PATOIS.--G. The great impediment to popular instruction in France,
is the multiplicity of patois, and the tenacity of the peasantry
for them. The same objection exists to the use of so many Indian
dialects by such numbers of petty tribes. Pity these were not all
abolished. They can never prosper without coming on to general
grounds in this respect.
CHINESE.--Mr. Duponceau had published Col. Galindo's account of the
Ottomic of Mexico, and likened it to the Chinese. It was the very
ENGLISH LANGUAGE.--S. The English language of Chaucer's day, is
based on the Frisic, Belgic, and Low Dutch; and not on the Saxon.
(Examples were given. He fully assented to this, and used his
familiarity with European history to demonstrate it.)
G. There was, in fact, no Anglo-Saxon but that of Alfred, which
was the old English. The early migrations were from Belgium.
Doubtless the Teutons had made the conquest ascribed to them, but I
think they did not revolutionize the language. They conquered the
people, but not the language.
WASHINGTON IRVING.--G. Washington Irving is the most popular
writer. Anything from his pen would sell.
JOHN JACOB ASTOR.--Several years ago, J. J. A. put into my hands the
journal of his traders on the Columbia, desiring me to use it. I put
it into the hands of Malte Brun, at Paris, who employed the
geographical facts in his work, but paid but little respect to Mr.
Astor, whom he regarded merely as a merchant seeking his own profit,
and not a discoverer. He had not even sent a man to observe the
facts in the natural history. Astor did not like it. He was restive
several years, and then gave Washington Irving $5,000 to take up the
MSS. This is the History of "Astoria."
RAFINESQUE.--This erratic naturalist being referred to, he said--
"Who is Rafinesque, and what is his character?"
NAPOLEON AND NERO.--Bonaparte was a mathematician; but, whatever he
did, he did not appreciate other branches of science and research.
On taking Rome, he carried to Paris all the Pope's archives,
containing, in fact, the materials for the secret history of Europe.
The papers occupied seventy large boxes, which were carefully corded
and sealed, and put away in a garret of the Louvre at Paris, and
never opened. On the restoration of the Bourbons, Louis XVIII. gave
them back to the Pope's nuncio. The seals had never been broken.
Bonaparte hated Tacitus. He was an aristocrat, he said, and lied in
his history. He had blackened the character of Nero merely because
he was a republican. "That may be, sire," said ----, "but it is not
the generally received opinion, and authorities sustain him." "Read
Suetonius," said he. "Truly," said M. Gallatin, "it is there stated
that the people strewed flowers on Nero's grave for years."
ALGIC RESEARCHES.--The oral legends of the Indians collected by me
being adhered to, he said, "Take care that, in publishing your
Indian legends, you do not subject yourself to the imputations made
On leaving the hall, whither he came to see me out, he said: "I am
seventy-eight, and (assuming a gayer vein) in a good state of
preservation." He was then a little bent, but preserved in
conversation the vivacity of his prime. He had, I think, been a man
of about five feet ten or eleven inches. His accent and tone of
voice are decidedly French. His eye, which is black and penetrating,
kindled up readily. He wore a black silk cap to hide baldness.
15th. A singular coincidence of the names and ages of Indian
chiefs, is shown in the following notice from a Russian source:--
"We have just received from Nova Archangesk, an account of the death
of the chief of one of the most powerful tribes of North America,
Black Hawk, who was suddenly carried off on the banks of the River
Moivna, in the seventy-first year of his age. The loss of this
chief, who kept up friendly relations with the authorities of the
Russian colony, and was always hostile to the English, is felt in a
lively manner by the Russian government, who rested great hopes on
the influence exercised by Black Hawk, not only over his own tribe,
but also over all the neighboring nations. The Czar has ordered the
new governor-general of the Russian colony in America to endeavor by
all means to secure the friendship of the three sons of Black Hawk,
the eldest of whom, now forty-eight years of age, has succeeded his
father in the government of the tribe."--Le Commerce.
22d. I left New York on the 12th, in the cars, with Mrs.
Schoolcraft and the children, for Washington, stopping at the
Princeton depot, and taking a carriage for Princeton. I determined
to leave my son at the Round Hill School, in charge of Mr. Hart, and
the next day went to Philadelphia, where I accepted the invitation
of Gen. Robert Patterson to spend a few days at his tasteful mansion
in Locust street. I visited the Academy of Natural Sciences, and
examined Dr. Samuel George Morton's extensive collection of Indian
crania. While here, I placed my daughter in the private school of
the Misses Guild, South Fourth Street. I attended one of the "Wistar
parties" of the season, on the 15th, at Mr. Lea's, the distinguished
bookseller and conchologist, and reached the city of Washington on
the 21st, taking lodgings at my excellent friends, the Miss Polks.
24th. Submitted an application to the department for expending a
small part of the Indian education fund, for furthering the general
object, by publishing, for the use of teachers and scholars, a
compendious dictionary, and general grammar of the Indian languages.
25th. In a conference with Mr. Murray, of Pennsylvania, a recent
commissioner to adjust Indian claims at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin,
he gave me Mr. Robert Stuart's testimony respecting the Indian
trade, to read. It appears from the document that the gain on trade
of the American Fur Company, from 1824 to 1827, was $167,000. From
1827 to 1834 it was $195,000. From the aggregate of ten years'
business, there is to be deducted $45,000, being a loss from 1817 to
1824, which leaves a profit on seventeen years' trade of $317,000.
Mr. Murray presented me a copy of the Commissioner's report. These
claims have not yet received the action of the department. The
commissioners set out with requiring of traders high evidence of the
individual indebtedness by Indians. They finally decided that the
Winnebago debts were national. They went further--they approved
and adopted the decision of a meeting of the claimants themselves,
as to the application to individual firms, of the fund. This
decision was subsequently sanctioned by eight Winnebago chiefs,
who were stated to be authorized to act for the nation.
The error, in all these cases, seems to be, that where a tribe has
agreed to set apart a generic sum to satisfy debts, and the United
States has accepted the trusteeship of determining the individual
shares, that the Indians, who cannot read, or write, or understand
figures, or accounts at all, and cannot possibly tell the
arithmetical difference between one figure and another, should yet
be made the subject of these minor appeals. The TRUSTEE himself
should determine that, by such testimony as he approves, and not
appear to seek to bolster up the decisions of truth and
faithfulness, by calling on Indian ignorance and imbecility, which
is subject to be operated on by every species of selfishness.
25th. I applied to the department this day, by letter, for leave
of absence from my post on the frontier, to visit Europe.
26th. I called on Mr. Poinsett, the Secretary of War, and received
from him the permission which I had yesterday solicited. I also
called on the President (Mr. Van Buren), who, in turning the
conversation to the state of disturbances on the frontier, evinced
the deepest interest that neutrality should be preserved, and asked
me whether the United States Marshal at Detroit had faithfully
performed his duty.
27th. Visited Mr. Paulding (Secretary of the Navy) in the evening.
Found him a father aged bald-headed man, of striking physiognomy,
prominent intellectual developments, and easy dignified manners. It
was pleasing to recognize one of the prominent authors of
Salmagundi, which I had read in my schoolboy days, and never even
hoped to see the author of this bit of fun in our incipient
literature. For it is upon this, and the still higher effort of
Irving's facetious History of New York, that we must base our
imaginative literature. They first taught us that we had a right to
laugh. We were going on, on so very stiff a model, that, without the Knickerbocker, we should not have found it out.
28th. I prepared a list of queries for the department, designed to
elicit a more precise and reliable account of the Indian tribes than
has yet appeared. It is astonishing how much gross error exists in
the popular mind respecting their true character.
Talk of an Indian--why the very stare Says, plain as language, Sir,
have you been there? Do tell me, has a Potawattomie a soul, And have
the tribes a language? Now that's droll--They tell me some have
tails like wolves, and others claws, Those Winnebagoes, and
30th. Mr. Paulding transmits a note of thanks for some Indian
words. The euphony of the aboriginal vocabulary impresses most
persons. In most of their languages this appears to result, in part,
from the fact that a vowel and a consonant go in pairs--i.e.
a vowel either precedes or follows a consonant, and it is
comparatively rare that two consonants are required to be uttered
together. There is but one language that has the th, so
common in English. Sh and gh are, however, frequently sounded in the
Chippewa. The most musical words are found in the great Muscogee and
Algonquin families, and it is in these that the regular succession
of vowels and consonants is found.
31st. The year 1838 has been a marked one in our Indian relations.
The southern Indians have experienced an extensive breaking up, in
their social institutions, and been thrown, by the process of
emigration, west of the Mississippi, and the policy of the
government on this head, which was first shadowed out in 1825, and
finally sanctioned by the act of land exchanges, 1830, may be deemed
as having been practically settled. The Cherokees, who required the
movements of an army to induce them to carry out the principles of
the treaty of New Echota, have made their first geographical
movement since the discovery of the continent, a period of 331
years. How much longer they had dwelt in the country abandoned we
know not. They clung to it with almost a death grasp. It is a lovely
region, and replete with a thousand advantages and a thousand
reminiscences. Nothing but the drum of the Anglo-Saxon race could
have given them an effectual warning to go. Gen. Scott, in his well
advised admonitory proclamation, well said, that the voice under
which both he and they acted is imperative, and that by heeding it,
it is hoped that "they will spare him the horror of witnessing the
destruction of the Cherokees." The great Muskogee family had been
broken up, by the act of Georgia, before. The Seminoles, who belong
to that family, broke out themselves in a foolish hostility very
late in 1835, and have kept up a perfectly senseless warfare, in the
shelter of hummocks and quagmires since. The Choctaws and
Chickasaws, with a wise forecast, had forseen their position, and
the utter impossibility of setting up independent governments in the
boundaries of the States. It is now evident to all, that the
salvation of these interesting relics of Oriental races lies in
colonization west. Their teachers, the last to see the truth, have
fully assented to it. Public sentiment has settled on that ground;
sound policy dictates it; and the most enlarged philanthropy for the
Indian race perceives its best hopes in the measure.
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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the
Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851
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Years with the Indians