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BE I N G
A short View of the Form of Government of
ibe Five Nations, and of their Laws, Cuftoms, &c.
T is necessary to know something of the Forin of Government of the People, whose History
one is about to know, and a few Words will be sufficient to give the Reader a Conception of that of the Five Nations, becaufe it still remains under original Simplicity, and free from those complicated Contrivances, which have become ne ceffary to the Nations, where Deceit and Cunning have increased as much as their knowledge and Wisdom.
The Five Nations (as their Name denotes) con. fist of so many Tribes or Nations, joined together by a League or Confederacy, like the United Pro. vinces, and without any Superiority of the one over the other. This Union has continued so long, that the Christians know nothing of the Original of it: The People in it are known by the English under the Names of Mohawks, Oneydoes, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Sennekas.
Each of these_ Nations is again divided into three Tribes or Families, who distinguish themselves by three different Arms or Ensigns, the Tortoise, the Bear, and the Wolf in and the saB
chems, or old Men of thele Families, put this Enlign, or Mark of their Family, to every publick Paper, when they sign it.
Each of these Nations is an absolute Republick by itself, and every Castle in each Nation makes an independent Republick, and is governed in all publick Affairs by its own Sachems or old Men. The Authority of these Rulers is gained by, and consists wholly in the Opinion the rest of the Nation have of their Wisdom and Integrity. They never execute their
Resolutions by Force upon any of their People, Honour and Esteem are their principal Rewards; as Shame, and being despised, their Punishments. They have certain Customs, which they observe in their publick Transactions with other Nations, and in their private Affairs among themselves; which it is scandalous for any one among them not to obferve, and these always draw after them either publick or private Resentment; whenever they are broke.
Their Leaders and Captains, in like Manner, obtain their Authority, by the general Opinion of their Courage and Conduct, and lose it by a failure in those Virtues.
Their great Men, both Sachems and Captains, are generally poorer than the common People ; for they affect to give away and distribute all the Presents or Plunder they get in their Treaties or in War, so as to leave nothing to themselves. There is not a Man in the Ministry of the Five Nations, who has gained his Office, otherwise than by Merit; there is not the least Salary, or any Sort of Profit, annexed to any Office, to tempt the Covetous or Sordid; but, on the contrary, every unworthy Action is unavoidably attended with the Forfeiture of their Commiffion; for their Autho, rity is only the Efteem of the People, and ceases the Moment that Efteem is lost. Here we fee
the natural Origin of all Power and Authority among a free People, and whatever artificial Power or Sovereignty any Man may have acquired, by the Laws and Conftitution of a Country, his real Power will be ever much greater or less, in Proportion to the Efteem the People have of him.
The Five Nations think themselves by Nature superior to the rest of Mankind, and call themselves Ongue-honwe; that is, Men surpassing all others. This Opinion, which they take Care to cultivate into their Children, gives them that Courage, which has been so terrible to all the Nations of North America ; and they have taken fuch Care to impress the fame Opinion of their People on all their Neighbours, that they, on all Occasions, yield the most fubmiflive Obedience to them. I have been old by old Men in New-England, who remembred the Time when the Mohawks made War on their Indians, that as soon as a single Mohawk was discovered in the Country, their Indians raised Cry from Hill to Hill, À Mohawk! A Mohawk ! upon which they all Aed like Sheep before Wolves, without attempting to make the least Resistance, whatever Odds were on their Side. The poor New England Indians immediately ran to the Christian Houses, and the Mohawks often pursued them fo clofely, that they entered along with them, and knocked their Brains out in the Presence of the People of the House; but if the Family had Time to shut the Door, they never attempted to force it, and on no Occasion did any Injury to the Christians. All the Nations round them have, for many Years intirely submitted to them., and pay a yearly Tribute to them in Wampum*; they dare neither
make * Wampum is the Current Money among the Indians : It is of two Sorts, White and Purple: the White is worked out of the Inside of the great Conques into the
make War nor Peace, without the Confentof the Mohawks. Two old Men commonly go about every Year or two, to receive this Tribute ; and I have often had Opportunity to observe what Anxiety the poor Indians were under, while these two old Men remained in that part of the Country where I was. An old Mohawk Sachem, in a poor Blanket and dirty Shirt, may be seen issuing his Orders with as arbitrary an Authority, as a Roman Dictator. It is not for the Sake of Tribute however, that they make War, but from the Notions of Glory, which they have ever most strongly imprinted on their Minds; and the farther they go to seek an Enemy, the greater Glory they think they gain; there cannot, I think, be a greater or stronger Instance than this, how much the Sentiments impressed upon a People's Mind, conduce to their Grandeur, or one that more verifies a Saying often to be met with, though but too little minded, That it is in the Power of the Rulers of a People to make them either Great or Little ; for by inculcating only the Notions of Honour and Virtue, or those of Luxury and Riches, the People, in a little Time, will become fuch as their Rulers desire. The Five Nations, in their Love of Liberty, and of their Country, in their Bravery in Battle, and their Constancy in enduring Torments, equal the Fortitude of the most renowned Romans. I shall finish their general Character by what an Form of a Bead, and perforated, to string on Leather ; the Purple is worked out of the Inside of the Muscle Shell; they are wove as broad as one's Hand, and about two Feet long; these they call Belts, and give and re. ceive at their Treaties as the Seals of Friendship, for Jeffer Matters a fingle String is given. Every Bead is
known Value, and a Belt of a less Number, is made to equal one of a greater, by so many as is wanting fastened to the Belt by a String.
Enemy, a Frenchman, fays of them, Monsieur Dy la Poterie, in his History of North Ainerica,
“ When we speak (says he) of the Five Na utions in France, they are thought, by a common “ Mistake, to be mere Barbarians, always thirsțing * after. human Blood; but their trưe Character is
very different. They are indeed the fierceft " and most formidable People in North America, " and, at the fame Time, are as politick and ju, « dicious, as well can be conceived'; and this ap
pears from the Management of all the Affairs W which they tranfact, not only with the French and 46 English, but likewise with almost all the Indian « Nations of this vast Continent."
Their Matters of Consequence, which concern all the Nations, are tranfacted in a general Meeta ing of the Sachems of each Nation. These Con ventions are commonly held at Onnondaga, which is nearly the Center of their Country; but they have fixed on Albany for the Place of treating with the British Colonies. They
strictly follow one Maxim, formerly used by the Romans to increase their Strength, that is, they encourage the People of other Natioits to incorporate with them; and when they have fub: dued any People, after they have fatiated their Re. venge by fome cruel Examples, they adopt the reft of their Captives; who, if they behave well, become equally esteemed with their own People'; fo that some of their Captives have afterwards become their greatest Sachems and Captains. The Tuskaroras, after the War they had with the Peo. ple of Carolina, Aled to the Five Nations, and are now incorporated with them; fo that they now properly indeed confist of fix Nations, though they ftill retain the old Name of the Fide Nations among the English. The Cowetas also, or Creek-Indians, are in the fame Friendship with them.