America's National Monuments
The Politics of Preservation
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Chapter 3:
The Antiquities Act

THE SPECTRE OF RICHARD WETHERILL may well have been the most important catalyst in galvanizing support for legislation to protect southwestern antiquities, but the passage of such a law required the cooperation of a number of disparate elements in the American arena. The situation at Chaco Canyon fueled advocates and gave them a sense of urgency about their work. But each faction of preservationists had an agenda of its own, and as Holsinger's vigilance made Wetherill's excavation into a symbol instead of an actual threat, the Department of the Interior, professional archaeologists and anthropologists, and western legislators all sought to create a law that protected their own interests as well as the antiquities.

Richard Wetherill provided American preservation with a fragile consensus. The GLO and its special agents advocated preservation because they saw him as a hindrance to the process of bringing law and order to the West; anthropologists wanted the government to act in order to protect their domain and to enhance their status with other scientists; and the only real objection western congressmen had was to a law that granted arbitrary power to the president without congressional approval. The people with the interest and the power to orchestrate the passage of a law to protect antiquities agreed in principle; finding a compromise that served the range of interests was a more complicated problem.

Theodore Roosevelt's ascendance to the White House helped elevate conservation to the upper levels of the American social agenda, and archaeological preservation was only one beneficiary. Roosevelt advocated a watchful bureaucracy with the power to enforce concepts of fairness and justice. Policymakers became important under Roosevelt, and they strove to implement social programs throughout the nation. With the support of the same people who engineered Progressive-era policies directed towards natural resources, antiquities legislation acquired a new significance. It also became part of the drive to centralize power in the hands of the qualified few.

At the turn of the century, anthropologists and archaeologists took the lead in creating a climate in which the government would favor the preservation of antiquities. In the exuberance that followed the Spanish-American War of 1898, they sought to give American archaeology the intellectual status of European and Middle Eastern antiquities, while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of care American areas received. Initially the cry came from individuals, but soon professional organizations such as the Archaeological Institute of America made their presence felt. One of the leading organizations in this battle was the Records of the Past Exploration Society.

The Records of the Past Exploration Society had the credentials to make a noticeable impact on the American archaeological scene. In 1900 the Reverend Henry Mason Baum, the long-time editor of the American Church Review and an amateur archaeologist who excavated biblical sites in the Middle East, founded the organization. Its membership included institutional professionals degreed academics, respected church leaders like Baum, and other interested people of means, most with some field experience in archaeology. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Records of the Past avidly worked for preservation.

The Records of the Past journal was one of its most successful means of attracting attention. Under Baum's experienced tutelage, it acquired a good reputation among professionals and interested laypeople. Its authors included eminent archaeologists and institutional professionals such as Dr. Arthur Stoddard Cooley of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Prof. William C. Mills, the curator of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, and Albert T. Clay, the assistant curator of Babylonian antiquities at the University of Pennsylvania. These men were acknowledged experts, and their experience in European, Egyptian, and Babylonian archaeology lent considerable status to the organization.

In a stance typical of the early years of the twentieth century, Baum and his peers had patriotic objectives for the prehistoric ruins of the Southwest. The first issue of the Records of the Past journal, published in January 1902, clearly articulated their program. Baum's editorial emphasized "the marvelous prehistoric ruins of our own country," suggesting that Americans were "apt to ignore the wonders at our own door in contemplation of the ruins in the valley of the Nile." [1] He favorably compared the human experience in the Americas with that of Europe and the Middle East. An America equal to the Old World in terms of an historic past could shed some of its cultural insecurities. [2]

Yet the elitism of the educated class placed limits on the effectiveness of the Records of the Past society. Baum stressed the importance of preservation, but in the long run, his perspective obstructed the results he desired. "It is almost unanimously conceded by those entitled to an opinion on the subject," Baum wrote, "that Congress should enact a law for the protection of the antiquities of our own country." Arrogant and lacking concern for competing interests, Baum and his "entitled" friends presented the guidelines that they thought were necessary to protect American antiquities. These included placing control of the excavations in prehistoric ruins in the hands of the secretary of the interior, a general prohibition on the sale of aboriginal artifacts, appropriations for the upkeep and maintenance of the various sites, and penalties for violations of any of the regulations. [3]

Baum's attitude typified that of Progressive-era scientists and professionals. To these people, science and government were tools with which to tame the wilder forces in society. Strong central government served as the regulator, the great equalizer, that ensured fair competition and wise use of resources. The qualified few would manage American society for the good of all. Disparate elements opposed such ideas, but to scientists and professionals of the early twentieth century, these dissenters were the very people responsible for the depletion of timber and mineral resources that compelled regulation. As irreplaceable as more utilitarian resources, archaeological sites also required protection and regulation. Although imbued with the belief that their cause was just, Baum and his friends were only peripherally aware of the need to compromise to achieve their goals.

Baum's condescending attitude toward people outside the scientific community became a major barrier. He and his friends were neophytes in the political arena, where connections and contacts were more important than the righteousness of a cause. They often approached the wrong people in federal agencies and to many in Congress, the leaders of Records of the Past sounded too shrill when they expressed their point of view. Many of the archaeologists spoke more to each other than to the public or Congress, and although they made solid arguments, their tone was patronizing to people who were not part of the inner circle of the Records of the Past society.

Although he worked tirelessly, Baum frequently alienated potential allies. In January 1902 Baum announced that "everyone . . . must feel humiliated over the failure of this Government to protect the ruins within its territorial limits." Baum's polemic made him few friends at the Department of the Interior. Given a vast domain and limited resources, the GLO did the best it could, and Commissioner Binger Hermann believed that the attack was unwarranted. Baum fared even less well with the few sympathetic westerners. In June 1902 he offended western supporters of preservation. Unaware of the role of the Santa Fe New Mexican in bringing Richard Wetherill's activities to public attention, Baum announced "that the newspapers of our Southwest are taking up to some extent the cause of the . . . prehistoric records." [4] Edgar L. Hewett and others in the forefront of preservation in the West felt both ignored and usurped. Differences of opinion within the preservation coalition became public.

During the summer of 1902, the Records of the Past society sponsored an expedition to the Southwest. Baum led the party, which stopped at most of the significant ruins known to American scientists. Flushed with his new experiences, Baum made judgments on the archaeological sites he saw. He declared the Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon regions suitable for national parks status, but the ruins of the Pajarito Plateau, where Hewett worked, failed to impress Baum. [5] Others, including the commissioner of the GLO, had advocated park status for the region, and with no label other than national park for reserved areas, Baum's suggestion that the plateau lacked significance seemed inexplicable. Again Baum's priorities strained the preservation alliance.

During his visit to Chaco Canyon, Baum encountered Richard Wetherill, who lived near Pueblo Bonito even though the GLO had suspended his homestead claim, and the individualist ethic that characterized the frontier directly confronted the institutional mentality that dominated the East. [6] No account of their meeting survives, but it must have been contentious. Wetherill personified everything to which Baum objected, whereas Baum's self-righteousness and lack of sensitivity to other points of view must have galled the stone-faced westerner. Baum regarded Wetherill as a profiteering renegade, and from Wetherill's point of view, Baum's moral issue was his livelihood. Baum and Wetherill were the opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the preservation of archaeological ruins.

After seeing the realities of preservation in the West, Baum's resolve was strengthened. From then on, he worked frantically. Faced with the immensity and urgency of his endeavor, Baum stepped up efforts to initiate legislation and also arranged practical activities in the field. In April 1903 Baum learned that unauthorized people were preparing to excavate in the Canyon de Chelly area the following summer. Assuming the potential excavators to be on the level of Richard Wetherill, Baum requested that the secretary of the interior provide a custodian to guard the ruins. [7] The ruins were on the Navajo Indian reservation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs acted quickly. On 8 May 1903 Charles C. Day became the caretaker of Canyon de Chelly. The excavations were prevented; Baum's watchful vigilance began to pay dividends.

The campaign to initiate preservation legislation also picked up speed. During the winter of 1903-4, Baum and his associates drafted a bill that protected antiquities upon public land. In the spring of 1904 they approached Congressman William Rodenberg of Illinois, and on 2 March 1904 he introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. Rodenberg sent copies of the draft to archaeologists, anthropologists, and university presidents all over the country. Their comments were unilaterally favorable. Conspicuous by their absence, however, were such western archaeologists as Hewett and Byron L. Cummings of the University of Utah. Perhaps unaware of their existence, Rodenberg had not asked them to comment.

As the Senate Public Lands Committee met on 20 April to consider the companion bill (S. 5603) proposed by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, the chances of passage looked excellent. There were bills on the floor of both Houses of Congress; the president of almost every important university, archaeological association, and historical society had written to express support for the measure, and few in Congress opposed it. It seemed that everyone agreed upon the bill, and Baum must have been pleased with the results of his work. He knew that other bills on the floor of Congress embodied similar concepts, but none had the widespread support that backed the Lodge-Rodenberg bill. [8]

Baum had rushed his legislation every step of the way, and the time had come to work out the details. The Senate Public Lands Committee hearing centered around the merits of the various bills. Each offered different administrative provisions, but on one point, all agreed. The "legislation should at this time be preservative rather than administrative. It should not attempt to deal with the things that may arise in the future," University of Michigan archaeologist Dr. Francis Kelsey, the secretary of the Archaeological Institute of America, told the committee, "but should meet immediate contingencies to preserve what we have." [9] The spectre of Richard Wetherill, to whom Baum alluded in his testimony, provided cause enough for the urgency.

Such a short-sighted approach postponed decisions on the real issues facing advocates of preservation. It failed to take into account the rivalries among archaeologists and their organizations. Despite agreement upon the principle of preservation, each of the bills on the floor of Congress proposed a plan for administering archaeological areas that assigned responsibility to a government agency, institution, or professional organization. All the measures had vociferous proponents, and self-interest and merit became confused.

In early 1904, if all that preservation advocates wanted was legislation which allowed them to preserve ruins in the Southwest, any of the bills on the floor of Congress would have fulfilled their ends. The administrative program of each became the point of contention. The Lodge-Rodenberg bill made the secretary of the interior responsible for antiquities on public land, granting him the power to issue excavation permits to responsible "incorporated" groups. Its major competitor was a bill that William Henry Holmes of the Bureau of Ethnology had written. Sen. Shelby Cullom of Illinois, a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, sponsored it in the Senate, while Rep. Robert Hitt, also of Illinois, introduced it in the House of Representatives. The measure resembled the Lodge bill, except that Holmes replaced the secretary of the interior with the secretary of the Smithsonian. Bernard S. Rodey, the territorial delegate from New Mexico, also introduced a measure similar to Holmes's, but it drew less attention. [10]

From Baum's point of view, material treasures, not the locations that contained them, offered the great prize of American archaeology. In his eyes, collections for museums became the objective for scientists, and he saw his peers as participants in a race to find prehistoric relics and ship them east. Typical of his era, he perceived equality among an exclusive group of accredited contestants. Only people like Richard Wetherill were excluded. As a result, Baum objected to the Cullom Hitt bill. He thought it a partisan measure that gave the Smithsonian Institution an unfair advantage in acquiring relics. If it passed, Baum felt, the Wetherills of the world would be replaced by an officially sanctioned system of favoritism. The bill "might well have said, no explorations except by the Smithsonian," Baum reported being told by an unidentified eminent archaeologist. [11] Despite public expressions to the contrary, administering archaeological ruins, not preservation itself, remained the key question.

Again Baum's attitude put him at odds with potential allies. After previously alienating the commissioner of the General Land Office, Baum now took on Holmes, the Bureau of Ethnology, and the Smithsonian. Committed to "equal privileges," Baum accused Holmes of favoritism. [12] Baum thought that both the Smithsonian and Rodey bills extended unfair advantages, and in front of the Senate Public Lands Committee, he vehemently attacked the bills. Invoking the authority of the professional community, Baum relied upon the array of letters that supported the Lodge-Rodenberg bill to show its superiority.

Unfamiliar with Washington politics and the interests of his competitors, Baum set himself a difficult course. He refused to consider the merit in other points of view, and a competitive situation emerged in which the various groups each tried to protect their own position. Baum's attacks on government agencies splintered the developing consensus. To the General Land Office and the Smithsonian Institution, he was an interloper who sought legislation to further his goals. In contrast, Baum presented himself as a crusading reformer, ensuring fair access to the fruits of American archaeology. Baum's credibility became an issue that overshadowed the preservation question.

A controversy was brewing, and the House of Representatives became the battleground. The Senate Public Lands Committee reported favorably upon the Lodge-Rodenberg bill, and on 26 April the full Senate passed it. Little time remained in the congressional session, and Baum sought unanimous consent for the measure. The subcommittee that assessed the bill for the House of Representatives supported his efforts, but the Smithsonian unequivocably opposed passage. On the second to the last day of the legislative session, its representatives, headed by the assistant secretary of the Smithsonian, Richard Rathbun, succeeded in a parliamentary maneuver to block the bill. They persuaded Rep. De Alva S. Alexander of Buffalo, New York, to oppose a voice vote that would have permitted immediate consideration of the bill. By the following morning, the last day of the legislative session, Baum had shown Alexander the "animus of the Smithsonian" and he refused to block consideration any longer. [13] The Smithsonian operatives convinced another representative Robert Adams of Philadelphia, to object. The session adjourned without hearing the bill.

Baum regarded the efforts to block passage of his bill as an assault on his efforts and he responded in kind. As the session ended on 28 April, he attacked Rathbun. After a consensus had been reached, Rathbun "appear[ed] as a lobbyist to delay passage of the bill," Baum accused. "The objections [you] offered . . . are trivial in the extreme." In Baum's self-righteous opinion, Rathbun's actions pointed to graceless self-interest. Baum's vitriolic attack continued in the May 1904 issue of Records of the Past, where he printed his letter to Rathbun and pointed a finger at the Smithsonian, holding it "responsible for all injury done to antiquities on the Public Domain until the final passage of the [Lodge-Rodenberg] Bill." The Department of the Interior had done its best for the Lodge-Rodenberg bill, and Baum believed its support would continue. The Smithsonian was his culprit. [14]

Personalities impeded the effort to enact legislation to preserve American antiquities. Ironically, western intransigence was no longer the problem; pro-preservation elements created their own obstacles to passage. Baum's heavy-handedness fragmented the consensus. His peers thought the public attack on Rathbun was inappropriate and support for Baum waned. Preservation advocates found themselves in a stalemate. Although everyone agreed to leave unsettled the question of administering the reserved land until legislation was enacted, their disagreements over the structure of this administration caused the disintegration of the fragile alliance that favored preservation.

Washington, D.C., administrators and specialists fought the Lodge-Rodenberg battles. Few of the participants in the fray had substantial experience in the American Southwest. Baum had visited the region, but his travels had not given him the ability to understand the concerns of southwesterners. Many of the other supporters had little feel for the region, which they believed was full of gila monsters and Apache Indians. Even William Henry Holmes, who had developed into a first-class geologist and anthropologist on the F. V. Hayden survey in 1872, had been away from the Southwest for a long time. [15] It remained for Edgar L. Hewett, a westerner with actual experience in prehistoric ruins and close ties to the Department of the Interior and the House Public Lands Committee, as well as the credentials to mix with archaeologists and anthropologists, to unite the disparate preservation forces.

Hewett, already the primary cultural force in New Mexico, sat out the Lodge-Rodenberg fiasco. He found himself obsessed with the remains of aboriginal cultures, but his perspective differed greatly from that of Richard Wetherill. He too staked out an area, the Pajarito Plateau northwest of Santa Fe, but he cultivated GLO operatives and local and territorial officials. In 1900 he alerted the Department of the Interior about Wetherill's work at Chaco Canyon. At different times during the summer of 1902, he showed the archaeology of northern New Mexico to both Rep. John F. Lacey of Iowa, the chairman of the House Public Lands Committee, and Baum. By 1904 Hewett's ties to Lacey and W. A. Richards, the new commissioner of the GLO, were firm. An adopted southwesterner, he understood the concerns of people of the region and was as comfortable with the specialists as with laymen. He was also instrumental in turning Santa Fe into a cultural center. Yet at the time, Hewett's highest degree was a Master of Arts in pedagogy, and on the national scene, it did not qualify him as an expert.

Hewett understood what the future held, and he busily acquired credentials to back up his fieldwork. An educator by training, Hewett rose quickly in the Southwest. In 1898, at the age of thirty-three, he became the first president of New Mexico Normal University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Archaeology also figured in his plans. Later that year, he helped found the Archaeological Society of New Mexico in Santa Fe. In 1901 he became both a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a lifetime member of the Archaeological Institute of America. In 1903, after political Opponents ousted him from his university post, Hewett began postgraduate work in archaeology at the University of Geneva under Louis Waurin and the noted Egyptologist Edouard Naville. He saw that an advanced degree in archaeology could propel him in the direction he wanted to go. [16]

By mid-1904, support for antiquities legislation began to galvanize around Hewett. Despite the fact that he lacked formal archaeological credentials, the GLO and many professional archaeologists appreciated his efforts on behalf of southwestern antiquities. He dug extensively, but his educational credentials precluded putting him aside as a vandal, and his wide knowledge of the region and its peoples increased his importance. The archaeological profession needed Hewett as a counterpoint to Wetherill. Few in the West had closer connections to the federal government or as much field experience.

Hewett's institutional base blossomed in the aftermath of the Lodge-Rodenberg debacle. Professional archaeologists sought his opinion on southwestern issues. As if to rectify its earlier high-handedness, the Records of the Past society appointed Hewett as one of its consulting editors in January 1905. [17] Even more significant, the Department of the Interior sought his counsel. In the summer of 1904 Commissioner W. A. Richards of the GLO turned to Hewett for a report on all aspects of southwestern archeological areas. Hewett obliged.

Hewett's report provided the first comprehensive look at southwestern ruins. He identified three river basins that contained most of the known ruins and subdivided them into twenty districts. He also provided the first compilation of maps showing the approximate position of all known sites. Hewett also pointed out many ruins that had previously escaped attention. Hewett's report appeared objective and scientific, organized by fact rather than by opinion. It gave Commissioner Richards a better idea of the scope of preservation needs.

Increasingly sophisticated as a politician, Hewett did not favor the administration of southwestern archaeology by any specific group. The Department of the Interior seemed the logical choice for administration, but staunchly in favor of immediate action, Hewett downplayed his choice of authorities. He also avoided the sensitive question of how to handle collections made in the ruins. He had learned much from the Records of the Past fiasco, and instead of a prescribed program, Hewett offered a goal for the legislation: "All measures . . . should look towards the encouragement of research and the advancement of knowledge and not toward its restriction." [18]

Hewett was aware of the tension between eastern and western interests and he tried to offer solutions that satisfied the needs of both. In a letter he wrote on 14 September 1904, Hewett proposed archaeological reservations of limited area. "I believe the scientists and the country at large will favor," he informed Richards, "a simple measure authorizing the creation of . . . small groups of ruins, that demand permanent protection, and the establishment of a system of supervision of all ruins on the public domain and Indian reservations by the Department of [the] Interior." He suggested that Lacey's bill from 1900, reintroduced after the Lodge-Rodenberg failure, needed only one minor change to serve the purpose. Lacey had not considered archaeological areas that were not included in reservations, and Hewett believed that some protection for these areas was imperative.

Although Hewett did not want to end up in the Baum-like position of telling the GLO how to do its job, he did have choice comments about the Lodge-Rodenberg bill. Hewett showed that the hastily written bill seemed tailored to specific situations and that it did not serve the general interest of archaeologists. It would have forbidden the excavations conducted by many qualified excavators. The Lodge-Rodenberg bill allowed only an "incorporated public museum, university, college, scientific society or educational institution" to sponsor exploratory work in archaeological ruins. Hewett pointed out that this language excluded the Bureau of Ethnology, which was not incorporated, an entity created for the "sole purpose of doing archeological and ethnological work in this country." [19]

Nor did Hewett believe that the authors of the bill understood the process of archaeological investigation. The bill contained a clause that compelled any fieldwork to be "continuously" pursued until the secretary of the interior deemed it completed. This, Hewett said, made archaeology an expensive, time-consuming proposition dependent upon the whim of a government official. It would discourage even the most affluent institutions, for many excavations would take decades to complete. The Lodge-Rodenberg bill also made collecting artifacts in the public domain a misdemeanor. Hewett stressed that this failed to differentiate between archaeology and vandalism and made all excavators liable to prosecution, for "under strict construction, it prohibits the most harmless and commendable pursuits." [20]

According to Hewett, the Lodge-Rodenberg bill was a disaster. It seemed "merely [to] impose an unfortunate restriction upon existing powers." It confined archaeological reservations to a single section of land for each, an area Hewett believed too small. In 1904 temporary withdrawal by the secretary of the interior, upon which there were no restrictions, offered the primary tool to protect prehistory, and instead of rectifying the problems of archaeological preservation, the new bill merely restricted existing options. "In fact, the whole effect of this bill," opined Hewett, "is to place serious obstacles in the way of the advancement of Archeological Science." [21]

After taking Hewett's arguments into account, Commissioner Richards agreed that the Lodge-Rodenberg bill was a seriously flawed piece of legislation. Hewett's keen eye and interpretive sense detected severe problems in the bill that had been buried during the heated emotional conflicts earlier in the year. Seen in a new light, the bill did little for preservation and the advancement of knowledge that the existing de facto situation did not cover. Worse, it imposed new and, to Hewett, unnecessary restrictions upon qualified archaeologists. On 5 October 1904 Richards wrote the secretary of the interior to concur wholeheartedly with Hewett's suggestions. [22] Hewett now had the official sanction of the Department of the Interior behind his efforts.

In December 1904 the Lodge-Rodenberg bill was reintroduced in Congress, and the lukewarm reception it received led to a major realignment of preservation advocates. Although on 5 January 1905 the House Public Lands Committee reported favorably upon it, Congress adjourned before a vote could be taken, and the Lodge-Rodenberg bill died. Hewett's comments to Richards certainly cooled support at the Department of the Interior. Baum's attitude and presentation had alienated many of the supporters of preservation legislation, and when Hewett and the GLO found his bill seriously flawed, many were pleased. Baum's power base disintegrated following the demise of the bill, and a vacancy in the leadership of the movement to preserve American antiquities appeared. Hewett filled the void. A formidable man, he nonetheless offered the House Public Lands Committee a more palatable personality to support. It remained to be seen if Hewett could pull the fragmented groups together behind any one piece of legislation.

The Baum debacle forced preservation advocates to reconsider their objectives, and many favored compromise in order to achieve an early solution. Archaeologists and anthropologists toned down their actions considerably, and they soon followed the charismatic Hewett. Looking for some kind of conciliatory legislation, the American Anthropological Society appointed him to its committee to promote legislation in favor of preservation. In 1904 the committee had supported the Lodge-Rodenberg bill as the best available option, and its members prepared to reintroduce it when Congress reconvened in January 1906. [23] Hewett convinced them to do otherwise.

To a committee of the organization, he presented his previous objections and added a new one. The Forest Transfer Act of 1905 transferred the forest reserves (national forests) from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. The transfer imposed a bifurcated system of administration upon southwestern archeological areas, for the new United States Forest Service (USFS) assumed responsibility for ruins on national forest land whereas the GLO still managed those that remained in the public domain. This made the Lodge-Rodenberg bill an archaic measure; it no longer addressed the issues facing all southwestern archaeological ruins. Hewett recognized the urgency long associated with preservation and did not want the change in administration to initiate interdepartmental strife in Washington, D.C. He suggested that the interior, agriculture, and war departments, the latter of which had jurisdiction over ruins on military land, separately administer antiquities on the lands for which each was responsible. Again Hewett effectively worked within the rules of federal politics, an endeavor at which earlier proponents of preservation had failed. Instead of favoring one department over another, Hewett proposed leaving each department in charge of its own ruins. Better a system with a number of responsible authorities than no system at all.

With Hewett's guidance, a new drive took form. At a joint meeting of the American Anthropological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America in Ithaca, New York, on 28 December 1905, Hewett presented a draft of his bill for the preservation of American antiquities. His measure preserved "the exact spirit" of the archaeologists' and anthropologists' draft of the previous year and covered issues of concern to the General Land Office, the Department of the Interior, and people in the West. The meeting unanimously endorsed Hewett's draft, and Hewett presented it to John Lacey, who introduced it in the House. Sen. Thomas Patterson of Colorado followed with an identical bill in the Senate. [24]

Hewett's bill, titled "An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities," and which came to be known as the Antiquities Act, had broad appeal. It pleased scientists, academics, government officials, and concerned citizens. The bill rectified many of the problems that Hewett had previously called to Richards's attention. It avoided administrative questions beyond assigning departments to guard ruins on lands they already administered, something presumably within the scope of their responsibilities. It also included "objects of historic and scientific interest" among the features that could be protected. Hewett suggested that the president have the power to proclaim this new category of federal reservations—the national monuments—subject to the stricture that their size "should be limited to the proper care and management of the objects to be protected," a drastic change from the restrictive 320- or 640-acre areas previous measures allowed. [25]

Although the unchecked power that Hewett's bill granted to the president appeared to compromise western interests, the bill really only extended executive fiat into a new realm; it granted no extension of the nature of that power. The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 granted to the president the unlimited power to create forest reserves. During the late 1890s controversy swirled around uses of that law to reserve vast timbered areas. In contrast, most archaeological areas were minute, and although the language of the bill included more than archaeological areas, few recognized it as a threat to their interests. The agreed-upon imperative of preservation outweighed existing concerns.

Hewett was a persuasive advocate, and after powerful legislative support emerged for the bill, the Antiquities Act became law. Colorado senator Thomas Patterson's sponsorship of the bill in the Senate helped allay western fears. With Hewett's growing reputation to back him, Lacey handled similar suspicions in the House of Representatives. During discussion of the measure on the House floor, Rep. John Hall Stephens of Vernon, Texas, asked Lacey if the bill would permit anything like the powers of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, "by which seventy to eighty million acres of land in the United States had been tied up." "The object is entirely different," Lacey responded, "it is to preserve these old objects of special interest and the Indian remains on the pueblos in the Southwest." [26] Lacey's response satisfied westerners, and the Antiquities Act passed in the House of Representatives. On 8 June 1906 Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law. It seemed that the preservation of antiquities and private use of natural resources could coexist.

The situation deceived both Lacey and Stephens. The following year, Congress forbade the president to create additional forest reserves in western states without congressional approval, and the importance of the Antiquities Act increased. [27] It became the primary federal tool in urgent situations, and beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, it was used in ways that closely resembled uses of the Forest Reserve Act. Areas far larger than ever conceived were reserved under the auspices of the Act. As a result of the compromise Hewett arranged, the Antiquities Act became the way to protect public land in the United States quickly and effectively.

Hewett succeeded where other more prominent professionals had failed, for he had something to offer all the factions in the controversy. With a perspective that was part westerner, part scientist, and part government official, Hewett could clearly see the concerns of each. By seeking "in advance the approval not only of the committees of the [American Archaeological] Institute and of the Anthropological Association but also of the heads of the Government Departments concerned," Hewett deflected professional opposition to the bill. [28] His work with the organizations and the government brought him prestige among the people he sought as peers, and because he sought a Ph.D., he contradicted the inclination of scientists to regard excavating westerners as profiteering vandals. He had also helped blunt western opposition to another law granting unlimited presidential power over lands primarily located in western states.

Equal parts nineteenth- and twentieth-century person, Hewett provided the link that earlier attempts to pass legislation to protect American antiquities had lacked. Narrowly conceived, the earlier measures provoked controversy within a loose confederation of supporters. People who supported the idea of preservation had fought among themselves. In the right place at the right time, Hewett capitalized on the heightened sense of urgency inspired by the failure of the Lodge-Rodenberg bill. He consolidated supporters behind one proposal. He had close ties to all of the appropriate factions and his unique status as one of the few westerners with credentials and excavating experience enabled him to speak for the West of the future. Hewett replaced Richard Wetherill as an image of the West in the minds of scientists and government officials concerned with American antiquities.

The initiation of a movement to preserve human history and prehistory on the North American continent paralleled the drive to conserve other natural resources. It also embodied a cultural nationalism that required the forging of uneasy alliances between the East and the West and between science and government. The passage of the Antiquities Act was another step away from the individualistic, nineteenth-century ethic characterized by people like Richard Wetherill. Progressive sensibilities began to be applied to western land, to make rules for the greater good. To be a respected professional in twentieth century America required credentials as well as field experience, and the cooperative ethic of the Progressive era temporarily subsumed the individualism of the frontier. The federal government determined to take a more active hand in the administration and disposition of the public domain, and if Richard Wetherill planned to harvest upon his homestead claim, he would have to plant crops. Hewett had orchestrated a solid fusion where others, with equally good intentions, had failed. As a result, it became possible to preserve American antiquities.

But the Antiquities Act left many issues unresolved. Because it was a hasty compromise, drawn up to placate various government agencies, the new law left administrative questions unsettled. Recognizing the immediate need for the law, Hewett followed the lead of earlier preservation advocates. He tabled questions of jurisdiction and administration so that the proclamation of worthy sites as national monuments could begin. The only administrative provision in the act was one that allowed each department to retain responsibility for lands proclaimed as national monuments. There were no provisions for funding of the national monuments, effectively inhibiting the establishment of any system of caretaking. Other crucial questions were left to be decided at a later date. The Antiquities Act had closed gaps in the law; in practice, effective preservation had yet to be achieved.


America's National Monuments: The Politics of Preservation
©1989, Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
©1994, University Press of Kansas
All rights reserved by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

rothman/chap3.htm — 04-Feb-2005

Copyright © 1989 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Material from this edition published by the University Press of Kansas by arrangement with the University of Illinois Press and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the author and the University of Illinois Press.