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Intellectual Contest in the Senate

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

The new administration--Intellectual contest in the Senate--Sharp contest for mayoralty of Detroit--Things shaping at Washington--Perilous trip on the ice--Medical effects of this exposure--Legislative Council--Visit to Niagara Falls--A visitor of note--History--Character of the Chippewas--Ish-ko-da-wau-bo--Rotary sails--Hostilities between the Chippewas and Sioux--Friendship and badinage--Social intercourse--Sanillac--Gossip--Expedition to Lake Superior--Winter Session of the Council--Historical disclosure--Historical Society of Rhode Island--Domestic--French Revolution.

1830. Jan. 26th. THE NEW ADMINISTRATION.--A friend from Washington writes: "Nothing has yet been touched in the Indian department. It is doubtful whether our code will be considered. The engrossing topic of the session will be the removal of the Indians. It occupies the public mind through the Union, and petitions and remonstrances are pouring in, without number. The article (On the Removal of the Indians) was luckily hit. It has been well received, and is very acceptable to the government."

Feb. 23d. INTELLECTUAL CONTEST IN THE SENATE.--A correspondent from Detroit writes: "I refer you to your papers, which will give you the history of the contest between those intellectual giants, Hayne and Webster, rather Webster and Hayne, on the land question, which seems to absorb public interest entirely. My books containing Extracts of the Eloquence of the British Parliament, furnish me no such models as that second speech. Such clearness, simplicity, and comprehensiveness; such a grave and impressive tread; such imposing countenance and manner; such power of thought, and vigor of intellect, and opulence of diction, and chastened brilliance of imagination, have seldom, I was about to say never, startled the listeners of that chamber."

SHARP CONTEST FOR MAYORALTY OF DETROIT.--A shrewd and observant correspondent writes: "John R. Williams has been elected mayor, after a close election, disputed by Chapin. The enemy practised a good thing on him. During one of the delegate elections, when his ambition seemed to tower higher than it now does, he published a sort of memorabilia, like that of Dr. Mitchell, in which was set forth, with much minuteness of detail, all that he had ever done, and much of all he ever thought, for the good of this poor territory. Such, for instance, as that in 1802, he was appointed town-clerk of Hamtramck; that he offered, in 1811, his services to Congress in a military capacity, which offer was rejected, and 'was the first who received intelligence of the capture of Mackinac,' &c. This thing the remorseless enemy republished, after it had been fervently hoped, no doubt, that the unlucky bantling had descended to the tomb of the Capulets. It was so unaccountably weak and stupid, and so unkindly contrasted at bottom with sundry specifications 'of how' he had, with a pertinacious consistency, opposed every projected public improvement here, that his friends pronounced it a forgery."

April 14th. THINGS SHAPING AT WASHINGTON.--"I reached home," says a friend, "last week, after a pleasant journey. The time passed off, at Washington, pretty comfortably. There was much to see and hear. The elements of political affairs are combining and recombining, and it is difficult to predict the future course of things.

"You will see that, in the fiscal way, the department is better off than last year. Our friend, Col. McKenney, stands his ground well, and I see no difference in his situation."

PERILOUS TRIP ON THE ICE.--My brother James left the Sault St. Marie on the ice with a train, about the 1st of April. He writes from Mackinac, on the 14th of April: "We arrived here on the 12th, after a stay of seven days at Point St. Ignace. We were seven days from the Sault to the Point, at which place we arrived in a cold rain storm, half starved, lame, and tired. I suppose this trip ranks anything of the kind since the days of Henry. I am sure mortals never suffered more than us. After leaving the Sault, disappointment, hunger, and fatigue, were our constant companions. The children of Israel traveled a crooked road, 'tis said, but I think it was not equal to our circuit.

"We found the ice in Muddy Lake very good, in comparison to that of Huron. After leaving Detour, we were obliged to coast, and that too over piles of snow, mountains of ice, and innumerable rocks. In one instance, we were obliged to make a portage across a cedar swamp with our baggage, and drove Jack about a mile through the water, in order to continue the 'voyage in a train.' We were obliged to round all those long points on Huron, afraid if we went through the snow of being caught on some island.

"Jack fell through the ice three times out of soundings, and it was with great difficulty we succeeded in getting him out. We lost all our harness in the Lake, and were obliged to 'rig out' with an old bag, a portage collar, and a small piece of rope-yarn. Jack was three days without eating, except what he could pick on the shore. Take it all in all, I think it rather a severe trip."

MEDICAL OR PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF THIS EXPOSURE TO COLD AND WET.--"I came to this place (Vernon, N.Y.) much fatigued, and not in the best health. I think my voyage from the Sault to Mackinac has impaired my health. I was most strangely attacked on board the Aurora. As I was reading in the cabin, all at once I was struck perfectly blind; then a severe pain in the head and face and throat, which was remedied by rubbing with vinegar; on the whole, rather a strange variety of attack."

KINDNESS TO AN OLD DECAYED "MERCHANT VOYAGEUR."--There lived near me, on the Canadian shore, an aged Frenchman, a native of Trois Rivieres, in Lower Canada, whose reminiscences of life in the wilderness, in the last century, had the charm of novelty. He was about seventy years of age, and had raised a family of children by a half-English half-Chippewa wife, all of whom had grown up and departed. His wife and himself were left alone, and were very poor. His education had been such as to read and write French well; he had, in fact, received his education in the College of Quebec, where he studied six years, and he spoke that language with considerable purity. As the cold weather drew on in the fall of 1829, I invited him, with his wife, to live in my basement, and took lessons of him in French every morning after breakfast. He had all the polite and respectful manners of a habitant, and never came up to these recitations without the best attention in his power to his costume.

Such was Jean Baptiste Perrault, who was from one of the best families in Lower Canada. He had been early enamored with stories of voyageur adventure and freedom in the Indian country, where he had spent his life. He was a man of good judgment, quick perceptions, and most extraordinary memory of things. At my request, he committed to paper, in French, a narrative of his wild adventures, reaching from St. Louis to Pembina, between 1783 and 1820. Most of the facts illustrate the hardships and risks of the Indian trade and Indian manners and customs. They supply something for the history of the region while the country was under the English dominion.

Never was a man more grateful for this winter's attention. He moved back with his wife, who was quite attentive to him, to his little domicil on the opposite shore in the spring, and lived, I am informed, till Nov. 12, 1844, when he was about 85.

FOURTH LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.--I was re-elected a member of the Legislative Council, and as soon as the lakes and river were fairly open, proceeded to Detroit, where I arrived about the middle of May. In this trip I was accompanied by Mrs. S. and my infant son and daughter, with their nurse; and by Miss Charlotte Johnston, a young lady just coming out into society. The council met and organized without delay, the committees being cast much in the manner of the preceding council, as a majority of the members were re-elected. So far as changes of men had supervened, they were, perhaps, for the better.

VISIT TO NIAGARA FALLS.--Early in June, however, it was determined to take a recess, and I embraced this opportunity to proceed with my family to visit Niagara Falls. Miss Elizabeth Cass accepted an invitation to join us, and we had a most interesting and delightful visit. We were, perhaps, the first party of pure pleasure, having no objects of business of any kind, who ever went from the upper lakes to see this grand feature in American scenery. We were most kindly received by friends and acquaintances at Buffalo, where many parties were given. We visited both banks of the falls, and crossed over below the sheet. On passing Black Rock, we were kindly received by Gen. Porter and his accomplished and talented lady. We returned to Detroit with the most pleasing reminiscences of the trip.

A VISITOR OF NOTE.--About the 20th of July, Gen. Erastus Root, long a veteran in the New York Legislature, visited Detroit, having, if I mistake not, some public business in the upper country. Persons who have been long before the public acquire a reputation which appears to make every one familiar with them, and there was much curiosity to see a person who had so long opposed Clinton, opposed the canal, and stood forth in some things as a political reformer. I went with him and his companion, Judge M'Call, after a very hot day, to take some lemonade in the evening at Gen. Cass's. Gen. Root was not refined and polished in his manners and converse. He was purposely rough in many things, and appeared to say things in strong terms to produce effect. To call the N.Y. Canal the "big ditch" was one of these inventions which helped him to keep up his individuality in the legislature. He appeared to me to be a man something after the type of Ethan Allen.

HISTORY.--During this session of the legislature, I delivered the annual discourse before the Historical Society. I felt so much misgiving about reading it before the large assemblage at the State House, that I had arranged with a literary and legal friend to put it in his hands the moment I began to falter. For this purpose he occupied the secretary's desk; but I found myself sufficiently collected to go on and read it through, not quite loud enough for all, but in a manner, I think, to give satisfaction.

CHARACTER OF THE CHIPPEWAS.--Wm. S. Mosely, Esq., writes (July 12th) respecting this influential and wide-spread tribe, proposing a list of queries transmitted to him by Theodore Dwight, Junr., a philanthropist of N.Y. One of the questions is as follows: "What have been the chief impediments between the Indian and civilization? How would it alter their opinions or influence their conduct if they could associate with white people without being despised, imposed upon, or rendered suspicious of their motives? In short, if they came in contact only with the best white men, and were neither furnished with ardent spirits nor threatened with extermination by encroachment?"

ISH-KO-DA-WAU-BO.--I had a pleasant passage up the Lakes in the steamer "Sheldon Thompson." Among the passengers were James B. Gardiner, of Ohio; charged, with duties from Washington, and John T. Mason, Commissioner for treating with the Indians at Green Bay. In a letter of the 13th August, written on his return at Mackinac, Mr. Gardiner, who is quite a philanthropist and a gentleman of most liberal opinions, says: "I conceive it my duty to inform you that I have obtained information from the contractor himself (Mr. Stanard, who is a fourth owner of the Sheldon Thompson), that under the head of 'provisions,' he has contracted to deliver, and has actually delivered, two hundred barrels of whisky, and two hundred barrels of high wines, at the place for the American Fur Company, which, no doubt, is designed to be sent into the Indian country the ensuing fall."

ROTARY SAILS.--John B. Perrault, whose name has been before mentioned, invented a novel boat, to be propelled by the force of rotary sails acting on machinery, which turns paddle-wheels; a very ingenious thing. The result of experiments is, however, unfavorable to its practical adoption.

HOSTILITIES BETWEEN THE SIOUX AND CHIPPEWAS.--These hostilities have reached such a point, that the department has deemed it necessary to interpose its friendly offices in a more formidable manner, by dispatching an expedition into the principal seat of the war. The instructions, however (of Aug. 9th), by which I was designated for that purpose, reached me so late in that month, that it was not deemed practicable to carry them into effect until the next year. I reported the facts, which are deemed necessary to be known at head-quarters, in order to give efficacy to this necessary and proper measure, recommending that the expedition be deferred, and that, in the meantime, suitable means be provided for making it, to the greatest extent, effectual.

FRIENDSHIP AND BADINAGE.--A friend writes from Detroit (Aug. 14th): "For a brief space, that is, about a quarter of an hour, I can borrow a little use of my own soul, though I cannot call it exactly my own. You will not fail to note, I trust, how eminently judicious is the appropriation.

"A few days since, the letter containing the notice of your appointment to the Lake Superior destination, was mailed for you. The purpose of this is to suggest the memory of your doubtful promise, to come down in the fall for the winter session. The Gov. thinks it too late in the season to attempt your expedition this fall; and I presume, that it is, I hope, your papers will not reach you in time to leave this summer, an opinion of questionable correctness.

"You can have your table placed in the corner, and amuse yourself with preparing an article for the N.A., Thus you will discharge a double duty to your country; one to its political interests, and another to its department of letters. Whatever preparations are necessary at your place, can be made in the winter, under directions left there when you come down, and such as could be more conveniently made here, you shall have every aid in forwarding. The fact is, I see not a single objection, I cannot see one, and more than that, I won't. This I conceive to be the only rational view to be taken of the subject, and, of course, it follows like the consequence to the minor of a syllogism; the only one you take. So don't say any more about it, but come along down, and then you shall, with more pleasure, satisfaction, and comfort, go along up. It is, in fact, just as clear, as that one and one, you and me, will make two."

SOCIAL INTERCOURSE,--Maj. W. writes (21st Aug.): "I was sorry, on my return, to find you gone, for we have left undone that which I hoped to have done, with your assistance, that is, the arrangement of our museum. But circumstances were unlucky. Cases were made wrong, or not made in due time, and absences took some folks away (an allusion to the trip to Niagara), and the council would adjourn, &c. You are, however, I understand, to be down here New Year's day, to which time, for the special accommodation of the up-country members, I presume the council, as it is said, has adjourned. An appropriation for snow shoes ought to have been made."

SANILLAC.--"I made an arrangement in Boston for the printing of my MSS. As I found I was to bear the brunt of the expense, I determined to make it as small as I consistently could, and have, therefore, made the volume somewhat smaller than was in my original plan.

"Mr. Ward showed me a hasty note from you relative to the address (before the Historical Society). I have examined it as published, and I told him your suggestions were out of the question. There is not an error that I could detect that is not clearly typographical; and your fears, that either yourself or the society will be discredited, are all idle. I do not recollect any of your books which, I think, do you more credit."

GOSSIP.--Mr. Ward writes: "We have but little news. The governor and Elizabeth are off to Utica and Troy, and we hope the springs. Mr. Cass, Lewis, and Isabel to the Maumee. Major and Mrs. Kearsley to New York and Philadelphia, with Miss Colt in keeping. For all persons else, one note will answer. They eat drink, and sleep as they did, and are 'partly as usual.'"

EXPEDITION INTO LAKE SUPERIOR.--"I do not answer you officially," says Gov. C. "concerning the expedition into Lake Superior, because I shall expect you will be here in the last vessel, to attend the meeting of the council, and Mr. Brush speaks with certainty-upon the subject. As Mr. Irwin has resigned, and there is no provision for ordering a new election, your district will be wholly unrepresented unless you attend. In the mean time I have received the sum allowed for this service, which you can draw for whenever you please. There is no doubt but the matter will go on. After you arrive here, and We have conversed together, I will restate the project of a more extended expedition, agreeably to your suggestions, and submit it to the department. I agree with you fully, that the thing should be enlarged, to embrace the persons and objects you suggest. It would be an important expedition, and not a little honorable to you, to have the direction of it, as it will be the first authorized by the administration."

WINTER SESSION OF THE COUNCIL.--On the 16th of November, I embarked in a large boat at St. Mary's with a view of reaching Mackinack in season to take the last vessel returning down the lakes. The weather was hazy, warm, and calm, and we could not descry objects at any considerable distance. If we were not in "Sleepy Hollow" while descending the broad valley and stretched out waters of the St. Mary's, we were, at least, in such a hazy atmosphere, that our eyes might almost as well have been shut. It seemed an interlude in the weather, between the boisterous winds of autumn and the severe cold of December. In this maze I came down the river safely, and proceeded to Mackinack, where I remained several days before I found a vessel. These were days of pleasing moral intercourse at the mission. I do not recollect how many days the voyage lasted, but it was late in the evening of a day in December, dark and very muddy when the schooner dropped anchor off the city, and I plodded my way from the shore to the Old Stone Mansion House in Detroit.

HISTORICAL DISCOURSE.--Mr. Madison, the Ex-president, transmits a very neat and terse note of acknowledgment for a copy of my address, in the following words, which are quite a compensation for the time devoted to its composition:--

"J. Madison, with his respects to Mr. Schoolcraft, thanks him for the copy of his valuable discourse before 'the Historical Society of Michigan.' To the seasonable exhortation it gives to others, it adds an example which may be advantageously followed." (Oct. 23d.)

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RHODE ISLAND.--I received a copy of a circular issued by this institution (Nov. 1), asking Congress for aid in the transcription of foreign historical manuscripts. "We alone, (almost,)" say the committee, "among nations, have it in our power to trace clearly, certainly, and satisfactorily, at a very trifling expense, the whole of our career, from its very outset, throughout its progress, down to the present moment--and shall we manifest a supineness, a perfect listlessness and complete indifference respecting a subject, that by every other people has been, and is still esteemed of so vast magnitude, and deep interest, as to have induced, and still to induce them to pour forth funds from their treasuries unsparingly, to aid the historians in removing, if possible, the veil that conceals in dark obscurity their origin?"

DOMESTIC.--Mrs. Schoolcraft writes from Elmwood, St. Mary's (Dec. 6th): "I continue to instruct our dear little girl every day, and I trust you will find her improved on your return, should it please Heaven to restore you in peace and safety. Johnston has quite recovered, and can now stand alone, and could walk, if he would. I have called on Mrs. Baxley, and find her a very agreeable woman. She said she saw you several times at Prairie du Chien. (1825.) I also went to see the mission farm, and was much pleased with the teacher, Miss McComber. The weather has remained very fine, till within two days, when we have had, for the first time, a sprinkling of snow. Such a season has never been heard of in this country--not a particle of ice has, as yet, formed anywhere."

FRENCH REVOLUTION.--This political revolution has come like an avalanche, and the citizens have determined to celebrate it, and have a public address, for which Major Whiting has been designated. Thirty-seven years ago the French cut off the head of the reigning Bourbon, Louis XVI., and now they have called another branch of the same house, of whom Bonaparte said: "They never learn anything, and they never forget anything." As the French please, however. We are all joy and rejoicing at the event. It seems the consummation of a long struggle.

Mr. Ward (Ed. Jour.) writes 25th Dec.: "Will you send me, by the bearer, the lines you showed me in Brush's office. They will be quite apropos next week. Should like to close our form this evening."

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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

Thirty Years with the Indians


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