540 The Journal of American History September 2002Such perspectives were amplified in the nineteenth century by the advent of U.S.travelers' discourses of the Orient and, specifically, of Palestine. Hilton Obenzingerhas described a "Holy Land mania" that gripped American travelers, artists, and writ-ers who toured and laid claim to Palestine. The Arab inhabitants of Palestine (and thesurrounding areas) were acknowledged to be paradoxically there—animatingaccounts of the Holy Land as Levantine dr^omans, dirty natives, impious Moham-medans, or "nominal" Christians—yet not there in any meaningful historical or spir-itual sense. During his post-Civil War tour of the Ottoman Empire, for example,Mark Twain irreverently satirized American travelers' religious obsession with Pales-tine and their enchantment with the East more generally.^In the United States itself books by Twain and by missionaries, landscapes by suchartists as Frederic Church, as well as novels such as Robert Smythe Hichens's 1904
The Garden of Allah
(which went into forty-four editions over the next forty years),contributed to the rise of a specifically American genre of orientalism. It exoticizedthe East as premodern, conceived of it as dreamy yet often experienced it as squalid,separated the sacred landscape of the Holy Land from its native Arab inhabitants,and commodified the Orient though promotions, advertisements, trinkets, novels,photographic exhibits, postcards, and ultimately
^There was, however, an American encounter with the Arabs that was far moredirect and had a far greater impact on early Arab attitudes toward the United States.This was the missionary encounter led mostly by New England men and women.They shared many of the prejudices that characterized nineteenth-century Americantravelers; indeed, the roots of their missionary effort lay in part in their disavowal of agrowing liberalism in New England religious thought. They were impelled by a senseof patrimony in the Holy Land and feelings of superiority to the natives as theysought to reclaim the lands of the Bible from Muslim and Eastern Christian control.Yet, motivated by "disinterested benevolence," they were also the first Americans toengage with the local populations in a serious and sustained manner—they wantedto change the Ottoman world, not just to describe or experience it. Their spiritualpreoccupation with the Holy Land was premised, not on overlooking the natives, buton recognizing their presence on the land and on proclaiming the urgent need to savethe "perishing souls" of the East. The first American missionaries to the Arab worldwere associated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.They departed Boston in 1819 and arrived in the Levant in 1820. Failing to establishthemselves in Jerusalem, they settled on Beirut as the center of a missionary enter-prise to Syria in
us respect in Europe. 4. It will arm the federal head with the safest of all the instruments of coercion over theirdelinquent members and prevent them from using what would be less safe. ... 5. I think it least expensive. 6.Equally effectual." Lester J. Cappon, ed..
The Adams-Jefferson Letters
(Chapel Hill, 1987), 142.
^ Hilton Obenzinger,
American Palestine: Melville, Twain, and
Holy Land Mania
(Princeton, 1999); MarkTwain,
Robert Smythe Hichens,
(New York, 1904); Holly Edwards, ed..
Noble Dreams, WickedPleasures:
in America, 1870-1930
(Princeton, 2000).^ See Ussama Makdisi, "Reclaiming the Land of the Bible: Missionaries, Secularism, and Evangelical Moder-nity," v4wmria!«//iffo«V/?/to'i«i4 102 (June 1997), 680-713.