Horrors in History
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Horrors from History

If you like history because you like true horror stories, if you like reading about violent and terrible crimes, you might like this discussion. It does have some redeeming social value since I will denounce the crimes I discuss, and point out better alternatives which were available to those who committed them.

In my first two two posts "Don't turn Evil Part One" and "Don't turn Evil, Part Two" I claim that humans have almost no ability to choose the right side in a conflict, or to decide if their people should fight or not, or to choose tactics, strategies, weapons, and methods which are no evil and horrifying.

And then in "Virginia Deathtrap", "Powhatan Choices" , "The Evil That Men Do", "The English Strike Back", and so on, I will start to tell the story of some terrible crimes from history. to prove that almost all conflicts in hstory have been terrible mistakes on the part of those who fought them, and that almost all armed conflicts in history have involved terrible, evil, crimes.
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Don’t Turn Evil, Part One

Copyright 2010 M. A. Golding

Nobody wants to turn evil, but evidence indicates that people who are merely human have very poor ethical abilities and find it hard to tell right from wrong.

It is almost impossible for people who are merely human to tell which side in a conflict is more right and less wrong. This means that people who try to choose to support the side that is more right and less wrong and succeed almost always do so by pure chance. Most persons would have only very slightly more than fifty percent probability of selecting the more right and less wrong side in a conflict.

Most people do not choose which side to support in a conflict but simply automatically support the side that they are already a member of. Such people have exactly a fifty percent chance of being on the side that is slightly more good and slightly less evil, vile, disgusting, and loathsome than the other side in each conflict they participate in or support a side in.

So a person who automatically supported his side in two conflicts would have only a twenty five percent chance of supporting the slightly less horrifyingly evil side both times.

A person who automatically supported his side in three conflicts would have only a 12.5 percent chance of supporting the slightly better and less disgustingly evil side all three times.

A person who automatically supported his side in four conflicts would have only a 6.25 percent chance of supporting the somewhat better side in all four conflicts.

A person who automatically supported his side in every conflict it fought in would have only a 3.125 percent chance of supporting the less evil side five times...

He would have only a 0.0976562 percent chance of being right in ten conflicts.

A person who did not automatically support the side he was already a member of in all conflicts but tried to support the side he thought was better and not worse would not do much better.

It seems evident that a person who tries to choose the better side in a conflict to support will be right only slightly more than fifty percent of the time.

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Don’t Turn Evil, Part Two

Copyright 2010 M. A. Golding

If a person who tried to select and support the better side in a violent conflict would have only a fifty one percent chance of choosing correctly once, he would have only a 0.1187943 percent chance of picking the better side in ten conflicts - slightly better than one chance in a thousand of being right ten times.

Some people may think that the average Human has much more than fifty one percent probability of selecting the right side in a conflict.

Perhaps someone could be right nineteen times out of twenty, or ninety five percent of the time. Many people would say that was far too high.

And such a person would have only a 59.97997 percent chance of being right ten times. He would have slightly more than a forty percent chance of being wrong at least once. He would have 35.84854 percent chance of being right twenty times, almost a two thirds chance of being wrong at least once in twenty times.

Perhaps a person could be right ninety nine percent of the time, or ninety nine times out of a hundred. Even more people would say that was far too high.

If a person could be right ninety nine percent of the time, he would have a 90.43818 percent chance of being right ten times, and a 36.97283 per cent chance of being right one hundred times, almost a two thirds chance of being wrong at least one time in a hundred.

Every person makes tens and hundreds and thousands of important decisions in his life He makes personal decisions about what is best for him and social decisions about what is best for every group he cares about up to the entire Human race.

So even someone really good at making decisions will certainly make at least a few wrong decisions, with unfortunate results.

A person who never decides to support what he thinks is the better side in a violent conflict will never be wrong about which group of killers to support.

Any side in a violent conflict will have the choice of many different weapons, tactics, and methods. A good person would try to keep his side from using the more evil weapons, tactics, and methods.

But how can he correctly choose which weapons, tactics, and methods are too brutal, ruthless, evil, and violent to be used if he can not make the right decision very time?

One of the best ways to be certain to avoid supporting a side which had the more evil goals in a conflict, or used methods that were too evil, or both, is to never support any aide in any violent conflict.

A good, or rather terrible, example of how hard it is for people to decide if a group is right to fight, and to avoid committing evil deeds, is the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in Virginia.
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Don’t Turn Evil, Part Three – Virginia Deathtrap

Copyright 2010 M.A. Golding

I claim that it is almost impossible for merely Human people to choose the right side to support in a conflict, or know if it is right for them to fight, or avoid using evil strategies, tactics, weapons, and methods.

As an example of how hard it is for people to choose the better and less evil side in a conflict or to choose effective tactics, weapons, and methods that are not evil, I chose the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in Virginia.

In the years around 1600, Chief Wahunsunacawh (who the English called Powhatan for obvious reasons) of the Powhatan tribe expanded his realm from six tribes to thirty. Most tribes of Indians or Native Americans or First Nations or American Indians or Amerindians in Tsenacommach, the Virginia tidewater, became part of the Powhatan confederacy or paramount chiefdom.

The Virginia Company founded an English colony at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607. The First Anglo-Powhatan War ended in 1614. But Opechancanough, who became Mamanatowick or paramount chief in 1618, became hostile.

Many of the early Virginia colonists died in the first years, as was usual, until Virginia found a profitable export, poisonous and addictive tobacco, in 1612.

The dying continued. In 1622 the Virginia Company was accused of killing the vast majority of the ten thousand settlers who went to Virginia in the last fifteen years - only about a thousand still survived – with incompetence, indifference, and evil.

The Virginia Company answered that only six thousand people had gone to Virginia and most were killed by an unbelievably evil former governor. Obviously he could not have killed eighty percent of the Virginia colonists if the Virginia Company directors had not kept him in power for years. The charter of the Virginia Company was revoked in 1624.

One theory about the terribly high mortality rate in Virginia was that the tobacco planters made their indentured servants work to grow as much tobacco as possible without growing enough corn to keep the laborers well fed over the winters.

In the winter the semi-starved indentured servants died off from malnutrition, exposure, and disease. In the spring the tobacco planters got a new cargo of indentured servants from England to produce a new tobacco crop and die the following winter. If this is true, the Virginia planters had created a labor system so evil it made even vile slavery look good!

Thus eventually using expensive slave laborers who had to be kept alive and healthy for decades of working life might actually have been an ethical improvement!

Of course if the planters had reduced immediate profits by making their indentured servants grow enough corn to stay alive over the winter, their labor force would have gown and been able to grow more tobacco with much larger eventual profits.

For whatever reasons, early Virginia was a deathtrap for colonists, even when there was peace with the Powhatans.

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TL;DR
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Don’t Turn Evil, Part Four – Powhatan Choices

Copyright 2010 M. A. Golding

Some sources claim that the Indians or Native Americans fought mostly minor and almost bloodless wars before the Europeans came. But if that was true in the early historic period they seem to have rapidly become more ferocious in war.

The First Anglo-Powhatan War ended in 1614, but Opechancanough, the new high chief after 1618, grew hostile toward the English.

Opechancanough, his weroances or chiefs, and their people had many choices.

They could have moved the villages closest to the colony farther away to lands they would conquer from foreign tribes.

They could have started a program for Powhatans to work clearing land for tobacco cultivation close to Jamestown and get paid with valued trade goods.

They could have encouraged Powhatans to grow tobacco to sell to the English.

They could have made forced neighboring tribes to send hundreds of workers to clear land for tobacco farming close to Jamestown, so the English wouldn’t need more Powhatan land.

They might have chosen a mixture of those policies.

On March 22, 1622, “a date that deserves to live in infamy” hundreds of Powhatan warriors treacherously slaughtered everyone they could catch at many of the isolated English tobacco-growing outposts. In that single day of horror they killed three or four hundred English men, and women, and children, about a quarter to a third of the total Virginia colonists.

I have read that at least sometimes the warriors came unarmed and seemingly harmless and snatched up English tools to slaughter their victims. Makers of slasher films should note that a single slasher is not as terrifying as a war party of slashers.

Then the Powhatans waited for the panic-stricken English to flee from their land or submit to Opechancanough.

Opechancanough and his people had many choices that were less evil.

They didn’t have to kill every English person they could. They might have captured the settlements, killed a few people in each as a demonstration, and made the survivors swear allegiance to the Powhatans. They could have sent a few survivors to Powhatan villages as hostages, and made the rest of the captured colonists work planting tobacco to sell to the English at Jamestown. The Powhatans would get a big share of the tobacco income as protection money.

How could the primitive Powhatans feed and guard several dozen English hostages and hundreds of worker? The Virginia Indians usually produced a big corn surplus and could have fed dozens of prisoners who were locked up day and night. Or the hostages could have worked in the fields to grow more food for their villages.

Indians often captured members of other tribes to turn into members of their own tribe. Apparently they were able to guard most captives well enough to prevent their escaping before assimilation into their new tribes. I think that the Powhatans could have guarded dozens of hostages and hundreds of subject laborers.


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im deciding if i should actually read this rather than do my 'school book skimming' on the subject
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Don’t Turn Evil, Part Five – The Evil That Men do

Copyright 2010 M.A. Golding

In 1622 the Virginia Company was accused of killing almost all ten thousand colonists who went to Virginia with incompetence, indifference, and evil.

The Virginia Company’s official response was that only six thousand people had gone to Virginia and most of the deaths were the fault of an unbelievably evil and tyrannical former governor. But obviously a governor could not kill eighty percent of the settlers who landed in a fifteen – year period if the Virginia Company directors did not keep him in power for years. The Virginia Company was abolished in 1624.

News of the Virginia massacre did not help Virginia’s reputation as a death trap for colonists. But proponents of English colonization publicized the brutal Powhatan massacre of hundreds of English people. They hoped to make prospective colonists forget that ten or twenty times as many English colonists were killed by English incompetence, callousness, and evil.

So the Powhatan, and all North American Indians or Native Americans, were described as being fiendishly cruel and evil.

In Julius Caesar, perhaps written in 1599, Shakespeare has Mark Anthony say that “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” The evil that Opechancanough, his chiefs, and his warriors, did on March 22, 1622, has lived on after them for centuries.

Their evil inspired many English writers to slander North American Indians as they had never been slandered before. The new picture made most English speaking people think of Indians as evil fiends for centuries to come. And the vast majority of the colonists who poured into North America after 1622 were English speakers with negative attitudes toward Indians, or speakers of other languages who acquired negative views about Indians from their English-speaking neighbors.

And the North American Indians were described as hunter-gatherers who wandered from place to place through a trackless wilderness in search of food. This implied that they did not live in any specific places and thus did not have any claim to own land, nor did they have any governments worthy of being treated as equals by Europeans. And thus North America was a wilderness open for the taking.

Of course the Indian tribes in the East of North America were all farmers who lived in villages.

And some Indian governments acted very effectively and efficiently at times. For example, when Opechancanough‘s Powhatan government planned and carried out the evil surprise attack on March 22, 1622.

But for centuries most Europeans believed there were no Indian governments with legal rights.

Except most Europeans believed that Indian leaders who sold land to their own group of Europeans (and NOT to rival groups) for that instant (and ONLY that instant) were absolute rulers of totalitarian governments with power to speak for all possible claimants and give perfectly good land title to Europeans.

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Don’t Turn Evil, Part Six – The English Strike Back

Copyright 2010 M. A. Golding


The Virginia settlers fought back against the Powhatans to avenge the treacherous attack that killed a quarter of them.

Then, during a peace conference in May, 1623 they poisoned and killed over 200 Powhatans. The poison was prepared by Dr. John Potts, a future governor. The exact date is also “a date that deserves to live in infamy”, as a second “Night of the Long Knives”.

Many surviving Virginia colonists feared they would be killed in the next Powhatan attack. They fled in terror from the outer settlements to the inner settlements.

They sold their labor to the big plantation owners to survive. And they sold their abandoned lands to rich planters who hoped to be able to use it someday.

The colony sent expeditions to seize corn from some Powhatan villages each year. Thus the laborers did not have to grow corn for survival instead of valuable tobacco. The Virginia Colony exported more tobacco in 1622 than ever before, despite losing a quarter to a third of its population. The tobacco exports expanded all though the war.

If the Virginia planters actually did let their indentured servants starve each winter, the captured Powhatan corn may have kept the laborers alive over the winter for the first time, enabling the colony to grow faster.

The Powhatan villagers who lost their corn supplies faced starvation, unless other Powhatan villages shared their surplus corn with them.

If many Powhatans did starve, who would die first? The weak old people, too old to take part in the massacre of 1622, and the innocent children. But the strong young men and women, including all the evil participants in the Virginia Massacre, would probably survive.

Possibly the Powhatan warriors may have saved the lives of far more colonists than they killed, enabling their enemies, to increase rapidly. The colonists wanted revenge, but their way of war would kill the most harmless and the most innocent Powhatans first and leave the guiltiest alive. .

The Powhatans had an initial success that far surpasses Pearl Harbor as a treacherous sneak attack but failed to win. The English leaders did not lead their vengeful followers to kill those most guilty of the terrible massacre.

The Second Anglo-Powhatan War was a senseless waste of life, except that the tobacco planters rationally but evilly managed the war effort of the Virginia Colony to maximize their profits, not gain victory or minimize suffering and death.

More horror and suffering would come.

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