Lewis Henry Morgan's Early Theory of Progress: His Evolving View of the Passions and Social Development
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 18, Number 2, Spring 2020
- pp. 229-258
- Additional Information
- Purchase/rental options available:
Lewis Henry Morgan has long been regarded as one of U.S. anthropology's founders. Much of the recent scholarship on Morgan explores his depiction of indigenous culture and his theory of progress. Focusing on his early thought, this article demonstrates how in the 1840s he moved from a moralistic to an increasingly ethnological understanding of advancement, and how his evolving view of Native peoples and the human passions underpinned this change. As a temperance reformer in the early 1840s, Morgan equated progress with economic growth, territorial expansion, and the spread of democracy. Additionally, he feared that the immoral passions of drinkers, radicals, and Native peoples threatened these gains. By 1843 he began attributing to European colonists the destructive passions he had formerly assigned to indigenous peoples, and came to view progress as a destructive force detached from human agency and morality. His 1851 League of the Iroquois links the passions to progress, but he saw these drives primarily as social phenomena, some of which stymie advancement while others enhance it. This study thus links Morgan's early temperance work to the ideas expressed in League of the Iroquois and in his 1871 Ancient Society, illuminating the symbols that Victorian Americans employed to represent progress.