Book Review: Akhil Reed Amar and the Words That Made “Us” – Just Not All of Us.

Reviewed: The Words that Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, by Akhil Reed Amar, 832 pp. Basic Books.

I have long been a big fan of Akhil Reed Amar, who holds the position of Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. His work on the Constitution – especially his brilliant The American Constitution: a Biography – is quite revelatory, especially for amateur Constitutional historians like me. So I am sorely grieved to say here that his newest book (of which Amar plans to make a trilogy), The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, is crippled – perhaps fatally crippled – by the utter disregard for the impact American Indians had on this Constitutional conversation. Indians traditionally tend to be overlooked or marginalized in conversations like these, but in this case, Amar’s snub borders on criminal negligence.

The True Blue Federalist blog has been dedicated to exposing neo-Confederate myths and Lost Cause nonsense, so it may seem odd that it now is delving into issues around American Indian Law. But the American Civil War of the 1860s was all about self-government – about the nature of American federalism, who has the right to rule, and what popular sovereignty means. We are so used of thinking of this issue as a dichotomy – as a binary situation – that we forget there is a third sovereign within the American Constitution: the American Indian nations and confederations of tribes that negotiated with the United States to be so recognized. This important aspect of American Constitutionalism is utterly neglected in this book. And this has potentially dangerous implications for Indigenous Americans.


Professor Amar has expressed his hope that this work will rank with scholars like George Bancroft as seminal works of American Constitutional history. Well, if Amar were writing in the 1950s, his position would be a mortal lock. Sadly, we live in the 2020s, and so this book turns out to be a crushingly old-fashioned disappointment. This is because Prof. Amar’s view of the Constitution (and American history in general) hasn’t progressed much from the 1950s when it comes to dealing effectively with non-Euro Americans. Yes, Amar does address slavery’s role in the Constitution reasonably well. But when it comes to addressing Indigenous Americans, this book might just as well have been written by Samuel Eliot Morison.

There’s really no reason for this. We live in a world where scholars like Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota), Colin Calloway and Alan Taylor (among many, many others) have shown conclusively that Natives – and the desire for Native lands – have shaped this country in profound, even Constitutional ways that simply cannot be ignored.

The book starts off with an interesting premise. Amar structures it as a set of “conversations” between various English-turned-Americans colonists about the nature of power and popular government. This is a compelling viewpoint that explains much. For example, his argument that Jefferson didn’t so much draft the Declaration of Independence as compile the ideas and statements made by hundreds of resolutions posted from the town hall meetings of average Americans all over the colonies in the spring of 1776. Distilling those ideas and crafting the language, rather than conceiving of the ideas, is what we should recognize in Jefferson.

These “conversations” – ideas tossed about, argued, and debated in various, published papers, pamphlets and broadsides, newspaper articles, personal letters and, later, Supreme Court decisions – are the crux of the book. The basic idea is that Americans participated in these debates and discussions, or read about them and approved. Through this grand conversation, then, comes the idea that the American Constitution was really a group project, created over time by the unique genius of We, the People. American Exceptionalism fairly gushes from these pages as from a busted fire plug.

It’s really impossible to miss that these conversations on the nature of the Constitution are ideas argued to-and-fro between The Great Men of American History, which is exactly the kind of history we are rightfully suspicious of these days. Amar tries to mitigate this by stating that these ideas were actually the product of the American People, merely expressed through these great men. This conceit gets harder to maintain as the book goes on.

One of the problems with this old-fashioned way of writing history is that certain groups of Americans are not heard from. Amar is quick to account for this – he sincerely doesn’t want to write a book with zero female voices, zero Black voices, and zero Native voices. It’s just that, Amar says regretfully, in the time period under discussion, women, Blacks, and Indians did not participate in these “conversations,” and so Amar simply shrugs his shoulders and ignores them. (Amar states in the book’s long recapitulation that there will be plenty of female and black voices in the second book of this planned trilogy, The Words That Made Us Equal.)

It is this shrug that represents the most egregious flaw of Amar’s great tome: the influence of Natives on the larger American conversation in general, and the Constitution in particular. Because even if Indians weren’t involved in any written discussion with James Otis, or John Adams, or Thomas Jefferson, or “Publius”, they still had a profound, enduring impact on the Constitutional conversation. Any discussion of this impact is simply absent or explained away.

I call this flaw fatal because the fact is that Indians are explicitly discussed in the Constitution (compared to women and Black people who are not mentioned in the Constitution at all until after the Civil War), and Amar never, ever takes stock of what this means. Like, ever. He simply maintains that since Indians did not write letters, disseminate their ideas via the printing press and newspapers, or draft state papers, that they simply had no role in these Constitutional conversations. This bland, out-of-hand negation of Native people and their role in creating this country is astounding coming from such a celebrated legal mind. It represents a puzzling lack of imagination.

It seems clear to me that Prof. Amar simply does not really understand the breadth, depth, or import of Federal Indian Law. There can be no other excuse for this gross misrepresentation of Constitutional history. But the advantage for Amar is that, because of his opinion that Indians aren’t part of “Us,” he can instead assign them the role that they have played for many generations of older historians: they are simply an unfortunate complication in the nice, neat narrative of American Exceptionalism. To many of the white male historians of the past, Indians are just in the way, something to be got through, to be heroically struggled against, to be relegated to the margins, so the larger, more uplifting story of America can be told. What happened to the Indians was regrettable, at times even reprehensible; but let that not get in the way of how exceptionally Great this American Conversation was.

And Amar’s Great American Conversation is great, there’s no doubt. But he spends a maddening amount of time on trivial incidents and court cases that explicate small examples of aspects of the Constitution Amar insists are really important. He spends more words on the symbolism he finds in the extraordinary coincidence of Adams’ and Jefferson’s twin deaths on July 4, 1826 than he spends on Cherokee removal. There is an air of “O the cleverness of me!” to these explanations which is merely annoying. (Amar might have learned from Lincoln that the crux or “nub” of an issue is more important than extraneous details when arguing a case.) But what is infinitely worse is that the space wasted on “Old Adams” could have been used to explain the greatest anomaly in the U.S. Constitution: Native Sovereignty. And indeed, that subject, that idea, demands a great Constitutional scholar to expound upon.

Indian Sovereignty and the Constitution

Native people had a profound effect on the European colonies, through trade, diplomacy, warfare, and captive-taking. While the romantic notion that the Iroquois Constitution (aka The Great Law of Peace) was somehow a model for the Philadelphia document has long been proved a canard, the fact is that powerful Native nations compelled Britain, France, and later the United States to treat with them diplomatically. To treat – to negotiate and deal with as equals. Countries do not treat with individuals; rather, they treat with sovereign nations. When France, Britain, and the U.S. negotiated treaties with Native nations, they were effectively recognizing those nations as sovereign.

This is the key concept: sovereignty. It essentially means the right to rule. In the Anglo-American tradition of popular sovereignty, it means that We, the People are sovereign – we have the right to rule, and we vest that sovereignty in a government that represents us. Amar tries to dismiss the idea of Indian sovereignty with a single phrase: that it wasn’t true “full-blown Westphalian sovereignty” (as was the Euroamerican tradition handed down from the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648). Setting aside this little piece of ethnocentrism for a moment, it is worth a quick look at Indian sovereignty, because while it might indeed be a little bit different from European understandings, and tends to be subtly different with each Native nation, it is still sovereignty.

Broadly, Indian sovereignty means We, the People are sovereign – we have the right to rule ourselves in accordance with our understanding of the Creator’s wishes. Native people had (and continue to have) a sophisticated understanding of sovereignty. And the overarching point here is that that sovereignty was recognized by the United States. Did that sovereignty get diminished by interaction with the United States? Sure. But then again, so did the states themselves in the ratification process of Article VII, as Amar never tires of pointing out.

Indians began to assert themselves into this Constitutional conversation from the beginning. Perhaps the first big event is the Royal Proclamation of 1763, where the King of England forbade his American subjects from crossing the crest of the Appalachian Mountain and “molesting” the Natives there. The Proclamation refers to “dominion,” and hints that Native people are under his protection – so limiting their sovereignty (as far as Great Britain was concerned) – but nevertheless recognizing that sovereignty.

This is a crucial moment, not just Constitutionally but historically. The speculation of Native land by colonists, especially Virginians, after the French and Indian War was practically an obsession for certain groups of Americans, starting with wealthy plantation owners and poor landless whites. Indeed, Alan Taylor has showed how these two rival groups were compelled into impatient partnership by incompetent and slow British land agents, who were responsible for extinguishing the Native title to that land and making it available to colonists.

Amar even has the nerve to portray a young George Washington as a simple “surveyor.” That was what I was taught as a child in the 1960s – a surveyor. My, how nice and neutral! Who could object to a mere surveyor? But that won’t scour today, not with what we know about the eighteenth-century role of these surveyors in the backcountry and how they were regarded by the Indians. In fact, as Colin Calloway points out, if caught by Native people with their equipment for measuring the land, American surveyors were often brutally murdered. Indians understood that measuring the land by surveying was actually a mechanism for despoiling them of their land, and they would not stand for it. Washington’s stint as a surveyor was exactly that of a hired gun to help Virginia grandees acquire valuable backcountry land from the Indians (and scope out speculative ventures of his own). Surveyors were the vanguard of settler-colonialism.

We know that this issue of land speculation contributed to the “constitutional conversation” because this land is mentioned, directly or obliquely, in the Declaration of Independence three times; and Indians themselves explicitly mentioned once in the infamous “merciless Indian savages” line Jefferson crafted. While the Quebec Act was intended by Parliament to simply deal effectively with governing Canada, the colonists saw the expansion of Quebec’s border to the north shore of the Ohio River as a grave threat to their speculative practices. Jefferson disguised this land motive with protests of “Self-government!” but this does not fool us today.

But what about the Constitution itself? The document explicitly mentions “Indians” by name in Article I, Section 2 (the “Indians not taxed” in the Three-Fifths clause), and in Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes” (the Indian Commerce clause). If we are to read the Constitution holistically as Prof. Amar insists in his American Constitution: a Biography, as I agree we should, then we must read this clause closely, and take in this context. The Framers listed three entities back-to-back-to-back – foreign governments, the states, and Indian nations. The first two are obviously sovereign; so the context strongly implies that the document considered Indian nations sovereign.

(This, incidentally, is why we still use the word “Indian” even though some tell us it is not politically correct. Indian is used in the Constitution; it is used in all the treaties; it is used in the SCOTUS decisions delineating these treaties. To refer to Indigenous people as Indian is simply to recognize and confirm Native nations as legitimate political entities.)

If we go through the Constitution and outline the “interlocking” aspects of the text that demonstrate Indian sovereignty, it might diagram out like this: the President can make treaties => with Indian nations => treaties that are ratified by the Senate => that then become part of the Constitution. Just how Amar can ignore this construction– especially after he has advocated this holistic method of Constitutional analysis in his previous work – is simply astonishing.

In addition, Indians were massively important to the Early Republic of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Or rather, Indian land was important. The great financial plan that Hamilton gets so much credit for (and Amar refers to again and again) relied heavily on paying those citizens who were holding the debt of the United States in “Western lands.” But how to secure these lands? Again, we have new-ish scholarly and popular work on this: Colin Calloway’s excellent The Victory with No Name, on the period between 1791 and 1794, when the Ohio Indians defended their lands from a brand-new, relentless U.S. Army; and journalist William Hogeland’s Autumn of the Black Snake, addressing the same period, shows that Washington and Hamilton set out create a professional army in order to take that “Western land” by main force. They did this because they realized that the young nation could not survive without cheap Indian land. These scholars have shown how the official policy of acquiring Indian land was policy set at the highest level; and that the act of acquiring this land kept taxes low, the public debt paid, and the fledgling republic alive.

But perhaps these policy matters are not lofty enough. Not “constitutional” enough. Ok then, what about the treaty made afterward, the Treaty of Greenville, in which the Ohio Indians ceded around two-thirds of modern Ohio? Amar does mention this, but it’s not much more than a footnote. This treaty, and later many other treaties, were made by the executive branch, and then ratified by the Senate. That makes them, by the Constitution’s own explicit command, part of the Constitution itself. But in addition, because treaties were negotiated, and the American actors kept minutes of these negotiations, we have the actual words of many Native people, creating the treaties which are part of the Constitution – Indians, then, contributing to the Constitutional conversation, in print. This seems somehow very important. Yet Amar gives these ideas not one drop of ink.

And what of Tecumseh, the Native leader with the greatest, broadest vision? Amar seems unsure of what he wants to say here. On one page, he states that “the charismatic Shawnee leader Tecumseh” was killed in 1813, “thus ending the war chief’s energetic but doomed effort to forge a grand tribal confederacy capable of thwarting America’s inexorable push” into the West. [p.626] But later, he scorns Tecumseh as not “having a plan.” Well, which is it? Perhaps engineering a plan to unite all the Indian nations west of the Appalachians into a single sovereign, checking American advance and preserving Indian sovereignty, is worth discussing. Or not; because just a few pages later, he asserts that this most dynamic leader was merely “a British-backed warrior who spoke little English; he did not publish any books or essays aimed at American voters” and so didn’t contribute to the conversation. [p.643] Besides just being confusing, this is an excruciatingly narrow idea of what “contributes” to the Great Conversation.

And so nowhere do we hear about how Washington pushed for war with the Shawnee and other Ohio Country peoples simply to acquire the land needed to compensate Revolutionary War veterans and help finance Hamilton’s plan. Nowhere is Jefferson’s letter of instruction to William Henry Harrison regarding how to go about getting Native leaders into debt with the United States in order to force them to hand over land without violence. The great Tecumseh is dismissed as not “having a plan.” But from the point of view of assessing the relationship between the Constitution and American Indians, the worst, most offensive part of the book is the way Amar handles Andrew Jackson and the Cherokee.

The Great Jackson

Andrew Jackson, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and the so-called Five Civilized Tribes presents an exceptional opportunity for any scholar who wishes to explain to his or her fellow Americans the intricacies of Indian sovereignty. After all, Amar’s favorite, John Marshall, is center stage. Marshall authored three incredibly important SCOTUS decisions that form the cornerstone of how the Court regards Native sovereignty during his tenure as chief. Surely this would be an excellent chance for Amar to show the connections and interplay between Constitutional and Indian Law! Right?


Never in life. Instead, Amar presents the “Trail of Tears” simply as a bad thing that happened to the Cherokee. Amar tells the reader that the Cherokee were living on Georgian soil, ignoring the fact that it was actually sovereign Cherokee land. They were removed with heavy loss of life, and Amar feels suitably bad for them. But in some bizarre urge to absolve Jackson of any responsibility, he refuses to dig deeper.

There are two seminal Supreme Court decisions that come out of this particular crisis: Cherokee Nation v Georgia (1831), and Worcester v Georgia (1833). (The third big Indian sovereignty case, Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823, in which Marshall applies the Doctrine of Discovery to American Indians and limits, though doesn’t extinguish, their sovereignty, gets only a footnote.) Amar accords only Worcester any real time, and Cherokee Nation is barely mentioned at all. Inexplicably, Amar either ignores key facts or knowingly distorts these two crucial interlocking cases defining Indian sovereignty for all future time.

Very briefly: First, in Cherokee Nation, Justice Marshall, writing for the Court, asserted that because Indian tribes were virtually surrounded by the United States, they constituted not fully independent, sovereign countries, but “domestic, dependent nations.” This judicial invention (for no such term as domestic, dependent nations appears in the text of the Constitution) represents a radical curtailment of Native sovereignty. (This curtailment is the part that Amar focuses on in order to dismiss Indian sovereignty as “less than”.) Marshall then decides that, since the Court is not empowered by the Constitution to adjudicate domestic dependent nations, SCOTUS doesn’t have jurisdiction! This is an extraordinary dance: the Court has no jurisdiction over a category of entities that Marshall only just created out of thin air! However, the story gets far more interesting.

This is because Justice Smith Thompson, joined by Justice Joseph Story (another Amar favorite), wrote a fairly devastating dissent. Sovereignty, wrote Thompson, has never been about mere geography – the fact that the United States surrounded the Cherokee Nation was immaterial. In addition, a weak country placing itself under the protection of a strong neighbor does not diminish the former’s sovereignty in any way. The treaty history between the Cherokee Nation and the United States demonstrated conclusively that the U.S. recognized the Cherokee as sovereign. He did not quibble over whether or not it was “full-blown Westphalian sovereignty.”

It is unclear how much this dissent affected Marshall, but it seems likely that to some degree it did because in the next decision, Worcester v Georgia, Marshall revises his position in a small but important way. First, he states that yes, the Worcester case is different, and the Court does have jurisdiction (because it is an individual versus a state). But most significantly, that yes, the Cherokee were “a distinct political community.” Again, not “full-blown Westphalian sovereignty,” but pretty damn close. And most importantly, this definition of Native sovereignty is the current doctrine that the Court continues to use. While Amar does show that Marshall considered Indians “constitutionally special,” he never explains what this means, nor discusses Marshall’s term distinct political community, nor investigates the subtleties of Native sovereignty.

But still, here we have a genuine, bona fide Constitutional conversation, between SCOTUS justices no less, just as Amar has been highlighting for the entire book. But Amar mentions this conversation not at all. Rather, he launches into a curious defense of Jackson’s actions allowing the State of Georgia to commit ethnic cleansing against the Cherokee. While Amar refers to the Trail of Tears as “heartbreaking,” he asserts that Marshall’s rulings justified Jackson’s implementation of the Indian Removal Act. He argues that Article II allows the president to recognize whichever Indian “leader” he chooses to treat with. That may be so, but the “leaders” that U.S. negotiators treated with in 1835 were not elected leaders of the Cherokee Nation, but rather a disgruntled minority of tribal citizens who felt that selling out the Nation (as per the Indian Removal Act of 1830) was in the tribe’s best interest. They had no authority to negotiate and sign a treaty with the United States, despite Amar incorrectly referring to them as “chieftains.” Yet that’s how the infamous Treaty of New Echota was made. When that treaty was upheld by the Supreme Court shortly after Marshall’s death, the fate of the Cherokee was sealed.

Adding insult to injury, Amar uses Jackson’s infamous quote in his 1830 Message to Congress:

What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion?

Instructors like me use this quote with students to show Jackson’s brutality and ignorance toward Native people. Dismissing Jackson’s assertion that Indians were ever savages, there remains the myth that Indigenous people were primitive hunter-gatherers, and so not “using” the land “properly,” and thus justifying their dispossession. But the truth is that by 1830 the Native communities of the Trans-Appalachian West were nearly as sophisticated as their frontier neighbors. They were prosperous farmers, just as their ancestors had been for a thousand years. Historian Daniel Walker Howe puts it thus:

The emergence of a commercially and politically viable Cherokee Nation with a growing Christian minority, borrowing Western technology as needed, forced the white majority to decide what they really wanted for and from the Native Americans. In the past, whites had justified taking aboriginal lands on the grounds that the Indians were not fully utilizing them. Now, Cherokee economic development was rapidly eliminating that excuse. [Howe, p. 345]

 Yet Amar takes Jackson’s quote at face value. He actually doubles down on Jackson’s savages remark, acknowledging its racism, but defending it because “it … linked Jackson to Washington and Jefferson, who both used this word routinely—Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence itself.” Apparently, at Yale University, irony is dead.

The Importance of Indian Sovereignty

The truly tragic aspect of Amar’s ignoring Native contributions to his “conversations” is not just that he is creating yet another Great Man’s Theory of American History – that is only irritating. The tragic part is that his strategy of waving away Indian sovereignty does actual harm to today’s cause of Native rights. American Indian sovereignty is undoubtedly an awkward fit into the Constitution, where we are used to a certain symmetry in our federalism: two sovereigns, three branches of government, checks and balances, etc. But we live in a country whose citizens do not understand Native nations well at all – let alone the complex and bewildering array of treaties and court cases that dominate Indian Law. How amazing it would be to have an intellect as brilliant as Akhil Reed Amar help us to understand how to fit Indian sovereignty into a usable Constitutional framework! But rather than this, we get not just an influential scholar ignoring the Indian point of view – we are used to that – but an actual a diminution of Indian sovereignty. Amar’s great scholarly authority and prestige weighs in; states it’s not “full-blown Westphalian sovereignty,” so it doesn’t count; and moves on.

Today, Indian sovereignty is the only thing standing between Native peoples and cultural genocide. To name but one local example:

In the Pacific Northwest where I live on the Columbia River, there are many Indian nations whose lifeways – their traditions, culture, and diet – depend on Pacific salmon: Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Nez Perce, among many others. These four Nations or confederacies all signed sovereign treaties with the United States government in 1855, treaties that were ratified by the Senate in 1859. Among the rights guaranteed by their treaties is “at all other usual and accustomed stations in common with citizens of the United States.” This reserved right – a right the Indians had enjoyed forever and that they did not give up in negotiations, even as they gave up much of their land – means that the tribes kept the right to fish on land that they ceded to the United States; that even though they gave up title to that land, they reserved the right to fish there. The Supreme Court and other federal courts have interpreted “in common” to mean that these tribes also have the right to co-manage the fishery with the states and federal government. In managing salmon, they have introduced dozens of small-scale, environmentally sustainable hatcheries to reintroduce salmon to rivers and creeks where non-Indian development and irrigation withdrawals had rendered them extinct. In other words, today salmon are returning to their traditional rivers and creeks thanks to tribal sovereignty. Without this management, salmon would remain extirpated from these lands. So, Native sovereignty has benefited not just salmon, not just Native people, but everyone in the Columbia River Basin who hopes salmon come back from the brink of extinction.

There are dozens of examples like this across Indian Country. Native sovereignty protects and promotes Native culture.

A Squandered Opportunity

And so we are left with this massive book and its attempt to explain to Americans what our Constitution is about. But not all Americans. This Constitutional blind spot for Native people in Amar is, frankly, baffling. He either doesn’t understand American Indians and their Constitutional relationship to the United States; or he, like so many of the historians of the last age, prefers to avoid the narrative of how settler colonialism brutally displaced Native peoples because it gets in the way of a good story; or, he just doesn’t care. It’s impossible for me to believe he doesn’t care, since his entire public output points towards a profound sense of justice. But either way, Amar utterly ignores this crucial aspect of Constitutional history. And it’s not merely a squandered opportunity to explain a vitally important aspect of their Constitution to Americans. When one considers that this book will be read by and influence other Constitutional scholars, politicians, and jurists, not to mention average citizens interested in a deeper understanding of the Constitution, it represents an actual blow to the cause of Native nations in their quest for justice. Of course, a Constitutional scholar isn’t required to advocate for social justice for any particular group; but at the very least, they should do no harm.

Appendix and Sources:

1. The applicable Constitutional text establishing federal recognition of Indian sovereignty.

Article I, Section 8: Congress shall have power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes

Article I, Section 10: No State shall enter into any Treaty

Article II, Section 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

Article III, Section 2: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority

Article VI: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

2. Clauses in the Declaration of Independence that refer to Western lands and Indians.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. [The Quebec Act]

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies [The Quebec Act]

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. [My emphasis]


Royal Proclamation of 1763:

Report on Public Credit:

To have two thirds funded at an annuity, or yearly interest of six per cent, redeemable at the pleasure of the government, by payment of the principal; and to receive the other third in lands in the Western Territory, at the rate of twenty cents per acre. Or,

To have the whole sum funded at an annuity or yearly interest of four per cent. irredeemable by any payment exceeding five dollars per annum on account both of principal and interest; and to receive, as a compensation for the reduction of interest, fifteen dollars and eighty cents, payable in lands, as in the preceding case. [My emphasis]

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831)

Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515 (1832)

Jackson on Indian Removal:,-Andrew%20Jackson’s%20Annual&text=Jackson’s%20Annual%20Message-,It%20gives%20me%20pleasure%20to%20announce%20to%20Congress%20that%20the,approaching%20to%20a%20happy%20consummation.

Treaty Between the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes, in Confederation, and the United States, June 9, 1855:

Colin Calloway, The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. Oxford University Press, 2006.

_____, The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army. Oxford University Press, 2015.

_____, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation, Oxford University Press. 2018.

Vine Deloria, Jr. and David E. Wilkins, Tribes, Treaties, and Constitutional Tribulations, University of Texas Press, 1999.

William Hogeland, Autumn of the Black Snake: the Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion That Opened the West, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848, Oxford University Press, 2007.

Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016


About Christopher Shelley

Christopher Shelley teaches American history and American Indian history at Portland Community College. He is fond of border collies, and bleeds Dodger-blue. Any and all opinions expressed here are those of the expressors themselves, and in no way represent the views of Portland Community College.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Akhil Reed Amar and the Words That Made “Us” – Just Not All of Us.

  1. Robert Gillan says:

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind a comment that’s not related to your article. I notice that you posted “Soor Plooms” from Robin Williamson’s Legacy of the Scottish Harpers. Would you have time to post the rest of the album? I’d love to hear it. Thanks a lot!


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