« AnteriorContinuar »
of the old world, while the primitive faith was preserved in one nation, and was but partially corrupted among the rest, consists in those arts of witchcraft, which are practised by the Indian conjurers.
* The power, then, of these impostors, is supposed to consist, in the miraculous cure of diseases, the procuring of rain, and other temporal blessings, in the same supernatural manner—the miraculous infliction of punishment upon the subjects of their displeasure—and the foretelling of future events. ,
It will immediately be seen, that these are, in fact, the characteristics of the prophetic office; those, I mean, which are external, which produce, therefore, a lasting impression upon the senses of men, and from the force of ocular tradition, would naturally be pretended to, even after the power
of God was withdrawn. 'That true prophets had such power, is evident from the whole tenor of Sacred History. On their power of predicting future events, it is not necessary to dwell; but it will be seen, that there is a striking analogy between the pretensions of the Indian impostors, and the miracles wrought by the prophets. We have seen, that the former assume the power of curing or inflicting diseases by supernatural means. We find the prophets curing or inflicting the most inveterate diseases, by a word, by a touch, by washing, and other means naturally the most inadequate. * We have seen that the Indian impostors pretend to foretel drought or rain. So, Elijah the Tishbite said to Ahab, 'As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.'t And again, the same prophet, when there was no appearance of change in the heavens, said to the King, Get thee up, eat and drink,
* Thus Naaman was cured of his leprosy by Elisha, and the same disease inflicted by the prophet on his servant Gehazi. 2 Kings, v.
† 1 Kings, xvii. 1.
for there is a sound of abundance of rain.'*
We have seen, that among the Indians, the conjurers pretend to inflict punishment on their enemid by supernatural means. read of a true prophet, that he commanded fire to descend from heaven and consume the soldiers who were sent by the King of Israel to take him.
We have not room for the insertion of Dr. Jarvis's view of the existence of this prophetic spirit among the Gentile nations, while as yet they were not wholly cut off from the patriarchal church, and of those arts of divination to which they resorted, when the divine influence was withdrawn. We only insert his conclusion.
• In proportion, then, as Idolatry increased, the prophetic spirit in the patriarchal church, was gradually withdrawn. While the true God was worshipped, even though in absurd connexion with Idols, the divine influence was sometimes communicated. But being gradually more and more frequently denied, the prophets had recourse to the superstitious observances of divination and judicial astrology. And as Idolatry, in its downward course, at length lost sight of the Creator, and worshipped only the creatures, so the prophetic office degenerated into the arts by which imposters preyed upon the superstition of the ignorant.'
According to Dr. Jarvis's theory, it cannot be determined that the Indians are emigrants from any particular nation of the old world, as he supposes them to be one of those mighty streams, which, not very long after the deluge, began to pour their separated currents throughout the habitable world. He thinks that this accounts for the uniformity of their religion, for the distinct structure of their languages, and for that degree of similarity in their character which extends as well through the southern as the northern continent.
* 1 Kings, xviii. 41.
Ø 2 Kings, 1. 10. 12.
The piety of Dr. Jarvis has led him to express an opinion which seems to be perfectly just, that the mild character of Indian heathenism, is favourable to the introduction of Christianity. Stronger obstacles will perhaps be found in their ignorance, their roving and barbarous mode of life, and their practice of savage warfare. Yet even these impediments may be overcome by pious zeal, under the Divine blessing, and education, civilization, peace, and Christianity may be offered and accepted.
A large body of Notes, in the form of extracts, and observations, accompanies this discourse, and considerably exceeds its bulk. The author appears to have made an extensive and accurate examination of many different works on the subject of the Indians, and the views which he has deduced are just and luminous. Yet, while this pamphlet is respectable, it has not, we think, any pretensions to be profound, and it furnishes another evidence, that literature cannot be prosecuted to the best advantage, unless it be made a principal business of life.
Art. IV.-Remarks on Volney's view of the soil and cli
mate of the United States. SCARCELY any work, descriptive of our country, has had a more extensive circulation than the one above mentioned. This makes it necessary that any errors or mistakes which may
be in that work, should be corrected, to prevent their being perpetuated. Mr. Brown the judicious American translator of Volney's View, has noted a considerable number of those errors; but there are others which either escaped his notice, or he did not possess sufficient local knowledge of all parts of the country described to correct them. It
may be useful, even at this late day, to point out some which he has omitted, more. especially as several of them have been transcribed into popular works; and thus, if some means are not taken to prevent it, they will be extensively
disseminated and long perpetuated. Those errors, it is true, are not generally very important; but being errors, the chance of their being continued ought, as far as possible, to be prevented.
The first I shall notice is contained in page eighteen of the Philadelphia edition of 1804. In the preceding page Mr. Volney, speaking of the valley of the Mississippi, says, • The people of the maritime provinces are accustomed to distinguish this space by the names of the Backcountry, the Backwoods, the Wilderness, or more fancifully the Western country. I had scarcely passed, he adds, the Allegany when I heard this phrase applied, by the dwellers on the Great Kenhawa and the Ohio, to the maritime country,' and he goes on to make some reflections on so remarkable a fact. But Mr. Volney is certainly mistaken in the fact itself. Persons who have lived many years on the Kenhawa and Ohio, assert they never heard the phrase applied there, as Mr. Volney has stated, nor do they believe the idea expressed by it ever occurred to the minds of the people of that country. It will appear presently, from some quotations from his work, and the remarks which will be made upon them, that Mr. Volney, from an imperfect knowledge of our language, or some other cause, sometimes put a very erroneous construction on what he heard. In page
nineteen he tells us the vine, in the Western country, climbs to the height of twenty or thirty feet. When Mr. Volney errs he generally goes beyond the truth; but in this case he has fallen short of it. He would in this case have been near the truth had he told us that the vine, in that country, climbs to the height of from twenty to seventy-five or eighty feet.
In page twenty, he tells us very correctly, that some of the western mountains are distinguished by their rapid slopes and the narrowness of their summits,' but in a note he adds, it is on the summits however, that the Indians, and
after them the Americans, have traced their paths or roads. One of the most striking specimens of this kind of road is to be found on Gauly-ridge among the Kenhawa mountains. This ridge is not fifteen feet broad in the course of a mile, while there is a perpendicular descent, on either side, of six or seven hundred feet.' If this description were correct, this would be the most extraordinary curiosity in North Ameri
A natural wall, a mile in length, fifteen feet thick, and six or seven hundred feet high, would be more astonishing than the Natural Bridge, or the Falls of Niagara. But no such place exists as Mr. Volney here describes. The ridge which he refers to is very narrow at the top and the sides are very steep, but far from being perpendicular. Mr. Volney, it is believed, is also mistaken when he says the Indians traced their paths on the summits of these mountains. Their paths, so far as the writer of this article has had an opportunity of ascertaining, were traced along the valleys, and not on the summits of the ridges; and certain it is that at the particular place Mr. Volney describes the road does not follow the trace of an Indian path.
In page twenty-nine, he tells us very correctly, that the Blue ridge is detached from the great bow or knot of the Allegany,' and, 'is the immediate elongation of this chain in coming from the south;' but adds that it crosses James' river above the junction of its two higher ridges, the Patowmac above the Shanandoah, and the Susquehannah above Harrisburg.' We suspect there must be, in this sentence, some error of the translator or of the press. Part of it is unintelligible, and part of it not only contrary to fact, but to Volney's own ideas expressed in other parts of his book. The Blue ridge, it is well known crosses James' river just below its two principal branchesthe Patowmac nột “above' but immediately below where that river receives the Shanandoah, and it crosses the Susquehannah not above, but considerably below Harrisburgh.