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A law of blood; the primitive law of the Cherokee nation.

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John Phillip Reid is widely known for his groundbreaking work in American legal history. "A Law of Blood," first published in the early 1970s, led ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of A law of blood; the primitive law of the Cherokee nation.

Overall customer rating: 5.000
PeterSOliphant

Consequences of absolute equality

by PeterSOliphant on Apr 29, 2010

Ried?s careful and interesting interpretations of the historical data on Cherokee and related nations during the 18th Century explore their ethic of absolute equality. The ethic of absolute equality meant actions were often required but never taken even when actors knew their inactivity would imperil the nation. ?The problem was not merely that fractional and regional rivalries made it impossible for the national government to bind all the Cherokees into a political unit. The problem was that there was no national government at all. It cannot be said that the Cherokees recognized this as a problem. They probably would not have understood it anyway?.In a nation without political unity and lacking the machinery to coerce unity, it follows that governmental leadership was not a matter of constitutional authority but the filling of a constitutional vacuum.? (24-25) Cherokee philosophy of absolute equality defined aggression as ?any act that made it impossible for one voluntarily to defer to the wishes of another.? (65) Retaliation, kinship organization, and anarchic war were the normative results of the ethic of absolute equality. Dispersion and clan organization required absolute consensus for action at the level of the Cherokee nation. The long drag of the cultural ethic on the organization of society illustrates Weber?s principle that non-rational charisma (tradition and affect) controls goal- and value rationality. Rationality is merely a limiting condition on culture. It took until the 19th Century for a polity of chieftainship to appear. The ethic of absolute equality destroyed any hope the Indian nations might have had of successfully resisting the mass murders, such as that conducted by President Andrew Jackson. Reid?s writing is both pleasant and scholarly, his documentation is extensive, and his interest in the history of law is complemented by a wide general knowledge of colonial history.

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