« AnteriorContinuar »
and near relatives gather in a crowd around the suffering vietim ;
During the sitting of the convention, and in the intervals of business, the company was treated, amongst other sports, with the war-dance, and a very copious and elaborate account of it is given by Mr. Colton. The description is much too long to be cited, but one portion of the ceremony attending it may be noticed. This is properly called the Beating for Recruits, and is peculiarly significant and impressive. A small group, or band of challengers, as they might be termed, who are also the principal musicians for the occasion, take their seats, squatted in close contact on the margin of an open space, left vacant for the dance ;-or for those who may successively obey the call of their tribe to arms. A rifle, tomabawk, or some other weapon of war, is laid upon the ground, in this open space, as a gauntlet, itself challenging the surrounding warriors to come and take it up; and the act of grasping and lifting this weapon is the act of enlistment. All things being prepared, and the warriors in attendance, the group upon the ground, baving received the token from the leader, standing by,
strike up the war song with their voice and instruments, the language and appeal of which is : Do you see that weapon? Do you understand it warriors ?--Who will take it up?'---And the challengers grow more and more impassioned and violent, if there is any hesitation, until some warrior from the crowd steps but into the vacant space, and begins to dance, time-keeping with the drum, with his eye fixed upon the gauntlet, but reluctant, refusing to take it up. The band aggravate their din and clamour, tó urge him to the decisive action. Still he looks upon the weapon, dances round it, points to it with his finger, and performs innumerable and most extravagant feats of jumping and significant gesticulations, and still the challengers urge him on.
He seems to be revolving the possible results of the war to himself, to his family and friends, and counts the cost in every shape;--and then imagines he hears the call of his nation to arms. He comes yet nearer to the weapon, and then springs back, as if frightened at the consequences of taking it up. The challengers rebuke him for his indecision. Again he approaches the weapon, and dances round it, and round it, extends his hand as if to take it up, and then starts back at some sudden and forbidding thought. Louder still, and still more earnest, the beating rolls, and the voices of the band and all their instruments grow more clamorous and deafening; every few moments raising the war-whoop. Like as the bird, spell-bound and charmed by a serpent, flutters and circles in the air, struggling in vain to escape, and drawing nearer and nearer to the object of her dread--at last makes a sudden and desperate plunge ;--s0 he springs upon the weapon of death, grasps it firmu ly in his hand, and lifts himself erect. Then in an instant shouts of exultation rend the hair, from all the assembled multitude and his name and hand are now pledged. Next, with the weapon in hand, and still dancing to the music, he performs successively, and with all his characteristic cunning, the various feats of discovering, shooting, and scalping an enemy. This done, he replaces the weapon where he took it up, takes his seat with the challenging group, till the same round has added another to their number, and another;--and so they fill the ranks for war. - .. Several of the speeches of the Indian chiefs are given as they were said to have been spoken; and these are succeeded by other speeches delivered at a much more remote period, but presented to the public by the author as specimens of Indian intelligence, political spirit and ability.
The second volume commences with an attempt to fix the origin of the American Indians: and although Mr. Colton appears to be confident of his conclusion, we are by no means satisfied with his proofs that these Indians are descended from Jews. Yet this is his theory, in which some other American authorities are his associates. In the next chapter he discusses the right of Europe to do what she pleases with the American, and, strongly objecting to
the interference, he contends that it never was justifiably exercised. He then proceeds to consider the project entertained by the American government for removing the Indians from the eastern banks of the Mississippi, in order to limit them permanently to the western side. Mr. Colton argues at some length against the principles on which this proposed measure is supported, directing his remarks to the statements of the American writers who have treated this subject: his opinion is strongly declared as to the injustice and the inhumanity of such a proceeding, and by contradicting the facts on which his opponents rest, and by showing their groundlessness, he endeavours to prove that the scheme is unphilosophical and libellous as a theory, whilst it is utterly subversive of all social principles. A series of chapters are further devoted to this subject, and these include an account of some law proceedings in the United States, in which the unconstitutional claim of the government was strangely enforced contrary to the opinions of judges, who, it appears, forfeited their offices by the boldness of their virtuous opposition. The number of the Aborigines computed to exist at present in North America is between 750,000 and 1,000,000.
In the meantime, in consequence of the breaking up of the convention without any thing being done, the Indians resolved upon seeking redress by other means; and numbers of representatives from the various tribes proceeded to Washington for the purpose of petitioning Congress. It happened that Mr. Colton had already arrived in that city, intending to spend the season there. Having felt an extraordinary interest in the fate of the Indians, he devoted a great deal of his time to them, assisting and encouraging them by every means in his power. He availed himself fully of the favourable opportunities which circumstances gave him for observing their manners and customs, particularly of the wilder portion of the chiefs, and their families; and does not hesitate, with all his
partiality for them, to expose their deficiencies in civilized habits.
The New York Indians were in general well conducted; and, indeed, differed in nothing almost from the whites but in colour; whilst the delegates from the wild tribes of the north-west were quite of an opposite character. These chiefs, with their wives, sons, and daughters, all made their appearance at Washington in their native costume; they exhibited themselves in the blanket, moccasins, gaiters, belts of wampum, feathers, paint, with sundries of tawdry and shining ornaments, and with the tomahawk, rifle, bow and arrow, and that indispensable article to an Indian, the pipe. They exhibited the same manners in the drawing-rooms of Washington, with the most perfect indifference, as they did at home in their reed-built hut; they were lodged in Gadsby's hotel in Washington, and lived in some of the best apartments; but there they were to be found, all the winter, making the same sort of litter over the carpets, as they had been accustomed to make on
the ground in their native lodges: (boys' whittling their sticks, women squatting and men rolling on the floor, bows, arrows, rifles, and other implements lying scattered in confusion, a blanket here, a moccasin there, feathers and trinkets thrown about, and all their wardrobe and portables lying in the greatest disorder." A bed they would never use, but chose to sleep on the carpet, wrapped in a blanket. And it was not a little amusing to see them make - their toilet before a splendid mirror.' At first, they would start back, as if frightened at themselves and their own motions reflected there, and deliver their guttural and emphatic exclamations of surprise. Then recovering confidence, they would look again, grow wild, and start back again. Returning again, they would seem to say :-Who-what is it? Gradually, by more familiar acquaintance, they began to recognize, and partly believe, -it was themselves, and seemed to wonder how such a doubling of -themselves and their companions, and all the objects around them could be made. They laid their hand upon the mirror, and saw
another arm and hand approach and meet their hand and arm. Whatever motion they made, it made. "Umph!''they would say, and spring to another part of the room, to muse upon the wonder, or deliver an eloquent oration to their own group, equally wrapped in astonishment. At last, however, they learned to paint their
faces before this instrument, for want of the smooth and glassy Osurface of a river. Generally the inappropriate uses, to which vthey applied the various articles of furniture in their rooms, were infinitely laughable. The shovel and tongs would often minister to their ingenious works of handicraft, and then be thrown upon Ythe carpet. The rug, perhaps, would be thrown under a table for some one or more of the dogs, when his master did not want it for the comfort of his own limbs. The luxury of a sofa would sometimes be hazarded for its original designs-more often as a receptacle for sundry and nameless articles of their own furniture. Tables were worthy to support their tomahawks, bows and arrows, rifles, and pipes, when perchance they happened to get higher up than the floor--the last being sure to catch all that could not find ea superior place, and always abounding with things in confusion.
A chair was seldom used for its intended purpose. A wild Indian siwould sit as awkward in a chair, as an elephant. The servants at
first attempted to set their table somewhat in the usual way; but e soon learned to leave their food, and let thein manage it with their
own fingers. Indeed these Indians were quite a curiosity, in doors 9and out. They love their own fineries of dress, and although apparently careless and unobservant of attentions, they are yet not insensible when they attract them. Like other people, having made their toilet in their own best fashion, gaudy and fantastic enough, they will parade the streets, to be seen, as well as to see.
The candour with which Mr. Colton represents the real truth respecting these Indians does not, however, deteriorate the force of the arguments which he uses in their favour when he condemns the conduct pursued by the American government towards them. He proceeds to detail the consequences of the application made by the Indians to Congress, enters at large into the course of the arguments which had been advanced on both sides, and speaks with no small degree of emotion of the unfavourable result which followed to the Indian cause. The first case mooted was that of the Cherokees, which was brought before the Supreme Court, where it failed. A motion was at the same time made in Congress which met no better fate; and the Indian delegates were so overwhelmed with despair, at the succession of calamities, which they believed to be unjustly accumulated on their heads, that they agreed to appoint a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, on account of their troubles, after which they were peaceably to separate. The solemnity was held, and Mr. Colton bears testimony to the piety and the sincerity with which it was conducted, and which furnished a source of edification that left no slight impression on the citizens.
The author, in adverting to the deeper causes in the history of America, which led to the series of oppressive encroachments on the part of the white inhabitants, whereby the Aborigines may be said to be gradually extirpated, attributes a great deal to the corrupt policy infused into the government by the overwhelming influence of the slave-masters. Referring back to the annals of the proceedings of Congress, he cites various occasions where, on questions of vital importance, the slave-interest was triumphant. It is a grievous truth," observes this author, and let it be remembered that he is a patriotic American, as it is a grievous calamity, that slavery exists extensively in the United States; and must necessarily have an influence, not only over the governments of the slave States, but as those States are so numerous, and have always been so influential, as to have maintained from the beginning more than an equal balance of power in the Federal Union, they must also exercise a paramount influence in the general government, on all questions which have a relation to slavery.
“The ascendancy of the slave-holding States over the rest of the Union, was demonstrated in the admission of Missouri into the family of States, in 1821, after a vigorous, but unsuccessful struggle in Congress, to impose upon her the duty of abolishing slavery, within a given period, as a condition of her elevation to the sovereign prerogative of a sister State. It was admitted on all hạnds, that the agitation and determination of this question was a trial of the strength of parties in the Union, in relation to slavery, As the States were now travelling westward in the increase of the family, the question was, Shall slavery travel with them? If once it should be conceded, that a new State, erected in the west, may have slavery, it might possibly extend itself over the continent, to