Part 3 out of 4
there, show that the phenomena of this case recall many in which there
is nothing marvellous, but which are manifestly grounded in our common
existence. Such apparitions cannot too frequently, if only for moments,
flash across that common existence, as electric lights from the higher
Frau H. was, previous to my magnetic treatment, in so deep a somnambulic
life, that she was, in fact, never rightly awake, even when she seemed
to be; or rather, let us say, she was at all times more awake than
others are; for it is strange to term sleep this state which is just
that of the clearest wakefulness. Better to say she was immersed in the
In this state and the consequent excitement of the nerves, she had
almost wholly lost organic force, and received it only by transmission
from those of stronger condition, principally from their eyes and the
ends of the fingers. The atmosphere and nerve communications of others,
said she, bring me the life which I need; they do not feel it; these
effusions on which I live, would flow from them and be lost, if my
nerves did not attract them; only in this way can I live.
She often assured us that others did not suffer by loss of what they
imparted to her; but it cannot be denied that persons were weakened by
constant intercourse with her, suffered from contraction in the limbs,
trembling, &c. They were weakened also in the eyes and pit of the
stomach. From those related to her by blood, she could draw more benefit
than from others, and, when very weak, from them only; probably on
account of a natural affinity of temperament. She could not bear to have
around her nervous and sick persons; those from whom she could gain
nothing made her weaker.
Even so it is remarked that flowers soon lose their beauty near the
sick, and suffer peculiarly under the contact or care of some persons.
Other physicians, beside myself, can vouch that the presence of some
persons affected her as a pabulum vitae, while, if left with certain
others or alone, she was sure to grow weaker.
From the air, too, she seemed to draw a peculiar ethereal nourishment of
the same sort; she could not remain without an open window in the
severest cold of winter.
[Footnote 1: Near us, this last winter, a person who suffered, and
finally died, from spasms like those of the Seherin,
also found relief from having the windows open, while
the cold occasioned great suffering to his attendants.]
The spirit of things, about which we have no perception, was sensible to
her, and had influence on her; she showed this sense of the spirit of
metals, plants, animals, and men. Imponderable existences, such as the
various colors of the ray, showed distinct influences upon her. The
electric fluid was visible and sensible to her when it was not to us.
Yea! what is incredible! even the written words of men she could
discriminate by touch.
[Footnote 2: Facts of the same kind are asserted of late among
ourselves, and believed, though "incredible."]
These experiments are detailed under their several heads in the book.
From her eyes flowed a peculiar spiritual light which impressed even
those who saw her for a very short time. She was in each relation more
spirit than human.
Should we compare her with anything human, we would say she was as one
detained at the moment of dissolution, betwixt life and death; and who
is better able to discern the affairs of the world that lies before,
than that behind him.
She was often in situations when one who had, like her, the power of
discerning spirits, would have seen her own free from the body, which at
all times enveloped it only as a light veil. She saw herself often out
of the body; saw herself double. She would say, "I seem out of myself,
hover above my body, and think of it as something apart from myself. But
it is not a pleasant feeling, because I still sympathize with my body.
If only my soul were bound more firmly to the nerve-spirit, it might be
bound more closely with the nerves themselves; but the bond of my
nerve-spirit is always becoming looser."
She makes a distinction between spirit as the pure intelligence; soul,
the ideal of this individual man; and nerve-spirit, the dynamic of his
Of this feeling of double identity, an invalid, now wasting under
nervous disease, often speaks to me. He has it when he first awakes from
sleep. Blake, the painter, whose life was almost as much a series of
trances as that of our Seherin, in his designs of the Resurrection,
represents spirits as rising from, or hovering over, their bodies in the
Often she seemed quite freed from her body, and to have no more sense of
As to artificial culture, or dressing, (dressur,) Frau H. had nothing of
it. She had learned no foreign tongue, neither history, nor geography,
nor natural philosophy, nor any other of those branches now imparted to
those of her sex in their schools. The Bible and hymn-book were,
especially in the long years of her sickness, her only reading: her
moral character was throughout blameless; she was pious without
fanaticism. Even her long suffering, and the peculiar manner of it, she
recognized as the grace of God; as she expresses in the following
Great God! how great is thy goodness,
To me thou hast given faith and love,
Holding me firm in the distress of my sufferings.
In the darkness of my sorrow,
I was so far led away,
As to beg for peace in speedy death.
But then came to me the mighty strong faith;
Hope came; and came eternal love;
They shut my earthly eyelids.
When, O bliss!
Dead lies my bodily frame,
But in the inmost mind a light burns up,
Such as none knows in the waking life.
Is it a light? no! but a sun of grace!
Often in the sense of her sufferings, while in the magnetic trance, she
made prayers in verse, of which this is one:
Father, hear me!
Hear my prayer and supplication.
Father, I implore thee,
Let not thy child perish!
Look on my anguish, my tears.
Shed hope into my heart, and still its longing,
Father, on thee I call; have pity!
Take something from me, the sick one, the poor one.
Father, I leave thee not,
Though sickness and pain consume me.
If I the spring's light,
See only through the mist of tears,
Father, I leave thee not.
These verses lose their merit of a touching simplicity in an unrhymed
translation; but they will serve to show the habitual temper of her
"As I was a maker of verses," continues Dr. Kerner, "it was easy to say,
Frau H. derived this talent from my magnetic influence; but she made
these little verses before she came under my care." Not without deep
significance was Apollo distinguished as being at once the God of poesy,
of prophecy, and the medical art. Sleep-waking develops the powers of
seeing, healing, and poesy. How nobly the ancients understood the inner
life; how fully is it indicated in their mysteries?
I know a peasant maiden, who cannot write, but who, in the magnetic
state, speaks in measured verse.
Galen was indebted to his nightly dreams for a part of his medical
The calumnies spread about Frau H. were many and gross; this she well
knew. As one day she heard so many of these as to be much affected by
them, we thought she would express her feelings that night in the
magnetic sleep, but she only said "they can affect my body, but not my
spirit." Her mind, raised above such assaults by the consciousness of
innocence, maintained its tranquillity and dwelt solely on spiritual
Once in her sleep-waking she wrote thus:
When the world declares of me
Such cruel ill in calumny,
And to your ears it finds a way,
Do you believe it, yea or nay?
To us thou seemest true and pure,
Let others view it as they will;
We have our assurance still
If our own sight can make us sure.
People of all kinds, to my great trouble, were always pressing to see
her. If we refused them access to the sick room, they avenged
themselves by the invention of all kinds of falsehoods.
She met all with an equal friendliness, even when it cost her bodily
pain, and those who defamed her, she often defended. There came to her
both good and bad men. She felt the evil in men clearly, but would not
censure; lifted up a stone to cast at no sinner, but was rather likely
to awake, in the faulty beings she suffered near her, faith in a
spiritual life which might make them better.
Years before she was brought to me, the earth, with its atmosphere, and
all that is about and upon it, human beings not excepted, was no more
for her. She needed, not only a magnetizer, not only a love, an
earnestness, an insight, such as scarce lies within the capacity of any
man, but also what no mortal could bestow upon her, another heaven,
other means of nourishment, other air than that of this earth. She
belonged to the world of spirits, living here herself, as more than half
spirit. She belonged to the state after death, into which she had
advanced more than half way.
It is possible she might have been brought back to an adaptation for
this world in the second or third year of her malady; but, in the fifth,
no mode of treatment could have effected this. But by care she was aided
to a greater harmony and clearness of the inward life; she enjoyed at
Weinsberg, as she after said, the richest and happiest days of this
life, and to us her abode here remains a point of light.
As to her outward form, we have already said it seemed but a thin veil
about her spirit. She was little, her features of an oriental cast, her
eye had the penetrating look of a seer's eye, which was set off by the
shade of long dark eyelashes. She was a light flower that only lived on
Eschenmayer writes thus of her in his "Mysteries."
"Her natural state was a mild, friendly earnestness, always disposed to
prayer and devotion; her eye had a highly spiritual expression, and
remained, notwithstanding her great sufferings, always bright and clear.
Her look was penetrating, would quickly change in the conversation, seem
to give forth sparks, and remain fixed on some one place,--this was a
token that some strange apparition fettered it,--then would she resume
the conversation. When I first saw her, she was in a situation which
showed that her bodily life could not long endure, and that recovery to
the common natural state was quite impossible. Without visible
derangement of the functions, her life seemed only a wick glimmering in
the socket. She was, as Kerner truly describes her, like one arrested in
the act of dying and detained in the body by magnetic influences. Spirit
and soul seemed often divided, and the spirit to have taken up its abode
in other regions, while the soul was yet bound to the body."
I have given these extracts as being happily expressive of the relation
between the physician and the clairvoyant, also of her character.
It seems to have been one of singular gentleness, and grateful piety,
simple and pure, but not at all one from which we should expect
extraordinary development of brain in any way; yet the excitement of her
temperament from climate, scenery, the influence of traditions which
evidently flowed round her, and a great constitutional impressibility
did develop in her brain the germs both of poetic creation and science.
I say poetic creation, for, to my mind, the ghosts she saw were
projections of herself into objective reality. The Hades she imagines is
based in fact, for it is one of souls, who, having neglected their
opportunities for better life, find themselves left forlorn, helpless,
seeking aid from beings still ignorant and prejudiced, perhaps much
below themselves in natural powers. Having forfeited their chance of
direct access to God, they seek mediation from the prayers of men. But
in the coloring and dress of these ghosts, as also in their manner
and mode of speech, there is a great deal which seems merely
fanciful--local and peculiar.
[Footnote 3: The women ghosts all wear veils, put on the way admired
by the Italian poets, of whom, however, she could know
To me, these interviews represent only prophecies of her mind; yet,
considered in this way, they are, if not ghostly, spiritual facts of
high beauty, and which cast light on the state of the soul after its
separation from the body. Her gentle patience with them, her steady
reference to a higher cause, her pure joy, when they became white in the
light of happiness obtained through aspiration, are worthy of a more
than half enfranchised angel.
As to the stories of mental correspondence and visits to those still
engaged in this world, such as are told of her presentiment of her
father's death, and connexion with him in the last moments, these are
probably pure facts. Those who have sufficient strength of affection to
be easily disengaged from external impressions and habits, and who dare
trust their mental impulses are familiar with such.
Her invention of a language seems a simply natural motion of the mind
when left to itself. The language we habitually use is so broken, and so
hackneyed by ages of conventional use, that, in all deep states of
being, we crave one simple and primitive in its stead. Most persons make
one more or less clear from looks, tones, and symbols:--this woman, in
the long leisure of her loneliness, and a mind bent upon itself,
attempted to compose one of letters and words. I look upon it as no gift
from without, but a growth from her own mind.
Her invention of a machine, of which she made a drawing, her power of
drawing correctly her life-circle, and sun-circle, and the mathematical
feeling she had of her existence, in correspondent sections of the two,
are also valuable as mental facts. These figures describe her history
and exemplify the position of mathematics toward the world of creative
Every fact of mental existence ought to be capable of similar
demonstration. I attach no especial importance to her circles:--we all
live in such; all who observe themselves have the same sense of
exactness and harmony in the revolutions of their destiny. But few
attend to what is simple and invariable in the motions of their minds,
and still fewer seek out means clearly to express them to others.
Goethe has taken up these facts in his Wanderjahre, where he speaks of
his Macaria; also, one of these persons who are compensated for bodily
infirmity by a more concentrated and acute state of mind, and consequent
accesses of wisdom, as being bound to a star. When she was engaged by a
sense of these larger revolutions, she seemed to those near her on the
earth, to be sick; when she was, in fact, lower, but better adapted to
the details and variations of an earthly life, these said she was well.
Macaria knew the sun and life circles, also, the lives of spirit and
soul, as did the forester's daughter of Prevorst.
Her power of making little verses was one of her least gifts. Many
excitable persons possess this talent at versification, as all may
possess it. It is merely that a certain exaltation of feeling raises the
mode of expression with it, in the same way as song differs from speech.
Verses of this sort do not necessarily demand the high faculties that
constitute the poet,--the creative powers. Many verses, good ones, are
personal or national merely. Ballads, hymns, love-lyrics, have often no
claim differing from those of common prose speech, to the title of
poems, except a greater keenness and terseness of expression.
The verses of this Seherin are of the simplest character, the natural
garb for the sighs or aspirations of a lonely heart. She uses the
shortest words, the commonest rhymes, and the verses move us by their
nature and truth alone.
The most interesting of these facts to me, are her impressions from
minerals and plants. Her impressions coincide with many ancient
The hazel woke her immediately and gave her more power, therefore the
witch with her hazel wand, probably found herself superior to those
around her. We may also mention, in reference to witchcraft, that Dr. K.
asserts that, in certain moods of mind, she had no weight, but was
upborne upon water, like cork, thus confirming the propriety, and
justice of our forefathers' ordeal for witchcraft!
The laurel produced on her the highest magnetic effect, therefore the
Sibyls had good reasons for wearing it on their brows.
"The laurel had on her, as on most sleep-wakers, a distinguished
magnetic effect. We thus see why the priestess at Delphi, previous to
uttering her oracles, shook a laurel tree, and then seated herself on a
tripod covered with laurel boughs. In the temple of Aesculapius, and
others, the laurel was used to excite sleep and dream."
From grapes she declared impressions, which corresponded with those
caused by the wines made from them. Many kinds were given her, one after
the other, by the person who raised them, and who gives a certificate as
to the accuracy of her impressions, and his belief that she could not
have derived them from any cause, but that of the touch.
She prescribed vegetable substances to be used in her machine, (as a
kind of vapor bath,) and with good results to herself.
She enjoyed contact with minerals, deriving from those she liked a sense
of concentrated life. Her impressions of the precious stones,
corresponded with many superstitions of the ancients, which led to the
preference of certain gems for amulets, on which they had engraved
The ancients, in addition to their sense of the qualities that
distinguish the diamond above all gems, venerated it as a talisman
against wild beasts, poison, and evil spirits, thus expressing the
natural influence of what is so enduring, bright, and pure. Townshend,
speaking of the effect of gems on one of his sleep-wakers, said, she
loved the diamond so much that she would lean her forehead towards it,
whenever it was brought near her.
It is observable that these sleep-wakers, in their prescriptions,
resemble the ancient sages, who culled only simples for the sick. But if
they have this fine sense, also, for the qualities of animal and mineral
substances, there is no reason why they should not turn bane to
antidote, and prescribe at least homeopathic doses of poison, to restore
the diseased to health.
The Seherin ascribed different states to the right and left sides of
every body, even of the lady moon. The left is most impressible. Query:
Is this the reason why the left hand has been, by the custom of nations,
so almost disused, because the heart is on the left side?
She also saw different sights in the left from the right eye. In the
left, the bodily state of the person; in the right, his real or destined
self, how often unknown to himself, almost always obscured or perverted
by his present ignorance or mistake. She had also the gift of second
sight. She saw the coffins of those about to die. She saw in mirrors,
cups of water; in soap-bubbles, the coming future.
We are here reminded of many beautiful superstitions and legends; of the
secret pool in which the daring may, at mid-moon of night, read the
future; of the magic globe, on whose pure surface Britomart sees her
future love, whom she must seek, arrayed in knightly armor, through a
difficult and hostile world.
A looking-glass, right wondrously aguized,
Whose virtues through the wyde world soon were solemnized.
It vertue had to show in perfect sight,
Whatever thing was in the world contayned,
Betwixt the lowest earth and hevens hight;
So that it to the looker appertayned,
Whatever foe had wrought, or friend had fayned,
Herein discovered was, ne ought mote pas,
Ne ought in secret from the same remayned;
Forthy it round and hollow shaped was,
Like to the world itselfe, and seemed a World of Glas.
_Faerie Queene, Book III_.
Such mirrors had Cornelius Agrippa and other wizards. The soap-bubble is
such a globe; only one had need of second sight or double sight to see
the pictures on so transitory a mirror. Perhaps it is some vague
expectation of such wonders, that makes us so fond of blowing them in
childish years. But, perhaps, it is rather as a prelude to the
occupation of our lives, blowing bubbles where all things may be seen,
that, "to the looker appertain," if we can keep them long enough or look
In short, were this biography of no other value, it would be most
interesting as showing how the floating belief of nations, always no
doubt shadowing forth in its imperfect fashion the poetic facts with
their scientific exposition, is found to grow up anew in a simple, but
The fashioning spirit, working upwards from the clod to man, proffers as
its last, highest essay, the brain of man. In the lowest zoophyte it
aimed at this; some faint rudiments may there be discerned: but only in
man has it perfected that immense galvanic battery that can be loaded
from above, below, and around;--that engine, not only of perception, but
of conception and consecutive thought,--whose right hand is memory,
whose life is idea, the crown of nature, the platform from which spirit
Yet, as gradation is the beautiful secret of nature, and the fashioning
spirit, which loves to develop and transcend, loves no less to moderate,
to modulate, and harmonize, it did not mean by thus drawing man onward
to the next state of existence, to destroy his fitness for this. It did
not mean to destroy his sympathies with the mineral, vegetable, and
animal realms, of whose components he is in great part composed; which
were the preface to his being, of whom he is to take count, whom he
should govern as a reasoning head of a perfectly arranged body. He was
meant to be the historian, the philosopher, the poet, the king of this
world, no less than the prophet of the next.
These functions should be in equipoise, and when they are not, when we
see excess either on the natural (so called as distinguished from the
spiritual,) or the spiritual side, we feel that the law is transgressed.
And, if it be the greatest sorrow to see brain merged in body, to see a
man more hands or feet than head, so that we feel he might, with
propriety, be on all fours again, or even crawl like the serpent; it is
also sad to see the brain, too much excited on some one side, which we
call madness, or even unduly and prematurely, so as to destroy in its
bloom, the common human existence of the person, as in the case before
us, and others of the poetical and prophetical existence.
We would rather minds should foresee less and see more surely, that
death should ensue by gentler gradation, and the brain be the governor
and interpreter, rather than the destroyer, of the animal life. But, in
cases like this, where the animal life is prematurely broken up, and the
brain prematurely exercised, we may as well learn what we can from it,
and believe that the glimpses thus caught, if not as precious as the
full view, are bright with the same light, and open to the same scene.
There is a family character about all the German ghosts. We find the
same features in these stories as in those related by Jung Stilling and
others. They bear the same character as the pictures by the old masters,
of a deep and simple piety. She stands before as, this piety, in a full,
high-necked robe, a simple, hausfrauish cap, a clear, straightforward
blue eye. These are no terrible, gloomy ghosts with Spanish mantle or
Italian dagger. We feel quite at home with them, and sure of their good
To the Seherin, they were a real society, constantly inspiring good
thoughts. The reference to them in these verses, written in her journal
shortly before her death, is affecting, and shows her deep sense of
their reality. She must have felt that she had been a true friend to
them, by refusing always, as she did, requests she thought wrong, and
referring them to a Saviour.
Farewell, my friends,
God bless you for your love--
Bless you for your goodness.
And you, how shall I name you?
Who have so saddened me,
I will name you also--Friends;
You have been discipline to me.
Farewell! you my dear ones,
Soon will you know
How hard have been my sufferings
In the Pilgrim land.
Let it not grieve you,
That my woes find an end;
Farewell, dear ones,
Till the second meeting;
[Footnote 4: The physician thought she here referred to the
examination of her body that would take place after
her death. The brain was found to be sound, though
there were marks of great disease elsewhere.]
In this journal her thoughts dwell much upon those natural ties which
she was not permitted to enjoy. She thought much of her children, and
often fancied she had saw the one who had died, growing in the spirit
land. Any allusion to them called a sweet smile on her face when in her
Other interesting poems are records of these often beautiful visions,
especially of that preceding her own death; the address to her
life-circle, the thought of which is truly great, (this was translated
in the Dublin Magazine,) and descriptions of her earthly state as an
imprisonment. The story of her life, though stained like others, by
partialities, and prejudices, which were not justly distinguished from
what was altogether true and fair, is a poem of so pure a music;
presents such gentle and holy images, that we sympathize fully in the
love and gratitude Kerner and his friends felt towards her, as the
friend of their best life. She was a St. Theresa in her way.
His address to her, with which his volume closes, may thus be translated
in homely guise. In the original it has no merit, except as uttering his
affectionate and reverent feeling towards his patient, the peasant
girl,--"the sick one, the poor one." But we like to see how, from the
mouths of babes and sucklings, praise may be so perfected as to command
this reverence from the learned and worldly-wise.
Farewell; the debt I owe thee
Ever in heart I bear;
My soul sees, since I know thee,
The spirit depths so clear.
Whether in light or shade,
Thy soul now dwelling hath;
Be, if my faith should fade,
The guide upon my path.
Livest thou in mutual power,
With spirits blest and bright,
O be, in death's dark hour,
My help to heaven's light.
Upon thy grave is growing,
The plant by thee beloved,
St. Johns-wort golden glowing,
Like St. John's thoughts of love.
Witness of sacred sorrow,
Whene'er thou meet'st my eye,
O flower, from thee I borrow,
Thoughts for eternity.
Farewell! the woes of earth
No more my soul affright;
Who knows their temporal birth
Can easy bear their weight.
[Footnote 5: She received great benefit from decoctions of this herb,
and often prescribed it to others.]
I do confess this is a paraphrase, not a translation, also, that in the
other extracts, I have taken liberties with the original for the sake
of condensation, and clearness. What I have written must be received as
a slight and conversational account, of the work.
Two or three other remarks, I had forgotten, may come in here.
The glances at the spirit-world have none of that large or universal
significance, none of that value from philosophical analogy, that is
felt in any picture by Swedenborg, or Dante, of permanent relations. The
mind of the forester's daughter was exalted and rapidly developed; still
the wild cherry tree bore no orange; she was not transformed into a
philosophic or poetic organization.
Yet many of her untaught notions remind of other seers of a larger
scope. She, too, receives this life as one link in a long chain; and
thinks that immediately after death, the meaning of the past life will
appear to us as one word.
She tends to a belief in the aromal state, and in successive existences
on this earth; for behind persons she often saw another being, whether
their form in the state before or after this, I know not; behind a woman
a man, equipped for fight, and so forth. Her perception of character,
even in cases of those whom she saw only as they passed her window, was
Kerner aims many a leaden sarcasm at those who despise his credulity. He
speaks of those sages as men whose brain is a glass table, incapable of
receiving the electric spark, and who will not believe, because, in
their mental isolation, they are incapable of feeling these facts.
Certainly, I think he would be dull, who could see no meaning or beauty
in the history of the forester's daughter of Prevorst. She lived but
nine-and-twenty years, yet, in that time, had traversed a larger portion
of the field of thought than all her race before, in their many and long
Of the abuses to which all these magical implements are prone, I have an
instance, since leaving Milwaukie, in the journal of a man equally
sincere, but not equally inspired, led from Germany hither by signs and
wonders, as a commissioned agent of Providence, who, indeed, has
arranged every detail of his life with a minuteness far beyond the
promised care of the sparrow. He props himself by spiritual aid from a
maiden now in this country, who was once an attendant on the Seeress,
and who seems to have caught from her the contagion of trance, but not
Do not blame me that I have written so much about Germany and Hades,
while you were looking for news of the West. Here, on the pier, I see
disembarking the Germans, the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Swiss. Who
knows how much of old legendary lore, of modern wonder, they have
already planted amid the Wisconsin forests? Soon, soon their tales of
the origin of things, and the Providence which rules them, will be so
mingled with those of the Indian, that the very oak trees will not know
them apart,--will not know whether itself be a Runic, a Druid, or a
Some seeds of all growths that have ever been known in this world
might, no doubt, already be found in these Western wilds, if we had the
power to call them to life.
I saw, in the newspaper, that the American Tract Society boasted of
their agents' having exchanged, at a Western cabin door, tracts for the
Devil on Two Sticks, and then burnt that more entertaining than edifying
volume. No wonder, though, they study it there. Could one but have the
gift of reading the dreams dreamed by men of such various birth, various
history, various mind, it would afford much more extensive amusement
than did the chambers of one Spanish city!
Could I but have flown at night through such mental experiences, instead
of being shut up in my little bedroom at the Milwaukie boarding house,
this chapter would have been worth reading. As it is, let us hasten to a
Had I been rich in money, I might have built a house, or set up in
business, during my fortnight's stay at Milwaukie, matters move on there
at so rapid a rate. But, being only rich in curiosity, I was obliged to
walk the streets and pick up what I could in casual intercourse. When I
left the street, indeed, and walked on the bluffs, or sat beside the
lake in their shadow, my mind was rich in dreams congenial to the scene,
some time to be realized, though not by me.
A boat was left, keel up, half on the sand, half in the water, swaying
with each swell of the lake. It gave a picturesque grace to that part of
the shore, as the only image of inaction--only object of a pensive
character to be seen. Near this I sat, to dream my dreams and watch the
colors of the Jake, changing hourly, till the sun sank. These hours
yielded impulses, wove webs, such as life will not again afford.
Returning to the boarding house, which was also a boarding school, we
were sure to be greeted by gay laughter.
This school was conducted by two girls of nineteen and seventeen years;
their pupils were nearly as old as themselves; the relation seemed very
pleasant between them. The only superiority--that of superior
knowledge--was sufficient to maintain authority--all the authority that
was needed to keep daily life in good order.
In the West, people are not respected merely because they are old in
years; people there have not time to keep up appearances in that way;
when they cease to have a real advantage in wisdom, knowledge, or
enterprise, they must stand back, and let those who are oldest in
character "go ahead," however few years they may count. There are no
banks of established respectability in which to bury the talent there;
no napkin of precedent in which to wrap it. What cannot be made to pass
current, is not esteemed coin of the realm.
To the windows of this house, where the daughter of a famous "Indian
fighter," i.e. fighter against the Indians, was learning French and the
piano, came wild, tawny figures, offering for sale their baskets of
berries. The boys now, instead of brandishing the tomahawk, tame their
hands to pick raspberries.
Here the evenings were much lightened by the gay chat of one of the
party, who, with the excellent practical sense of mature experience, and
the kindest heart, united a naivete and innocence such as I never saw in
any other who had walked so long life's tangled path. Like a child, she
was everywhere at home, and like a child, received and bestowed
entertainment from all places, all persons. I thanked her for making me
laugh, as did the sick and poor, whom she was sure to find out in her
briefest sojourn in any place, for more substantial aid. Happy are those
who never grieve, and so often aid and enliven their fellow men!
This scene, however, I was not sorry to exchange for the much celebrated
beauties of the Island of Mackinaw.
Late at night we reached this island, so famous for its beauty, and to
which I proposed a visit of some length. It was the last week in August,
when a large representation from the Chippewa and Ottowa tribes are here
to receive their annual payments from the American government. As their
habits make travelling easy and inexpensive to them, neither being
obliged to wait for steamboats, or write to see whether hotels are full,
they come hither by thousands, and those thousands in families, secure
of accommodation on the beach, and food from the lake, to make a long
holiday out of the occasion. There were near two thousand encamped on
the island already, and more arriving every day.
As our boat came in, the captain had some rockets let off. This greatly
excited the Indians, and their yells and wild cries resounded along the
shore. Except for the momentary flash of the rockets, it was perfectly
dark, and my sensations as I walked with a stranger to a strange hotel,
through the midst of these shrieking savages, and heard the pants and
snorts of the departing steamer, which carried away all my companions,
were somewhat of the dismal sort; though it was pleasant, too, in the
way that everything strange is; everything that breaks in upon the
routine that so easily incrusts us.
I had reason to expect a room to myself at the hotel, but found none,
and was obliged to take up my rest in the common parlor and eating-room,
a circumstance which ensured my being an early riser.
With the first rosy streak, I was out among my Indian neighbors, whose
lodges honey-combed the beautiful beach, that curved away in long, fair
outline on either side the house. They were already on the alert, the
children creeping out from beneath the blanket door of the lodge; the
women pounding corn in their rude mortars, the young men playing on
their pipes. I had been much amused, when the strain proper to the
Winnebago courting flute was played to me on another instrument, at any
one fancying it a melody; but now, when I heard the notes in their true
tone and time, I thought it not unworthy comparison, in its graceful
sequence, and the light flourish, at the close, with the sweetest
bird-songs; and this, like the bird-song, is only practised to allure a
mate. The Indian, become a citizen and a husband, no more thinks of
playing the flute than one of the "settled down" members of our society
would of choosing the "purple light of love" as dye-stuff for a surtout.
Mackinaw has been fully described by able pens, and I can only add my
tribute to the exceeding beauty of the spot and its position. It is
charming to be on an island so small that you can sail round it in an
afternoon, yet large enough to admit of long secluded walks through its
gentle groves. You can go round it in your boat; or, on foot, you can
tread its narrow beach, resting, at times, beneath the lofty walls of
stone, richly wooded, which rise from it in various architectural forms.
In this stone, caves are continually forming, from the action of the
atmosphere; one of these is quite deep, and with a fragment left at its
mouth, wreathed with little creeping plants, that looks, as you sit
within, like a ruined pillar.
[Illustration: ARCHED ROCK FROM THE WATER]
The arched rock surprised me, much as I had heard of it, from the
perfection of the arch. It is perfect whether you look up through it
from the lake, or down through it to the transparent waters. We both
ascended and descended, no very easy matter, the steep and crumbling
path, and rested at the summit, beneath the trees, and at the foot upon
the cool mossy stones beside the lapsing wave. Nature has carefully
decorated all this architecture with shrubs that take root within the
crevices, and small creeping vines. These natural rains may vie for
beautiful effect with the remains of European grandeur, and have,
beside, a charm as of a playful mood in nature.
The sugar-loaf rock is a fragment in the same kind as the pine rock we
saw in Illinois. It has the same air of a helmet, as seen from an
eminence at the side, which you descend by a long and steep path. The
rock itself may be ascended by the bold and agile. Halfway up is a
niche, to which those, who are neither, can climb by a ladder. A very
handsome young officer and lady who were with us did so, and then,
facing round, stood there side by side, looking in the niche, if not
like saints or angels wrought by pious hands in stone, as romantically,
if not as holily, worthy the gazer's eye.
The woods which adorn the central ridge of the island are very full in
foliage, and, in August, showed the tender green and pliant leaf of June
elsewhere. They are rich in beautiful mosses and the wild raspberry.
From Fort Holmes, the old fort, we had the most commanding view of the
lake and straits, opposite shores, and fair islets. Mackinaw, itself, is
best seen from the water. Its peculiar shape is supposed to have been
the origin of its name, Michilimackinac, which means the Great Turtle.
One person whom I saw, wished to establish another etymology, which he
fancied to be more refined; but, I doubt not, this is the true one, both
because the shape might suggest such a name, and that the existence of
an island in this commanding position, which did so, would seem a
significant fact to the Indians. For Henry gives the details of peculiar
worship paid to the Great Turtle, and the oracles received from this
extraordinary Apollo of the Indian Delphos.
It is crowned most picturesquely, by the white fort, with its gay flag.
From this, on one side, stretches the town. How pleasing a sight, after
the raw, crude, staring assemblage of houses, everywhere else to be met
in this country, an old French town, mellow in its coloring, and with
the harmonious effect of a slow growth, which assimilates, naturally,
with objects round it. The people in its streets, Indian, French,
half-breeds, and others, walked with a leisure step, as of those who
live a life of taste and inclination, rather than of the hard press of
business, as in American towns elsewhere.
On the other side, along the fair, curving beach, below the white houses
scattered on the declivity, clustered the Indian lodges, with their
amber brown matting, so soft, and bright of hue, in the late afternoon
sun. The first afternoon I was there, looking down from a near height, I
felt that I never wished to see a more fascinating picture. It was an
hour of the deepest serenity; bright blue and gold, rich shadows. Every
moment the sunlight fell more mellow. The Indians were grouped and
scattered among the lodges; the women preparing food, in the kettle or
frying-pan, over the many small fires; the children, half-naked, wild as
little goblins, were playing both in and out of the water. Here and
there lounged a young girl, with a baby at her back, whose bright eyes
glanced, as if born into a world of courage and of joy, instead of
ignominious servitude and slow decay. Some girls were cutting wood, a
little way from me, talking and laughing, in the low musical tone, so
charming in the Indian women. Many bark canoes were upturned upon the
beach, and, by that light, of almost the same amber as the lodges.
Others, coming in, their square sails set, and with almost arrowy speed,
though heavily laden with dusky forms, and all the apparatus of their
household. Here and there a sail-boat glided by, with a different, but
scarce less pleasing motion.
It was a scene of ideal loveliness, and these wild forms adorned it, as
looking so at home in it. All seemed happy, and they were happy that
day, for they had no firewater to madden them, as it was Sunday, and the
shops were shut.
From my window, at the boarding house, my eye was constantly attracted
by these picturesque groups. I was never tired of seeing the canoes come
in, and the new arrivals set up their temporary dwellings. The women ran
to set up the tent-poles, and spread the mats on the ground. The men
brought the chests, kettles, &c.; the mats were then laid on the
outside, the cedar boughs strewed on the ground, the blanket hung up for
a door, and all was completed in less than twenty minutes. Then they
began to prepare the night meal, and to learn of their neighbors the
news of the day.
The habit of preparing food out of doors, gave all the gipsy charm and
variety to their conduct. Continually I wanted Sir. Walter Scott to have
been there. If such romantic sketches were suggested to him, by the
sight of a few gipsies, not a group near one of these fires but would
have furnished him material for a separate canvass. I was so taken up
with the spirit of the scene, that I could not follow out the stories
suggested by these weather-beaten, sullen, but eloquent figures.
They talked a great deal, and with much variety of gesture, so that I
often had a good guess at the meaning of their discourse. I saw that,
whatever the Indian may be among the whites, he is anything but
taciturn with his own people. And he often would declaim, or narrate at
length, as indeed it is obvious, that these tribes possess great power
that way, if only from the fables taken from their stores, by Mr.
I liked very much to walk or sit among them. With the women I held much
communication by signs. They are almost invariably coarse and ugly, with
the exception of their eyes, with a peculiarly awkward gait, and forms
bent by burthens. This gait, so different from the steady and noble step
of the men, marks the inferior position they occupy. I had heard much
eloquent contradiction of this. Mrs. Schoolcraft had maintained to a
friend, that they were in fact as nearly on a par with their husbands as
the white woman with hers. "Although," said she, "on account of
inevitable causes, the Indian woman is subjected to many hardships of a
peculiar nature, yet her position, compared with that of the man, is
higher and freer than that of the white woman. Why will people look only
on one side? They either exalt the Red man into a Demigod or degrade him
into a beast. They say that he compels his wife to do all the drudgery,
while he does nothing but hunt and amuse himself; forgetting that, upon
his activity and power of endurance as a hunter, depends the support of
his family; that this is labor of the most fatiguing kind, and that it
is absolutely necessary that he should keep his frame unbent by burdens
and unworn by toil, that he may be able to obtain the means of
subsistence. I have witnessed scenes of conjugal and parental love in
the Indian's wigwam from which I have often, often thought the educated
white man, proud of his superior civilization, might learn an useful
lesson. When he returns from hunting, worn out with fatigue, having
tasted nothing since dawn, his wife, if she is a good wife, will take
off his moccasons and replace them with dry ones, and will prepare his
game for their repast, while his children will climb upon him, and he
will caress them with all the tenderness of a woman; and in the evening
the Indian wigwam is the scene of the purest domestic pleasures. The
father will relate for the amusement of the wife, and for the
instruction of the children, all the events of the day's hunt, while
they will treasure up every word that falls, and thus learn the theory
of the art, whose practice is to be the occupation of their lives.
Mrs. Grant speaks thus of the position of woman amid the Mohawk Indians:
"Lady Mary Montague says, that the court of Vienna was the paradise of
old women, and that there is no other place in the world where a woman
past fifty excites the least interest. Had her travels extended to the
interior of North America, she would have seen another instance of this
inversion of the common mode of thinking. Here a woman never was of
consequence, till she had a son old enough to fight the battles of his
country. From that date she held a superior rank in society; was allowed
to live at ease, and even called to consultations on national affairs.
In savage and warlike countries, the reign of beauty is very short, and
its influence comparatively limited. The girls in childhood had a very
pleasing appearance; but excepting their fine hair, eyes, and teeth,
every external grace was soon banished by perpetual drudgery, carrying
burdens too heavy to be borne, and other slavish employments considered
beneath the dignity of the men. These walked before erect and graceful,
decked with ornaments which set off to advantage the symmetry of their
well-formed persons, while the poor women followed, meanly attired, bent
under the weight of the children and utensils, which they carried
everywhere with them, and disfigured and degraded by ceaseless toils.
They were very early married, for a Mohawk had no other servant but his
wife, and, whenever he commenced hunter, it was requisite he should have
some one to carry his load, cook his kettle, make his moccasons, and,
above all, produce the young warriors who were to succeed him in the
honors of the chase and of the tomahawk. Wherever man is a mere hunter,
woman is a mere slave. It is domestic intercourse that softens man, and
elevates woman; and of that there can be but little, where the
employments and amusements are not in common; the ancient Caledonians
honored the fair; but then it is to be observed, they were fair
huntresses, and moved in the light of their beauty to the hill of roes;
and the culinary toils were entirely left to the rougher sex. When the
young warrior made his appearance, it softened the cares of his mother,
who well knew that, when he grew up, every deficiency in tenderness to
his wife would be made up in superabundant duty and affection to her. If
it were possible to carry filial veneration to excess, it was done here;
for all other charities were absorbed in it. I wonder this system of
depressing the sex in their early years, to exalt them when all their
juvenile attractions were flown, and when mind alone can distinguish
them, has not occurred to our modern reformers. The Mohawks took good
care not to admit their women to share their prerogatives, till they
approved themselves good wives and mothers."
The observations of women upon the position of woman are always more
valuable than those of men; but, of these two, Mrs. Grant's seems much
nearer the truth than Mrs. Schoolcraft's, because, though her
opportunities for observation did not bring her so close, she looked
more at both sides to find the truth.
Carver, in his travels among the Winnebagoes, describes two queens, one
nominally so, like Queen Victoria; the other invested with a genuine
royalty, springing from her own conduct.
In the great town of the Winnebagoes, he found a queen presiding over
the tribe, instead of a sachem. He adds, that, in some tribes, the
descent is given to the female line in preference to the male, that is,
a sister's son will succeed to the authority, rather than a brother's
The position of this Winnebago queen, reminded me forcibly of Queen
"She sat in the council, but only asked a few questions, or gave some
trifling directions in matters relative to the state, for women are
never allowed to sit in their councils, except they happen to be
invested with the supreme authority, and then it is not customary for
them to make any formal speeches, as the chiefs do. She was a very
ancient woman, small in stature, and not much distinguished by her
dress from several young women that attended her. These, her attendants,
seemed greatly pleased whenever I showed any tokens of respect to their
queen, especially when I saluted her, which I frequently did to acquire
The other was a woman, who being taken captive, found means to kill her
captor, and make her escape, and the tribe were so struck with
admiration at the courage and calmness she displayed on the occasion, as
to make her chieftainess in her own right.
Notwithstanding the homage paid to women, and the consequence allowed
her in some cases, it is impossible to look upon the Indian women,
without feeling that they _do_ occupy a lower place than women among the
nations of European civilization. The habits of drudgery expressed in
their form and gesture, the soft and wild but melancholy expression of
their eye, reminded me of the tribe mentioned by Mackenzie, where the
women destroy their female children, whenever they have a good
opportunity; and of the eloquent reproaches addressed by the Paraguay
woman to her mother, that she had not, in the same way, saved her from
the anguish and weariness of her lot.
More weariness than anguish, no doubt, falls to the lot of most of these
women. They inherit submission, and the minds of the generality
accommodate themselves more or less to any posture. Perhaps they suffer
less than their white sisters, who have more aspiration and refinement,
with little power of self-sustenance. But their place is certainly
lower, and their share of the human inheritance less.
Their decorum and delicacy are striking, and show that when these are
native to the mind, no habits of life make any difference. Their whole
gesture is timid, yet self-possessed. They used to crowd round me, to
inspect little things I had to show them, but never press near; on the
contrary, would reprove and keep off the children. Anything they took
from my hand, was held with care, then shut or folded, and returned with
an air of lady-like precision. They would not stare, however curious
they might be, but cast sidelong glances.
A locket that I wore, was an object of untiring interest; they seemed to
regard it as a talisman. My little sun-shade was still more fascinating
to them; apparently they had never before seen one. For an umbrella they
entertain profound regard, probably looking upon it as the most
luxurious superfluity a person can possess, and therefore a badge of
great wealth. I used to see an old squaw, whose sullied skin and coarse,
tanned locks, told that she had braved sun and storm, without a doubt or
care, for sixty years at the least, sitting gravely at the door of her
lodge, with an old green umbrella over her head, happy for hours
together in the dignified shade. For her happiness pomp came not, as it
so often does, too late; she received it with grateful enjoyment.
One day, as I was seated on one of the canoes, a woman came and sat
beside me, with her baby in its cradle set up at her feet. She asked me
by a gesture, to let her take my sun-shade, and then to show her how to
open it. Then she put it into her baby's hand, and held it over its
head, looking at me the while with a sweet, mischievous laugh, as much
as to say, "you carry a thing that is only fit for a baby;" her
pantomime was very pretty. She, like the other women, had a glance, and
shy, sweet expression in the eye; the men have a steady gaze.
That noblest and loveliest of modern Preux, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who
came through Buffalo to Detroit and Mackinaw, with Brant, and was
adopted into the Bear tribe by the name of Eghnidal, was struck, in the
same way, by the delicacy of manners in the women. He says,
"Notwithstanding the life they lead, which would make most women rough
and masculine, they are as soft, meek and modest, as the best brought up
girls in England. Somewhat coquettish too! Imagine the manners of Mimi
in a poor _squaw_, that has been carrying packs in the woods all her
McKenney mentions that the young wife, during the short bloom of her
beauty, is an object of homage and tenderness to her husband. One Indian
woman, the Flying Pigeon, a beautiful, an excellent woman, of whom he
gives some particulars, is an instance of the power uncommon characters
will always exert of breaking down the barriers custom has erected round
them. She captivated by her charms, and inspired with reverence for her
character, her husband and son. The simple praise with which the husband
indicates the religion, the judgment, and the generosity he saw in her,
are as satisfying as Count Zinzendorf's more labored eulogium on his
"noble consort." The conduct of her son, when, many years after her
death, he saw her picture at Washington, is unspeakably affecting.
Catlin gives anecdotes of the grief of a chief for the loss of a
daughter, and the princely gifts he offers in exchange for her portrait,
worthy not merely of European, but of Troubadour sentiment. It is also
evident that, as Mrs. Schoolcraft says, the women have great power at
home. It can never be otherwise, men being dependent upon them for the
comfort of their lives. Just, so among ourselves, wives who are neither
esteemed nor loved by their husbands, have great power over their
conduct by the friction of every day, and over the formation of their
opinions by the daily opportunities so close a relation affords, of
perverting testimony and instilling doubts. But these sentiments should
not come in brief flashes, but burn as a steady flame, then there would
be more women worthy to inspire them. This power is good for nothing,
unless the woman be wise to use it aright. Has the Indian, has the white
woman, as noble a feeling of life and its uses, as religious a
self-respect, as worthy a field of thought and action, as man? If not,
the white woman, the Indian woman, occupies an inferior position to that
of man. It is not so much a question of power, as of privilege.
The men of these subjugated tribes, now accustomed to drunkenness and
every way degraded, bear but a faint impress of the lost grandeur of the
race. They are no longer strong, tall, or finely proportioned. Yet as
you see them stealing along a height, or striding boldly forward, they
remind you of what _was_ majestic in the red man.
On the shores of lake Superior, it is said, if you visit them at
home, you may still see a remnant of the noble blood. The
Pillagers--(Pilleurs)--a band celebrated by the old travellers, are:
still existant there.
"Still some, 'the eagles of their tribe,' may rush."
I have spoken of the hatred felt by the white man for the Indian: with
white women it seems to amount to disgust, to loathing. How I could
endure the dirt, the peculiar smell of the Indians, and their dwellings,
was a great marvel in the eyes of my lady acquaintance; indeed, I wonder
why they did not quite give me up, as they certainly looked on me with
great distaste for it. "Get you gone, you Indian dog," was the felt, if
not the breathed, expression towards the hapless owners of the soil. All
their claims, all their sorrows quite forgot, in abhorrence of their
dirt, their tawny skins, and the vices the whites have taught them.
A person who had seen them during great part of a life, expressed his
prejudices to me with such violence, that I was no longer surprised that
the Indian children threw sticks at him, as he passed. A lady said, "do
what you will for them, they will be ungrateful. The savage cannot be
washed out of them. Bring up an Indian child and see if you can attach
it to you." The next moment, she expressed, in the presence of one of
those children whom she was bringing up, loathing at the odor left by
one of her people, and one of the most respected, as he passed through
the room. When the child is grown she will consider it basely ungrateful
not to love her, as it certainly will not; and this will be cited as an
instance of the impossibility of attaching the Indian.
Whether the Indian could, by any efforts of love and intelligence from
the white man, have been civilized and made a valuable ingredient in the
new state, I will not say; but this we are sure of; the French
Catholics, at least, did not harm them, nor disturb their minds merely
to corrupt them. The French they loved. But the stern Presbyterian, with
his dogmas and his task-work, the city circle and the college, with
their niggard concessions and unfeeling stare, have never tried the
experiment. It has not been tried. Our people and our government have
sinned alike against the first-born of the soil, and if they are the
fated agents of a new era, they have done nothing--have invoked no god
to keep them sinless while they do the hest of fate.
Worst of all, when they invoke the holy power only to mask their
iniquity; when the felon trader, who, all the week, has been besotting
and degrading the Indian with rum mixed with red pepper, and damaged
tobacco, kneels with him on Sunday before a common altar, to tell the
rosary which recalls the thought of him crucified for love of suffering
men, and to listen to sermons in praise of "purity"!!
My savage friends, cries the old fat priest, you must, above all things,
aim at _purity_.
Oh, my heart swelled when I saw them in a Christian church. Better their
own dog-feasts and bloody rites than such mockery of that other faith.
"The dog," said an Indian, "was once a spirit; he has fallen for his
sin, and was given by the Great Spirit, in this shape, to man, as his
most intelligent companion. Therefore we sacrifice it in highest honor
to our friends in this world,--to our protecting geniuses in another."
There was religion in that thought. The white man sacrifices his own
brother, and to Mammon, yet he turns in loathing from the dog-feast.
"You say," said the Indian of the South to the missionary, "that
Christianity is pleasing to God. How can that be?--Those men at Savannah
Yes! slave-drivers and Indian traders are called Christians, and the
Indian is to be deemed less like the Son of Mary than they! Wonderful is
the deceit of man's heart!
I have not, on seeing something of them in their own haunts, found
reason to change the sentiments expressed in the following lines, when a
deputation of the Sacs and Foxes visited Boston in 1837, and were, by
one person at least, received in a dignified and courteous manner.
GOVERNOR EVERETT RECEIVING THE INDIAN CHIEFS,
Who says that Poesy is on the wane,
And that the Muses tune their lyres in vain?
'Mid all the treasures of romantic story,
When thought was fresh and fancy in her glory,
Has ever Art found out a richer theme,
More dark a shadow, or more soft a gleam,
Than fall upon the scene, sketched carelessly,
In the newspaper column of to-day?
American romance is somewhat stale.
Talk of the hatchet, and the faces pale,
Wampum and calumets and forests dreary,
Once so attractive, now begins to weary.
Uncas and Magawisca please us still,
Unreal, yet idealized with skill;
But every poetaster scribbling witling,
From the majestic oak his stylus whittling,
Has helped to tire us, and to make us fear
The monotone in which so much we hear
Of "stoics of the wood," and "men without a tear."
Yet Nature, ever buoyant, ever young,
If let alone, will sing as erst she sung;
The course of circumstance gives back again
The Picturesque, erewhile pursued in vain;
Shows us the fount of Romance is not wasted--
The lights and shades of contrast not exhausted.
Shorn of his strength, the Samson now must sue
For fragments from the feast his fathers gave,
The Indian dare not claim what is his due,
But as a boon his heritage must crave;
His stately form shall soon be seen no more
Through all his father's land, th' Atlantic shore,
Beneath the sun, to _us_ so kind, _they_ melt,
More heavily each day our rule is felt;
The tale is old,--we do as mortals must:
Might makes right here, but God and Time are just.
So near the drama hastens to its close,
On this last scene awhile your eyes repose;
The polished Greek and Scythian meet again,
The ancient life is lived by modern men--
The savage through our busy cities walks,--
He in his untouched grandeur silent stalks.
Unmoved by all our gaieties and shows,
Wonder nor shame can touch him as he goes;
He gazes on the marvels we have wrought,
But knows the models from whence all was brought;
In God's first temples he has stood so oft,
And listened to the natural organ loft--
Has watched the eagle's flight, the muttering thunder heard,
Art cannot move him to a wondering word;
Perhaps he sees that all this luxury
Brings less food to the mind than to the eye;
Perhaps a simple sentiment has brought
More to him than your arts had ever taught.
What are the petty triumphs _Art_ has given,
To eyes familiar with the naked heaven?
All has been seen--dock, railroad, and canal,
Fort, market, bridge, college, and arsenal,
Asylum, hospital, and cotton mill,
The theatre, the lighthouse, and the jail.
The Braves each novelty, reflecting, saw,
And now and then growled out the earnest _yaw_.
And now the time is come, 'tis understood,
When, having seen and thought so much, a _talk_ may do some good.
A well-dressed mob have thronged the sight to greet,
And motley figures throng the spacious street;
Majestical and calm through all they stride,
Wearing the blanket with a monarch's pride;
The gazers stare and shrug, but can't deny
Their noble forms and blameless symmetry.
If the Great Spirit their morale has slighted,
And wigwam smoke their mental culture blighted,
Yet the physique, at least, perfection reaches,
In wilds where neither Combe nor Spursheim teaches;
Where whispering trees invite man to the chase,
And bounding deer allure him to the race.
Would thou hadst seen it! That dark, stately band,
Whose ancestors enjoyed all this fair land,
Whence they, by force or fraud, were made to flee,
Are brought, the white man's victory to see.
Can kind emotions in their proud hearts glow,
As through these realms, now decked by Art, they go?
The church, the school, the railroad and the mart--
Can these a pleasure to their minds impart?
All once was theirs--earth, ocean, forest, sky--
How can they joy in what now meets the eye?
Not yet Religion has unlocked the soul,
Nor Each has learned to glory in the Whole!
Must they not think, so strange and sad their lot,
That they by the Great Spirit are forgot?
From the far border to which they are driven,
They might look up in trust to the clear heaven;
But _here_--what tales doth every object tell
Where Massasoit sleeps--where Philip fell!
We take our turn, and the Philosopher
Sees through the clouds a hand which cannot err,
An unimproving race, with all their graces
And all their vices, must resign their places;
And Human Culture rolls its onward flood
Over the broad plains steeped in Indian blood.
Such thoughts, steady our faith; yet there will rise
Some natural tears into the calmest eyes--
Which gaze where forest princes haughty go,
Made for a gaping crowd a raree show.
But _this_ a scene seems where, in courtesy,
The pale face with the forest prince could vie,
For One presided, who, for tact and grace,
In any age had held an honored place,--
In Beauty's own dear day, had shone a polished Phidian vase!
Oft have I listened to his accents bland,
And owned the magic of his silvery voice,
In all the graces which life's arts demand,
Delighted by the justness of his choice.
Not his the stream of lavish, fervid thought,--
The rhetoric by passion's magic wrought;
Not his the massive style, the lion port,
Which with the granite class of mind assort;
But, in a range of excellence his own,
With all the charms to soft persuasion known,
Amid our busy people we admire him--"elegant and lone."
He scarce needs words, so exquisite the skill
Which modulates the tones to do his will,
That the mere sound enough would charm the ear,
And lap in its Elysium all who hear.
The intellectual paleness of his cheek,
The heavy eyelids and slow, tranquil smile,
The well cut lips from which the graces speak,
Fit him alike to win or to beguile;
Then those words so well chosen, fit, though few,
Their linked sweetness as our thoughts pursue,
We deem them spoken pearls, or radiant diamond dew.
And never yet did I admire the power
Which makes so lustrous every threadbare theme--
Which won for Lafayette one other hour,
And e'en on July Fourth could cast a gleam--
As now, when I behold him play the host,
With all the dignity which red men boast--
With all the courtesy the whites have lost;--
Assume the very hue of savage mind,
Yet in rude accents show the thought refined:--
Assume the naivete of infant age,
And in such prattle seem still more a sage;
The golden mean with tact unerring seized,
A courtly critic shone, a simple savage pleased;
The stoic of the woods his skill confessed,
As all the Father answered in his breast,
To the sure mark the silver arrow sped,
The man without a tear a tear has shed;
And thou hadst wept, hadst thou been there, to see
How true one sentiment must ever be,
In court or camp, the city or the wild,
To rouse the Father's heart, you need but name his Child.
'Twas a fair scene--and acted well by all;
So here's a health to Indian braves so tall--
Our Governor and Boston people all!
I will copy the admirable speech of Governor Everett on that occasion,
as I think it the happiest attempt ever made to meet the Indian in his
own way, and catch the tone of his mind. It was said, in the
newspapers, that Keokuck did actually shed tears when addressed as a
father. If he did not with his eyes, he well might in his heart.
Chiefs and warriors of the Sauks and Foxes, you are welcome to our hall
Brothers! you have come a long way from home to visit your white
brethren; we rejoice to take you by the hand.
Brothers! we have heard the names of your chiefs and warriors; our
brothers, who have travelled into the West, have told us a great deal of
the Sauks and Foxes; we rejoice to see you with our own eyes, and take
you by the hand.
Brothers! we are called the Massachusetts. This is the name of the red
men that once lived here. Their wigwams filled yonder field; their
council fire was kindled on this spot. They were of the same great race
as the Sauks and Misquakuiks.
Brothers! when our fathers came over the great waters, they were a small
band. The red man stood upon the rock by the seaside, and saw our
fathers. He might have pushed them into the water and drowned them. But
he stretched out his arm to our fathers and said, "Welcome, white men!"
Our fathers were hungry, and the red men gave them corn and venison. Our
fathers were cold, and the red man wrapped them up in his blanket. We
are now numerous and powerful, but we remember the kindness of the red
man to our fathers. Brothers, you are welcome; we are glad to see you.
Brothers! our faces are pale, and your faces are dark; but our hearts
are alike. The Great Spirit has made his children of different colors,
but he loves them all.
Brothers! you dwell between the Mississippi and the Missouri. They are
mighty rivers. They have one branch far East in the Alleghanies, and the
other far West in the Rocky Mountains; but they flow together at last
into one great stream, and run down together into the sea. In like
manner, the red man dwells in the West, and the white man in the East,
by the great waters; but they are all one branch, one family; it has
many branches and one head.
Brothers! as you entered our council house, you beheld the image of our
great Father Washington. It is a cold stone--it cannot speak. But he was
the friend of the red man, and bad his children live in peace with their
red brethren. He is gone to the world of spirits. But his words have
made a very deep print in our hearts, like the step of a strong buffalo
on the soft clay of the prairie.
Brother! I perceive your little son between your knees. God preserve his
life, my brother. He grows up before you like the tender sapling by the
side of the mighty oak. May the oak and the sapling flourish a long time
together. And when the mighty oak is fallen to the ground, may the young
tree fill its place in the forest, and spread out its branches over the
tribe like the parent trunk.
Brothers! I make you a short talk, and again bid you welcome to our
Not often have they been addressed with such intelligence and tact. The
few who have not approached them with sordid rapacity, but from love to
them, as men, and souls to be redeemed, have most frequently been
persons intellectually too narrow, too straightly bound in sects or
opinions, to throw themselves into the character or position of the
Indians, or impart to them anything they can make available. The Christ
shown them by these missionaries, is to them but a new and more powerful
Manito; the signs of the new religion, but the fetiches that have aided
Here I will copy some remarks made by a discerning observer, on the
methods used by the missionaries, and their natural results.
"Mr. ---- and myself had a very interesting conversation, upon the
subject of the Indians, their character, capabilities, &c. After ten
years' experience among them, he was forced to acknowledge, that the
results of the missionary efforts had produced nothing calculated to
encourage. He thought that there was an intrinsic disability in them, to
rise above, or go beyond the sphere in which they had so long moved. He
said, that even those Indians who had been converted, and who had
adopted the habits of civilization, were very little improved in their
real character; they were as selfish, as deceitful, and as indolent, as
those who were still heathens. They had repaid the kindnesses of the
missionaries with the basest ingratitude, killing their cattle and
swine, and robbing them of their harvests, which they wantonly
destroyed. He had abandoned the idea of effecting any general good to
the Indians. He had conscientious scruples, as to promoting an
enterprise so hopeless, as that of missions among the Indians, by
sending accounts to the east, that might induce philanthropic
individuals to contribute to their support. In fact, the whole
experience of his intercourse with them, seemed to have convinced him of
the irremediable degradation of the race. Their fortitude under
suffering, he considered the result of physical and mental
insensibility; their courage, a mere animal excitement, which they found
it necessary to inflame, before daring to meet a foe. They have no
constancy of purpose; and are, in fact, but little superior to the
brutes, in point of moral development. It is not astonishing, that one
looking upon the Indian character, from Mr. ----'s point of view, should
entertain such sentiments. The object of his intercourse with them was,
to make them apprehend the mysteries of a theology, which, to the most
enlightened, is an abstruse, metaphysical study; and it is not singular
they should prefer their pagan superstitions, which address themselves
more directly to the senses. Failing in the attempt to christianize,
before civilizing them, he inferred, that, in the intrinsic degradation
of their faculties, the obstacle was to be found."
Thus the missionary vainly attempts, by once or twice holding up the
cross, to turn deer and tigers into lambs; vainly attempts to convince
the red man that a heavenly mandate takes from him his broad lands. He
bows his head, but does not at heart acquiesce. He cannot. It is not
true; and if it were, the descent of blood through the same channels,
for centuries, had formed habits of thought not so easily to be
Amalgamation would afford the only true and profound means of
civilization. But nature seems, like all else, to declare, that this
race is fated to perish. Those of mixed blood fade early, and are not
generally a fine race. They lose what is best in either type, rather
than enhance the value of each, by mingling. There are exceptions, one
or two such I know of, but this, it is said, is the general rule.
A traveller observes, that the white settlers, who live in the woods,
soon become sallow, lanky, and dejected; the atmosphere of the trees
does not agree with Caucasian lungs; and it is, perhaps, in part, an
instinct of this, which causes the hatred of the new settlers towards
trees. The Indian breathed the atmosphere of the forests freely; he
loved their shade. As they are effaced from the land, he fleets too; a
part of the same manifestation, which cannot linger behind its proper
The Chippewas have lately petitioned the state of Michigan, that they
may be admitted as citizens; but this would be vain, unless they could
be admitted, as brothers, to the heart of the white man. And while the
latter feels that conviction of superiority, which enabled our Wisconsin
friend to throw away the gun, and send the Indian to fetch it, he had
need to be very good, and very wise, not to abuse his position. But the
white man, as yet, is a half-tamed pirate, and avails himself, as much
as ever, of the maxim, "Might makes right." All that civilization does
for the generality, is to cover up this with a veil of subtle evasions
and chicane, and here and there to rouse the individual mind to appeal
to heaven against it.
I have no hope of liberalizing the missionary, of humanizing the sharks
of trade, of infusing the conscientious drop into the flinty bosom of
policy, of saving the Indian from immediate degradation, and speedy
death. The, whole sermon may be preached from the text, "Needs be that
offences must come, yet we them by whom they come." Yet, ere they
depart, I wish there might be some masterly attempt to reproduce, in art
or literature, what is proper to them, a kind of beauty and grandeur,
which few of the every-day crowd have hearts to feel, yet which ought to
leave in the world its monuments, to inspire the thought of genius
through all ages. Nothing in this kind has been done masterly; since it
was Clevengers's ambition, 'tis pity he had not opportunity to try fully
his powers. We hope some other mind may be bent upon it, ere too late.
At present the only lively impress of their passage through the world is
to be found in such books as Catlin's and some stories told by the old
travellers, of which I purpose a brief account.
First, let me give another brief tale of the power exerted by the white
man over the savage in a trying case, but, in this case, it was
righteous, was moral power.
"We were looking over McKenney's trip to the Lakes, and, on observing
the picture of Key-way-no-wut, or the Going Cloud, Mr. B. observed "Ah,
that is the fellow I came near having a fight with," and he detailed at
length the circumstances. This Indian was a very desperate character,
and whom all the Leech lake band stood in fear of. He would shoot down
any Indian who offended him, without the least hesitation, and had
become quite the bully of that part of the tribe. The trader at Leech
lake warned Mr. B. to beware of him, and said that he once, when he (the
trader) refused to give up to him his stock of wild rice, went and got
his gun and tomahawk, and shook the tomahawk over his head, saying
"_Now_, give me your wild rice." The trader complied with his exaction,
but not so did Mr. B. in the adventure which I am about to relate.
Key-way-no-wut came frequently to him with furs, wishing him to give for
them cotton cloth, sugar, flour, &c. Mr. B. explained to him that he
could not trade for furs, as he was sent there as a teacher, and that it
would be like putting his hand into the fire to do so, as the traders
would inform against him, and he would be sent out of the country. At
the same time, he _gave_ him the articles which he wished.
Key-way-no-wut found this a very convenient way of getting what he
wanted, and followed up this sort of game, until, at last, it became
insupportable. One day the Indian brought a very large otter skin, and
said "I want to get for this ten pounds of sugar, and some flour and
cloth," adding, "I am not like other Indians, _I_ want to pay for what I
get. Mr. B. found that he must either be robbed of all he had by
submitting to these exactions, or take a stand at once. He thought,
however, he would try to avoid a scrape, and told his customer he had
not so much sugar to spare. "Give me then," said he, "what you can
spare," and Mr. B. thinking to make him back out, told him he would give
him five pounds of sugar for his skin. "Take it," said the Indian. He
left the skin, telling Mr. B. to take good care of it. Mr. B. took it at
once to the trader's store, and related the circumstance, congratulating
himself that he had got rid of the Indian's exactions. But, in about a
month, Key-way-no-wut appeared bringing some dirty Indian sugar, and
said "I have brought back the sugar that I borrowed of you, and I want
my otter skin back." Mr. B. told him, "I _bought_ an otter skin of you,
but if you will return the other articles you have got for it, perhaps I
can get it for you." "Where is the skin?" said he very quickly, "what
have you done with it?" Mr. B. replied it was in the trader's store,
where he (the Indian) could not get it. At this information he was
furious, laid his hands on his knife and tomahawk, and commanded Mr. B.
to bring it at once. Mr. B. found this was the crisis, where he must
take a stand or be "rode over rough shod" by this man; his wife, who was
present was much alarmed, and begged he would get the skin for the
Indian, but he told her that "either he or the Indian would soon be
master of his house, and if she was afraid to see it decided which was
to be so, she had better retire." He turned to Key-way-no-wut, and
addressed him in a stern voice as follows: "I will _not_ give you the
skin. How often have you come to my house, and I have shared with you
what I had. I gave you tobacco when you were well, and medicine when you
were sick, and you never went away from my wigwam with your hands
empty. And this is the way you return my treatment to you. I had thought
you were a man and a chief, but you are not, you are nothing but an old
woman. Leave this house, and never enter it again." Mr. B. said he
expected the Indian would attempt his life when he said this, but that
he had placed himself in a position so that he could defend himself, and
he looked straight into the Indian's eye, and like other wild beasts he
quailed before the glance of mental and moral courage. He calmed down at
once, and soon began to make apologies. Mr. B. then told him kindly, but
firmly, that, if he wished to walk in the same path with him, he must
walk as straight as the crack on the floor before them; adding that he
would not walk with anybody who would jostle him by walking so crooked
as he had done. He was perfectly tamed, and Mr. B. said he never had any
more trouble with him."
The conviction here livingly enforced of the superiority on the side of
the white man, was thus expressed by the Indian orator at Mackinaw while
we were there. After the customary compliments about sun, dew, &c.,
"This," said he, "is the difference between the white and the red man;
the white man looks to the future and paves the way for posterity." This
is a statement uncommonly refined for an Indian; but one of the
gentlemen present, who understood the Chippeway, vouched for it as a
literal rendering of his phrases; and he did indeed touch the vital
point of difference. But the Indian, if he understands, cannot make use
of his intelligence. The fate of his people is against it, and Pontiac
and Philip have no more chance, than Julian in the times of old.
Now that I am engaged on this subject, let me give some notices of
writings upon it, read either at Mackinaw or since my return.
Mrs. Jameson made such good use of her brief visit to these regions, as
leaves great cause to regret she did not stay longer and go farther;
also, that she did not make more use of her acquaintance with, indeed,
adoption by, the Johnson family. Mr. Johnson seems to have been almost
the only white man who knew how to regard with due intelligence and
nobleness, his connexion with the race. Neither French or English, of
any powers of sympathy, or poetical apprehension, have lived among the
Indians without high feelings of enjoyment. Perhaps no luxury has been
greater, than that experienced by the persons, who, sent either by trade
or war, during the last century, into these majestic regions, found
guides and shelter amid the children of the soil, and recognized in a
form so new and of such varied, yet simple, charms, the tie of
But these, even Sir William Johnston, whose life, surrounded by the
Indians in his castle on the Mohawk, is described with such vivacity by
Mrs. Grant, have been men better fitted to enjoy and adapt themselves to
this life, than to observe and record it. The very faculties that made
it so easy for them to live in the present moment, were likely to unfit
them for keeping its chronicle. Men, whose life is full and instinctive,
care little for the pen. But the father of Mrs. Schoolcraft seems to
have taken pleasure in observation and comparison, and to have imparted
the same tastes to his children. They have enough of European culture to
have a standard, by which to judge their native habits and inherited
By the premature death of Mrs. Schoolcraft was lost a mine of poesy, to
which few had access, and from which Mrs. Jameson would have known how
to coin a series of medals for the history of this ancient people. We
might have known in clear outline, as now we shall not, the growths of
religion and philosophy, under the influences of this climate and
scenery, from such suggestions as nature and the teachings of the inward
Now we can only gather that they had their own theory of the history of
this globe; had perceived a gap in its genesis, and tried to fill it up
by the intervention of some secondary power, with moral sympathies. They
have observed the action of fire and water upon this earth; also that
the dynasty of animals has yielded to that of man. With these animals
they have profound sympathy, and are always trying to restore to them
their lost honors. On the rattlesnake, the beaver, and the bear, they
seem to look with a mixture of sympathy and veneration, as on their
fellow settlers in these realms. There is something that appeals
powerfully to the imagination in the ceremonies they observe, even in
case of destroying one of these animals. I will say more of this
The dog they cherish as having been once a spirit of high intelligence;
and now in its fallen, and imprisoned state, given to man as his
special companion. He is therefore to them a sacrifice of peculiar
worth: whether to a guardian spirit or a human friend. Yet nothing would
be a greater violation than giving the remains of a sacrificial feast to
the dogs, or even suffering them to touch the bones.
Similar inconsistences may be observed in the treatment of the dog by
the white man. He is the most cherished companion in the familiar walks
of many men; his virtues form the theme of poetry and history; the
nobler races present grand traits, and are treated with proportionate
respect. Yet the epithets dog and hound, are there set apart to express
the uttermost contempt.
Goethe, who abhorred dogs, has selected that animal for the embodiment
of the modern devil, who, in earlier times, chose rather the form of the
There is, indeed, something that peculiarly breaks in on the harmony of
nature, in the bark of the dog, and that does not at all correspond with
the softness and sagacity observable in his eye. The baying the moon, I
have been inclined to set down as an unfavorable indication; but, since
Fourier has found out that the moon is dead, and "no better than
carrion;" and the Greeks have designated her as Hecate, the deity of
suicide and witchcraft, the dogs are perhaps in the right.
They have among them the legend of the carbuncle, so famous in oriental
mythos. Adair states that they believe this fabulous gem may be found on
the spot where the rattlesnake has been destroyed.
If they have not the archetypal man, they have the archetypal animal,
"the grandfather of all beavers;" to them, who do not know the elephant,
this is the symbol of wisdom, as the rattlesnake and bear of power.
I will insert here a little tale about the bear, which has not before
appeared in print, as representing their human way of looking on these
animals, even when engaged in their pursuit. To me such stories give a
fine sense of the lively perceptions and exercise of fancy, enjoyed by
them in their lives of woodcraft:
MUCKWA, OR THE BEAR.
A young Indian, who lived a great while ago, when he was quite young
killed a bear; and the tribe from that circumstance called him Muckwa.
As he grew up he became an expert hunter, and his favorite game was the
bear, many of which he killed. One day he started off to a river far
remote from the lodges of his tribe, and where berries and grapes were
very plenty, in pursuit of bears. He hunted all day but found nothing;
and just at night he came to some lodges which he thought to be those of
some of his tribe. He approached the largest of them, lifted the curtain
at its entrance, and went in, when he perceived the inmates to be bears,
who were seated around the fire smoking. He said nothing, but seated
himself also and smoked the pipe which they offered him, in silence. An
old grey bear, who was the chief, ordered supper to be brought for him,
and after he had eaten it, addressed him as follows: "My son, I am glad
to see you come among us in a friendly manner. You have been a great
hunter, and all the she-bears of our tribe tremble when they hear your
name. But cease to trouble us, and come and live with me; we have a very
pleasant life, living upon the fruits of the earth; and in the winter,
instead of being obliged to hunt and travel through the deep snow, we
sleep soundly until the sun unchains the streams, and makes the tender
buds put forth for our subsistence. I will give you my daughter for a
wife, and we will live happily together." Muckwa was inclined to accept
the old bear's offer; but when he saw the daughter, who came and took
off his wet moccasons, and gave him dry ones, he thought that he had
never seen any Indian woman so beautiful. He accepted the offer of the
chief of the bears, and lived with his wife very happily for some time.
He had by her two sons, one of whom was like an Indian, and the other
like a bear. When the bear-child was oppressed with heat, his mother
would take him into the deep cool caves, while the Indian-child would
shiver with cold, and cry after her in vain. As the autumn advanced, the
bears began to go out in search of acorns, and then the she-bear said to
Muckwa, "Stay at home here and watch our house, while I go to gather
some nuts." She departed and was gone for some days with her people.
By-and-by Muckwa became tired of staying at home, and thought that he
would go off to a distance and resume his favorite bear-hunting. He
accordingly started off, and at last came to a grove of lofty oaks,
which were full of large acorns. He found signs of bear, and soon espied
a fat she-bear on the top of a tree. He shot at her with a good aim, and
she fell, pierced by his unerring arrow. He went up to her, and found
it was his sister-in-law, who reproached him with his cruelty, and told
him to return to his own people. Muckwa returned quietly home, and
pretended not to have left his lodge. However, the old chief understood,
and was disposed to kill him in revenge; but his wife found means to
avert her father's anger. The winter season now coming on, Muckwa
prepared to accompany his wife into winter quarters; they selected a
large tamarack tree, which was hollow, and lived there comfortably until
a party of hunters discovered their retreat. The she-bear told Muckwa to
remain quietly in the tree, and that she would decoy off the hunters.
She came out of the hollow, jumped from a bough of the tree, and escaped
unharmed, although the hunters shot after her. Some time after, she
returned to the tree, and told Muckwa that he had better go back to his
own people. "Since you have lived among us," said she, "we have nothing
but ill-fortune; you have killed my sister; and now your friends have
followed your footsteps to our retreats to kill us. The Indian and the
bear cannot live in the same lodge, for the Master of Life has appointed
for them different habitations." So Muckwa returned with his son to his
own people; but he never after would shoot a she-bear, for fear that he
should kill his wife."
I admire this story for the _savoir faire_, the nonchalance, the Vivian
Greyism of Indian life. It is also a poetical expression of the sorrows
of unequal relations; those in which the Master of Life was not
consulted. Is it not pathetic; the picture of the mother carrying off
the child that was like herself into the deep, cool caves, while the
other, shivering with cold, cried after her in vain? The moral, too, of
Muckwa's return to the bear lodges, thinking to hide his sin by silence,
while it was at once discerned by those connected with him, is fine.
We have a nursery tale, of which children never weary, of a little boy
visiting a bear house and holding intercourse with them on terms as free
as Muckwa did. So, perhaps, the child of Norman-Saxon blood, no less
than the Indian, finds some pulse of the Orson in his veins.
As they loved to draw the lower forms of nature up to them, divining
their histories, and imitating their ways, in their wild dances and
paintings; even so did they love to look upward and people the
atmosphere that enfolds the earth, with fairies and manitoes. The
sister, obliged to leave her brother on the earth, bids him look up at
evening, and he will see her painting her face in the west.
All places, distinguished in any way by nature, aroused the feelings of
worship, which, however ignorant, are always elevating. See as instances
in this kind, the stories of Nanabojou, and the Winnebago Prince, at the
falls of St. Anthony.
As with the Greeks, beautiful legends grow up which express the aspects
of various localities. From the distant sand-banks in the lakes,
glittering in the sun, come stories of enchantresses combing, on the
shore, the long golden hair of a beautiful daughter. The Lorelei of the
Rhine, with her syren song, and the sad events that follow, is found on
the lonely rocks of Lake Superior.
The story to which I now refer, may be found in a book called Life on
the Lakes, or, a Trip to the Pictured Rocks. There are two which purport
to be Indian tales; one is simply a romantic narrative, connected with a
spot at Mackinaw, called Robinson's Folly. This, no less than the other,
was unknown to those persons I saw on the island; but as they seem
entirely beyond the powers of the person who writes them down, and the
other one has the profound and original meaning of Greek tragedy, I
believe they must be genuine legends.
The one I admire is the story of a young warrior, who goes to keep, on
these lonely rocks, the fast which is to secure him vision of his
tutelary spirit. There the loneliness is broken by the voice of sweet
music from the water. The Indian knows well that to break the fast,
which is the crisis of his life, by turning his attention from seeking
the Great Spirit, to any lower object, will deprive him through life of
heavenly protection, probably call down the severest punishment.
But the temptation is too strong for him; like the victims of the
Lorelei, he looks, like them beholds a maiden of unearthly beauty, to
him the harbinger of earthly wo.
The development of his fate, that succeeds; of love, of heart-break, of
terrible revenge, which back upon itself recoils, may vie with anything
I have ever known of stern tragedy, is altogether unlike any other form,
and with all the peculiar expression we see lurking in the Indian eye.
The demon is not frightful and fantastic, like those that haunt the
German forest; but terribly human, as if of full manhood, reared in the
shadow of the black forests. An Indian sarcasm vibrates through it,
which, with Indian fortitude, defies the inevitable torture.
The Indian is steady to that simple creed, which forms the basis of all
this mythology; that there is a God, and a life beyond this; a right and
wrong which each man can see, betwixt which each man should choose; that
good brings with it its reward and vice its punishment. Their moral
code, if not refined as that of civilized nations, is clear and noble in
the stress laid upon truth and fidelity. And all unprejudiced observers
bear testimony that the Indians, until broken from their old anchorage
by intercourse with the whites, who offer them, instead, a religion of
which they furnish neither interpretation nor example, were singularly
virtuous, if virtue be allowed to consist in a man's acting up to his
own ideas of right.
Old Adair, who lived forty years among the Indians; not these tribes,
indeed, but the southern Indians; does great justice to their religious
aspiration. He is persuaded that they are Jews, and his main object is
to identify their manifold ritual, and customs connected with it, with
that of the Jews. His narrative contains much that is worthless, and is
written in the most tedious manner of the folios. But his devotion to
the records of ancient Jewry, has really given him power to discern
congenial traits elsewhere, and for the sake of what he has expressed of
the noble side of Indian character, we pardon him our having to wade
through so many imbecilities.
An infidel; he says, is, in their language, "one who has shaken hands
with the accursed speech;" a religious man, "one who has shaken hands
with the beloved speech." If this be a correct definition, we could wish
Adair more religious.
He gives a fine account of their methods of purification. These show a
deep reliance on the sustaining Spirit. By fasting and prayer they make
ready for all important decisions and actions. Even for the war path, on
which he is likely to endure such privations, the brave prepares by a
solemn fast. His reliance is on the spirit in which he goes forth.
We may contrast with the opinion of the missionary, as given on a former
page, the testimony of one, who knew them as Adair did, to their heroism
He gives several stories, illustrative both of their courage, fortitude,
and resource in time of peril, of which I will cite only the two first.
"The Shawano Indians took a Muskohge warrior, known by the name of "Old
Scrany;" they bastinadoed him in the usual manner, and condemned him to
the fiery torture. He underwent a great deal, without showing any
concern; his countenance and behavior were as if he suffered not the
least pain, and was formed beyond the common laws of nature. He told
them, with a bold voice, that he was a very noted warrior, and gained
most of his martial preferments at the expense of their nation, and was
desirous of showing them in the act of dying that he was still as much
their superior, as when he headed his gallant countrymen against them.
That, although he had fallen into their hands, in forfeiting the
protection of the divine power, by some impurity or other, yet he had
still so much virtue remaining, as would enable him to punish himself
more exquisitely than all their despicable, ignorant crowd could
possibly do, if they gave him liberty by untying him, and would hand to
him one of the red hot gun-barrels out of the fire. The proposal, and
his method of address, appeared so exceedingly bold and uncommon, that
his request was granted. Then he suddenly seized one end of the red hot
barrel, and, brandishing it from side to side, he found his way through
the armed and surprised multitude, and leaped down a prodigious steep
and high bank into a branch of the river, dived through it, ran over a
small island, passed the other branch amidst a shower of bullets, and,
though numbers of his eager enemies were in close pursuit of him, he got
to a bramble swamp, and in that naked, mangled condition, reached his
own country. He proved a sharp thorn in their side afterwards, to the
day of his death.
The Shawano also captivated a warrior of the Anantooiah, and put him to
the stake, according to their usual cruel solemnities. Having
unconcernedly suffered much sharp torture, he told them with scorn, they
did not know how to punish a noted enemy, therefore he was willing to
teach them, and would confirm the truth of his assertion, if they
allowed him the opportunity. Accordingly he requested of them a pipe and
some tobacco, which was given him; as soon as he lighted it, he sat
down, naked as he was, on the women's burning torches, that were within
his circle, and continued smoking his pipe without the least
discomposure. On this a head warrior leaped up, and said they had seen,
plain enough, that he was a warrior, and not afraid of dying; nor should
he have died, but that he was both spoiled by the fire, and devoted to
it by their laws; however, though he was a very dangerous enemy, and his
nation a treacherous people, it should appear they paid a regard to
bravery, even in one, who was marked over the body with war streaks at
the cost of many lives of their beloved kindred. And then, by way of
favor, he, with his friendly tomahawk, put an end to all his pains:
though this merciful but bloody instrument was ready some minutes before
it gave the blow, yet, I was assured, the spectators could not perceive
the sufferer to change, either his posture, or his steady, erect
countenance in the least."
Some stories as fine, but longer, follow. In reference to which Adair
says, "The intrepid behavior of these red stoics, their surprising
contempt of and indifference to life or death, instead of lessening,
helps to confirm our belief of that supernatural power, which supported
the great number of primitive martyrs, who sealed the Christian faith
with their blood. The Indians have as much belief and expectation of a
future state, as the greater part of the Israelites seem to have. But
the Christians of the first centuries, may justly be said to exceed even
the most heroic American Indians, for they bore the bitterest
persecution with steady patience, in imitation of their divine leader
Messiah, in full confidence of divine support and of a glorious
recompense of reward; and, instead of even wishing for revenge on their
cruel enemies and malicious tormentors, (which is the chief principle
that actuates the Indians,) they not only forgave them, but, in the
midst of their tortures, earnestly prayed for them, with composed
countenances, sincere love, and unabated fervor. And not only men of
different conditions, but the delicate women and children suffered with
constancy, and died praying for their tormentors: the Indian women and
children, and their young men untrained to war, are incapable of
displaying the like patience and magnanimity."
Thus impartially looks the old trader. I meant to have inserted other
passages, that of the encampment at Yowanne, and the horse race to which
he challenged them, to show how well he could convey in his garrulous
fashion the whole presence of Indian life. That of Yowanne, especially,
takes my fancy much, by its wild and subtle air, and the old-nurse
fashion in which every look and gesture is detailed. His enjoyment, too,
at outwitting the Indians in their own fashion is contagious. There is a
fine history of a young man driven by a presentiment to run upon his
death. But I find, to copy these stories, as they stand, would half fill
this little book, and compression would spoil them, so I must wait some
The story, later, of giving an Indian liquid fire to swallow, I give at
full length, to show how a kind-hearted man and one well disposed
towards them, can treat them, and view his barbarity as a joke. It is
not then so much wonder, if the trader, with this same feeling that they
may be treated, (as however brutes should not be,) brutally, mixes red
pepper and damaged tobacco with the rum, intending in their fever to
fleece them of all they possess.
Like Murray and Henry, he has his great Indian chief, who represents
what the people should be, as Pericles and Phocion what the Greek people
should be. If we are entitled to judge by its best fruits of the
goodness of the tree, Adair's Red Shoes, and Henry's Wawatam, should
make us respect the first possessors of our country, and doubt whether
we are in all ways worthy to fill their place. Of the whole tone of
character, judgment may be formed by what is said of the death of Red
"This chief, by his several transcendent qualities had arrived at the
highest pitch of the red glory....
He was murdered, for the sake of a French reward by one of his own
countrymen. He had the misfortune to be taken very sick on the road, and
to lodge apart from the camp, according to their custom. A Judas,
tempted by the high reward of the French for killing him, officiously
pretended to take great care of him. While Red Shoes kept his face
toward him, the barbarian had such feelings of awe and pity that he had
not power to perpetrate his wicked design; but when he turned his back,
then gave the fatal shot. In this manner fell this valuable brave man,
by hands that would have trembled to attack him on an equality."
Adair, with all his sympathy for the Indian, mixes quite unconsciously
some white man's views of the most decided sort. For instance, he
recommends that the tribes be stimulated as much as possible to war
with each other, that they may the more easily and completely be kept
under the dominion of the whites, and he gives the following record of
brutality as quite a jocose and adroit procedure.
"I told him; on his importuning me further, that I had a full bottle of
the water of _ane hoome_, "bitter ears," meaning long pepper, of which
he was ignorant. We were of opinion that his eager thirst for liquor, as
well as his ignorance of the burning quality of the pepper, would induce
the bacchanal to try it. He accordingly applauded my generous
disposition, and said his heart had all along told him I would not act
beneath the character I bore among his country people. The bottle was
brought, I laid it on the table, and then told him, as he was spitting
very much, (a general custom among the Indians when they are eager for
anything,) if I drank it all at one sitting it would cause me to spit in
earnest, as I used it only when I ate, and then very moderately; but
though I loved it, if his heart was very poor for it, I should be
silent, and not the least grudge him for pleasing his mouth. He said,
'your heart is honest, indeed; I thank you, for it is good to my heart,
and makes it greatly to rejoice.' Without any further ceremony he seized
the bottle, uncorked it, and swallowed a large quantity of the burning
liquid, till he was nearly strangled. He gasped for a considerable time,
and as soon as he recovered his breath, he said _Hah_, and soon after
kept stroking his throat with his right hand. When the violence of this
burning draught was pretty well over, he began to flourish away in
praise of the strength of the liquor and bounty of the giver. He then
went to his companion and held the liquor to his mouth according to
custom, till he took several hearty swallows. This Indian seemed rather
more sensible of its fiery quality than the other, for it suffocated him
for a considerable time; but as soon as he recovered his breath, he
tumbled about the floor like a drunken person. In this manner they
finished the whole bottle, into which two others had been decanted. The
burning liquor so highly inflamed their bodies, that one of the
Choctaws, to cool his inward parts, drank water till he almost burst;
the other, rather than bear the ridicule of the people, and the inward
fire that distracted him, drowned himself the second night after in a
broad and shallow clay hole....
There was an incident similar, which happened among the Cherokees. When
all the liquor was expended the Indians went home, leading with them, at
my request, those that were drunk. One, however, soon came back, and
earnestly importuned me for more Nawahti, which signifies both physic
and spirituous liquor. They, as they are now become great liars, suspect
all others of being infected with their own disposition and principles.
The more I excused myself, the more anxious he grew, so as to become
offensive. I then told him I had only one quarter of a bottle of strong
physic, which sick people might drink in small quantities, for the cure
of inward pains: and, laying it down before him, I declared I did not on
any account choose to part with it, but as his speech had become very
long and troublesome, he might do just as his heart directed him
concerning it. He took it up, saying, his heart was very poor for
physic, but he would cure it, and make it quite straight. The bottle
contained three gills of strong spirits of turpentine, which, in a short
time he drank off. Such a quantity would have demolished me or any white
person. The Indians, in general, are either capable of suffering
exquisite pain longer than we are, or of showing more constancy and
composure in their torments. The troublesome visiter soon tumbled down
and foamed prodigiously. I then sent for some of his relations to carry
him home. They came; I told them he drank greedily, and too much of the
physic. They said, it was his usual custom, when the red people bought
the English physic. They gave him a decoction of proper herbs and roots,
the next day sweated him, repeated the former draught, and he got well.
As these turpentine spirits did not inebriate him, but only inflamed his
intestines, he well remembered the burning quality of my favorite
physic, and cautioned the rest from ever teasing me for any physic I had
concealed in any sort of bottles for my own use; otherwise they might be
sure it would spoil them like the eating of fire."
We are pleased to note that the same white man, who so resolutely
resisted the encroachments of Key-way-no-wut, devised a more humane
expedient in a similar dilemma.
"Mr. B. told me that, when he first went into the Indian country, they
got the taste of his peppermint, and, after that, colics prevailed among
them to an alarming extent, till Mrs. B. made a strong decoction of
flagroot, and gave them in place of their favorite medicine. This
effected, as might be supposed, a radical cure."
I am inclined to recommend Adair to the patient reader, if such may be
found in these United States, with the assurance that, if he will have
tolerance for its intolerable prolixity and dryness, he will find, on
rising from the book, that he has partaken of an infusion of real Indian
bitters, such as may not be drawn from any of the more attractive
memoirs on the same subject.
Another book of interest, from its fidelity and candid spirit, though
written without vivacity, and by a person neither of large mind nor
prepared for various inquiry, is Carver's Travels, "for three years
throughout the interior parts of America, for more than five thousand
He set out from Boston in "June, 1786, and proceeded, by way of Albany