« AnteriorContinuar »
These good dispositions did not long continue with most of the Indian nations; all within the reach of British blandishinents and presents were prevailed upon to take up the hatchet. It is calculated that twelve thousand six hundred and ninety Indian warriors were employed by the British during the revolutionary war, of which one thousand five hundred and eighty were Iroquois.* The influence of Sir Williain Johnson over the savages was transmitted to his son, who was most successful in alluring them into the views of Great Britain. “ A great war feast was made by him on the occasion, in which, according to the horrid phraseology of these barbarians, they were invited to banquet upon a Bostonian, and to drink bis blood.”+
General Burgoyne made a speech to the Indians on the 21st of June, 1777, urging them to hostilie ties, and stating “his satisfaction at the general conduct of the Indian tribes, from the beginning of the troubles in America.” An old Iroquois chief answered, “ We have been tried and tempted by the Bostonians, but we have loved our father, and our hatchets have been sharpened on our affections. In proof of the sincerity of our professions, our whole villages, able to go to war, are come forth; the old and infirm, our infants and our wives, alone remain at home."I They realized their professions. The whole Confederacy, except a little more than half of the Oneidas, took up arms against us. They hung like the scythe of death upon the rear of our settlements, and their deeds are inscribed, with the scalping knife and the tomahawk, in cha
* Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 10. p. 120, &c.
racters of blood, on the fields of Wyoming and Cherry Valley, and on the banks of the Mohawk.
It became necessary that the Confederates should receive a signal chastisement for their barbarous and cruel incu.sions; and accordingly, general Sullivan, with an army of nearly five thousand men, marched into their country in the year 1779. Near Newtown, in the present county of Tioga, he defeated them, and drove them from their fortifications; he continued his march between the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and through their territory, as far as the Genessee River, destroying their orchards, cornfields, and forty villages; the largest of which contained one hundred and twenty-eight houses. This expedition was nearly the finishing blow to savage cruelty and insolence; their habitations were destroyed; their provinces laid waste; they were driven from their country, and were coinpelled to take refuge under the cannon of Niagara; and their hostility terminated with the pacification with Great Britain.
The Confederates were as celebrated for their eloquence, as for their military skill and political wisdom. Popular, or free governments have, in all ages, been the congenial soil of oratory. And it is, indeed, all important in institutions merely advisory ; where persuasion must supply the place of coercion; where there is no magistrate to execute, no military to compel; and where the only sanction of law is the controlling power of public opinion. Eloquence being, therefore, considered so essential, must always be a great standard of personal merit, a certain road to popular favour, and an universal passport to public honours. These combined inducements operated with powerful force on the mind of the Indian ; and there is little doubt but that oratory was studied with as much care and application among the Confederates, as.
it was in the stormy democracies of the eastern hemisphere. I do not pretend to assert that there were, as at Athens and Rome, established schools and professional teachers for the purpose ; but I say, that it was an attainment to which they devoted themselves, and to which they bent the whole force of their faculties. Their models of eloquence were to be found, not in books, but in the living orators of their local and national assemblies: their children, at an early period of life, attended their council fires, in order to observe the passing scenes, and to receive the lessons of wisdom. Their rich and vivid imagery was drawn from the sublime scenery of nature, and their ideas were derived from the laborious operations of their own minds, and from the experience and wisdom of their ancient sages.
The most remarkable difference existed between the Confederates and the other Indian nations with respect to eloquence. You may search in vain in the records and writings of the past, or in events of the present times, for a single model of eloquence among the Algonkins, the Abenaquis, the Delawares, the Shawanese, or any other nation of Indians, except the Iroquois. The few scintillations of intellectual light; the faint glimmerings of genius, which are sometimes to be found in their speeches, are evidently derivative, and borrowed from the Confederates.
Considering the interpreters who have undertaken to give the meaning of Indian speeches, it is not a little surprising, that some of them should approach so near to perfection. The major part of the interpreters were illiterate persons, sent among them to conciliate their favour, by making useful or ornarnental iinplements ; or they were prisoners, who learnt the Indian language during their captivity. The Reverend Mr. Kirkland, a mission
ary among the Oneidas, and sometimes a public interpreter, was indeed a man of liberal education ; but those who have seen him officiate at public treaties, must recollect how incompetent he was to. infuse the fire of Indian oratory into his expressions; how he laboured for words, and how feeble and inelegant his language.' Oral is more difficult than written interpretation or translation. In the latter case, there is no pressure of time, and we have ample opportunity to weigh the most suitable words, to select the most elegant expressions, and to fathom the sense of the author; but in the former case, we are called upon to act immediately; no time for deliberation is allowed ; and the first ideas that occur must be pressed into the service of the interpreter. At an ancient treaty, a female captive officiated in that capacity; and at a treaty held in 1722, at Albany, the speeches of the Indians were first rendered into Dutch, and then translated into English.* I except from these remarks, the speech of the Onondaga Chief, Garangula, to M. Delabarre, delivered on the occasion which I have before mentioned. This was interpreted by Monsieur Le Maine, a French Jesuit, and recorded on the spot by Baron La Hontan-men of evlightened and cultivated minds; from whom it has been borrowed by Colden, Smith, Herriot, Trumbull and Williams. I believe it to be impossible to find, in all the effusions of ancient or inodern oratory, a speech more appropriate and more convincing. Under the yeil of respectful profession, it conveys the most biting irony; and while it abounds with rich and splendid imagery, it contains the most solid reasoning. I place it in the same rank with the celebrated speech of Logan; and I cannot but express astonishment at the conduct of two respectable writers, who
* Oldmixon's British Empire, vol. 1. p. 254.
have represented this interesting interview, and this sublime display of intellectual power, as “a scold between the French general and an old Indian.”*
On the 9th of February, 1690, as we are informed by the tradition of the inhabitants, although history has fixed it on the 8th, the town of Schenectady, which then consisted of a church and forty three houses, was surprised by a party of French and Indians from Canada; a dreadful scene of conflagration and massacre ensued; the greater part of the inhabitants were killed or niade prisoners; those that escaped fled naked toward Albany, in a deep snow which fell that very night, and providentially met sleighs from that place, which returned immediately with them. This proceeding struck terror into the inhabitants of Albany, who were about to abandon the country in despair and consternation. On this occasion, several of the Mohawk chiefs went to Albany, to make the customary speech of condolence, and to animate to honourable exertion. Their speech is preserved in the first volume of Colden's History of the Five Indian Nations of Canada; and even at this distant period, it is impossible to read it, without sensibility, without respecting its affectionate sympathy, and admiring its magnanimous spirit, and without ranking it among the most respectable models of eloquence which history affords.f
In 1777 and 1778, an association of our own citizens, in violation of law, contracted with the Six Nations for the greater part of their territory, on a lease of nine hundred and ninety-nine years, at an insignificant annual rent. These proceedings were, on the motion of the President of this Society,I de
* Colden and Smith.
† Appendix, No. 2. | Egbert Benson, Esq.