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could convey to the reader's mind only a small part of the impression which this speech made on me and on all present when it was delivered."*
The assertion of Governor Clinton seems to have resulted from his knowing more of the Five Nations than of any other tribe of Indians. The Shawanese, no less than the Delawares, are among his list of exceptions ; and yet we find, in the book lately published by Mr. Hunter, a most splendid example of eloqüence in a speech of Te-cum-seh, a Shawanee warrior.f The effect it had on his hearers, one of whom was Mr. Hunter himself, was electrical ; and I will quote bis account of it, in order to show that the high opinion of Indian oratory is not derived from any one authority which might be exaggerated, or through the medium of professed translators, who might be disposed to manufacture these harangues, after a given model, into the European tongues; but that it operates upon all alike, and shines with the same character through every variety and accident of interpretation. The Indian orations have been rendered by illiterate persons sent among them to conciliate their favour ; by prisoners, male and female, who learnt the language during their captivity ; by learned missionaries; by traders, who will not perhaps be suspected of romantic enthusiasm; by Dutchmen, Frenchnen, Englishmen, and Americans; and the result, in all cases, has been very similar. The doubts, therefore, which have been, and still continue to be, entertained as to Indian eloquence, are, to say the least of them, inconsiderate. The probability is that they are injured, rather than improved, by transmission into European languages. “I wish it was in my power," says Mr. Hunter, speaking of Te-cum-seh, “to do justice to the eloquence of this distinguished man; but it is utterly impossible. The richest colours, shaded with a master's pencil, would fall infinitely short of the glow
* Heckewelder's Historical Account of the Indian Nations, p. 124.
+ Hunter's Memoirs of a Captivity among the North American InWians, p. 43, &c.
ing finish of the original. The occasion and subject were peculiarly adapted to call into action all the powers of gendine patriotism; and such language, such gestures, such feelings, and fulness of soul contending for utterance, were exhibited by this untutored native of the forest in the central wilds of America, as no audience, I am persuaded either in ancient or modern times, ever: before witnessed. His discourse made an impression on my mind, which I think, will last as long as I live.”
The hospitality of the Indians has been pretty generally allowed ; and it is no small proof of the excellent regulation of their minds, that they are not in the lightest degree addicted to the pernicious practice of backbiting. "Even the profligate look with contempt on the slanderer; while he is singled out with the finger of scorn by the more respectable, who shun him as they would the poisonous serpent. None will venture to traduce those who sustain a fair and honourable character; and as for the worthless, they never condescend to talk about them. Slander, therefore, the most pitiful vice of little and malicious minds, is beneath the notice even of the Indian women.
A strong sense of justice is innate among the Indians ; they entertain the greatest respect for the aged and tender, and are unwearied in lavishing delicate attentions on them; their friendship is inviolable ; and we are told by Carver in his travels, with what moderation, humanity, and delicacy they treat female prisoners, and particularly pregnant women. Their conduct in this latter particular is not confined to females of their own colour, but is extended to white women, the mothers of their inexorable destroyers. Of this I shall have occasion, in the course of my work, to cite a touching in, stance from the valuable pages of Mr. Heckewelder.
I might, perhaps, be thought their indiscriminate panegyrist, were I to go on and state the simple beauty and wisdom of their system of education; the faith they keep in their treaties; their lofty courage, and the mag
* Hunter, p. 272.
nanimity they display on occasions in private life which are too apt to stir up the resentment and envy, and all the mean passions of civilized man. It will be naturally expected, that having given this summary of Indian virtues, I should say something of Indian vices; and I am happy that the latter will bear no proportion to the former catalogue. Cruelty and an eager appetite for revenge, are the chief, if not the only, deformities of their nature; and these are scarcely ever manifested, except in their open hostilities, the causes of which are precisely similar to those which actuate civilized nations. Then, indeed, their ferocity breaks out with almost demonaical fury; their captives are generally doomed to death ; but it is not until they have undergone the most exquisite tortures, the most ingenious, unutterable, and protracted agony, that the final blow is given. These atrocious practices are not, however, peculiar to our unlettered Indians. The metal boot and wedge, the thumb-screw, the rack, the gradual burnings of Smithfield, the religious butchery of the bloody Piedmontese, "who rolled mother with infant down the rocks,” the dismemberment by horses, “ Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel,” sufficiently attest the claims of inlightened man to distinction in the art of torture. " But the Five Nations," says Governor Clinton, in his masterly and eloquent discourse, "notwithstanding their horrible cruelty, are in one respect entitled to singular cominendation for the exercise of humanity; those enemies they spared in battle they made free; whereas, with all other barbarous nations," and he might have added with most civilized nations, “ slavery was the commutation of death. But it becomes not us, if we value the characters of our forefathers; it becomes not the civilized nations of Europe who have had American possessions, to inveigh against the merciless conduct of the savage. His appetite for blood was sharpened and whetted by European instigation, and his cupidity was enlisted on the side of cruelty by every teinptation."*
* De Witt Clinton's Discourse, p.56.
Our author in seeking for causes to extenuate the inhumanity of the Indians, might have said something of their natural and just resentment of the aggressions and tyranny of the man of Europe, by whom they have been reduced to the lowest state of wretchedness. In the wars between France and England and their colonies, their Indian allies were entitled to a premium for every scalp of an enemy. In the war preceding 1703, the government of Massachusetts gave twelve pounds for every Indian scalp; in that year the premium was raised to forty pounds, but in 1722, it was augmented to one hundred pounds ! a sum sufficient to purchase a considerable extent of American land. Au act was passed on the 25th of February 1745, by the American colonial legislature, entitled, “ An Act for giving a reward for such scalps, &c. &c." Not content with this execrable pollution of their minds by the agency of lucre, we have sown party division among the Indians, which in all its discordant shapes rages with uncontrolled sway. “Their nations are split up into fragments; the son is arrayed against the father; brother against brother; families against families; tribes against tribes ; and canton against canton. They are divided into factions, religious, political and personal; Christian and Pagan; American and British; the followers of Cornplanter and Sagoua Ha; of Skonadoi and Captain Peter. The minister of destruction is hovering over them, and before the passing away of the present generation, not a single Iroquois will be seen in the state of New-York."*
Yet with all this guilt at our doors we call the poor Indians “savages,-barbarians." Yes, they have, indeed, become so since they were debauched and contaminated by the liquor and the example of European man. “ Our vices,” says Heckewelder," have destroyed them more than our swords.” I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, their ignorance of letters bas been the only hindrance to their being, politically
De Witt Clinton, p. 88, 89.
speaking, a most powerful people. With the faculty of circulating and improving their natural information, by means of literature, they would either pot have been objects for the crafty arts of civilized man, or they would have been invulnerable to them, and never could have been driven from their territories. Their courage and warlike character, unaided by learning, are things but of inferior force. Knowledge” says Bacon, “ is power." How with such elements of mind as they possess, they could, unlike other originally great people, have continued destitute of written wisdom, must ever remain a mystery.
It is this important want which compels them to endure their wrongs in silence. They have no means of making their grievances known to the rest of the world; but must look for intercessors among those who have robbed and enslaved them. “Why then," I may ask with the benigo Heckewelder, “should not a white man, a Christian, who has been treated by them at all times with hospitality and kindness, plead their honest cause, and defend them as they would defend themselves, if they had but the means of bringing their facts and their arguments before an impartial public ? Let it not be said that among the whole race of white Christian men, not one single individual could be found, who, rising above the cloud of prejudice with which the pride of civilization has surrounded the original inhabitants of this land, would undertake the task of doing justice to their many excellent qualities, and raise a small frail monument to their memory."