صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

upon

The most interesting and perplexing circumstances, concerning the Indians, are the antiquities found among them, and of which they can give no account; or one so vague and unsatisfactory, as rather to bewilder, than aid, the inquirer. That the works which have been discovered in various parts of the country, are vestiges of a people far superior to the present race, is evident; but what their destiny and fate their names and customs—are questions, in answer to which every thing may be conjectured, but nothing proved. The author's remarks on these antiquities are appropriate; but he could not be expected to throw much light on the obscurity that surrounds them. Of the man-eating society, a very curious description is given; and there appears not to be the slightest doubt of the truth of its former existence.

The practice of cannibalism being abhorrent to every feeling of our nature, and the many instances, where the most plausible stories, on severe serutiny, have been proved to be false, had caused us to lend an unbelieving ear to tales of this kind. That the transports of rage or revenge have urged men to vent their fury, by mangling the dead bodies of their enemies, we unhappily have no need of examining Indian customs to prove: we have instances enough of such brutality in civilized men. But we do not think that man, even in his most savage state, ever fed his fellow-men, merely to satisfy his appetite : We have never heard a well-authenticated instance of it, where it could not be traced, either to the desperation of famine, or to the cruelty of revenge. The institution which existed among the Miamis and Kickapoos, is robbed of some of its horror, by the solemn and religious air which attended its ceremonies. We must, however, agree with the author, that'no parallel to it can be found among . the other tribes, nor perhaps in the whole record of human de pravity.'

• A society existed, called “ the man-eaters," whose dnty it was to eat any prisoners, devoted to this horrible purpose by those who captured them. This society was co-eval with the earliest traditions of either tribe ; and the institution was associated with religious sentiments, and with feelings of reverence, in the minds of the Indians. Its members belonged to one family, called “the bear," which, however, included many individuals. They were admitted into the society by a secret and solemo initiation, and with many imposing ceremonies. This right, or duty, for I cannot ascertain in which light the admission was viewed, extended to males and females ; and the whole number, at the period to which my information relates, was about twenty. But I am ignorant whether there was any limitation of number, except by the exclusion of individuals from the sacred family.

On ordinary occasions, when a prisoner is sacrificed, it is done

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to gratify the revenge of the near relations of a fallen warrior : But . when these relatives are strongly excited, either in consequence of the natural strength of their passions, or of a peculiar attachment to the deceased, or of any uncommon circumstances attending his death, the prisoner is then sentenced to a specific death, and to be delivered to the “ Man eaters." They take possession of him, and execute him in conformity with the sentence. After being delivered to them, there is no power to ransom him : His fate is irreversibly fixed.'***

• One of the members of this society, called “ White Skin,” an influential Miami chief, is yet living. But the institution itself has disappeared; and such is the change in the feelings of the Indians upon these subjects, that he is sometimes reproached with this connexion, formerly so much venerated and respected. It has been stated that the celebrated Chief, Little Turtle, was active in the abolition of this horrible practice. Such an exertion was in unison with his character and principles.' ***

• [Since the foregoing memorandum of the Man-eating society was made, the following more minute particulars have been received from the present principal Chief of the Miamis.

• The general name of the family, to which the society is exclusively confined the name which it has always borne—is Ons-e-wonsa. The word has no precise or known meaning. The name of the present head of the family is Am-co-me-we-au-kee, or the Man-eater; whose family, in all its branches, now consists of fifteen or twenty members. The succession is continued in the male line ; and the eldest male living is always the head. There is no ceremony of initiation : : no extraneous members can be admitted : the members are born into the society, and have no choice but to inherit its atro. cious privileges. When a victim is selected, his face is painted black; and, after he has been given up to the society, his fate is ir. revocable. New utensils must be provided for every new sacrifice. Every member of the society is bound in duty to partake of the horrible repast,-infants and all; but, although public, no other person dares profane the sanguinary ceremony. During, or at the conclusion of the feast, the head repeats, for the instruction of the younger members, its tradition and its duties. The Chief above alluded to, says, that the society is now seldom mentioned, and a disuse of its practices for more than thirty years, has obliterated almost every thing connected with it, excepting its name and its members.)' pp. 133–136.

The note containing a description of the war-dance, is entertaining. We wish the Governor had given us some specimens of Indian eloquence. We are covetous of every information, from one so well qualified to give it. Some remarks on the variety and number of their languages, would also have been acceptable ;-but, to satisfy the curiosity this strange people inspire, would require more ample limits, than the notes of a poem could

afford. Instead, therefore, of asking for more, we should be grateful for having obtained so much; and while we praise the poet, for the pleasure he has given us in his Indian tale, we acknowledge our obligations to Governor Cass, for the entertainment he has condensed in the illustrations.

We shall close our remarks with the beautiful and spirited description of the pictured rocks of Lake Superior, a description which does not need the aid of rhyme, to give it pure poetic merit.

• Upon the southern coast of Lake Superior, about fifty miles from the falls of St. Mary's, are the immense precipitous cliffs, called by the voyageurs, Le Portail, and the Pictured Rocks."

This pame has been given to them, in consequence of the different appearances which they present to the traveller, as be passes their base in his canoe. It requires little aid from the imagination, to discern in them the castellated tower, the lofty dome, spires and pinnacles, and every sublime, grotesque, or fantastic shape, which the genius of architecture has ever invented. These cliffs are an unbroken mass of rocks rising to an elevation of three hundred feet above the leyel of the Lake, and stretching along the coast for fifteen miles. The voyageurs never pass this coast except in the most profound calm ; and the Indians, before they make the attempt, offer their accustomed oblations, to propiliate the favour of the Manitous. The eye.instinctively searches along this eternal rampart for a single place of security : But the search is vain. With an impassible barrier of rock on one side, and an interminable expanse of water on the other, a sudden storm upon the lake would as inevitably insure destruction to the passenger in his frail canoe, as if he were on the brink of the cataract of Niagara The rock itself is a sandstone, which is disintegrated, by the continued action of the water, with comparative facility. There are no broken masses upon which the eye can rest and find relief. The lake is so deep that these masses, as they are torp from the precipice, are concealed beneath its waters until they are reduced to sand. The action of the waves has undermined every projecting point; and there, the immense precipice rests upon arches, and the foundation is intersected by caverns extending in every direction. When we passed this mighty fabric of nature, the wind was still and the lakes calm. But even the slight motion of the waves, which in the most profound calm agitates these internal seas, swept through the deep caverns with the noise of distant thunder, and died upon the ear as it rolled forward in the dark re. cesses inaccessible to human observation : no sound more melancholy or more awful ever vibrated upon human nerves. It has left an impression, which neither time nor distance can ever etface. Resting in a frail bark canoe upon the limpid waters of the lake, we seemed almost suspended in air-so pellucid is the element

upon

which we floated. In gazing upon the towering battlements which impended

over us, and from which the smallest fragment would have destroyed us, we felt, and felt intensely, our own insignificance. No situation can be imagined, more appalling to the courage, or more humbling to the pride of man. We appeared like a small speck upon the face of creation. Our whole party, Indians and voyageurs and soldiers, and officers and savans, contemplated in mute astonishment the awfol display of creative power, at whose base we hung: and no sound broke upon the ear, to interrupt the ceaseless roaring of the waters.- No splendid cathedral, no temple built with human hands, no pomp of worship, could ever impress the spectator with such deep bumility, and so strong a conviction, of the immense distance between him and the Almighty Architect.

• The writer of this article has viewed the falls of Niagara, and the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge, two of the most stupendous objects in the natural features of our country : The impression they produce is feeble and transient, when compared with that of the • Pictured Rocks" of Lake Superior.'

ART. VII.—Letters from Paris and other cities of France and

Holland, &c. written during it tour and residence in these Countries, in the years 1816, 17, 18, 19 and 20, with remarks on the conduct of the Ultra Royalists, since the Revolution. By FRANKLIN J. DIDIER, A. M., M. D. &c. 8vo. pp. 375.

New-York, James V. Seaman : 1821. 2. Ten Years' Exile, or Memoirs of that interesting period of the

life of the Baroness De Stael-Holst in : written by herself, during the years 1810, 11, 12 and 13, and now first published from the original MS. by her Son. 12mo. pp. 280. New-York,

Collins, and Van Winkle: 1821. 3. A View of the Civil Administration and Political Character of

Napoleon Bonaparte. 8vo. pp. 31. New-York, Bliss & White: 1821.

We always feel indebted to our countrymen, when they furnish us with the result of the observations they have made, and the information they have collected, in their travels. Even if their

performances should present but little of interest or value in the intelligence they afford, we are at least enabled to judge, of the effect produced on them, by an intercourse with foreign manners and customs, a view of the intrigues and corruptions of Europe—and of the influence thus produced on those opinions and prejudices, in which their previous education had strengthened or confirmed them. We were in expectation, however, of finding in the letters from Paris, something more on the subject of Napoleon, than the

few passing remarks, occasionally repeated, in the praise rather too indiscriminately bestowed upon France and Frenchmen. Of France our author says, ' after 25 years of victory, during which she was menaced by a double danger, her glory and honour have remained spotless ;' and of Napoleon, that the terror of his beak and lightning of his eye were quenched in the clouds of slumber.' Mr. Didier remained a year in Great-Britain, visiting Edinburgh, Dublin and London, and although he wrote very long letters to his friends, he informs us ‘he will not give place to his remarks on the British government, manners and institutions, lest they should appear as the effect of prejudice.' This avowal is so candid, as to Irave us nothing to say, and but little to hope for the present. These letters, nevertheless, give evidence of good feeling, and, generally, of correct sentiments ; although we think them better calculated to amuse a private circle of friends, than interest or instruct the public. They are written, however, without pretension, are occasionally lively, and sometimes entertaining.

Madame de Stael is a writer of no ordinary capacity. To a strong and forcible style, she adds a justness of sentiment, a profundity of thought, and a knowledge of human nature, which raise her far above the level of her sex. In the work before us, however, although there are continual traces of her former ability, and occasional remarks to remind us of her former merit, still it chiefly abounds with complaints of the treatment she experienced from Napoleon, and of those unceasing vezations and persecutions she was compelled to submit to—which, we think, the suppression of a little misplaced pride, or the exercise of a little prudence on her part, would have enabled her to avert, without the surrender of independence, the abandonment of friends, or any sacrifice of principle.

Bonaparte paid her but little attention-she thought she deserved something more at his hands; and that her pretensions to literary celebrity should have secured to her, if not the flattering attentions of his courtiers, at least the acknowledgment due to her talents and her name.-Power, however, with its seductive attractions, would have been suffici«nt, if it had been thought necessary, to overcome the scruples of our author; for she frankly owns, that when M. Constant informed her that “ if he spoke tomorrow, her drawing room would be deserted,” and she answered

we must folow our conviction,” • If I had foreseen what I have suffered since that day, I should not have had the firmness to refuse Mr. Constant's offer of renouncing his project, in order not to compromise me.' And again, 'Bonaparte had as yet done nothing exactly culpable; many asserted that he had saved Krance from anarchy; in short, if at that moment he had sigpi

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »