The Right by Extermination, by Gunpowder, and by the Papal Bull

[1]     These two sections are the climax of the examination of the five "rights" of justification (though only four are named specifically) that constitutes the first part of Irving's chapter.   Extermination is the key word in both sections.  Extermination.  A word we use for the destruction of life below the human.  Extermination.  A strong word--implying not only destruction but destruction without a trace.  Extermination.  On the same branch of the word tree as genocide.  Genocide.  The destruction of humans we treat as non-humans.

[2]     Power is older than cave life.  The right by extermination, a right "worth all the others put together" (18), then, is, of course, not one to be found in the learned authorities, so Irving's strategy is not to deconstruct, as it is for the preceding rights by discovery, cultivation, and civilization, but to construct.  And to construct in a certain way--with a sense of the utter lubricity with which Imperial Man rationalizes moral issues.  The savages are "utterly annhilated" by the "wars, persecutions, oppressions, and diseases" attendant on the strenuous, industrious, and zealous application of the first three rights.  But in the blithe vocabulary of the conqueror, these causes are just "partial evils that often hang on the skirts of great benefits" (18).   In contemporary double-speak, then, extermination is a "cost of doing business," a "trade-off" in the onward March of Progress, an item to be factored into the next transaction.  Murder pales into cold calculation, and, as it turns out, has its value--an unanticipated  "side effect."  For with the Indians gone, the Europeans have the Law on their side.  And Irving constructs an anachronistic authority, Mighty Blackstone, as justification.  Blackstone 2.1.  As ironclad as if it were Deuteronomy 2.1.

[3]     But there is a Justifier above Blackstone "to settle the question of right forever" (19), Pope Alexander VI--the Vicar of God on Earth.  Irving does little with this fifth right except to indicate that because of his "mighty bull" (a delicious pun to the modern ear) the work of possession proceeds "with ten times more fury than ever" (19), but he does not end this first section of the chapter without another rhetorical flourish.  With outrageous viciousness, Irving has the straight-faced Knickerbocker assert that the Europeans deserve not only title to the land but the thanks of the "infidel savages"(20).  Satire is always violent, but at least it usually maintains some distance.  Here Irving nakedly pinions the justifying impulse by stretching it to an absurd limit.  In a long sentence built on a rhythmically ascending series of "for" clauses (19), Irving begins by extolling Spanish generosity and climaxes by ennobling Indian extermination.  Extermination is good for the Indians, for it ushers them quickly to heaven.  The humor here is charnel, the comic orgasm a gasp not a guffaw.  And this first section of the chapter ends with an appropriately definitive rupture of any association we can have with the sensibilities of the original Possessors.

[4]    Justification is built on the bones of the Native Americans, just as this page is.