Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][merged small]

and commentaries made upon them by some of the most learned and intelligent persons in all nations ; such as Erasmus, Gruter, and Mr Ray. I have been led into this reflection, by an obiervation I lately met with, in a letter of a person generally esteemed for .his knowledge of men and books. *• It is," fays he, "a truth that admits ** of no dispute, that Experience is the "mistress of fools; but it is most true *' in this respect, that none but fools "go to this good old Lady's school." At first fight I did not clearly, comprehend this writer's meaning, but upon reflection, 1 perceive that his remark is perfectly right, and that one of the clearest distinctions between wisdom and folly, is the needing, or not needing the light of experience.

The man of true good fense is conducted, with respect to his own actions, by Prudence only, and does not need the assistance of events to distinguish what is right or wrong, good or evil. But a man of less solid abilities follows his humour, his inclination, or his pasiion, till some inconvenie/icy convinces him he is in the wrong, and then he corrects himself. We have an excellent example of this kiad in the famous story of Crœsus king of L,5'dia, who in the dreadful reverse of his fortune, sav'd his life by crying out, Solon! Solon! Solon! When he was alk'd the reason, he said, that this famous man being at his court in the time of his highest prosperity, he had afk'd him more than once, who he thought the happiest man, not doubting that hewould have answered,Himself; but finding the sage no courtier in this respect, he was fore'd to speak cut, and to alk him, why he was not struck with the appearance of his felicity? Upon which Solon told him, that there was no pronouncing any man happy, till he was dead. This Prudence taught the Greek Philosopher, and in time, his misfortunes taught it the Lydian Prince j that is

to fay, he was one of the fools that went to school to Experience.

It has been a maxim in the art of war, ever since a great Athenian General laid it down as such, that in it there is no room for a second mistake; which in other words amounts to no more than this,—that a General ought always to have a better tutor than Experience. A mistake in other arts may be repair'd ; in war, seldom, if ever. In this senso, perhaps, as in many others, life is a kind of warfare, in which, if a man makes one capital mistake, it is fatal to him, and he has never after an opportunity of recovering it. There may indeed be many instances produced that seem to con- • tradict this observation, but whoever will consider these attentively, cannot help seeing that such instances really confirm what has been advane'd; for they awaken the mind from a state of sleepiness and inaction, and put it upon exerting its natural powers, which, when once dene, that kind of foresight is quickly acquired which prevents our standing in need of experience.

We may apply this sort of reasoning to several useful and beneficial purposes: In the first place, it should teach us, instead of waiting for, and leaning upon Experience, to be astiam'd of her assistance, since it is our own faults that we ever stand in need of it; and consequently it is a reflection upon our understandings, whenever we correct ourselves by it. We may be; assur'd of the matter of fact from the great things that some young men perform, without any help from it at all. Thus, for instance, Alcibiades among the Athenians was at the head of the State almost as early, as with us % young man with tolerable parts is at the head of a public school; and hist victories nude him terrible to all Greece at that time of life, when here he might have been taking his degrees. We may fay almost th* fame thing of Lucullus among tho Romans;

[merged small][ocr errors]

Romans; he came an actomplish'd Gcner.U out> of his closet, and knew how to-comm.nd the Veteran officers in the Roman legions in his first campaign. This evidently shews, not only the excellency os' prudence beyond experience, but that it i9 also a short Cjit, and though a superior kind of wisdom, is notwithstanding sooner and more ^ffl-ctually attain'd. Some indeed may pretend that these were extraordinary Genii, which I deny, and they can never prove. The stature and the strength of men have been in all ages and climates very near alike, and we have reason to believe the fame of their understandings.

In the next place, the lights thift We derive from Experience are very uncertain. A man that relics upon her may be a long time before he meets with her, and proceed a great way in the journey of life before he has an opportunity of learning from her whe» thcr he is in the right road or the wrong. By this means he inverts the very nature of things, and must many times derive his good fortune from untoward accidents, since without the aifistance of these he can learn no lessons of consequence from expetience. Add to this, that he may be in great danger of mistaking these lights when he does meet with them; for the institutions of experience, like the responses of oracles, are very often capable of double meanings, that is to fay, one man takes them in one fense, and another in another; nay, perhaps every man is naturally liable to take them in different senses, according to the age, temper, and circumstances he may be in when he receives them; and this is die reason that some improve more and some less in this school, so that one would think the mistress partial, and that she did not take the same Care of all her scholars.

We may possibly hear of a very capital objection to all that has been sud, which is, that some have become very great men by her alfistance solely. *- h

and with very little help either from books" or conversation. The fact I shall not pretend to deny, but then it admits of two answers; the first is, that this very method oftcaching renders it impossible for such as are so taught to make any great use of their knowledge ; they must be all their lives long learning, and be precisely fit to come into the woild when nature calls them out of it. The second answer is, that we very often mistake for experience what are the effects of natural sagacity, which is the most differ* ent thing from experience in the world. It is a kind of innate prudence, a happy disposition of mind, that scarce stands in need of culture or education, that is for the ordinary offices of life, but with the assistance of it, is capable of performing prodigious things; in short, it is what we commonly call Pans | and the reason that we think such as are endow'd with them stand in need of experience, is because the quickness of their imaginations run a* way with them, and therefore they want a curb.

Take the whole of this matter to* gether, and the doctrine to be collect* ed from it is this i—-The mind of man is endow'd with such faculties by hi a Creator, and these open themselves in a manner so well proportion'd to the growth of the body, that with the help of a proper education and due attention, they both acquire their vigour at the fame time; just as the law supposes that a nun has attained discretion, when he is at age. Bur all this depends upon prudence, and a person's having considered and compared the nature of causes and events, of which a man may be in a great measure master, without seeing them, as appears by people's forming right judgments, of what others ought or ought not to do, whose circumstances differ widely from their own. It may perhaps be asked, Is experience, after all, to go for nothing, and is a man never the wiser for die years iw lives in the 4 world?

[ocr errors]

§2 Of the Indigenous Inhabitants 6s both parts of America.

world? I neither affirm the ofle, nor man will be always ready to hear, but

deny the other; but what I fay is will seldom think it worth his white

this, That experience is a very cun- to alk.
(ting old ladyr whose advice a wise <•

Observations relative to the Indigenous Inhabitants of both parts of America. By Don Ulloa.—[Continuedfrom our /aJ/.J

THE Indians are not so much to be dreaded for their valour as for their perfidious and secret strokes of enmity. Nothing can exceed their cruelty, when they have been successful in surprising their enemies ; in this case, they glut themselves with cool and deliberate carnage. On the other hand, they are equally suppliant and pusillanimous when the issue of their enterprise has been unfortunate. This contrast results naturally from the barbarous and ungenerous character by which the whole race is so unfavourably distinguished.

What the historians of the Conquest ef Mexico tell us of the heroism of the Indians must either be much exaggerated, or else the character of the ration is excessively changed since that sera. It is certain that the northern tribes enjoy t^ie fame liberty as ever, and that no circumstance has happened to make any change on their customs or manners. Yet the fame cruel and perfidious character prevails among them, as among those of Peru and the southern parts of America, whether conquered or free.

It is impossible to ascribe this character of the Indians in Peru to their having changed an internal for a foreign slavery, or to any of the circumstances that have resulted from this change. Having neither changed their language, their customs, nor their inclinations, the basis of their character is certainly unaltered, especially as it is undeniable that they have taken nothing of the manners of the nation that conquered them. Besides, they are by 09 mains in that state gf sub

jection which strangers are apt to imagine. In fact, their freedom is very little abridged, and their various tribes are governed much as formerly, by their respective Curacas, or Caciques But the most decisive circumstance is the uniform character that prevails a-, mong them all, whether living independent, or in subjection to Europeans.

There is no instance, either of a single Indian facing an individual of any other nation in fair and open combat, or of their jointly venturing to try the fate of battle with an equal number of any foes. Even with the greatest superiority of numbers they dare not meet an open attack. Yet notwithstanding this want of courage they are still formidable; nay, it has been known that a small party of them has routed a much superior body of regular troops: but this can only happen when they have sui prised them in the fastnesses of their forests, where the covert of the wood may conceal them until they take their aim with the utmost certainty. After one such discharge they immediately retreat, without leaving the smallest trace of their route. It may easily be supposed, that an onset of this kind must prodace confusion even among the steadiest troops, when they can neither know the number of their enemies, nor perceive the place where they he in ambush.

The Indians are exceedingly artful and accomplished in this species of war. They care not how long they may be obliged to lie in ambush, provided they can insure the advantage which they propose in making a near and certain discharge upon their enemies. They carry on stratagems of this kind with the utmost patience, address, and circumspection; sometimes they conceal themselves in thickets, at other times they lie flat on the ground in such a manner that it is impoflible to observe them.

Ostht Indigenous Inhabitants osboth parts of America*

The Indians of the country, called Natches in Louisiana, laid a plot of , massacring in one night every individual belonging to the French colony established there. This plot, they actually executed, notwithstanding the seeming good understanding that subsisted between them and these European neighbours. Such was the secrecy which they observed, that no person had the least suspicion of their design until the blow was struck. One Frenchman alone escaped, by favour of the darkness, to relate the disaster of his countrymen. The compassion of a female Indian contributed also in some measure to his exemption from the general massacre. The tribe of Natches had invited the Indians of other countries, even to a considerable distance, to join in the fame conspiracy. The day, or rather the night, was fixed on which they were to make an united attack on 'the French colo• nists. It was intimated by sending a parcel of rods, moreor less numerous, according to the local distance of each tribe, with an injunction to abstract one rod daily, the day on which the last fell to be taken away being that fixed for the execution of their plan. The women were partners of the bloody secret. The parcels of rods being thus distributed, that belonging to the tribe of Natches happentd to remain in the custody of a female. This woman, either moved by her own feelings of compassion, or by the commiseration expressed by her semale acquaintances, in the view of the proposed scene of bloodshed, abstracted one day three or four of the rods, and thus anticipated the term »f her tribe's

proceeding to the execution of the general conspiracy.. The consequence of this was, that the Natches were the only actors in this carnage, their distant associates having still several rods remaining at the time when the former made the attack. An opportunity was thereby given to the colonists in those quarters to take measures for their defence, and for preventing a more extensive execution of the design.

It was by conspiracies similar to this that the Indians of the province of Macas, in the kingdom of Quito, destroyed the opulent city of Logrogno, the colony of Guambaya, and its capital Sevilla del Oro, and that so completely, that it is no longer known in what place these settlements existed, or where that abundance of gold was found from which the last-menmentioned city took the addition to its name. Like ravages have been committed upon l'Imperiale in Chili, the colonies of the Millions of Chuncas, those of Darien in Terra Firma, and many other places, which have afforded scenes of this barbarous ferocity. These conspiracies are always carried on in the fame manner. The secret is inviolably kept, the actors as^ semble at the precise hour appointed, and every individual is animated with the fame sanguinary purposes. The males that fall into their hands are put to death with every (hocking circumstance that can be suggested by a cool and determined cruelty. The females arc carried off and preserved as monuments of their victory, to be employed as their occasions require.

I (hall not dwell longer on a description of this (hocking nature. I have iiiW so much indeed, only to (hew that this odious character of the Indians with respect to cruelty cannot justly be ascribed to their subjection to a foreign yoke, seeing the (ame character belongs equally to all the original inhabitants of this vast continent, even those who hate preserved their independence

[ocr errors][merged small]

independence most completely. Certain it is, that these people, with the most limited capacities for every thing else, display an astonishing degree of penetration and subtlety with respect to every object that involves treachery, bloodshed, and rapine. As to these, they seem to have been all educated at one school, and a secret, referring to any such plan, no consideration on earth can extort from them.

These nations keep no computation of the succession of days or weeks. The only measure of time, to which they seem to pay any attention, is that determined by the revolutions of the moon. The most simple calculations are beyond their ability. Hence it is, that in fixing any distant convocation they have recourse to those parcels of rods that have been mentioned. The number of rods is equal to that of the days that must elapse between the receipt of the parcel and the execution of their purpose. The meaning therefore is, at such a day.—It is of consequence to be added, that an injury or affront done to one tribe, or even to one individual, becomes a common cause to the whole community, and even to the most distant nations. In such a case, neither treaties nor longcontinued friend/hip, nor the remembrance of benefits, are regarded in the smallest degree. All these considerations are renounced in a moment, and the most rancorous and faithless enmity immediately succeeds. This thews how little reliance should be placed in their professions, and how necessary it is for those who are within reach of their hostile attempts to be perpetually on their guard.

If a northern Indian be made prisoner in a state of intoxication, and put into the ranks with a body of regular troops, he will sight with great iieadiness as long as his drunkenness

{ontinues, and he finds himself well jpported. But if either of these circumstances fail, he immediately takes to flight, and joins the ilrit ambuscade

of the enemy. This is a fact that has been often observed both by the French and English. The conquered Indians of Peru, who mangle some Spanish words, betray an allusion to this circumstance, in uttering the word atiivio (sharpening their tone on the last syllable) while they diink spirituous liquors to excite their courage in raising insurrections, intimating thereby that they imbibe courage with their draughts. The Indians who arc Called civilized are not less apt to raise sudden commotions, in which they assemble in numerous parties, and make a furious onset with stones, or any weapon that occurs. But no sooner do they meet with any steady resistance, than they turn their backs and disperse themselves at random, in order to make it believed that they had no hand in the assray. The treacherous, turbulent, and mischievous disposition of these people, thoroughly justifies the wisdom of the Spanish government in denying them the use of arms. This seems to be the only method of keeping them in proper subordination, and of ensuring the continuance of their services in the mines, and in the other manual occupations which they perform1. Were this principle to be abandoned, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to ensure their obedience, as appears sufficiently from their frequent insurrections, even as matters stand; insurrections from which the most fatal events might justly be dreaded, were they permitted to acquire the possession and use of arms.

The French and English colonists have adopted a different system with regard to the northern Indians. With a view of drawing the more profit from the fur trade, with the view also of augmenting their armies with them in Cases of necessity, and of opposing one tribe to another, they have both given them arms and instructed them in their use. But in so doing, they have only prepared very formidable caemict to themselves; for no


« ZurückWeiter »