Page images
PDF
EPUB

ܪ

writing, one word serves in the place of three, and the rest are supplied by the understanding of the hearer; imperfect in their tenses, wanting in their moods, participles, adverbs, conjunc. tions, and interjections: I have made it my business to understand it, that I might not want an interpreter on any occasion : and I must say that I know not a language spoken in Europe, that has words of more sweetness or greatness in accent and emphasis than theirs.

82. “Their children, as soon as they are born, are washed in water, and while young, they plunge them into rivers in cold weather, to harden and embolden them. Having wrapt them in a cloth, they lay them on a straight thin board, a little more than the length and breadth of the child, and swaddle it fast upon

the board, to make it straight, and thus they carry them at their backs. The children will walk when very young, in general, at nine months; they wear only a cloth round their waist, till they are grown up: if boys, they go fishing, till ripe for the woods, which is about fifteen ; they then hunt ; and after having given some proofs of their manhood, by a good return of skins, they may marry; otherwise it is a shame to think of a wife. The girls stay with their mothers, and help to hoe the ground, plant corn, and carry burdens. When the young women are fit for marriage, they wear something on their heads for advertisement, but so as their faces are hardly to be seen, except when they please.”

83. “Their houses are made of poles stuck in the ground, covered with mats and bark, in the fashion of an English barn; their beds are reeds, grass, or skins. If an European comes to see them, or calls for lodging at their house or wigwam, they give him the best place, and first cut. If they come to visit the white inhabitants, their salutation is commonly, Itah! which is as much as to say, good be to you! and sit them down, which is mostly on the ground; sometimes not speaking a word, but observe all that passes.

84. “If you give them any thing to eat or drink, it is well, for they will not ask; and, if it be little or much, if it be with kindness they are well pleased ; else they go away sullen, but say nothing. In liberality they excel; nothing is too good for their friend. Light of heart, strong affections, but soon spent : they are the most merry creatures that live; they feast and dance perpetually; they never have much, nor do they want much. If they are ignorant of our pleasures, they are free from our pains. We labor and toil to live; their pleasure feeds them; I mean their hunting, fishing, and fowling; and their ta.

i

[ocr errors]

ble is spread everywhere; they eat twice a day, morning and evening. In sickness, impatient to be cured, and for it give any thing, especially to their children, to whom they are extremely attached.”

85. “They are great concealers of their own resentments. A tragical instance happened since I came into the country :A chief's daughter thinking herself slighted by her husband, in suffering another woman to lie down between them, rose up, went out, plucked a root out of the ground and ate it ; upon which she immediately died : and for which he, some time af. ter, made an offering to her kindred, for atonement and liberty of marriage; as two others did to the kindred of their wives, who died a natural death : for until the widowers have done so they must not marry again.”

86. “ They believe in God and immortality, without the help of metaphysics; for they say, "There is a great King that made them, who dwells in a glorious country to the southward of them, and the souls of the good shall go

thither; where they shall live again.' Their worship consists of two parts, diz

. Sacrifice and Cantico. Their sacrifice is the first fruits; the first and fattest buck they kill, they put on the fire, where he is all burned ; and he that performs the ceremony sings, at the

l same time, a mournful ditty, but with such marvellous ferment, and labor of body, that he will perspire even to a foam. The other part is their Cantico, performed by round dances, sometimes words, sometimes songs, then shouts ; and two, being the first that begin, by singing and drumming on a board direct the chorus; their postures in the dance are very antic, and different, but all keep measure. This is done with equal earnest. ness, but great appearance of joy."

87. “In the fall, when the corn is gathered in, they begin to feast with each other: there have been two great festivals already, to which all come that will; I was at one myself; their enter. tainment was a great seat by a spring, under some shady trees, and twenty bucks, with hot cakes of new corn, both wheat and beans, which they made up in a square form, in the leaves of the stem, and baked them in ashes; and after that they proceed to dancing. But they that go must carry a small present in their money (wampum), it may be six-pence, which is made of the bone of a fish; the black is with them as gold, the white silver.”

88. This account of the natives, notwithstanding it, in some respects, differs from what has been observed by other writers, is valuable because derived from personal observation, and may

serve to establish the most prominent features of their character, as already exhibited.

89. Notwithstanding the many settlements of Europeans in this continent, some parts of America remain imperfectly

known. The northern continent contains the British colonies of Hudson's Bay, Canada, New-Brunswick, and Nova Scotia : the United States-viz. Massachusetts, Maine, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi Territory, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Northwestern Territory ; Louisiana, including the Island of New Orleans, purchased of the French, East and West Florida, New Mexico, California and Mexico : besides these there are immense regions to the west and north, inhab. ited by the Uskemeaux, the Columbias, the Cherokees, the Chickasaws, the Chactaws, the Creeks, and many other tribes of In. dians. Vast tracts of the inland parts are comprehended under the general name of Amazonia. A large district, also, inhabited by the aborigines, lies on the east side of the southern continent, between the Strait of Magellan and the province of Paraguay.

90. This vast country produces many of the metals, minerals, plants, fruits, trees, and wood, to be met with in other parts of the globe, and many of them in greater quantities, and in high perfection. America has supplied Europe with such large quantities of gold and silver, that these precious metals have become very much diminished in value to what they were before America was discovered : it also produces diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and amethysts.

91. Although the Indians still live in the quiet possession of many large tracts, America was chiefly claimed by three European nations, and divided into colonies, viz. the Spaniards, English, and Portuguese. The Spaniards, as they first discovered it, had the largest and richest portion. Next to Spain, the most considerable proprietor was Great Britain, who derived her claim to North America from the first discovery of the continent by Sebastian Cabot, in the name of Henry the seventh, in the year 1497, about six years after the discovery of South America by Columbus.

92. This country was, in general, called Newfoundland, until Americus Vespucius, a Florentine, who accompanied Ojeda, a Spanish adventurer, on a voyage of discovery: he having

up an entertaining history of his voyage, it was published and read with avidity. In his narrative he had the artifice to insinuate, that he was the first who discovered the New

:

.

a

World. Many of his readers gave credit to the insinuation, and from him it assumed the name of America. The original name of Newfoundland is now appropriated to an island on the north coast. It was a long time before the English made an attempt to settle in this country. Sir Walter Raleigh, an uncommon genius, and a brave commander, first led the way, by planting a colony, and naming it Virginia, in honor of queen Elizabeth.

93. The French, from this period, until the conclusion of the war in 1763, laid claim to Canada and Louisiana ; and all that extensive country, reaching from Hudson's Bay, on the north, to Mexico, and the gulf of the same name, on the south. But in that war, they were not only driven from Canada, and its dependencies, but obliged to relinquish all that part of Louisiana lying on the east side of the Mississippi. Thus the British col. onies were preserved, secured, and extended so far as to render it difficult to ascertain the precise bounds of empire in North America. To the northward they might have extended their claims quite to the pole, nor did any nation show a disposition to dispute the property of this northern country with them. From that extremity they had a territory extending southward to Cape Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the latitude of 25° north : and consequently near 4000 miles long in a direct line; and to the westward, their boundaries reached to nations un. known, even to the Indians of Canada.

94. Of the revolution that has since taken place, by which a great part of these territories have been separated from the British empire, and which has given a new face to the western world, an impartial narrative shall be attempted. It will, however, be difficult to avoid some errors; the accounts from which the historian must derive his information, partake too much of prejudice, and the fabrications of party; and they want that amelioration which time alone can give.

95. The state of the British colonies, at the conclusion of the war in 1763, was such as attracted the attention of all the pol. iticians in Europe. At that period, their flourishing condition was remarkable and striking: their trade had prospered and extended, notwithstanding the difficulties and distresses of the war. Their population increased : they abounded with spirited and enterprising individuals, of all denominations; they were elated with the uncommon success that had attended their com. mercial and military transactions. Hence they were ready for every undertaking, and perceived no limits to their hopes and expectations.

96. They entertained the highest opinion of their value and

importance, and of the immense benefit that Britain derived from its connexion with them; their notions were equally high in their own favor. They deemed themselves entitled to every kindness and indulgence which the mother country could be stow. Although their pretensions did not amount to perfect equality of advantages and privileges in matters of commerce, yet in those of government they thought themselves fully com. petent to the task of conducting their domestic concerns, without any interference from the parent state.

97. Though willing to admit the supremacy of Great Britain, they viewed it with a suspicious eye, and were solicitous to restrain it within its strict constitutional bounds. Their improve. ments in necessary and useful arts, did honor to their industry and ingenuity. Though they did not live in the luxuries of Europe, they had all the solid and substantial enjoyments of life, and were not unacquainted with many of its elegancies and refinements. Notwithstanding their peculiar addiction to those occupations, of which wealth is the sole object, they were duly attentive to promote the liberal sciences; and they have, ever since their first foundation, been particularly careful to provide for the education of the rising generation.

98. Their vast augmentation of internal trade and external commerce, was not merely owing to their position and facility of communication with other parts; it arose also from their natural turn and temper: full of schemes and projects; ever aiming at new discoveries, and continually employed in the search of means to improve their condition. This carried them into every quarter, whence profit could be derived; there was scarcely any port of the American hemisphere to which they had not extended their navigation. They were continually exploring new sources of trade.

99. To this extensive and continual application to commerce, they added an equal vigilance in the administration of their af. fairs at home. The same indefatigable industry was employed in cultivating the soil they possessed, and in the improvement of their domestic circumstances; so that it may be truly said, they made the most of Nature's gifts.

100. In the midst of this solicitude and toil in matters of business, the affairs of government were conducted with a steadi. ness, prudence, and lenity seldom experienced, and never exceeded, in the best regulated countries in Europe. Such was the situation of the British colonies, in general, throughout North America; and of the New-England provinces in particular, at the close of the war in 1763.

a

« PreviousContinue »