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in 1600 there is a descendant left to recount their history. Assuming, however, the most favorable hypothesis, viz., that, on the whole, the population of native race had remained stationary since the time of Columbus until driven westward by the European colonists; and further assuming that the proportion of souls to the square mile was about the same as may still be found in those territories where Indian tribes still roam, Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and other Western districts, a rough guess may still be made as to the total population of the portion of the continent north of the Rio Grande at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards.
The total area of the vast region comprised in the United States and British America is about 6,700,000 square miles, of which, however, a very large proportion is uninhabitable, especiable in the far North and Labrador; and a considerable deduction must be made for the area occupied by lakes, rivers, forests, mountain ranges, and deserts. It is not hazarding much to say that at least 2,000,000 square miles are untenantable by man, or, as in the case of Labrador and the Arctic regions, by families very thinly scattered, as the Esquimaux are. In 1847 it was estimated * that the population of the Indian tribes in the whole of the United States was about 400,000, and as the area of the States exclusive of Alaska is in round numbers 3,200,000 square miles, this would give an average of only one soul to eight square miles; but this is not the system on which the calculation should be based. It was found that since the war of Independence the number of deaths in a tribe exceeded the births by nearly 78,000 in a period of 87 years; this was, however, partly owing to the advance and encroachment of the whitos upon the Indian hunting-grounds. But there were, in 1847, territories which had not then been encroached upon to any great extent, viz., Texas, New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Utah, which, it was estimated, contained 182,000 Indians. The area of these States is in round numbers 900,000 square miles, which would give about one inhabitant to five square miles, and if we
Schoolcraft, Report, pt. 2, p. 8.
suppose this rule held good in 1492, as regards the whole of the northern portion of the continent—that is to say, from the Rio Grande to the Arctic regions-it would give an estimate of something under a million of persons of Indian race at that period.
But this estimate requires correction, if, instead of supposing the population to have remained stationary, we suppose it to have steadily declined in the ratio of 77,000 out of 206,000 in each period of 87 years. A simple rule-of-three sum will make the correction. As 206: 940 (the exact amounts):: 77:194,000—the total amount of the decrease of the entire population in 87 years. Therefore in 1760 the population was 1,134,000. Applying the same process to the preceding 87 years, we shall find that in 1673 the entire population was 1,559,000; in 1576 it was 2,140,000; and in 1499 it was 2,940,000. This might be carried out ad absurdum ; the reader can choose between the stationary theory and the retrogressive; but we may suggest in favor of the latter, that the numerous burial and fortification mounds, and other remains of antiquity still to be seen in various parts of the United States go far towards proving that this continent was once, at some remote period, much more densely peopled than it was at the time John Cabot discovered it. The accounts of the condition of Mexico, Central and South America, given by the historians of the Spanish Conquest, show that the population of those regions was much greater then than it is even at the present day." The great name of Columbus," says Horace Greeley,* "is indelibly soiled and stained by his undeniable and conspicuous implication in the enslavement of the aborigines of this continent, so improperly termed "Indians. Within two years after his great discovery, before he had set foot on the continent, he was concerned in seizing some scores of natives, carrying them to Spain, and selling them there as slaves. His example was extensively followed. The fierce lust for gold, which inflamed the early adventurers on his track, incited the most reckless, shameless disregard of the rights and hap
* American Conflict, Nol. 1, p. 27.
piness of a harmless and guileless people, whose very helplessness should have been their defence. Forced to hunt incessantly for gold, and to minister in every way to the imperious appetites of their stranger tyrants, they found in speedy death their only relief from intolerable suffering. In a few years but a miserable remnant remained." This extinction of the native races by the advent of Europeans appears to be a law of nature, as the same result has been observed in all parts of the world, wherever a strong race settles by the side of a weak one.
It has been so on this continent, and the few remaining tribes of the red race are being rapidly “improved off” of its surface.
Mr. Greeley, however, was mistaken in his estimate of the moral qualities of the Indians. The Peruvians may have been “a harmless and guileless people,” though even that is doubtful, seeing that they were addicted to human sacrifices. But all the accounts we have of the natives of ancient Mexico and of the northern continent describe them as cruel, treacherous, bloodthirsty, and licentious, constantly at war with their neighbors and among themselves. And this is the normal condition of all tribes of men who subsist chiefly by hunting ; it was so with the ancient Scythians, and those of the middle ages; and when their numbers increased so as to trench on the means of subsistence, they raided on their neighbors, precisely as the red Indians did in the days when they first became known to us, and as they do now whenever they get a chance.
The traditions of the red men of America throw very little light on their origin. From the nature of some of them, we are inclined to adopt the theory that the most remarkable of them are borrowed from a more ancient race of men who had attained to a certain degree of civilization. Thus among the North American Indians there prevails a tradition of a personage of miraculous birth, who was sent among them to clear their rivers, forests, and fishing grounds, and to teach them the arts of peace. He was known among different tribes by the several names of Michabon, Chiabo, Manabozo, Tarenyawagon,
and Hiawatha.* But if such a personage ever existed and taught what he is alleged to have done, it is clear that either the Indians were not the people he taught or that they have long since forgotten his teachings, since beyond the fabrication of mats, moccasins, pipes and a few other articles, by hand, they have no notion of "the arts of peace,” nor is it known that they ever undertook to clear a forest. As for building a house there is no trace of such a stroke of genius in their his tory. We are speaking now of Indians in their natural condition when left to themselves, and not of the few who have, under the auspices of American institutions, been located on “reservations” and taught some of the elements of civilization. Let the war-club, paint, tomahawk, and scalping-knife testify as to what the red race is in its natural state. When the North American Indians were first encountered by European settlers, the use of these implements of savage warfare had been traditional among them from time immemorial.
That these red men were the conquerors of a civilized race who flourished on this Continent long ages ago has been rendered certain by the discovery of the remains of an ancient city of vast extent on the site where now stands the city of Lexington, Kentucky. Some of these ruins, noticed by Ashe, the traveller, in 1806, were carefully examined by Professor C. S. Raffinesque, of Transylvania University, in 1820, and described by him in an article in the Western Review.t But there was no great interest excited at the time by these researches, and it is only within the last few years that anything like scientific investigation has been directed to the vast erections of the ancient Mound-builders. They were not Indians, for no Indian nation has ever built walled cities, with stune walls and defended by entrenchments, or ever buried their dead in sepulchres hewn in the solid rock, as was the practice among the race which has so completely disappeared. How many centuries have elapsed since the last survivors of them passed away will probably never be known. They left no literature behind them, and so their very name is forgotten. Not a fragment of their history or their language remains. They have vanished like a dream. Hector and Achilles, though mere barbarians, live because sung by Homer. Germanicus lives, as the historian himself said, because narrated by Tacitus; but these builders of mounds perish because no Homer and no Tacitus has told of them. It is the spirit only, which, by the pen, can build immortal monuments.
* Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, vol. 1, p. 134. Indian Tribes, pt. III, p. 314. ^ For 1820, p. 53.
Roger Williams, Dr. Boudinot, and others maintained the theory that the Indians of North America migrated from Asia; that the once noble (?) race, which has almost melted away, was descended from the ten tribes of Israel, which were driven from Palestine seven hundred years before the Christian era. But this is only theory, and the advent of the Indians and the stock from which they sprung will probably remain an unsettled problem : but that they came here subsequently to the Mound-builders is certain. The appearance of the Indians was the death-knell of that doomed race whose rich and beautiful lands and spoil-gorged cities inflamed the desperate and destitute invaders. The numerous tumuli which yet remain attest the fierceness of the conflict which ensued. A great people were swept out of existence; their cities disappeared ; the grass grew above them, and in time the canebrakes and the forests. Out of all this vast extent of conquered territory, the Indians selected a portion as a hunting-ground, and called it "Kan-tuckee,” because it had been in truth to them " a dark and bloody ground.” It was a shadow land to the Indians. In 1800 some Sacs, who were in St. Louis, said of Kentucky that it was full of the souls of a strange race which their people had long ago exterminated. They regarded this land with superstitious awe. Here they hunted and here they fought, but no tribe was ever known to settle permanently in it. And while they hunted and roamed, and paddled here their bark canoes, unknown centuries rolled away.*
But the same fate to which the red men had consigned the Mound-builders is in waiting for themselves. Its approach was
* Ranch, Elistory of Lexington, Kentucky, p. 14.