Indians and Dissembling Gentlemen in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers
Presented at the Cooper Panel No. 2 (Cooper’s Indians) of the 2008 Conference of the American Literature Association in San Francisco.
Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers No. 25, May 2008, pp. 14-20.
Copyright © 2008, James Fenimore Cooper Society.
[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]
It is well-documented that James Fenimore Cooper mined John Heckewelder’s Indian ethnographies and histories for information about the Native peoples in his Leatherstocking Tales. ¹ Scholarship tracing the Moravian’s influence on the novelist has consistently asserted both the reliability of Heckewelder’s Indians and Cooper’s faithfulness to the representations he found in the Moravian’s History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations (1819). Still beyond the ken of criticism, however, are matters that complicate Heckewelder’s claim that his portraits of Indians are “unadorned” and disinterested. ² A re-examination of Heckewelder’s History as well as other writings he composed during his service as a missionary, American spy, and U.S. Indian agent reveal interests aligned with white American gentlemen who, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, were trying to stave off the aggressive egalitarian insurgency welling up from the lower orders. That Heckewelder’s Indians and his chronicles of frontier history are classed is, in turn, serviceable to Cooper, whose Indians and gentlemen also advance a gentleman’s agenda in his brand of an American national literature.
Despite Heckewelder’s claims that his published volumes speak “candour and truth” about Indians and have “neither been influenced by partiality for one [race], or undue prejudice against the other,” his writings demonstrate otherwise. ³ The Moravian missionary, like the intercultural go-betweens James H. Merrell reassesses in Into the American Woods, was not an evenhanded mediator but “firmly anchored on one side of the cultural divide” (37). We are, I argue, shortsighted if we do not recognize the fundamental ways in which Heckewelder was anchored to a white Christian civilization led by republican gentlemen. So too should we consider that he was not always the “man of probity” that his reputation boasted, for his stature as a judicious, credible gentleman proceeded from his proficiency in dissembling in various capacities, as a spy, Indian agent, and ethnographer. ⁴ Throughout the Revolutionary War, for example, Heckewelder maintained a pose of Moravian pacifism as he worked as a patriot spy, trusting that his secret collusion with military gentlemen would ensure the safety of Ohio missions. Writing many a “piece of secrecy,” Heckewelder informed American attacks on Indian villages, exhorting commanders to “punish those wicked people.” ⁵ His covert alliance with gentleman leaders, however, tragically backfired in 1782 when a backwoods American militia acted on their suspicions about Moravian posers and slaughtered scores of peaceful Indian converts at the Gnadenhutten mission in Ohio country.
The incident at Gnadenhutten was pivotal in Heckewelder’s career, in part because it prompted a significant divarication in his public and private writings that has gone unacknowledged by scholars. Archival records indicate that while Heckewelder’s published histories locate the architects of duplicity and murder in frontier underclasses, his private writings grapple with the culpability of Moravian gentlemen for the “guilt which we bring upon ourselves, by giving way to the war spirit.” ⁶ He tries to reconcile his past dissembling as a pacifist with his present guilt about the Gnadenhutten tragedy by explaining the demonization of Indians as an insidious instrument of an underclass ideology. He refutes the logic of demonization by subsuming race to class, a campaign that attributes the degeneration of Native Americans to their long interaction with unprincipled frontier whites and proceeds to employ representations of noble “genuine Indians” to naturalize the ascendancy and political interests of the gentle classes. His public statements for incorporating a Lenape history into American history are not, I argue, for the benefit of Indians who are “so much degenerated” and will “in a few years[,] have entirely disappeared from the face of the earth,” but promote the natural leadership of gentlemen. ⁷ Having been “intimately acquainted with [the uncorrupted] men of nature,” Heckewelder’s testimony that “social distinctions are found ... in the state of nature” naturalizes the sociopolitical authority of white gentlemen, whose prudence and civic virtue were likewise, he says, “stamped ... upon them by nature.” ⁸
When Heckewelder published History in 1819, he felt he had good reason to entreat American gentlemen to resurrect codes of honor and gentlemanly conduct that had underpinned the first agreements between the Continental Congress and Moravian missionaries. His extensive travels through Ohio from the 1780s to 1813 as a U.S. Indian agent and mission leader made it clear that gentleman leaders had shirked their responsibilities to Indians and had violated the social ethic that tethers private morality to public welfare. On one occasion, he likens U.S. Commissioners in Ohio to “another snake” “hidden in the grass” mouthing promises to protect Indian lands while secretly working toward “hardly anything but the surrendering of [Indian] land.” ⁹ He also condemns “the designing men” in Congress for altering a land grant to strip Christian Indians of their land rights. ¹⁰ Yet, given his interrogation of gentleman leaders, Heckewelder’s class loyalties are unshaken, as he chooses confidential channels to rebuke gentlemen for their perfidious and “pretended purpose” to incorporate American-friendly Indians into the republic. ¹¹ He avoids censuring gentlemen publicly, lest he open inroads for Jacksonians to malign gentleman rule and snap the discursive link that his publications make between the nation’s honor and the honor of its gentle leadership.
Heckewelder’s commitment to the ascendancy of white gentlemen is such that he repeatedly dissembled in order to advance the idea that gentlemen are naturally endowed to “assume their station above the rest.” ¹² He, for instance, was complicit in Henry Knox’s strategy to stall Ohio Indians in 1792 so a formidable American offensive could be mobilized against the Indian confederacy. Knowing the government’s strategy and its penchant for breaking Indian treaties, Heckewelder assured Ohio Indians that the President of the United States “loves” them and “will always speak the truth.” ¹³ Dissembling is also at the heart of his annals, which he admits in a letter to Caspar Wistar, telling the President of the American Philosophical Society that he dissembled to extract information from his Indian friends who spoke to him in confidence:
The sure way to obtain correct ideas, and a true knowledge of the characters, customs, manners, &c., of the Indians ... is to dwell among them for some time ... always watching for the proper opportunity, when they do not suspect your motives, and are disposed to be free and open with you. ¹⁴
In effect, the authentication of his expertise on American Indians normalizes deception as effective means to manage relations with Native populations. ¹⁵
Dissembling and dissimulation might seem out of place in discussions about a reputedly virtuous class, but, in fact, deception was an essential tool in a gentleman’s social repertoire, especially when it was justified in the interest of the common good. Indeed, as much as probity, fidelity, and honor distinguished the “true gentleman,” so too, says Steven Shapin, did a gentleman’s civic virtue often rest on his covert perspicacity and functionality as “a partly closed book.” ¹⁶ He could opt to dissimulate in order to rectify problems that threatened the public good or undermined his authority as its most honorable guardian. ¹⁷ In frontier history and fiction, a similar logic plays out when a gentleman disguises his class identity and interests on the frontier to foster a stable social order that privileges gentlemen and then, by unmasking himself as the agent of change, swipes from frontier populations all credit for having engineered improvement.
In the case of Heckewelder and his most famous literary disciple, James Fenimore Cooper, the frontier is not the domain of savages and rude underclasses but a ripe discursive space for American gentlemen to reinvent themselves as natural, honorable leaders of a democratic republic. With egalitarians attacking aristocratic ideologies and dissolving vertical social allegiances, gentlemen surveyed discursive spaces in which they could fortify their authority by (re)generating integral constructs of class as static social forms. One mode of operation permits a dissembling gentleman to appropriate for his own class the vanishing Indian’s natural nobility so as to reinforce the gentleman’s natural ascendancy and authority as the guardian of the common good.
Narratives of dissembling gentlemen are important to Cooper studies in a number of ways. Cooper himself dissembled to launch his literary career “in perfect secrecy” to offset risks that his literary venture posed to his family’s prominence, and his writings often feature genteel characters who go incognito to fortify the elite status and civic leadership of their class. ¹⁸ But here I attend to the marked turn that Cooper’s production of gentlemen takes in his third book, The Pioneers (1823), by importing, for the first time, Heckewelder’s Indians to assist dissembling gentlemen in authenticating a “natural aristocracy” in the early republic. I reappraise the Heckewelder-Cooper literary relationship by adjusting the focus from Cooper’s depiction of the friendship between Bumppo and Mohegan to the ways in which the novelist (re)makes American gentlemen from Heckewelderian spaces inhabited by Indians and frontier whites. In The Pioneers a young man of gentle lineage crosses into the cultural morass on the frontier and, disguised as a mixed-blood, befriends a Delaware sagamore and a frontiersman to plot his (re)emergence as a man of indisputable gentle status and high acclaim.
The characterization of John Mohegan, the sagamore “so noble by nature,” reveals the discursive imbrication of Indian leaders and noble white gentlemen (176). The first description of Mohegan likens him to a Noble Savage, having a “lofty, broad, and noble” forehead and walking with a “dignified and deliberate tread” (82). His silver Washington medallion is an honorable “badge of distinction” that adds to his proud and imposing mien (381). ¹⁹ The qualities for which he is lauded — compassion (84), fairness (148), sagacity (287), eloquence (383), fortitude (384), probity (400), and loyalty (421) — echo the virtues Heckewelder ascribes to the “genuine Indian” whose “original character [was] stamped ... upon [him] by nature.” ²⁰ Also similar to Heckewelder, Cooper’s praise for the Indian’s virtues serves a greater purpose to underwrite the distinctive qualities of “a particular class among the whites [that] deserves to be distinguished” (188), the “noble and great” gentlemen of the republic (329). This is not to say, however, that Mohegan is purely a “genuine Indian,” for Cooper paints him as the “much degenerated” sort we see in Heckewelder’s History (xxiii). Having lost contact with his Moravian teachers decades ago, Mohegan has been corrupted by a “long association with the white men” and is now a roiled “mixture of the civilized and savage states [with] a strong preponderance [for] the latter” (81). ²¹
Nonetheless, when Chingachgook does exude noble qualities, he does so by demonstrating loyalty to white gentry, namely the Effinghams. For example, he strides through Temple’s stately home to take care of the injured “Oliver Edwards,” whom he knows to be Edward Effingham in disguise and to whom his allegiances are firmly attached (78). He secretly serves the disguised inheritor of the Effingham estate as an obligation to the family’s patriarch, who decades earlier had rescued him from an Iroquois execution. For this valiant act, the “old gentleman” and his progeny are the objects of Mohegan’s loyalties (432), and the sagamore agrees to hide him until Edward is ready to reveal his genteel identity and reclaim portions of Temple’s vast estate.
By the end of the book, Cooper’s white gentry have appropriated Mohegan’s honor and nobility for their own benefit and, by doing so, undergird the construction of an American “natural aristocracy.” Exemplifying “the invincible resignation of an Indian chief,” the Indian dies with his eyes fixed on former Lenape homelands, which the novel is eager to transfer to the young gentry couple (391). Burying the warrior beside his “old master” of exemplary “honor” is not a gesture of equality but a testimony to the Indian’s subordination to the gentleman, permanently textualized on tombstones (29, 421). ²² Effingham’s lengthy epitaph makes no mention whatsoever of the Indian but fills considerable space commending Bumppo as a “faithful, and upright friend and attendant” (431). The sagamore’s brief inscription dwells on his “several [English] names” and his distinction as “the last of his people” (431). That “his faults were those of an Indian and his virtues those of a man” inscribes in stone the gentry’s valuation of Chingachgook’s honorable qualities in “civilized” terms (431). Bumppo then seals the appropriation by recounting the Indian’s loyalty to the valiant “old gentleman who sleeps by his side” (432); that Chingachgook lived to be the last of the Mohicans is the result of the white gentleman’s valor and nobility, not the Indian’s.
Mohegan’s death also opens discursive room for Cooper to finalize the novel’s commitment to the gentry’s natural honor and nobility. Just moments after Mohegan dies, Edward announces “[t]he moment of concealment is over” (404). Ready to shed his disguise as a “white Indian,” Effingham wants “to emerge again from his obscurity into his proper level in society” and claim his rightful place among the gentry (378). ²³ Cooper has prepared readers for the revelation by glimpsing Edward’s distinguishing qualities through his guise, heralding the natural correspondence between the Noble Savage and white gentlemen by deeming Edward a “genteel savage” (204) and directing readers to traces of nobility, sagacity, and eloquence in Edward’s physiognomy and manner that make him “vastly superior” (22). ²⁴ His stay with the Temples washes transparent his rough exterior with the “chosen language” of his speech and “the thousand little courtesies of polished life [and] gentleness” in his demeanor, peaking with Elizabeth’s assessment of him as a “gentleman” (105, 289).
Distinguishing Effingham from whites of various social stations is yet another discursive vehicle that credits him with social eminence. First, unlike Leatherstocking, Edward emerges from muddled cross-cultural frontiers fully capable of shedding Indian ways and prospering among “civilized” people. ²⁵ While Natty is irreversibly “formed for the wilderness” and separates himself from civilization, saying its ways and his are incompatible and incommutable (434), Edward garners from the frontier a comprehensive knowledge of cross-cultural relations that equips him to preside over subalterns and the progressive “march of the nation across the continent” (436). ²⁶
Second, The Pioneers distinguishes a “natural aristocracy” from the “artificial” sort, the latter of which is represented in Richard Jones. ²⁷ By rebuffing Jones’s social aspirations and strident assertions of privilege, Cooper stratifies Templeton’s upper classes and delimits social spaces for the Temples and Effinghams. The Pioneers impugns Jones’s morality and exposes his pursuit of a personal agenda, seeing that Bumppo’s lesson about the “wicked [and] wasty manner” of Templeton is “utterly lost” on Jones and his greedy cohorts (236-37). As Effingham leaves the frontier with his nobility and civic virtue intact, The Pioneers discredits Jones for denigrating Edward and thinking he gains authority and social mobility for every degree of degradation that Edward suffers.
Separating the gentle-born Effingham from men who enjoy social and legal power but lack the ancestral prestige and morality to serve the public good is indeed a principal interest of The Pioneers and one that calls for a little dissembling itself. The Pioneers pronounces aversion for certain attitudes about race and class but ultimately works to embrace those attitudes. When, for example, the sheriff and reverend condemn “Oliver Edwards” as a “half-breed” (192), the Temples do not deign to the racist perspectives that Cooper locates in the white classes clawing for social and political power. ²⁸ At the same time, however, while Temple says that Oliver Edwards’ apparent nobility comes to him through the blood of a “renowned chieftain,” The Pioneers replaces this logic with another (205). ²⁹ After all, it is Effingham’s noble white ancestry — not his rumored Indian blood or adoption by a sagamore — on which his elite status and rich inheritance are based.
Finally, despite the changes in fortune that some characters undergo, The Pioneers is committed to a static social order that obstructs upward mobility. Changes in social status are feigned in the tale but not delivered. The Pioneers ostensibly refutes Jones’s claim that “it takes three generations to make a gentleman” (195), an old adage that Temple blasts with American republican exceptionalism, saying “here all are equal who know how to conduct themselves with propriety” (196). I say he “ostensibly” refutes the adage because ultimately the book advocates it — albeit quietly — by scripting the transference of a gentle-class identity to a third-generation gentleman in the person of Edward Effingham. One could also argue that The Pioneers enacts a tremendous change by elevating Edward, but Cooper’s plan to have Effingham “emerge again from his obscurity into his proper level” is more restorative than transformative. The simulation of upward mobility plays well into early nineteenth-century ideologies espousing democratic meritocracy, but really the purported “sudden elevation” of Effingham is not so sudden but plotted, and it serves the novel’s greater commitment to producing a fixed social order that figures the eminence of American gentlemen as a natural relation.
Genteel writers deployed chameleonic gentlemen to the frontier to chisel out gradations of virtue and civility that delimited boundaries between the gentry and underclasses and, in turn, modelled a “national character” on the gentleman’s exemplary moral authority, prudent leadership, and disinterested devotion to the common good. ³⁰ Exalting the (re)emerging gentleman for his intrinsic civic virtue cemented the gentry’s rightful place above self-interested upstarts and stanched the upward mobility of unprincipled underlings who, if left to their devices, would corrupt the republic’s genteel leadership as they had contributed to the degeneration of America’s noble men of nature. Heckewelder and Cooper prod American gentlemen to restore their noble and natural station, or else they, like the Indians, risk treading an irreversible course towards extinction at the hands of egalitarians. Rather than admit a democratic politics, The Pioneers narrows the gentle classes and thwarts the manufacture of new gentlemen, for no one rises through the ranks. The implications are clear: while Cooper gestures to the idea that gentlemen are made, his tale really works toward the converse-gentlemen are born.
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- Heckewelder, John, “Address to the Delaware, October 5, 1792.” American State Papers, Class II, Indian Affairs, Volume I. Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832. Buffalo: William S. Hein & Company, 1998. 319-320.
- ------, History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States . 1819. New York: Arno, 1971.
- ------, “Important Letter from Bethlehem, Penn., 16 Nov 1818.” Christian Disciple 6.12 (Dec 1818): 378-80.
- ------, John Heckewelder to Caspar Wistar, November 1817. History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States . 1819. Rpt. New York: Arno, 1971. xvii-xviii.
- ------, John Heckewelder to Col. Brodhead, 26 Feb. 1781. Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779-1781. Vol. 24. Ed. Louise Phelps Kellogg. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1917. 337-39.
- ------, John Hackenwelder [ sic] to Col. Brodhead, 30 June 1779. Pennsylvania Archives. Ed. Samuel Hazard. Philadelphia: Joseph Severns, 1852. Series I, VII. 526.
- ------, John Heckewelder to John Christian Alexander Deschweinitz, 21 September 1786. The Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland. MSS 4095. Folder 2.
- ------, John Heckewelder to Roberts Vaux, 25 January 1820. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia. Box 275.1, Folder 92.
- ------, Summary of Facts Relative to the Indian Missions: Sketch of a Report to be laid before the President of the United States, by the president & Director of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen, with a copy of Dav. Zeisberger’s Delaware Spelling Book, first Edition, & printed at Philadelphia in the year 1778. 1822. Moravian Church Archives. Bethlehem. Box 215, Folder 1.
- Jefferson, Thomas, Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, October 28, 1813. Thomas Jefferson: Writings. Ed. Merrill D. Peterson. New York: Library of America, 1984. 1304-1310.
- Mann, Barbara A., Forbidden Ground: Racial Politics and Hidden Identity in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertation Services, 1997.
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- Peprnik, Michal, “Moravian Origins of J. F. Cooper’s Indians.” James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers 22 (February 2006): 1-9.
- Rawle, William, “A Vindication of the Rev. Mr. Heckewelder’s History of the Indian nations.” Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania I.I (1826): 258-75.
- Shapin, Steven, The Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994, 106.
- Slotkin, Richard, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1973.
- Steele, Ian K., “Cooper and Clio: The Sources for ‘A Narrative of 1757.’” Canadian Association for American Studies 20.3 (1989): 121-35.
- Stockton, Edwin L., Jr. The Influence of The Moravians Upon the Leatherstocking Tales. Dissertation. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1960.
- Vanderbeets, Richard, “Cooper and the ‘Semblance of Reality’: A Source for The Deerslayer.” American Literature 42.4 (Jan. 1971): 544-46.
- Wallace, Paul A.W., “Cooper’s Indians.” James Fenimore Cooper: A Reappraisal. Ed. Mary E. Cunningham. Cooperstown: New York State Historical, 1954. 55-78.
- ------, “John Heckewelder’s Indians and the Fenimore Cooper Tradition.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 96.4 (1952): 496-504.
- Weslager, C[linton] A[lfred], The Delaware Indians; A History. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972.
1. See the often-studied links between Heckewelder’s Indians and those Indians who populated James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, many of which I date here for a frame of reference: Cass (1826); Rawle (1826); Muszynska-Wallace (1949); Paul A.W. Wallace (1954); Parker (1954); Stockton (1960); Vanderbeets (1971); Slotkin (1973); Berkhofer (1979); Blakemore (1984); Steele (1989); Mann (1997); Peprnik (2006).
2. John Heckewelder, History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations xl.
3. History xxxix-xl.
4. Rawle 258.
5. This quotation is from John Heckewelder to Colonel Brodhead, 26 Feb. 1781. In his frequent correspondence with Brodhead, Heckewelder was often enthusiastic about war, telling the colonel, for example, that “no peace can be made without a Campaign” against the Indians (Heckewelder to Brodhead, 30 June 1779). In this same letter, Heckewelder tells Brodhead that American forces can severely cripple Ohio Indians by hitting them before they could harvest and store corn crops, saying that “if the Campaign is not carried on before the Corn is ripe and out of the way it then will be of little service.” Thus informed by Heckewelder, Brodhead launched a pre-emptive assault on Goschocking, executing Indian residents and burning the village to the ground (Weslager 314). And, as a prelude to what would happen the next year at Gnadenhutten, the commander moved on to Lichtenau and razed the mission town. Brodhead’s expedition against the Delaware capital had unanticipated results; rather than stanch a British-Native alliance, the attacks rallied more Ohio Indians to the British side and left the Moravian mission at Lichtenau trampled by American “friends.”
6. “Important Letter from Bethlehem, Penn., 16 Nov 1818,” 378.
7. History xxiii, xxiv, xl.
8. History xl, 268, 332. Heckewelder’s statement about being “intimately acquainted with [the] men of nature” describes their condition as one “uncorrupted by European vices” (xl). These are the “genuine Indians” Heckewelder refers to in his Indian histories and ethnographies.
9. John Heckewelder to John Christian Alexander Deschweinitz, 21 September 1786.
10. Heckewelder, Summary 17.
11. John Heckewelder to Roberts Vaux, 25 Jan 1820.
12. History 269.
13. Heckewelder, “Address to the Delaware, October 5, 1792,” 319-320.
14. Dated November 1817, the letter is printed in History, xvii-xviii. Caspar Wistar was the President of the American Philosophical Society (APS) when Heckewelder began to compose his histories of Ohio Indians and missions. In a series of letters to Heckewelder in 1816, Wistar encouraged the Moravian and fellow APS member to record his observations of Ohio Indians into a publishable form. By the time the manuscript was ready for the press, Wistar had died, and Heckewelder decided to dedicate the History, Manner and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States, was originally featured in the first volume of Transactions of the Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society (1818). Seeing that this volume was well-received, Heckewelder then decided to reissue the same work in 1819 under the slightly different title History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States (1819). Much of the correspondence among Heckewelder, Wistar, and Stephen Du Ponceau — another APS member and Indian language enthusiast — is collected in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s 1876 reprinted edition of Heckewelder’s History. A more complete record of their correspondence is accessible in the archives of the American Philosophical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia, PA.
15. Related to Heckewelder’s guilt is the idea that the prefatory material moves to rationalize any suffering of conscience he might feel for breaking trust with the Indians, suggesting that he did so as a benevolent and valiant act to preserve in print the history of a noble and vanishing people.
16. Shapin 106.
17. Shapin 75-81, 105-106.
18. In his June 12, 1820 letter to his publisher Andrew Thompson Goodrich, Cooper demands that Goodrich keep his project “in perfect secrecy.” Cooper continues with the same request in a number of letters to Goodrich as Precaution is edited and printed. See other Cooper writings in which gentlemen dissemble in order to foster and direct circumstances that promote gentle leadership, e.g. Precaution, The Spy, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pilot, Lionel Lincoln, Notions of the Americans, and The American Democrat.
19. In Chingachgook there remain some traces of his natural dignity and grace. Cooper notes, for example, that while the fire continues its desolation of the forest, Chingachgook “retain[ed] his seat with Indian dignity and composure” (389).
20. History xl, 332. Heckewelder’s forty-four chapter ethnographical History argues against the whites’ stereotypes of treacherous, blood-thirsty savages born to kill and terrorize Euramerican settlers. The “genuine Indians” who grace the pages of Heckewelder’s volumes are generous, affectionate, witty, and civil (History 101-104). They routinely express gratitude and exhibit “high-mindedness [and] a great sense of honour” in their dealings with others (172, 281). Far from factious, disagreeable, and truculent, the Lenape “are peaceable, sociable, obliging, charitable and hospitable [,] virtues [that] are, as it were, part of their nature” (330). The eloquent, hospitable, brave, and loyal Indians in his History and Narrative are not principally constructed to defend environmental theories, as Thomas Jefferson’s are, but spring from the communal ethic — one that looks quite similar to the Moravian communal economy — from which social and economic relations develop in a state of nature.
21. Mohegan’s vulnerability to liquor has decimated his sagacity into knots of “confused faculties” (81), and he has become prone to feelings of “self-abasement” (193), visitations of malice and vengeance (133), “expression[s] of wild resentment” (133, 158, 381), and backsliding into paganism (401).
22. The Pioneers also commends Major Effingham for his “loyalty,” “chivalrous independence,” and “patriotic disinterestedness” (29).
23. The fact that The Pioneers says this about the Frenchman Mr. Le Quoi and does nothing else with the character strongly suggests that (re)making gentlemen out of obscure pasts is not an incidental interest of the book but a central one that Cooper wants to bolster with multiple examples. The most prominent example is, of course, that of Edward Effingham. As early as Chapter II, the book shows its interest in the gentry’s concern with social mobility — both upward and downward — with narratives about Marmaduke Temple’s ancestry and the Effinghams. Both families had endured a period when members had fallen and were eager to “beg[i]n to reascend in the scale of society” (28).
24. Cooper writes of Edward incognito: “Nothing could have wrought a greater transformation than the single act of removing the rough foxskin cap. If there was much that was prepossessing in the countenance of the young hunter, there was something even noble in the rounded outlines of his head and brow. The very air and manner with which the member haughtily maintained itself over the coarse and even wild attire in which the rest of his frame was clad, bespoke not only familiarity with a splendor that in those new settlements was thought to be unequaled, but something very like contempt also” (63). Placing this description of Edward in close proximity to testimonies about Elizabeth’s “womanly dignity” and her “soft, benevolent, and attractive” person presages the union of this “dazzling” beauty of exemplary “female grace” to the young man whose appearance “rendered him entirely distinct from the busy group” (62-64). Edward’s character follows the temper of the genteel “air and manner” that his person recommends to Templeton’s elite family, particularly in the gracious way that he takes the injury from the Judge’s gun and the heroism he exhibits to save Temple’s passengers in a sleigh accident.
25. Whereas Natty flees the white “civilization” that inevitably “dr[ives] the knowing things out of the country” (369) and brings its “wasty manner[s]” to the wilderness (236), Edward Effingham functions equally well in the wilderness and in civilization by retaining his moral convictions and gentleman principles in both locales.
26. Leatherstocking articulates the incompatible ways of frontier and “civilized” populations: “I crave to go into the woods ag’in ... your ways isn’t my ways ... I’m formed for the wilderness ... let me go where my soul craves to be ag’in” (433-34). Cooper’s narrative voice explains that Leatherstocking possesses a limited understanding of his constitution and is unwittingly more like an Indian than he knows: “The Leatherstocking ... had imbibed, unconsciously, many of the Indian qualities, though he always thought of himself as a civilized being” (432). So too does Leatherstocking mistakenly put his wit and wisdom on par with Effingham’s. The young gentleman is well aware that Indian manners govern Leatherstocking permanently, and he must educate his bride about these matters when Natty firmly refuses her pleadings that he live out his remaining years in the comfort of civilization: “Words are of no avail [to Bumppo] ... the habits of forty years are not to be dispossessed by the ties of a day! I know you too well to urge you further, Natty” (434).
27. John Adams writes about the “natural Aristocracy” in his September 2, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson, a class to which he ascribes “Beauty[,] Wealth, Birth, Genius, and Virtue.” See also Thomas Jefferson’s response penned on October 28, 1813, 1304-1310. Also, see Query XIXI of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia.
28. Sheriff Jones and the Reverend Grant cite “the natural reluctance of half-breed[s] to leave the savage state” and the idea that their “attachment to a wandering life is ... unconquerable” (192). See also pages 136 and 207 of The Pioneers where there are testimonies about the ineradicable depravity that accompanies any drop of Indian blood. Reverend Grant explains, “neither the refinement s of education, nor the advantages of our excellent history, have been able to entirely eradicate the evil” of Indian blood (136). Richard Jones later recommends the same, saying about Oliver Edwards, “It is not at all remarkable — a half-breed can never be weaned from the savage ways — and for one of his lineage, the boy is much nearer civilization than could, in reason, be expected” (207).
29. Judge Temple reckons Jones “so scanty a provision of gentility” for precluding those who “conduct themselves with propriety” (195-196). So too does Temple allow for the possibility that good character and conduct can come from any class or race.
30. See Cooper’s political writings, in which he substantiates his view that the American republic requires the leadership of a gentle class. In Notions of the Americans, for example, Cooper credits gentlemen with the “common sense [which is] the sovereign guide of the public will,” saying that gentlemen have the exclusive ability to sift “the fine and precious grains of truth” from “the tossings and agitations of the public opinion” (70, 71). Also, in The American Democrat he continues his case, saying “the social duties of an American gentleman, in particular, require of him a tone of feeling and a line of conduct that are of the last importance to the country. One of his first obligations is to be a guardian of the liberties of his fellow citizens. ... They who do not see and feel the importance of possessing a class of such men in a community, to give it tone, a high and far sighted policy, and lofty views in general, can know little of history, and have not reflected on the inevitable consequences of admitted causes” (426).