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pretend to know any thing about their origin. They were beyond the reach of all their traditions, and were lost in the abyss of unexplored antiquity.
“ The erection of such prodigious works must have been the result of labour, far beyond the patience and perseverance of our Indians; and the form and materials are entirely different from those which they are known to make. These earthen walls, it is supposed, will retain their original form much longer than those constructed with brick and stone. They have, undoubtedly, been greatly diminished by the washing away of the earth, the filling up of the interior, and the accumulation of fresh soil; yet their firmness and solidity indicate them to be the work of some remote age. Add to this, that the Indians have never practised the mode of fortifying by entrenchments. Their villages or castles were protected by palisades; which afforded a sufficient defence against Indian weapons. When Cartier went to Hochelaga, now Montreal, in 1535, he discovered a town of the Iroquois, or Hurons, containing about fifty huts. It was encompassed with three lines of palisadoes, through which was one entrance, well secured with stakes and bars. On the inside was a rampart of timber, to which were ascents by ladders; and heaps of stones were laid in proper places to cast at an enemy. Charlevoix and other writers agree, in representing the Indian fortresses as fabricated with wood. Such also were the forts of Sasacus, the great chief of the Pequots; and the principal fortress of the Narragansets was on an island in a swamp, of five or six acres of rising land: the sides were made with palisades set upright, encompassed with a hedge, of a rod in thickness *.
I have already, alluded to the argument for the great antiquity of those ancient forts, to be derived from the number of concentric circles. On the ramparts of one of the Muskingum forts, four hundred and sixty-three were ascertained on a tree,
* Mather's Magnalia, p. 693.
decayed at the centre; and there are likewise the strongest marks of a former growth of a similar size. This would make those works near a thousand years old,
“ But there is another consideration which has never before been urged, and which appears to me to be not unworthy of attention. It is certainly novel, and I believe it to be founded on a basis, which cannot easily be subverted.
“ From near the Genessee river to Lewiston, on the Niagara river, there is a remarkable ridge or elevation of land, running almost the whole distance, which is seventy-eight miles, and in a direction from east to west. Its general altitude above the neighbouring land is thirty feet, and its width varies considerably: in some places it is not more than forty yards. Its elevation above the level of lake Ontario is perhaps one hundred and sixty feet, to which it descends by a gradual slope; and its distance from that water is between sis and ten miles. This remarkable strip of land, would appear as if intended by nature for the purpose of an easy communication. It is, in fact, a stupendous natural turnpike, descending gently on each side, and covered with gravel; and but little labour is requisite to make it the best road in the United States. When the forests between it and the lake are cleared, the prospects and scenery which will be afforded from a tour on this route to the cataract of Niagara, will surpass all competition for sublimity and beauty, variety and number.
“There is every reason to believe, that this remarkable ridge was the ancient boundary of this great lake. The gravel with which it is covered was deposited there by the waters ; and the stones every where indicate by their shape, the abrasion and agitation produced by that element. All along the borders of the western rivers and lakes, there are small mounds or heaps of gravel, of a conical form, erected by the fish for the protection of their spawn; these fish banks are found in a state that cannot be mistaken, at the foot of the ridge, on the side toward the lake; on the opposite side none have been dis
covered. All rivers and streams which enter the lake from the south, have their mouths affected with sand in a peculiar way, from the prevalence and power of the north-westerly winds. The points of the creeks which pass through this ridge, correspond exactly in appearance with the entrance of the streams into the lakes. These facts evince, beyond doubt, that Lake Ontario has, perhaps one or two thousand years ago, receded from this elevated ground. And the cause of this retreat must be ascribed to its having enlarged its former outlet, or to its imprisoned waters (aided, probably, by an earthquake) forcing a passage down the present bed of the St. Lawrence; as the Hudson did at the Highlands, and the Mohawk at the Little Falls. On the south side of this great ridge, in its vicinity, and in all directions through this country, the remains of numerous forts are to be seen: but on the north side; that is, on the side toward the lake, not a single one has been discovered, although the whole ground has been carefully explored. Considering the distance to be, say, seventy miles in length, and eight in breadth, and that the border of the lake is the very place that would be selected for habitation, and consequently for works of defence, on account of the facilities it would afford for subsistence, for safety, for all domestic accommodations and military purposes; and that on the south shores of Lake Erie, these ancient fortresses exist in great number, there can be no doubt but that these works were erected, when this ridge was the southern boundary of Lake Ontario, and, consequently, that their origin must be sought in a very remote age.
"A great part of North Americaw as then inhabited by populous nations, who had made considerable advances in civilization. These numerous works could never have been supplied with provisions without the aid of agriculture. Nor could they have been constructed without the use of iron or copper; and without a perseverance, labour, and design, which deinonstrate considerable progress in the arts of civilized life. A
learned writer has said, 'I perceive no reason why the Asiatic North might not be an officina virorum, as well as the European. The over-teeming country to the east of the Riphæn mountains, must find it necessary to discharge its inhabitants. The first great wave of people was forced forward by the next to it, more tumid and more powerful than itself : successive and new impulses continually arriving, short rest was given to that which spread over a more eastern tract; disturbed again and again, it covered fresh regions. At length, reaching the farthest limits of the old world, it found a new one, with ample space to occupy, unmolested for ages *! After the north of Asia had thus exhausted its exuberant population by such a great migration, it would require a very long period of time to produce a co-operation of causes, sufficient to effect another. The first mighty stream of people that flowed into America, must have remained free from external pressure for ages. Availing themselves of this period of tranquillity, they would devote themselves to the arts of peace, make rapid progress in civilization, and acquire an immense population. In course of time, discord and war would rage among them, and compel the establishment of places of security. At last, they became alarmed by the irruption of a horde of barbarians, who rushed like an overwhelming flood from the North of Asia.
A multitude, like which the populous North
“The great law of self-preservation compelled them to stand on their defence, to resist these ruthless invaders, and to construct numerous and extensive works for protection. And for a long series of time the scale of victory was suspended in doubt, and they firmly withstood the torrent: but like the
* Pennant's Arctic Zoology, vol. 1. p. 260.
Romans in the decline of their empire, they were finally worn down and destroyed, by successive inroads, and renewed attacks. And the fortifications of which we have treated, are the only remaining monuments of these ancient and exterminated nations. This is, perhaps, the airy nothing of imagination, and may be reckoned the extravagant dream of a visionary mind: but may we not, considering the wonderful events of the past and present times, and the inscrutable dispensations of an over-ruling Providence, may we not look forward into futurity, and without departing from the rigid laws of probability, predict the occurrence of similar scenes, at some remote period of time. - And, perhaps, in the decrepitude of our empire, some transcendent genius, whose powers of mind shall only be bounded by that impenetrable circle which prescribes the limits of human nature*, may rally the barbarous nations of Asia, under the standard of a mighty empire. Following the tract of the Russian colonies and commerce toward the northwest coast, and availing himself of the navigation, arms, and military skill of civilized nations, he may, after subverting the neighbouring despotisms of the old world, bend his course toward European America. The destinies of our country may then be decided on the waters of the Missouri, or on the banks of Lake Superior. And if Asia shall then revenge upon our posterity, the injuries we have inflicted on her sons, a new, a long, and a gloomy night of Gothic darkness will set in upon mankind. And when, after the efflux of ages, the returning effulgence of intellectual light shall again gladden the nations, then the wide-spread ruins of our cloud-capp'd towers, of our solemn temples, and of our magnificent cities, will, like the works of which we have treated, become the subject of curious research and elaborate investigation.
* Roscoe's Lorenzo De Medicis, p. 241.