European land claims in North America over time

This is graphic is pretty interesting — it shows the ebb and flow of European (and later U.S. and Canadian) assertions of territorial sovereignty over the past three centuries. Pretty interesting in terms of the discovery theory discussed in Johnson v. McIntosh, especially because it’s painfully clear that these countries were not actually exercising meaningful control over most of this territory until quite late — basically, not until the late nineteenth century wars between the U.S. and the various Indian nations. (Not sure how that played out in Canada.) But really — some of these claims by England, France and Spain were extremely notional. Reading McIntosh, it seems pretty clear to me that even Marshall thinks the discovery theory is dubious, though he feels bound by it. This map makes clear how vast the claimed areas of sovereignty actually were, and that they hung on a pretty slender definition of “discovery” and “conquest.” (I mean, really — it’s sort of like claiming all of Russia because an American once took a boat trip down the Volga.)


(via All That Is Interesting)

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