'Embrace the Prudent Alliance': William Byrd of Westover and Intermarriage between Europeans and Native Americans
23 Postscript 51 (2006)
42 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2009 Last revised: 21 Oct 2013
Date Written: 2006
This paper provides a rhetorical examination of the powerful colonial figure William Byrd of Westover's "History of the Dividing Line" and his call for interracial marriage as a path to peace with Native Americans. Byrd’s proposal of intermarriage, or biological assimilation, can only be read in its complex sociopolitical and legal contexts. The tone of Byrd’s writings could be read to imply an ironic stance on the part of the author. I argue, however, that because of the significant issues he addresses — war, land rights, and religion — and the seemingly favorable context in which he wrote, his ironic tone masked a serious intent. In the first part of this paper, I examine the texts of Byrd’s prose works for his ideas on intermarriage. In the second part, I place Byrd’s writings in the context of the policy debates over interracial marriage in the 17th and 18th centuries In the final part, I examine more closely the implications of sexuality and gender in the rhetoric and reality of colonial interracial marriage.
Keywords: interracial marriage, Native Americans, race, William Byrd
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