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years to ascertain their character previous to their intercourse with European man; and I think it might be safely asserted that until that fatal period of their history, they were, in the unsophisticated qualities of mind, one of the noblest people of the earth. It is indeed astonishing how, without the aid of science or letters, they could have acquired so much of that moral power, dignity, and courtesy, which in our pride we attribute exclusively to civilized life. Their religious belief is, to say the least of it, purer than that of refined and philosophical Greece and Rome; and they follow. its doctrines with perfect sincerity. Neither infidelity, luke-warmness, nor hypocrisy in regard to spiritual matters is ever found among them, excepting, indeed, their prophets, priests, and cons jurers. We are told by M. De la Salle, in the account of his last expedition and discoveries in North America, in 1678, so that at the decrease of the moon the Indians carried a great dish of their greatest dainties to the door of the temple, as an oblatory sacrifice; which the priests offered to their god, and then they carried it home, and feasted. themselves with it.” Here, at any rate, is a little touch of sacerdotal refinement, worthy of an Euro
Their languages are characterized by abundance, strength, comprehensiveness of expression, and admirable method in their grammatical structure; “ indeed,” says Mr. Duponceau, “ from the view offered by Mr. Heckewelder of the Lenni Lenape idiom, it would rather appear to have been formed
by philosophers in their closets, than by savages in the wilderness *.” And in their oratory, which they take great pains to cultivate, they have never been exceeded, in ancient or modern senates, for pertinent argument, and eloquence both imaginative and pathetic. Governor Clinton, speaking of the Iroquois or Five Nations, tells us that,
56 their exterior relations, general interests, and national affairs were conducted and superintended by a great council, assembled annually in Onondaga, the central canton, composed of the chiefs of each republic ; and eighty sachems were frequently convened at this national assembly. It took cognizance of the great questions of war and peace; of the affairs of the tributary nations, and of their negotiations with the French and English colonies. All their proceedings 'were conducted with great deliberation, and were distinguished for order, decorum, and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and in all the characteristics of profound policy, they surpassed an assembly of feudal barons, and were perhaps not far inferior to the great Amphyctionic Council of Greecet." In another place he speaks of the sublime display of intellectual power in the address of Garangula, an Onondaga chief, to M. Delabarre, a French general, who in 1683, marched with an army against the Iroquois. This rhetorical talent, however, is declared by the same authority to be peculiar to the Five Nations.
* Duponceau's Report to the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, p. 14. + De Witt Clinton's Discourse to the New York Society, p. 49, 50.
of The most remarkable difference,” he states, 66. existed between the confederates and the other Indian nations, with respect to eloquence. You may search in vain in the records and writings of the past, or in events of the present times, for a single model of eloquence among the Algonkins, the Abenaquis, the Delawares, the Shawanese, or any other nation of Indians except the Iroquois *.”: On the other hand, the Rev. Mr. Heckewelder, who has spent the greater portion of a long life among the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, has affirmed in his historical account of the Indian nations, (of which the Lenni Lenape and the Iroquois form the two great divisions,) that the Delawares are also conspicuous for oratorical ability. He quotes a speech of Captain Pipe, a chief of that nation, and has made use of the following words in commenting on it. “ Here we see boldness, frankness, dignity, and humanity happily blended together, and most eloquently displayed. I am much mistaken if the component parts of this discourse are not put together much according to the rules of oratory which are taught in the schools, and which were certainly unknown to this savage. The peroration is short, buty truly pathetic, and I would say, sublime; and then the admirable way in which it is prepared ! I wish I 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 t."
* De Witt Clinton's Discourse to the New York Society, p. 71.
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 eloquence in a speech of Te-cum-seh, a Shawanee warrior *. The effect' it had on his hearers, one of whom was Mr. Hunter himself, was electrical; and: I will quote his account of it, in order to shew 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 concilitate 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, Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Americans; and the result, in all cases, has been
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 thaț they are injured, rather than improved, by transmission into Euro
* Hunter's Memoirs of a Captivity among the North American Indians, p. 43, gr.
“ 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 glowing finish of the original. The occasion and subject were peculiarly adapted to call into action all the powers of genuine 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, aš 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 back-biting. “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 honorable 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 In.