John Dunn Hunter's eventful and controversial life deserves revival, particularly in view of the current interest in...

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WHITE SAVAGE: The Case of John Dunn Hunter

John Dunn Hunter's eventful and controversial life deserves revival, particularly in view of the current interest in aboriginal American history. Succinctly, Hunter's story goes like this: in 1823 he burst on the transatlantic public by publishing his Memoirs of a Captivity among the Indians of North America, from Childhood to the Age of Nineteen -- his tribe had called him ""Hunter."" Hailed in England (where the book received its first notices) as a genuine Noble Savage, even a Robinson Crusoe type, Hunter soon found himself excoriated in the United States as an ""impudent impostor"" by no less than famed Indian expert General Lewis Cass. The imbroglio, played out in prestigious quarterlies like the North American Review and Quarterly Review, continued for several years and involved most of the leading Indian savants of the day. It ended inconclusively, and Drinnon, a Bucknell social scientist, expends not only much time recounting who tomahawked whom but offers new or revisionist ethnohistorical evidence to verify Hunter's claims. But that's only part of the John Dunn Hunter saga. All the while the authenticity charges were being aired, Hunter was busy trying to convince men like Robert Owen (who was then involved with New Harmony), ex-President Jefferson, and President Monroe to help him establish an integrated white-red nation -- Hunter passionately believed in the Enlightenment's ""fraternity of mankind"" and hoped ""to link up the communalism of archaic man with the communitarian yearnings of modem man."" The Fredonian Republic was eventually proclaimed (envisioned by some American politicians as a buffer state between Texas and Mexico), but it never really got off the ground; and paradoxically Hunter, whose only goal seems to have been the preservation of native red Americans, was assassinated by the Indians. An extraordinary career (in addition to everything else, both Cooper's novels and Thoreau's journals owe him a debt), revivified very satisfactorily by Drinnon.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972