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This, by the way, is considerably nearer the truth than the statemeri in a preceding stanza:
To thee and to thy sires the subject knee.
Better historical, if not poetical authority informs us, that the Seneca literally fought' for his rank, if not for his name ; and that, like the subject of our last notice, he owed nothing to the advantages of illustrious birth.* We should add, however, that the struggle was in the council-house as well as in the field of battle. “ A warrior!”—he once (and probably more than once) had the modesty tu say of himself, with a smile of contempt, when some enquiries were made respecting the deeds of blood which are sometimes supposed to constitute the character of an Indian ;—"A Warrior! I am an Orator. I was born an Orator!”
The predecessor of Red-Jacket, in the respect of the Senecas, and of the Confederacy at large, was a celebrated chief narned by the English the CORNPLANTER, a personage also well known for his eloquence, and worthy on that account to be distinctly commemorated, were there on record any definite and well authenticated sketches of his efforts. Unfortunately, there are not. The speeches commonly ascribed to him, are believed to have been mostly composed by some of his civilized acquaintances, rather on the principle of those effusions usually attributed to popular candidates for the gallows. Still, there is less reason, we apprehend, for doubting his real genius, than for disputing his nationality. He considered himself a half-breed,t his father being an
Governor Clinton's Discourse before the New-York Historical Society : 1811.
Appendix, III. and VI.
Indian, according to bis own account, and his mother a white woman.
By a singular combination of circumstances, Red Jacket was brought forward into public life, and that to great advantage, mainly in consequence of the same incident which destroyed the influence of Corn Planter. This, indeed, had been rather declining for some time, owing partly to his agency in effecting a large cession of Seneca land to the American Government, at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1784. His loss of popularity, in fine, bitterly chagrined him, and he resolved on a desperate exertion to restore it. With this view, he undertook to practice upon the never-failing superstition of his countrymen, by persuading his brother to announce him. self as a Prophet,-of course commissioned by the Great Spirit 'to redeem the fallen fortunes of his race,' -that is, his own.
The savages listened to the new pretender with all the veracious credulity which characterises the race. Among the Onondagas, previously the most drunken and profligate of the Six Nations, be acquired such an ascendancy, as to induce them to abandon the use of spirituous liquors entirely, and to observe the common laws of morality and decency in some other respects, wherein they had before been grievously deficient. Indeed, among the Confederates generally, he obtained a supremacy equal to that of the same character obtained by Elskwatawa among the western tribes, not far from the same time. The Oneidas alone rejected him.
Like that notorious impostor, too, he soon availed himself, for evil purposes, of the confidence gained by the preliminary manifestation of good. A cry of •witchcraft' was raised, and a sort of examining committee of conjurors was selected to designate the offenders. And that duty was zealously discharged. The victims were actually sentenced, and would doubtless have been executed, but for the interference of the magistrates of Oneida and the officers of the garrison at Niagara.
But neither the Corn-Planter nor his pious coadjutor was yet discouraged. Nothing but an accident had prevented success, and the failure only made it the more imperatively necessary to try the experiment again. Red-Jacket was publicly denounced. His accusers came forward at a great Indian council held at Buffalo Creek. “At this crisis,” says an eminent writer, “he well knew that the future color of his life depended upon the powers of his mind. He spoke in his defence for near three hours. The iron brow of superstition relented under the magic of his eloquence; be declared the Prophet an impostor and a cheat; he prevailed; the Indians divided, and a small majority appeared in his favor. Perhaps the annals of history cannot furnish a more conspicuous instance of the triumph and power of oratory, in a darbarous nation, devoted to superstition, and looking up to the accuser as a delegated minister of the Al
if this anecdote be true, and we are not aware of its having been doubted,—the Orator, whatever be said of his genius as such, hardly deserved the precise compliment which is paid him by his eulogist in verse. “Is eloquence,” he asks,“ a monarch's merit ?”
Her spell is thine that reaches The heart, and makes the wisest head its sport, And there's one rare, strange virtue in thy speeches,
The secret of their mastery—they are short. But the Seneca's case, it must be allowed, was one of clear compulsion; and he probably felt, on the occasion in question, very little of the impatience which induced Horne Tooke to say, after a noble friend's plea of eleven hours in his behalf before the Commons, that “ he would rather be banged, another time, chan defended.”
Discourse of Governor Clinton.
Such was che Orator's first triumph. It was not, however, his first effort; for many yours before the transaction just referred to, as we suppose, when Red-Jacket was probably about thirty years of age, and at a period when our relations with all the Indians are well known to have been continually wavering, a treaty was held with the Six Nations on the beautiful acclivity which overlooks the Canandaigua Lake. Some reminescences of it, bearing a high interest, have reached us, on the authenticity of which we do not hesitate to rely.
“Two days,” says our authority,* “ had passed away in negotiation with the Indians for a cession of their lands. The contract was supposed to be nearly completed, when Red-Jacket arose. With the grace and dignity of a Roman senator, he drew his blanket around him, and, with a piercing eye, surveyed the multitude. All was hushed. Nothing interposed to break the silence, save the gentle rustling of the treetops, under whose shade they were gathered. After a long and solemn, but not unmeaning pause, he commenced his speech in a low voice and a sententious style. Rising gradually with his subject, he depicted the primitive
simplicity and happiness of his nation, and the wrongs they had sustained from the usurpations of white men, with such a bold but faithful pencil, that every auditor was soon roused to vengeance, or melted into tears.
The effect was inexpressible. But ere the emotions of admiration and sympathy had subsided, the white men became alarmed. They were in the heart of an Indian country, surrounded by more than ten
* The writer of a communication on Indian Biography,' for the New-YORK AMERICAN, about ten years since. We give him credit for his statements of facts, though we cannot concur with him in charging RedJacket with cowardice.' He adds, “ It was only at the
Council-fire' he shone pre-eminent. There, indeed, he was great. The belittling simplicity of his name dit not seem to detract from the splendors of his eloquence'
times their number, who were inflamed by the re membrance of their injuries, and excited to indignation by the eloquence of a favorite chief. Appalled and terrified, the white men cast a cheerless gaze upon the hordes around them. A pod from the chiefs might be the onset of destruction. At that portentous moment, FARMER’S-BROTHER interposed. He replied not to his brother chief; but, with a sagacity tru. ly aboriginal, he caused a cessation of the council, introduced good cheer, commended the eloquence of Red-Jacket, and, before the meeting had re-assembled, with the aid of other prudent chiefs, he had moderated the fury of his nation to a more salutary review of the question before them."
The council came together again in cooler blood, and the treaty was concluded. The Western District at this day, it is added, “ owes no small portion of its power and influence to the councils of a savage, in comparison with whom for genius, heroism, virtue, or any other quality that can adorn the bauble of a diadem, not only George the IV. and Louis le Desiré, but the German Emperor and the Czar of Muscovy, alike dwindle into insignificance."
This somewhat warmly expressed compliment,the extravagance of which in an old friend of the sub. ject, may be excused in its good feeling, -reminds us of the consideration really due to a man distinguished not alone as a competitor with our hero for savage glory.
Except as related to oratory, he was a competitor in the same course. The name of Farmer's. Brother was merely arbitrary. He was a warrior in principle and in practice, and he spurned agriculture and every other civilized art, with the contempt of Red-Jacket himself. In the war between France and England, which resulted in the conquest of Canada, he fought against the latter, and probably under the remote command of the great Ottawa · Emperor' of the north. One of his exploits in the contest is still told to the traveller who passes a noted stream