Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Historical Society:

There is a strong propensity in the human mind to trace up our ancestry as to high and as remote a source as possible; and if our pride and our ambition cannot be gratified by a real statement of facts, fable is substituted for truth, and the imagination is taxed to supply the deficiency. This principle of our nature, although liable to great perversion, and frequently the source of well-founded ridicule may, if rightly directed, become the parent of great actions. The origin and progress of individuals, of families, and of nations, constitute Biography and History – two of the most interesting departments of human knowledge. Allied to this principle, springing from the same causes, and producing the same benign effects, is that curiosity we feel in tracing the history of the nations which have occupied the same territory before us, although not connected with us in any other respect. "To abstract the mind from all local emotion," says an eminent moralist, "would be impossible if it were endeavored, and it would be foolish if it were possible" [Johnson’s Tour to the Hebrides.] The places where great events have been performed, where great virtues have been exhibited, where great crimes have been perpetrated, will always excite kindred emotions of admiration or horror. And if "that man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona," we may, with equal confidence assert, that morbid must be his sensibility, and small must be his capacity for improvement, who does not advance in wisdom and virtue from contemplating the state and the history of the people who occupied this country before the man of Europe.

As it is, therefore, not uninteresting, and is entirely suitable to this occasion, I shall present a general geographical, political, and historical view of the red men who inhabited this State before us; and this I do the more willingly, from a conviction that no part of America contained a people which will furnish more interesting information and more useful instruction; which will display the energies of the human character in a more conspicuous manner, whether in light or in shade, in the exhibition of great virtues and talents, or of great vices and effects.

In 1774 the government of Connecticut, in an official statement to the British Secretary of State, represented the original title to the land of Connecticut as in the Pequot Nations of Indians, who were numerous and warlike; that their great sachem Sasacus had under him twenty-six sachems, and that their territory extended from Narraganset to Hudson’s River, and over all Long Island. [Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 7, p. 231.] The Long Island Indians, who are represented as very savage and ferocious, were called Meilowacks, or Meitowacks, and the Island itself Meitowacks. [Smith’s History of New York, p. 262.] The Mohiccons, Mahatons, or Manhattans, occupied this Island and Staten Island [Staten Island was purchased from the Indians by Col. Lovelace, second governor under the Duke of York, between the years 1667 and 1673. (Chalmers’s Political Annals of the Colonies, p. 509.) He refers to different manuscripts in the Plantation Office, called New York Entries, New York Papers, which appear to be voluminous. If we could ascertain from those papers the nation that sold Staten Island, it might produce some interesting inferences.] The Mohegans, whose original name was Muhhekanew, were settled on that part of the State east of Hudson’s River and below Albany, and those Indians on the west bank from its mouth to the Kaats’ Kill mountains, were sometimes denominated Wabinga, and sometimes Sankikani, and they and the Mohegans [Jefferson’s Virginia, p. 310. Collections of New York Historical Society, vol. 1, p. 33, 34. Barton’s Views of the Origin of the Indians, p. 31. Trumbull’s History of the United States, p. 42.] went by the general appellation of River Indians; or, according to the Dutch, Mohickanders. Whether the Mohegans were a distinct nation from the Pequots [Trumbull’s History of Connecticut, p. 28.] has been recently doubted; although they were formerly so considered. One of the early historians asserts that the Narragansets, a powerful nation in New England, held dominion over part of Long Island. [Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 1, p. 144, &c. Daniel Gookins.] The generic name adopted by the French for all the Indians of New England, was Abenaquis; and the country from the head of Chesapeake Bay to the Kittatinney mountains, as far eastward as the Abenaquis, and as far northward and westward as the Iroquois, was occupied by a nation denominated by themselves as the Lenni-lenopi; by the French, Loups; and the English, Delawares. [Barton’s Views, p. 25. Jefferson’s Notes, p. 310, &c.] Mr. Charles Thompson, formerly Secretary of Congress, supposed that this nation extended east of Hudson’s to the Connecticut River, and over Long Island, this Island, and Staten Island; and Mr. Smith, in his History of New York, says, that when the Dutch commenced the settlement of the country, all the Indians on Long Island and the northern shore of the Sound, and on the banks of the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers, were in subjection to and paid an annual tribute to the Five Nations. [It is certain that the Montacket Sachem, so called in former times, on the east end of Long Island, paid tribute in wampum to the Confederated Colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven, for at least ten years previous to 1656. Hazard’s Collections of State Papers, vol. 2, p. 361.] Mr. Smith’s statement, therefore, does not accord with the fact of the tribute paid to the United Colonies of New England, nor with the alleged dominion of the Pequots and Narragansets over Long Island. New York was settled before Connecticut, and the supremacy of the Iroquois was never disturbed; and it probably prevailed at one time over Long Island, over the territory as far east as Connecticut River, and over the Indians on the west banks of the Hudson. The confusion on this subject has probably arisen from the same language being used by the Delawares and Abenaquis; but, indeed, it is not very important to ascertain to which of these nations the red inhabitants of that portion of the State may be referred. They, in process of time, became subject to the Iroquois, and paid a tribute in wampum and shells. [Smith’s History of New York. Colden’s History of the Five Nations.] Their general character and conduct to the first Europeans they probably had ever seen, have been described in Hudson’s voyage up the North River. [Purchas’ Pilgrim, vol. 3, p. 58. New York Historical Collections, vol. 1, p. 102.] And it is not a little remarkable, that the natives below the Highlands were offensive and predatory, while those above rendered him every assistance and hospitality in their power. Of all these tribes, about nine or ten families remain on Long Island; their principal settlement is on a track of one thousand acres on Montauk Point.

The Stockbridge Indians migrated from Hudson’s River in 1734, to Stockbridge, in Massachusetts, from whence they removed about the year 1785, to land assigned to them by the Oneidas in their territory. [Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 4, p. 67, &c.] The Brothertown Indians formerly resided in Narraganset, in Rhode Island, and in Farmington, Stonington, Mohegan, and some other towns in Connecticut, and are a remnant of the Muhhekanew Indians, formerly called the Seven Tribes on the Sea Coast. They also inhabit lands presented to them by the Oneidas. These Indians and the Stockbridge Indians, augmented in a small degree by migrations from the Long Island Indians, have formed two settlements, which by an accurate census taken in 1794, contained four hundred and fifty souls. But the greater part of the Indians below Albany retreated at an early period from the approach of civilized man, and became merged in the nations of the north and the west. As far back as 1687, just after the destruction of the Mohawk Castles by the French, Governor Dongan advised [Colden’s History of the Five Nations, vol. 1, p. 85, &c.] the Five Nations to open a path for all the North Indians and Mohickanders, that were among the Ottawas and other nations, and to use every endeavor to bring them home.

The remaining and much greater part of the State was occupied by the Romans of this western world, [Volney’s View of the United States, p. 470-476. Colden’s Five Nations, vol. 1, p. 4, 5.] who composed a federal Republic, and were denominated by the English, the Five Nations, the Six Nations, the Confederates; by the French, the Iroquois; by the Dutch, the Maquas, or Mahakuase; by the southern Indians, the Massawomacs; by themselves, the Mingos, or Mingoians, and sometimes the Aganuschion, or United people, and their confederacy they styled the Kenunctioni. [Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. 1, p. 144, &c. Daniel Gookins. Pownall on the Colonies, vol. 1, p. 235. Smith’s History of New Jersey, p. 136. Morse’s Gazetteer, title Six Nations. Jefferson’s Virginia, p. 140. Smith’s History of New York, p. 45.]

The dwelling lands of this confederacy were admirably adapted for convenience, for subsistence, and for conquest. They comprise the greatest body of the most fertile lands in North America; and they are the most elevated grounds in the United States -- from whence the waters run in every direction. The Ohio, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, the Hudson, and the St. Lawrence, almost all the great rivers, beside a very considerable number of secondary ones, originate here, and are discharged into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River, into the Gulf of St. Lawrence by the St. Lawrence River, or into the Atlantic Ocean by various channels. Five great inland seas reach upward of 2,000 miles through a considerable part of this territory, and afford an almost uninterrupted navigation to that extent. By these lakes and rivers, the confederates were enabled, at all times, and in all directions, to carry war and destruction among the surrounding and the most distant nations. And their country also abounds with other lakes, some of great size; Lake Champlain, formerly called the Sea of the Iroquois, Lake George, the Saratoga, the Oneida, the Canadesaga or Seneca, the Cayuga, the Otsego, the Skeneatelas, the Canandaigua, the Cross, the Onondaga, the Otisco, the Owasco, the Crooked, the Canesus, the Hemlock, the Honeyeo, the Chatauque, the Caniaderaga, and the Canasaraga -- comprising in number and extent, with the five great lakes, the greatest mass of fresh water to be found in the world. In addition to the fertility of the soil, we may mention the mildness of the climate to the west of the Onondaga Hills, the salubrity and the magnificent scenery of the country. The numerous waters were stored with the salmon, the trout, the masquinonges, the white fish, the shad, the rock fish, the sturgeon, the perch, and other fish of various kinds; and the forests abounded with an incredible number and variety of game. The situation of the inhabitants was rendered very eligible from these sources of subsistence, connected with a very productive soil; for they had passed over the pastoral state, and followed agriculture as well as hunting and fishing. The selection of this country for a habitation was the wisest expedient that could have been adopted by a military nation to satiate their thirst for glory, and to extend their conquests over the continent; and if they preferred the arts of peace, there was none better calculated for this important purpose. In a few days their forces could be seen, their power could be felt, at the mouth of the Ohio or the Missouri, on the waters of the Hudson or the St. Lawrence, or in the bays of Delaware or Chesapeake.

It is not a little difficult to define the territorial limits of this extraordinary people, [Rogers’ Concise Account of North America, p. 6. Colden, vol. 1, p. 87. Pownall on the Colonies, vol. 1, p. 235, &c. Smith’s New York, p. 58, 179, &c. Douglass’ Summary, p. 11, &c. Pownall’s Geographical Description, &c. Charlevoix Histoire Generale de la Nouvelle France, &c.] for on this subject there are most repugnant representations by the French and English writers; arising from interest, friendship, prejudice, and enmity. While the French, on the one hand, were involved in continual hostility with them, the English, on the other hand, were connected by alliance and by commerce. By the 15th article of the treaty of Utrecht, concluded in 1713, it was stipulated "that the subjects of France inhabiting Canada, and others, shall hereafter give no hindrance or molestation to the Five nations, or cantons, subject to the dominion of Great Britain." [Chalmers’ Collection of Treaties, vol. 1, p. 382.] As between France and England the confederates were, therefore, to be considered as the subjects of the latter, and of course the British dominion was co-extensive with the rightful territory of the five cantons, it then became the policy of France to diminish, and that of England to enlarge this territory. But, notwithstanding the confusion which has grown out of these clashing interests and contradictory representations, it is not perhaps very far from the truth to pronounce, that the Five Nations were entitled by patrimony or conquest to all the territory in the United States and in Canada, not occupied by the Creeks, the Cherokees, and the other southern Indians, by the Sioux, the Kinisteneaux, and the Chippewas, and by the English and French as far west as the Mississippi and Lake Winnipeg, as for north-west as the waters which unite this lake and Hudson’s Bay, and as far north as Hudson’s Bay and Labrador. The Five nations claim, says Smith, "all the lands not sold to the English from the mouth of the Sorel River, on the south sides of Lakes Erie and Ontario, on both sides of the Ohio, till it falls into the Mississippi; and on the north side of these lakes, that whole territory between the Outawas River and Lake Huron, and even beyond the straits between that and Lake Erie." The principal point of dispute between the English and the French was, whether the dominion of the confederates extended north of the Great Lake: but I think it is evident that it did. It is admitted by several French writers, that the Iroquois had several villages on the north side of Lake Ontario; and they are even laid down in the maps attached to Charlevoix, and it cannot be denied but that they subdued the Hurons and Algonkins, who lived on that side of the Great Lakes, and consequently were entitled to their country by the right of conquest. Douglass estimated their territory at about twelve hundred miles in length, from north to south, and from seven to eight hundred miles in breadth. This was either hereditary or conquered. Their patrimonial, and part of their conquered country, were used for the purpose of habitation and hunting. Their hunting-grounds were very extensive, including a large triangle on the southeast side of the St. Lawrence River, the country lying on the south and east sides of Lake Erie, the country between the Lakes Erie and Michigan, and the country lying on the north of Lake Erie, and northwest of Lake Ontario, and between the Lakes Ontario and Huron. All the remaining part of their territory was inhabited by the Abenaquis, Algonkins, Shawanese, Delawares, Illinois, Miamies, and other vassal nations.

The acquisition of supremacy over a country of such amazing extent and fertility, inhabited by warlike and numerous nations, must have been the result of unity of design and system of action proceeding from a wise and energetic policy, continued for a long course of time. To their social combinations, military talents, and exterior arrangements, we must look for this system, if such a system is to be found.

The Confederates had proceeded far beyond the first element of all associations -- that of combination into families: they had their villages, their tribes, their nations, and their confederacy; but they had not advanced beyond the first stage of government. They were destitute of an executive and judiciary to execute the determinations of their councils; and their government was therefore merely advisory, and without a coercive principle. The respect which was paid to their chiefs, and the general odium that attached to disobedience, rendered the decisions of their legislatures, for a long series of time, of as much validity as if they had been enforced by an executive arm.

They were originally divided into Five Nations -- the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. In 1712, the Tuscaroras, who lived in the back parts of North Carolina, and who had formed a deep and general conspiracy to exterminate the whites, were driven from their country, were adopted by the Iroquois as a Sixth Nation, and lived on lands between the Oneidas and the Onondagas, assigned to them by the former. [Smith’s New York, p. 46. Douglass’ Summary, p. 243.]

The Mohawks had four towns and one small village, situated on or near the fertile banks of the river of that name. The position of the first was at the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River, and the others were farther to the west. This nation, from their propinquity to the settlements of the whites, from their martial renown and military spirit, have, like Holland, frequently given their name to the whole confederacy, which is often denominated the Mohawks in the annals of those days; and it may be found employed in the pages of a celebrated periodical writer of Great Britain, for the purpose of the most exquisite humor. [Spectator.] This nation was always held in the greatest veneration by its associates. At the important treaty of 1768, at Fort Stanwix, by Sir William Johnson, they were declared by the other nations "the true old heads of the confederacy." [The proceedings of this treaty were never published. I have seen them in manuscript, in the possession of the late Vice President Clinton.] The Oneidas had their principal seat on the south of the Oneida Lake, the Onondagas near the Onondaga, and the Cayugas near the Cayuga Lake. The principal village of the Senecas was near the Genesee River, about twenty miles from Irondequoit Bay. Each nation was divided into three tribes -- the Tortoise, the Bear, and the Wolf; and each village was like the cities of the United Netherlands -- a distinct Republic; and its concerns were managed by its particular chiefs. [See Charlevoix, Colden, &c.] Their exterior relations, general interests, and national affairs, were conducted and superintended by a great council, assembled annually in Onondaga, the central canton, composed of the chiefs of each republic; and eighty sachems were frequently convened at this national assembly. It took cognizance of the great questions of war and peace; of the affairs of the tributary nations, and of their negotiations with the French and English colonies. All their proceedings were conducted with great deliberation, and were distinguished for order, decorum, and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and in all the characteristics of profound policy, they surpassed an assembly of feudal barons, and were perhaps not far inferior to the great Amphyctionic Council of Greece. Dr. Robertson, who has evinced, in almost every instance, a strong propensity to degrade America below its just rank in the scale of creation, was compelled to qualify the generality of his censures in relation to its political institutions, by saying, "If we except the celebrated league which united the Five Nations in Canada into a Federal Republic, we can discern few such traces of political wisdom among the rude American tribes as discover any great degree of foresight or extent of intellectual abilities." [Robertson’s America, vol. 1., p. 435.}

A distinguished feature in the character of the confederates, was an exalted spirit of liberty, which revolted with equal indignation at domestic or foreign control. "We are born free, (said Garangula, in his admirable speech to the governor general of Canada,) we neither depend on Ononthio, or Corlear;" [See this speech in Appendix, No. 1; taken from Smith’s History of New York.] on France, or on England. Baron Lahontan, who openly avowed his utter detestation and abhorrence of them, is candid enough to acknowledge, that "they laugh at the menaces of kings and governors, for they have no idea of dependence; nay, the very word is to them insupportable. They look upon themselves as sovereigns, accountable to none but God alone, whom they call the Great Spirit." They admitted of no hereditary distinctions. The office of sachem was the reward of personal merit; of great wisdom, or commanding eloquence; of distinguished services in the cabinet or in the field. It was conferred by silent and general consent, as the spontaneous tribute due to eminent worth; and it could only be maintained by the steady and faithful cultivation of the virtues and accomplishments which procured it. No personal slavery was permitted: [Colden, vol. 1., p. 11.] their captives were either killed or adopted as a portion of the nation. The children of the chiefs were encouraged to emulate the virtues of their sires, and were frequently elevated to the dignities occupied by their progenitors. From this source has arisen an important error with respect to the establishment of privileged orders among the Confederates.

There is a striking similitude between the Romans and the Confederates, not only in their martial spirit and rage for conquest, but in their treatment of the conquered. Like the Romans, they not only adopted individuals, but incorporated the remnant of vanquished enemies into their nation, by which they continually recruited their population, exhausted by endless and wasting wars, and were enabled to continue their career of victory and desolation: if their unhappy victims hesitated or refused, they were compelled to accept the honors of adoption. The Hurons of the Island of Orleans, in 1656, knowing no other way to save themselves from destruction, solicited admission into the canton of the Mohawks, and were accepted; but at the instance of the French, they declined their own proposal. On this occasion the Mohawks continued their ravages, and compelled acquiescence; they sent thirty of their warriors to Quebec, who took them away, with the consent of the governor general; he, in fact, not daring to refuse, after having addressed him in the following terms of proud defiance; which cannot but bring to our recollection similar instances of Roman spirit, when Rome was free. [Heriot’s History of Canada, p. 79. (This work is a compilation principally from Charlevoix.)] "Lift up thy arm, Ononthio, and allow my children, whom thou holdest pressed to thy bosom, to depart; for if they are guilty of any imprudence, have reason to dread, lest in coming to chastise them, my blows fall on thy head." Like the Romans, also, they treated their vassal nations with extreme rigor. If there were any delay in the render of the annual tribute, military execution followed, and the wretched delinquents frequently took refuge in the houses of the English to escape from destruction. On all public occasions they took care to demonstrate their superiority and dominion, and at all times they called their vassals to an awful account, if guilty of violating the injunctions of the great council. At a treaty held on the forks of the Delaware, in 1758, by the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the Six Nations, several claims of the Munseys, Wapings, and other Delaware Indians, for lands in the latter province, were adjusted and satisfied under the cognizance of the Confederates, who ordered them to deliver up their prisoners, and to be at peace with the English, and who assumed a dictatorial tone, and appeared to exercise absolute authority over the other Indians. [Smith’s New Jersey, 466, &c.] At a former conference on this subject, a Munsey, or Minisink Indian had spoken sitting, not being allowed to stand, until a Cayuga Chief had spoken; when the latter thus expressed himself: "I who am the Mingoian, am by this belt to inform you that the Munseys are women, and cannot hold treaties for themselves; therefore I am sent to inform you, that the invitation you gave the Munseys is agreeable to us, the Six Nations."

At a treaty held at Lancaster in 1742, by the government of Pennsylvania with the Iroquois, the governor complained of the Delawares, who refused to remove from some lands which they had sold on the River Delaware. [Colden, vol. 1. p. 31.] On this occasion a great chief called Cannassateegoo, after severely reprimanding them, and ordering them to depart from the land immediately to Wyoming or Shamokin, concluded in the following manner: "After our just reproof and absolute order to depart from the land, you are now to take notice of what we have further to say to you. This string of wampum serves to forbid you, your children, and grand-children, to the latest posterity, from ever meddling in land affairs; neither you, nor any who shall descend from you, are ever hereafter to sell any land. For this purpose you are to preserve this string, in memory of what your uncles have this day given you in charge. We have some other business to transact with our brethren, and therefore depart the council, and consider what has been said to you." The Confederates had captured a great part of the Shawanese Nation who lived on the Wabash, but afterward, by the mediation of Mr. Penn, at the first settlement of Pennsylvania, gave them liberty to settle in the western parts of that province; but obliged, as a badge of cowardice, them to wear female attire for a long time: and some nations as low down as 1769, were not permitted to appear ornamented with paint [Roger’s Concise Account, &c. p. 209, &c.] at any general meeting or congress where the Confederates attended, that being an express article in their capitulations. [This is the Shawanese nation of Indians, who, under the auspices of their prophet, have lately had an engagement with the army under the command of governor Harrison.] This humiliation of the tributary nations was, however, tempered with a paternal regard for their interests in all negotiations with the whites; and care was taken that no trespasses should be committed on their rights, and that they should be justly dealt with in all their concerns.

War was the favorite pursuit of this martial people, and military glory their ruling passion. Agriculture, and the laborious drudgery of domestic life were left to the women. The education of the savage was solely directed to hunting and war. From his early infancy he was taught to bend the bow, to point the arrow, to hurl the tomahawk, and to wield the club. He was instructed to pursue the footsteps of his enemies through the pathless and unexplored forest; to mark the most distant indications of danger; to trace his way by the appearances of the trees and by the stars of heaven, and to endure fatigue, and cold, and famine, and every privation. He commenced his career of blood by hunting the wild beasts of the woods, and after learning the dexterous use of the weapons of destruction, he lifted his sanguinary arm against his fellow-creatures. The profession of a warrior was considered the most illustrious pursuit; their youth looked forward to the time when they could march against an enemy, with all the avidity of an epicure for the sumptuous dainties of a Heliogabalus. And this martial ardor was continually thwarting the pacific counsels of the elders, and enthralling them in perpetual and devastating wars. With savages in general, this ferocious propensity was impelled by a blind fury, and was but little regulated by the dictates of skill and judgment; on the contrary, with the Iroquois, war was an art. All their military movements were governed by system and policy. They never attacked a hostile country until they had sent out spies to explore and to designate the vulnerable points, and whenever they encamped, they observed the greatest circumspection to guard against surprize; whereas the other savages only sent out scouts to reconnoitre; but they never went far from the camp, and if they returned without perceiving any signs of an enemy, the whole band went quietly to sleep, and were often the victims of their rash confidence. [Colden, vol. 1, p. 110. Heriot, p. 15.]

Whatever superiority of force the Iroquois might have, they never neglected the use of stratagems: they employed all the crafty wiles of the Carthagenians. The cunning of the fox, the ferocity of the tiger, and the power of the lion were united in their conduct. They preferred to vanquish their enemy by taking him off guard; by involving him in an ambuscade; by falling upon him in the hour of sleep; but when emergencies rendered it necessary for them to face him in the open field of battle, they exhibited a courage and contempt of death which have never been surpassed.

Although we have no reason to believe that they were, generally speaking, Anthropophagi, yet we have no doubt but that they sometimes eat the bodies of their enemies killed in battle, more indeed for the purpose of exciting their ferocious fury than for gratifying their appetite. Like all other savage nations, they delighted in cruelty. To inflict the most exquisite torture upon their captive, to produce his death by the most severe and protracted sufferings, was sanctioned by general and immemorial usage. Herodotus informs us, that the Scythians (who were, in all probability, the ancestors of the greater part of our red men), drank the blood of their enemies, and suspended their scalps from the bridle of their horses, for a napkin and a trophy; that they used their sculls for drinking vessels, and their skins as a covering to their horses. [Beloe’s Herodotus, vol. 2. p. 419.] In the war between the Carthagenians and their mercenaries, Gisco, a Carthegenian General, and seven hundred prisoners, according to Polybius, were scalped alive; and in return, Spendius, a General of the mercenaries, was crucified, and the prisoners taken in the war thrown alive to the elephants. [Polybius, b. 1. Chap. 6.] From these celebrated nations we may derive the practice of scalping, so abhorrent to humanity; and it is not improbable, considering the maritime skill and distant voyages of the Phœnicians and Carthagenians, that America derives part of its population from that source by water, as it undoubtedly has from the northeast parts of Asia by land, with the exception of a narrow strait.

But the Five Nations, notwithstanding their horrible cruelty, are in one respect entitled to singular commendation for the exercise of humanity: those enemies they spared in battle they made free; whereas, with all other barbarous nations, slavery was the commutation of death. But it becomes not us, if we value the characters of our forefathers; it becomes not the civilized nations of Europe who have had American possessions, to inveigh against the merciless conduct of the savage. His appetite for blood was sharpened and whetted by European instigation, and his cupidity was enlisted on the side of cruelty by every temptation. In the wars between France and England and their colonies, their Indian allies were entitled to a premium for every scalp of an enemy. In the war preceding 1703, the government of Massachusetts gave twelve pounds for every Indian scalp; in that year the premium was raised to forty pounds, but in 1722 it was augmented to one hundred pounds. [Douglass’ Summary, p. 199. 586. Holmes’ American Annals, vol. 2. p. 116.] An act was passed on the 25th February, 1745, by our colonial legislature, entitled "An act for giving a reward for such scalps and prisoners as shall be taken by the inhabitants of (or Indians in alliance with) this colony, and to prevent the inhabitants of the city and county of Albany from selling rum to the Indians." [Journals of Colonial Assembly, vol. 1. p. 95.] In 1746, the scalps of two Frenchmen were presented to one of our colonial governors at Albany, by three of the confederate Indians; and his excellency, after gratifying them with money and fine clothes, assured them how well he took this special mark of their fidelity, and that he would always remember this act of friendship. [Colden, vol. 2. p. 120.] The employment of savages, and putting into their hands the scalping knife during our revolutionary war, were openly justified in the House of Lords by Lord Suffolk, the British Secretary of State, who vindicated its policy and necessity, and declared "that the measure was also allowable on principle, for that it was perfectly justifiable to use all the means that God and nature had put into their hands." [Belsham.] The eloquent rebuke of Lord Chatham has perpetuated the sentiment, and consigned its author to immortal infamy. It were to be wished, for the honor of human nature, that an impenetrable veil could be drawn over these horrid scenes; but, alas! they are committed to the imperishable pages of history, and they are already recorded with the conflagrations of Smithfield, the massacres of St. Bartholomew, and the cannibal barbarities of the French revolution.

The conquests and military achievements of the Iroquois were commensurate with their martial ardor, their thirst for glory, their great courage, their invincible perseverance, and their political talents. Their military excursions were extended as far north as Hudson’s Bay. The Mississippi did not form their western limits; their power was felt in the most southern and eastern extremities of the United States. Their wars have been supposed, by one writer, to have been carried near to the Isthmus of Darien. [Rogers’s America, p. 209.] And Cotton Mather, in his Magnalia, which was probably written in 1698, describes them as terrible cannibals to the westward, who have destroyed no less that two millions of other savages. [Roger’s America, p. 728.]

The ostensible causes of war among the Indians were like many of those of civilized nations; controversies about limits, violations of the rights of embassy, individual or national wrongs: And the real and latent reasons were generally the same; the enlargement of territory, the extension of dominion, the gratification of cupidity, and the acquisition of glory. According to a late traveler, a war has existed for two centuries between the Sioux and the Chippewas. [Smith’s New York, p. 52.] For an infraction of the rights of the calumet, the Confederates carried on a war of thirty years against the Choctaws. [Pike’s Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi, &c., p. 64.] For a violation of the game laws of the hunting nations, in not leaving a certain number of male and female beavers in each pond, they subdued and nearly destroyed the Illinois; [See Garangula’s Speech, in Appendix, No. 1.] and they appeared to have accurate notions of the rights of belligerants over contraband articles; for they considered all military implements carried to an enemy as liable to seizure; but they went farther, and, conceiving this conduct a just ground of war, treated the persons supplying their enemies, as enemies, and devoted them to death. But the commerce in furs and peltries, introduced a prolific source of contention among them, and operated like opening the box of Pandora. Those articles were eagerly sought after by the whites, and the red men were equally desirous of possessing iron, arms, useful tools, cloths, and the other accommodations of civilized life. Before the arrival of the Europeans, furs, were only esteemed for their use as clothing; but when the demand increased, and an exchange of valuable articles took place, it became extremely important to occupy the most productive hunting grounds, and to monopolize the best and the most furs. And it was sometimes the policy of the French to divert the attacks of the Iroquois from the nations with whom they traded, by instigating them to hostilities against the Southern Indians friendly to the English colonies; and at other times they excited wars between their northern allies and the Iroquois, in order to prevent the former from trading with the English, which they preferred, because they could get their goods cheaper. On the other hand, the English entangled the Confederates in all their hostilities with the French and their Indian allies. The commerce in furs and peltries was deemed so valuable that no exertion or expense was spared in order to affect a monopoly. The goods of the English were so eagerly sought after by the Indians, and so much preferred to those of the French, that the latter were compelled to procure them from the colony of New York; from which they were conveyed to Montreal, and distributed among the savages. It was then evident, that the English had it in their power, not only to undersell the French, but by a total interdiction of those supplies, to expel them from the trade. The enlightened policy of Gov. Burnet dictated the most energetic steps, and a colonial law was passed for the purpose. [Colden’s Five Nations, vol. 1., p. 95. Smith’s New York, p. 224, &c. Herriot’s Canada, p. 174.] He also established trading houses, and erected a fort at Oswego, at the entrance of Onondaga river into Lake Ontario. This position was judiciously selected, not only on account of its water communication with a great part of the Iroquois territory, but for the facility with which articles could be transported to and from Schenectady; there being but three portages in the whole route, two of which were very short. It had another decided advantage. The Indian navigation of the lakes being in canoes, is necessarily along the coast. The southern side of Lake Ontario affording a much more secure route than the northern, all the Indians who came from the great lakes, would, on their way to Canada, have to pass close by the English establishment, where they could be supplied at a cheaper rate, and at a less distance. Oswego then became one great emporium of the fur trade; and its ruins now proclaim the vestiges of its former prosperity. The French perceived all the consequences of those measures, and they immediately rebuilt the fort at Niagara, in order that they might have a commercial establishment two hundred miles nearer to the western Indians than that at Oswego. Having previously occupied the mouth of the Lake Ontario by Fort Frontenac, the fort at Niagara now gave them a decided advantage in point of position. The act passed by Gov. Burnet’s recommendation was, under the influence of a pernicious policy, repealed by the British king. The Iroquois had adopted a determined resolution to exterminate the French. "Above these thirty years," says La Hontan, "their ancient counsellors have still remonstrated to the warriors of the Five Nations, that it was expedient to cut off all the savage nations of Canada, in order to ruin the commerce of the French, and after that to dislodge them from the continent. With this view they have carried the war above four or five hundred leagues off their country, after the destroying of several different nations." [Vol. 1. p. 270.] Charlevoix was impressed with the same opinion: "The Iroquois," says he, "are desirous of exercising a species of domination over the whole of this great continent, and to render themselves the sole masters of its commerce." [Charlevoix’s Histoire Generale de la Nouvelle France, vol. 1. p. 11. p. 480.] Finding the auxiliary efforts of the English rendered abortive, their rage and fury increased, and the terror of their arms was extended accordingly. At a subsequent period, they appeared to entertain different and more enlightened views on this subject. They duly appreciated the policy of averting the total destruction of either European power; and several instances could be pointed out, by which it could be demonstrated that the balance of power, formerly the subject of so much speculation among the statesmen of Europe, was thoroughly understood by the Confederates in their negotiations and intercourse with the French and English colonies.

To describe the military enterprises of this people, would be to delineate the progress of a tornado or an earthquake. [For the military exploits of the Iroquois, generally speaking, see De la Potheire, La Hontan, Charlevoix, Colden, Smith, and Herriott.]

"Wide-wasting Death, up to the ribs in blood, with giant stroke widow’d the nations." [Cumberland’s Battle of Hastings.]

Destruction followed their footsteps, and whole nations subdued, exterminated, rendered tributary, expelled from their country, or mersed in their conquerors, declare the superiority and the terror of their arms. When Champlain arrived in Canada, in 1603, he found them at war with the Hurons and Algonkins. He took part and headed three expeditions against them; in two of which he was successful, but in the last he was repulsed. This unjust and impolitic interference, laid the foundation of continual wars between the French and the Confederates. The Dutch, on the contrary, entered into an alliance with them on their first settlement of the country, which continued without interruption; and on the surrender of New York to the English in 1664, Carteret, one of the commissioners, was sent to subdue the Dutch at Fort Orange, now Albany; which having effected, he had a conference with the Confederates, and entered into a league of friendship; which continued without violation on either part. [Colden, vol. 1, p. 34. Smith’s New York, p. 3. 31. Douglass’s Summary, vol. 2. p. 243.]

The conquests of the Iroquois, previous to the discovery of America, are only known to us through the imperfect channels of traditions; but it is well authenticated, that since that memorable era, they exterminated the nation of the Eries or Erigas, on the south side of Lake Erie, which has given a name to that lake. They nearly extirpated the Andastez and the Chouanons; they conquered the Hurons, and drove them and their allies, the Ottawas, among the Sioux, on the head waters of the Mississippi, "where they separated themselves into bands, and proclaimed, wherever they went, the terror of the Iroquois." [Herriot, p. 77.] They also subdued the Illinois, the Miamies, the Algonkins, the Delawares, the Shawanese, and several tribes of the Abenaquis. After the Iroquois had defeated the Hurons, in a dreadful battle fought near Quebec, the Neperceneans, who lived upon the St. Lawrence, fled to Hudson’s Bay to avoid their fury. In 1649, they destroyed two Huron villages, and dispersed the Nation; and afterward they destroyed another village of six hundred families. Two villages presented themselves to the Confederates, and lived with them. "The dread of the Iroquois," says the historian, "had such an effect upon all the other nations, that the borders of the river Ontaouis, which were long thickly peopled, became almost deserted, without its ever being known what became of the greater part of the inhabitants." [Pownall’s Topographical Description of such Parts of North America as are described in Evans’ Map, 1776, p, 42.] The banks of Lake Superior were lined with Algonkins, who sought an asylum from the Five Nations; they also harassed all the northern Indians, as far as Hudson’s Bay, and they even attacked the nations on the Missouri. When La Salle was among the Natchez, in 1683, he saw a party of that people, who had been on an expedition against the Iroquois. [Tontis’ Account of De la Salle’s Last Expedition. Printed in London from the French in 1698, p. 112.] Smith, the founder of Virginia, in an expedition up the bay of Chesapeake, in 1608, met a war party of the Confederates, then going to attack their enemies. [Jefferson’s Notes, 310, &c.] They were at peace with the Cowetas or Creeks, but they warred against the Catawbas, the Cherokees, and almost all the southern Indians. [Adair’s History of the Indians.] The two former sent deputies to Albany, where they effected a peace through the mediation of the English. In a word, the Confederates were, with a few exceptions, the conquerors and master of all the Indian nations east of the Mississippi. Such was the terror of the nations, that when a single Mohawk appeared on the hills of New England, the fearful spectacle spread pain and terror, and flight was the only refuge from death. [Colden, vol. 1, p. 3.] Charlevoix mentions a singular instance of this terrific ascendency: Ten or twelve Ottawas, being pursued by a party of Iroquois, endeavored to pass over to Goat Island, on the Niagara River, in a canoe; they were swept down the cataract; and, as it appeared, preferred, to the sword of their enemies, [Charlevoix, vol. 3, let, 15, p. 234.]

---------- The vast immeasurable abyss,
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turn’d. [Milton’s Paradise Lost, b. 7.]

In consequence of their sovereignty over the other nations, the Confederates exercised a proprietary right in their lands. In 1742, they granted to the province of Pennsylvania certain lands on the west side of the Susquehannah, having formerly done so on the east side. [Colden, vol. 2, p. 20.] In 1744, they released to Maryland and Virginia certain lands claimed by them in those colonies; and they declared at this treaty, that they had conquered the several nations living on the Susquehannah and Patowmac rivers, and on the back of the Great Mountains in Virginia. [Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. 7, p. 171, &c.] In 1754, a number of the inhabitants of Connecticut purchased of them a large tract of land west of the river Delaware, and from thence spreading over the east and west branches of the Susquehannah River. [Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. 7, p. 231.] In 1768, they gave a deed to William Trent and others, for land between the Ohio and the Monongahela. They claimed and sold the land on the north side of the Kentucky River. [Holmes’s Annals, vol. 2, p. 287. Jefferson’s Notes, p. 296.] In 1768, at a treaty held at Fort Stanwix with Sir William Johnson, the line of property, as it was commonly denominated, was settled, marking out the boundary between the English colonies and the territory of the Confederates. [Jefferson’s Notes, p. 296.]

The vicinity of the Confederates was fortunate for the colony of New York. They served as an effectual shield against the hostile incursions of the French, and their savage allies. Their war with the French began with Champlain, and continued, with few intervals, until the treaty of Utrecht, which confirmed the surrender of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Acadia, to Great Britain. For near a century and a half they maintained a war against the French possessions in Louisiana and Canada, sometimes alone, and sometimes in conjunction with the English colonies. During this eventful period, they often maintained a proud superiority; always an honorable resistance; and no vicissitude of fortune, or visitation of calamity, could ever compel them to descend from the elevated ground which they occupied in their own estimation, and in the opinion of the nations. Their expeditions into Canada were frequent; wherever they marched terror and desolation composed their train.

"And vengeance, striding from his grisly den,
With fell impatience grinds his iron teeth;
And Massacre, unchidden, cloys his famine.
And quaffs the blood of nations. [Glover’s Baodicea.]

In 1683, M. Delabarre, the Governor-General of Canada, marched with an army against the cantons. He landed near Oswego, but finding himself incompetent to meet the enemy, he instituted a negociation, and demanded a conference. On this occasion, Garangula, an Onondaga chief, attended in behalf of this country, and made the celebrated reply to M. Delabarre, which I shall presently notice. The French retired from the country with disgrace. The second general expedition was undertaken in 1687, by M. Denonville, Governor-General. He had treacherously seized several of their chiefs, and sent them to the gallies in France. He was at the head of an army exceeding two thousand men. He landed in Irondequoit Bay, and when near a village of Senecas, was attacked [original text has "attack-".] by five hundred, and would have been defeated, if his Indian allies had not rallied and repulsed the enemy. After destroying some provisions, and burning some villages, he retired without any acquisition of laurels. The place on which this battle was fought has been within a few years owned by Judge Porter, of Grand Niagara. On ploughing the land, three hundred hatchets, and upward of three thousand pounds of iron were found, being more than sufficient to defray the expense of clearing it.

The Confederates, in a year’s time, compelled their enemies to make peace, and to restore their chiefs. It was with the French the only escape from destruction. Great bodies of the Confederates threatened Montreal, and their canoes covered the Great Lakes. They shut up the French in forts, and would have conquered the whole of Canada if they had understood the art of attacking fortified places. This peace was soon disturbed by the artifices of Kondiaronk, a Huron chief; and the Iroquois made an irruption on the Island of Montreal with one thousand two hundred men, destroying everything before them.

The third and last grand expedition against the Confederates, was undertaken in 1697, by the Count De Frontenac; the ablest and bravest governor that the French ever had in Canada. He landed at Oswego, with a powerful force, and marched to the Onondaga Lake; he found their principal village burnt and abandoned. An Onondaga chief, upwards of one hundred years old, was captured in the woods, and abandoned to the fury of the French savages. After sustaining the most horrid tortures, with more than stoical fortitude, the only complaint he was heard to utter was when one of them, actuated by compassion, or probably by rage, stabbed him repeatedly with a knife, in order to put a speedy end to his existence, "Thou ought not," said he, "to abridge by life, that thou might have time to learn to die like a man. For my own part, I die contented, because I know no meanness with which to reproach myself." After this tragedy, the Count thought it prudent to retire with his army; and he probably would have fallen a victim to his temerity, if the Senecas had not been kept at home, from a false report that they were to be attacked at the same time by the Ottawas.

After the general peace in 1762, an attempt was made by a number of the western Indians to destroy the British colonies. The Senecas were involved in this war, but in 1764, Sir William Johnson, styling himself his Majesty’s sole agent and superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern parts of North America, and colonel of the Six United Nations, their allies and dependents, agreed to preliminary articles of peace with them. In this treaty, the Senecas ceded the carrying place at Niagara to Great Britain. The Confederates remained in a state of peace, until the commencement of the Revolutionary War. [Thomas Mante’s History of the late war in North America &c, printed, London, 1772, p. 503.] On the 19th of June, 1775, the Oneidas and some other Indians, sent to the convention of Massachusetts a speech, declaring their neutrality; stating that they could not find nor recollect in the traditions of their ancestors, a parallel case; and saying, "As we have declared for peace, we desire you would not apply to our Indian brethren in New England for assistance. Let us Indians be all of one mind, and live with one another; and you white people settle your own disputes betwixt yourselves. [Williams’ History of Vermont, vol. 2., p. 440.] These good dispositions did not long continue with most of the Indian nations; all within the reach of British blandishments and presents were prevailed upon to take up the hatchet. It is calculated that twelve thousand six hundred and ninety Indian warriors were employed by the British during the Revolutionary War, of which one thousand five hundred and eighty were Iroquois. [Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 10, p. 120, &c.] The influence of Sir William Johnson over the savages was transmitted to his son, who was most successful in alluring them into the views of Great Britain. "A great war feast was made by him on the occasion, in which, according to the horrid phraseology of these barbarians, they were invited to banquet upon a Bostonian, and to drink his blood." [Belsham.]

General Burgoyne made a speech to the Indians on the 21st of June, 1777, urging them to hostilities, and stating "his satisfaction at the general conduct of the Indian tribes, from the beginning of the troubles in America." An old Iroquois chief answered, "We have been tried and tempted by the Bostonians, but we have loved our father, and our hatchets have been sharpened on our affections. In proof of the sincerity of our professions, our whole villages, able to go to war, are come forth; the old and infirm, our infants and wives, alone remain at home." [Williams, as before quoted, vol. 2.] They realized their professions. The whole Confederacy, except a little more than half of the Oneidas, took up arms against us. They hung like the scythe of death upon the rear of our settlements, and their deeds are inscribed, with the scalping-knife and the tomahawk, in characters of blood, on the fields of Wyoming and Cherry Valley, and on the banks of the Mohawk.

It became necessary that the Confederates should receive a signal chastisement for their barbarous and cruel incursions; and accordingly, general Sullivan, with an army of nearly five thousand men, marched into their country in the year 1779. Near Newtown, in the present county of Tioga, he defeated them, and drove them from their fortifications; he continued his march between the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and through their territory, as far as the Genesee River, destroying their orchards, cornfields, and forty villages; the largest of which contained one hundred and twenty-eight houses. This expedition was nearly the finishing blow to savage cruelty and insolence; their habitations were destroyed; their provinces laid waste; they were driven from their country, and were compelled to take refuge under the cannon of Niagara; and their hostility terminated with the pacification with Great Britain.

The Confederates were as celebrated for their eloquence, as for their military skill and political wisdom. Popular, or free governments have, in all ages, been the congenial soil of oratory. And it is, indeed, all important in institutions merely advisory; where persuasion must supply the place of coercion; where there is no magistrate to execute, no military to compel; and where the only sanction of law is the controlling power of public opinion. Eloquence being, therefore, considered so essential, must always be a great standard of personal merit, a certain road to popular favor, and an universal passport to public honors. These combined inducements operated with powerful force on the mind of the Indian; and there is little doubt but that oratory was studied with as much care and application among the Confederates, as it was in the stormy democracies of the eastern hemisphere. I do not pretend to assert that there were, as at Athens and Rome, established schools and professional teachers for the purpose; but I do say that it was an attainment to which they devoted themselves, and to which they bent the whole force of their faculties. Their models of eloquence were to be found, not in books, but in the living orators of their local and national assemblies; their children, at an early period of life, attended their council fires, in order to observe the passing scenes, and to receive the lessons of wisdom. Their rich and vivid imagery was drawn from the sublime scenery of nature, and their ideas were derived from the laborious operations of their own minds, and from the experience and wisdom of their ancient sages.

The most remarkable difference existed between the Confederates and the other Indian nations with respect to eloquence. You may search in vain in the records and writings of the past, or in events of the present times, for a single model of eloquence among the Algonkins, the Abenaquis, the Delawares, the Shawanese, or any other nation of Indians, except the Iroquois. The few scintillations of intellectual light -- the faint glimmerings of genius, which are sometimes to be found in their speeches, are evidently derivative, and borrowed from the Confederates.

Considering the interpreters who have undertaken to give the meaning of Indian speeches, it is not a little surprising that some of them should approach so near to perfection. The major part of the interpreters were illiterate persons, sent among them to conciliate their favor, by making useful or ornamental implements; or they were prisoners who learned the Indian language during their captivity. The Reverend Mr. Kirkland, a missionary among the Oneidas, and sometimes a public interpreter, was indeed a man of liberal education; but those who have seen him officiate at public treaties must recollect how incompetent he was to infuse the fire of Indian oratory into his expressions; how he labored for words, and how feeble and inelegant his language. Oral is more difficult than written interpretation or translation. In the latter case, there is no pressure of time, and we have ample opportunity to weigh the most suitable words, to select the most elegant expressions, and to fathom the sense of the author; but in the former case, we are called upon to act immediately; no time for deliberation is allowed; and the first ideas that occur must be pressed into the service of the interpreter. At an ancient treaty, a female captive officiated in that capacity; and at a treaty held in 1722, at Albany, the speeches of the Indians were first rendered into Dutch, and then translated into English. [Oldmixon’s British Empire, vol. 1. p. 254.] I except from these remarks, the speech of the Onondaga chief, Garangula, to M. Delabarre, delivered on the occasion which I have before mentioned. This was interpreted by Monsieur Le Maine, a French Jesuit, and recorded on the spot by Baron La Hontan -- men of enlightened and cultivated minds, from whom it has been borrowed by Colden, Smith, Herriot, Trumbull, and Williams. I believe it to be impossible to find, in all the effusions of ancient or modern oratory, a speech more appropriate and more convincing. Under the veil of respectful profession it conveys the most biting irony; and while it abounds with rich and splendid imagery, it contains the most solid reasoning. I place it in the same rank with the celebrated speech of Logan; and I cannot but express astonishment at the conduct of two respectable writers, who have represented this interesting interview, and this sublime display of intellectual power, as "a scold between the French generals and an old Indian." [Colden and Smith.]

On the 9th of February, 1690, as we are informed by the tradition of the inhabitants, although history has fixed it on the 8th, the town of Schenectady, which then consisted of a church and forty-three houses, was surprised by a party of French and Indians from Canada; a dreadful scene of conflagration and massacre ensued; the greater part of the inhabitants were killed or made prisoners; those that escaped fled naked toward Albany, in a deep snow that fell that very night, and providentially met sleighs from that place, which returned immediately with them. This proceeding struck terror into the inhabitants of Albany, who were about to abandon the country in despair and consternation. On this occasion, several of the Mohawk chiefs went to Albany, to make the customary speech of condolence, and to animate to honorable exertion. Their speech is preserved in the first volume of Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations of Canada; and even at this distant period, it is impossible to read it without sensibility, without respecting its affectionate sympathy, and admiring its magnanimous spirit, and without ranking it among the most respectable models of eloquence which history affords. [Appendix, No. 2.]

In 1777 and 1778, an association of our own citizens, in violation of law, contracted with the Six Nations for the greater part of their territory, on a lease of nine hundred and ninety-nine years, at an insignificant annual rent. These proceedings were, on the motion of the President of this Society, [Egbert Benson, Esq.] declared void in March, 1788, by the authorities of the State; and when their true character was made known to the Indians -- when they found that their country, in which were interred the bones of their ancestors, was sacrificed to the overreaching cupidity of unauthorized speculators, the greatest anxiety and consternation prevailed among them. The Senecas and Cayugas repaired to Albany to confer with the governor, but having no speaker at that time of sufficient eminence and talents for the important occasion, they employed Good Peter, or Domine Peter, the Cicero of the Six Nations, to be their orator, and he addressed the governor and other commissioners in a speech of great length and ability. It was replete with figurative language: the topics were selected with great art and judgment. I took down the speech from the mouth of the interpreter, and notwithstanding the imperfect interpretation of Mr. Kirkland, consider it a rare specimen of Indian eloquence. [Appendix No. 3.]

Within a few years, an extraordinary orator has risen among the Senecas, his real name is Saguoaha, but he is commonly called Red Jacket. Without the advantages of illustrious descent, and with no extraordinary talents for war, he has attained the first distinctions in the nation, by the force of his eloquence. His predecessor in the honors of the nation, was a celebrated chief, denominated The Cornplanter. Having lost the confidence of his countrymen, in order to retrieve his former standing, as it is supposed, he persuaded his brother to announce himself as a prophet, or messenger from Heaven, sent to redeem the fallen fortunes of the Indian race. The superstition of the savages cherished the imposter, and he has acquired such an ascendancy, as to prevail upon the Onondagas, formerly the most drunken and profligate of the Six Nations, to abstain entirely from spirituous liquors, and to observe the laws of morality in other respects. He has obtained the same ascendancy among the Confederates, as another imposter had acquired among the Shawanese, and other western Indians; and like him, he has also employed his influence for evil, as well as for good purposes. The Indians universally believe in witchcraft; the prophet inculcated this superstition, and proceeded, through the instrumentality of conjurers selected by himself, to designate the offenders, who were accordingly sentenced to death; and the unhappy objects would have been actually executed, if the magistrates at Oneida and the officers of the garrison at Niagara had not interfered. This was considered an artful expedient to render his enemies the objects of general abhorrence, if not the victims of an ignominious death. Emboldened by success, he proceeded, finally, to execute the views of his brother, and Red Jacket was publicly denounced at a great council of Indians, held at Buffalo Creek, and was put upon his trial. At this crisis he well knew that the future color of his life depended on the powers of his mind. He spoke in his defence for near three hours. The iron brow of superstition relented under the magic of his eloquence; he declared the prophet an imposter and a cheat. He prevailed: the Indians divided, and a small majority appeared in his favor. Perhaps the annals of history cannot furnish a more conspicuous instance of the triumph and power of oratory, in a barbarous nation, devoted to superstition, and looking up to the accuser as a delegated minister of the Almighty.

I am well aware that the speech of Logan will be triumphantly quoted against me, and that it will be said that the most splendid exhibition of Indian eloquence may be found out of the pale of the Six Nations. I fully subscribe to the eulogium of Mr. Jefferson, when he says, "I may challenge the whole orations of Demosthenes and Cicero, and of any more eminent orator, if Europe has furnished more eminent, to produce a single passage superior to the speech of Logan." But let it be remembered that Logan was Mingo chief, the second son of Shikellemus, a celebrated Cayuga chief, and consequently belonged to the Confederates, although he did not live in their patrimonial territory. The Iroquois had sent out several colonies; one of them was settled at Sandusky, and was estimated to contain 300 warriors in 1768. Another was established on a branch of the Scioto, and had 60 warriors in 1779. [Jefferson’s Notes.]

To this I may add the testimony of Charlevoix, who may be justly placed in the first rank of able and learned writers on American affairs, and who entertained all the prejudices of his country against the Confederacy. Speaking of Joncaire, who had been adopted by the Senecas, and who had obtained their consent for the establishment of a fort at Niagara, he says, "Il parla avec tout l’esprit d’un François, qui en a beaucoup et la plus sublime eloquence Iroquoise." He spoke with all the energetic spirit of a Frenchman, and the most sublime eloquence of an Iroquois. [Charlevoix, letter 15, p. 243. Quere. Is this the Captain Joncaire who is mentioned in General (then Colonel) Washington’s journal of his mission to the Ohio? See Marshall’s Life of Washington, vol. 2, note 1.]

It cannot, I presume, be doubted, but that the Confederates were a peculiar and extraordinary people, contradistinguished from the mass of the Indian nations by great attainments in polity, in government, in negotiation, in eloquence, and in war. La Hontan asserts that "they are of a larger stature, and withal, more valiant and cunning than other nations." [Vol. 2, p. 4.] Charlevoix derives their name of Agonnonsioni, from their superior skill and taste in architecture. [Charlevoix, vol. 1, b. 6, p. 271.] The perspicacious and philosophical Pennant, after fully weighing their character, qualities and physical conformation, pronounced them the descendants of the Tschutski, who reside on a peninsula which forms the most north-easterly part of Asia, who are a free and brave race, and in size and figure superior to every neighboring nation. The Russians have never been able to effect their conquest. They cherish a high sense of liberty, constantly refuse to pay tribute, and are supposed to have sprung from that fine race of Tartars, the Kabardinski, or inhabitants of Kabarda. [Pennant’s Arctic Zoology, vol. 1, p. 181, 186, 262.]

But there is a striking discrimination between this nation and the great body of the Indian tribes, which remains to be mentioned. Charlevoix has the singular merit of having rejected the common mode of ascertaining the identity of national origin, from a coincidence in customs and manners, and of having pointed out a similarity of language as the best and surest criterion. As far back as La Hontan, whose voyages were published in 1703, and who was well acquainted with the Indian languages, it was understood by him, that there were but two mother tongues, the Huron and the Algonkin, in the whole extent of Canada, as far west as the Mississippi; and in a list which he gives of the Indian nations, it appears that they all spoke the Algonkin language in different dialects, except the Hurons and the Confederates; the difference between whose languages he considers as not greater than that between the Norman and the French. This opinion has been supported and confirmed by the concurring testimony of Carver, Charlevoix, Rogers, Barton, Edwards, Mackenzie, and Pike, with these qualifications, that the Sioux, or Naudowessies, and the Assinboils, together with many nations of Indians to the west of the Mississippi, speak a distinct original language; and it is not perfectly settled whether the Creeks, and the other southern Indians in their vicinity, use a parent language; or under which of the three great parent ones theirs must be classed. Carver speaks of the Chippewa; Edwards, of the Mohegan; Barton, of the Delaware; Rogers, of the Ottaway, as the most prevailing language in North America; but they all agree in the similarity. Dr. Edwards asserts, that the language of the Delawares, in Pennsylvania; of the Penobscots, bordering on Nova Scotia; of the Indians of St. Francis, in Canada; of the Shawanese, on the Ohio, of the Chippewas, at the westward of Lake Huron; of the Ottawas, Nanticokes, Munsees, Minonionees, Misiuagues, Sasskies, Ottagamies, Killestones, Mipegois, Algonkins, Winnebagoes, and of the several tribes in New England, are radically the same; and the variations are to be accounted for from the want of letters, and of communication. On the other hand, that the Confederates and the Hurons were originally of the same stock, may be inferred, not only from the sameness of their language, but from their division into smaller tribes. [Trumbull’s Connecticut, vol. 1, p. 43. Henry’s Travels in Canada, p. 250, 299, 325. Carver’s Travels, p. 170. Mackenzie’s Voyages, p. 280. Charlevoix, vol. 3, Letters 11th and 12th. Jeffery’s Natural and Civil History of the French Dominions in North and South America, p. 45, 50. Rogers’s North America, p. 246. Barton’s Views, p. 470. Pike’s Expedition, p. 65. Edwards’ Observations on the Language of the Muhhekanew Indians. La Hontan’s New Voyages, vol. 1, p. 270, vol. 2, p. 287.] From this, we may rationally conclude, that those nations were descended from an Asiatic stock, radically different from that of the great body of Indians who were spread over North America; and that the superior qualities of the Iroquois may be ascribed, as well to the superiority of their origin, as to the advantages of position, the maxims of policy, and the principles of education, which distinguished them from the other red inhabitants of this western world. And they were, indeed, at all times ready and willing to cherish the sentiment of exaltation which they felt; and believing that they excelled the rest of mankind, they called themselves Ongue-Honwe, that is, men surpassing all others. [Colden, vol. 1, p. 2.]

It is extremely difficult to speak, with any precision, of the ancient population of the Indian nations. The Powhatan confederacy, or empire, as it was called, contained one inhabitant for every square mile; and the proportion of warriors to the whole number of inhabitants was three to ten. [Jefferson’s Notes, p. 141, &c.] It this is to afford a just rule for estimating the Confederates, it would be easy to ascertain their number, and adjust the relative proportion of their fighting men. Supposing their patrimonial or dwelling country to be three hundred miles in length, and one hundred in breadth, the whole number of square miles would be thirty thousand; and the number of souls the same. [On this subject see Trumbull’s History of the United States, vol. 1, p. 30, &c. Williams’s Vermont, vol. 1, p. 215, &c. Douglass’s Summary, vol. 1, p. 185. Mass. Historical Society, vol. 5, p. 13, 16, 23, &c. Mass Historical Society, vol. 10, p. 122, &c. Morse’s Gazetteer of the Six Nations. La Hontan, vol. 1, p. 23, &c. Jefferson’s Notes, p. 151. Holmes’ American Annals, vol. 1, p. 45; vol. 2, p. 137.] Some writers state the number of their warriors, at the first European settlement, to be fifteen thousand, which would make a population of fifty thousand. La Hontan says, that each village, or canton, contained about fourteen thousand souls; that is, one thousand five hundred that bear arms, two thousand superannuated men, four thousand women, two thousand maids, and four thousand children; though, indeed, some say, that each village has not above ten or eleven thousand souls. On the first statement they would have seven thousand five hundred, and on the last about five thousand three hundred and sixty fighting men.

Col. Coursey, an agent of Virginia, had in 1677 a conference with the Five Nations at Albany. The number of warriors was estimated, at that time and place, as follows: --

Mohawks, 300
Oneidas, 200
Onondagas, 350
Cayugas, 300
Senecas, 1,000
Total, 2,150

which would made the whole population near seven thousand two hundred. [Vide Chalmer’s Political Annals, p. 606, which contains the journey of Wentworth and Greenshulp, from Albany to the Five Nations, begun 28th May, 1677, and ended 14th July following. The Mohawks had four towns and one village, containing only one hundred houses. The Oneidas had one town, containing one hundred houses. The Onondagas, one town, one hundred and forty houses. The Cayugas, three towns of about one hundred houses in all. The Senecas, four towns, containing three hundred and twenty-four houses. The warriors the same precisely as in Col. Coursey’s statement. (Cours. p. 21,) In the whole, seven hundred and eighty four houses; which would make nearly three warriors and ten inhabitants for each house.]

Smith says, that in 1756, the whole number of fighting men was about one thousand two hundred. Douglass says, that in 1760 it was one thousand five hundred. In the first case, the whole population would be four thousand; and in the last, five thousand.

In 1764, Col. Bouquet, from the information of a French trader, stated the whole number of inhabitants to be one thousand five hundred and fifty. Captain Hutchins, who visited most of the Indian nations for the express purpose of learning their number, represents them to be two thousand one hundred and twenty in 1768; and Dodge, an Indian trader, says, that in 1779 there were one thousand six hundred. These three estimates are taken from Jefferson’s notes on Virginia; and, although they apparently relate to the whole population, yet I am persuaded that the statements were only intended to embrace the number of warriors.

During the revolutionary war, the British had in their service, according to the calculation of a British agent,

Mohawks, 300
Oneidas, 150
Tuscaroras, 200
Onondagas, 300
Cayugas, 230
Senecas, 400
Total, 1,580

If to these we add two hundred and twenty warriors who adhered to the United States, the whole number of fighting men would be one thousand eight hundred.

In 1783, Mr. Kirkland, the missionary, estimated the number of warriors in the Seneca nation, at six hundred. This would make the whole population two thousand; and as the Senecas then composed nearly one half of the whole Confederacy, the fighting men would be about one thousand two hundred, and the total number of inhabitants, upwards of four thousand. In 1790, he calculated the whole population of the Confederacy, including those who reside on Grand River in Canada, and the Stockbridge and Brothertown Indians, to be six thousand three hundred and thirty. This would make the number of warriors near one thousand nine hundred.

In 1794, on the division of an annuity of four thousand five hundred dollars, given to them by the United States, their number was ascertained with considerable precision; each individual in the Confederacy (except those residing in the British dominions) receiving an equal share.

Mohawks   300
Oneidas 628 460
Cayugas 40  
Onondagas 450  
Tuscaroras 400  
Senecas 1780  
Subtotal 3298 760
Total 4058

The Stockbridge and Brothertown Indians are not included. This would make the number of fighting men one thousand three hundred and fifty-two.

These various estimates evince the great uncertainty prevailing on this subject. While La Hontan exaggerates the population of the Confederacy, Smith evidently underrates it. We know that in their wars they often sent out considerable armies. They attacked the Island of Montreal with one thousand two hundred men; and in 1683, one thousand marched, at one time, against the Ottagamies. The first was in 1689, twelve years after Col. Coursey’s estimate. Supposing that one thousand two hundred warriors were at that time at home, and otherwise employed, the whole number would then be about two thousand four hundred; which show a considerable coincidence between the two statements. On one point there is, however, no uncertainty. Ever since the men of Europe landed on the shores of America, there had been a diminution of the number of Aborigines; sometimes rapid, at other times gradual. The present condition of the Confederates furnishes an admonitory lesson to human pride; and adds another proof to the many on record, that nations, like individuals, are destined by Providence to dissolution. Their patrimonial estates, their ancient dwelling lands, are now crowded with a white population, excepting some reservations in the Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca countries. The Mohawks abandoned their country during the war; and the Cayugas have since the peace. A remnant of the Tuscaroras reside on three miles square, near the Niagara River, on lands given to them by the Senecas and the Holland Land Company. The Oneida Reservation does not contain more than ten thousand acres; and the Onondaga is still smaller. The Senecas have their principal settlement at Buffalo Creek. Their reservations are extensive and valuable, containing more than one hundred and sixty thousand acres; and they possess upwards of one hundred thousand dollars in the stock of the late Bank of the United States.

The Six Nations have lost their high character and elevated standing. They are, in general, addicted to idleness and drunkenness; the remnant of their eloquence and military spirit, as well as national strength, is to be found only among the Senecas. Their ancient men, who have witnessed the former glory and prosperity of their country, and who have heard from the mouths of their ancestors, the heroic achievements of their countrymen, weep like infants, when they speak of the fallen condition of the nation. They, however, derive some consolation from a prophecy of ancient origin and universal currency among them, that the man of America will, at some future time, regain his ancient ascendancy, and expel the man of Europe from this western hemisphere. This flattering and consolatory persuasion has restrained, in some degree, their vicious propensities; has enabled the Seneca and Shawanese prophets to arrest in some tribes the use of intoxicating liquors, and has given birth, at different periods, to certain movements toward a general confederacy of the savages of North America. That they consider the white man an enemy and an intruder, who has expelled them from their country, is most certain; and they cherish this antipathy with so much rancor, that when they abandon their settlements, they make it a rule never to disclose to him any mineral substances or springs which may redound to his convenience or advantage.

The causes of their degradation and diminution, are principally to be found in their baneful communication with the man of Europe, which has contaminated their morals, destroyed their population, robbed them of their country, and deprived them of their national spirit. Indeed, when we consider, that the discovery and settlement of America, have exterminated millions of the red men, and entailed upon the sable inhabitants of Africa, endless and destructive wars, captivity, slavery and death, we have reason to shudder at the gloomy perspective, and to apprehend that, in the retributive justice of the Almighty, "there may be some hidden thunder in the stores of Heaven, red with uncommon wrath;" [Addison’s Cato.] some portentous cloud, pregnant with the elements of destruction, ready to burst upon European America, and to entail upon us those calamities which we have so wantonly and wickedly inflicted upon others.

A nation that derives its subsistence, principally, from the forest, cannot live in the vicinity of one that relies upon the products of the field. The clearing of the country drives off the wild beasts; and when the game fails, the hunter must starve, change his occupation, or retire from the approach of cultivation. The Savage has invariably preferred the last. The Mohawks were, at one period, the most numerous canton; but they soon became the smallest. This was on account of their propinquity to the whites; while the Senecas, who are most remote, are the most populous. There are two other causes which have contributed to the destruction of the Mohawks; their extreme ferocity, which distinguished them from the other cantons, and which exposes them to greater perils; and the early seduction of a part of their nation by the French, who prevailed upon them to migrate to Canada. The scarcity of food has also been augmented by other causes, besides that of cultivating the ground. Formerly they killed for the sake of subsistence; the Europeans instigated them to kill for the sake of furs and skins. The use of fire-arms has had the effect, by the explosion of powder, of frightening away the game; and at the same time, of enabling the savage to compass their destruction with greater facility, than by his ancient weapon, the bow and arrow, whose execution was less certain, and whose operation was less terrific.

The old Scythian propensity for wandering from place to place, and to make distant excursions, predominates among them. Some, after an absence of twenty years, have again shown themselves, while others never return.

Many of the Iroquois are amalgamated with the western Indians. In 1799, a colony of the Confederates, who had been brought up from their infancy under the Roman Catholic Missionaries, and instructed by them at a village within nine miles of Montreal, emigrated to the banks of the Saskatchiwine River, beyond Lake Winnipeg. [Mackenzie, vol. 1, p. 298.]

The endless and destructive wars in which they have been involved, have also been a principal cause of diminishing their population. The number of births among savage is always inferior to that among civilized nations, where subsistence is easier, and where the female sex are considered the companions, the friends, and the equals of man; and are associated and connected with him by the silken ties of choice and affection, not by the iron chains of compulsion and slavery. In times of war, the number of deaths among the Indians generally exceeded that of the births; and the Iroquois, for the last fifty years, not having been able to execute to any great extent their system of adoption, have experienced a correspondent diminution. The manner of savage warfare is also peculiarly destructive. Among civilized nations, great armies are brought into the field at once; and a few years, and a great battle, decide the fortune of the war, and produce a peace. Among Indians, wars are carried on by small detachments, and in detail, and for a long time. Among the former they operate like amputation; a limb is cut off, and the remainder of the body lives; but with savages, they resemble a slow and wasting disease, which gradually undermines the vital principle, and destroys the whole system.

Before their acquaintance with the man of Europe they were visited by dreadful diseases, which depopulated whole countries. Just before the settlement of New England, some whole nations were swept off by a pestilence. The whites introduced that terrible enemy of barbarous nations, the small pox, as well in the north of Asia as in America. Kamschatka was very populous until the arrival of the Russians; a dreadful visitation of the small pox, in 1767, nearly exterminated all its inhabitants. [Pennant, vol. 1, p. 215.] In 1779, and 1780, the small pox spread among the Killistinoes, or Kanistenaux, and Chepewyans, "with a baneful rapidity that no flight could escape, and with a fatal effect that nothing could resist." [Mackenzie, vol. 1, p. 17.] Nine-tenths of the northern Indians, so called by Hearne, were cut off by it. [Hearne’s Journey to the Northern Ocean, p. 178.] In 1670, this disease depopulated the north of Canada. [Jeffrey, before quoted, p. 110. Herriot, p. 132.] A whole nation, called the Attetramasues, were destroyed. The vicinity of the Confederates to the European settlements, and their constant intercourse, have exposed them continually to its visitations; and their method of cure being the same in all diseases, immersion in cold water after a vapor bath, has aggravated its ravages. Their imitation of the European dress, has also substituted a lighter mode of clothing in lieu of warm furs; by which, and their exposure to the elements, they are peculiarly subjected to consumptions and inflammatory complaints. Longevity is, however, by no means uncommon among them. In their settlements you see some very old people.

Need I add to this melancholy catalogue, the use of spirituous liquors, which has realized, among them the fabulous effects of the Bohon Upas, which has been to them "the Hydra of calamities; the sevenfold death," [Young’s Revenge.] and which has palsied all their energies, enfeebled their minds, destroyed their bodies, rendered them inferior to the beasts of the forest, and operated upon them as destructively as

"---------- famine, war, or spotted pestilence,
Baneful as death, and horrible as hell." [Rowe’s Jane Shore.]

At the treaty held in Lancaster in 1744, the Five Nations addressed the colonies of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, as follows: "We heartily recommend union and a good agreement between you our brethren. Never disagree, but preserve a strict friendship for one another; and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise forefathers established amity and friendship among the Five Nations. This has made us formidable, and has given us great weight and authority with the neighboring nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same means which our wise forefathers pursued, you will acquire fresh strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another." [Colden, vol. 2, p. 113.] This ancient and cementing principle of union and fraternity, which has connected them in friendship, and which was the basis of their power and the pillar of their greatness, has been entirely driven from them. The fury of discord has blown her horn, and rendered them the prey of the most ferocious and unrelenting passions. Party, in all its forms and violence, rages among them with uncontrolled sway. Their nations are split up into fragments; the son is arrayed against the father; brother against brother; families against families; tribes against tribes; and canton against canton. They are divided into factions, religious, political and personal; Christian and Pagan; American and British; the followers of Cornplanter and Sagoua-Ha; of Skonadoa and Capt. Peter. The minister of destruction is hovering over them, and before the passing away of the present generation, not a single Iroquois will be seen in this State.

It would be an unpardonable omission not to mention, while treating on this subject, that there is every reason to believe, that previous to the occupancy of this country by the progenitors of the present nations of Indians, it was inhabited by a race of men much more populous and much further advanced in civilization. The numerous remains of ancient fortifications which are found in this country, commencing principally near the Onondaga River, and from thence spreading over the Military Tract, the Genesee country, and the lands of the Holland Land Company, over the territory adjoining the Ohio and its tributary streams, the country on Lake Erie, and extending even west of the Mississippi, demonstrate a population far exceeding that of the Indians when this country was first settled.

I have seen several of these works in the western parts of this State. There is a large one in the town of Onondaga, one in Pompey, and another in Manlius; one in Camillus, eight miles from Auburn; one in Scipio, six miles; another one mile, and one, half a mile from that village. Between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes there are several; three within a few miles of each other. Near the village of Canandaigua there are three. In a work, they are scattered all over that country. [On the subject of these ancient fortifications, see Charlevoix, vol. 1. b. 11, p. 533. Charlevoix letter 23, vol. 3, p. 333. American Museum, vol. 6, p. 29, 233. Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. 4, p. 101, 107. Imlay’s Kentucky, p. 379. Herriot’s Canada, p. 14 to 26. Belknap’s American Biography, vol. 1, p. 194-196. History of Virginia, anonymous, published in London, 1722, p. 149. Carver’s Travels, p. 37. Volney’s United States, p. 486. Barton’s Medical and Physical Journal, vol. 1. part 1, p. 97. Ibid, part 2. p. 80. Ibid, vol. 2. part 1, p. 187. Adair’s Indians, p. 377. New York Magazine, January, 1793, p. 23. Michaux’s Travels to the Westward of the Alleghany Mountains in 1802, vol. 1. Columbian Magazine for 1787, vol. 1, No. 9. Shultz’s Inland Voyage, vol. 1, p. 146. American Philosophical Transactions, vol. 6, p. 132. Medical Repository, 3d Hexade, vol. 2, No. 2, p. 146. Rogers’s Concise Account of North America, p. 247. Harris’s Tour in 1803, into the State of Ohio, p. 149, &c. Hubbard’s Narrative of the Indian Wars in New England, p. 32, 106. Williamson on the Climate, &c. of America, p. 189.]

These forts were, generally speaking, erected on the most commanding ground. The walls or breastworks were earthen. The ditches were on the exterior of the works. On some of the parapets, oak trees were to be seen, which, from the number of concentric circles, must have been standing one hundred and fifty, two hundred and sixty, and three hundred years; and there were evident indications, not only that they had sprung up since the erection of these works, but that they were at least a second growth. The trenches were in some cases deep and wide, and in others shallow and narrow; and the breastworks varied in altitude from three to eight feet. They sometimes had one, and sometimes two entrances, as was to be inferred from their being no ditch at those places. When the works were protected by a deep ravine, or a large stream of water, no ditch was to be seen. The areas of these forts varied from two to six acres, and the form was generally an irregular ellipsis, and in some of them fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to have been originally human bones, were to be found.

These fortifications, thus diffused over the interior of our country, have been generally considered as surpassing the skill, patience and industry of the Indian race; and various hypotheses have been advanced to prove them of European origin.

An American writer of no inconsiderable repute pronounced, some years ago, that the two forts at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers, one covering forty and the other twenty acres, were erected by Ferdinand de Soto, who landed with one thousand men in Florida, in 1539, and penetrated a considerable distance into the interior of the country. He allotted the large fort for the use of the Spanish army; and after being extremely puzzled how to dispose of the small one in its vicinity, he at last assigned it to the swine, that generally, as he says, attended the Spanish in those days; being in his opinion very necessary, in order to prevent them from becoming estrays, and to protect them from the depredations of the Indians.

When two ancient forts, one containing six and the other three acres, were found near Lexington, in Kentucky, another theory was propounded, and it was supposed that they were erected by the descendants of the Welch colony, who are said to have migrated under the auspices of Madoc to this country, in the twelfth century; that they formerly inhabited Kentucky; but being attacked by the Indians, were forced to take refuge near the sources of the Missouri.

Another suggestion has been made, that the French, in their expeditions from Canada to the Mississippi, were the authors of these works: but the most numerous are to be found in the territory of the Senecas, whose hostility to the French was such, that they were not allowed for a long time to have any footing among them. [Colden, vol. 1. p. 61.] The fort at Niagara was obtained from them, by the intrigues and eloquence of Joncaire, an adopted child of the nation. [Charlevoix, vol. 3. letter 15. p. 227.]

Louis Dennie, a Frenchman, aged upward of seventy, and who has been settled and married among the Confederates for more than half a century, told me, that according to the traditions of the ancient Indians, these forts were erected by an army of Spaniards, who were the first Europeans ever seen by them; the French were next; then the Dutch, and finally the English: that his army first appeared at Oswego in great force, and penetrated through the interior of the country, searching for the precious metals; and they continued there two years, and went down the Ohio.

Some of the Senecas told Mr. Kirkland, the missionary, that those in their territory were raised by their ancestors in their wars with the western Indians, three, four or five hundred years ago. All the cantons have traditions that their ancestors came originally from the west, and the Senecas say that their’s first settled in the country of the Creeks. The early histories mention, that the Iroquois first inhabited on the north side of the great lakes; that they were driven to their present territory in a war with the Algonkins or Adirondacks, from whence they expelled the Satanas. If these accounts are correct, the ancestors of the Senecas did not, in all probability, occupy their present territory at the time they allege.

I believe we may confidently pronounce, that all the hypotheses which attribute those works to Europeans, are incorrect and fanciful: First, on account of the present number of the works. Second, on account of their antiquity; having, from every appearance been erected a long time before the discovery of America; and finally, their form and manner are totally variant from European fortifications, either in action [ancient?] or modern times.

It is equally clear that they were not the work of the Indians. Until the Senecas, who are renowned for their national vanity, had seen the attention of the Americans attracted to these erections, and had invented the fabulous account of which I have spoken, the Indians of the present day did not pretend to know anything about their origin. They were beyond the reach of all their traditions, and were lost in the abyss of unexplored antiquity.

The erection of such prodigious works must have been the result of labor far beyond the patience and perseverance of our Indians; and the form and materials are entirely different from those which they are known to make. These earthen walls, it is supposed, will retain their original form much longer than those constructed with brick and stone. They have, undoubtedly, been greatly diminished by the washing away of the earth, the filling up of the interior, and the accumulation of fresh soil; yet their firmness and solidity indicate them to be the work of some remote age. Add to this, that the Indians have never practised the mode of fortifying by intrenchments. Their villages or castles were protected by palisades; which afforded a sufficient defence against Indian weapons. When Cartier went to Hochelaga, now Montreal, in 1535, he discovered a town of the Iroquois, or Hurons, containing about fifty huts. It was encompassed with three lines of palisadoes, through which was one entrance, well secured with stakes and bars. On the inside was a rampart of timber, to which were ascents by ladders; and heaps of stones were laid in proper places to cast at an enemy. Charlevoix and other writers agree, in representing the Indian fortresses as fabricated with wood. Such also were the forts of Sasacus, the great chief of the Pequots; and the principal fortress of the Narragansets was on an island in a swamp, of five or six acres of rising land: the sides were made with palisades set upright, encompassed with a hedge, of a rod in thickness. [Mather’s Magnalia, p. 693.]

I have already alluded to the argument for the great antiquity of those ancient forts, to be derived from the number of concentric circles. On the ramparts of one of the Muskingum forts, four hundred and sixty-three were ascertained on a tree, decayed at the center; and there are likewise the strongest marks of a former growth of a similar size. This would make these works near a thousand years old.

But there is another consideration which has never before been urged, and which appears to me to be not unworthy of attention. It is certainly novel, and I believe it to be founded on a basis which cannot easily be subverted.

From near the Genesee River to Lewiston, on the Niagara River, there is a remarkable ridge or elevation of land, running almost the whole distance, which is seventy-eight miles, and in a direction from east to west. Its general altitude above the neighboring land is thirty feet, and its width varies considerably: in some places it is not more than forty yards. Its elevation above the level of Lake Ontario is perhaps one hundred and sixty feet, to which it descends by a gradual slope; and its distance from that water is between six and ten miles. This remarkable strip of land would appear as if intended by nature for the purpose of an easy communication. It is, in fact, a stupendous natural turnpike, descending gently on each side, and covered with gravel; and but little labor is requisite to make it the best road in the United States. When the forests between it and the lake are cleared, the prospects and scenery which will be afforded from a tour on this route to the cataract of Niagara, will surpass all competition for sublimity and beauty, variety and number.

There is every reason to believe, that this remarkable ridge was the ancient boundary of this great lake. The gravel with which it is covered was deposited there by the waters; and the stones every where indicate, by their shape, the abrasion and agitation produced by that element. All along the borders of the western rivers and lakes, there are small mounds or heaps of gravel, of a conical form, erected by the fish for the protection of their spawn: these fish-banks are found in a state that cannot be mistaken, at the foot of the ridge, on the side toward the lake; on the opposite side none have been discovered. All rivers and streams which enter the lake from the south, have their mouths affected with sand in a peculiar way, from the prevalence and power of the north-westerly winds. The points of the creeks which pass through this ridge, correspond exactly in appearance with the entrance of the streams into the lakes. These facts evince, beyond doubt, that Lake Ontario has, perhaps one or two thousand years ago, receded from this elevated ground. And the cause of this retreat must be ascribed to its having enlarged its former outlet, or to its imprisoned waters (aided, probably, by an earthquake,) forcing a passage down the present bed of the St. Lawrence; as the Hudson did at the Highlands, and the Mohawk at the Little falls. On the south side of this great ridge, its vicinity, and in all directions through this country, the remains of numerous forts are to be seen; but on the north side, that is, on the side toward the lake, not a single one has been discovered, although the whole ground has been carefully explored. Considering the distance to be, say seventy miles in length, and eight in breadth, and that the border of the lake is the very place that would be selected for habitation, and consequently for works of defence, on account of the facilities it would afford for subsistence, for safety, for all domestic accommodations and military purposes; and that on the south shores of Lake Erie these ancient fortresses exist in great number; there can be no doubt that these works were erected, when this ridge was the southern boundary of Lake Ontario, and, consequently, that their origin must be sought in a very remote age.

A great part of North America was then inhabited by populous nations, who had made considerable advance in civilization. These numerous works could never have been supplied with provisions without the aid of agriculture. Nor could they have been constructed without the use of iron or copper; and without a perseverance, labor, and design, which demonstrate considerable progress in the arts of civilized life. A learned writer has said, "I perceive no reason why the Asiatic North might not be an officina virorum, as well as the European. The overteeming country to the east of the Riphæan mountains, must find it necessary to discharge its inhabitants. The first great wave of people was forced forward by the next to it, more tumid and more powerful than itself: successive and new impulses continually arriving, short rest was given to that which spread over a more eastern tract; disturbed again and again, it covered fresh regions. At length, reaching the farthest limits of the old world, it found a new one, with ample space to occupy, unmolested, for ages." [Pennant’s Arctic Zoology, vol. 1., p. 260.] After the north of Asia had thus exhausted its exuberant population by such a great migration, it would require a very long period of time to produce a cooperation of causes, sufficient to effect another. The first mighty stream of people that flowed into America, must have remained free from external pressure for ages. Availing themselves of this period of tranquility, they would devote themselves to the arts of peace, make rapid progress in civilization, and acquire an immense population. In course of time, discord and war would rage among them, and compel the establishment of places of security. At last, they became alarmed by the irruption of a horde of barbarians, who rushed like an overwhelming flood from the North of Asia.

A multitude, like which the populous North
Poured from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands. [Milton’s Paradise Lost, book 1, p. 62.]

The great law of self-preservation compelled them to stand on their defence, to resist these ruthless invaders, and to construct numerous and extensive works for protection. And for a long series of years the scale of victory was suspended in doubt, and they firmly withstood the torrent: but like the Romans, in the decline of their empire, they were finally worn down and destroyed by successive inroads and renewed attacks. And the fortifications of which we have treated are the only remaining monuments of these ancient and exterminated nations. This is, perhaps, the airy nothing of imagination, and may be reckoned the extravagant dream of a visionary mind: but we may not, considering the wonderful events of the past and present times, and the inscrutable dispensations of an over-ruling Providence, may we not look forward into futurity, and without departing from the rigid laws of probability, predict the occurrence of similar scenes, at some remote period of time. And, perhaps, in the decrepitude of our empire, some transcendent genius, whose powers of mind shall only be bounded by that impenetrable circle which prescribes the limits of human nature, [Roscoe’s Lorenzo De Medicis, p. 241.] may rally the barbarous nations of Asia under the standard of a mighty empire. Following the track of the Russian colonies and commerce toward the north-west coast, and availing himself of the navigation, arms, and military skill of civilized nations, he may, after subverting the neighboring despotisms of the old world, bend his course toward European America. The destinies of our country may then be decided on the waters of the Missouri, or on the banks of Lake Superior. And if Asia shall then revenge upon our posterity, the injuries we have inflicted on her sons, a new, a long, and a gloomy night of gothic darkness will set in upon mankind. And when, after the efflux of ages, the returning effulgence of intellectual light shall again gladden the nations, then the wide-spread ruins of our cloud-capp’d towers, of our solemn temples, and of our magnificent cities, will, like the works of which we have treated, become the subject of curious research and elaborate investigation.

PREVIOUS Chapter   |   CONTENTS Page   |   NEXT Chapter
Return to the Historical Documents page   |   Go to the Erie Canal home page