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noticed. Among other suggestions, Dr. Morse recommended the formation of a society on a very extended scale --- a plan which appears to have been since adopted under the name of the “ American Society for promoting the Civilization and general Improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States.”
RITE OF BAPTISM PROMISCUOUSLY ADMINISTERED TO
THE INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA BY THE EARLY FRENCH MISSIONARIES - QUESTION RESPECTING IT SUBMITTED TO THE DOCTORS OF THE SORBONNE
SENTIMENTS OF NATURAL RELIGION ENTER
THEIR CONVERSION, ARISING FROM THE RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES AND DISPUTES AMONG THE
In remarking upon the labours of the early Jesuit missionaries in the interior of North America, Charlevoix observes: “ The fruits which they gathered in the first season were inconsiderable five or six baptisms of grown persons - but they consoled themselves with the happiness of having secured the eternal salvation of a great many children, who received the rites of baptism immediately before their death.” * The accounts from the early Recollet missions are similar. Père le Caron, of that order, states, in 1624, “ We continue to send to heaven a great number of infants, and some dying adults whose hearts God seems to touch at their end, and whom we baptize without
* Charlevoix, Hist. de la Nouvelle France, liv. 5.
difficulty: but as to the others, there is little suc
This sacrament, however, was afterwards frequently extended to the savages, of all ages and descriptions; the Roman Catholic missionaries appearing to have been more anxious about the number than the selection of those whom they baptized. What Dr. Robertson, in his History of America, remarks on the subject of baptizing the Indians of Mexico, applies, in a considerable degree, to the more northern countries of that continent : “ In the course of a few years after the reduction of the Mexican empire, the sacrament of baptism was administered to more than four millions. Proselytes, adopted with such inconsiderate haste, and who were neither instructed in the nature of the tenets to which it was supposed they had given their assent, nor taught the absurdities of those which they were required to relinquish, retained their veneration for their ancient superstitions in full force, or mingled an attachment to its doctrines and rites with that slender knowledge of Christianity which they had acquired." +
Père Dablon, in one of the annual Reports transmitted by the Jesuit missions in Canada, observes, “ Thus we may say that the torch of the faith now lights up the four quarters of this New
* Premier Etablissement de la Foy dans la Nouvelle France, vol. i. chap. 8. Paris, 1691.
+ Robertson's Hist. of America, book 8.
World; upwards of seven hundred barbarians have this year consecrated our forests ; more than twenty missions constantly occupy the fathers of our church, among at least twenty different nations ; and the chapels, erected in the most distant regions, are almost every where filled with these poor barbarians; in some of which they have ten, twenty, and thirty baptisms in a day.”
It would appear that the Jesuits and the Recollets did not agree upon the propriety of these numerous baptisms. While the former set almost no limits to the administration of this sacrament, the latter entertained great doubts respecting it, conceiving that it ought not to have been so generally and promiscuously extended to the savages.
Hennepin, the Recollet, in describing the Illinois Indians, among whom he had resided, observes, “ They will readily suffer us to baptize their children, and would not refuse it themselves; but are incapable of any previous instruction concerning the truth of the Gospel, and the efficacy of the sacraments. Were I to have followed the example of some other missionaries, I could have boasted of many conversions ; for I might have easily baptized all these tribes, and have said, as I fear they do without any reason, that I had converted them.” +
• Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1670-71.
The Recollet Le Clercq mentions that they deputed one of their order to go from Canada to France, for the purpose of consulting the doctors of the university of Paris upon this subject. such,” says he, “is the disposition of these Indian nations, that they profess no religion, and appear incapable of that ordinary degree of reflection which would lead other men to the knowledge of a Divinity, either true or false. These poor blind creatures listen to what we say of our sacred mysteries as they would to idle tales : they comprehend or assent to nothing that is not palpable or obvious to the senses. Their superstitions are unmeaning, their customs are savage, barbarous, and brutal; and they would consent to be baptized ten times a day, for a glass of brandy or a pipe of tobacco. They willingly offer us their children to be baptized, but not from the slightest sentiment of religion ; ; and even those who have been instructed during the whole winter, do not evince any better knowledge of the faith. The few adults who had been baptized, even after they had received instruction, again relapsed into their usual indifference to every thing that regards their salvation : and the children to whom baptism had been administered follow the example of their fathers, all of which is a profanation of this sacrament."
“ This case,” continues Le Clercq, was fully stated and discussed; and it was even carried into