Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

French and Latin languages, the former of which, it appears from his journal, he was able to write and speak with sufficient accuracy for all the purposes of business; to these he afterwards added a competent knowledge of the Spanish. He also studied the ele. mentary branches of mathematics, and became very conversant and even skilful in all the ordinary practical applications of that science. He seems, besides, to have had a general curiosity, to which no kind of knowledge was without interest; he read with avidity every book which fell in bis way, and thus, without any regular plan of study, acquired a considerable stock of various information, and some tincture of popular English literature. In most of these literary acquirements, Pike scarcely attained to the accuracy of the scholar, but they were such as became the gentleman, and elevated and adorned the character of the soldier. Nor were these studies directed solely to the improvement of the mind; he endeavoured to make them subservient to a much higher end. From his youth he sedulously cultivated in himself a generous spirit of chivalry; not that punctilious and barren honour which cheaply satisfies itself with the reputation of personal courage and freedom from disreputable vice, but the chivalry of the ancient school of European honour—that habit of manly and virtuous sentiment, that spirit of patriotism and self-devotion, which, while it roots out from the heart every other weakness of our nature, spares and cherishes “that last infirmity of noble minds,” the love of glory, and in every great emergency in which

be called upon to act, sends him forth into the service of his country or his kind, at once obeying the commands of duty, and elevated and animated by the warm impulse of enthusiastic feeling

Among other habits of mental discipline by which Pike was accustomed to cherish these principles and feelings, was a constant practice of inserting upon the blank pages of some favourite volume, such striking maxims of morality, or sentiments of honour, as occurred in his reading, or were suggested by his own reflections. He had been in the practice of making use of a small edition of Dodsley's “Economy of Hunjan Life,” for this purpose. Soon after his marriage, he presented this volume to his wife, who still preserves it as one of the most precious memorials of her husband'.

man may

virtues. An extract from one of the manuscript pages of this volume was published in a periodical work soon after his death, It was written as a continuation of the article “Sincerity," and is strongly characteristic of the author.

“Should my country call for the sacrifice of that life which has been devoted to her service from early youth, most willingly shall she receive it. The sod which covers the brave shall be moistened by the tears of love and friendship; but if I fall far from my friends and from you, my Clara, remember that the choicest tears which are ever shed, are those wbich bedew the unburied head of a soldier,' and when these lioes shall meet the eyes of our young

let the pages of this little book be impressed on his mind as the gift of a father who had 00thing to bequeath but bis honour, and let these maxims be ever present to his mind as he rises froin youth to manhood: “ 1. Preserve your honour free from blemish. 2. Be always ready to die for your couotry.

6 Z. M. Pike. “ Kaskaskias, Iudiana Territory."

Thus gifted with a lofty spirit of honour, and an iron constitution, Pike presents to the imagination no imperfect resemblance of one of the cavaliers of the sixteenth century, the hardy, steel-clad companions of Bayard and Sidney.

In March, 1801, he married Miss Clarissa Brown, of Cincinpati, in the state of Kentucky. By this marriage he had several children, only one of whom, a daughter, survives him.

On the old peace establishment of our army, then composed only of a few regiments, and employed altogether in garrisoning a few frontier posts, promotion was slow, and the field of action limited and obscure. For several years Lieutenant Pike panted in vain for an opportunity of gratifying that " all-ruling passion," which, to use his own words, “swayed him irresistibly to the profession of arms, and the pursuits of military glory."

At length, in 1805, a new career of bonourable distinction was opened to this active and aspiring youth. Soon after the purchase of Louisiana, the governinent of the United States determined upon taking measures to explore their new territory, and that immense tract of wilderness included within ita limita. Besides as

certaining its geographical boundaries, it was wished to acquire some knowledge of its soil and natural productions, of the course of its rivers, and their fitness for the purposes of navigation and other uses of civilized life, and also to gain particular information of the numbers, character, and power of the tribes of Indians who inhabited this territory, and their several dispositions towards the United States. With these views, while Captains Lewis and Clarke were sent to explore the unknown sources of the Missouri, Pike was despatched on a similar expedition for the purpose of tracing the Mississippi to its head.

On the 9th of August, 1805, Pike accordingly embarked at St. Louis, and proceeded up the Mississippi, with twenty men, in a stout boat, provisioned for four months, but they were soon obliged to leave their boats and proceed on their journey by land, or in ca. noes, which they built after leaving their large boat, and carried with them on their march. Pike's own journal has been for some time before the public, and affords a much more satisfactory narrative of the expedition than the narrow limits of a magazine artiele can allow. For eight months and twenty days this adventurous soldier and his faithful band were almost continually exposed to hardship and peril, depending for provisions upon the precarious fortunes of the chase, enduring the most piercing cold, and cheerfully submitting to the most constant and harassing toils. They were sometimes for days together without food, and they frequently slept without cover upon the bare earth, or the snow, during the bitterest inclemency of a northern winter. During this voyage, Pike had no intelligent companion upon whom he could rely for any sort of advice or aid, and he literally performed the duties of astronomer, surveyor, commanding officer, clerk, spy, guide, and hunter, frequently preceding the party for many miles in order to reconnoitre, or rambling for whole days in search of deer or other game for provision, and then returning to his men in the evening hungry and fatigued, he would sit down in the open air to copy by the light of a fire the notes of his journey, and to plot out the courses of the next day.

His conduct towards the Indians was marked with equal good sense, firmness, and humanity; he everywhere, without violence or fraud, induced them to submit to the government of the United States, and he made use of the authority of his country to put an end to a savage warfare which had for many years been carried on with the utmost cruelty and rancour between the Sioux and the Chippeways, two of the most powerful nations of Aborigines remaining on the North American continent. He also everywhere enforced with effect the laws of the United States against supplying the savages with spirituous liquors. Thus, while he wrested their tomahawks from their hands, and compelled them to bury the hatchet, he defended them from their own vices, and in the true spirit of humanity and honour, rejected with disdain that cruel and dastardly policy which seeks the security of the civilized man in the debasement of the

savage. In addition to the other objects of Pike's mission, as specifically detailed in his instructions, he conceived that his duty as a soldier required of him an investigation of the views and conduct of the British traders, within the limits of our jurisdiction, and an inquiry into the exact limits of the territories of the United States and Great Britain. This duty he performed, says the author of a former sketch of bis biography,* with the boldness of a soldier and the politeness of a gentleman; he might have justly added, with the disinterestedness of a man of honour, and the ability and discretion of an enlightened politician. He found that the North-west Company, by extending their establishments and commerce far witoin the bounds of the United Siales, and even into the very centre of Louisiana, were thus enabled to introduce their goods without duty or license into our territories, to the very great injury of the revenue, as well as to the complete exclusion of our own countrymen from all competition in this trade. He perceived, besides, that these establishments were made subservient to the purposes of obtaining an influence over the savages dangerous to the peace and injurious to the honour and character of our government, and he thought it evident that in case of a rup. ture between the two powers, all these posts would be used as rallying points for the enemy, and as places of deposite for arms to be distributed to the Indians, to the infinite annoyance, if not total ruin, of all the adjoining territories.

• In the Mouthly Recorder for July, 1813, to which sketch, together with Pike's own journal and Nile's Weekly Register, the writer is indebted for most of the facts of General Pike's biography.

« PreviousContinue »