One of History’s Most Successful Aggressor Nations

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

The United States is one of history’s most successful aggressor nations:

We conquered almost the entirety of continental United States through a series of small but undeniably aggressive wars against the Indians who were in possession. We also made a serious but unsuccessful effort to conquered Canada in 1812. Much of the Southwest was originally taken from the Mexicans who were in occupation by two wars, one by the Texans and then, when we annexed Texas, by us. There were still many Indian tribes who did not recognize Mexican sovereignty or our sovereignty when we replaced them. The wars with Geronimo in that area were among our most difficult aggressive wars. We of course bought Florida from Spain, but only after making it clear we would compel an exit by force if they decided not to take our money.

Let us consider first the Indians. It should be said that in many cases there were European powers who claimed parts of the future United States, and they were either were forced to “cede” those parts by war, or sold them to us, but in most cases north of Mexico the area was actually controlled by Indian tribes and the European sovereignty was more or less theoretical. Until our armies had driven out the Indians it is very hard to argue that these areas were actually in our possession.

Let me begin at the very beginning with the settlement of the English colonies. Beginning with the settlements in Virginia and those in New England, colonists had gradually build up a thin layer of essentially European civilization along the Atlantic Coast of what would eventually become the United States. This colonization had proceeded by simply seizing land, sometimes compensating the Indians already there and sometimes fighting wars with them. In general apparently no one ever really considered their rights in the matter. In these areas colonial powers issued charters to their colonists that rather assumed that they had a right to do this. Locke, for example, drew up a charter for the Carolinas in which people’s ownership of land came from their farming it. He paid no attention whatsoever to the natives already there.

But it should be said that the native tribes were not absolutely peaceful. Indeed small groups of Indians tended to raid outlying white settlements. This would continue to be true almost up to the 20th century. Indeed there was one raid in which Indians attacked a federal court in the late 1980s. In what the Europeans call the seven years war and we called the French and Indian war the two major powers in the North American continent, France and England, attempted to involve the Indian tribes in their war. There were raids from some tribes on the English colonies and English entered into treaties with some of these tribes under which they would protect our colonies in return for a guarantee of their keeping’s existing tribal lands. It was this guarantee that prevented or impeded the westward push on the colonists and they objected to it.


It should be said that the Indians in general lived by hunting and gathering and required a great deal of land to support individual families and tribes. Efforts were made, particularly in the Louisiana Purchase to get them to farm the land but this was in general unsuccessful. Thus land that might support 20,000 settlers was occupied by perhaps only 500 Indians. Purchase of the land was difficult because the Indians had no clear-cut tribal or family ownership. The individual tribes were in almost continuous minor wars with each other and hence purchase of land from one would not extinguish the claim of another. Nevertheless, with rare exceptions, we and the other “European” claimants simply ignored Indian rights and issued charters to settlers or in Mexico, conquistadors.

It is interesting that with the occupation of the entire United States by Americans we stopped engaging in wars of conquest.


  1. T. Greer says:

    “It should be said that the Indians in general lived by hunting and gathering and required a great deal of land to support individual families and tribe….Thus land that might support 20,000 settlers was occupied by perhaps only 500 Indians”

    This really isn’t true. Almost every tribe east of the Mississippi were agriculturalists, and this was most common in the Southwest as well. California and the Oregon coast were settled by hunter-gatherers, but are far, far greater population densities than this suggests. They are famous actually for having the highest population densities of HG societies in recorded history. That lives the Great Basin, where HG was practiced and population density was low, as said. The Great Plains is its oqn category. Plenty of tribes were still farming at the time Americans came over, though all the ones who caused the American government problems lived off of Buffalo herds. Really they were pastoralists, eating buffalo but building empires one horse pasture at a time. The closest analogue for their federations were the Turkic and Mongol groups on the Eurasian plain. It was a pity the plains ecosystem could not support both the buffalo herds and the horse herds at the same time. The Comanche, Lakota, etc. pastured themselves into extinction. Not that farming would have made them any better off on the long term. It only took American settlers one generation–and one great big dustbowl–to discover what happens when you try to put 20,000 people on the prairie sod that used to support just 500.

  2. Isegoria says:

    My understanding is that many of the native tribes reverted to hunting and gathering after European diseases disrupted their more advanced agrarian ways. A plague that wipes out 90 percent of your society might do that.

    Also, the plains Indians seem more proto-pastoralists than true herders, since they were still hunting wild bison, right? It’s amazing how little time it took for them to adopt abandoned Spanish horses though.

  3. Grurray says:

    Tomatoes and potatoes were prominent western hemisphere crops that were brought to Europe and almost immediately had a big impact on their population. The biggest crop was maize. When it was introduced to Africa by the Portuguese the population there exploded.

    The Caddo were an agrarian tribe in east Texas and Arkansas. They were known for their unique architecture and tall homes. Their numbers were hit pretty hard after de Soto arrived.

    The biggest pre-Columbian settlement was probably the Mississippian tribes near St. Louis that we now call Cahokia. By the 13th century it was one of the largest urban areas in the world. They grew corn and beans which is what’s still grown there today. They built huge earthen pyramids that were among the largest in the world. By 1500, before any European contact, they were completely gone.

  4. Rollory says:

    The quoted article is taking for granted certain things that aren’t strictly true. I actually agree with the basic premise, that the USA was created by conquest, but some of the points he tries to use to support it aren’t valid at all.

    Texas: the Texans were *invited* into Texas by Mexico, because they needed somebody on the land to act as a buffer against the Comanches. They were considered expendable by the Mexican government, and very quickly noticed that. The Texan rebellion was the most reasonable and natural thing in the world; any population in that situation would have been inclined to the same thing.

    The Mexican war: this was absolutely a war of aggression, but it was a war of aggression by Mexico against the USA. The various letters and communications between the American ambassador in Mexico City, the Mexican government, the Texan government, and Washington DC are absolutely fascinating reading and make it completely clear that Mexico was spoiling for a fight and finally got one. Polk and Slidell (the ambassador) went to quite a lot of effort to try to avoid war. Mexico was simply not willing to admit that Texas had actually beaten them and that they didn’t control it anymore. American troops in Mexico City was pretty much the only way to reconcile them to it.

    The Indians: there’s been plenty written about the perfidy with which the settlers treated the tribes. One should also mention the astonishing forbearance with which the government treated them. The Comanches are an excellent example: for 40 years, they were slaughtering and raping and torturing and kidnapping settlers all across modern-day northwest Texas and Oklahoma, and it wasn’t until William Tecumseh Sherman personally escaped being the victim of one such raid by a narrow margin that the government decided enough was enough and to start systematically destroying Comanches instead of trying to be nice to them. (The mass slaughter of the buffalo was part of this: it was a deliberate policy, implemented at that point in time, as a way of cutting Comanche society off at the knees.) The settlers’ policy was absolutely aggressive. The government’s was not.

  5. Felix says:

    In reference to “native tribes reverted to hunting and gathering”, one wonders whether the 90% who were killed by diseases were skewed toward the farmers. Like perhaps the people who survived had been the hunters and for whatever reason were not hit so hard by the plagues.

  6. Adar says:

    “The Comanches are an excellent example: for 40 years, they were slaughtering and raping and torturing and kidnapping settlers all across modern-day northwest Texas and Oklahoma”

    Yearly raids into Mexico on a monumental scale. The Comanche war trail into Mexico was about a mile wide and 1,000 miles long. For the better part of two centuries these raids done to acquire livestock and slaves. Comanche big into slavery. Those expeditions of Kit Carson in 1864 in actuality a part of the American Civil War? Stopping slavery in American territory and cross-border raids.

  7. Morris says:

    American second to the Imperial Russian.

    One military expedition of the Cossack Yermak the son of Timothy used as a basis for the Czar laying claim to all of Siberia from the Urals to the Pacific. That is 6,000 miles of some of the most resource valuable land on the planet.

  8. coyote says:

    has any dna testing of the mandans been done to reveal any european dna? kennewick man was caucasian. this fact, and others reveal that european and asian contact was ongoing for centuries before the supposed first contacts of columbus et al. it is quite likely the mound builders (and others) succumbed to outsider diseases long before the western expansion in north american white populations. the horse warriors, in particular the comanche, probably could have won their war against the white euros if they were’t so intensely tribal as to kill other native tribes as well. no allies. sitting bulls famous gathering a lone and too late exception.

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