our Civil War to free the slaves and preserve the Union was really a contest between issues for white Americans, presented as the cathartic founding of an inclusive nation and society. After the war’s conclusion, the myth of freeing the slaves and saving the Union was perpetuated. But in fact the war was the triumph of a national free soil economic system for white immigrants over the politics of state sovereignty that unfortunately protected large agri-businesses and a faux landed-aristocracy. The preservation of the Union ensured that the unity and identity of the new mixed-race nation of white people would continue unchallenged. After the Civil War, policy and practice as it related to ex-slaves and Native Americans, continued to be one of exclusion and manipulation. The United States draped and masked the real intent of the war over the appearance of a fight for fairness, inclusion, and unity — inclusion that would take generations after the war to become even an issue for national discussion, and a unity that was as fragile in the last two national elections as it was in 1860. Again we have two different and paradoxically co-existing ways of viewing America and American history. The Civil War could be seen as a part of an ante-bellum frontier western, playing out a Cooperesque morality play and resulting in the continued exclusion of some people in order to advance the interests of others and the nation’s deceptive cultural identity. One might argue that even as we meet today, American exceptionalism is engaged in a moral war on a distant frontier and the enemies are again others not worthy of inclusion in our global village. And while we preach the pretty picture of fledgling democracy abroad, the words of Tacitus come back: “they make desolation and call it peace.” In every generation, Americans seem to find ways to utilize the western showdown and its rhetoric of opposition to deal with difficult issues or our fears.
At the conclusion of The Pioneers, Cooper transforms the plight of the Native half-breed and fair-play for Native rights into the ascendance of the settlers as the nucleus for a new society in America. Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Effingham restore a sense of European heredity to American democracy and the patrimony of Native America is appropriated as the dowry of a new world landed gentry. Judge Temple prevails over any challenge to either his authority or his social status. It is the Native line that dies out, it is Natty Bumppo whose ungovernable individualism is banished further west as uncompromising moral hero, and perhaps most disconcerting, it is the blacks who are to quote Hannah Arendt, “wholly overlooked” in the myth. 32 The Western’s cultural format served to both eliminate conflicts and reinforce a conservative American social identity; the status quo preserved and posing as progressive change. American authors from Melville to Clemens would rebel against and be trapped by this paradigm, and none would find a successful way to overcome its cultural dominance within American society and culture. 33
It is Cooper in the end, rather than Melville and Clemens, who defines America’s national myth and our actual sub-rosa cultural identity even if his vision goes well beyond his technical proficiency. Whether the product of “hasty writing and defective craftsmanship” 34, or conscious design, the The Pioneers, launches the Leatherstocking Tales and the framework of the American Western. Those tales and that framework capture American popular culture brilliantly, if unfortunately, by validating the theory and mythology of American exceptionalism 35 while masking its less than exceptional reality.
1 For example, “Melville the Great”, New York Review of Books, Vo. 52, No. 19, December 1, 2005. Frederick C. Crews opens his essay on Herman Melville with the statement ” ... Melville, whose reputation has long been unsurpassed among American writers.”
2 A Literary History of the American West, ed. By J. Golden Taylor and Thomas J. Lyon, “Precursors of the Western Novel” by James K. Folsom, 1998, Texas Christian University.
3 Cooper, James Fenimore, The Pioneers , Penguin Books, New York, 1988, p. 143
4 Cooper, James Fenimore, The Leatherstocking Tales, Vol. II, The Library of America, New York, 1985, “The Deerslayer” , p. 527-528.
5 . Op. cit. Cooper, The Pioneers, p. 205 Richard Jones says to his cousin Judge Temple in reference to Natty Bumppo and the other hunters, “Well, ‘duke, I call this democracy, not republicanism; but I say nothing; only let him keep within the law, or I shall show him, that the freedom of even this country is under wholesome restraint.” Cooper ties this democracy to the most radical form of freedom that includes Jacobinism in the French Revolution.
6 Turner, Frederick Jackson, The United States 1830-1850, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1965, pp. 141 and 582.
7 Slotkin, Richard, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton, Connecticut, 1973, p. 468.
8 Turner, Frederick Jackson/Martin Ridge, History, Frontier, and Section: Three Essays by Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1993, p. 83.
9 Lawrence, D.H., Studies in Classic American Literature, The Viking Press, New York, 1969, p. 49.
10 Edmund S. Morgan, The Challenge of the American Revolution, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1976, p. 141.
11 Robinson, Donald, Slavery in the Structure of American Politics, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1979, p. 201: “Yet in two ways, the settlement was momentous. It gave Constitutional sanction to the fact that the United States was composed of some persons who were ‘free’ and others who were not. And it established the principle, new in republican theory, that a man who lived among slaves had a greater share in the election of representatives than the man who did not. With one stroke, despite the disclaimers of its advocates, it acknowledged slavery and rewarded slave owners.”
12 Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution, Penguin Books, London, England, 1990, p. 71 and p. 23.
13 Luce, Henry R., The American Century, New York, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1941, pp. 32-34.
14 . Op. cit. Lawrence, p. 51 and p. 55.
15. Op. cit. Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence, p. 485 and 489.
16 . Op. cit. Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence, p. 468.
17 Slotkin makes a distinction between the “novel” and the “romance” citing Cooper’s interest in exploring the later. In doing so, according to Slotkin, Cooper emphasizes “a psychological drama with mythic implications.” That approach allows for a gap between theory and practice in which avoidance and denial may comfortably exist.
18 Slotkin, Richard, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization 1800-1890, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 1985, p. 88.
19 Op. cit.Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence, p. 486.
20 Op. cit. Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence, pp. 472-473.
21 Op. cit.Folsom, “Precursors of the Western Novel”.
22 Op. cit.Turner, History, Frontier, and Section: Three Essays by Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, pp. 60 and 66.
23 Jordan, Winthrop, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro 1550-1812,W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1968, pp. 331-332, 334, 336-337, and 134.
24 Lee, Maurice S., Slavery, Philosophy, and American Literature, 1830-1860, Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture (No. 148).
25 Op. cit.Arendt, p. 69 See also, Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black, pp. 331-341.
26 Op. cit. Turner, The United States 1830-1850, p. 20.
27 Op. cit.Cooper, The Pioneers, pp. 205-206: Elizabeth Temple expresses concern prior to his transformation about Oliver Edwards coming into the Temple household: ” ... I must think the introduction of a demi-savage into the family a somewhat startling event. ... “
28 Matthiessen, F. O., American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, Oxford University Press, New York, 1941, p. 303. Matthiessen speaks of the “impenetrable mystery of whiteness” and “the bleached pallor of the culture” in his comments about Emerson. Melville addresses the character of American culture and its association to whiteness and race in Moby Dickin his chapter, “The Whiteness of the Whale.”
29 Op. cit.Cooper, The Pioneers, p. 204. Cooper has Richard Jones express contempt for black people when he says: ” ... you surely would not make the youth [Oliver Edwards] eat with the blacks! He is part Indian, it is true, but the natives hold the negroes in great contempt. No, no — he would starve before he would break a crust with the negroes.”
30 Op. cit.Cooper, The Pioneers, p. 195. The description of the contest comes from Chapter XVII, pp. 189-200.
31 Douglass, Frederick, My Bondage, My Freedom, New York, Dover Publications, 1969, p. 339.
32 Op. cit.Arendt, pp. 69, 71. See Arendt’s comments on how the blacks rather than the white poor were “wholly overlooked” in America.
33 Op. cit.Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence. p. 468. Matthiessen (American Renaissancep. 187), cites Melville’s appreciation of Cooper’s efforts towards “cultural independence and rejection of being called “’the American Scott’” in reference to Sir Walter Scott. But Cooper’s popularity with the public places him in a different realm than the other writer-critics of American culture and art.
34 Op. cit.Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence, p. 486. Matthiessen describes Cooper’s limits in a comparison to Hawthorne by stating “it is obvious that neither the form nor the content of Cooper’s hastily improvised narratives bore any vital relation to his [Hawthorne’s] own.” (American Renaissancep. 201).
35 Op. cit.Arendt, pp. 24-25, see also American Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 4 (December 2003) “White Out: Race and Nationalism in American Studies”, pp. 785-786.