School navigation

Law Faculty

Robert J. Miller

Native America: Discovered and Conquered

In Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny, Professor Robert Miller addresses the international legal principle called the Doctrine of Discovery and how that legal rule was used in American history and transformed into the American policy of Manifest Destiny. Bob applied an interdisciplinary approach and conducted original research and analysis to look at historical facts regarding these issues and has illuminated numerous new ideas on Jefferson’s and Lewis and Clark’s use of Discovery to claim the Pacific Northwest for the United States. Bob’s research also uncovered the new idea that Manifest Destiny arose directly from the legal elements and principles of the Discovery Doctrine.

The Doctrine of Discovery provided that by law and divine intention European Christian countries gained power and legal rights over indigenous non-Christian peoples immediately upon their “discovery” by Europeans. Various European monarchs and their legal systems developed this principle to benefit their own countries. The Discovery Doctrine was then adopted into American colonial and state law and into the United States Constitution, and was then adopted by the federal legislative and executive branches, and finally by the U.S. Supreme Court in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823. Johnson is still federal law today and the Doctrine of Discovery is still being applied to Indian individuals and the American Indian Nations notwithstanding its Eurocentric, religious, and racial underpinnings.

Bob’s book breaks new ground by proving from Thomas Jefferson’s own words that he clearly understood the Doctrine of Discovery and actively used this legal principle against American Indians and their tribal governments. Understandably, then, Jefferson also utilized Discovery principles in conceiving and launching the Lewis & Clark expedition with the goal of securing America’s 1792 “Discovery” claim to the Pacific Northwest and to extend the “empire of liberty” Jefferson envisioned for the entire North American continent. Jefferson also planned to use Discovery principles to dominate the native peoples and governments residing in the Louisiana and Pacific Northwest Territories. In fact, Indian political, legal, and commercial affairs were Jefferson’s primary motivations for the Lewis & Clark expedition. The expedition was an important part of Jefferson’s Discovery interactions with Indian tribes. In addition, Lewis and Clark themselves engaged in recognized Discovery rituals vis-à-vis the Indian Nations to strengthen America’s claims to the Louisiana Territory and to help establish an American Discovery claim to the Pacific Northwest.

Bob’s book also establishes another new idea that has apparently gone unnoticed until this time: Manifest Destiny developed out of the legal principles and elements of the Doctrine of Discovery, Jefferson’s ambitions, and the path breaking work of the Lewis & Clark expedition. American politicians and citizens often used Discovery arguments to justify Manifest Destiny. In addition, the U.S. argued with England, Spain, and Russia for decades that Robert Gray, Lewis and Clark, and John Jacob Astor’s fur-trading post of Astoria proved that the U.S. held the true ownership of the Pacific Northwest under the Doctrine of Discovery. Thus, Discovery, Jefferson’s ambitions for a continental United States, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Astor’s post on the Columbia River nearly ensured that a wave of American expansion, Manifest Destiny, would sweep over the indigenous peoples and nations living in the West.

This book presents new and exciting material and legal evidence, heretofore ignored, regarding President Thomas Jefferson, the Lewis & Clark expedition, Manifest Destiny, and other elements of American history. This book will assist readers to gain a fuller and more diverse understanding of these important topics in America’s history.

Here is the publisher’s flyer for the book and information on purchasing it from the author.

Everyone who is interested in Indian Law and the West will have to read this book.

 Gerald Torres

Miller’s book represents the most comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the American version of the Doctrine of Discovery to date…

 Alexander Tallchief Skibine

…this is revisionist history in the very best sense of that tradition.

 Rennard Strickland

Buy Native America: Discovered and Conquered