Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon
by Dan Vogel

Chapter 3.
The Origin of the American Indians

[35] Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. —Moroni (Eth. 1:33)

And now, if the Lord has such great powers, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship? … And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. —Nephi (1 Ne. 17:51; 18:8)

For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph. —Nephi (1 Ne. 6:2)

William W. Phelps and Parley P. Pratt aptly captured for many of their contemporaries the enthusiasm of early Mormon converts for the book Joseph Smith published in March 1830. “That wonderful conjecture, which left blank as to the origin … of the American Indians, was done away by the Book of Mormon,” Phelps exclaimed in 1833.1 And Pratt declared four years later that the Book of Mormon “reveals the origin of the American Indians, which was before a mystery.”2

The men and women who responded to this book and gathered into Smith’s infant church were not the only ones concerned about the origin of the American Indians, however. The very discovery of the Indians in the New World had posed theological problems of considerable significance.

Jedidiah Morse, a Congregational pastor in Charlestown, Massachusetts, summed up the controversy in 1793, writing:

Those who call in question the authority of the sacred writings say, the Americans are not descendants from Adam, that he was the father of the Asiatics only, and that God created other men to be the patriarchs of the Europeans, Africans and Americans. But this is one among the many weak hypotheses of unbelievers, and is wholly unsupported by history.3

[36] Since most of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries shared Morse’s literal interpretation of the Bible, they were likewise left to wonder how the New World had been populated after the entire earth had been swept clean by the flood at the time of Noah and what the theological status of that New World population was.

Philippus Theophrastus (1493-1541), better known as Paracelsus, a German physician and alchemist, is credited as one of the first to suggest that the New World Indians were not descendants of Adam. He supposedly said, “God could not endure to have the rest of the world empty and so by his admirable wisdom filled the earth with other men.”4

Public debate over the consequences of such a belief dates to at least the final decade of the sixteenth century. “Impudently [unbelievers] persist in it,” wrote Englishman Thomas Nashe in 1593, “that the late discovered Indians are able to shew antiquities thousands [of years] before Adam.”5 Suspected sympathy for such beliefs was part of the stir which brought charges of “atheism” against such men as Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Harriot, Matthew Royden, Christopher Marlow, and others in 1592-93.6 Some, such as Raleigh, did not deserve the accusation, but Marlowe and others did. When Marlowe was formally charged, the first item in the list of his heretical opinions was: “That the Indians and many Authors of antiquity have assuredly written of above 6 thowsande yeers agone, wheras Adam is proved to have lived within 6 thowsand yeares.”7

In the mid-seventeenth century Isaac de la Peyrere, a Calvinist of Bordeaux, France, wrote the first book-length exploration of the pre-Adamite theory, A Theological System upon the Presupposition that Men were before Adam (also Men before Adam).8 In the preface to his first work, La Peyrere described the “world newly discovered” and declared “the men of which, it is probable, did not descend from Adam.”9 He based his supposition on the two accounts of the creation in Genesis. In the beginning, La Peyrere argued, God created the Gentiles; then, at a later time, he created Adam, the first Jew. The Flood was not universal but destroyed only the descendants of Adam in Asia. La Peyrere’s arguments were persuasively constructed and gave Christian Europe a tremendous theological jolt. Many books and pamphlets rebutting La Peyrere’s postulates immediately appeared.10

La Peyrere’s position did have its defenders in America. Bernard Romans (c. 1720-84), civil engineer, naturalist, and cartographer, was a captain of artillery sent by the British government to North America in 1757. He traveled extensively among the Indians and in 1775 published a natural history of Florida in which he argued for a separate creation for the Indians. Based on his own observations, he believed

[37] the aborigines draw their origin from a different source, than either Europeans, Chinese, Negroes, Moors, Indians [the people of India], or any other different species of the human genus, of which i think there are many species, as well as among most other animals, and that they are not a variety occasioned by a comixture of any of the above species…

The above account will perhaps raise a conjecture that i believe the red men are not come from the westward out of the east of Asia; i do not believe it, i am firmly of opinion, that God created an original man and woman in this part of the globe, of different species from any in the other parts.11

Henry Home (1696-1782), a Scottish judge of some wealth better known as Lord Kames, had not been to America but shared Romans’s opinion. “I venture still further,” he wrote in a book which was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1776, “which is, to conjecture, that America has not been peopled from any part of the old world.”12 A blistering response from Samuel Stanhope Smith, a Presbyterian minister and member of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, represented the sentiments of many who were concerned about such arguments: “When ignorance pretends to sneer at revelation, and at opinions held sacred by mankind, it is too contemptible to provoke resentment, or to merit a retaliation in kind.”13

But of course such opinions did provoke retaliation. Those who wished to preserve a literal interpretation of the biblical story of the Creation and the Flood tried to link the American Indians with some race in the Old World. Romans had argued in his book that such attempts had produced little more than a “confused heap of nonsense and falsehood,”14 but many became increasingly outspoken about what they considered growing evidence to support the opposing point of view.

In addition to English and French, Spanish writers too were concerned about the theological implications of Indian origins, especially in view of their long contact with the Indians of Mexico and of Central and South America. Francesco Clavigero, a Jesuit who lived in Mexico until 1767, wrote an influential three-volume history of Mexico which was translated into English and published in London in 1787 and in Philadelphia in 1804. He mentions that “those who question the authority of the sacred writings say the Americans derive not their origin from Adam and Noah” and goes on to argue that the Mexican tradition of a flood was proof that the Americans were descendants of Noah.15 Unfortunately, early writers like Clavigero usually paid little attention to the cultural context from which they took their evidences. Actually, the Aztecs believed the world had been created five times and destroyed four. Each age ended violently through ferocious jaguars, a hurricane, volcanic eruptions, or a flood.16 Early writers invariably dismissed those [38] elements of any story not corroborating the Bible as inserted corruptions inspired by the devil.

Like Clavigero, Paul Cabrera also cited Indian legends of a flood as evidence that their origins could be traced to the Old World.17 His confidently titled essay, “Solution of the Grand Historical Problem of the Population of America,” was published in 1822 in the same volume with explorer Antonio del Rio’s description of the ruins of an ancient city discovered near Palenque, Guatemala. Del Rio was sent to Guatemala by the Spanish government in 1786 to examine whatever ruins he could find. His report, written to Don Jose Estacheria in 1787, inspired Cabrera to write his speculations on Indian origins.18 Cabrera denounced the pre-Adamite theory because he found that American antiquities such as those discovered by del Rio were so like those of the “Egyptians and other nations” as to prove a “connexion has existed between them and the Americans,” thus solving “the grand historical problem of its population.”19 Cabrera reiterated the threat which the pre-Adamite theory posed to traditional Christianity:

The darkness of this historical question opened the road to an attack upon the impregnable rock of religion. About the middle of the last century, Isaac Peyrere erected his system of the Preadamites … [claiming] that all the human race are not the descendants of Adam and Eve, and consequently denies original sin and the principle of our holy catholic religion; producing the population of America as the chief support of this hypothesis, and the ignorance that exists as to the source of its origin.20

Cotton Mather, one of the leading Puritan ministers of his day, was among the first colonial Americans to recognize the threat of the pre-Adamite theory to religion. In a discourse he delivered in 1721 to the commissioners of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians, Mather declared: “Let a foolish Paracelsus and Peyrerius pretend what they will, we are sure that the Americans are of the Noetic Original.”21

Writers in the United States also pointed to discoveries in Mexico to support their theological positions. Jedidiah Morse in 1793 referred to legends of a flood among Mexican Indians to validate his view “that we ought to seek among the descendants of Noah, for the first peoples of America.”22 And Timothy Dwight, eighth president of Yale College, echoed these and other conclusions in his own book published some twenty years later:

The several traditions … of the inhabitants of Hispaniola, Brazil, and several other countries in South America, concerning the Creation, the Deluge, and the confusion of language, cannot have been inventions of their own. The chances are many millions to one against their agreement in the formation of these traditionary stories. They [39] are, therefore complete proofs against the hypothesis, that these people were indigenous inhabitants of America. Equally are they proofs, that they sprang from a common stock, and this stock certainly existed in Asia.23

No less spirited than the controversy over whether the Indians were descended from pre-Adamites was the secondary debate among proponents of the Old World origin of the Indians about which group had fathered the American aborigines. Even legends and myths were mined for an answer to the question. Hanno of Carthage, according to Greek mythology, sailed through Gibraltar with a fleet of sixty ships and planted colonies along the west coast of Africa around 425 B.C. Some early writers suggested that these sailors might have gone on to settle in America.24 Welsh legend tells of a prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd who tired of the constant warfare in his homeland and sailed off into the Atlantic around A.D. 1170. Reports of a group of Welsh-speaking Indians bolstered the theory that the Madoc colony had reached America.25 Some early explorers tried to locate the Seven Enchanted Cities of Gold which were believed to have been established by the Seven Portuguese Bishops who had fled to America when the Arabs invaded the Iberian peninsula in medieval times.26 And there were even those who developed a theory that the Indians originated from Atlantis, the mythical continent described by Plato.27

However, many of those reared and educated on the Bible turned to that source as well as to the Apocrypha and Jewish legends to explain the origin of the Indians in America. The dispersion from the tower of Babel was one obvious possibility. The biblical account says the Lord confounded the language of the tower’s builders and “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:8). For example, English theologian Sir Hamon l’Estrange argued in 1652 that the first settlers of America were descendants of Noah’s son Shem who came from the tower.28 To many apologists, however, the Babel theory seemed inadequate since it did not explain how traces of the Law of Moses and other Jewish practices could be found among the American Indians—a claim increasingly interposed into the debate.

Early writers experimented with several possible Jewish migrations: a flight from Sennacherib about 700 B.C.; navigation during the time of Solomon; or a flight from the Romans at the destruction of Jerusalem around A.D. 70.29 But the theory which received perhaps the greatest support and captured the popular imagination in Joseph Smith’s day was that which asserted that the Indians were the lost ten tribes of Israel. The theory is based on the apocryphal book 2 Esdras (written about A.D. 100), and included in some nineteenth-century editions of the Bible, [40] which mentions the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel around 734 B.C. An angel shows Ezra a vision of a crowd of people, explaining:

These are the ten tribes, which were carried away, prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Shalmanaser the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt … For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. (13:40-41, 45, in KJV)

The whereabouts of the ten tribes always mystified believers.30 When the Indians were discovered, many clerics believed that the lost ten tribes had finally been located. The theory apparently originated in published form with Joannes Fredericus Lumnius’s De Extremo Dei Judicio et indorum vocatione (Antwerp, 1567), marking the beginning of a long and tenacious literary tradition.31

The tale of a Portuguese Jew named Antonio de Montezinos (or Aaron Levi) who had traveled in South America became the centerpiece of the argument proposing Jewish ancestry for the American Indians. Returning to Amsterdam in late 1644, Montezinos astounded fellow Jews with the declaration that he had found the ten tribes in Peru. According to Montezinos, an Indian named Franciscus, learning that Montezinos was Hebrew, had taken him into the wilderness to meet a group of Jews. This tribe of “unknown people” disclosed to Montezinos that they were of the tribe of Reuben and recited the Hebrew formula: Shemah Israel Adonoy Elohenu Adonay Ehad (“Hear O Israel the Lord Our God the Lord is One”). They also reportedly revealed to him their plan to one day destroy the Spaniards, liberate the Indians, and govern the whole continent.32

Montezinos’s tale was much retold in Europe to support the existence of the ten tribes in America. His interpretation of the event went unquestioned at the time, although one modern scholar has suggested a more plausible explanation for the group. A significant number of European Jews had immigrated to South America shortly after its discovery. The Spanish Inquisition forced many of these Jews into the wilderness, and Montezinos may have found a group who had hidden themselves from their Spanish persecutors.33

Another Jew, Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel from Amsterdam, repeated Montezinos’s story in a book published a few years later in 1650 (translated and reprinted in London the same year). He also assembled other evidences to support his belief in the Jewish origin of the Indians [41] such as the purported discovery of Hebrew inscriptions and Jewish synagogues in South America and the similarity between certain Jewish and Indian customs. Manasseh dedicated his book to the English parliament and went personally to England to present his views to them and to Oliver Cromwell. His goal was to have Jews readmitted to England where they had been legally barred since 1290. To argue before the biblically conservative group, Manasseh connected the ten tribe theory to beliefs about biblical prophesy they both shared: the Messiah would not come until the Jews were united with the ten tribes in their homeland.34 But God had promised to restore the Jews to their homeland only after they had been scattered to all nations.35 Though the Jews (at least their descendants the Indians) had been found even in America, they were yet absent from England. The scattering could only be completed when they were readmitted. The discovery of the ten tribes in America was a sign that the Messiah’s coming was imminent. England could play a very important role in the fulfillment of God’s prophecy, Manasseh argued.

Manasseh did not accomplish his immediate goal, but his millennial views regarding the American Indians impressed many English clergymen. One, Thomas Thorowgood, rector of Grimston in Norfolk, published his own book on Indian origins the same year Manasseh’s appeared. He included Montezinos’s account and marshalled a millennialist argument in support of a private religious goal: the importance of missionary work to the Indians. Ten years later in 1660 Thorowgood teamed up with John Eliot of Massachusetts, the famed “Apostle to the Indians,” to write Jews in America, or Probabilities that those Indians are Judaical, made more probable by some Additionals to the former Conjectures.36 Eliot, one of the first in North America to embrace the ten tribe theory, gathered Indian converts into a series of Christian communities. With the help of Thorowgood, he gained financial support from the Puritans in England for his missionary work.

Others in New England shared Eliot’s view that the Indians were of Hebrew descent. In 1697 Samuel Sewall, commissioner of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, expressed his belief in the ten tribe theory, and in 1788 Puritan Jonathan Edwards the younger compared the language of the Mohican Indians to Hebrew.37 Roger Williams argued in 1643 that the key to understanding the Indian language was to compare it to Hebrew, and William Penn declared forty years later that he was “ready to believe” that the Indians were “of the stock of the Ten Tribes.”38

In 1775 an Englishman who had spent forty years among the Indians, trader James Adair, published The History of the American Indians, which contained the most thorough defense to date of the Indian-Israelite theory and continued the polemic against writers such as Lord Kames [42] who had championed the pre-Adamite theory.39 Adair presented twenty-three similarities between the Indians and the Jews, based mostly on his own observations of the Chickasaws and Cherokees. He accurately reported many Indian customs, which makes his book of continuing value to historians, but his interpretations and comparisons are now viewed as naive and strained.40 Still, many contemporaries found such arguments convincing, and succeeding books on the ten tribes theory almost without exception relied heavily on Adair’s account.

In 1816 Elias Boudinot, a member of the U.S. Congress from 1777 to 1784 as well as founder and first president of the American Bible Society, wrote A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel (Trenton). This book drew heavily on the evidence of Adair and introduced a wide American audience to the theory of Israelite origins.41 Boudinot’s title played off that of a book written by scholar Claudius Buchanan, A Star in the East. Buchanan’s book, which ran through ten American editions before 1811, had asserted that the ten tribes were located east of Israel in Persia and India.

Ethan Smith, a Congregational clergyman who served as pastor to churches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, quoted both Adair and Boudinot as well as a variety of American and European sources in his 1823 book View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America. He added descriptions of Mexican antiquities and the mounds and fortifications of North America—what Fawn Brodie would later describe as “all the items of three generations of specious scholarship and piecemeal observation on this subject.”42 The first edition of Ethan Smith’s book appeared in 1823, but its popularity required a second, expanded edition two years later.

By the time the second edition appeared, dozens of passages from View of the Hebrews were appearing in another book, The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed, published in New York and written by Josiah Priest, an uneducated harness-maker and peddler of chapbooks.43 Two prominent members of the state had also been at work on a book exploring Indian origins. John Van Ness Yates, lawyer, secretary of state of New York, and member of the New York Historical Society, and Joseph White Moulton, lawyer and member of the state historical society, had sent out a circular asking for information about the aboriginal and colonial history of New York. The circular appeared in various newspapers around the state including the Wayne Sentinel, which was published near Joseph Smith’s home in Palmyra, New York. The newspaper reported back to its readers by announcing the publication of the book, History of the State of New York, on 20 April 1825: “The traditions and speculations relative to the aborigines are laid down at large … The work abounds with historical references, and is evidently [43] a production of great research and industry. It will no doubt be extensively patronised, for no library in the state can be complete without it.”44

Later that fall the Wayne Sentinel published another story about the Indian issue, printing a speech by Mordecai M. Noah, a prominent New York Jew who purchased Grand Island in the Niagara River and there dedicated the city of Ararat as a refuge for oppressed Jews around the world. In the dedicatory speech, Noah proclaimed that the Indians were “in all probability the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.” Noah further remarked that the research of antiquarians showed the Indians to be “the lineal descendants of the Israelites,” and added, “My own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief.”45 He invited the Indians to join with their brother Jews on the Island.

Using similar arguments, the following January the Susquehanna Register, a newspaper published in Pennsylvania not far from where Joseph Smith would later translate most of the Book of Mormon, reprinted the prospectus for a paper arguing that the Indians with few exceptions are “the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”46

Based on the availability of such books and speeches, no doubt, Josiah Priest would write in his American Antiquities in 1833: “The opinion that the American Indians are descendants of the lost Ten Tribes, is now a popular one, and generally believed.”47 He had good reason to celebrate the popularity of the idea, for the fifth edition of his book (published in 1835) announced that 22,000 copies had been sold in thirty months.

Although the ten tribe theory was a popular one, it was sometimes challenged by those who believed the Indians came from Babel. When Thorowgood published his Jews in America in 1650, he was attacked by fellow-theologian Sir Hamon l’Estrange who published two years later Americans no Jewes, or Improbabilities that the Americans are of that race.48 L’Estrange argued that many of the similarities Thorowgood had pointed out were not peculiar to the Jews or to the Indians. Other similarities such as legends of a creation and flood could have been transported by a colony from the tower of Babel.

The debate between the two theories continued into Joseph Smith’s day. This is evident from a comment which was made by a reviewer of the 1823 edition of Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews. The review from the Utica (N.Y.) Christian Repository suggested that a second edition of Smith’s book should separate the Indian traits which are strictly Jewish from those which might be considered patriarchal in order to make the case for Israelite origin stronger.49

Few tried to reconcile the two theories, however. Thorowgood, Eliot, and Ethan Smith, for example, were excited by the millennial implications of discovering the ten tribes in the American Indians but [44] were forced to discount the possibility of an earlier migration from Babel, since they based their arguments about the ten tribes on 2 Esdras 13:41, which says the ten tribes traveled to a far country “where never mankind dwelt.” Ethan Smith interpreted this passage as a reference to America, “a land where no man dwelt since the flood.”50

However, writers who did not follow the ten tribe theory and were free from the restriction imposed by the Esdras passage could and did postulate two migrations to ancient America. Congregational clergyman Samuel Mather, for example, in his book An Attempt to Shew, that America Must Be Known to the Ancients (Boston, 1773) argued that North America “was probably inhabited not long after the Dispersion of those numerous Families, who were separated in Consequence of the unhappy Affair at Babel.”51 Mather further speculated that a second wave of colonists arrived in ancient America possibly from northern Europe or Asia via the Bering Strait, or perhaps even Phoenicians by ship.52 In 1823 the Palmyra Herald speculated that there were two successive migrations to the New World:

The first settlers of North America were probably the Asiatics, the descendants of Shem … The Asiatics, at an early period, might easily have crossed the Pacific Ocean, and made settlements in North America … The descendants of Japheth [Europeans] might afterwards cross the Atlantic, and subjugate the Asiatics, or drive them to South America.53

Certainly the ten tribes theory and other conjectures about possible Jewish migrations to America were part of the more general attempt to fill that blank to which Mormon convert W. W. Phelps had alluded—”that wonderful conjecture” about the origin of the American Indians.

The debate over Indian origins did not end with a solution to whether the Indians were Adamic or pre-Adamic or whether they had come from Babel or Israel. Those who postulated an Old World origin for the Indians, whatever the theory, had to solve other more specific problems. For example, how and over what route had the Indians traveled to America? Where did they first settle? And what plants and animals were found in the New World? Again, there was no shortage of those willing to speculate about the blanks in New World history.

The mode of travel became the focus of considerable debate. When the dimensions of the New World were finally mapped and it was discovered that the Bering Strait was the point at which the Old and New Worlds were closest, many early writers speculated that it was the place where the first settlers crossed. The Congregational clergyman Jedidiah Morse came close to articulating twentieth-century views when he suggested that the two continents were at one time actually connected by a small “neck of land” which had since been submerged under the [45] ocean.54 Ethan Smith’s theory that the Ten Tribes may have crossed the Bering Strait on ice is also interesting.55 Still other writers postulated that America’s ancient inhabitants crossed the Bering Strait in small canoes. These suggestions, however, were criticized by James McCulloh, curator of the Maryland Academy of Science, who dismissed them as wishful thinking.56 McCulloh himself proposed that the continent of Atlantis was anciently situated in the Atlantic Ocean and therefore provided a land bridge for people and animals to cross.

A number of critics of the Bering Strait theory pointed out that it would have been impossible for tropical animals to migrate through the arctic zone57 and instead proposed some kind of transoceanic crossing. In a book published in 1761, Journal of a Voyage to North-America, Frenchman Pierre de Charlevoix strongly argued against the pre-Adamite theory, contending that the ancients could have sailed to America from the tower of Babel in a ship like Noah’s since they would surely have retained the knowledge of ship building from him.58 “Who can seriously believe,” wrote Charlevoix, “that Noah … the builder and pilot of the greatest ship that ever was … should not have communicated to those of his descendants who survived him, and by whose means he was to execute the order of the great Creator, to people the universe, I say, who can believe he should not have communicated to them the art of sailing upon an ocean.”59

The Palmyra Herald suggested in 1823 that some Asiatics could have crossed the Pacific Ocean in ancient times and afterwards that some Europeans could have crossed the Atlantic Ocean.60 Debates about such ocean crossings often turned on questions about navigation. Many argued against migration by sea since the ancients had no knowledge of the mariner’s compass.61 These arguments caused some writers to delay the arrival of the first Americans until Phoenician navigators could make the trip.62 But the idea that the first settlers of America came by sea was criticized by McCulloh. Even if ancient navigators had reached the New World, he questioned, why would they have brought vicious and useless animals like the wolf and the poisonous snake with them?63 But for the believer, one might as well ask why Noah had preserved wild and vicious animals. There could be only one answer: Noah followed God’s will. That might have also been true for America’s first settlers.

Related to the question of how the first ancestors of the Indians traveled to America was the question of where they first settled. Contemporary sources, as discussed in Chapter 2, generally recognized that the ancient ruins formed a chain extending from New York to Peru and became progressively more spectacular at the southern end of the chain. Usually those who believed the mound builders improved as they went [46] postulated that North America was settled first. However, those who believed the first settlers of the New World were highly civilized builders who gradually degenerated and succumbed to Indian attack in North America usually postulated an oceanic crossing into Central or South America.

For example, it has already been shown that Samuel Mather and the Palmyra Herald both argued that North America was settled before South America. There were those who argued an opposing view, however. In his book The History of Louisiana (London, 1774), Antonoine du Pratz suggested that some Indians might descend from Phoenicians or Carthaginians who had ship-wrecked on the shores of South America.64 Fifty-five years later, the Boston American Monthly Magazine printed a variation on this theme, arguing that the first settlers had crossed the Bering Strait and traveled to the warmer climates of Mexico and Peru before they built their mighty cities. Only later did they migrate to the Great Lakes region seeking more fertile lands.65 Thus the American Monthly explained the first settlements in Central and South America but sidestepped the question of sea travel.

The existence of New World plants and animals with no Old World counterparts was discussed only by careful scholars and was rarely broached in popular essays by the likes of Elias Boudinot or Ethan Smith.66 In Joseph Smith’s day, there was also some confusion about which animals were indigenous to the New World and which had been brought there by the Europeans. Serious scholars in the early nineteenth century knew that oxen, cows, asses, sheep, domesticated goats and swine, and horses had all been imported to America, but most others were unaware of this.67 For example, the Reverend Solomon Spalding placed horses in his romance novel of the pre-Columbian Indians of North America.68 Many people also believed that an elephant-like creature had roamed America in the not too distant past. There were many reports, for example, of the discovery of elephant or more precisely mammoth bones in the vicinity of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley.69 One mammoth skeleton was discovered in New Jersey in the early 1820s and taken to New York’s Lyceum of Natural History.70 Probably the best-known discovery took place in 1801 in New York when Charles W. Peale excavated and reconstructed an entire mammoth skeleton.71 The mammoth, reportedly 19 feet long and 11 feet 10 inches high, stood for viewing in the “Mammoth Room” of Peale’s Museum in Philadelphia.72

Indian legends about a great beast hunted by their forefathers caused some early settlers to speculate that the mammoth still existed in the unexplored regions of North America. Samuel Williams, for example, said of the mammoth: “We have the testimony of the Indians that such an animal still exists in the western parts of America.”73 Based on the [47] Indian stories, Thomas Jefferson had also speculated about the mammoth.74 Modern folklorists who have studied the Indian legends generally believe that the stories were sometimes descriptions of the moose and at other times mythical rationalizations based on their observations of the fossil bones.75 Although stories of living mammoths circulated, most believed they had become extinct before the Europeans discovered America. For example, in September 1774, the Royal American Magazine wrote that the fact that the mammoth “in America is now extinct, is beyond a doubt … The Indians have a tradition concerning them which is sufficiently romantic, and shews that it must have been long since that they perished.”76 An 1823 article in the Palmyra Herald agreed: “What wonderful catastrophe destroyed at once the first inhabitants, with the species of mammoth, is beyond the researches of the best scholar and greatest antiquarian.”77

Some writers tried to imagine what life might have been like in ancient America with the mammoth. Spalding’s romance had the natives using the mammoth (“mammoons”) for riding, ploughing, carrying burdens, and drawing timber; its long hair was also used for making clothing.78 John Ranking, inspired by Indian legends and mammoth remains, wrote a romantic account of thirteenth-century Mongolians who used the mammoth in their conquest of Mexico and Peru.79

Without concrete proof, theories about Indian origins multiplied. As early as 1792, Jeremy Belknap, Congregational clergyman and founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society, summarized the various theories and debates:

Whence was America peopled? For three centuries this has been a subject of debate among the learned; and it is amazing, to see how national prejudice has become involved with philosophical disquisition, in the attempts which have been made to solve the question. The claims of Hanno the Carthaginian, of Madoc the Welchman, to the seven Bishops of Spain, and the ten tribes of Israel, have had their several advocates; and after all, the claim of the six nations is as well founded as any, that their ancestors sprung like trees out of the soil. The true philosopher will treat them all with indifference, and will suspend his judgment till he has better information than any which has yet appeared.80

Belknap’s plea for “better information” on Indian origins was echoed by other early writers. For example, John Yates and Joseph Moulton wrote in their History of the State of New York: “While there are a few remnants of tradition to guide inquiry, and volumes of conjecture to bewilder, not one authentic record remains of even the name of any of those populous and powerful nations.”81 To the frustration of those who asserted the Indians were of Israelitish origin (thus saving the Bible, [48] as they supposed), doubters would simply point to the absence of records. Richard Frame, who worked with William Penn, expressed these sentiments in a poem written in 1692:

Those that were here before the Sweeds and Fins,
Were Naked Indians, Clothed with their Skins,
Which can give no account from whence they came;
They have no Records for to show the same;
But I may think, and others may suppose
What they may be, yet I think few men knows.82

Another poem, this one by Nicholas Noyes for Cotton Mather’s 1702 book Magnalia Christi Americana, echoed: “Conjectur’d once to be of Israel’s seed,/But no record appear’d to prove the deed.”83

Some believed the historical lacunae would never be filled. On 24 July 1829, the Wayne Sentinel opined that the “gap in the history of the world, as far as it relates to [the Indians], … can never be closed up.”84 The same newspaper quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying that the Indian’s origin and ancient history was “consigned to the receptacle of things forever lost upon earth.”85 After reviewing James Buchanan’s Sketches of the History, Manners, and Customs, of the North American Indians (New York, 1824), the United States Literary Gazette expressed the same doubt about solving the Indian mystery by discovering a record:

The early history of these tribes is probably lost forever. It seems almost unreasonable to hope, that further inquiries into their languages and antiquities should discover distinctly their origin and successive conditions, or that any record should be any where discovered, which would tell them and us whence they came, and through what changes they have passed.86

Still others, such as Ethan Smith, continued to hope for the discovery of a record which would finally put an end to all speculation and controversy. “If the Indians are of the tribes of Israel,” Smith wrote in 1825, “some decisive evidence of the fact will ere long be exhibited.”87 Smith imagined that the evidence would be some kind of Indian book containing the Hebrew scriptures and believed that he had good reason for this hope. Smith had heard about the discovery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, of an Indian phylactery containing some Hebrew parchments. Although he was never able to locate the Pittsfield parchments, the legend of a lost Indian book buried with an Indian chief strengthened his hope for such a discovery in the future.88

The story of a lost Indian book was a popular one, repeated in various forms by Elias Boudinot, Charles Beatty, Israel Worsley, and others.89 Not all shared Ethan Smith’s belief that such a book would [49] contain the Hebrew scriptures. For example, one reviewer of View of the Hebrews suggested that “the ancestors of the Indians might have had a ‘Book,’ without being Hebrew.”90 Such remarks bolstered the hope of those who were certain that the eventual discovery of a book would put an end to debate over the authority of the Bible.

Such were the contours of the controversy over Indian origins as they existed by 1830 when the Book of Mormon appeared and in 1833 and 1837 when enthusiastic converts such as W. W. Phelps and Parley P. Pratt declared that the questions had been answered: the blank in Indian history had been filled with the history offered to the world by Joseph Smith. The editor of the Vermont Patriot and State Gazette also recognized in 1831 that the Book of Mormon attempted to solve “important historical questions, which have caused many controversial volumes to be written during the last century—viz. Who were the discoverers of America? How this continent originally became peopled?”91 Certainly the Book of Mormon seems concerned with the same complex of questions which had preoccupied many Christians since the discovery of America. In fact the Book of Mormon offers its own solution to each of the contemporary dilemmas.

The Book of Mormon is first of all concerned with shoring up the Bible—to restore faith in its literal history and its promise of Christian salvation, to prove “to the world that the holy scriptures are true” (D&C 20:11; see also 1 Ne. 13:40). Thus the Book of Mormon makes it clear that God did not create human creatures outside of the family of Adam. The Book of Mormon states that Adam and Eve, after the Fall, “brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth” (2 Ne. 2:20). It also proclaims that Christ “cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Ne. 9:21). The Book of Mormon warns latter-day Indians that they “must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam” (Morm. 3:20).

The Book of Mormon also supports the notion of a universal flood: “After the waters had receded from off the face of this land [America], it became a choice land above all other lands” (Eth. 13:2). The book then explains how life was transplanted to that uninhabited world and in the process forges a reconciliation of the tower of Babel theory and the ten tribe theory. The Book of Mormon proposes two migrations: one from the tower of Babel and a later Jewish migration.

According to the Book of Mormon, the first settlers of America after the Flood were the Jaredites, a group of colonists from the tower of Babel who came at the time of the confusion of languages (Eth. 1:33). The Lord, instead of confounding their language (Eth. 1:34-37), drove them to America, “the promised land” (Eth. 6:12).92

[50] The Book of Mormon Jaredites were commanded to depart for “that quarter where there never had man been” (Eth. 2:5).93 In their preparations for this long journey, the Jaredites in Noah-like fashion gathered their flocks together, “male and female, of every kind” (2:1). Their preparations also included gathering fowl in snares, placing fish in specially prepared vessels, and gathering “seeds of every kind” (2:2-3). According to the Book of Mormon, they also had “deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee” (2:3)94 and “all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats,” which are said to be “useful for the food of man” (9:18). They also had “horses,” “asses,” “elephants,” and the unidentified “cureloms” and “cumoms,” which are said to be “useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (9:19). The Book of Mormon thus reflects a pre-1830 interest in elephants and includes those animals which few in that period would have known were imported animals. The progenitors of these animals were transported to America in eight sea vessels, “tight like unto the ark of Noah” (6:7), which the Lord told them to build. After the vessels were constructed and loaded with the animals, seeds, and other supplies, they set out into the great ocean, riding its current 344 days (6:4-11).95 Soon after their arrival in “the land northward” or north of “the narrow neck of land” (presumably the Isthmus of Panama), they “began to spread upon the face of the land, and to multiply and to till the earth; and they did wax strong in the land” (6:18; Al. 22:30; Mos. 8:8). Life was thus transplanted to the New World which had been swept clean by the Flood.

There was some confusion among tower of Babel theorists as to which of Noah’s sons the first settlers of America descended from. Although the Book of Mormon itself is silent on the matter, there are indications that Ham might have been intended. According to the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites departed from Babel and went to the Valley of Nimrod where they prepared for their long journey to the New World (Eth. 1-2). The Bible says that Babel was founded by Nimrod, a descendant of Ham (Gen. 10:8, 10). Many in Joseph Smith’s day connected the cursedness of Ham (Gen. 9:20-27) with the curse of Cain (4:9-15), as did Joseph himself (Abr. 1:21-27). This connection may explain why the Jaredites are said to have brought with them some records containing oaths which had been handed down from Cain (Eth. 8:9, 15). In fact, some early Mormons seem to have believed the Jaredites were Hamites.96

Most of the Book of Mormon is devoted to the story of a second migration by an Israelite group descended from the house of Joseph. The ten tribes, the Book of Mormon suggests, are yet in an unknown region of the earth (3 Ne. 16:1-3; 17:4). The book thus sets aside the persistent debate about that mysterious group and refuses to speculate [51] on a solution to the mystery, although the book suggests that Christ visited the ten tribes just as he did Jewish descendants in America. The story of this second Book of Mormon migration begins in Jerusalem “in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah” (1 Ne. 1:4). This was the first year of Zedekiah’s eleven-year reign, which preceded the fall and captivity of Jerusalem by Babylonian invaders about 586 B.C. According to the Book of Mormon, Jerusalem had rejected the Lord’s prophets, including one named Lehi. Although Lehi’s ministry is not mentioned in the Bible, he is the chief figure in the Book of Mormon’s migration story. The Lord warned Lehi in a dream about Jerusalem’s eventual fall and commanded him to flee into the wilderness with his family and others. When they arrived at the shore of the great Indian Ocean, they built a ship which was constructed “after the manner which the Lord had shown … not after the manner of men” (18:1-2).

Like many of those who speculated on Indian origins in Joseph Smith’s day, Lehi’s sons debated among themselves whether such a long sea voyage was possible. Faithful Nephi was challenged by his skeptical brothers: “And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Ne. 17:17). Nephi responded by reminding his brothers of the miracles which had accompanied the Israelite exodus from Egypt. He then asked them rhetorically: “If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (17:51)

Although the mariner’s compass had not yet been invented, the Lord provided Lehi with a compass-like instrument, described as “a round [brass] ball of curious workmanship.” Inside the ball were “two spindles,” one of which “pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:10). The Jaredite colony had simply drifted on the ocean’s current, but the Lehi colony had use of both sail and rudder and thus a compass or some kind of directional device was imperative (18:9-22). After a long sea voyage, Lehi’s colony landed on the western shore of “the land southward,” apparently the Book of Mormon’s term for South America (Al. 22:28, 32).

For most Americans today, Indian origins in the New World are no longer a theological problem. The controversies which caused so much excitement and speculation in Joseph Smith’s day no longer trouble scholars. It is now generally accepted that the American Indians are of Mongolian extraction, representing several different physical types probably originating in northern, central, and eastern Asia. They are thought to have migrated across the Bering Strait sometime between [52] 12,000 and 30,000 years ago. The biological linkage of the Indians to Asia is based on common features such as the characteristic eyefold, the pigmented spot which appears at the base of the spine of infants, and the shovel shape of the incisor. These traits have been found in varying proportions among every Indian group studied.97


1. “The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833.

2. P[arley]. P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning (New York, 1837), 135.

3. Jedidiah Morse, The American Universal Geography, 2 vols. (Boston, 1793), 1:75. Morse’s book went through several editions before 1830 and was listed for sale at Pomeroy Tucker’s bookstore in Palmyra under books “for school.” See the Wayne Sentinel, 5 May through 7 July 1824. The book is also listed in the Manchester Library under accession numbers 42 and 43.

4. Explicatio totius astronomiae, Opera (Geneva, 1658), 2:655, in Don Cameron Allen, The Legend of Noah: Renaissance Rationalism in Art, Science, and Letters (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1963), 133. For a general history of the pre-Adamite theory, see A. J. Maas, “Preadamites,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols. (New York: Gilmary Society, 1907-12), 12:370-71; O. W. Garrigan, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 17 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967), 11:702; also Margaret T. Hodgen, Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964), 272-6; and Allen, 132-37.

5. Ronald B. McKerrow, ed., The Works of Thomas Nashe, 4 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 2:116; see also 1:172.

6. This little-known conflict is discussed in Frederick S. Boas, ed., The Works of Thomas Kyd (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), lxxi.

7. Quoted in McKerrow, 4:236.

8. The two works were first published in Latin in 1655. Men before Adam went through four editions in 1655, Theological System went through three. In 1656 both works were translated into English and bound together in one volume, though one is dated 1655 and the other 1656.

9. Quoted in Allen, 133.

10. For a list of books issued in response to La Peyrere’s pre-Adamite thesis, see Allen, 136-37. La Peyrere’s influence on the French and English deists is discussed in David Rice McKee, “Isaac de la Peyrere, a Precursor of Eighteenth-Century Critical Deists,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 59 (June 1944): 456-85.

11. Bernard Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 2 vols. (New York, 1775), 1:38.

12. Henry Home [Lord Kames], Sketches on the History of Man, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1774), 2:71.

13. Samuel Stanhope Smith, An Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species, To which are Added Strictures on Lord Kaims’s Discourse, on the Original Diversity of Mankind (Philadelphia, 1787), 22.

14. Romans, 38.

15. Francesco Saverio Clavigero, The History of Mexico, Charles Cullen, trans., 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1817), 3:93-102. Clavigero’s work was first translated into English in 1787 in London and went through several American editions before 1830. Several American authors also made use of Clavigero’s work; for example, Josiah Priest quoted from Clavigero in The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed (Albany, 1825), 569-93. Priest’s book was listed in the Manchester Library under accession number 208. See note 43 for more information on Priest.

16. J. Eric S. Thompson, The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954), 261. For a discussion of the weakness of Indian flood stories as evidence for transcontinental diffusion, see Robert Wauchope, Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents: Myth and Method in the Study of American Indians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 64.

17. Antonio del Rio, Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City, Discovered Near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala … Followed by Teatro Critico Americano; or, Critical Investigation and Research into the History of the Americans, by Doctor Paul Felix Cabrera (London, 1822), 31.

18. The two manuscripts remained together in the Spanish archives until 1822 when London publisher Henry Berthoud had them translated into English and printed in a single volume. See publisher’s preface: “Prefactory Address,” vii-xiii.

19. This statement prefaces Rio’s book on an unnumbered page.

20. Rio, 28-29.

21. Cotton Mather, India Christiana. A Discourse, Delivered unto the Commissioners, for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians (Boston, 1721), 23.

22. Morse, 75.

23. Timothy Dwight, Travels; in New-England and New-York, 4 vols. (New Haven, 1821-22), 1:126.

24. The Carthaginian theory is discussed in Lee Eldridge Huddleston, Origins of the American Indians: European Concepts, 1492-1729, Latin American Monographs, no. 11 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), 16-21.

25. For a discussion and bibliography on the Welsh-Indian theory, see Edward George Hartmann, Americans from Wales (Boston: Christopher Publishing House, 1976), 13-24, 228-29.

26. See Huddleston, 72-73, 92-94; also Lewis Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians: A Study in Race Prejudice in the Modern World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 3.

27. Huddleston, 25.

28. Hamon L’Estrange, Americans no Jewes, or Improbabilities that the Americans are of that race (London, 1652). This book was probably published in 1651, though the date reads 1652.

29. Huddleston, 40-45, 57, 86-88. As early as 1671 John Ogilby mentioned the Jewish theories: “Some would derive the Americans from the Jews; others, from the ten Tribes of Israel, carry’d into captivity. The ground of which Opinions is, That the Jews and Israelites were scatter’d amongst all Nations; therefore they conclude, that America was also Peopled by them.” John Ogilby, America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World (London, 1671), 27.

30. Most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars believed that the ten tribes had been scattered throughout Asia and the Middle East. See, for example, William Jones, A Discourse on the Institution of a Society for Enquiring into the History … Antiquities, Arts, Sciences, and Literature of Asia (London, 1784); Claudius Buchanan, The Star in the East (Boston, 1811) and Christian Researches in Asia (Boston, 1811). This view was also accepted by biblical commentator Adam Clarke who rejected the theory that the American Indians had descended from the ten tribes. The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 7 vols. (n.p., 1810), 2:535-36.

31. Huddleston, 34-35. The most comprehensive survey of the lost ten tribe literature is William Hart Blumenthal’s “The Lost Ten Tribes,” an enormous unpublished manuscript found in the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati. A small section of the manuscript was published as In Old America (New York, 1930).

32. Manasseh ben Israel, The Hope of Israel, Moses Wall, trans. (London, 1652), 10-17. Manasseh ben Israel was first to publish Montenzinos’s story in the 1650 Latin edition of his book.

33. The interpretation that Montezinos had seen Jews rather than Indians is in George Weiner, “America’s Jewish Braves,” Mankind 4 (Oct. 1974), 9:64. Jewish immigration to South America is covered in Jacob R. Marcus, The Colonial American Jew, 1492-1776, 3 vols. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970), 1:42-46; Cecil Roth, A History of the Marranos, 4th ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), 271-95. The impact of the Mexican Inquisition on the Jews is discussed in Richard E. Greenleaf, The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth Century (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969), 107-15, 162-71, 201-202, and Zumarrage and the Mexican Inquisition, 1536-43, Academy of American Franciscan History Monograph Series, vol. 4 (Richmond, VA: William Byrd Press, 1962), 89-99.

34. On the restoration of Israel and Judah, see, for example: Isa. 11:11-12; Jer. 3:12-18, 12:14-15, 30:3, 33:7-11; Ezek. 37. The idea that the restoration precedes the Messiah’s coming is mostly implied from the context of such passages as Isa. 49-66; Ezek. 37-48; Joel 3; and Zech. 12-14.

35. On the scattering and restoration of Israel, see, for example: Deut. 28:64, 30:1-5; Isa. 11:11-12; Ezek. 36:24, 37:21. On the history of the Jews in England and Manasseh ben Israel’s attempt to get them readmitted, see Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); Lucien Wolf, Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell (London, 1901).

36. Tho[mas] Thorowgood, Jews in America, or, Probabilities That the Americans are of that Race (London, 1650). This work was apparently reprinted in 1652 (see Sabin, 95650, in the bibliography). Thomas Thorowgood and John Eliot, Jews in America, or Probabilities that those Indians are Judaical, made more probable by some Additionals to the former Conjectures (London, 1660). This work seems to have been reprinted the same year (see Sabin, 95653).

37. Samuel Sewall, Phaenomena Quaedam Apocalytica (Boston, 1697), 1-2; Jonathan Edwards, Observations on the Language of the Mahhekaneew Indians; in which … Some Instances of Analogy Between That and the Hebrew are Pointed Out (New Haven, 1788).

38. [William Penn], A Letter from William Penn (London, 1683), 7; Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America (London, 1643).

39. James Adair, The History of the American Indians (London, 1775), 3, 11.

40. See Wauchope, 57. Adair’s distortions were generally recognized by contemporary scholars. See, for example, Samuel Farmer Jarvis, Discourse on the Religion of the Indian Tribes of North America [20 Dec. 1819] (New York, 1820), 10; C[onstantin] F[rancois] Volney, View of the Climate and Soil of the United States of America (London, 1804), 403.

41. Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Tribes of Israel (Trenton, 1816). The assertion that Boudinot visited Palmyra in 1820 during the fourth anniversary meeting of the American Bible Society is an error based on a misreading of an article in the Palmyra Register, 7 June 1820. The Register had reprinted an article from the New York Column and the reference to the meeting held in the hotel “in this city” means the New York City hotel. The error originated in Robert N. Hullinger’s Mormon Answer to Skepticism, Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1980), 33. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 234, follows Hullinger’s error.

42. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), 46.

43. Priest, Wonders of Nature, 297-332, contains a lengthy selection from Ethan Smith’s work. Priest was a prominent peddler of chapbooks—cheap popular pamphlets of twenty-four pages or less; see James Truslow Adams, ed., Dictionary of American History, 7 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 1:494. Priest’s Wonders of Nature as well as his American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West (Albany, 1833) contain extracts from many works and easily could have been compiled from previous chapbooks.

44. John V[an] N[ess] Yates and Joseph W[hite] Moulton, History of the State of New York (New York, 1824). The Yates-Moulton circular was published in the Wayne Sentinel, 28 April 1824; the publication announcement appears in the Wayne Sentinel for 20 April 1825.

45. Noah’s speech was published in two issues of the Wayne Sentinel, 4 Oct. and 11 Oct. 1825. Noah’s remark on the Israelite origin of the Indians comes from the later issue. The Ararat address was widely printed in New York newspapers and finally published under the title Discourse on the Evidences of the American Indians Being Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel (New York, 1837). A 22 October 1825 letter Noah wrote from New York indicates that he was influenced by the Indian-Israelite theories of Manasseh ben Israel, James Adair, and Elias Boudinot. See I. Harold Sharfman, Jews on the Frontier (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1977), 214.

46. Susquehanna Register (Montrose, PA), 18 Jan. 1826.

47. Priest, American Antiquities, 73.

48. L’Estrange; see note 28.

49. Utica Christian Repository 4 (May 1825): 149.

50. Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America (Poultney, VT, 1825), 75.

51. [Samuel Mather], An Attempt to Shew, that America Must be Known to the Ancients (Boston, 1773), 13. Mather’s book was known and discussed in New York as late as 1814. See The New-York Magazine, and General Repository of Useful Knowledge 1 (July 1814): 154-56.

52. Mather, America Must be Known, 18-19.

53. Palmyra Herald, 19 Feb. 1823.

54. Morse, 81.

55. Smith, 78.

56. James H[aines] McCulloh, Jr., Researches on America: Being an Attempt to Settle Some Points Relative to the Aborigines of America, &c. (Baltimore, 1817), 22-24.

57. See the Columbian Historian (New Richmond, OH), 17 June 1824, 9, which suggests that the animals were brought through the arctic zone by divine agency. Domingo Juarros believed the impossibility of migration of tropical animals through the arctic region forced one to accept a transoceanic crossing, probably shortly after the tower of Babel episode. Domingo Juarros, A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala, J[ohn] Baily, trans. (London, 1823), 208-209.

58. P[ierre] [Francois Xavier] de Charlevoix, Journal of a Voyage to North-America, 2 vols (London, 1761), 1:1-59.

59. Ibid., 53. See also J[onathan] Carver, Three Years Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America (Philadelphia, 1796), 125-26.

60. Palmyra Herald, 19 Feb. 1823.

61. Carver, 117; William Robertson, The History of America, 2 vols. (London, 1777), 1:4.

62. [Antonoine Simon] le Page du Pratz, The History of Louisiana (London, 1774), 283.

63. McCulloh, 16.

64. Pratz, 283.

65. “Aborigines of America,” pt. 2, American Monthly Magazine 1 (May 1829): 80-81.

66. Allen, 130-32.

67. Abraham Rees, The Cyclopaedia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, 41 vols. (Philadelphia, [1805-25]), states that neither the horse nor the ox were in America before the Spanish (see under “America,” vol. 1, no pagination, alphabetically arranged); James Bentley Gordon, An Historical and Geographical Memoir of the North-American Continent (Dublin, 1820), 35-36, names the horse, the ox, the ass, the cow, the sheep, and the hog as Spanish imports; Lewis C[aleb] Beck, A Gazetteer of the State of Illinois and Missouri (Albany, 1823), 41, mentions the erroneous belief that the horse is indigenous to America.

68. Solomon Spalding, The “Manuscript Found.” Manuscript Story, by Rev. Solomon Spaulding, Deceased (Liverpool: Millennial Star Office, 1910), 89.

69. Th[omas] Ashe, Memoirs of Mammoth, Various Other Extraordinary and Stupendous Bones, of Incognita, or Non-Descript Animals, Found in the Vicinity of the Ohio, Wabash, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Osage, and Read Rivers, &c. &c (Liverpool, 1806).

70. United States Literary Gazette (Boston) 1 (1 June 1824): 77; American Journal of Science and Arts (New Haven) 14 (1828): 31-33.

71. Rembrandt Peale, Account of the Skeleton of the Mammoth (London, 1802) and An Historical Disquisition on the Mammoth (London, 1803).

72. Port Folio (Philadelphia), new series, 4 (7 Nov. 1807): 295-96. Both Peale’s museum and the mammoth skeleton are discussed in Charles Coleman Sellers, Charles Willson Peale, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1947), 2:137-44.

73. Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (Walpole, NH, 1794), 103.

74. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Boston, 1802), 56; Manchester Library accession number 9.

75. George E. Lankford, “Pleistocene Animals in Folk Memory,” Journal of American Folklore 93 (July-Sept. 1980): 293-304; Loren C. Eiselly, “Myth and Mammoth in Archaeology,” American Antiquity 10 (Oct. 1945): 84-87.

76. Royal American Magazine, or Universal Repository of Instruction and Amusement (Boston), Sept. 1774, 350.

77. Palmyra Herald, 19 Feb. 1823.

78. Spalding, 18.

79. John Ranking, Historical Researches on the Conquest of Peru, Mexico, Bogota, Natchez, and Talomeco, in the Thirteenth Century, by the Mongols, Accompanied with Elephants; and the Local Agreement of History and Tradition, with the Remains of Elephants and Mastodontes, Found in the New World (London, 1827). 80.

80. Jeremy Belknap, A Discourse, Intended to Commemorate the Discovery of America (Boston, 1792), 43-44.

81. Yates and Moulton, 22.

82. Quoted in Lynn Glaser, Indians or Jews? (Gilroy, CA: Roy V. Boswell, 1973), 46.

83. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana; or, the Ecclesiastical History of New-England, 2 vols. (Hartford, 1820), 1:15.

84. Wayne Sentinel, 24 July 1829.

85. Ibid.

86. United States Literary Gazette, 1 Jan. 1825, 294.

87. Smith, View of the Hebrews, 217.

88. Ibid., 130, 217-25. See Lee M. Friedman, “The Phylacteries Found at Pittsfield, Mass.,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, No. 25 (1917): 81-85, which gives evidence for the presence of Jews in the area. See also Sharfman, 210-11.

89. Elias Boudinot, 110-11; Charles Beatty, The Journal of a Two Months’ Tour (London, 1768), 90; Israel Worsley, A View of the American Indians (London, 1828), 116, 182.

90. United States Literary Gazette, 1 Oct. 1824, 181; cf. Smith, View of the Hebrews, 280, in which the review is quoted.

91. Vermont Patriot and State Gazette (Montpelier), 19 Sept. 1831.

92. English theologian Sir Hamon L’Estrange also believed that those migrating from Babel “suffered no interruption by that confusion” (9).

93. The similarity between Ether’s phrase “where there never had man been” and that of 2 Esdras 13:41, “where never mankind dwelt,” was noted by B. H. Roberts, who also observed parallels between Jaredite and ten tribe migrations: both migrations are religiously motivated; both groups enter valleys at the commencement of their journeys; both travel north between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; both cross water barriers (the Jaredites crossed “many waters” and “the sea in the wilderness” before reaching the ocean, 2:6-7, 13; cf. 2 Esd. 13:40, 43-44); both trips take years; and both groups travel to uninhabited lands. Paralleling Ethan Smith’s interpretation that the uninhabited land mentioned in Esdras is America, Roberts interpreted Eth. 2:5 as a reference to the Jaredites’ ultimate destination in the New World. See B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, Brigham D. Madsen, ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 183-87. Brigham Young University religion professor Hugh Nibley also points out that the Jaredites crossed water barriers before reaching the ocean but prefers to interpret the uninhabited land of Eth. 2:5 as a reference to Asia rather than the New World. Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952), 175-78. Eth. 2:5 may therefore be saying that the Jaredites on their way to the New World passed through the same region that the ten tribes would later settle. Note the subtle difference between “where there never had man been” and “where never mankind dwelt.”

94. W. W. Phelps saw the Book of Mormon’s mention of “deseret” as an answer to the debate over the origin of the honey bee in the New World. The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1833. For those debating the origin of the honey bee in America, see, for example, Belknap, 117-24, and Jefferson, 102-103.

95. According to M. T. Lamb, the Book of Mormon’s account of the Jaredite migration by sea has several problems: a 344-day sea voyage seems too long for such a journey, especially in light of the “furious wind” of Eth. 6:5; that all eight vessels remain and land together is difficult; and it would have been an insurmountable problem to divide people and animals between eight tiny vessels and to provide them all with food and fresh water to last nearly a year. The Golden Bible; or, The Book of Mormon. Is It from God? (New York: Ward and Drummond, 1887), 79-82.

96. On 1 May 1843, the Times and Seasons reported the discovery of some metal plates and a skeleton in a mound near Kinderhook, Illinois. The Mormons believed that a record of the Jaredites had been found and announced that it was “additional testimony to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” Although the plates were fakes, Joseph Smith, according to William Clayton, “translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found, and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah, king of Egypt.” Parley P. Pratt said the plates “are small and filled with engravings in Egyptian language and contain the genealogy of one of the ancient Jaredites back to Ham the son of Noah.” For a discussion of the Kinderhook plates, together with the statements of Smith and Pratt, see Stanley B. Kimball, “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax,” Ensign, Aug. 1981, 66-74; see also George D. Smith, “Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon,” Free Inquiry (Winter 1983): 23-24.

97. For a treatment of the evidence for the Mongolian origin of the American Indian, see, among others, Paul S. Martin, et al., Indians Before Columbus; Twenty Thousand Years of North American History Revealed by Archaeology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947); Diamond Jenness, ed., The American Aborigines, Their Origin and Antiquity; a Collection of Papers by Ten Authors (New York: Russell and Russell, 1972); and D’Arcy McNickle, They Came Here First; the Epic of the American Indian (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1949).