Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1

spirits and their passions, they are still more cruel and unreflecting than on other occasions, and derive a more horrible diversion from the miseries of their captives.

But sympathy is a sentiment which is scarcely understood by hardy and savage warriors, who nei. ther exercise nor claim it. Exposed to continual hazards, and fatigues, and frequently, to the extremes of want and suffering, they are accustomed to brave danger with firmness, and to endure pain without complaining. Loosely connected in society, every man depends upon himself in the most hazardous or most unfortunate conjunctures of affairs, Equal to his situation, by courage or by patience, he makes no demand upon the pity of others, and does not understand how they should have any claim

upon him.

The rudeness of his condition imparts the same coarseness to his mind as to the fibres of his body, The Goths estimated the injury done to a woman in the most delicate situations by the largeness of the wound. The savages of America, still more rude, and conversing only with the wildest scenes of nature, know nothing of those finer feelings of the heart, and that soft interchange of affections which give birth to the sentiments of compassion and sympathy. Our law excludes butchers from giving a verdict in cases of life and death, because, by seeing and inflicting death on other animals, they are supposed not to possess a sufficient value for the life of man to render them mild and humane judges. Much more will those eternal scenes of blood in which the savage is engaged either in hunting or in war, blunt all those finer sensibilities of the heart of

which unadulterated nature would otherwise be sus

ceptible, and which might contribute, in some measure, to restrain the ferocity of their vengeance.

Having laid open some of the principal causes of that extreme barbarity with which the savages of America treat their prisoners whom they have doomed to death, it is not less curious and important to the philosophy of human nature to examine into the principles of that astonishing patience which they exhibit in the midst of the most excruciating sufferings. Is it magnanimity ? Or is it want of feeling? Does it arise from the influence of climate? Or is it the result of ideas created by their state of society, and their habits of life? Or finally, must we search for it, with Lord Kaims and

1

other kindred philosophers, in some original and specific difference of nature from other men ?

Writers of no inconsiderable eminence have as cribed the tolerance of pain by the American savage to the humidity of the atmosphere in the new world, recently redeemed, as they suppose, from the ocean, and abounding in marshes. Hence they have gratu, itously inferred that the sensibility of the natives of this continent, both corporeal and mental, is impaired by the influence of their climate. But, do we find this reason verified by the experience of other portions of the globe? Are the people who happen to be posited on the borders of lakes, or in the neighbourhood of fens, less sensible to pain than others ? Does a Hollander possess greater fortitude than a German? Or is his sensibility to suffering less keen? If such effects are produced by a relaxed! fibre in the American savage, and it is found to diminish to such a degree, the irritability of the system, should we not equally expect to find him patient of affronts, languid in his resentments, tardy in his revenge?

The true explanation of this phenomenon we shall probably discern, not in the physical constitution of America, but among those moral causes which are

[ocr errors]

so often overlooked in the philosophy of human na:

ture.

No person who reflects deeply on the principles of action in man but must easily be persuaded that active courage in encountering, and intrepid firmness in repelling danger, or that inflexible patience and fortitude in bearing up under calamity and suffering, are more frequently the result of the sentiments of the mind than of the physical force of the animal constitution. And it depends on the education of men, and the situations into which they are thrown, whether one or other of these characters be chiefly drawn forth, and called into action. It was not physical temperament, but education which enabled the youth of Sparta to endure the deprivations which were required of them by the discipline of Lycurgus, or suffer without complaining the lacerations with which they were exercised at the shrine of Diana. In that country, at present, where a sublime education had once rendered children more than men, do we not, by a change of manners, see men become less than children? It is sentiment which creates heroes in action or in suffering. Hatred and vengeance against his enemies, and the pride of defying their

rage, are sentiments inculcated into the heart

That the power

of an American savage from his earliest years. From his infancy he is taught that his own glory as a warrior, and a chief, and that of the tribe to which he belongs are involved in the heroism with which he combats, or, if he is vanquished in battle, in the magnanimity with which he suffers. His whole soul is occupied with these ideas, and these passions.

Without doubt their patience under tortures must be greatly assisted by their habits of life, and the constant hardships of their state. of enduring pain with firmness may be acquired by the influence of education, and habit, we have a practical demonstration in the manners of the Lacedemo. nians. And the stoic school has afforded a high example of the force of their philosophy in subduing the fear, and even the sense of suffering. Although the mind of the American indian is not cultivated by any philosophic system, he derives the same firmness and strength of character from his state. Inured from infancy to fatigues, to wants, to dangers, and conversant only with ideas of active, or of suffering heroism, he has learned more in the hard school of necessity than, probably, he could ever have acquired under the voluntary discipline of Zeno or Lycurgus.

« ZurückWeiter »