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timent of pity. “The red men are melting," to borrow the expressive metaphor of one of their most celebrated warriors* like snow before the sun;" and we should be anxious, before it is too late, to copy the evanescent features of their character, and perpetuate them on the page of history.
But when fear ceases, contempt is a natural consequence. The Indian, whose character was once so lofty and independent, is now seen begging at our doors for the price of his perdition ; and, as our foot spurns the suppliant, we are apt to think, that nothing, connected with one so vile, can be worthy of our attention. But is it fair to judge from so vitiated a specimen? When a race of men are mingled with others, who consider them as inferiors, they inevitably become
Submission to contempt, is an acknowledgment of its justice. If, therefore, the Indian would avoid degradation, he must retire from the habitations of white men; and if we wish to see him in bis original character, we must follow him to his native forests. There, surely, he is worthy of our attention. The lovers of the physical sciences explore the woods of America, to cull her plants, and to investigate the habits of her animals. Shall not the lovers of the moral sciences, be equally ardent and industrious? Shall man, who stands at ihe summit of earthly creation, be forgotten amid the general scrutiny.
The sources of prejudice wbich I have mentioned, influence the examination of every subject, connected with the Indian character: there are peculiar difficulties, with regard to that on which I have chosen to ad
The Indians themselves are not communicative in relation to their religion; and it requires a good deal of familiar, attentive, and I may add, unsuspected ob
* The noted Miami Chief Mishikinakwa, or Little Turtle, who contributed most to the defeat of St. Clair. See Volney's View of the Soil and Climate of the United States. Supplement, No. VI, Philad. 1804,
servation, to obtain any knowledge respecting it. Hence, many who have been transiently resident among them, have very confidently pronounced, that they have no religion; an assertion, which subsequent and more accurate travellers, have shown to be entirely unfounded.
Those, also, on whom we rely for information, have either been too little informed to know what to observe, or they have been influenced by peculiar modes of thinking, which have given a tinge to all they have said on the subject.
The various speculations, for example, on the question, whence America was peopled, led to many misrepresentations of the religious rites of its inbabitants; and affinities were discovered which existed no where but in the fancy of the inventor. Gomara, Lerius, and Lescarbot, inferred from some resemblances of this kind, that America was peopled by the Canaanites when they were expelled by Joshua; and the celebrated Grotius, adopting the sentiment of Martyr, imagined that Yucatan was first peopled by Ethiopians, and that those Ethiopians were Christians !
The human mind derives pleasure from paradox, for the same reason that it delights in wit. Both produce new and surprising combinations of thought; and the judgment, being overpowered by the fervour of imagination, becomes for a time insensible to their extravagance.
It is well known, that among the philosophers of Europe, the opinion has very generally prevailed, that the natives of America were, both as to physical and mental powers, a feeble race; and, impressed with this belief, ibey hardly considered the religion of the Indians as worthy of minute attention. The celebrated
torian of America, bas unconsciously fallen into this error, at the very moment in which he was censuring others, for suffering their relation of facts to be perverted, by an attachment to preconceived theories *
* See Robertson's America, book iv. § vii.
Volney, in opposition to the sentiments of Rousseau, has endeavoured to sink the character of the savage, in the same proportion as that eccentric author sought to raise it. On the subject of the Indian religion especially, no one should be read with greater caution. He who could imagine that Christianity was only an astronomical allegory, and that the birth of our Saviour meant no more than that tbe sun had entered the constellation Virgo, can hardly be considered as perfectly sane, even when he treats on the religion of hea. thens.* We need not be surprised, therefore, at the assertion that the Indians have no regular system of religion; that each one employs the liberty allowed him of making a religion for himself; and that all the worship they knew is offered to the authors of evil.t Never was there an assertion more unfounded; but it enabled him to quote that maxim of the Epicurean poet, which is so frequently in the mouths of unbelievers, that all religion originated in fear:
Primos in orde Deos fecit timor.
On the other hand, an hypotheşis has somewhat extensively prevailed, which exalts the religion of the Indians as much above its proper level, as Volney has debased it below; I mean that, which supposes them to be the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. This theory so possessed the mind of Adair, that although he had the greatest opportunities of obtaining know
* See Les Ruines, ou Meditations sur les Revolutions des Empires, par M. Volney. Nouvelle edition corrigée, Paris, 1792, 8vo. chap. 22. p. 185. 221-4. In this work, Volney had the hardihood to maintain, not only that our Saviour was an allegorical personage, but that all reli. gions, Heathen, Mahometan, and Jewish, as well as Christian, are in substance the same; that all have arisen from a literal interpretation of the figurative language of astronomers; and that the very idea of a God, sprung from a personification of the elements, and of the physical pow. ers of the universe. At the sight of this monstrous creation of a disordered fancy, one cannot help exclaiming with Stillingfeet, “Oh what will not Atheists believe, rather than a Deity and Providence.”
# Volnoy's View of the United States, ut supr. trans. by Brown, p. 416.
ledge, his book is, comparatively, of little use. We are constantly led to suspect the fidelity of his statea ments, because his judgment had lost its equipoise, and he saw every thing through a discoloured medium, I feel myself bound to notice this hypothesis the more, because it has lately been revived and brought before the public, by a venerable member of this society, whose exalted character renders every opinion he may defend a subject of respectful attention. *
* To the mind of every religious man, the history of the Hebrews is a subject of peculiar interest; and it is impossible to read of the extermination of the kingdom of Israel, without a feeling of compassion for the captives, who were thus torn from the land of their prerogative. The impenetrable darkness which hangs over their subsequent history, combines with this sentiment of pity, the powerful excitement of curiosity. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that when the disquisitions arose respecting the peopling of America, the idea of tracing to these western shores the longlost tribes of Israel, should also have ariseu before the eye of imagination with captivating splendour; that the thouylit should have been seized with avidity by men who were pious, and ardent, and contemplative; and that, in the establishment of a theory which every one could wish to be true, facts should be strained from their natural bent, and resemblances imagined, which have no existence in reality.
The most unequivocal method of tracing the origin of the aborigines of America, as Charlevoix has sensibly remarked, is to ascertain the character of their languages, and to compare them with the primitive languages of the eastern hemisphere.†
* See Dr. Boudinot's Star in the West, or a bumble attempt to discov er the long-lost ten tribes of Israel, preparatory to their return to thetr beloved city Jerusalem. Trenton, (N. J.) 1816, 8vo.
f Charlevoix's Dissertation sur l'originé des Amériquains, prefixed to his Journal d'un voyage dans l'Amer. Septent.-Hist. de la nouvelle France, tom. iii. p. 36.
But this test will, I conceive, be found very fatal to the theory in question. The best informed writers agree, that there are, exclusive of the Karalit or Esquimaux, three radical languages spoken by the Indians of North America. Mr. Heckewelder denomi. nates them the Iroquois, the Lenapé, and the Floridian. The Iroquois is spoken by the six nations, the Wya andots or Hurons, the Naudowessies, the Assiniboils, and other tribes beyond the St. Lawrence. The Lenapé, which is the most widely extended language on this side of the Mississippi, was spoken by the tribes, now extinct, who formerly inhabited Nova Scotia and the present state of Maine, the benakis, Micmacs, Cani. bas, Openangos, Soccokis, Etchemins, and Souriquois; dialects of it are now spoken by the Miamis, the Pota. wotamies, Missisaugoes, and Kickapoos; the Conestogos, Nantirokes, Shawanese, and Mobicans; the Alo gonquins, Knisteneaux, and Chippeways. The Floridian includes the languages of the Creeks or Muskohgees, Chickesaws, Choctaws, Pascagoulas, Cherokees; Seminolese, and several others in the southern states and Florida.* These three languages are primitive, that is to say, are so distinct as to have no perceivable affinity. All, therefore, cannot be derived from the Hebrew ; for it is a contradiction in terms, to speak of three languages radically different, as derived from a common source. Which then, we may well ask, is to be selected as the posterity of the Israelites: the Iro. quois, the Lepapé, or the southern Indians ?
Besides, there is one striking peculiarity in the construction of American languages, which has no counterpart in the Hebrew. Instead of the ordinary division of genders, they divide into the animate and inani
* Transactions of the Historical and Literary Committee of the Ameri: can Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia for promoting useful knowledge. Vol. i. Philad. 1819, 8vo. No. I. An account of the history, manners, and customs, of the Indian nations who once inhabited Pennsylvania, and the neighbouring states. By the Rev. John Heckewelder, of Bethlehem. Chap. ix. p. 104.