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the Five Nations, had crossed his path in the valley of the Susquehanna, or on the shores of Lake Ontario, where he served when a midshipman in the navy. And more recently, since the idea of introducing these wild people into his books had occurred to him, he had been at no little pains to seize every opportunity offered for observation. Fortunately for his purpose, deputations to Washington from the Western tribes, were quite frequent at that moment; he visited these different parties as they passed through Albany and New York, following them in several instances to Washington, and with a view also to gathering information from the officers and interpreters who accompanied them."
This evidence indicates that little of Cooper's knowledge of the Indians was gained by actual observation.10 What, then, were the literary sources of his Indian material? Miss Cooper says concerning this:
The writer [of The Last of the Mohicans] has been at pains to obtain accurate details regarding Indian life and character . . ; the earlier writers on these subjects, Heckwelder [sic], Charlevoix, Penn, Smith, Elliott [sic], Colden, were studied. The narratives of Lang, of Lewis and Clarke [sic], of Mackenzie, were examined.11
This painstaking search for authentic material, for exactness of detail, is thoroughly in accordance with Cooper's method of work.12 An intimate study of his literary art does away forever with the idea that he "took the easiest path across country." He wove his great tapestries with care. When the chosen threads were drawn from his own experience, they were of rich color and sound workmanship; when they were, of necessity, drawn from the experience of others, Cooper spared no pains to get the best quality obtainable. In spite, therefore, of the sensitive pride of authorship which prevented Cooper's ever admitting the use of specific source material,
Pages and Pictures from the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, with Notes, New York, 1861, pp. 130, 131.
10 In a chapter in Notions of the Americans (1, 277-288), Cooper discusses the Indians. He describes a visit to King Peter, a former sachem, but now a sullen solitary, who complains that "basket-stuff" is getting
11 Pages and Pictures, p. 130.
12 In my unpublished dissertation, James Fenimore Cooper as an Interpreter and Critic of America, the University of Chicago, August, 1924, from which this study is in part taken, I have discussed in greater detail Cooper's literary method.
Miss Cooper's statement is exactly what one would expect; and it remains only to find, if possible, the particular source that determined Cooper's interpretation of the American Indian as exemplified in the great characters of Chingachgook and Uncas.
There is one outstanding and fundamental peculiarity in Cooper's presentation of the Indians; namely, that throughout the LeatherStocking Tales, in direct opposition to the generally accepted opinion, he glorifies the Delawares and scorns the Iroquois. Now Heckewelder, of all earlier writers on the Indians, holds the same view of the relative merits of the Delawares and Iroquois. Moreover, when a close study of Heckewelder reveals not only this striking similarity but also many other similarities in interpretation and detail, one is forced to the conclusion that Cooper got his material for the Leather-Stocking Tales, except possibly for The Prairie, from Heckewelder's Indian Nations.13 In order to prove this, it will be well to give an account of Heckewelder's life and missionary work, and an abstract of his views relating to the Delaware Indians, as given in his Indian Nations, as a basis for a further analysis of the Leather-Stocking Tales.
John Heckewelder (1743-1825) was a clergyman of the Moravians, or United Brethren. From 1762 to 1788 he was an irreproachable and indefatigable missionary to the various bands of Delaware Indians in Pennsylvania and Ohio, making many toilsome journeys across the mountains and through the wilderness, suffering almost unbelievable privations and hardships. He and his
13 The complete title is "An account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations who once inhabited Pennsylvania and the neighboring States." This is one of the three reports written by Heckewelder for Volume I (1819) of the publications of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia. The other two parts are the following: 2. "Correspondence between Mr. Heckewelder and Mr. Duponceau on the languages of the American Indians."
3. "Words, Phrases, and Short Dialogues in the Language of the Lenni Lenape."
The first part is the important one. It was republished, in a new and revised edition, in Philadelphia, 1876, with a slight change of title: "History, manners and customs of the Indian nations who once inhabited Pennsylvania and the neighboring states."
I used this later edition, and for convenience I refer to it as Indian Nations.
brother missionaries succeeded in persuading several hundreds of Indians to accept the Christian doctrines, to give up many of their beliefs and habits, and to imitate the white men in building settlements and in clearing the wilderness for farms. The band of Delawares and Mohegans, with which Heckewelder was especially connected, settled, after many migrations, upon the Muskingum River about seventy miles west of the present city of Pittsburgh. Here the "praying Indians" were contented and peaceful in a semi-agricultural life until the border warfare of the Revolution broke up their settlements. The British authorities moved the few remaining Indians to the Huron River near Detroit, to which place Heckewelder accompanied them.
Heckewelder, indeed, spent most of his life with this small band of Delawares and Mohegans, working with them, preaching to them, and learning their language. Other missionaries lost their faith in Indian nature, but the zealous Heckewelder retained his youthful, simple trust. He listened eagerly to the Indian traditions and legends, and believed them.14 In his old age he was persuaded by Dr. Wistar to write the results of his Indian studies for the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia.15
Heckewelder divides his Indian Nations into forty-four chapters, of which the first five treat of the history of the "Lenape and their kindred tribes," and their relations with the Iroquois. In his preparation of this history of the Indians, Heckewelder acknowledges his indebtedness to the earlier Moravian historians and to his missionary colleagues. He refers to John Christopher Pyrlaes, a Moravian missionary, who collected notes and memoranda in a large manuscript book. He refers more often to George Henry Loskiel, another Moravian missionary, who published in 1789 his work entitled Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Brüder unter den Indianern in Nordamerika. Another missionary friend. was David Zeisberger, who had also collected notes on the Indians. Heckewelder begins the history with the story of the mythical
14 These facts are from Reichel's Introduction to Heckewelder's Indian Nations, Philadelphia, 1876.
15 In 1820 Heckewelder published A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians, from 1740 to 1808, interspersed with Anecdotes, Historical Facts, Speeches of Indians, etc. Philadelphia.
migration of the Lenni Lenape. According to tradition this large and powerful nation dwelt centuries ago in the western part of the American continent. Having determined to migrate eastward, the Indians of this nation set out in a body. After a long journey they arrived at the Namaesi Sippi (Mississippi), where they fell in with the Mengwe (Iroquois, or Five Nations), who were likewise migrating. The two nations united and defeated the Alligewi, who had disputed their path. The conquerors divided the country between them, the Mengwe, or Iroquois, choosing the lands in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, and the Lenape, or Delawares, taking possession of the lands to the southeast and on the eastern coast.
The Lenape, or Delawares, having fixed their abode on the shores of the Atlantic divided into three tribes: The Unâmis, with the turtle or tortoise emblem, the Unalachtgo (turkey), and the Minsi, or Monseys (wolf). New tribes sprang from the parent stock, each acknowledging the Lenni Lenape to be its "grandfather." One such tribe was the Mahicanni, or Mohicans, who crossed the Mahicannituck (Hudson) River, and settled in the country which now composes the eastern states.
The association between the Delawares and the Mengwe was soon broken by the treachery of the latter. For centuries after the rupture, bloody wars were waged between the Delawares and the confederated Mengwe. During this period of struggle, the French had settled in Canada, and it was not long before they too were at war with the Mengwe, whom they called the "Iroquois." Heckewelder continues as follows:
At last the Iroquois, finding themselves between two fires, and without any prospect of conquering the Lenape by arms . . . fell upon a stratagem, which they flattered themselves would, if successful, secure to them not only a peace with the Lenape, but also with all the other tribes connected with them; so that they would then have but one enemy [the French] to contend with.
The plan was very deeply laid, and was calculated to deprive the Lenape and their allies, not only of their power but of their military fame, which had exalted them above all other Indian nations.
They [the Iroquois] had reflected, they said, deeply reflected on their critical situation; there remained no resource for them, but that some magnanimous nation should assume the part and situation of the woman. It could not be given to a weak or contemptible tribe, such would not be listened to; but the Lenape and their allies would at once possess influence and command respect. As men they had been dreaded; as women
they would be respected and honored, none would be so daring or so base as to attack or insult them; as women they would have a right to interfere in all the quarrels of other nations, and to stop or prevent the effusion of Indian blood. They intreated them, therefore, to become the woman in name and, in fact, to lay down their arms and all the insignia of warriors, to devote themselves to agriculture and other pacific employments, and thus become the means of preserving peace and harmony among the nations.
The Lenape, unfortunately for themselves, listened to the voice of their enemies. .. They believed that the Mengwe were sincere, and that this proposal had no object in view but the preservation of the Indian race. In a luckless hour they gave their consent, and agreed to become women.1o
The Lenape accepted this proposal in good faith, but later the Iroquois treacherously claimed that the Delawares had been made women through defeat in war.
Although the Delawares treated the whites fairly, they were themselves badly used by the Dutch and English settlers. The Delawares had welcomed Hudson to Manhattan Island. In 1682 they made a treaty with William Penn, whom they called Miquon," which was to last as long as the sun should shine and the rivers flow with water." The Delaware chief who signed this treaty by affixing his mark was Tamenend, later called Tammany. Heckewelder refers to him in terms of high praise:
He was an ancient Delaware chief, who never had his equal. He was in the highest degree endowed with wisdom, virtue, prudence, charity, affability, meekness, hospitality, in short with every good and noble qualification that a human being may possess.17
Notwithstanding this treaty, the Delawares, after Penn's death, were injured by the English in alliance with the Iroquois. In 1742 the English called upon the Iroquois to compel the Delawares to give up their lands. The Iroquois carried out the commands of the English and forced the. Delawares from their possessions. This aroused the enmity of the Delawares against the English, and later, in the French and Indian War, they sided with the French.
After the first five historical chapters in Heckewelder's Indian Nations, there are thirty-nine chapters that form one long panegyric on the excellences of the Delawares. The following quotations
16 Indian Nations, pp. 56-58.
17 Ibid., p. 300.