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Representations of American Indians and the Irish in educational reports, 1850s–1920s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Michael C. Coleman
Department of Languages (English), University of Jyväskylä, Finland
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Modern colonialism, writes Gyan Prakash, ‘instituted enduring hierarchies of subjects and knowledges — the colonizer and the colonized, the Occidental and the Oriental, the civilized and the primitive, the scientific and the superstitious, the developed and the underdeveloped’. Such dichotomies ‘reduced complex differences and interactions to the binary (self/other) logic of colonial power’, and colonial rulers ‘constituted the “native” as their inverse image’. Such perceptions of difference as ‘other’ expressed what ‘civilized’ Westerners believed themselves not to be — but also what they feared they might become, should they lose rational self-control. The ‘other’, writes Eva Kornfelt, ‘threatens the integrity of the self by offering alternative, unrealized, and suppressed possibilities’. As shown by Western fascination with the ‘noble savage’, this process could sometimes produce positive representations. Yet even these expressed the needs of the perceiver rather than the reality of the perceived. ‘Othering’, then, is a complex process, one implying deep cultural and individual needs, which may occasionally result in accurate representations, but more often produces self-justifying positive/negative dichotomies.

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Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2002

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1 Prakash, Gyan, ‘After colonialism’ in idem (ed.), After colonialism: imperial histories and postcolonial displacements (Princeton, 1995), p. 3Google Scholar. See also Loomba, Ania, Colonialism-postcolonialism (London, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Barker, Francis, Hulme, Peter and Iversen, Margaret (eds), Colonial discourse, postcolonial theory (Manchester, 1994)Google Scholar; (applying postcolonial theories to Irish history) Kiberd, Declan, Inventing Ireland: the literature of the modern nation (London, 1995)Google Scholar; (contesting such applications) Stewart, Bruce, ‘Inside nationalism: a meditation upon Inventing Ireland’ in Irish Studies Review, vi (1998) pp 516CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kennedy, Liam, ‘Modern Ireland: post-colonial society or post-colonial pretensions’ in Irish Review, xliv (1991), pp 47799Google Scholar.

2 Kornfelt, Eva, ‘Encountering “the other”: American intellectuals and the Indians in the 1790s’ in William & Mary Quart, 3rd ser., lii (1995), p. 289Google Scholar.

3 Sax, W. S., ‘The hall of mirrors: orientalism, anthropology, and the other’ in American Anthropologist, c. (1998), p. 293Google Scholar; jrBerkhofer, R. F., The white man’s Indian: images of the American Indian from Columbus to the present (New York, 1978)Google Scholar (on ‘noble’ versus ‘ignoble’ stereotypes).

4 Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C., 1832–1930) (henceforth A.R.C.I.A.). Examined by the present author for the period after 1850, in different publications or as a separate publication; hence the inconsistency in citation forms.

3 Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland (Dublin, 1834–1919/20) (henceforth C.N.E.I. rep.), examined, either separately or in bound volumes, in the N.L.I.

6 For example, Romani, Roberto, ‘British views on Irish national character, 1800–1846: an intellectual history’ in History of European Ideas, xxiii (1997), pp 193219CrossRefGoogle Scholar; jrCurtis, L.P., Apes and angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature (revised ed., Washington, D.C., 1997)Google Scholar; Foster, R. F., ‘Paddy and Mr Punch’ in idem, Paddy and Mr Punch: connexions in Irish and English history (London, 1993), pp 17194Google Scholar; Lebow, R.N., White Britain and black Ireland: the influence of stereotypes on colonial policy (Philadelphia, 1976)Google Scholar. On British anti-Catholicism see Hempton, David, Religion and political culture in Britain and Ireland: from the Glorious Revolution to the decline of empire (Cambridge, 1996), esp. pp 144-50CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 In a recent study I have utilised published autobiography to elicit the responses of those at the receiving end of B.I.A. and C.N.E.I. campaigns: Coleman, M. C., ‘The responses of American Indian children and Irish children to the school, 1850s-1920s: a comparative study in cross-cultural education’ in American Indian Quart, xxiii (1999), pp 83112CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 For B.I.A. history see especially A.R.C.I.A. and appendixes. I have summarised and documented this campaign in Coleman, M.C., American Indian children at school, 1850–1930 (Jackson, Miss., 1993), esp. ch. 3Google Scholar. See also, for example, idem, ‘The symbiotic embrace: American Indians, white educators, and the school, 1820s-1920s’ in History of Education, xxv (1996), pp 1–18; Child, B.J., Boarding school seasons: American Indian families, 1900–1940 (Lincoln, Nebr., 1999)Google Scholar; Ellis, Clyde, To change them forever: Indian education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893–1920 (Norman, Okla., 1996)Google Scholar; Adams, D.W., Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875–1928 (Lawrence, Kans., 1995)Google Scholar; Lomawaima, K.T., They called it Prairie Light: the story of Chilocco Indian School (Lincoln, Nebr., 1994)Google Scholar. Also essential is Prucha, F. P., American Indian treaties: the history of a political anomaly (Berkeley, Calif., 1994)Google Scholar, and idem, The great father: the United States government and the American Indians (2 vols, Lincoln, Nebr., 1984).

9 For National Board history see C.N.E.I. rep., 1834–1919/20, and appendixes; minutes of board meetings of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1831–1900 (N.L.I., MSS); minutes of the proceedings of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1900–1922 (private and confidential) (N.L.I.); Irish Education Schools Index (N.A.I.). See also Coleman, M.C., ‘ “Eyes big as bowls with fear and wonder”: children’s responses to the Irish national schools, 1850–1922’ in R.I.A. Proc, xcviii (1998), sect. C, pp 177202Google Scholar; Jordan, T.E., The lost children: quality of life, stress, and child development in the Famine era (Westport, Conn., 1998), ch. 5Google Scholar; Logan, John, ‘The dimensions of gender in nineteenth-century schooling’ in Kelleher, Margaret and Murphy, J. H. (eds), Gender perspectives in nineteenth-century Ireland: public and private spheres (Dublin, 1997), pp 3649Google Scholar; Farren, Seán, The politics of Irish education, 1920–65 (Belfast, 1995)Google Scholar, esp. chs 1, 10; O’Donovan, P. F., ‘The national school inspectorate and its administrative context in Ireland, 1870–1962’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University College Dublin, 1992)Google Scholar; Coolahan, John, ‘Primary education as a political issue in O’Connell’s time’ in O’Connell, M.R. (ed.), O’Connell, education, church and state (Dublin, 1992), esp. pp 8796Google Scholar; Coolahan, John, Irish education: its history and structure (Dublin, 1981)Google Scholar, ch. 1; Titley, E.B., Church, state, and the control of schooling in Ireland, 1900–1944 (Kingston, Ont., & Montreal, 1983)Google Scholar; Akenson, D. H., The Irish education experiment: the national system of education in the nineteenth century (London, 1970).Google Scholar

10 C.N.E.I. rep., 1900, p. 13. The board admitted that the average daily attendance was only 478, 224 pupils, and continually lamented non-attendance and irregular attendance. Akenson validly cautions scholars about C.N.E.I. statistics (Irish education experiment, p. 220). Dramatic expansion undoubtedly occurred.

11 In preparing my book American Indian children at school, 1850–1930, I read, along with published autobiographies, large numbers of manuscript letters and reports.

12 For example, C.N.E.I rep., 1857, p. 79; 1865, p. 164; 1896–7, app., sect, i, p. 61.

13 Coleman, American Indian children, esp. pp 46–50, 98–100. Prucha rejects the view that racism increased around 1900 (Great father, ii, 814). Cf., for example, Hoxie, F. E., A final promise: the campaign to assimilate the Indians, 1880–1920 (Lincoln, Nebr., 1984), chs 6–7Google Scholar.

14 See, for example, report of Moqui (Hopi) Superintendent T. G. Lemmon, A.R.C.I.A., 1906, in House documents, vol. xv, 59th Congress, sess. 2, serial 5118, pp 179–82.

15 A.R.C.I.A., 1855, in Senate executive documents, 33rd Congress, sess.2, serial 746, p. 211.

16 A.R.C.I.A., 1876, in House executive document no. 1, pt 5, 44th Congress, sess. 2, serial 1749, p. 137. See also A.R.C.I.A., 1874, in House executive document no. l, pt 5, 43rd Congress, sess. 2, serial 1639, p. 315.

17 A.R.C.I.A., 1897, in House document no. 5, 55th Congress, sess. 2, serial 3641, p. 319.

18 A.R.C.I.A., 1904, in House document no. 5, 58th Congress, sess. 3, serial 4798, p. 30. Leupp’s language expresses a degree of racial as well as cultural ‘othering’. See also above, n. 13.

19 A.R.C.I.A., 1914, in Reports of the Department of the Interior, ii (Washington, D.C., 1914), p.7.

20 A.R.C.I.A., 1920, in Reports of the Department of the Interior (Washington, D.C., 1920), p. 12.

21 See also A.R.C.I.A., 1928, in Annual report of the Secretary of the Interior (Washington, D.C., 1928), p. 15.

22 Coleman, M.C., Presbyterian missionary attitudes toward American Indians, 1837–1893 (Jackson, Miss., 1985), pp 12135Google Scholar.

23 A.R.C.I.A., 1851, in Senate executive documents, vol. i, no. 1, 31st Congress, sess. 2, serial 587, pp 35–6.

24 A.R.C.I.A., 1853, in Senate executive document no. 1, 32nd Congress, sess. 2, serial 658, p. 296.

25 A.R.C.I.A., 1860, in Senate executive document no. 1, 36th Congress, sess. 2, serial 1078, p. 303. See also A.R.C.I.A., 1854, in Senate executive document no. 1, 33rd Congress, sess. 1, serial 690, p. 350.

26 A.R.C.I.A., 1874, in House executive document no. 1, pt 5, 43rd Congress, sess. 2, serial 1639, p. 511. Cf. Francis Flesche, La, The middle five: Indian schoolboys of the Omaha tribe (Madison, Wis., 1963), ch. 10Google Scholar. This Omaha recalled running away from school to join the hunt.

27 A.R.C.I.A., 1864, in House executive document no. 1, 38th Congress, sess. 2, serial 1220, p. 494.

28 A.R.C.I.A., 1876, p. 136.

29 For example, A.R.C.I.A., 1898, in House document no. 5, 55th Congress, sess. 3, serial 3757, p. 207. See also Coleman, American Indian children, p. 45; C.N.E.I. rep., 1883, app. C, p. 192; Coleman, ‘ “Eyes big as bowls” ‘, p. 180. Simultaneously Congress (1893) and parliament (1892) began formulating compulsory attendance laws.

30 A.R.C.I.A., 1881, in House executive document no. 1, pt 5, vol. ii, 47th Congress, sess. 1, serial 2018, p. 253.

31 Ibid.; Smits, D. D., ‘The “squaw drudge”: a prime index of savagism’ in Ethnohistory, xxix (1982), pp 281306CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Coleman, Presbyterian missionary attitudes, pp 92–7.

32 A.R.C.I.A., 1857, in Senate executive document no. 11, 35th Congress, sess. 1, serial 919, p. 440.

33 A.R.C.I.A., 1878, p. 173. The superintendent of Carlisle Indian industrial school, Pratt was one of the most controversial of the ‘friends of the Indian’. See Pratt, R. H., Battlefield and classroom: four decades with the American Indian, 1867–1904, ed. Utley, R.M. (Lincoln, Nebr., 1987).Google Scholar

34 A.R.C.I.A., 1865, in House executive document no. 1, 39th Congress, sess. 1, serial 1248, p. 587.

35 A.R.C.I.A., 1897, in House document no. 5, 55th Congress, sess. 2, serial 3641, p. 316. Like Furnas, Hailman believed that ‘The Indian claims hospitality as a right until the means of his host are exhausted.’

36 A.R.C.I.A., 1864, in House executive document no. 1, 38th Congress, sess. 2, serial 1220, p. 494.

37 A.R.C.I.A., 1883, in House executive document no. 1, pt 5, vol. ii, 48th Congress, sess. 1, serial 2191, p. 56. In 1914 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote: ‘This process of disintegration of the Indian reservations is a splendid example of the elimination of the Indian as a distinct problem, either for the Federal or the State governments.’ (A.R.C.I.A., 1914, p. 9). Historians generally regard allotment as a disaster for Indians, and the Wheeler-Howard Act (1934) of the Roosevelt administration ended the policy. A.R.C.I.A., 1934, referred to’the incalculable damage done by the allotment policy and its corollaries’ (Annual report of the Secretary of the Interior (Washington, D.C., 1934), p. 79).

38 For example, Richard H. Pratt wrote: ‘A number of parties of chiefs and leading men from different tribes have visited the school [Carlisle] during the year. They all expressed the greatest satisfaction and gratitude to the Government for giving their children such advantages, and urged the children to improve their opportunities’ (A.R.C.I.A., 1884, p.188).

39 A.R.C.I.A., 1883, pp 56–7. On the changing nature of Nez Perce leadership see Coleman, Presbyterian missionary attitudes, pp 65–6, 121-3.

40 A.R.C.I.A., 1885, p.253.

41 A.R.C.I.A., 1897, in House document no. 5, 55th Congress, sess. 2, serial 3641, p. 339. Hailman noted how some ‘unscrupulous white men’ also attempted to hinder Indian schooling. Educationists often criticised such white Americans.

42 C.N.E.l. rep., 1836, in Reports of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland from the year 1834 to 1845, inclusive (henceforth Reps 1834–45), i, 61–2.

43 C.N.E.I. rep., 1855, app. G, p. 81.

44 C.N.E.I. rep., 1900, p. 7.

45 C.N.E.I. rep., 1915–16, pp 7–8. The Report noted the prohibition on pupils wearing ‘seditious and political badges’ and continued: ‘From the very beginning ... the Commissioners have strictly forbidden national teachers to take any part in political agitation and we are glad to be able to bear witness to the general loyalty with which our injunctions have been observed by the great majority of the teachers.’ Ironically, the C.N.E.I. found itself accused in some newspapers of having helped instigate the rising’, see Coleman,’ “Eyes big as bowls” ‘, pp 193–4.

46 C.N.E.I. rep., 1835, in Reps 1834–45, p. 15. See also ‘Charter of incorporation granted by Her Majesty to the Board of National Education in Ireland’ (1845): the goal was ‘to promote the welfare, by providing for the Education of the Poor of Ireland’ (C.N.E.I. rep., 1845, in Reps 1834–45, p. 313).

47 C.N.E.I. rep., 1854, app. G II, p. 124.

48 C.N.E.I. rep., 1861, app. C I, p. 73.

49 C.N.E.I. rep., 1903. p. 118. See also Inspector J. S. Cussen in C.N.E.I. rep., 1914, p. 86.

50 Bull, Philip, Land, politics, and nationalism: a study of the Irish land question (Dublin, 1996), p. 55Google Scholar. By 1900 widespread (generally Catholic) rejection of the union had produced an Irish ‘proto-state’ (ibid., ch. 5). See also Hempton, Religion & political culture, p. 86 (‘Thus the Irish nationalism that emerged at the end of the century was based on the powerful combination of a dispossessed people sharing a common faith and a common feeling that the Union ... was not the best arrangement for governing a Catholic nation’); Hastings, Adrian, The construction of nationhood: ethnicity, religion, and nationalism (Cambridge, 1997), esp. pp 8995CrossRefGoogle Scholar (in which Hastings speculates on why the union failed); R. F. Foster, ‘Knowing your place: words and boundaries in Anglo-Irish relations’ in idem, Paddy & Mr Punch, pp 78–102; Kennedy, ‘Modern Ireland’, pp 114–16; Stewart, ‘Inside nationalism’, p. 7. See also below, n. 53.

51 C.N.E.I. rep., 1866, pp 29–30.

52 C.N.E.I. rep., 1847, pp 138–9 (emphasis added). David Fitzpatrick accepts the traditional figure of one million ‘excess deaths’ (Fitzpatrick, , ‘Women and the Great Famine’ in Kelleher, & Murphy, (eds), Gender perspectives, p. 52)Google Scholar.

53 See Foster, ‘Knowing your place’, p. 82: during the Famine ‘the theory of Union should have worked to the Irish advantage... But the practice was exactly the opposite.’ Foster sees ‘the cruel paradox’ as one of many instances in which, although Ireland was supposedly ‘as British as Yorkshire (or Finchley), the Whitehall or Dublin Castle practice brazenly admitted the opposite ... Economic and political exploitation formed the basis of its operation, whether that had been the original intention or not.’ I do not intend to promote — and neither, of course, does Foster — the old nationalist myth that ‘England caused the Famine’. Irish-English differences are a major theme of Bull, Land, politics & nationalism. Whereas in India the British were forced to recognise ‘pre-existing conditions’, in Ireland ‘long familiarity and the ebb and flow of conquest obscured the lines of demarcation between the native and the colonial and made possible the pretence that coalescence was achievable’ (Bull, op. cit., p. 6; emphasis added).

54 C.N.E.I. rep., 1885, app. C, p. 181. On the curriculum see ibid., app. A, pp 78–87. On textbooks see Fitzpatrick, David, ‘The futility of history: a failed experiment in Irish education’ in Brady, Ciaran (ed.), Ideology and the historians: Historical Studies XVII (Dublin, 1991), pp 16883Google Scholar. Some teachers did cover Irish subject-matter in their lessons and, despite the risk to their jobs, did attempt to instil nationalist ideas: see Coleman, ‘ “Eyes big as bowls” ‘, pp 193–4.

55 C.N.E.I. rep., 1895, app. B, p. 179. See also ibid., p. 136: as English history was taught in English schools, Inspector Henry Worsley argued for Irish history as an optional subject: ‘The book of history, with the lessons derived from it, is at least as important a branch of study as the book of nature.’ History books ‘of a sufficiently impartial character’ were now available, he believed.

56 C.N.E.I. rep., 1879, app. 1, pp 151–2, provides the Irish-language and other examinations. For the full ‘revised’ programme (curriculum) see C.N.E.I. rep., 1904, app., sect. IIK, schedule xviii: ‘Programmes’, pp 191–221 .At two-teacher schools the geography course (first to fourth grades) required ‘a general knowledge of the map of Ireland’ (ibid., p. 204). For an earlier example of the curriculum see C.N.E.I. rep., 1873, app. A, pp 56–69 . On O’Faolain’s experiences see Coleman, ‘ “Eyes big as bowls” ‘, pp 191–3. See also Coolahan, John, ‘Imperialism and the Irish national school system’ in Mangan, J. A. (ed.), ‘Benefits bestowed’: education and British imperialism (Manchester, 1988), esp. pp 8491Google Scholar. On curricula at B.I.A. schools see Coleman, American Indian children, esp. ch. 6.

57 For sales outside Ireland see C.N.E.I., rep., 1840, in Reps 1834–45, i, 161. Copies of books used are available in the N.L.I, and T.C.D. See also Fitzpatrick, ‘Futility of history’. Later books had more on Ireland, but little on controversial or contemporary aspects of Irish life. See also Coolahan, ‘Imperialism’, pp 84–91.

58 C.N.E.I. rep., 1842, p. 182.

59 C.N.E.I. rep., 1900, p. 6. See also C.N.E.I., rep., 1834, p. 13, for an early statement of goals. See also Titley, Church, state & control of schooling, chs 1–3; Coolahan, Irish education, p. 5; Akenson, Irish education experiment.

60 See Farren, Politics of Irish education, esp. pp 4–9; Titley, Church, state & control of schooling, chs 1–3.

61 See, for example, O’Donoghue, Thomas, ‘Bilingual education in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’ in History of Education, xvii (1988), p. 209CrossRefGoogle Scholar; FitzGerald, Garret, ‘The decline of the Irish language, 1771–1871’ in Daly, Mary and Dickson, David (eds), The origins of popular literacy in Ireland: language change and educational development, 1700–1920 (Dublin 1990), pp 5972Google Scholar; hAodha, Ciarán Ó, ‘Bilingualism: an objective in education in Ireland, 1893–1941’ (unpublished M.Ed, thesis, Trinity College Dublin, 1982), pp 80, 99Google Scholar.

62 C.N.E.I. rep., 1850, pp 135–6. See also Coleman, M. C.,’ “Some kind of gibberish”: Irish-speaking children in the national schools, 1850–1922’ in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, xxxiii (1998), pp 93104Google Scholar.

63 C.N.E.I. rep., 1855, app. G, pp 73–6.

64 For example, C.N.E.I. rep., 1885, app. pp. 216; 1906–7, app., sect. 1, pp 49–50. Even inspectors sympathetic to Irish generally admitted parental opposition (Coolahan, Irish education, p. 21).

65 C.N.E.I. rep., 1885, app. A, p. 78; 1904, app., sect. II, pp 213–18. Irish could also be taught as an ordinary school subject.

66 See, for example, General report on instruction in Irish’ by Lehane, D. in C.N.E.I. rep., 1906-7, pp 159-67Google Scholar. Cf. Lehané in C.N.E.I. rep., 1896, p. 151 (‘Irish, where taught, is still living and spoken’); J. Semple in C.N.E.I. rep., 1899, p. 69 (Irish ‘is fast dying out. However interesting ... from an academic point of view, I fail to see how its general use by a people who migrate and emigrate in such numbers as the people of Connaught could be of advantage.’).

67 C.N.E.I. rep., 1877, app. C, p. 93 (emphasis added).

68 A major theme of Bull, Land, politics & nationalism is the conflict between the new laissez-faire economic theories and ‘many aspects of a pre-modern [Irish] rural economy’ (p. 119); Miller, K. A. also emphasises the confrontation between traditional and modernising/anglicising influences in his Emigrants and exiles: Ireland and the Irish exodus to North America (New York, 1985), esp. pp 75-9, 107-28, 361-4, 417–35, 479-81Google Scholar.

69 C.N.E.I. rep., 1890, app. C, p. 39. An urban contempt for ‘backward’ rural culture may also be at work, but it has not been possible to ascertain the background of each inspector, teacher, or other C.N.E.I. official.

70 Coleman, M.C., ‘To speak for/about the other, or to contemplate one’s own (decentered) navel’ in Saikku, Mikko, Toivonen, Maarika and Toivonen, Mikko (eds), In search of a continent: a North American studies Odyssey (Helsinki, 1999), pp. 1428Google Scholar.

71 Edward, Said, ‘Secular interpretation, the geographical element, and the methodology of imperialism’ in Prakash, (ed.), After colonialism, p. 28Google Scholar.

72 Occasionally the supportive voices of beneficiaries appear: A.R.C.I. A., 1893, p. 5; C.N.E.I. rep., 1854, app. G I, p. 87. Of course, by using English the C.N.E.I. was listening to the voices of many Irish people. But, as the collapse of the Irish language was itself heavily due to the forces of anglicisation, the issue is complex. Further, the loss of the vernacular is not inevitable, as the Finnish comparison suggests. In the early nineteenth century Finnish was similarly under threat from Swedish. The use of Finnish by the Lutheran church and in the elementary schools, and the transfer of Finland from Sweden to the Russian Empire in 1809, helped to reverse the decline. Today spoken by over 95 per cent of the population, the ‘native’ language Finnish is almost an inverse image of Irish. See Kemiläinen, Aira, Finns in the shadow of the ‘Aryans’: race theories and racism (Helsinki, 1998), pp. 416Google Scholar, 107-28.

73 In my American publications I have already thanked individuals and institutions for help in my Indian studies. Here I wish to thank the Finnish Academy for the Senior Research Fellowship (1996-7) which permitted research for the Irish part of this study; and also Robert Bieder, Markus Coleman, Sirkka Coleman, John Coolahan, Mary Daly, Hugh Cunningham, Karin Fischer, Risto Fried, Markku Henrikkson, Liisa Lautamatti, Raija Markkanen, Francis Paul Průcha, S.J., Susan Parkes, Kari Sajavaara, Olli Vehviläinen and W. H. A. Williams. All shortcomings are my own.

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