Imágenes de páginas

Europeans in their acts of ferocity. Some of the Indian tribes might almost, from their own wigwams, and

among their Christian neighbours, the settlers of the then British colonies of New England, have witnessed acts of cruelty scrace less savage than those which immemorial custom had sanctioned among themselves. Was it more barbarous for the Iroquois to burn alive, in the course of many years of warfare, some French Jesuits and Recollets, than for an English colony in North America, during the short period of a few months, (and under a regular legal commission of oyer and terminer,) to try, convict, and execute twenty persons among whom was a much respected clergyman-all gravely charged with being witches and wizards !

And these were only scenes in miniature, compared to what were then acting in Europe, on a great scale, in the same sanguinary drama. Does the well-known persecution of the New England Quakers, which raged about the same period in a colony professing Christianity and pretending to civilization, appear less savage than many of those acts of barbarity for which the Indian has been so vilified by his oppressors? By the laws of Massachusets, any man convicted of being a Quaker was, for the first offence, to lose one ear, and for the second, the other. Several of them underwent these mutilations. If women were similarly convicted, they were, for the first and second offences, to be severely

whipped; and for the third — whether men or women-their tongues were to be bored through with a red-hot iron. Quakers returning from banishment, were to be punished with death. Several persons, both male and female, were hanged in consequence of these enactments; and persons harbouring, entertaining, or in any way assisting the Quakers, were fined, imprisoned, and publicly whipped! In truth, the white Christian neighbours-whether French or English-of the five Iroquois nations, do not appear to have had much reason to boast of their own humanity or civilization, when compared to that of their red heathen brethren among the savages of North America.






The system generally adopted by the French in their numerous wars with the North American Indians, appears to have been guided by extreme infatuation. To check the ferocity of the savage, they began by taking the extraordinary step of following his example, and retaliated, in practice, many of those barbarities which in principle they so loudly condemned. And yet, in the early periods of the history of Canada, the conduct of the French has been held up by various writers as having been the most gentle, and best adapted to conciliate and civilize the Indian nations with whom they came in contact-an assertion which will scarcely stand the test of inquiry.

About the beginning of the seventeenth century, the French commenced their settlements in Canada by imprudently taking an active part in Indian quarrels. From the year 1608, when Champlain laid the foundation of Quebec, we find him rashly embroiling himself with some of the neighbouring tribes. He entered headlong into offensive and defensive measures of alliance with the Algonquins and Hurons, against their ancient enemy the Iroquois, or Five Confederated Nations. "Monsieur de Champlain,” says La Potherie, “ wishing to evince to his Indian allies the esteem he felt for them, and to give them proofs of the bravery of the French, placed himself at their head, and entering the river of the Iroquois, advanced as far as the lake which now bears his name. In this unjust aggression, he made a first experiment of the effect of fire-arms upon a people totally ignorant of the use of them. The first shot that was fired, from a French arquetuss loaded with four balls, and pointed by Champlain himself, killed three of the Iroquois chiefs, who had advanced in front of their fellow-warriors, and whose plumes of feathers had enabled him to distinguish and mark them out for destruction.* Their followers, struck with consternation at the effect of those unknown engines, were speedily routed : but the death of their leader was amply revenged by the Iroquois. This, and similar expeditions carried on by Champlain, cost France a hundred and fifty years of Indian warfare.

Champlain had not long to wait until he witnessed the Indian treatment of prisoners taken in

-a treatment to which numbers of his own


* Voyages dans la Nouvelle France par le Sieur de Champlain, liv. ii. ch. 10. Paris, 1613.

countrymen were afterwards subjected in New France. Upon this his first victory, his Indian confederates selected an Iroquois captive, on whom, in their accustomed manner, they inflicted the most savage cruelties. The French were struck with horror at the sight, and prevailed upon the Indians, though with considerable difficulty, to allow their tortured prisoner to be put to death at an earlier stage of his torments than would otherwise have been permitted. They at first refused this request, but seeing that Champlain was extremely displeased with them, they told him, he might shoot their prisoner if he chose. Champlain accordingly levelled his arquebuss at the captive, and put an end to his misery. To such spectacles, however, the French soon became accustomed; and, in the course of the numerous and bloody campaigns which succeeded each other, year after year, the Iroquois on the one hand, and the French with their Indian allies on the other, perpetrated in every quarter the most barbarous excesses.

The barbarities committed upon the Indians in Canada were particularly conspicuous during the long administration of the Count de Frontenac. The experience and zeal of that officer had induced the French government, after having recalled hiin to Europe, again to require his services in North America ; but however zealous the count appears to have been in promoting the views of his royal

« AnteriorContinuar »