Category Archives: American Indians

Item of the Day: Laws for Pequot Indians (1675) [i.e. 1676]

Laws for Pequot Indians.

Found In: Letters from the English Kings and Queens Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George II, &c. To the governors of the Colony of Connecticut, together with the Answers  thereto, from 1635 to 1749; and Other Original, Ancient, Literary and Curious Documents, Compiled from Files and Records in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut. By R. R. Hinman, A. M. Secretary of the State of Connecticut. Hartford: John D. Eldredge, Printer, 1836. [pp. 93-96]


[The following has been transcribed as it appears in the above text. No changes or corrections have been made to the spelling of the words in the document.] 


Laws of the said Indians to observe.

  1. That whosoever shall oppose or speake against the onely liveing and true God, the creator and ruler of all things, shall be brought to some English Court to be punished as the nature of the offence may require.
  2. That whosoever shall powaw or use witch-craft or any worship to the Devill, or any falls God, shall be so convicted and punished.
  3. That whosoever shall profane the holy Sabbath day by servill work or play, such as chopping or fetching home of wood, fishing, fowling, hunting, &c, shall pay as a fine tenn shillings, halfe to the cheife officers, and the other halfe to the constable and informer, or be sharply whipt for ever such offence.
  4. Whosoever shall committ murder or manslaughter, shall be brought to Hartford goale, and be tryed by the Government according to the English Law, which punisheth by death.
  5. Whosoever shall committ adultery by lying with another mans wife, or to have or keep her from her husband, shall be imprisoned and tryed and punished with a fyne of fortyy shillings for every offence, and so in the case of the adultresse; the sayd fine to be distributed as before.
  6. Whoseover shall steale, shall restore double to his neighbours for what he hath taken, when convict before their officer and councill, and pay the constable two shillins sixpence for his paynes about executing the law.
  7. Whosoever shall appeare, and prove to be drunk amongst them, shall pay tenn shillings or be whipt as the officers shall see meete, and the fine divided as before in the law about Sabbath breaking; in like manner shall it be done to such Indians as doe bring the liquors or strong drinke amongst them.
  8. It is ordered that a ready and comely attendance be given to heare the word of God preached by Mr. Fitch, or any other minister sent amongst them. The cheife officers and constables are to gather the people as they may, and if they be refractory and refuse, or doe misbehave themselves undecently, such shall be punished with a fine of five shillings, or be corporally punished as the officers shall see most meet.
  9. If the officers shall neglect in any of the premises to doe their duty, they shall receive double punishment, when convict thereof in any of our English Courts.
  10. But whosoever shall either affront the principall officer, or refue to assist the constable in the due execution of his office, shall pay for each affront so given, ten shillings, and for such refusall to assist the constable, five shillings.

Mr. Thomas Stanton Sen’r, and Lieutenant James Avery, were appoynted and desired to give them advice and help in all cases of difficulty, for the well management of their trust and affayres, to whome they are in all such cases to repayre.

WM. LEET, Dept Governor,





Dated in Hartford, May 31, 1675.

To Hermon Garrata to cause to be published to the people of his plantation, and the rest under his Government.

The tenn articles were faythfully published to Robin Harmaysun, Monohor, the Naragansett Sunk Squaw and her councill being present, at a great concourse amongst the Pequitts, the forepart which respects Robins own interest was served and desired Robin not to be published as yet.


Capt. Avery, and Lieutenant Minor being present as witnesseth their hands.



The 24th January, 1675. [i.e. 1676]



Leave a comment

Filed under 1670'S, American Indians, Colonial America, Connecticut, Crime and punishment, Legal, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: Red Jacket’s Reply to a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of the Six Nations (1805)

Found In: The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: Selected Principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and Designed for the Use of the Highest Class in Publick and Private Schools. By John Pierpont. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.


Reply to the Address of a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of “the Six Nations,” in 1805, —by Saghym Whothah, alias Red Jacket.  —PHILANTHROPIST

“Friend and Brother!

It was the will of the Great Spirit, that we should meet together this day. He orders all things; and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his garment from the sun, and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped, that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favours we thank the Great Spirit, and him only.

Brother! Listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun: the Great Spirit had made it for the use of the Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver; their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this he had done for his red children, because he loved them. If we had disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us; your forefathers crossed the great waters, and landed on the island. Their numbers were small; they found us friends, and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country, through fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat; we took pity on them, and granted their request: and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat, and, in return, they gave us poison. The white people having now found our country, tidings were sent back and more came amongst us; yet we did not fear them. We tok them to be friends: they called us brothers; we believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers so increasd, that they wanted more land: they wanted our country. Our eyes opened, and we became uneasy. Wars took place; Indians were hired to fight against Indians; and many of our people were destroyed. They also distributed liquor amongst us, which has slain thousands.

Brother! Once our seats were large, and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but, not satisfied, you want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worhsip the Great Spirit agreeably to  his mind, and that if we do not take hold of the religion which you teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of rightly understanding it? We only know what you tell us about it, and having been so often deceived by the white people, how shall we believe what they say?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things: we are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us: it teaches us to be thankful for all our favours received, to love each other, and to be united: we never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit made us all; but he has made a great difference between his white and his red children: –he has given us different compexions and different customs. To you he has given the arts; tho these he has not opened our eyes. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may he not have given us different religion? The Great Spirit does right: he knows what is best for his children.

Brother! We do not want to destroy your religion, or to take if from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We will wait a little, and see what effect your preaching has had upon them. If we find it makes those honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother! You have now heard our answer, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are about to part, we will come and take you by the hand: and we hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.”


(See also Item of the Day for November 10, 2006)

Leave a comment

Filed under 1830's, American Indians, Culture, Education, Indians, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: An Account of the European Settlements (1758)

Full Title:  An Account of the European Settlements in America. In Six Parts. I. A Short History of the Discovery of that Part of the World.  II.  The Manners and Customs of the Original Inhabitants.  III.  Of the Spanish Settlements.  IV. Of the Portuguese.  V.  Of the French, Dutch, and Danish.  VI.  Of the English.  Each Part contains An Accurate Description of the Settlements in it, their Extent, Climate, Productions, Trade, Genius and Disposition of their Inhabitants:  the Interests of the several Powers of Europe with respect to those Settlements; and their Political and Commercial views with regard to each other.  Vol. II.  The Second Edition, with Improvements.  London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall. MDCCLVIII.

PART II. The Manners of the Americans.


The persons of the Americans. Their dress and way of living. Their manner of covering. Their hospitality. Their temper. Their religion and superstitions. Their medicince.

The Aborigines of America, throughout the whole extent of the two vast continents they inhabit, and amongst the infinite number of nations and tribes into which they are divided, differ very little from each other in their manners and customs; and they all form a very striking picture of the most distant antiquity. Whoever considers the Americans of this day, not only studies the manners of a remote present nation, but he studies, in some measure, the antiquities of all nations; from which no mean lights may be thrown upon many parts of the ancient authors, both sacred and profane. The learned Lafiatu has laboured this point with great success, in a work which deserves to be read amongst us much more than I find it is.

The people of America are tall, and strait in their limbs beyond the proportion of most nations: their bodies are strong; but of a species of strength rather fitted to endure much hardship, than to continue long at any servile work, by which they are quickly consumed; it is the strength of a beast of prey, rather than that of a beast of burthen. Their bodies and heads are flattish, the effect of art; their features are regular, but their countenances fierce; their hair long, black, lank, and as strong as that of a horse. No beards. The colour of their skin a reddish brown, admired amongst them and improved by the constant use of bear’s fat and paint. 

When the Europeans first came into America, they found the people quite naked, except those parts which it is common for the most uncultivated people to conceal. Since that time they have generally a coarse blanket to cover them, which they buy from us. The whole fashion of their lives is of a piece; hardy, poor, and squalid; and their education from their infancy is solely directed to fit their bodies for this mode of life, and to form their minds to inflict and endure the greatest evils. Their only occupations are hunting and war. Agriculture is left to the women. Merchandize they contemn. When their hunting season is past, which they go through with much patience, and in which they exert great ingenuity, they pass they rest of their time in an entire indolence. They sleep half the day in their huts, they loiter and jest among their friends, and they observe no bounds or decency in their eating and drinking. Before we discovered them they wanted spiritous liquors; but now, the acquirement of these is what gives a spur to their industry, and enjoyment to their repose. This is the principal end they pursue in their treaties with us; and from this they suffer inexpressible calamities; for having once begun to drink, they can preserve no measure, but continue a succession of drunkenness as long as their means of procuring liquor lasts. In this condition they lie exposed on the earth to all the inclemency of the seasons, which wastes them by a train of the most fatal disorders; they perish in rivers and marshes; they tumble into the fire; they quarrel, and very frequently murder each other; and in short, excess in drinking, which with us is rather immoral than very destructive, amongst this uncivilized people, who have not art enough to guard against the consequence of their vices, is a public calamity. The few amongst them who live free from this evil, enjoy the reward of their temperance in a robust and healthy old age. The disorders which a complicated luxury has introduced and supports in Europe, are strangers here.  

1 Comment

Filed under 1750's, American Indians, Colonial America, Explorations, History, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd (1822)

Full Title: Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd; Missionary to the Indians on the Borders of New-York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania: Chiefly taken from his own Diary. By Rev. Jonathan Edwards, of Northampton. By Sereno Edwards Dwight. New-Haven: Printed and published by S. Converse, 1822.


THERE are two ways of recommending true religion and virtue to the world; the one, by doctine and precept; the other by history and example. Both are abundantly used in the holy scriptures. Not only are the grounds, nature, design, and importance of religion clearly exhibited in the doctrines of scripture–its exercise and practice plainly delineated, and abundantly enforeced, in its commands and counsels–but there we have many excellent examples of religion, in its power and practice, set before us, in the histories both of the Old and New Testament.

JESUS CHRIST, the great Prophet of God, when he came to be “the light of the world,” –to teach and enforce true religion, in a greater degree than ever had been done before–made use of both these methods. In his doctrines, he not only declared more fully the mind and will of God–the nature and properties of that virtue, which becomes creatures of our constitution, and in our circumstances, and more powerfully enforced it by exhibiting the obligations and inducements to holiness; but he also in his own practice gave a most perfect example of the virtue which he taught. He exhibited to the world such an illustrious pattern of humility, divine love, descreet zeal, self-denial, obedience, patience, resignation, fortitude, meekness, forgiveness, compassion, benevolence, and universal holiness, as neither men nor angels ever saw before.

God also in his providence, has been wont to make use of both these methods to hold forth light to mankind, and inducements, to their duty, in all ages. He has from time to time raised up eminent teachers, to exhibit and bear testimony to the truth by their doctrine, and to oppose the errors, darkness, and wickedness of thw world; and he has also raised up some eminent persons who have set bright examples of that religion which is taught and prescribed in the word of God; whose examples have, in the course of divine providence, been set forth to public view. These have a great tendency both to engage the attention of men to the doctrines and rules taught, and also to confirm and enforce them; especially when these bright examples have been exhibited in the same persons who have been eminent teachers. Hereby the world has had opportunity to see a confirmation of the truth, efficacy, and amiableness of the religion taught, in the practice of these same persons who have most clearly and forcibly taught it; and above all, when these bright examples have been set by eminent teachers, in a variety of unusual circumstances of remarkable trial; and when God has withal, remarkably distinguished them with a wonderful success of their instructions and labours.

Such an instance we have in the excellent person whose life is published in the following pages. His example is attended with a great variety of circumstances calculated to engage the attention of religious people, especially in America. He was a man of distinguished talents, as all are sensible, who knew him. As a minister of the gospel, he was called to unusual services in that work; and his ministry was attended with very remarkable and unusual events. His course of religion began before the late times of extraordinary religious commotion; yet he was not an idle spectator, but had a near concern in many things that passed at that time. He had a very extensive acquaintance with those who have been the subjects of the late religious operations, in places far distant, in  people of different nations, education, manners and customs. He had a peculiar opportunity of acquaintance with the false appearances and counterfeits of religion; was the instrument of a most remarkable awakening, a wonderful and abiding alteration and moral transformation of subjects, who peculiarly render the change rare and astonishing.

In the following account, the reader will have an opportunity to see, not only what were the external circumstances and remarkable incidents of the life of this person, and how he spent his time from day to day, as to his external behaviour but also what passed in his own heart. Here he will see the wonderful change he experienced in his mind and dispostion; the manner in which that change was brought to pass; how it continued; and what were its consequences in his inward frames, thoughts, affections, and secret exercises, through many vicissitudes and trials, for more than eight years.

He will also see his sentiments, frame, and behaviour, during a long season of the gradual and sensible approach of death; and what were the effects of his religion in the last stages of his illness. The account being written, the reader may have opportunity at his leisure to compare the various parts of the story, and deliberately to view and weigh the whole, and consider how far what is related, is agreeable to the dictates of reason, and the Word of God.

I am far from supposing that Brainerd’s inward exercises or his extenal conduct, were free from all imperfections. The example of Jesus Christ, is the only perfect example that ever existed in human nature. It is, therefore, a rule by which to try all other examples, and the dispositions, frames, and practices of others, must be commended and followed no further, than they were followers of Christ.

There is one thing in Brainerd, easily discernible by the following account of his life, which may be called an imperfection in him, which though not properly an imperfection of a moral nature, yet, may possibly be made an objection against the extraordinary appearances of religion and devotion in him by such as seek for objections against every thing that can be produced in favour of true, vital religon; I refer to the fact, that he was, by constitution and natural temper, so prone to melancholy, and dejection of spirit. There are some, who think that all religon is a melancholy thing; and what is called Christian experience is little else besides melancholy vapours, disturbing the brain, and exciting enthusiastic imaginations. But that Brainerd’s temper, or constitution inclined him to despondency, is no just ground to suspect his extraordinary devotion to have been only the fruit of a warm imagination. All who have well observed mankind, will readily grant that many of those who by their ntural constitution or temper, are most disposed to dejection are not the most susceptive of liveley and strong impressions on their imagination, or the most subject to those vehement affections, which are the fruits of such impressions. Many, who are of a very gay and sanguine natual temper are vastly more so; and if their affections are turned into a religious channel, are much more exposed to enthsiasm, than many of the former. As to Brainerd notwithstanding his inclination to despondency, he was evidently one of those who usually are the fatherst from a teeming imagination; being of a penetrating genius, of clear thought, of close reasoning, and a very exact judgment; as all know who knew him. As he had a great insight into human nature, and was very discerning and judicious in genral; so he excelled in his judgment and knowledge in divinity, but especially in experimental religion.  . . .





Leave a comment

Filed under 1700's, American Indians, Colonial America, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College (c. 1815)

Full Title: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College and Moors’ Charity School, with a Particular Account of Some Late Remarkable Proceedings of the Board of Trusties, from the Year 1779 to the Year 1815. [n.i.]




Proper informations, and satisfactory evidences being given to the Hon. Society in Scotland, by their respectable Board of Commissioners established at Boston, its incumbrances were removed, and the school, at length, brought into more extensive operation.

In the year 1799, Dr. Wheelock employed the Rev. Lyman Potter on a mission to the Cherokees, 1100 miles to the south. He mingled with these wild natives–opened to them the book of life; and they appeared to receive the messages of divine grace with gladness. Soon after, communication was opened with the tribes of the Six Nations in Upper Canada. Joseph Brant, so memorable in the Indian annals for his improvements and exploits, sent two sons to be members of the same School, in which he had been educated, with letters of grateful remembrance of the founder, as, to whom, under God, he owed his elevation above the savage. One of them, more promising, died not long after his return and many hopes were buried with him. In 1802 Rev. Mr. Merrill, then preceptor of the School, visited the tribes in Lower Canada. The chiefs of St. Francis gratefully rejoiced to place their children in the path of instruction; and several of them were received. Three in general, and at times four, from the St. Francis, Caghnewaga and Algonquin tribes, have been maintained annually at the school till the last year. By obstruction of intercourse and interruptions by the war, there is only one at present; others are expected so soon as peaceful communications are opened.

All these have been supported at the school with every necessary, by the interest of its fund in the care of the society, through the medium of their commissioners, at the rate of about one hundred and thirty dollars per annum for each. Generally, they were regular and attentive, their improvements useful; and since their return, their conduct becoming so far as we have heard. . . .

A propension to improvement is natural to the human race, and to be discerned in nations and individuals. It is checked by  the incontroulable power of the elements, the occasional circumstances of living, and the oppression of despotism. The first cause operates on the Samoiede’s, the inhabitants of Lapland and Greenland: the second on uncultivated nations, in temperate climates, which may advance civilization, as the ancient Germans, Gauls and Britons; or on the lower order of people, in moderate goverments, confined to hard labor and want: the third on all who wear the servile yoke of despotic power, as in the empires of Turkey and Persia.

But some account of the American savages, as an anomaly. They consider the measures, and the zeal of two hundred years, to draw them to christianity and civilization–they note of the attempts, many abortive, and none answerable to expectation–and hence conclude, that they are either not susceptible of improvement, or consigned by the mystery of divine providence to ignorance and idolatry. The former opinion erases them from the list of our species, the latter is vitated by the pride of human exertions. The experiments, under unfavourable circumstances, have been imperfect, and the induction from them erroneous.

 1. The strongest attachment of man is to himself and his own opinions. His manners, deeply rooted in early life, and strengthened by age, are obstinate against the attacks of foreign influence; but yield to familiarized examples in the circle of his social intercourse. Conquerors never raised nations by the point of the sword, from ignorance to knowledge, from their cradle to manhood in improvements; but men, who sprang up in the bosom of their own societies, who were one with the people, and possessed talents and qualities which as the president de Goguet justly remarks, “gained the public esteem and confidence.” Such were the patriots, who, as Osiris and Phoroneus and Cecrops and Numa, by their examples, instructions and laws, accorded by their free countrymen, gradually improved their manners, and led them from barbarism towards refinement. Thus it was with the nations of Europe, whose early histories have been best preserved–and, turning to America, we may conclude it was so when they exchanged their wig-wams for cities in the empire of Mango-Capac; and the same in the advancememt of social order among the Mexicans. The Spaniards undertook by conquest and violence, and reduced the natives to servitude; but could never improve their manners.

In North-America, the English and French emigrators, actuated by milder motives, made use of forcible or accommodating measures, according to circumstances, in forming their settlements. Still, as the Spaniards, they have held the natives in the same contempt, that is natural for the civilized to hold the savage–they have treated them, as an alien and inferior race, never mingling in the interchanges of the social state, needful to inspire confidence, and familiarize, and draw the mind to descern, and taste the pleasures of cultivation. The colonial and state governments have beheld with a despotic eye the tribes within their limits: the laws have provided for them some protection, without affording the rights of citizens. If the friends of the Redeemer, actuated by the benign precepts of the gospel, have, at times, ardently engaged to promote instruction, and reform, among these western pagans, the work, for the most part, was attempted by solitary missionaries, occasional or transient residents, strangers to the manners of those, who were equally estranged to them and their cause. Far different were the undertakings of the apostolic age, which were sustained and prospered by miracles, and wonders, supernatural aids, not to be expected in after times. And far different in the fifth and following centuries, when to extend christianity the pious adventurers were more zealous and persevering, unappalled by perils and wo; when the political influences of the eastern and western Roman empires, and various orders of men. enlisted the clergy to promote the cause.

. . .

Leave a comment

Filed under American Indians, Canada, Early Republic, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Travels Through the Interior Parts of North-America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (1778)

Full Title:  Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. By J. Carver, Esq.  Captain of a company of Provincial Troops During the Late War with France.  London:  Printed for the Author; And Sold by J. Walter, at Charing-cross, and S. Crowder, in Pater-noster Row. MDCCLXXVIII.


No sooner was the late War with France concluded, and Peace established by the Treaty of Versailles in the Year 1763, than I began to consider (having rendered my country some services during the war) how I might continue still serviceable, and contribute, as much as lay in my power, to make that vast acquisition of territory, gained by Great Britain, in North America advantageous to it.  It appeared to me indispensably needful, that Government should be acquainted in the first place with the true state of the dominions they were now become possessed of.  To this purpose, I determined, as the next proof of my zeal, to explore the most unknown parts of them, and to spare no trouble or expence in acquiring a knowledge that promised to be so useful to my countrymen.  I knew that many obstructions would arise to my scheme from the want of good Maps and Charts; for the French, whilst they retained their power in North America, had taken every artful method to keep all other nations, particularly the English, in ignorance of the concerns of the interior parts of it:  and to accomplish this design with the greater certainty, they had published inaccurate maps and false accounts; calling the different nations of the Indians by nicknames they had given them, and not by those really appertaining to them.  Whether the intention of the French in doing this, was to prevent these nations from being discovered and traded with, or to conceal their discourse, when they talked to each other of the Indian concerns, in their presence, I will not determine; but whatsoever was the cause from which it arose, it tended to mislead.

As a proof that the English had been greatly deceived by these accounts, and that their knowledge relative to Canada had usually been very confined, before the conquest of Crown-Point in 1759, it had been esteemed an impregnable fortress:  but no sooner was it taken, than we were convinced that it had acquired its greatest security from false reports, given out by it possessors, and might have been battered down with a few four pounders.  Even its situation, which was represented to be so very advantageous, was found to woe its advantages to the same source.  It cannot be denied but that some maps of these countries have been published by the French with an appearance of accuracy; but these are so small a size and drawn on so minute a scale, that they are nearly inexplicable.  The sources of the Mississippi, I can assert from my own experience, are great misplaced; for when I had explored them, and compared their situation with the French Charts, I found them very erroneously represented, and am satisfied that these were only copied from the rude sketches of the Indians.

Even so lately as their evacuation of Canada they continued their schemes to deceive; leaving no traces by which any knowledge might accrue to their conquerors:  for though they were well acquainted with all the Lakes, particularly with Lake Superior, having constantly a vessel of considerable burthen thereon, yet their plans of them are very incorrect.  I discovered many errors in the descriptions given therein of its Islands and Bays, during a progress of eleven hundred miles that I coasted it in canoes.  They likewise, on giving up the possession of them, took care to leave the places they had occupied in the same uncultivated state they had found them; at the same time destroying all their naval force.  I observed myself part of the hulk of a very large vessel, burnt to the water’s edge, just at the opening from the Straits of St. Marie’s into the Lake.

These difficulties, however, were not sufficient to deter me from the undertaking, and I made preparations for setting out.  What I chiefly had in view, after gaining a knowledge of the Manners, Customs, Languages, Soil, and natural Productions of the different nations that inhabit the back of the Mississippi, was to ascertain the Breadth of that vast continent, which extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, in its broadest part between 43 and 46 Degrees Northern Latitude.   Had I been able to accomplish this, I intended to have proposed to Government to establish a Port in some of those parts about the Straits of Annian, which having been first discovered by Sir Francis Drake, of course belong to the English.  This I am convinced would greatly facilitate the discovery of a North-West Passage, or a communication between Hudson’s Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  An event so desirable, and which has been so often fought for, but without success.  Besides this important end, a settlement on that extremity of America would answer many good purposes, and repay every expence the establishment of it might occasion.  For it would not only disclose new sources of trade, and promote many useful discoveries, but would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China, and the English settlements in the East Indies, with greater expedition than a tedious voyage by the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of Magellan will allow of. . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Indians, Canada, Explorations, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Bartram’s Travels (1794)

Full Title: Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, The Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions; Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Embellished with Copper-Plates. By William Bartram.  The Second Edition in London.  Philadelphia Printed by James and Johnson. 1791.  London:  Printed for J. Johnson, In St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1794.

Chap. III.

After fifteen miles riding, I arrived at the ferry, which is near the site of the fort.  Here is a considerable height and bluff on the river, and evident vestiges of an ancient Indian town may be seen, such as an old extensive fields, and conical mounds, or artificial heaps of earth.  I here crossed the river, which is about five hundred yards over, in a good large boat, rowed by a Creek Indian, who was married to a white woman; he seemed an active, civil, and sensible man. . . .

Being safely landed on the opposite bank, I mounted my horse, and followed the high road to the ferry on St. Ille, about sixty miles south of the Alatamaha, passing through an uninhabited wilderness. . . .In the evening I arrived at a cow-pen, where there was a habitation, and the people received me very civilly.  I staid here all night, and had for supper plenty of milk, butter, and very good cheese of their own make, which is a novelty in the maritime parts of Carolina and Georgia; the inhabitants being chiefly supplied with it from Europe and the northern states. . . .

It may be proper to observe, that I had now passed the utmost frontier of the white settlements on that border.  It was drawing on towards the close of day, the skies serene and calm, the air temperately cool, and gentle zephyrs breathing through the fragrant pines; the prospect around enchantingly varied and beautiful; endless green savannas, chequered with coppices of fragrant shrubs, filled the air with the richest perfume.  The gaily attired plants which enamelled the green had begun to imbibe the pearly due of evening; nature seemed silent, and nothing appeared to ruffle the happy moments of evening contemplation; when, on a sudden, an Indian appeared crossing the path, at a considerable distance from me.  On perceiving that he was armed with a rifle, the first sight of him startled me, and I endeavoured to elude his sight, by stopping my pace, and keeping large trees between us; but he espied me, and turning short about, sat spurs to his horse, and came up on full gallop.  I never before this was afraid at the sight of an Indian, but at this time, I must own that my spirits were very much agitated:  I saw at once, that, being unarmed I was in his power; and having now but a few moments to prepare, I resigned myself entirely to the will of the Almighty, trusting to his mercies for my preservation:  my mind then became tranquil, and I resolved to meet the dreaded foe with resolution and chearful confidence.  The intrepid Siminole stopped suddenly, three or four yards before me, and silently viewed me, his countenance angry and fierce, shifting his rifle from shoulder to shoulder, and looking about instantly on all sides.  I advanced towards him, and with an air of confidence offered him my hand, hailing him, brother; at this he hastily jerked back his arm, with a look of malice, rage, and disdain, seeming every way discontented; when again looking at me more attentively, he instantly spurred up to me, and with dignity in his look and action, gave me his hand.  Possibly the silent language of his soul, during the moment of suspense (for I believe his design was to kill me when he first came up) was after this manner:  “White man, thou art my enemy, and thou and thy brethren may have killed mine; yet it may not be so, and even were that the case, thou art now alone, and in my power.  Live; the Great Spirit forbids me to touch thy life; go to thy brethren, tell them thou sawest an Indian in the forests, who knew how to be humane and compassionate.”  In fine, we shook hands, and parted in a friendly manner, in the midst of a dreary wilderness; and he informed me of the course and distance to the trading-house where I found he had been extremely ill-treated the day before. 

I now sat forward again, and after eight or ten miles riding, arrived at the banks of St. Mary’s, opposite the stores, and got safe over before dark . . .The trading company here received me with great civility.  On relating my adventures on the road, particularly the last with the Indian, the chief replied, with a countenance that at once bespoke surprise and pleasure, “My friend, consider yourself a fortunate man:  that fellow,” said he, “is one of the greatest villains on earth, a noted murderer, and outlaws by his countrymen.  Last evening he was here, we took his gun from him, broke it in pieces, and gave him a severe drubbing:  he, however, made his escape, carrying off a new rifle gun, with which, he said, going off, he would kill the first white man he met.”

On seriously contemplating the behaviour of this Indian towards me, so soon after his ill treatment, the following train of sentiments insensibly crowded in upon my mind.

Can it be denied, but that the moral principle, which directs the savages to virtuous and praise-worthy actions, is natural or innate?  It is certain they have not the assistance of letters, or those means of education in the schools of philosophy, where the virtuous sentiments and actions of the most illustrious characters are recorded, and carefully laid before the youth of civilized nations:  therefore this moral principle must be innate, or they must be under the immediate influence and guidance of a more divine and powerful preceptor, who, on these occasions, instantly inspires them, and as with a ray of divine light, points out to them at once the dignity, propriety, and beauty of virtue.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, American Indians, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (1809)

Full Title:  The Natural and Civil History of Vermont. By Samuel Williams, LL.D. Member of the Meteorological Society in Germany, of the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Massachusetts.  In Two Volumes.  Volume I.  The Second Edition, Corrected and Much Enlarged.  Burlington, VT. Printed by Samuel Mills.  Sold at His Bookstore in Burlington by Mills and White, Middlebury, Isaiah Thomas, Jun.  Worcester, Thomas and Andrews, Boston, Thomas and Whipple and S. Sawyer and Co. Newburyport.  1809.


Three centuries have passed away since America was first discovered by Columbus.  From that time until now, the affairs of America have engaged the attention of historians and philosophers.  The natural productions of this continent, have been one object of general inquiry.  Among the Spanish writers, there are some good essays on the natural history of the southern parts of America.  In Canada, some of the physicians and Jesuits were attentive to the natural productions of that part of the continent; and have left some valuable pieces on the natural history of New France.  This kind of knowledge was not much attended to, by the first settlers of the British colonies; and we have but few of their ancient writings, in which it was contemplated at all.  Obliged to depend upon transient and partial accounts, the best writer upon natural history, M. de Buffon, has fallen into many mistakes respecting the natural productions of America, which, more accurate observations would have corrected.  The subject instead of being fully explored, is yet a treasure but little examined.

The Man of America was an object still more curious and important.  But the age in which the first discoveries and settlements were made, was not enough enlightened, to afford either accurate or impartial observations, on the manners, customs, language, abilities, or state of society, among the Indians.  Prejudiced by their sordid manners, and enraged by their barbarities, the men of Europe never looked for any thing good in such men:  And while interest and revenge joined to destroy that unhappy race, but few were able to consider their customs or rights with calmness, or dared to say any thing in their favor.  It is not more than half a century, since this subject has been properly attended to by philosophers:  And their conclusions have been of the most opposite and contrary kinds.  Some have with great zeal advanced, that the perfection of man was to be found in the savage state; while others have as warmly contended, that this was the lowest state of degradation and abasement, to which the human race can possibly be reduced.  Such opposite and contrary systems make it necessary to examine this part of the natural history of man, with great care and impartiality; that we may distinguish what was valuable in that stage of society, and what was disadvantageous and degrading.

An object of still higher magnitude and importance has been presented to our view by the American Revolution.  The first settlers in the British colonies were left in a great measure by their sovereigns to take care of themselves.  The only situation which they could take, while they were clearing the woods and forming their settlements, was that of equality, industry, and economy.  In such a situation every thing tended to produce, and to establish the spirit of freedom.  Their employments, customs, manners, and habits;  their wants, dangers, and interests, were nearly the same; these, with every other circumstance in their situation, operated with a steady and certain tendency, to preserve that equality and freedom, which nature had made.  This spirit of freedom was in some degree checked by the customary interpositions of royal authority:  But these were too irregular and contradictory, to become masters of veneration, to alter the natural feelings of men, or to change the natural course and tendency of things:  And while the ministers of kings were looking into their laws and records, to decide what should be the rights of men in the colonies, nature was establishing a system of freedom in America, which they could neither comprehend or discern.  The American Revolution explained the business to the world, and served to confirm what nature and society had before produced.

 Having assumed their rank among the nations of the earth, the states of America now present to the world a new state of society; founded on principles, containing arrangements, and producing effects, not visible in any nation before.  The uncommon and increasing prosperity which has attended it, has ascertained its spirit and tendency:  The people are distinguished by the spirit of inquiry, industry, economy, enterprize, and regularity:  The government is dependent upon, but guides, and reverences the people:  And the whole country is rapidly increasing in numbers, extent, wealth, and power.  The highest perfection and felicity, which man is permitted to hope for in the present life, may rationally be expected in such a state of society:  And it becomes of course the object of universal inquiry and attention.  

To represent the state of things in America in a proper light, particular accounts of each part of the federal union seem to be necessary; and would answer other valuable purposes.  An able historian, the Reverend Dr. Belknap, has obliged the world with the history of New Hampshire.  The following treatise is designed to describe the operations of nature and society, in the adjacent state of Vermont.  This is the youngest of the states, an inland country, and now rapidly changing from a vast tract of uncultivated wilderness, to numerous and extensive settlements.  In this stage of society, industry and economy seem to produce the greatest effects, in the shortest periods of time. . . .

The most important of all our philosophical speculations, are those which relate to the history of man.  In most of the productions of nature, the subject is fixed, and may always be found and viewed in the same situation.  And hence a steady course of observation, serves to discover and ascertain the laws by which they are governed, and the situation they will assume in other periods of time.    It is probable the actions and affairs of men are subject to as regular and uniform laws, as other events:  And that the same state of society will produce the same forms of government, the same manners, customs, habits, and pursuits, among different nations, in whatever part of the earth they may reside.  Monarchy, freedom, superstition, truth and all the general causes which actuate mankind, seem every where to bear the same aspect, to operate with the same kind of influence, and to produce similar effects; differing not in their nature and tendency, but only in the circumstances and degrees, in which they influence different nations.  But nothing is stationary, nothing that depends upon the social state, is so unalterably fixed, but that it will change and vary with the degradation or improvement of the human race.  And hence, while the nature of man remains unaltered, the state of society is perpetually changing, and the men of one age and country, in many respects appear different from those of another.  And as men themselves are more or less improved, every thing that constitutes a part of the social state, will bear a different appearance among different nations, and in the same nation in different circumstances, and in different periods of time. To ascertain what there is thus peculiar and distinguishing in the state of society in the Federal Union, to explain the causes which have led to this state, to mark its effect upon human happiness, and to deduce improvement from the whole, are the most important objects which civil history can contemplate in America:  And they are objects, every where more useful to men, than any refinements, distinctions, or discoveries, merely speculative.

I have wished to keep such objects in view, in considering the state of society in this part of the continent.  But it is with diffidence that I submit the attempt to the view of the public. The dispostion of America is to favor such attempts and publications, as are adapted to promote any valuable public purpose:  But speculative and useless essays cannot much engage the attention of a people, whose main object is the prosperity and improvement of their country.  The public sentiment will be a just decision, among which of these, the following work ought to be placed.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1800's, American Indians, American Revolution, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Vermont

Item of the Day: History of California (1759)

Full Title: A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing An accurate Description of that Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants, Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living, before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by the missionary Jesuits. Together with Accounts of Several Voyages and Attempts made for settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that Country, its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. Illustrated with a Map of the Country and the adjacent Seas. Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, published in Madrid in 1758. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher at the Oxford Theatre, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1759.



Of the temper and manners of the Californians;

and of their government in peace and war.

To those who have seen any of the American nations, and observed their genius and disposition, it would be sufficient to say in general, that the ancient inhabitants of California did not in the least differ from them; except those of the two empires of Mexico and Peru, in which, as there was a greater union and intercourse, so the fruits of it were seen in the cultivation of their reason, in their laws, policy and military conduct, and in the other branches of government, as well as in the reciprocal and friendly dependencies on on one another. But all the other American nations differ very little, either in capacity, disposition, or customs. The characteristicks of the Californians, as well as of all the other Indians, are stupidity and insensibility; want of knowledge and reflections; inconstancy, impetuosity, and blindness of appetite; an excessive sloth and abhorrence of all labour and fatigue; an incessant love of pleasure and amusement of every kind, however trifling or brutal; pusillanimity and relaxity: and in fine, a most wretched want of every thing which constitutes the real man, and renders him rational, inventive, tractable, and useful to himself and society. It is not easy for Europeans, who never were out of their own country, to conceive an adequate idea of these people, for even in the least frequented corners of the globe, there is not a nation so stupid, of such contracted ideas, and so weak both in body and mind, as the unhappy Californians. Their understanding comprehends little more than what they see: abstract ideas, and much less a chain of reason, being far beyond their power; so that they scarce ever improve their first ideas; and these are in general false, or at least inadequate. It is in vain to represent to them any future advantages, which will result to them, by doing or abstaining from this or that particular immediately present; the relation of means and ends being beyond the stretch of their faculties. Nor have they the least notion of pursuing such intentions as will procure themselves some future good, or guard them against evils. Their insensibility, with regard to corporeal objects which lie before them, being so great, that it may easily be conceived, what sentiments they can have with regard to rewards and punishments in a future life. They have only a few faint glimmerings of the moral virtues and vices; so that some things appear good and others evil, without any reflection: and though they enjoyed the light of natural reason, and that divine grace which is given to all without distinction, yet the one was so weak, and the other so little attended to, that, without any regard to decency, pleasure and profit were the motives and end of all their actions. . . .


Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, American Indians, California, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1724)

Full Title: The History of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. Done into English from the Original Spanish of Don Antonio De Solis, Secretary and Historiographer to His Catholick Majesty. By Thomas Townsend. London: Printed for T. Woodward at the Half-Moon, and J. Hooke at the Flower-de-Luce, both against St. Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet-Street; and J. Peele at Locke’s-Head in Pater-Noster-Row, M.DCC.XXIV.


Juan de Grijalva prosecutes his Voyage, and enters

the River of Flags, where he has the first Account

 of the Mexican King Montezuma.

Grijalva and his Companions pursued their Voyage, standing the same Course, still discovering new Lands and Towns, without any memorable Accident, until they came to a River, which they call’d the River of Flags; because on the Shore and neighbouring Coasts, they saw a great Number of Indians, with white Flags hanging at the Tops of their Spears, and who, by their Manner of waving them, together with their Signals, Cries, and different Motions, made a Shew of Peace, and seemed rather to invite Passengers than forbid them. Grijalva order’d Francisco de Montejo to advance with some of his Men in two Boats, to try the Entrance of the River, and discover the Intentions of those Indians. This Captain finding a good Anchoring Place, and little to apprehend from the Behavior of the Poeple, gave Notice to the rest to come up. They all landed, and were received with great Admiration and Marks of Joy by the Indians: From amongst them whom, assembled in great Numbers, three advanced, who, by the Ornaments of their Habits, seemed the principal Men of the Country; and stopping so long as was necessary to observe who was the chief Commander, by the Respect the others paid him, they went directly up to Grijalva, whom they accosted with great Reverence, and who received them with equal Courtesy. Our Interpreters did not understand the Language of this Country, so that the Compliments were made by civil Signs, with some Words of more Sound than Signification.

AFTER this they saw a Banquet, which the Indians had provided of different Sorts of Food, plac’d, or rather flung upon Mats of Palm, under the Shade of the Trees; a rustick and disorderly Plenty, but not the less grateful to the Taste of the hungry Soldiers. After which Refreshment, the three Indians commanded their People to shew some Pieces of Gold, which they had concealed till then; and by their Manner of shewing and holding them, it was understood that they did not design to make a Present of them, but to purchase with them the Merchandize of the Ships, the Fame of which had already reach’d their Ears. Presently a Fair was open’d for Strings of Beads, Combs, Knives, and other Instruments of Iron and Alchimy, which in that Country might be called Jewels of great Price, the Fondness of the Indians for those Trifles giving them a real Value. They were exchanged for Implements, and Trinkets of Gold, not of the greatest Fineness, but in such Abundance, that in the six Days the Spaniards stopp’d there, the Ransomes amounted to fifteen thousand Peso’s.

We don’t know with what Propriety they gave the Name of Ransomes to this Kind of Trucking, nor why they called it Ransomed Gold, which in Truth was deliver’d over to a greater Slavery, and had more Liberty where it was less esteemed: But I shall make use of this Expression, because I find it introduced into our Histories, and before them into the History of the East Indies; it being granted that in the Manner of Speaking, whereby Things are explained, the Reason is not so much to be sought after, as the Custom, which according to the Opinion of Horace, is the true Judge of Language, and either gives or takes away, as it pleases, that Harmony which the Ear finds between Sounds and their Signification.

Juan de Grijalva finding that the Ransomes were at an End, and the Ships in some Danger, by being exposed to the North Wind, took his leave of those People, who remained pleased and thankful. He consulted about pursuing his intended Discovery, having understood by Signs that these three Indian Chiefs were Subjects to a Monarch called Motezuma [sic], whose Empire extended over numerous Countries abounding with Gold, and other Riches; and that they came by his Order to examine, after a peaceable Manner, into the Intentions of our People, whose Neighbourhood, in all Appearance, gave him Disturbance. Some Writers run into larger Accounts, but it doth not seem easy to conceive whence they could have gained their Knowledge, nor was it a small Matter to learn so much as we have related, where People were oblig’d to speak with their Hands, and understand with their Eyes.

 They sailed on, without losing Sight of Land, and passing by two or three Islands of small Note, landed on one they called the Island of Sacrifices, because going in to view a House of Lime and Stone, which overlooked the rest, they found several Idols of horrible Figure, and more horrible Worship paid to them; for near the Steps where they were plac’d, were the Carkasses of six or seven Men, newly sacrifice, cut to Pieces, and their Entrails laid open. This miserable Sight struck our People with Horror, and affected them with different Sentiments, their Hearts being filled with Compassion, at the same Time that they were enraged at the Abomination.

They staid but a little while in this Island, because the Inhabitants seemed to be in a Consternation; so that the Ransomes were not considerable. Upon which they pass’d on to another, which was not far from the Main Land, and so situated, that between that and the Coast there was sufficient Room and convenient Shelter for the Ships. They called it the Island of St. Juan, because they arrived there on the Day of the Baptist, and likewise in Respect to the Name of their General, mixing Devotion with Flattery; because an Indian, who was pointing with his Hand towards the Main Land, giving them to understand how it was called, repeated several Times, with a bad Pronunciation, the Word Culua! Culua! This gave Occasion to the Sir name, by which they distinguished it from St. Juan de Puerto Rico, calling it St. Juan de Ulua: A little Island of more Sand than Soil; and which lay so low, that sometimes it was cover’d by the Sea. But from these humble Beginnings, it became the most frequented and most celebrated Port of New Spain, on that Side which is bound by the North Sea.

HERE  they staid some Days; for the Indians of the neighbouring Parts came with their Pieces of Gold, believing they had the Advantage of the Spaniards in changing them for Glass. And Juan de Grijalva finding that his Instructions limited him to discover and ransome without making a Settlement, (which was expresly [sic] forbidden him,) he consulted about giving an Account to Diego Velasquez of the large Countries he had discover’d; that in case he resolv’d to have him settle there he might send him Orders with a Supply of Forces, and such other Provisions as he stood need of. With this Account he dispatch’d Captain Pedro de Alvarado in one of the four Ships, giving him all the Gold, and whatever else they had acquired until that Time; to the End, that the Shew of that Wealth might give his Embassy the more Weight, and facilitate his Proposal of Settling, to which he was always inclined; notwithstanding Francisco Lopez de Gamara denies it, and blames him on the Account as a pusillanimous Person.


Leave a comment

Filed under 1720's, American Indians, History, Mexico, New Spain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel