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REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF
SAVAGES we call them, because their manners diffet from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs.
Perhaps, if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no p60ple so rude as to be without any rules of politeness ; nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men, when young, are hunters and warriors; when old, counsellors; for all their government is by the counsel or advice of the sages : there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience, or inflict punishment. Hence they generally study oratory; the best speaker having the most influence. The Indian women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions. These employments of men and women are accounted natural and honourable. Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement in conversation. Our laborious manner of life, compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and The learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous and useless. An instance of this occurred at the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburgh a college, with a fund, for educating Indian youth; and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care that they should be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people. It is one of the Indian rules of politeness not to answer a public proposition the same day that it is made : they think that it would be treating it as a light matter, and they show it respect by taking time to consider it, as of a matter important. They therefore deferred their answer till the day following: when their speaker bem gan, by expressing their deep sense of the kindness of the Virginia government, in making them that offer; “ for we know," says he, “that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal ; $
and we thank you lieartily But you who are wise inust know, that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have bad some expe rience of it ; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad runners ; ignorant of every means of living in the woods; unable to bear either cold or humger; knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy; spoke our language imperfectly ; were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or coumsellors; they were totally good for nothing. We are not however the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them."
Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conduct ing them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children in the hindmost. The business of the women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it in their memo. ries, for they have no writing, and communicate it to the children. They are the records of the council, and they preserve tradition of the stipulations in treaties a hundred years back; which, when we compare with our writings, we always find exact. He that would speak, rises. The rest observe a profound silence. When he has finished, and sits dowli, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say, or has any thing to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent.
How different this is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that makes the speaker hoarse in calling to order ; and how different from the mode of conversation, in many polite companies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentences with great rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it!
The politeness of these savages in conversation is indeed carried to excess ; since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of wliat is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid dis
putes ; but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries, who have attempted to convert them to Christianity, all complain of this as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the gospel explained to them, and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation : you would think they were convinced. No such matter—it is mere civility.
A Swedish minister having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded : such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple; the coming of Christ to repair the mischief; his miracles and sufferings, &c -When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. " What you have told us,” says he," is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us those things which you have heard from your mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those which we have heard from ours.
“ In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on; and if their hunting was unsuccessful, they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hili which you see yonder among the blue mountains. They said to each other, It is a spirit that perhaps smelt our broiled venison, and wishes to eat of it ; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue : she was pleased with the taste of it, and said, “Your kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this place after thirteen moons, and you shall find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing you and your children to the latest generation. They did so, and to their surprise, found plants they had never seen before ; but which, from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us, to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground, they found maize --where her left hand had touched it, they found kid. ney-beans; and where her backside had sat on it, they found tobacco.". The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said, “What I delivered to you were sacred truths; but what you tell melis mere fable, fiction, and falsehood.” The Indian, offended, replied, “ Mý brother, it seems your friends have not done you jus
tice in your education; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You say that we, who understand and practise those rules, believed all your stories, why do you refuse to believe ours?"
When any of them come into your towns, your people are apt to crowd round them, gaze upon them, and incommode them where they desire to be private: this they esteem great rudeness, and the effect of the want of instruction in the rules of civility and good manners. “We have," say they,“ as much curiosity as you, and when you come into our towns, we wish for opportunities for looking at you; but for this purpose we hide ourselves behind bushes, where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into your company."
Their manner of entering one another's villages has likewise its rules. It is reckoned uncivil in travelling strangers to enter a village abruptly, without giving notice of their approach. Therefore, as soon as they arrive within hearing, they stop and halloo, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in every village a vacant dwelling, called the stranger's house. Here they are placed, while the old men go round from hut to hut, acquainting the inhabitants that strangers are arrived, who are probably hungry and weary, and every one sends them what he can spare of victuals and skins to repose on. When the strangers are refreshed, pipes and tobacco are brought: and then, but not before, conversation begins, with inquiries who they are, whither bound, what news, &c. and it usually ends with offers of service, if the strangers have occasion for guides, or any necessaries for continuing their journey; and nothing is exacted for the entertainment,
The same hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal virtue, is practised by private persons; of which Conrad Weiser, our interpreter, gave me the following instance. He had been naturalized among the Six Nations, and spoke well the Mohock language. In going through the Indian country, to carry a message from our governor to the council at Onondaga, he called at the habitation of Canassettego, an old acquaintance, who embraced him, spread furs for him to sit on, placed before him some boiled beans and venison, and mixed some rum and water for his drink. When he was well refreshed, and had lit his pipe, Cam nassettego began to converse with him: asked him how he had fared the many years since they had seen each other, whence he then came, what occasioned the journey, &c. Conrad answered all his questions; and when the discourse began to flag, the Indian, to con
tinue it, said, “ Conrad, you have lived long among the white people, and know something of their cus toms; I have been sometimes at Albany, and have observed, that once in seven days they shut up their shops and assemble all in the great house; tell me what it is for; What do they do there ?" " They meet there,” says Conrad,“ to hear and learn good things.” “I do not doubt,” says the Indian, “that they tell you so; they have told me the same: but I doubt the truth of what they say, and I will tell you my reasons. I went Jately to Albany to sell my skins, and buy blankets, knives, powder, rum, &c. You know I used generally to deal with Hans Hanson ; but I was a ltttle inclined this time try some other merchants. However, I called first upon Hans, and asked him what he would give for beaver. He said he could not give more than four shillings a pound : but, says he, I cannot talk on business now; this is the day when we meet together to learn good things, and I am going to the meeting. So I thought to myself, since I cannot do any business to-day, I may as well go to the meeting too, and I went with him. There stood up a man in black, and began to talk to the people very angrily. I did not understand what he said ; but perceiving that he look. ed much at me and at Hanson, I imagined he was angry at seeing me there; so I went out, sat down near the house, struck fire, and lit my pipe, waiting till the meeting should break up. I thought too, that the man had mentioned something of beaver; and I suspected it might be the subject of their meeting. So, when they came out, I accosted my merchant, Well, Haps, (says I,) I hope you have agreed to give more than four shillings a pound.”“ No,” says he, “I cannot give so much; I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence." I then spoke to several other dealers, but they all sung the same song, three and sixpence, three and sixpence, This made it clear to me that my suspicion was right; and that, whatever they pretended of meeting to learn good things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in the price of beaver. Consider but a Jittle, Conrad, and you must be of my opinion. If they met so often to learn good things, they would certainly have learned some before this time. But they are still ignorant. You know our practice: If a white man, in travelling through our country enters one of our ca. bins, we all treat him as I do you ; we dry him if he is wet, we warm him if he is cold, and give him meat and drink, that he may allay his thirst and hunger;
and we spread soft furs for hiin to rest and sleep on : we demand