Page images
PDF
EPUB

and we thank you heartily But you who are wise must know, that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces ; they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad runners; ignorant of every means of living in the woods; unable to bear either cold or hunger ; knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy; spoke our language imperfectly; were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or counsellors ; they were totally good for nothing. We are not however the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them."

Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conducting them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children in the hindmost. The business of the women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it in their memories, for they have no writing, and communicate it to the children. They are the records of the council, and they preserve tradition of the stipulations in treaties a hundred years back ; which, when we compare with our writings, we always find exact. He that would speak, rises. The rest observe a profound silence. When he has finished, and sits dowil, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say, or has any thing to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent.

How different this is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that inakes the speaker hoarse in calling to order; and how different from the mode of conversation, in many polite companies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentences with great rapidity, you are cut oth in the nuddle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it!

The politeness of these savages in conversation is indeed carried to excess ; since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid dis.

putes ; but then it becomes difficult to know their · minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries, who have attempted to convert them to Christianity, all complain of this as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the gospel explained to them, and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation : you would think they were convinced. No such matter-it is mere civility.

A Swedish minister having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded : such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple; the coming of Christ to repair the mischief; his miracles and sufferings, &c -When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. “ What you have told us,” says he," is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us those things which you have heard from your mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those which we have heard from ours.

" In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on; and if their hunting was unsuccessful, they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hili which you see yonder among the blue mountains. They said to each other, It is a spirit that perhaps smelt our broiled venison, and wishes to eat of it ; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue : she was pleased with the taste of it, and said, Your kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this place after thirteen moons, and you shall find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing you and your children to the latest generation.' They did so, and to their surprise, found plants they had never seen before ; but which, from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us, to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground, they found maize --where her left hand had touched it, they found kidney-beans; and where her backside had sat on it, they found tobacco.” The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said, “What I delivered to you were sacred truths ; but what you tell me is mere fable, fiction, and falsehood.”. The Indian, offended, replied, “ My brother, it seems your friends have not done you jus

tice in your education ; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You say that we, who understand and practise those rules, believed alt your stories, why do you refuse to believe ours?"

When any of them come into your towns, your people are apt to crowd round them, gaze upon them, and incommode them where they desire to he private : this they esteem great rudeness, and the etfect of the want of instruction in the rules of civility and good manners. “We have," say they," as much curiosity as you, and when you come into our towns, we wish for opportunities for looking at you ; but for this purpose we hide ourselves behind bushes, where you are to pass,

and never intrude ourselves into your company."

Their manner of entering one another's villages has likewise its rules. It is reckoned uncivil in travelling strangers to enter a village abruptly, without giving notice of their approach. Therefore, as suon as they arrive within hearing, they stop and halloo, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in every village a vacant dwelling, called the stranger's house. Here they are placed, wbile the old men go round from hut to hut, acquainting the inhabitants that strangers are arrived, who are probably hungry and weary, and every one sends them what he can spare of victuals and skins to repose on. When the strangers are refreshed, pipes and tobacco are brought: and then, but not before, conversation begins, with inquiries who they are, whither bound, what news, &c. and it usually ends with offers of service, if the strangers have occasion for guides, or any necessaries for continuing their jour. ney; and nothing is exacted for the entertainment.

The same hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal virtue, is practised by private persons; of which Conrad Weiser, our interpreter, gave me the following instance. He had been naturalized among the Six Nations, and spoke well the Mohock language. In going through the Indian country, to carry a message from our governor to the council at Onondaga, he called at the habitation of Canassettego, an old acquaintance, who embraced him, spread furs for him to sit on, placed before him some boiled beans and venison, and mixed some rum and water for his drink. When he was well refreshed, and had lit his pipe, ca nassettego began to converse with him: asked him how he had fared the many years since they had seen each other, whence he then came, what occasioned the jourRoy, &c. Conrad answered all his questions; and when the discourse began to flag, the Indian, to con

tinue it, said, “ Conrad, you have lived long among the white people, and know something of their customs ;I have been sometimes at Albany, and have observed, that once in seven days they shut up their shops and assemble all in the great house ; tell nie what it is for; What do they do there?” “ They meet there, says Conrad,“ to hear and learn good things.“I do not doubt,” says the Indian, “that they tell you so; they bave told me the same: but I doubt the truth of what they say, and I will tell you my reasons. I went Jately to Albany to sell my skins, and buy blankets, knives, powder, rum, &c. You know I used generally to deal with Hans Hanson ; but I was a Ititle inclined this time try some other merchants. However, I call first upon Hans, and asked him what he would give for beaver. He said he could not give more than four shillings a pound : but, says he, I cannot talk on business now; this is the day when we meet together to learn good things, and I am going to the meeting. So I thought to myself, since I cannot do any business to-day, I may as well go to the meeting too, and I went with him. There stood up a man in black, and began to talk to the people very angrily. I did not understand what he said ; but perceiving that he looked much at me and at Hanson, I imagined he was angry, at seeing me there; so I went out, sat down near the house, struck fire, and lit my pipe, waiting till the meeting should break up. I thought too, that the man had mentioned something of beaver ; and I suspected it might be the subject of their meeting. So, when they came out, I accosted my merchant, “Well, Hans, (says 1,) I hope you have agreed to give more than four shillings a pound.” “ No,” says he, “I cannot give so much; I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence." I then spoke to several other dealers, but they all sung the same song, three and sixpence, three and sixpence. This made it clear to me that my suspicion was right; and that, whatever they pretended of meeting to learn good things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in the price of beaver. Consider but a little, Conrad, and you must be of my opinion. If they met so often to learn good things, they would certainly have learned some before this time. But they are still ignorant. You know our practice: If a white man, in travelling through our country enters one of our cabins, we all treat him as I do you ; we viry him if he is wet, we warm him if he is cold, and give him meat and drink, that he may allyl:is thirst and hunger; and we spread softfir: for him to rist and slepon: we demand

nothing in return.* But if I go into a white man's house at Albany, and ask for victuals and drink, they say, where is your money? And if I haye none, they say, Get out, you Indian dog. You see that they have not learned those little good things that we need no meetings to be instructed in, because our mothers taught them us when we were children; and therefore it is impossible their meetings should be, as they say, for any such purpose, or have any such effect ; they are only to contrive the cheating of Indians in the price of beaver."

-0000

To M. DUBOURG, CONCERNING THE DISSENTIONS BETWEEN ENGLAND AND AMERICA.

London, October 2, 1770. I see with pleasure, that we think pretty much alike on the subjects of English America. We of the colonies have never insisted that we ought to be exempt from contributing to the common expenses necessary to support the prosperity of the empire.

We only assert that having parliaments of our own, and not having representatives in that of Great Britain, our parliaments are the only judges of what we can and what we ought to contribute in this case ; and that the English parliament has no right to take our money without our consent. In fact, the British empire is not a single state ; it comprehends many ; and though the parliament of Great Britain has arrogated to itself the power of taxing the colonies, it has no more right to do so than it has to tax Hanover. We have the same king, but not the same legislature.

The dispute between the two countries has already cost England many millions sterling, which it has lost in its commerce, and America has in this respect

* It is remarkable that in all ages and countries, hospitality has been allowed as the virtue of those, whom the civilized were pleased to call barbarians : the Greeks celebrated the Scythians for it ; the Saraceng possessed it eminently ; and it is to this day the reigning virtue of the wild Arabs. St. Paul, too, in the relation of his voyage and shipwreck, on the island of Melita, says, “ The barbarous people showed us no little kindness ; for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold." This note is taken from a small collection of Franklin's papers printed for Dilly.

« PreviousContinue »