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SECOND SERIES, NO. XIII.-WHOLE NO, XLY.
THE ABORIGINES OF NORTH AMERICA.
By Philip Lindsley, D, D. President of Nashville University, Tennessee.
[The following remarks may be regarded as a mere appendix of notes to former articles upon" the primitive state of mankind.”—See Am. Bib. Repos. Oct. 1840, and July, 1841.]
I mentioned America among the countries doomed, probably soon after the flood, to be the abode of savages. I am aware that plausible objections have been urged against the opinion that America was known, much less inhabited, at a very early period. I am aware, also, that diverse theories have been contrived and advocated to account for the peopling of this vast continent. With these conflicting speculations, I do not mean to intermeddle at present.
But let it be remembered, that we have no authentic history of any country which was not inhabited at the time when it was first discovered or visited by civilized man. And who can pretend to tell us when or how the first inhabitants arrived there? Why are we to suppose that America was not peopled as soon as China and Japan, and Gaul and Britain, and the western and southern coasts of Africa ? The reason assigned is, that, in those rude ages, as we are pleased to style them, men had not wit or knowledge enough to get there. They had got the means of transportation. They were ignorant of the SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. I.
arts of ship-building and navigation. Indeed! And how do we know this ? Could men, with the ark before their
eyes, the largest, strongest, safest ship that ever rode upon the shoreless deep, which had braved the fury of a forty days' tempest, and outlived the convulsions of a dissolving world be incapable of constructing a frail bark which might buffet the smooth waves of a summer's sea for a few short months, or weeks, or days ? Or, after they had traversed the mountains and the plains of Tartary, and reached the northeastern extremities of Asia; what should have prevented their crossing the narrow strait which separates that continent from this? Or, in the opposite direction, might they not have passed over from the west of Africa, by that chain of islands which probably once connected that country with America, but which have long since been buried in the ocean? We are not bound, however, to devise or to explain the ways and means by which the Al-mighty may have chosen to execute his plans and purposes. If we can ascertain the latter, we may be satisfied that the former were both wise and adequate.
Moses informs us that, from the tower of Babel or the plains of Shinar, the people were dispersed over the whole earth. His words are: “So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.” Gen. 11: 8, 9. That America had been submerged by the flood, and that the waters had retired from its surface at the same time as from the rest of the earth, is certain both from Scripture and from the researches of the modern geologist. At any rate, the science of geology can furnish no ground to presume that the new world is of a more recent origin or formation than the old. The characteristic phenomena of each are identical or analogous, and prove that both have been subjected to the same changes and influences, whatever these may have been, or however they may be accounted for or explained by any philosophical theory. That Moses, therefore, by all the earth, could mean only the half of it, is gratuitously imputing to him a latitude of expression which, it is believed, he was not in the habit of employing. I admit the fact, then, to have been precisely as he has recorded it. I do not question his integrity or accuracy, or even his philosophy in this or any other particular.
Now it is remarkable that in this, as in other cases where the Mosaic history has been impugned or but partially received, all the collateral or internal evidence, all the rational or philo
sophical considerations, and all the traditionary or ethnical tes-
Some learned men suppose that Plato, in his Timæus and
sea which replaced it, or about the event which gave rise to the story, are probably not more pertinent or satisfactory than those presented by Catcott, which I proceed to recite.
“ There was formerly (says Plato) an island at the entrance of the ocean, where the Pillars of Hercules stand [and consequently beyond the then supposed limits of Europe and Africa). This island was larger than all Libya and Asia; and from it was an easy passage to many other islands; and from these islands to all that continent which was opposite, and next to the true sea [ianowòv nóvrov, or Pacific Ocean]. Yet, within the mouth there was a gulf with a narrow entry. But that land, which surrounded the sea [zélcyos, where the division was made] might justly be called a continent. In after times there happened a dreadful earthquake and an inundation of water, which continued for the space of a whole day and night; and this island, Atlantis, being covered and overwhelmed by the waves, sunk beneath the ocean, and so disappeared [xarà uns θαλάσσης δυσα ήφανίσθη]. And that the sea in this place has been ever since so filled with mud and sands, that no one can sail over it, or pass by it to those other islands on or near to the firm land.
“On this subject one may observe, that all historians and cosmographers, ancient and modern, call that sea, in which this island was ingulfed, the Atlantic Ocean; retaining even the very name the island bore; which seems a sufficient proof that there had been such an island. Admitting, then, the truth of this history, no one can deny this island, beginning near the straits of Gibraltar, to have been of that extent, from the north southward and from the east westward, as to be more than as large as Asia and Africa. By the other neighboring islands are doubtless meant Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica, St. John's, and those on the coast. By the continent or firm land, opposite to those isles, mentioned by Plato, is certainly meant that land which is now called North and South America. And one must not be surprised at this new world's not having been discovered by the Romans, or any of those other nations which, at different times, abode in Spain; because it may reasonably be imagined that the supposed difficulty of navigating this sea, mentioned by Plato, then remained." (Augustin de Zarate, a learned Spaniard of the 16th century quoted by Catcott.)*
* The prevalent report or tradition that the new sea or Atlantic Ocean was unnavigable would, in all probability, have