PETER MCKENNA: Revisiting General Jeffrey Amherst – The Guardian

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:45 pm

But what I think is important to note here is not what he actually says. No, whats most revealing is what he doesnt say. Lockerby professes in his August 15 letter that he is no apologist for Lord Jeffrey. Really! He should re-read out loud his last few letters. To me, he seems intent on painting Amherst in a positive light and casting doubt on those who question his moral failings. He doesnt say anything about the fact that Amherst, who as far as I can tell never stepped foot in P.E.I. or its French equivalent, had nothing but contempt and hatred for Indigenous communities in the whole of British North America. Furthermore, he singles out scholars Bernhard Knollenberg and Philip Ranlet (which Ive examined), who Lockerby uses to buttress his skepticism about Amhersts use of smallpox-infected blankets against Indigenous peoples in Pennsylvania. But it is worth pointing out, since Lockerby missed it, that Knollenberg actually changed his position on Amherst after receiving a letter from Donald H. Kent (editor of Colonel Henry Bouquets papers). Kent informed him there is direct evidence that an attempt was actually made on the Indians with smallpox and that it was an official action. Though Ranlet still challenges this evidence, many historians accept the germ warfare charge. Very few scholars think that Amherst was incapable of such an atrocity given his deep enmity toward Indigenous peoples. Historian Elizabeth Fenn from the University of Colorado published a journal piece in 2000, Biological Warfare in Eighteenth Century North America: Beyond Amherst, where she argues that Amhersts giving/ordering of infected blankets at Fort Pitt may not have been an isolated incident – and that there is evidence of an earlier case by British forces. As for Amherst College, Lockerby neglected to mention that the College has moved to rename the Lord Jeffrey Inn (the only campus building named after him) and to no longer use Lord Jeff in its official communications or symbolism – including the ending of its unofficial Lord Jeff mascot. Most significantly, I found it curious that Lockerby would not indicate whether he supports the Mikmaq legal claim to the 400-plus acre Mill River golf resort. Perhaps that omission says more about whats in Lockerbys heart and mind than anything else. Finally, Id like to reassure Mr. Lockerby that I have indeed been doing my homework. Ive corresponded with two Parks Canada experts on Fortress Louisbourg, communicated with Saint Marys University historian John Reid (a leading expert on the Mikmaq of Nova Scotia) and have perused John Knoxs book, An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America. None of them paint Amherst and his engagement with Indigenous peoples in a positive light. But Im still digging. Can Lockerby say the same? Right now, though, I should get back to my own book on Stephen Harper for the University of Toronto Press.

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PETER MCKENNA: Revisiting General Jeffrey Amherst – The Guardian

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