[ocr errors]

the Mighty Mother continued obstinately deaf to all those attempts to argue her into productiveness. Not a few, indeed, there were whom the puff of a coterie lifted, for a season, out of their place, to sink into obscurity again. Dropsies' were, now and then, taken for divinities.' Mocking-birds, approaching the perfection of the mimetic art, abounded, and were mistaken for the eagles of Jove. For every native product of Britain, there was a substitute in America, resembling the original, as the gilded and lettered back of a draught-board does a princely volume. For Byron there was a Bryant; for Coleridge a Dana; for Wordsworth a Percival; for Addison a Washington Irving. Those writers, and many others, had varied talents and accomplishments, nay, genius; but it was timid and tottering as a child learning to walk, and sometimes reminded you of a person described by Robert Hall, who appeared to go about apologizing to every body for the unpardonable presumption of being in the world." It did not dare to draw its inspiration from its own woods, because they were not sung; from its own rivers, because, though the light of God's face shown [shone?] on them, that of the 'poet's dream' had not yet consecrated their waters; from its own skies, because, though they pillowed the Andes, they folded over no St. Paul's and no Westminster Abbey; from its own sun, because, though the very sun of Homer and Shakspeare, he went down to their eyes amid the waves of the forest, and not amid those of the Atlantic Sea. It lived on borrowed force. It fed on alms. It was the reverse of a republican genius. It had not even audacity or literary licentiousness; not even the power of extravagance or the life of convulsion. Sometimes it selected for its models writers inferior to its own capabilities, because they were British, and you were reminded of the prophet stretching himself, eye to eye, and foot to foot, upon the child of the Shunamite. Still it has numbered the following great names in its intellectual heraldry; Edwards, Dwight, Brockden Brown, Cooper, John Neal, Moses Stuart, Daniel Webster, Channing, and Emerpp. 328, 329.


Our readers are welcome to a hearty laugh over this extract; but they would hardly have patience with us, should we offer them a word of commentary on a text which so luculently expounds both itself and its author. Nor would the merits of the book have induced us to dignify it even by our critical ban. We have seen fit to notice it, because in the American reprint it is widely circulated and much read, and because its rich and attractive table of contents, and the unique and happy design of combining within a narrow com

pass portraitures of the leading English writers of the present generation, have undoubtedly led many to take the author's brass for gold, and his paste for diamonds.

ART. II. Report on the Census of the Iroquois Indians in the State of New York, taken by Order of the Legislature in 1845. By HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT. Legislative Document. Albany. 1846. 8vo. pp. 285.

WE have had a great many speculations on the subject of the red men. Where there is ample room and range for conjecture, it most naturally takes a wide scope, - as water, that is not confined to a channel, spreads out broadly, and is often shallow in proportion. No topic connected with the history of man is less circumscribed; it is almost a tabula rasa; scarcely a fence or a bound is seen to check the range of the speculations we have alluded to. They can expand at will, and most of them have taken advantage of this unbounded latitude. The truth is, there is a great gulf between the post-diluvian main stock of mankind and this branch found in the western hemisphere. Here we advance on the modern side less than four centuries, when we stand on its brink. A few vague traditions, like slender promontories, shoot forward into the shadows beyond. Those who move out on them, in the hope of reaching the other side, are much like the insect which crawls to the tip of a slender blade of grass growing on the western shore of the Southern Pacific, as if in hopes of reaching the Asiatic shore. On the other hand, if we take our stand among the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japhet, we are only told that they were scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. This declaration must be received in all its length and breadth; still, the gulf is not narrowed one tittle. We can only rest in the conviction, that there are ways past our finding out, and that the way whereby the red men came is one of those ways. We cannot carry forward the chain one link. We can trace it back four hundred years, leaving a vast hiatus of a thousand years. What has been thus sundered no man can expect to join together.

But though we abstain from presumptuous and bootless speculations of this kind, still there is much to be done with respect to the aborigines, which is clearly within our power. We have dispossessed them, so far as our convenience has urged us, of their domains. Their history has fallen into our hands; it is our duty, not so much to them as to the world, to preserve it. The Indians will find little compensation for such wrongs as they have suffered in the record that faithfully perpetuates their remembrance. The debt is not due to them; they do not claim it. They looked little to the past, and reckon as little upon the future. A cloud was constantly behind them, that shut out that past from view; and no light seemed to be before them. But they have left vestiges which we are expected to gather up. They They are subjects of profound interest, as they enable us to study the character of a race that stands so wonderfully apart from the rest of mankind.

Among those who have been busy in this antiquarian work, few will hereafter be more prominent than Mr. Schoolcraft, whose name is prefixed to the volume before us. We do not hesitate to say, that he has done more to bring it to profitable issues than any other man. Others may have spent more time among the Indians; we do not count time in this case as any thing, unless it has been spent with zeal, intelligence, and good advantages. Traders have passed their lives among them, become flesh of their flesh, and had opportunities of observing them under the most familiar aspects. But such men are proof that one may have eyes, and see not, and understandings, yet understand not. They generally divide the aborigines into two classes, those who hunt, and those who do not; just as they divide all animals into two tribes, those which are fur-bearing, and those which are This is pretty much the extent of their knowledge of the men of the forest and the beasts of the forest. Mr. Schoolcraft, on the contrary, observed with the eye of a philosopher. He has regarded the Indians as a study in all their phases, and has felt that it was only by continued and close observation that he could form any safe opinions of their character and manners. It is not every man that walks through a forest, who comprehends all its botanical distinctions; probably not one in a thousand understands any of them. It is so, though not in the same degree, that observations on


the Indians may be useful or worthless. These persons may have seen only so many trees; they are likely to have seen only so many men and women. The remarks of such men, in either case, have about the same value.

Mr. Schoolcraft began his career of observation as a traveller among the Indian tribes. His early association with General Cass, in his official visits to them, gave him much opportunity for glances at their character. But they were mere glances, and no doubt were so considered by himself in after years, however he may have been satisfied with them at the time. In fact, travellers should distrust themselves, and be distrusted by all their readers, if they go one jot beyond the mere facts which fall under their eyes. Even more than that should be required. When the record of a thermometer is given, its position as to exposure and height is also noted; otherwise, little or no confidence is felt in the truth of the record. A traveller should state his point of view, and the duration of that view. When he merely passes through a place, taking a meal or two and a sleep, he is not authorized to go much beyond the board and bed of that place. He may comment on the cooking he meets with, and on the comforts or annoyances of his bed. far he may go, not much farther. His sketches should be light and shadowy; a dot and a line will generally fulfil all just purposes in such cases.


Most of the early travellers among the Indians were betrayed into the use of far more elaborate accounts, by the belief that none would be able to detect their exaggerations. At that early day, there might be a hope of impunity. But when Mr. Schoolcraft made his several journeys through the Northwest, standards had been set for the measurement of forest life. Had Baron La Hontan travelled one hundred years later, he would have been one hundred times more particular in his descriptions. He spread out rivers to ten times their proper width, and lifted up falls to more than four times their true height. All travellers should keep an itinerary, as they probably do. The truth, as it appeared at the time, is no doubt then set down, being the fresh impression of actual observation. Such itineraries, when they happen to meet the public eye, are generally very acceptable and much prized. No distrust is felt about their genuineness. It would be politic in those who, from habit or more leisure

in their progress, have polished off their manuscript, to give it some marks of haste, instead of removing them, with so much care, before publication. If they should go direct to the printer's from their last stage, before they change their dress, and with all the soil of journeying upon them, they would be wise. The tan on their cheeks, and their coats out at the elbows, or covered up by a hunting-shirt, would be their best prefaces. While with this aspect, they are lions; as soon as they change their dress, shave, and crop, they are confounded with the ordinary crowd. So it is with their itineraries; they should come forth much as they went in, with no engrafting and little pruning. Ordinarily, the book of travels that comes out of the publisher's hands is as unlike the notes which came out of the valise at the end of the journey, as a specimen of lead ore is unlike the pewter dish into which it may have subsequently been converted.

No one would be more likely than Mr. Schoolcraft himself to consider his books of travels among the Indians as mere highway and by-way sketches. These hasty glances, however, led him to desire further and better opportunities of investigating their condition, character, and history. He had seen their haunts, and many of their customs, but only in shreds and patches. Even his cursory views had convinced him that they were a peculiar people, and in no one thing more so than in their incommunicative deportment before strangers. The appearance of such persons among them was a signal for assuming an impassive and inexpressive aspect, that marked them, for the time being, as children of the mist. They drew in their prominent characteristics, like a tortoise drawing itself within its shell. Little is seen, and even that indistinctly. Inferences drawn from such appearances would be like the child's opinion of a tortoise in such a state, looking more like a quoit than an animal, as long as the observer stands over it. Mr. Schoolcraft sought

a position which would enable him to renew his views day after day, year after year. He was for years among them, and became associated with them in such a way, that, at last, he saw them as they see each other. Their character and customs were gradually unfolded to his view through the course of an entire generation. And during all that lengthened period, his great object was to study them with a patient, philosophical, and liberal spirit, that he might gather

« VorigeDoorgaan »