Part 4 out of 15
The final syllable _wae_, in compound words, stands for voice. In the
ancient Massachusetts language, as preserved by Eliot, in his
translation of the Bible, as in Isaiah xi. 14, Chepwoieu means the east.
What a curious subject for speculation the Indian language presents!
Since I began to dip into this topic, I have found myself irresistibly
carried forward in the inquiry, and been led to resume it, whenever the
calls of business or society have been intermitted. I have generally
felt, however, while pursuing it, like a mechanist who is required to
execute a delicate and difficult work without suitable implements.
Technical words may be considered as the working tools of inquiry, and
there seems to be a paucity of terms, in our common systems, to describe
such a many-syllabled, aggregated language as the Indian. I have been
sometimes half inclined to put my manuscripts in the fire, and to
exclaim with Dryden, respecting some metaphysical subject--
"I cannot bolt this matter to the bran."
It is not, however, the habitual temper of my mind to give up. "The
spider," it is said, "taketh hold with her hands, and is in king's
palaces;" and should a man have less perseverance than a _spider?_
_4th_. A meteor, or fire-ball, passed through the village at twilight
this evening. The weather, which has been intensely cold for the last
three days, indicates a change this evening. Meteoric phenomena of a
luminous character were universally referred to electricity, after
Franklin's day. Chemistry has since put forth reasons why several of
these phenomena should be attributed to phosphorus or hydrogen liberated
_5th_. The Chippewa jugglers, or Jassakeeds, as they are called, have an
art of rendering their flesh insensible, probably for a short time, to
the effects of a blaze of fire. Robert Dickson told me that he had seen
several of them strip themselves of their garments, and jump into a
bonfire. Voltaire says, in his Essay on History, that rubbing the hand
for a long time with spirit of vitriol and alum, with the juice of an
onion, is stated to render it capable of enduring hot water
_7th_. Acting as librarian for the garrison during the season, I am
privileged to fill up many of the leisure hours of my mornings and
evenings by reading. The difficulty appears to be, to read with such
reference to system as to render it profitable. History, novels,
voyages and travels, and various specific treatises of fancy or fact,
invite perusal, and like a common acquaintance, it requires some moral
effort to negative their claims. "Judgment," says a celebrated critic,
"is forced upon us by experience. He that reads many books must compare
one opinion, or one style with another, and when he compares must
necessarily distinguish, reject, prefer."
_Sunday 8th_. Quintilian says, "We palliate our sloth by the specious
pretext of difficulty." Nothing, in fact, is too difficult to
accomplish, which we set about, with a proper consideration of those
difficulties, and pursue with perseverance. The Indian language cannot
be acquired so easily as the Greek or Hebrew, but it can be mastered by
perseverance. Our Indian policy cannot be understood without looking at
the Indian history. The taking of Fort Niagara was the first decisive
blow at French power. Less than three months afterwards, that is, on the
18th of October of that year, General Wolf took Quebec. Goldsmith wrote
some stanzas on this event, eulogizing the heroism of the exploit.
England's consolation for the loss of Wolf is found in his heroic
example, which the poet refers to in his closing line,
"Since from thy tomb a thousand heroes rise."
_11th_. Names are the pegs of history. Velasco, it is said, on visiting
the gulf which receives the St. Lawrence, and finding the country cold
and inhospitable, cried out _aca nada_--"there is nothing here." This is
said to be the origin of the word Canada. Nothing could be more
improbable: Did the Indians of Canada hear him, and, if so, did they
understand or respect the language of a foreigner hovering on their
coast? We must look to the Iroquois for the origin of this word. Jacques
Cartier, in 1534, evidently mistook the Indian word Canada, signifying a
town, for the whole country. The Indians have no geographical terms for
districts. They name a hill, a river, or a fall, but do not deal in
generics. Some _a priori_ reasoning seems constrained, where the facts
are granted, as this: All animals at Nova Zembla, it is said, are
carnivorous, because there is no grass.
_12th_. Snow covers everything. We are shut out from the civilized
world, and thrown entirely on our own resources. I doubt, if we were in
Siberia, or Kamschatka, if we could be so completely isolated.
_13th_. Ellis, in one of his northern voyages, asserts the opinion that
the northern lights kindle and disperse the vapors requisite to the
formation of lightning. Hence there is no thunder in high northern
latitudes. We admit the fact, but doubt the reasoning. Vapor is but
water in a gaseous state. It is a fine medium for the exhibition of
electricity, and we cannot say that electricity exists without it.
_14th_. When Lucas Fox sailed to discover the north-west passage to
India, in 1631, he carried a letter from Charles the First to the
Emperor of Japan. Such was public information, in Europe, twenty-two
years after the discovery of the River Hudson, and the settlement of New
England, eleven years later.
_15th_. The state of the weather, during this month, has exhibited some
striking changes. The first three or four days were quite severe. On the
fifth it became mild, and continued so for eight or nine days. During
this time, nearly all the snow which had previously fallen was carried
off by rains, or the heat of the sun. The weather was so mild that I sat
in my office, on the 13th, without fire, for about two hours. Two
evenings previous, the snow fell from the roofs of buildings at nine
o'clock, and it continued thawing through the night. To day, the wind
has veered round to a northerly point, and the weather has resumed its
_22d_. The River St. Mary's froze over during the night of this day. The
stream had been closed below, for about a week previous.
_24th_. The Tartars cannot pronounce the letter _b_. Those of Bulgaria
pronounce the word blacks as if written Iliacs. The Chippewas in this
quarter usually transpose the _b_ and _p_ in English words. They
substitute _n_ for _l_, pronouncing Louis as if written Nouis. The
letter _r_ is dropped, or sounded _au_. _P_ is often substituted for
_f_, _b_ for _v_, and _ch_ for _j_. In words of their own language, the
letters _f, l, r, v_, and _x_, do not occur. The following are their
names for the seasons.
Years are counted by winters, months by moons, and days by nights. There
are terms for morning, mid-day, and evening. The year consists of
thirteen moons, each moon being designated by a descriptive name, as the
moon of flowers (May), the moon of strawberries (June), the moon of
berries (July), &c. Canoe and tomahawk are not terms belonging to the
Chippewa language. From inquiries I think the former is of Carib origin,
and the latter Mohegan. The Chippewa equivalents are in the order
stated, Cheman and Agakwut.
_26th_. In going out to dinner at 3 o'clock, a sheet of paper containing
conjugations of verbs, which had cost me much time and questioning, had
fallen from my table. On returning in the evening, I found my dog,
Ponty, a young pet, had torn my care-bought conjugations into small
pieces. What was to be done? It was useless to whip the dog, and I
scarcely had the courage to commence the labor anew. I consequently did
neither; but gathering up the fragments, carefully soaked the gnawed and
mutilated parts in warm water, and re-arranged and sealed them together.
And before bedtime I had restored the manuscript so as to be
intelligibly read. I imposed this task upon myself, but, had it been
imposed by another, I would have been ready to pronounce him a madman.
_27th_. I devoted the day and evening in transcribing words into my
"Ojibwa Vocabulary." This is a labor requiring great caution. The
language is so concrete, that often, when I have supposed a word had
been dissected and traced to its root, subsequent attention has proved
it to be a compound. Thus verbs have been inserted with pronouns, or
with particles, indicating negation, or the past or future tense, when
it has been supposed they had been divested of these appendages. I am
now going over the work the third time. The simplest forms of the verb
seem to be the first and third persons singular of the imperative mood.
Ennui, in situations like the present, being isolated and shut up as it
were from the world, requires to be guarded against. The surest
preventive of it is employment, and diversity in employment. It has been
determined to-day to get up a periodical sheet, or _jeu d'esprit_
newspaper, to be circulated from family to family, commencing on the
first of January. Mrs. Thompson asked me for a name. I suggested the
"Northern Light." It was finally determined to put this into Latin, and
call it Aurora Borealis.
_28th_. Visits make up a part of the winter's amusements. We owe this
duty to society; but, like other duties, which are largely connected
with enjoyment, there is a constant danger that more time be given up to
it than is profitable. Conversation is the true index of feeling. We
read wise and grave books, but are not a whit better by them, than as
they introduce and fix in our minds such principles as shall shine out
in conversation or acts. Now were an ordinary social winter evening
party tested by such principles, what would a candid spectator judge to
have been the principal topics of reading or study? I remember once, in
my earlier years, to have passed an evening in a room where a number of
my intimate friends were engaged in playing at cards. As I did not play,
I took my seat at an office-table, and hastily sketched the conversation
which I afterwards read for their amusement. But the whole was in
reality a bitter satire on their language and sentiments, although it
was not so designed by me, nor received by them. I several years
afterwards saw the sketch of this conversation among my papers, and was
forcibly struck with this reflection.
Let me revert to some of the topics of conversation introduced in the
circles where I have visited this day, or in my own room. It is
Goldsmith, I think, who says that our thoughts take their tinge from
contiguous objects. A man standing near a volcano would naturally speak
of burning mountains. A person traversing a field of snow would feel his
thoughts occupied with polar scenes. Thus are we here thrown together.
Ice, snow, winds, a high range of the thermometer, or a driving tempest,
are the almost ever present topics of remark: and these came in for a
due share of the conversation to-day. The probability of the ice in the
river's breaking up the _latter part of April_, and the arrival of a
vessel at the post _early in May!_--the dissolution of the seventeenth
Congress, which must take place on the 4th of March, the character and
administration of Governor Clinton (which were eulogized), were
In the evening I went, by invitation, to Mr. Siveright's at the North
West House. The party was numerous, embracing most of the officers of
the American garrison, John Johnston, Esq., Mr. C.O. Ermatinger, a
resident who has accumulated a considerable property in trade, and
others. Conversation turned, as might have been expected, upon the topic
of the Fur Trade, and the enterprising men who established, or led to
the establishment of, the North West Company. Todd, Mackenzie, and
M'Gillvray were respectively described. Todd was a merchant of Montreal,
an Irishman by birth, who possessed enterprise, courage, address, and
general information. He paved the way for the establishment of the
Company, and was one of the first partners, but died untimely. He
possessed great powers of memory. His cousin, Don Andrew Todd, had the
monopoly of the fur trade of Louisiana.
M'Gillvray possessed equal capacity for the trade with Todd, united to
engaging, gentlemanly manners. He introduced that feature in the Company
which makes every clerk, at a certain time, a partner. This first
enabled them successfully to combat the Hudson's Bay Company. His
passions, however, carried him too far, and he was sometimes unjust.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie was at variance with M'Gillvray, and they never
spoke in each other's praise. Mackenzie commanded great respect from all
classes, and possessed a dignity of manners and firmness of purpose
which fitted him for great undertakings. He established the X.Y.
Company, in opposition to the North West.
_29th_. The days are still very short, the sun having but just passed
the winter solstice. We do not dine till four; Mr. Johnston, with whom I
take my meals, observing this custom, and it is dark within the coming
hour. I remained to family worship in the evening.
_30th_. Read the articles in the "Edinburgh Review" on Accum's work on
the adulteration of food, and Curran's Life by his Son. Accum, it is
said, came to England as an adventurer. By assiduity and attention, he
became eminent as an operative chemist, and accumulated a fortune.
Curran was also of undistinguished parentage. His mother, in youth,
seems to have judged rightly of his future talents.
Mr. Johnston returned me "Walsh's Appeal," which he had read at my
request, and expressed himself gratified at the ability with which the
subject is handled. Captain Clarke, an industrious reader on local and
general subjects, had come in a short time before. Conversation became
general and animated. European politics, Greece, Turkey, and Russia, the
state of Ireland, radicalism in England, the unhappy variance between
the king and queen, Charles Fox, &c., were successively the subjects of
remark. We adjourned to Mr. Johnston's.
In the evening I went into my office and wrote to Mr. Calhoun, the
Secretary of War, recommending Captain H.'s son William, for the
appointment of a cadet in the Military Academy.
[Footnote 28: The appointment was made.]
_31st_. Devoted the day to the Indian language. It scarcely seems
possible that any two languages should be more _unlike_, or have fewer
points of resemblance, than the English and Ojibwa. If an individual
from one of the nomadic tribes of farther Asia were suddenly set down in
London, he could hardly be more struck with the difference in buildings,
dress, manners, and customs, than with the utter discrepance in the
sounds of words, and the grammatical structure of sentences. The Ojibwa
has this advantage, considered as the material of future improvement; it
is entirely homogeneous, and admits of philosophical principles being
carried out, with very few, if any, of those exceptions which so
disfigure English grammar, and present such appalling obstacles to
foreigners in learning the language.
On going to dine at the usual hour, I found company invited, among whom
were some gentlemen from Upper Canada. Conversation rolled on smoothly,
and embraced a wide range of topics. Some of the dark doings of the
North West Company, in their struggle for exclusive power in the Indian
country, were mentioned. Nobody appeared to utter a word in malice or
ill will. Dark and bright traits of individual character and conduct
floated along the stream of conversation, without being ruffled with a
breeze. In the evening I attended a party at the quarters of one of the
officers in the fort. Dancing was introduced. The evening passed off
agreeably till the hour of separation, which was a few minutes before
twelve. And thus closed the year eighteen hundred and twenty-two.
New Year's day among the descendants of the Norman
French--Anti-philosophic speculations of Brydone--Schlegel
on language--A peculiar native expression evincing
delicacy--Graywacke in the basin of Lake Superior--Temperature--Snow
shoes--Translation of Gen. i. 3--Historical reminiscences--Morals of
visiting--Ojibwa numerals--Harmon's travels--Mackenzie's
_January 1st_. This is a day of hilarity here, as in New York. Gayety
and good humor appear on every countenance. Visiting from house to house
is the order. The humblest individual is expected to make his appearance
in the routine, and "has his claims allowed." The French custom of
salutation prevails. The Indians are not the last to remember the day.
To them, it is a season of privileges, although, alas! it is only the
privilege to beg. Standing in an official relation to them, I was
occupied in receiving their visits from eight o'clock till three. I
read, however, at intervals, Dr. Johnson's Lives of Rochester,
Roscommon, Otway, Phillips, and Walsh.
_2d_. Brydone, the traveler, says, on the authority of Recupero, a
priest, that in sinking a pit near Iaci in the region of Mount Etna,
they pierced through seven distinct formations of lava, with parallel
beds of earth interposed between each stratum. He estimates that two
thousand years were required to decompose the lava and form it into
soil, and consequently that fourteen thousand years were needed for the
whole series of formations. A little further on, he however furnishes
data, showing to every candid mind on what very vague estimates he had
before relied. He says the fertile district of Hybla was suddenly turned
to barrenness by an eruption of lava, and soon after restored to
fertility by a shower of ashes. The change which he had required two
thousand years to produce was here accomplished suddenly, and the whole
argument by which he had arrayed himself against the Mosaical
chronology overturned. Of such materials is a good deal of modern
I received, this morning, a number of mineralogical specimens from Mr.
Johnston, which had been collected by him at various times in the
vicinity. Among them were specimens of copper pyrites in quartz,
sulphate of strontian, foliated gypsum, and numerous calcareous
petrifactions. He also presented me a fine antler of the Caribo, or
American reindeer, a species which is found to inhabit this region. This
animal is called Addik by the Ojibwas. _Ik_ is a termination in the
Ojibwa denoting some hard substance.
_3d_. Forster, in his "History of Northern Voyages," mentions some facts
which appear to be adverse to Mr. Hayden's theory of a north-western
current. The height of islands observed by Fox, in the arctic regions,
was found to be greatest on their eastern sides, and they were depressed
towards the west. "This observation," he says, "seems to me to prove
that, when the sea burst impetuously into Hudson's Bay, and tore away
these islands from the main land, it must have come rushing from the
east and south-east, and have washed away the earth towards the west--a
circumstance which has occasioned their present low position."
_4th_. I read the review of Schlegel's "Treatise on the Sanscrit
Language." How far the languages of America may furnish coincidences in
their grammatical forms, is a deeply interesting inquiry. But thus
insulated, as I am, without books, the labor of comparison is, indeed,
almost hopeless! I must content myself, for the present, with furnishing
examples for others.
The Indians still continue their New Year's visits. Fresh parties or
families, who come in from the woods, and were not able to come on the
day, consider themselves privileged to present their claims. It should
not be an object of disappointment to find that the Indians do not, in
their ordinary intercourse, evince those striking traits of exalted and
disinterested character which we are naturally accustomed to expect from
reading books. Books are, after all, but men's holiday opinions. It
requires observation on real life to be able to set a true estimate upon
things. The instances in which an Indian is enabled to give proofs of a
noble or heroic spirit cannot be expected to occur frequently. In all
the history of the seaboard tribes there was but one Pocahontas, one
Uncas, and one Philip. Whereas, everyday is calling for the exercise of
less splendid, but more generally useful virtues. To spare the life of a
prisoner, or to relieve a friend from imminent peril, may give applause,
and carry a name down to posterity. But it is the constant practice of
every day virtues and duties, domestic diligence, and common sense, that
renders life comfortable, and society prosperous and happy. How much of
this everyday stamina the Indians possess, it would be presumptuous in
me, with so short an opportunity of observation, to decide. But I am
inclined to the opinion that their defect of character lies here.
Our express for Detroit, via Michilimackinack, set out at three o'clock
this morning, carrying some few short of a hundred letters. This, with
our actual numbers, is the best commentary on our insulated situation.
We divert ourselves by writing, and cling with a death-grasp, as it
were, to our friends and correspondents.
_5th. Gitche ie nay gow ge ait che gah_, "they have put the sand over
him" is a common expression among the Indians to indicate that a man is
dead and buried. Another mode, delicate and refined in its character, is
to suffix the inflection for perfect past tense, _bun_, to a man's name.
Thus Washington e bun would indicate that Washington is no more.
I read the Life of Pope. It is strange that so great a poet should have
been so great a lover of wealth; mammon and the muses are not often
conjointly worshiped. Pope did not excel in familiar conversation, and
few sallies of wit, or pointed observation, are preserved. The following
is recorded: "When an objection raised against his inscription for
Shakspeare was defended by the authority of Patrick, he replied,
'horresco referens,' that he would allow the publisher of a dictionary
to know the meaning of a single word, but not of two words put
In the evening I read a number of the "London Literary Gazette," a
useful and interesting paper, which, in its plan, holds an intermediate
rank between a newspaper and a review. It contains short condensed
criticisms on new works, together with original brief essays and
anecdotes, and literary advertisements, which latter must render it a
valuable paper to booksellers. I think we have nothing on this plan, at
present, in the United States.
_6th_. I received a specimen of slaty graywacke from Lake Superior. The
structure is tabular, and very well characterized. If there be no
mistake respecting the locality, it is therefore certain that this rock
is included among the Lake Superior group. It was not noticed in the
expedition of 1820. I also received a specimen of iron sand from _Point
[Footnote 29: I found graywacke _in situ_ at Iron River, in Lake
Superior, in 1826, and subsequently at Presque Isle River, where it is
slaty, and fine even grained, and apparently suitable for some
The thermometer has stood at 25 deg. below zero a few days during the
season. It was noticed at 10 deg. below, this morning. Notwithstanding the
decidedly wintry character of the day, I received a visit from Mr.
Siveright, a Canadian gentleman, who came across the expanse of ice on
snow shoes. I loaned him Silliman's "Travels in England and Scotland,"
feeling a natural desire to set off our countrymen, as authors and
travelers, to the best advantage. Mr. S., who has spent several years at
the north, mentioned that each of the Indian tribes has something
peculiar in the fashion of their snow shoes. The Chippewas form theirs
with acute points fore and aft, resembling two inverted sections of a
circle. The Crees make a square point in front, tapering away gradually
to the heel. The Chippewyans turn up the fore point, so that it may
offer less resistance in walking. Females have their snow shoes
constructed different from the men's. The difference consists in the
shape and size of the bows. The netting is more nicely wrought and
colored, and often ornamented, particularly in those worn by girls, with
tassels of colored worsted. The word "shoe," as applied to this
apparatus of the feet, is a complete _misnomer_. It consists of a
net-work of laced skin, extended between light wooden bows tied to the
feet, the whole object of which is to augment the space pressed upon,
and thus bear up the individual on the surface of the snow.
I devoted the leisure hours of the day to the grammatical structure of
the Indian language. There is reason to suppose the word _moneto_ not
very ancient. It is, properly speaking, not the name for God, or
Jehovah, but rather a generic term for spiritual agency in their
mythology. The word seems to have been derived from the notion of the
offerings left upon rocks and sacred places, being supernaturally _taken
away_. In any comparative views of the language, not much stress should
be laid upon the word, as marking a difference from other stocks.
_Maneton_, in the Delaware, is the verb "to make." _Ozheton_ is the same
verb in Chippewa.
_7th_. History teaches its lessons in small, as well as great things.
Vessels from Albemarle, in Virginia, in 1586, first carried the potato
to Ireland. Thomas Harriot says the natives called it _open-awk_. The
Chippewas, at this place, call the potato _open-eeg_; but the
termination _eeg_ is merely a form of the plural. _Open_ (the _e_
sounded like short _i_) is the singular form. Thomas Jefferson gives the
word "Wha-poos" as the name of the Powhatanic tribes for hare. The
Chippewa term for this animal is _Wa-bos_, usually pronounced by white
Longinus remarks the sublimity of style of the third verse of Genesis i.
I have, with competent aid, put it into Chippewa, and give the
Appee dush and then
Gezha Monedo Merciful Spirit
Akeedood He said
Wassay-au, Light be,
Appee dush And then
Wassay-aug Light was.
It is not to be expected that all parts of the language would exhibit
equal capacities to bear out the original. Yet in this instance, if the
translation be faithful, it is clearly, but not, to our apprehension,
elegantly done. I am apprehensive that the language generally has a
strong tendency to repetition and redundancy of forms, and to clutter
up, as it were, general ideas with particular meanings. At three o'clock
I went to dine with Mr. Siveright, at the North West Company's House.
The party was large, including the officers from the garrison.
Conversation took a political turn. Colonel Lawrence defended the
propriety of his recent toast, "The Senate of the United States, the
guardians of a free people," by which a Boston paper said "more was
meant than met the eye." The evening was passed with the ordinary
sources of amusement. I have for some time felt that the time devoted to
these amusements, in which I never made much advance, would be better
given up to reading, or some inquiry from which I might hope to derive
advantage. An incident this evening impressed me with this truth, and I
came home with a resolution that one source of them should no longer
engross a moment of my time.
Harris, the author of Hermes, says, "It is certainly as easy to be a
scholar as a gamester, or any other character equally illiberal and low.
The same application, the same quantity of habit, will fit us for one as
completely as for the other. And as to those who tell us, with an air of
seeming wisdom, that it is men, and not books, that we must study to
become knowing; this I have always remarked, from repeated experience,
to be the common consolation and language of dunces." Now although I
have no purpose of aiming at extreme heights in knowledge, yet there are
some points in which every man should have that precision of knowledge
which is a concomitant of scholarship. And every man, by diligence, may
add to the number of these points, without aiming at all to put on a
character for extraordinary wisdom or profundity.
* * * * *
_9th. Historical Reminiscences_.--On the third of April, 1764, Sir
William Johnson concluded preliminary articles of peace and friendship
with eight deputies of the Seneca nation, which was the only one of the
Iroquois who joined Pontiac. This was done at his residence at Johnson
Hall, on the Mohawk.
In August, 1764, Colonel Bradstreet granted "Terms of Peace" to certain
deputies of the Delaware, Huron, and Shawnee tribes at Presque Isle,
being then on his way to relieve Detroit, which was then closely
invested by the Indians. These deputies gave in their adhesion to the
English cause, and agreed to give up all the English prisoners.
In October of the same year, Colonel Bouquet granted similar terms to
another deputation of Shawnees, Delawares, &c., at Tuscarawas.
The best account of the general transactions of the war of that era,
which I have seen, is contained in a "History of the Late War in North
America, and Islands of the West Indies. By Thomas Mante, Assistant
Engineer, &c., and Major of a Brigade. London, 1772:" 1 vol. quarto, 552
pages. I am indebted to Governor Clinton for my acquaintance with
_10th_. I have employed the last three days, including this, very
diligently on my Indian vocabulary and inquiries, having read but
little. Too exclusive a devotion to this object is, however, an error. I
have almost grudged the time I devoted to eating and sleeping. And I
should certainly be unwilling that my visitors should know what I
thought of the interruptions created by their visits. It is true,
however, that I have gained but little by these visits in the way of
conversation. One of my visitors, a couple of days since, made me waste
a whole morning in talking of trifling subjects. Another, who is a
gourmand, is only interested in subjects connected with the
gratification of his palate. A third, who is a well-informed man, has
such lounging habits that he remained two hours and a half with me this
morning. No wonder that men in office must be guarded by the
paraphernalia of ante-rooms and messengers, if a poor individual at this
cold end of the world feels it an intrusion on his short winter days to
have lounging visitors. I will try to recollect, when I go to see
others, that although _I_ may have leisure, perhaps _they_ are engaged
in something of consequence.
* * * * *
_11th. History abounds in examples of excellence_.--Xenophon says of
Jason, "All who have served under Jason have learned this lesson, that
pleasure is the effect of toil; though as to sensual pleasures, I know
no person in the world more temperate than Jason. They never break in
upon his time; they always leave him leisure to do what must be done."
Of Diphridas, the same author observes, "No bodily indulgence ever
gained the ascendant over him, but, on the contrary, he gave all his
attention to the business in hand." What admirable maxims for real life,
whether that life be passed in courts or camps, or a humble sphere!
_12th_. I finished reading Thiebault's "Anecdotes of Frederick the
Great," which I had commenced in December. This is a pleasing and
instructive work. Every person should read it who wishes to understand
the history of Prussia, particularly the most interesting and important
period of it. We here find Frederick I. and II., and William depicted to
the life. We are made acquainted also with national traits of the
Russian, English, German, and French character, which are nowhere else
to be found.
_13th_. The ancient Thracians are thus described by Herodotus: "The most
honorable life with them is a life of indolence; the most contemptible
that of a husbandman. Their supreme delight is war and plunder." Who, if
the name and authority were concealed, but would suppose the remarks
were made of some of the tribes of the North American Indians?
I divided the day between reading and writing. In the evening I went by
invitation to a party at Lieutenant B.'s in the cantonment.
_14th_. The Chippewa names of the numerals, from one to ten,
are--pazhik, neezh, niswee, newin, nanun, neen-goodwaswa, neezh-waswa,
swaswa, shonguswa, metonna.
Dined at Mr. Ermatinger's, a gentleman living on the Canada shore, who,
from small beginnings, has accumulated a considerable property by the
Indian trade, and has a numerous Anglo-Odjibwa family.
_15th_. Completed the perusal of Harmon's Travels, and extracted the
notes contained in memorandum book N. Mr. Harmon was nineteen years in
the service of the North West Company, and became a partner after the
expiration of the first seven years. The volume contains interesting
data respecting the topography, natural history (incidental), and Indian
tribes of a remote and extensive region. The whole scope of the journal
is devoted to the area lying north of the territory of the United
States. It will be found a valuable book of reference to those who are
particularly directing their attention to northern scenes. The journal
was revised and published by a Mr. Haskell, who, it is said _here_, by
persons acquainted with Mr. Harmon, has introduced into the text
religious reflections, not believed to have been made by the author at
the time. No exceptions can be taken to the reflections; but his
companions and co-partners feel that they should have led the individual
to exemplify them in his life and conversation while _inland_.
Mr. Harmon says, of the Canadians--"All their chat is about horses,
dogs, canoes, women, and strong men, who can fight a good battle."
Traders and Indians are placed in a loose juxtaposition. "Their
friendship," he states, "is little more than their fondness for our
property, and our eagerness to obtain their furs." European manufactures
are essential to the natives. "The Indians in this quarter have been so
long accustomed to European goods, that it would be with difficulty that
they could now obtain a livelihood without them. Especially do they
need firearms, axes, kettles, knives, &c. They have almost lost the use
of bows and arrows, and they would find it nearly impossible to cut
their fire wood with implements made of stone or bone."
_16th_. Examined Mackenzie's Travels, to compare his vocabulary of
Knisteneaux and Algonquin, with the Odjibwa, or Chippewa. There is so
close an agreement, in sense and sound, between the two latter, as to
make it manifest that the tribes could not have been separated at a
remote period. This agreement is more close and striking than it appears
to be by comparing the two written vocabularies. Mackenzie has adopted
the French orthography, giving the vowels, and some of the consonants
and diphthongs, sounds very different from their _English_ powers. Were
the words arranged on a common plan of alphabetical notation, they would
generally be found to the eye, as they are to the ear, nearly identical.
The discrepancies would be rendered less in cases in which they appear
to be considerable, and the peculiarities of idiom, as they exist, would
be made more striking and instructive. I have heard both idioms spoken
by the natives, and therefore have more confidence in speaking of their
nearness and affinity, than I could have had from mere book comparison.
I am told that Mackenzie got his vocabulary from some of the priests in
Lower Canada, who are versed in the Algonquin. It does not seem to me at
all probable that an Englishman or a Scotchman should throw aside his
natural sounds of the vowels and consonants, and adopt sounds which are,
and must have been, from infancy, foreign.
As I intend to put down things in the order of their occurrence, I will
add that I had a visitor to-day, a simple mechanic, who came to talk to
me about _nothing_; I could do no less than be civil to him, in
consequence of which he pestered me with hems and haws about one hour. I
think Job took no interest in philology.
_17th_. Devoted the day to the language. A friend had loaned me a file
of Scottish papers called the _Montrose Review_, which I took occasion
to run over. This paper is more neatly and correctly printed than is
common with our papers of this class from the country. The strain of
remark is free, bold, and inquisitive, looking to the measures of
government, and advocating principles of rational liberty throughout
Col. Lawrence, Capt. Thompson, and Lieut. Griswold called in the course
of the day. I commenced reading Mungo Parke's posthumous volume.
_18th_. The mind, like the body, will get tired. Quintilian remarks,
"Variety refreshes and renovates the mind." Composition and reading by
turns, wear away the weariness either may create; and though we have
done many things, we in some measure find ourselves fresh and recruited
at entering on a new thing. This day has been almost entirely given up
to society. Visitors seemed to come in, as if by concert. Col. Lawrence,
Capts. Clarke and Beal, Lieuts. Smith and Griswold. Mr. S.B. Griswold,
who was one of the American hostage officers at Quebec, Dr. Foot, and
Mr. Johnston came in to see me, at different times. I filled up the
intervals in reading.
_19th, Sabbath_. A party of Indians came to my door singing the begging
dance. These people do not respect the Sabbath. The parties who came
in, on New Year's day, still linger about the settlements, and appear to
be satisfied to suffer hunger half the time, if their wants can be
gratuitously relieved the other half.
[Footnote 30: About eighteen months afterwards, I interdicted all visits
of Indians on the _Sabbath_, and adopted it as an invariable rule, that
I would not transact any business, or receive visits, from any Indian
under the influence of liquor. I directed my interpreter to tell them
that the President had sent me to speak to _sober_ men only.]
_20th_. I continued to transcribe, from loose papers, into my Indian
lexicon. A large proportion of the words are derivatives. All are, more
or less, compounded in their oral forms, and they appear to be _glued_,
as it were, to objects of sense. This is not, however, peculiar to this
language. The author of "Hermes" says--"The first words of men, like
their first ideas, had an immediate reference to sensible objects, and
that in after days, when they began to discern with their intellect,
they took those words which they found already made, and transferred
them, by metaphor, to intellectual conceptions."
On going to dinner, I found a party of officers and their ladies. "Mine
host," Mr. Johnston, with his fine and frank Belfast hospitality, does
the honors of his table with grace and ease. Nothing appears to give him
half so much delight as to see others happy around him. I read, in the
evening, the lives of Akenside, Gray, and Littleton. What a perfect
crab old Dr. Johnson was! But is there any sound criticism without
_21st_. I finished the reading of Mungo Parke, the most enterprising
traveler of modern times. He appears to me to have committed two errors
in his last expedition, and I think his death is fairly attributable to
impatience to reach the mouth of the Niger. He should not have attempted
to pass from the Gambia to the Niger during the rainy season. By this,
he lost thirty-five out of forty men. He should not have tried to
_force_ a passage through the kingdom of Houssa, without making presents
to the local petty chiefs. By this, he lost his life. When will
geographers cease to talk about the mouth of the Niger? England has been
as indefatigable in solving this problem as she has been in finding out
the North West Passage, and, at present, as unsuccessful. We see no
abatement, however, in her spirit of heroic enterprise. America has sent
but one explorer to this field--Ledyard.
Novel reading--Greenough's "Geology"--The cariboo--Spiteful
plunder of private property on a large scale--Marshall's
Washington--St. Clair's "Narrative of his Campaign"--Etymology of
the word _totem_--A trait of transpositive languages--Polynesian
languages--A meteoric explosion at the maximum height of the winter's
temperature--Spafford's "Gazetteer"--Holmes on the Prophecies--Foreign
politics--Mythology--Gnomes--The Odjibwa based on monosyllables--No
auxiliary verbs--Pronouns declined for tense--Esprella's
letters--Valerius--Gospel of St. Luke--Chippewayan group of
languages--Home politics--Prospect of being appointed superintendent of
the lead mines of Missouri.
1823. _Jan. 22d_. A pinching cold winter wears away slowly. The whole
village seems to me like _so_ many prescient beavers, in a vast
snow-bank, who cut away the snow and make paths, every morning, from one
lodge to another. In this reticulation of snow paths the drum is sounded
and the flag raised. Most dignified bipeds we are. Hurrah for progress,
and the extension of the Anglo-Saxon race!
I read the "Recluse," translated from D'Arlincourt's popular novel _Le
Solitaire_, and think the commendations bestowed upon it, in the
translator's preface, just in the main. It is precisely such a novel as
I should suppose would be very popular in the highest circles of France,
and consequently, owing to difference of character, would be less
relished by the same circles in England. I suspect the author to be a
great admirer of Chateaubriand's "Atala," whose death is brought to mind
by the catastrophe of Elode's. Here, however, the similitude ends. There
is nothing to be said respecting the comparative features of Charles the
Bold and Chactas, except that the Indian possessed those qualities of
the heart which most ennoble human nature.
To the readers of Scott's novels, however (for he is certainly the
"Great Unknown"), this pleasing poetical romance, with all its sparkling
passages, will present one glaring defect--it is not sufficiently
descriptive. We rise from the perusal of it with no definite ideas of
the scenery of the valley of Underlach. We suppose it to be sublime and
picturesque, and are frequently told so by the author; but he fails in
the description of particular scenes. Scott manages otherwise. When he
sends Baillie Nicoll Jarvie into the Highlands, he does not content
himself with generalities, but also brings before the mind such groups
and scenes as make one fear and tremble. To produce this excitement is
_23d_. I devoted the time before breakfast, which, with us, happens at a
late hour, to the _Edinburgh Review_. I read the articles on Greenough's
"First Principles of Geology," and a new edition of Demosthenes. When
shall we hear the last panegyric of the Grecian orator, who, in the two
characteristics of his eloquence which have been most praised,
simplicity and nature, is every day equalled, or excelled, by our
Greenough's Essays are bold and original, and evince no weak powers of
observation and reasoning. But he is rather a leveler than a builder. It
seems better that we should have a poor house over our heads than none
at all. The facts mentioned on the authority of a traveler in Spain,
that the pebbles in the rivers of that country are not carried down
streams by the force of the current, are contradicted by all my
observations on the rivers of the United States. The very reverse is
true. Those streams which originate in, or run through districts of
granite, limestone, graywacke, &c., present pebbles of these respective
rocks abundantly along their banks, at points below the termination of
the fixed strata. These pebbles, and even boulders, are found far below
the termination of the rocky districts, and appear to owe their
transportation to the force of existing currents. I have found the
peculiar pebbles of the sources of the Mississippi as low down as St.
Louis and St. Genevieve.
I resumed the perusal of Marshall's "Life of Washington," which I had
laid by in the fall. Lieutenants Barnum and Bicker and Mr. Johnston came
to visit me.
_24th_. I made one of a party of sixteen, who dined with Mr. Ermatinger.
I here first tasted the flesh of the _cariboo_, which is a fine flavored
venison. I do not recollect any wise or merry remark made during dinner,
which is worth recording. As toasts show the temper of the times, and
bespeak the sentiments of those who give them, a few of them may be
mentioned. After several formal and national toasts, we had Mr. Calhoun,
Governor Cass, General Brown, Mr. Sibley, the representative of
Michigan, Colonel Brady, and Major Thayer, superintendent of the
military academy. In coming home in the cariole, we all missed the
_balizes_, and got completely upset and pitched into the snow.
_25th_. Mr. John Johnston returned me Silliman's Travels, and expressed
himself highly pleased with them. Mr. Johnston evinces by his manners
and conversation and liberal sentiments that he has passed many of his
years in polished and refined circles. He told me he came to America
during the presidency of General Washington, whom he esteems it a
privilege to have seen at New York, in 1793. Having letters to Lord
Dorchester, he went into Canada, and through a series of vicissitudes,
finally settled at these falls about thirty years ago. In 1814, his
property was plundered by the Americans, through the false
representations of some low-minded persons, his neighbors and opponents
in trade, with no more patriotism than he; in consequence of which he
returned to Europe, and sold his patrimonial estate at "Craige," in the
north of Ireland, within a short distance of the Giant's Causeway, and
thus repaired, in part, his losses.
_26th_. Devoted to reading--a solid resource in the wilderness.
_27th_. Finished the perusal of Marshall's Washington, and took the
notes contained in memorandums P. and R. The first volume of this work
is intended as introductory, and contains the best recital of the
political history of the colonies which I have read. The other four
volumes embrace a wide mass of facts, but are rather diffuse and prolix,
considered as biography, A good life of Washington, which shall comprise
within a small compass all his prominent public and private acts, still
remains a desideratum.
_28th_. Our express returned this morning, bringing me New York papers
to the 11th of November. We are more than two months and a half behind
the current news of the day. We have Washington dates to the 9th of
November, but of course they convey nothing of the proceedings
_29th_. I read St. Clair's "Narrative of his Campaign" against the
Indians in 1791, and extracted the notes contained in memorandum A.A.
The causes of its failure are explained in a satisfactory manner, and
there is proof of Gen. St. Clair's vigilance and intrepidity.
Dissensions in his camp crippled the old general's power.
_30th_. I took up the subject of the Indian language, after an interval
of eight or nine days, and continued to transcribe into my vocabulary
until after the hour of midnight. It comprises now rising of fifteen
hundred words, including some synonyms.
_31st_. "_Totem_" is a word frequently heard in this quarter. In tracing
its origin, it is found to be a corruption of the Indian "_dodaim_,"
signifying family mark, or armorial bearing. The word appears to be a
derivative from _odanah_, a town or village. Hence _neen dodaim_, my
townsman, or kindred-mark. Affinity in families is thus kept up, as in
the feudal system, and the institution seems to be of some importance to
the several bands. They often appeal to their "totem," as if it were
At three o'clock I went to dine at Col. Lawrence's. The party consisted
of Capts. Thompson and Beal, Lieuts. Barnum, Smith, Waite, and Griswold,
Mr. Johnston, Mr. Ermatinger and son, Dr. Foot and Mr. Siveright of the
H.B. House. In the evening the party adjourned to Mr. Johnston's.
_February 1st_. Transpositive languages, like the Indian, do not appear
to be well adapted to convey familiar, easy, flowing conversation. There
seems to be something cumbrous and stately in the utterance of their
long polysyllabic words, as if they could not readily be brought down to
the minute distinctions of every day family conversation. This may
arise, however, from a principle adverted to by Dr. Johnson, in speaking
of the ancient languages, in which he says "nothing is familiar," and by
the use of which "the writer conceals penury of thought and want of
novelty, often from the reader, and often from himself." The Indian
certainly has a very pompous way of expressing a common thought. He sets
about it with an array of prefix and suffix, and polysyllabic strength,
as if he were about to crush a cob-house with a crowbar.
_2d_. The languages of New Zealand, Tonga, and Malay have no declension
of nouns, nor conjugation of verbs. The purposes of declension are
answered by particles and prepositions. The distinctions of person,
tense, and mode are expressed by adverbs, pronouns, and other parts of
speech. This rigidity of the verb and noun is absolute, under every
order of arrangement, in which their words can be placed, and their
meaning is not helped out, by either prefixes or suffixes.
I read Plutarch's "Life of Marcellus," to observe whether it bore the
points of resemblance to Washington's military character, suggested
_3d. Abad_ signifies abode, in Persian. _Abid_ denotes where he is, or
dwells, in Chippewa.
I refused, on an invitation of Mr. Ermatinger, to alter the resolution
formed on the seventh ultimo, as to _one_ mode of evening's amusement.
_4th_. A loud meteoric report, as if from the explosion of some aerial
body, was heard about noon this day. The sound seemed to proceed from
the south-west. It was attended with a prolonged, or rumbling sound, and
was generally heard. Popular surmise, which attempts to account for
everything, has been very busy in assigning the cause of this
A high degree of cold has recently been experienced. The thermometer
stood at 28 deg. below zero at one o'clock this morning. It had risen to 18 deg.
at day-break--being the greatest observed degree of cold during the
season. It did not exceed 4 deg. above zero during any part of the day.
_5th_. A year ago to-day, a literary friend wrote to me to join him in
preparing a Gazetteer of the State of New York, to supplant Spafford's.
Of the latter, he expresses himself in the letter, which is now before
me, in unreserved terms of disapprobation. "It is wholly unworthy," he
says, "of public patronage, and would not stand in the way of a good
work of the kind; and such a one, I have the vanity to believe, our
joint efforts could produce. It would be a permanent work, with slight
alterations, as the State might undergo changes. My plan would be for
you to travel over the State, and make a complete geological,
mineralogical, and statistical survey of it, which would probably take
you a year or more. In the mean time, I would devote all my leisure to
the collection and arrangement of such other materials as we should need
in the compilation of the work. I doubt not we could obtain the prompt
assistance of the first men in the State, in furnishing all the
information required. Our State is rapidly increasing in wealth and
population, and I am full in the faith that such a work would sell well
in different parts of the country."
_6th_. I did nothing to-day, by which I mean that it was given up to
visiting and talking. It is Dr. Johnson, I think, who draws a
distinction between "_talk_ and conversation." It is necessary, however,
to assign a portion of time in this way. "A man that hath friends must
show himself _friendly_," is a Bible maxim.
_7th_. The garrison library was this morning removed from my office,
where it had been placed in my charge on the arrival of the troops in
July, the state of preparations in the cantonment being now sufficiently
advanced to admit its reception. A party of gentlemen from the British
garrison on Drummond Island came up on a visit, on snow shoes. The
distance is about 45 miles.
_8th_. I commenced reading Holmes on "The Fulfilment of the Revelation
of St. John," a London work of 1819. The author says "that his
explanation of the symbols is founded upon one fixed and universal
rule--that the interpretation of a symbol is ever maintained; that the
chronological succession of the seals, trumpets, and vials is strictly
preserved; and that the history contained under them is a uniform and
homogeneous history of the Roman empire, at once comprehensive and
complete."--Attended a dining-party at Mr. Johnston's.
_9th_. Continued the reading of Holmes, who is an energetic writer, and
appears to have looked closely into his subject. The least pleasing
trait in the work is a polemic spirit which is quite a clog to the
inquiry, especially to those who, like myself, have never read the
authors Faber, Cunningham, and Frere, whose interpretations he combats.
For a clergyman, he certainly handles them without gloves.
_10th_. The principal Indian chief of the vicinity, Shingabawossin, sent
to inquire of me the cause of the aerial explosion, heard on the 4th. At
four I went to dine with Mr. Ermatinger on the British shore.
_11th_. I did something, although, from the round of visiting and gayety
which, in consequence of our Drummond Isle visitors, has existed for a
few days, but little, at my vocabulary. At half-past four, I went to
dine with Lieutenants Morton and Folger in the cantonment. The party was
nearly the same which has assembled for a few days, in honor of the
foreign gentlemen with us. In the evening a large party, with dancing,
at Mr. Johnston's.
_12th_. I read Lord Erskine's Letter to Lord Liverpool on the policy to
be pursued by Great Britain in relation to Greece and Turkey. The
arguments and sentiments do equal credit to his head and heart, and
evince no less his judgment as a statesman, than they do his taste and
erudition as a scholar. This interesting and valuable letter breathes
the true sentiments of rational liberty, such as must be felt by the
great body of the English nation, and such as must, sooner or later,
prevail among the enlightened nations of the earth. How painful to
reflect that this able appeal will produce no favorable effect on the
British ministry, whose decision, it is to be feared, is already made in
favor of the "legitimacy" of the Turkish government!
At four o'clock, I laid by my employments, and went to dine at the
commanding officer's quarters, whence the party adjourned to a
handsomely arranged supper table at Capt. Beal's. The necessity of
complying with times and occasions, by accepting the current invitations
of the day, is an impediment to any system of intellectual employment;
and whatever the world may think of it, the time devoted to public
dinners and suppers, routs and parties, is little better than time
"And yet the fate of all extremes is such;
Books may be read, as well as men, too much."
_13th_. I re-perused Mackenzie's "History of the Fur Trade," to enable
me more fully to comprehend the allusions in a couple of volumes lately
put into my hands, on the "Disputes between Lord Selkirk and the North
West Company," and the "Report of Trials" for certain murders
perpetrated in the course of a strenuous contest for commercial mastery
in the country by the Hudson's Bay Company.
Finding an opportunity of sending north, I recollected that the
surveyors of our northern boundary were passing the winter at Fort
William, on the north shore of Lake Superior; and wrote to one of the
gentlemen, enclosing him some of our latest papers.
_14th_. The gentlemen from the neighboring British post left us this
morning. I devoted the day to my Indian inquiries.
_15th_. I commenced a vocabulary of conversation, in the Odjibwa.
_17th. Native Mythology_.--According to Indian mythology, _Weeng_ is the
God of sleep. He has numerous emissaries, who are armed with war clubs,
of a tiny and unseen character. These fairy agents ascend the forehead,
and knock the individual to sleep. Pope's creation of Gnomes, in the
Rape of the Lock, is here prefigured.
_18th_. It has been said that the Indian languages possess no
monosyllables. This remark is not borne out with regard to the Chippewa.
Marked as it is with polysyllables, there are a considerable number of
exceptions. _Koan_ is snow, _ais_ a shell, _mong_ a loon, _kaug_ a
porcupine, &c. The number of dissyllables is numerous, and of
trisyllables still more so. The Chippewa has no auxiliary verbs. The
Chippewa primitive pronouns are, Neen, Keen, and Ween (I, Thou, He or
She). They are rendered plural in _wind_ and _wau_. They are also
declined for tense, and thus, in the conjugation of verbs, take the
place of our auxiliary verbs.
_19th_. Resumed the perusal of Holmes on "Revelations." He establishes a
dictionary of symbols, which are universally interpreted. In this
system, a day signifies a natural year; a week seven years; a month
thirty years; a year a period of 360 years. The air means "church and
state;" waters, "peoples, multitudes, tongues;" seven, the number of
perfection; twelve, totality or all; hail storms, armies of northern
invaders. If the work were divested of its controversial character, it
would produce more effect. Agreeably to this author, the downfall of
Popery will take place about the year 1866.
_20th_. I read "Esprella's Letters on England," a work attributed to
Southey, whose object appears to have been to render English manners and
customs familiar in Spain, at a time when the intercourse between the
two countries had very much augmented, and their sympathies were drawn
together by the common struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte.
_21st_. I commenced "Valerius, a Roman Story." In the evening the
commanding officer (Col. L.) gave a party, in honor of Washington's
birthday. That the time might not be wholly anticipated, dancing was
introduced to give it wings, and continued until two o'clock of the
morning of (the actual birthday) the twenty-second.
_22d_. Finished "Valerius." This is an interesting novel on the Waverley
plan, and must certainly be considered a successful attempt to
familiarize the class of novel-readers with Roman history and Roman
domestic manners. The story turns on the persecution of the Christians
under Trajan. The expression "of a truth," which is so abundantly used
in the narrative, is a Scripture phrase, and is very properly put into
the mouth of a converted Roman. I cannot say as much for the word
"alongst" used for along. There are also some false epithets, as "drop,"
for run or flow, and "guesses" for conjectures. The only defect in the
plot, which occurs to me, is, that Valerius, after his escape with
Athanasia from Ostium, should have been landed safely in Britain, and
thus completed the happiness of a disconsolate and affectionate mother,
whom he left there, and who is never afterwards mentioned.
_23d_. From the mention which is made of it in "Valerius," I this day
read the Gospel of Luke, and truly am surprised to find it so very
important a part of the New Testament. Indeed, were all the rest of the
volume lost, this alone would be sufficient for the guidance of the
Christian. Divines tell us that Luke was the most learned of the
evangelists. He is called "the beloved physician," by St. Paul. His
style is more descriptive than the other evangelists, and his narrative
more clear, methodical, and precise, and abounds equally with sublime
[Footnote 31: This opinion was thrown out from mere impulse, on a single
perusal, and so far as it may be regarded as a literary criticism, the
only possible light in which it can be considered, is vaguely hazarded,
for I had not, at that time, read the other Gospels with any degree of
care or understanding, so as to be capable thereby of judging of their
style or merits as compositions. _Spiritually_ considered, I did not
understand Luke, or any of the Evangelists, for I regarded the Gospels
as mere human compositions, without the aid of inspiration. They were
deemed to be a true history of events, interspersed with moral axioms,
but derived no part of their value, or the admiration above expressed,
as revealing the only way of salvation through Christ.]
_24th_. Mr. Harman, from a long residence in the Indian country, in high
northern latitudes, was qualified by his opportunities of observation,
to speak of the comparative character of the Indian language in that
quarter. He considers them as radically different from those of the
Algonquin stock. The group which may be formed from his remarks, will
embrace the Chippewayans, Beaver Indians, Sicaunies, Tacullies, and
Nateotetains. If we may judge of this family of dialects by Mackenzie's
vocabulary of the Chippewayan, it is very remote from the Chippewa, and
abounds in those consonantal sounds which the latter studiously avoids.
Harman says, "The Sicaunies bury, while the Tacullies burn their dead."
"Instances of suicide, by hanging, frequently occur among the women of
all the tribes, with whom I have been acquainted; but the men are seldom
known to take away their own lives."
These Indians entertain the same opinions respecting the dress of the
dead, with the more southerly tribes. "Nothing," he says, "pleases an
Indian better than to see his deceased relative handsomely attired, for
he believes that they will arrive in the other world in the same dress
with which they are clad, when they are consigned to the grave."
_27th_. Our second express arrived at dusk, this evening, bringing
papers from the seaboard to the 14th of January, containing the
President's message, proceedings of Congress, and foreign news, up to
that date. A friend who is in Congress writes to me--"We go on slowly,
but so far very harmoniously, in Congress. The Red Jackets  are very
quiet, and I believe are very much disposed to cease their warfare
against Mr. Monroe, as they find the nation do not relish it."
[Footnote 32: Opponents of the then existing administration, who looked
to Gen. Cocke, of Tennessee, as a leader.]
Another friend at Washington writes (15th Dec.): "The message of the
President you will have seen ere this reaches you. It is thought very
well of here. He recommends the appointment of a Superintendent of the
Western Lead Mines, skilled in mineralogy. If Congress should make
provision for one, it is not to be doubted _who_ will receive the
situation. In fact, in a conversation a few days since with Mr. C., he
told me he had you particularly in view when he recommended it to the
_28th_. Wrote an application to the Postmaster General for the
appointment of S.B. Griswold as postmaster at this place.
[Footnote 33: Mr. G. was appointed.]
Close of the winter solstice, and introduction of a northern
spring--News from the world--The Indian languages--Narrative
Journal--Semi-civilization of the ancient Aztec tribes--Their arts and
languages--Hill's ironical review of the "Transactions of the Royal
Society"--A test of modern civilization--Sugar making--Trip to one of
the camps--Geology of Manhattan Island--Ontwa, an Indian poem--Northern
ornithology--Dreams--The Indian apowa--Printed queries of General
Cass--Prospect of the mineral agency--Exploration of the St.
Peter's--Information on that head.
1823. _March 1st_. My reading hours, for the last few days, have been,
in great part, devoted to the newspapers. So long an exclusion from the
ordinary sources of information has the effect to increase the appetite
for this kind of intellectual food, and the circumstance probably leads
us to give up more time to it than we should were we not subject to
these periodical exclusions. The great point of interest is the
succession in the Presidential chair. Parties hinge upon this point.
Economy and retrenchment are talismanic words, used to affect the
populace, but used in reality only as means of affecting the balance of
party power. Messrs. Calhoun, Crawford, and Adams are the prominent
names which fill the papers.
There is danger that newspapers in America will too much supersede and
usurp the place of books, and lead to a superficial knowledge of things.
Gleaning the papers in search of that which is really useful, candid,
and fair seems too much like hunting for grains of wheat in a chaos
_3d_. Our third express went off this morning, freighted with our
letters, and, of course, with our reasons, our sentiments, our thanks,
our disappointments, our hopes, and our fears.
_6th_. I resumed the subject of the Indian language.
_Osanimun_ is the word for vermilion. This word is compounded from
_unimun_, or plant yielding a red dye, and _asawa_, yellow. The peculiar
color of yellow-red is thus indicated. _Beizha_ is the neuter verb "to
come." This verb appears to remain rigid in its conjugation, the tenses
being indicated exclusively by inflections of the pronoun. Thus _nim
beizha, I_ come; _ningee peizha_, I came; _ninguh peizha_, I will come.
The pronoun alone is declined for past and future tense, namely _gee_
There does not appear to be any definite article in the Chippewa
language. _Pazhik_ means one, or an. It may be doubtful whether the
former sense is not the exclusive one. _Ahow_ is this person in the
animate form. _Ihiw_ is the corresponding inanimate form. More care than
I have devoted may, however, be required to determine this matter.
Verbs, in the Chippewa, must agree in number and tense with the noun.
They must also agree in gender, that is, verbs animate must have nouns
animate. They must also have animate pronouns and animate adjectives.
Vitality, or the want of vitality, seems to be the distinction which the
inventors of the language, seized upon, to set up the great rules of
Verbs, in the Chippewa language, are converted into nouns by adding the
_Kegido_, to speak. _Kegido-win,_ speech. This appears to be a general
rule. The only doubt I have felt is, whether the noun formed is so
purely elementary as not to partake of a participial character.
There are two plurals to express the word "we," one of which _includes_,
and the other _excludes_, the person addressed. Neither of these forms
is a dual.
_Os_ signifies father; _nos_ is my father; _kos_, thy father; _osun_,
his or her father. The vowel in this word is sounded like the _o_,
The language has two relative pronouns, which are much used--_awanan_,
who; and _wagonan_, what. The vowel _a_, in these words, is the sound of
_a_ in fate.
There are two classes of adjectives, one of which applies to animate,
the other to inanimate objects.
The Chippewa word for Sabbath is _animea geezhig_, and indicates
prayer-day. There is no evidence, from inquiry, that the Indians divided
their days into weeks. A moon was the measure of a month, but it is
questionable whether they had acquired sufficient exactitude in the
computation of time to have numbered the days comprehended in each
moon. The phases of the moon were accurately noted.
_8th_. Professor S., of Yale College, writes to me under this date,
enclosing opinions respecting my "Narrative Journal" of travels,
contained in a familiar private letter from D. Wadsworth, Esq., of
Hartford. They terminate with this remark: "All I regret about it (the
work) is, that it was not consistent with his plans to tell us more of
what might be considered the _domestic_ part of the expedition--the
character and conduct of those who were of the party, their health,
difficulties, opinions, and treatment of each other, &c. As his book was
a sort of official work, I suppose he thought it would not do, and I
wish now, he would give his friends (and let us be amongst them) a
manuscript of the particulars that are not for the public."
_17th. Semi-civilization of the Mexican Tribes_.--Nothing is more
manifest, on reading the "Conquest of Mexico" by De Solis, than that the
character and attainments of the ancient Mexicans are exalted far above
the reality, to enhance the fame of Cortez, and give an air of splendor
to the conquest. Superior as the Aztecs and some other tribes certainly
were, in many things, to the most advanced of the North American tribes,
they resemble the latter greatly, in their personal features, and mental
traits, and in several of their arts.
The first presents sent by Montezuma to Cortez were "cotton cloths,
plumes, bows, arrows and targets of wood, collars and rings of gold,
precious stones, ornaments of gold in the shape of animals, and two
round plates of the precious metals resembling the sun and moon."
The men had "rings in their ears and lips, which, though they were of
gold, were a deformity instead of an ornament."
"Canoes and periogues" of wood were their usual means of conveyance by
water. The "books" mentioned at p. 100, were well-dressed skins, dressed
like parchment, and, after receiving the paintings observed, were
accurately folded up, in squares or parallelograms.
The cacique of Zempoala, being the first dignitary who paid his respects
personally to Cortez on his entry into the town, is described, in
effect, as covered with a cotton blanket "flung over his naked body,
enriched with various jewels and pendants, which he also wore in his
ears and lips." This chief sent 200 men to carry the baggage of Cortez.
By the nearest route from St. Juan de Ulloa, the point of landing to
Mexico, it was sixty leagues, or about 180 miles. This journey
Montezuma's runners performed to and fro in seven days, being
thirty-five to thirty-six miles per day. No great speed certainly;
nothing to demand astonishment or excite incredulity.
Distance the Mexicans reckoned, like our Indians, by _time_, "A sun" was
a day's journey.
De Solis says, "One of the points of his embassy (alluding to Cortez),
and the principal motive which the king had to offer his friendship to
Montezuma, was the obligation Christian princes lay under to oppose the
errors of idolatry, and the desire he had to instruct him in the
knowledge of the truth, and to help him to get rid of the slavery of
The empire of Mexico, according to this author, stretched "on the north
as far as Panuco, including that province, but was straitened
considerably by the mountains or hilly countries possessed by the
Chichimecas and Ottomies, a barbarous people."
I have thought, on reading this work, that there is room for a literary
essay, with something like this title: "Strictures on the Hyperbolical
Accounts of the Ancient Mexicans given by the Spanish Historians,"
deduced from a comparison of the condition of those tribes with the
Indians at the period of its settlement. Humboldt states that there are
twenty languages at present in Mexico, fourteen of which have grammars
and dictionaries tolerably complete. They are, Mexican or Aztec,
Otomite, Tarase, Zapatec, Mistec, Maye or Yucatan, Tatonac, Popolauc,
Matlazing, Huastec, Mixed, Caquiquel, Tarauma, Tepehuan, Cara.
_20th_. When the wind blows high, and the fine snow drifts, as it does
about the vernal equinox, in these latitudes, the Indians smilingly say,
"Ah! now Pup-puk-e-wiss is gathering his harvest," or words to this
effect. There is a mythological tale connected with it, which I
_21st_. I have amused myself in reading a rare old volume, just
presented to me, entitled "A Review of the Works of the Royal Society of
London, &c., by John Hill, M.D., London, 1751." It evinces an acute
mind, ready wit, and a general acquaintance with the subjects of
natural history, antiquities, and philosophical research, adverted to.
It is a racy work, which all modern naturalists, and modern discoverers
of secrets and inventions ought to read. I should think it must have
made some of the contributors to the "Transactions" of the Royal Society
wince in its day.
_22d_. Knowledge of foreign nations has increased most wonderfully in
our day, and is one of the best tests of civilization. Josaphat Barbaro
traveled into the East in 1436. He says of the Georgians, "They have the
most horrid manners, and the worst customs of any people I ever met
with." Surely this is vague enough for even the clerk who kept the
log-book of Henry Hudson. Such items as the following were deemed "food"
for books of travels in those days: "The people of Cathay, in China,
believe that they are the only people in the world who have two eyes. To
the Latins they allow _one_, and all the rest of the world none at all."
Marco Polo gives an account of a substance called "Andanicum," which he
states to be an _ore of steel_. In those days, when everything relating
to metallurgy and medicine was considered a secret, the populace did not
probably know that steel was an artificial production. Or the mineral
may have been sparry iron ore, which is readily converted into steel.
_26th_. It is now the season of making sugar from the rock maple by the
Indians and Canadians in this quarter. And it seems to be a business in
which almost every one is more or less interested. Winter has shown some
signs of relaxing its iron grasp, although the quantity of snow upon the
ground is still very great, and the streams appear to be as fast locked
in the embraces of frost as if it were the slumber of ages. Sleighs and
dog trains have been departing for the maple forests, in our
neighborhood, since about the 10th instant, until but few,
comparatively, of the resident inhabitants are left. Many buildings are
entirely deserted and closed, and all are more or less thinned of their
inhabitants. It is also the general season of sugar-making with
I joined a party in visiting one of the camps. We had several carioles
in company, and went down the river about eight or nine miles to Mrs.
Johnston's camp. The party consisted of several officers and ladies from
the fort, Captain Thompson  and lady, Lieutenant Bicker and lady and
sister, the Miss Johnstons and Lieutenants Smith  and Folger. We
pursued the river on the ice the greater part of the way, and then
proceeded inland about a mile. We found a large temporary building,
surrounded with piles of ready split wood for keeping a fire under the
kettles, and large ox hides arranged in such a manner as to serve as
vats for collecting the sap. About twenty kettles were boiling over an
elongated central fire.
[Footnote 34: Killed in Florida, at the battle of Okechobbee, as Lt. Col.
of the 6th U.S. Infantry.]
[Footnote 35: Died at Vera Cruz, Mexico, as Quarter-Master U.S.A.]
The whole air of the place resembled that of a manufactory. The custom
on these occasions is to make up a pic-nic, in which each one
contributes something in the way of cold viands or refreshments.
The principal amusement consisted in pulling candy, and eating the sugar
in every form. Having done this, and received the hospitalities of our
hostess, we tackled up our teams, and pursued our way back to the fort,
having narrowly escaped breaking through the river at one or two points.
_27th_. I received a letter of this date from G.W. Rodgers, a gentleman
of Bradford county, Pennsylvania, in behalf of himself and associates,
proposing a number of queries respecting the copper-yielding region of
Lake Superior, and the requisites and prospects of an expedition for
obtaining the metal from the Indians. Wrote to him adversely to the
project at this time. Doubtless the plan is feasible, but the Indians
are at present the sole owners and occupants of the metalliferous
_28th. Dies natalis_.--A friend editing a paper on the seaboard writes
(10 Jan. 1822)--"I wish you to give me an article on the geology and
mineralogy of Manhattan Island, in the form of a letter purporting to be
given by a foreign traveler. It is my intention to give a series of
letters, partly by myself and partly by others, which shall take notice
of everything in and about the city, which may be deemed interesting. I
wish to begin at the foundation, by giving a geographical and geological
sketch of the island."  He continues:--
[Footnote 36: Furnished the article, as desired, under the signature of
"Germanicus." _Vide_ "N.Y. Statesman."]
"I have read Ontwa, the Indian poem you spoke of last summer. The notes
by Gov. Cass are extremely interesting, and written in a superior style.
I shall notice the work in a few days." "I inform you, in confidence,
that M.E., of this city, is preparing a notice of your 'Journal' for the
next number of the _Repository_, which will appear on the first of
_29th_. Novelty has the greatest attraction for the human mind. There is
such a charm in novelty, says Dr. John Mason Good, that it often leads
us captive in spite of the most glaring errors, and intoxicates the
judgment as fatally as the cup of Circe. But is not variety at hand to
contest the palm?
"The great source of pleasure," observes Dr. Johnson, "is variety.
Uniformity must tire at last, though it be uniformity of excellence."
_April 1st_. The ice and snow begin to be burthensome to the eye. We
were reconciled to winter, when it was the season of winter; but now our
longing eyes are cast to the south, and we are anxious for the time when
we can say, "Lo, the winter is past, the flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is
heard in our land."
The Chippewas have quite a poetic allegory of winter and spring,
personified by an old and a young man, who came from opposite points of
the world, to pass a night together and boast of their respective
powers. Winter blew his breath, and the streams were covered with ice.
Spring blew his breath, and the land was covered with flowers. The old
man is finally conquered, and vanishes into "thin air."
_2d_. We talked to-day of dreams. Dreams are often talked about, and
have been often written about. But the subject is usually left where it
was taken up. Herodotus says, "Dreams in general originate from those
incidents which have most occupied the thoughts during the day." Locke
betters the matter but little, by saying, "The dreams of sleeping men
are all made up of waking men's ideas, though, for the most part, oddly
put together." Solomon's idea of "the multitude of business" is
embraced in this.
Sacred dreams were something by themselves. God chose in ancient times
to communicate with the prophets in dreams and visions. But there is a
very strong and clear line of distinction drawn on this subject in the
23d of Jeremiah, from the 25th to the 28th verses. "He that hath a
dream, let him tell a dream, and he that hath my word let him speak my
word." The sacred and the profane, or idle dream, are likened as
"chaff" to "wheat."
The Indians, in this quarter, are very much besotted and spell-bound, as
it were, by dreams. Their whole lives are rendered a perfect scene of
doubts and fears and terrors by them. Their jugglers are both dreamers
and dream interpreters. If the "prince of the power of the air" has any
one hold upon them more sure and fast than another, it seems to be in
their blind and implicit reliance upon dreams. There is, however, with
them a sacred dream, distinct from common dreams. It is called
I have had before me, during a considerable part of the season, a
pamphlet of printed queries respecting the Indians and their languages,
put into my hands by Gov. C. when passing through Detroit in the summer.
Leaving to others the subjects connected with history and traditions,
&c., I have attempted an analysis of the language. Reading has been
resorted to as a refreshment from study. I used to read to gratify
excitement, but I find the chief pleasure of my present reading is more
and more turning to the acquisition and treasuring up of facts. This
principle is probably all that sustains and renders pleasurable the
inquiry into the Indian language.
One of the printed queries before me is, "Do they (the Indians) believe
in ghosts?" I believe all ignorant and superstitious nations believe in
apparitions. It seems to be one of the most natural consequences of
ignorance; and we have seen, in the history of wise and learned men,
that it requires a high intellectual effort to shake this belief out of
the mind. If God possessed no other way of communicating with the
living, it is reasonable to believe that he would send dead men, or dead
men's souls. And this is the precise situation of the only well
authenticated account we have, namely, that of Saul at Endor [_vide_ 1st
Samuel, 7th to 15th verses]. The Chippewas are apt to connect all their
ghost stories with fire. A lighted fire on the grave has a strong
connection with this idea, as if they deemed some mysterious analogy to
exist between spirituality and fire. Their name for ghost is _Jeebi_, a
word rendered plural in _ug_. Without nice attention, this word will be
pronounced _Chebi_, or _Tchebi_.
Another is as follows: "Do they use any words equivalent to our habit of
swearing?" Many things the Indians may be accused of, but of the
practice of swearing they cannot. I have made many inquiries into the
state of their vocabulary, and do not, as yet, find any word which is
more bitter or reproachful than _matchi annemoash_, which indicates
simply, bad-dog. Many of their nouns have, however, adjective
inflections, by which they are rendered derogative. They have terms to
indicate cheat, liar, thief, murderer, coward, fool, lazy man, drunkard,
babbler. But I have never heard of an imprecation or oath. The genius of
the language does not seem to favor the formation of terms to be used in
oaths or for purposes of profanity. It is the result of the observation
of others, as well as my own, to say, that an Indian cannot curse.
_31st_. The ornithology of the north is very limited in the winter. We
have the white owl, the Canada jay, and some small species of
woodpeckers. I have known the white partridge, or ptermigan, to wander
thus far south. This bird is feathered to the toes. There are days when
the snow-bird appears. There is a species of duck, the _shingebis_, that
remains very late in the fall, and another, the _ae-ae-wa,_ that comes
very early in the spring.
The _T. polyglottis_, or buffoon-bird, is never found north of 46 deg. N.
latitude in the summer. This bird pours forth all sorts of notes in a
short space of time, without any apparent order. The thrush, the wren,
the jay, and the robin are imitated in as short a time as it takes to
write these words.
_7th_. During severe winters, in the north, some species of birds extend
their migrations farther south than usual. This appears to have been the
case during the present season. A small bird, yellowish and cinereous,
of the grosbec species, appeared this day in the neighborhood of one of
the sugar-camps on the river below, and was shot with an arrow by an
Indian boy, who brought it up to me. The Chippewas call it
_Pashcundamo_, in allusion to the stoutness of its bill, and consequent
capacity for breaking surfaces.
[Footnote 37: This specimen was sent to the New York Lyceum, where it was
determined to be an undescribed species, and named _Fringilia
vespertina_, or evening grosbec.]
_8th_. The ice on the river still admits of the passage of horse trains,
and the night temperature is quite wintry, although the power of the
sun begins to be sensibly felt during the middle and after part of
_9th_. A friend recently at Washington writes from Detroit under the
date of the 12th March: "A proposition was submitted to a committee of
the Senate, soon after my arrival in the city, by the Secretary of War,
for the establishment of the office of Superintendent of Mines. To this
office, had the project been carried into execution, you would have been
appointed. But shortly before I left there, it was thought more
expedient to sell all the mines than to retain them in the hands of the
government. Of course, if this plan be adopted, as I think it will be,
the other will be superseded." Here, then, drops a project, which I had
conceived at Potosi, and which has been before my mind for some four
years, and which I am still satisfied might have been carried through
Congress, had I given my personal attention to the subject, during the
present session. I have supposed myself more peculiarly qualified to
fill the station indicated, than the one I now occupy. And I accepted
the present office under the expectation that it would be temporary.
When once a project of this kind, however, is superseded in the way this
has been, it is like raising the dead to bring it up again; and it is
therefore probable that my destiny is now fixed in the North-West
instead of the South-West, for a number of years. I thought I had read
Franklin's maxims to some purpose; but I now see that, although I have
observed one of them in nine cases, I missed it in the tenth:--
"He that by the plough would thrive,
Himself must either hold, or drive."
I trusted, in the fall, that I could safely look on, and see this matter
As to the mines, they will still require a local superintendent. They
cannot be sold until there are some persons to buy, and it is not
probable such extensive tracts of barren lands can be disposed of in
years. Meantime, the rents of the mines are an object. The preservation
of the public timber is an object. And the duties connected with these
objects cannot be performed, with justice to the government, and
convenience to the lessees, without a local agent. In proportion as some
of the districts of mineral lands are sold, others will claim
attention; and it _may be_, and most probably _will be_, years before
the intention of Congress, if expressed by law, can be fully carried
Life has more than one point of resemblance to a panorama. When one
object is past, another is brought to view. The same correspondent adds:
"Mr. Calhoun has come to the determination to authorize you to explore
the River St. Peter's this season. I think you may safely make the
necessary arrangements, as I feel confident the instructions will reach
you soon after the opening of the navigation."
In consequence of this intimation, I have been casting about to find
some authors who treat of the region of country which embraces the St.
Peter's, but with little success. Hennipin's "Discovery of a large
Country in the Northern America, extending above Four Thousand Miles," I
have read with care. But care indeed it requires to separate truth from
error, both in his descriptions and opinions. He thinks "Japan a part of
the American Continent;" and describes the Wisconsin as "navigable for
large vessels above one hundred leagues." Yet, notwithstanding this
gross hyberbole, he describes the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin
at "half a league," which is within the actual distance. It may be
admitted that he was within the Sioux country, and went up the
Mississippi as high as the St. Francis.
La Hontan, whose travels were published in London only a few years after
the translation of Hennipin's, is entitled, it is believed, to no credit
whatever, for all he relates of personal discoveries on the Mississippi.
His fiction of observations on "River La Long," is quite preposterous. I
once thought he had been as far as Prairie du Chien; but think it more
probable he never went beyond Green Bay.
Carver, who went from Boston to the Mississippi in the latter part of
the 18th century, is not an author to glean much from. I, however,
re-perused his volume carefully, and extracted notes. Some of the
stories inserted in his work have thrown an air of discredit over it,
and caused the whole work to be regarded in rather an apocryphal light.
I think there is internal evidence enough in his narrative to prove that
he visited the chief portions of country described. But he probably
neglected to keep diurnal notes. When in London, starvation stared him
in the face. Those in office to whom he represented his plans probably
listened to him awhile, and afterwards lost sight of, or neglected him.
He naturally fell into the hands of the booksellers, who deemed him a
good subject to get a book from. But his original journal did not
probably afford matter enough, in point of bulk. In this exigency, the
old French and English authors appear to have been drawn upon; and
probably their works contributed by far the larger part of the volume
after the 114th page (Philadelphia ed. 1796), which concludes the
"Journal." I think it questionable whether some literary hack was not
employed, by the booksellers, to draw up the part of the work "On the
origin, manners, customs, religion, and language of the Indians."
Considerable portions of the matter are nearly verbatim in the language
of Charlevoix, La Hontan, and other authors of previous date. The
"vocabulary of Chippewa," so far as it is Chippewa at all, has the
French or a mixed orthography, which it is not probable that an
Englishman or an American would, _de novo_, employ. CHAPTER XVIII.
Rapid advance of spring--Troops commence a stockade--Principles of the
Chippewa tongue--Idea of a new language containing the native principles
of syntax, with a monosyllabic method--Indian standard of
value--Archaeological evidences in growing trees--Mount Vernon--Signs of
spring in the appearance of birds--Expedition to St. Peter's--Lake
Superior open--A peculiarity in the orthography of Jefferson--True
sounds of the consonants--Philology--Advent of the arrival of a
vessel.--Editors and editorials--Arrival from Fort William--A hope
fled--Sudden completion of the spring, and ushering in of
summer--Odjibwa language, and transmission of Inquiries.
1823. _April 12th_. Spring is gradually advancing. The deepened roar of
the rapids indicates an increased volume of water. The state of the ice
is so bad this day that no persons have ventured to cross the river.
Yesterday, they still crossed. The bare ground begins to show itself in
spots; but the body of snow is still deep in the woods.
_14th_. The _T. migratorius_ or robin made its appearance. The Indians
have a pretty tale of the origin of this bird and its fondness for
_16th_. Gray duck appeared in the rapids.
_17th_. Large portions of the ground are now laid bare by the sun.
_18th_. A friend at New York, about to sail for Europe, writes me under
this date: "I expect to sail for St. Petersburgh. I shall take with me
some of our choicest specimens, in return for which I hope to procure
something new and interesting. The truth is, we know very little of the
mineralogy of Russia, and hence such specimens as can be procured will
almost necessarily prove interesting."
"The Lyceum is about to publish its proceedings. The members are
increasing in numbers and activity. It has been recently agreed that
there shall be at least one paper read at every meeting; this will
ensure attention, and much increase the interest of the meetings. I hope
you may, before long, be able to add your personal attendance."
"I feel it my duty to inform you that the minerals intrusted to my care
are situated in every respect as when left by you; they are, of course,
entirely dependent upon any order you may give concerning them. I do not
think it necessary that you should make any _immediate_ provision for
them, or that there is any cause for uneasiness on their account." 
[Footnote 38: Notwithstanding, the collection of specimens referred to
was afterwards most sadly dealt with, and pillaged of its choicest
_19th_. The troops began to set up the pickets of a stockade or fort, to
which the name of "Brady" is given, in allusion to Col. Hugh Brady,
U.S.A. The first canoe crossed the river to-day, although the ice still
lines each shore of the river for several hundred yards in width.
_20th. S_. My sister Maria writes to me: "I fancy, by the description
you have given of your residence and society at the Sault, that you have
enjoyed yourself, and seen as much of the refinements of civilized life
as you would have done in many places less remote. Who have you at the
Sault that writes such pretty poetry? The piece I refer to is signed
Alexina, and is a death-song of an Indian woman at the grave of her
[Footnote 39: Mrs. Thompson.]
_22d_. One of the principal objections to be urged against the Indian
languages, considered as media of communication, is their cumbrousness.
There is certainly a great deal of verbiage and tautology about them.
The paucity of terms leads not only to the use of figures and metaphors,
but is the cause of circumlocution. This day we had a snow storm.
The Chippewa is, in its structure, what is denominated by Mr. Du Ponceau
"polysynthetic." It seems the farthest removed possible from the
monosyllabic class of languages. I have thought that, if some of its
grammatical principles could be applied to monosyllables, a new language
of great brevity, terseness, regularity, and poetic expressiveness,
might be formed. It would be necessary to restore to its alphabet the
consonants _f, l_, and _r_, and _v_. Its primitive pronouns might be
retained, with simple inflections, instead of compound, for plural. It
would be necessary to invent a pronoun for _she_, as there is,
apparently, nothing of this kind in the language. The pronouns might
take the following form:--
Ni, _I_. Nid, _We_. Niwin, _Myself_. Niwind, _Ourselves_.
Ki, _Thou_. Kid, _Ye_ or _you_. Kiwin, _Thyself_. Kiwind, _Yourselves_.
Wi, _He_. Wid, _They_. Masculine. Wiwin, _Yourselves_. (Mas.) Wiwind.
Si, _She_. Sid, _They_. Feminine. Siwin, _Yourselves_. (Fem.) Siwind.
DECLENSION OF PRONOUNS.
Ni, Nin, Nee--_I, Mine, Me_. Nid, Nida, Nidim--_We, Us, Ours_.
Ki, Kin, Kee--_Thou, Thine, Thee_. Kid, Kida, Kidim--_Ye, You, Yours.
_ Wi, Win, Wee--_Him, His, His_. Wid, Wida, Widim--_They, Their_, _Theirs_. (Mas.)
Si, Sin, See--_Her, Hers, Hers_. Sid, Sida, Sidim--_They, Their, Theirs_.
The full meaning of the present class of verbs and substantives of the
language could be advantageously transferred to the first, or second, or
third syllable of the words, converting them into monosyllables. The
plural might be uniformly made in _d_, following a vowel, and if a word
terminate in a consonant, then in _ad_. So the class of plural
terminations would be _ad, ed, id, od, ud_. Many generic nouns would
require to be invented, and could easily be drawn from existing roots.
In the orthography of these, the initial consonant of the corresponding
English word might serve as an index, Thus, from the word _aindum_,
mind, might be derived,
Ain, _Mind_. Sain, _Sorrow_.
Tain, _Thought_. Jain, _Joy_, &c.
So from _taibwawin_, truth, might be drawn _taib_, truth--_faib_,
faith--_raib_, religion--_vaib_, virtue. A principle of euphony, or
affinity of syllabication, might be applied in the abbreviation of a few
of this class of generic words: as _Eo_, God, from _monedo_.
THE ORDINARY NOUNS WOULD RUN THUS:--
In, _Man_. Ind, _Men_.
Ee, _Woman_. Eed, _Women_.
Ab, _Child_. Abad, _Children_.
Kwi, _Boy_. Kwid, _Boys_.
Kwa, _Girl_. Kwad, _Girls_.
Os, _Father_. Osad, _Fathers_.
Gai, _Mother_. Gaid, _Mothers_.
All the existing monosyllables of the language would be retained, but
subjected to new laws of construction and concordance. Thus the plural
of _Koan_, snow, would be _koanad; of ais_, shell, _aisad; moaz, moas,
moazad_, &c. Variety in the production of sounds, and of proper cadences
in composition, might dictate retention of a certain class of the
dissyllables--as _ossin_ a stone, _opin_ a potato, _akki_ earth, _mejim_
food, _assub_ a net, _aubo_ a liquid, _mittig _ a tree, &c., the plurals
of which would be _assinad, opinad, akkid, mejimad, assubad, aubad,
mittigad_. Every substantive would have a diminutive form in _is_, and
an augmentative in _chi_, the vowel of the latter to be dropped where a
vowel begins the word. Thus, _chab_, a grandchild; _chigai_, a
grandmother. _Inis_, a little man; _osis_, a little father, &c.
Adjectives would come under the same rules of abbreviation as nouns and
verbs. They would be deprived of their present accidents of number
Min, _Good_. Koona, _Ugly_.
Mon, _Bad_. Soan, _Strong_.
The colors, seasons, cardinal points, &c., would consist of the first
syllable of the present words.
The demonstrative pronouns, _this, that, there, those_, would take the
following forms: _Mau_, this; _aho_, that. By adding the common plural,
the terms for _these_ and _those_ would be produced: _Maud_, these;
The prepositions would fall naturally under the rule of abbreviation
applied to nouns, &c. _Chi_, by; _peen_, in; _kish_, if, &c.; _li_, of;
_ra_, to; _vi_, is; _af_, at.
_Ieau_ is the verb _to be_. The auxiliary verbs, _have, shall, will_,
&c., taken from the tensal particles, are _ge, gu, gei, go, ga_.
_Pa_ may stand for the definite article, being the first syllable of
_pazhik_; and a _comma_ for the indefinite article.
_Ie_ is matter. _Ishi_, heaven.
Ni sa Eo--_I love God_.
Eo vi min--_The Lord is good_.
Nin os ge pa min in--_My father was a good man_.
Ishiod (Isheod)--_The heavens_.
Thus a new language might be formed.
_24th_. The standard of value with the Indians is various. At this
place, a beaver skin is the standard of computation in accounts. When an
Indian has made a purchase, he inquires, not how many dollars, but how
many beaver skins he owes. Farther south, where racoon skins are plenty,
_they_ become the standard. Some years ago, desertion became so frequent
at Chicago and other posts, that the commanding officer offered the
customary reward to the Indians of the post, if they would secure the
deserters. Five persons went in pursuit, and brought in the men, for
which they received a certificate for the amount. They then divided the
sum into five equal shares, and subdivided each share into its value in
racoon skins. It was not until this division was completed, and the
number of skins ascertained, that they could, by any fixed standard of
comparison, determine the reward which each had received.
_25th_. It is stated in the newspapers that hacks of an axe were lately
found in the central and solid parts of a large tree near Buffalo, which
were supposed to have been made by La Salle's party. Other evidences of
the early footsteps of Europeans on this continent have been mentioned.
A trammel was found in the solid substance of a tree in Onondaga. A gun
barrel in a similar position in the Wabash Valley. Growing wood soon
closes over articles left upon it, in the wilderness, where they are
[Footnote 40: Hon. R.W. Thompson.]
_27th. Monedo_ is strictly a term belonging to the Indian mythology and
necromancy, and is constantly used to indicate a spirit. It has not the
regular termination of the noun in _win_, and seems rather verbal in its
aspect, and so far as we can decipher its meaning, _mon_ is a syllable
having a bad meaning generally, as in _monaudud_, &c. _Edo_ may possibly
be a derivation from _ekedo_, he speaks.
_28th_. It is a year ago to-day since I visited the tomb of Washington,
at Mount Vernon. There were three representatives in Congress, in
company. We left the city of Washington in the morning, in a private
carriage, and drove down in good season. I looked about the tomb
narrowly for some memento to bring away, and found some mineralogical
fragments on the small mound over the tomb, which would bear the
application of their book names. On coming back through Alexandria, we
dined at a public hotel, where, among other productions of the season,
we had cucumbers. What a contrast in climate to my present position!
Here, as the eyes search the fields, heaps of snow are still seen in
shaded situations, and the ice still disfigures the bays and
indentations of the shore in some places, as if it were animated with a
determination to hold out against the power of the sun to the utmost.
Nature, however, indicates its great vernal throe. White fish were first
taken during the season, this day, which is rare.
_29th_. A friend at Detroit writes under this date: "I had expected that
before now, instructions would have reached here requiring you to repair
to the St. Peter's. But as the season advances, and they do not arrive,
I begin to fear that one of those mutations, to which of all governments
upon this _mundane sphere_ ours is the most exposed, has changed the
_May 1st_. Winter still holds its grasp upon the ice in the lower part
of the river and straits.
The _Claytonia Virginica_ observed in flower in favorable spots.
The bay opposite the fort on the north-west shore cleared of ice on the
2d, being the first day that the river has exhibited the appearance of
being completely clear, a strong north-west wind blowing. It is just
four months and ten days from the period of its final closing on the 22d
The yellow sparrow, or boblinkin, appeared this day in the woods.
_4th_. The surface of the earth is undergoing a rapid transformation,
although we are, at the same time, led to observe, that "winter
lingering chills the lap of May." Sudden changes of temperature are
experienced, which are governed very much by the course and changes of
the wind. Nature appears suddenly to have been awakened from her
All eyes are now directed to the east, not because _the sun rises
there_, but it is the course from which, in our position, we expect
intelligence by vessels. We expect a deliverance from our winter's
_6th_. Lake Superior appears to be entirely open. A gentleman attached
to the Boundary Survey at Fort William writes to me, under this date,
that the bay at that place is free from ice, so as to permit them to
resume their operations. They had been waiting for this occurrence for
two weeks previously.
_8th_. It is a year since I received from the President (Mr. Monroe) a
commission as agent for these tribes; and it is now more probable than
it then was that my residence here may assume a character of permanency.
I do not, however, cease to hope that Providence has a more eligible
situation in reserve for me.
_9th_. "Little things," says Dr. Johnson, "are not valued, when they are
done by those who cannot do greater." Thomas Jefferson uniformly spelled
knowledge without a _w_, which might not be mentioned, had he not
written the _Notes on Virginia_, and the _Declaration of Independence_.
_10th_. A trader proceeded with a boat into Lake Superior, which gives
assurance that this great inland sea is open for navigation. White fish
appeared in the rapids, which it is said they never do while there is
_11th_. Stearn sums up the points requisite for remembrance by
posterity, in these four things--"Plant a tree, write a book, build a
house, and get a child." Watts has a deeper tone of morality when
"We should leave our _names_, our heirs.
Old time and waning moons sweep all the rest away."
_12th_. When last at Washington, Dr. Thornton, of the Patent Office,
detained me some time talking of the powers of the letters of the
English alphabet. He drew a strong line of distinction between the
_names_ and the _sounds_ of the consonants. _L_, for instance, called
_el_, was sounded _le_, &c.
Philology is one of the keys of knowledge which, I think, admits of its
being said that, although it is rather rusty, the rust is, however, a
proof of its antiquity. I am inclined to think that more true light is
destined to be thrown on the history of the Indians by a study of their
languages than of their traditions, or any other feature.
The tendency of modern inquiries into languages seems rather to have
been to multiply than to simplify. I do not believe we have more than
three mother stocks of languages in all the United States east of the
Mississippi, embracing also large portions of territory west of it,
namely, the Algonquin, Iroquois, and what may be called Apallachian.
Perhaps a little Dakota.
_15th_. Our first vessel for the season arrived this day. If by a
patient series of inquiries, during the winter, we had calculated the
appearance of a comet, and found our data verified by its actual
appearance, it could not be a subject of deeper interest than the
bringing ashore of the ship's mail. Had we not gone to so remote a
position, we could not possibly ever have become aware how deeply we are
indebted to the genius and discoveries of Cadmus and Faust, whose true
worshippers are the corps editorial. Now for a carnival of letters.
Reading, reading, reading, "Big and small, scraps and all."
If editors of newspapers knew the avidity with which their articles are
read by persons isolated as we are, I have the charity to believe they
would devote a little more time, and exert a little more candor, in
penning them. For, after all, how large a portion of all that a
newspaper contains is, at least to remote readers, "flat, stale, and
unprofitable." The mind soon reacts, and asks if this be valuable news.
I observed the _Erythronium dens canis_, and _Panax trifolium_ appeared
in flower on the 25th.
_28th_. The schooner "Recovery" arrived from Fort William on the north
shore of Lake Superior, bringing letters and despatches, political and
commercial. Mr. Siveright, the agent of the H. B. C., kindly sent over
to me, for my perusal, a letter of intelligence from an American
gentleman in the North.
_29th_. I have, for some time, relinquished the expectation of being
selected to conduct the exploring party, intended to be ordered by
government, into the region of the St. Peter's, at least the present
season. A letter of this date terminates the uncertainty. "Major
Delafield," says a correspondent, "informs me that an exploring party
has been ordered under Major Long, to make the tour which was intended
for you. Why this arrangement has been made, and the original plan
abandoned, I cannot conjecture, unless it resulted from the necessity of
placing a military officer at the head of the party. I presume this was
the fact, for I am certain that the change in the project did not arise
from any feeling in Mr. C.'s mind unfriendly, or even indifferent to
you. Upon that subject I can speak definitely, and say to you, that you
have a hold upon his esteem, not to be shaken." Thus falls another
cherished hope, namely, that of leading an expedition to the North.
_30th_. Minute particulars are often indicative of general changes. This
is the first day that the mosquito has appeared. The weather for a few
days has been warm. Vegetation suddenly put forth; the wild cherry, &c.,
is now in bloom, and gardening has commenced with fine prospects.
_31st. Odjibwa language_.--There are two generic words in the concrete
forms of the Chippewa for water or a liquid, in addition to the common
term _neebi_. They are _aubo_ and _gomee_. Both are manifestly
compounds, but, in our present state of knowledge, they may be
temporarily considered as elements of other compounds. Thus, if the
letter _n_ be prefixed to the former, and the sound of _b_ suffixed, the
result is the term for soup, _nabob_. If to the same element of _aubo_,
the word for fire, _iscoda_, be prefixed, the result is their name for
ardent spirits, _iscodawabo_, literally fire-water. In the latter case,
the letter _w_ is thrown in as a coalescent between the sound of a, as
_a_ in hate; and the a, as _a_ in fall. This is out of a mere regard
"If they (the Chippewas) say 'A man loves me,' or 'I love a man,' is
there any variation in the word _man_?" They do not use the word _man_
in either of these instances. The adjective _white_ takes the animate
pronoun form in _iz zi_, by which the object beloved is indicated,
"Does the object precede or follow the verb?" Generally, it precedes the
verb. Fish, have you any? not, Have you any fish?
The substantive preceded the verb in the organization of the language.
Things were before the motion of things, or the acts or passions of men
which led to motion and emotion. Hence, all substances are changed into
and used as verbs.
I this day completed and transmitted the results of my philological
inquiries, hoping they might prove acceptable to the distinguished
individual to whom they were addressed, and help to advance the subject.
This subject is only laid aside by the call of business, and to be
effectual must be again resumed with the recurrence of our long
Outlines of the incidents of the summer of 1823--Glance at the geography
of the lake country--Concretion of aluminous earth--General Wayne's body
naturally embalmed by this property of the soil of Erie--Free and easy
manners--Boundary Survey--An old friend--Western commerce--The Austins
of Texas memory--Collision of civil and military power--Advantages of a
visit to Europe.
1823. _June 10th_. Mr. Thomas Tousey, of Virginia, writes from
Philadelphia, after completing a tour to the West: "The reading of books
and looking at maps make a fugitive impression on the mind, compared to
the ocular view and examination of a country, which make it seem as
though we cannot obtain valuable information, or money to serve a
valuable purpose, without great personal labor, fatigue, and often
danger. This was much verified to my satisfaction, from a view of the
great western lakes; the interesting position where you are--Mackinaw,
Green Bay, the fine country between Green Bay and Chicago, and Chicago
itself, and the whole country between the latter place and St. Louis.
"Without seeing that country, supposed by many to be the region of cold
and sterility, I could not have believed there was in it such a store of
blessings yet to be drawn forth by the labor and enterprise of man, for
succeeding generations. As yet, there are too many objects to tempt and
attract the avarice of man to more mild, but more dangerous climates.
But the progress of population and improvement is certain in many parts
of the country, and with them will be connected prosperity and