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“In order to complete the history of the human mind, and attain to a perfect knowledge of its
We must observe at
ABEL HEYWOOD, OLDHAM STREET, MANCHESTER ; PATON AND LOVE, NELSON
AND ALL BOOKSELLERS.
SKETCHES OF INDIAN CHARACTER.
The history of nations fully establishes the fact, that the character of man results from the operation of circumstances on his organism. This great and important truth is written in such broad and legible characters on the face of human annals, as may easily be distinguished and can scarcely be mistaken. Among rude and savage tribes we discern features of character, which are distinctly referable to the influence of causes peculiar to the savage state; and among the members of civilized communities, we behold the manifestation of virtues, vices, and talents, which are also traceable to the operation of circumstances differing from those which determine the character of barbarous nations. There is a marked dissimilarity between the barbarian of Labrador and the native of London or Paris; yet this difference is more the child of accident than of nature, and would probably disappear in course of time were the parties to be subjected to the influence of similar institutions.
Among no people do we find more striking confirmations of the truth of the above doctrine than among the Aborigines of the North American Continent. In the character of that unhappy, but noble, race of men, we find many striking peculiarities which can be ascribed only to the influence of those circumstances in which the Indian tribes are placed, and which mark them out as objects of peculiar interest to the philosophic historian.
The European is polished, sagacious, and cunning; the Asiatic vainly proud and ostentatiously voluptious; the African, patient, servile and debased; and the North American Indian, haughty, warlike and independent. Undoubtedly there are causes for all these varied peculiarities of national character, the developement of which, in relation to the Indians of America, shall form the subject of the present treatise.
In endeavouring in prove that man is'ihe creature of circumstances by rapidly surveying the condition of the North American Indians, there are two methods which presentothensulves tó our attention. The first and most obvious, consists in selecting the principal features of Indian character, and tracing them to the operation of causes peculiar to the Indian tribes. The second method consists in taking a view of the efforts made by white men for the civilization of the Americans, and the good or ill success which has attended their exertions. In discussing the subject, therefore, we shall adopt both these methods as far as our space and ability will allow.
The Indian cbaracter may be said to be a compound of the virtues and vices of savage life. Brave, generous, haughty and cruel, the North American savage moves with a firmness of step and a dignity of bearing, which distinguish him as the monarch of the wilderness. The African submits to slavery ; the North American Indian prefers banishment, and even death to it. We pity and oppress the former, because his patient endurance of labour renders him of importance, while we endeavour by cruel encroachments to exterminate the latter, because his lands are serviceable, and he scorns to become our servant. Such has ever been the policy of professed Christians, and such the efforts of European civilization with respect to this unhappy race of men.
The Red Indian is fast disappearing from his native forests. The Prairie which once echoed with his shrill warwhoop now resounds with the roar of the Western rifle. His hunting grounds have become the prey of the pale faces ; the big knife has prevailed over the tomahawk; and the grave of a freeman already yawns to receive the savage of the wilds.
When Las Casas appeared before the Emperor Charles V. to dispute with Quevedo, Bishop of Darien, on the capacity of the South American Indians for social improvement, “ he rejected,” says Robertson, "with indignation, the idea that any race of men was born for servitude ; and contended that the faculties of the Americans were not despicable but unimproved ; that they were capable of receiving instruction in the principles of religion, as well as of acquiring the industry and arts which would qualify them for the various offices of social life; and that the mildness and timidity of their nature rendered them so docile and submissive that they might be led and formed with a gentle hand.” On the contrary, the Bishop of Darien contended “ that they were a race of men marked out by the inferiority of their talents for servitude ; and whom it would be impossible to instruct or improve, unless they were kept under the continual inspection of a master.”* To the disgrace of the Spanish name, the sentiments of Quevedo obtained more general credence than the truths uttered by the impassioned, and eloquent Las Casas. The Indians were still kept in a state of servitude, by the discoverers and tyrants of the West; and under pretext of reclaiming them from idolatry, and instructing them in the principles of the Christian faith they were obliged to endure the most galling servitude, and compelled to perform a variety of unwholesome labours which soon terminated their existence, and left scarcely a remnant of their devoted race to tell the story of their oppression and their sufferings !
Such has ever been the policy of those who, spurred on by an exorbitant and all grasping selfishness, desire to tyrannize over their fellow beings, and trample on their rights, their liberties and their lives. Nor is this policy wanting on the part of those who either are, or desire to be, the oppressors of the North American Indians. The whites have with few exceptions, denounced the savages of Americă as a cruel; biood-thirsty, and treacherous race of men-incapable of improvement, and therefore unworthy of that attention which has been devoted to the civilization of other barbarians. That this is a mere pretext under colour of which the most horrid crimes might be perpetrated, -an opiate for a guilty and accusing conscience,-must be evident to all who have made the Indian character the subject of their peculiar study. But because Europeans, blessed with all the lights of civilization, and all the influence of a religion purporting to be from heaven, have not only endeavoured, but are continually endeavouring, to encroach on the hunting territories of the Indians, some excuse must of course be invented to palliate their enormities, and screen their conduct from that general repro
* Robertson's History of America, vol. 1. b. 3.