Mount Hope, Baltimore.--My old instructor and friend, Prof.
Frederick Hall, sends me a programme of his collegiate institution,
at this place, and writes me (April 6th) a most friendly letter,
renewing old acquaintanceship and scientific reminiscences. Death
makes such heavy inroads on our friends, that we ought to cherish
the more those that are left.
Legislation proceeded quietly while these events occurred, and the
winter wore away almost imperceptibly till the session closed. I
embraced the first opportunity of ascending the Lakes to the
entrance of the. St. Mary's, and from thence up the river, and
reached home about the 25th of April, making altogether about five
months absence. But at home I am not destined long to remain, as the
expedition into the Lake, for which I was designated in August, was
only deferred till spring.
I had now served four years in the legislature; but, understanding
that the President had expressed an opinion that official officers
should not engage in the business of legislation, I declined a
reelection by a public notice to the electors of my district.
* * * * *
EXPEDITION TO THE REGION OF THE ST. CROIX AND CHIPPEWIA RIVERS.--The
Executive of the territory writes from Washington (April 19th): "I
arrived here day before yesterday, and this morning talked with Gen.
Eaton. You will go into Lake Superior, and I am to submit a project
to-day. I shall have it properly arranged. In a day or two, I trust,
I shall have the official papers off. I write in a hurry now to
apprise you of the fact. The letter you received from Mr. Hamilton,
was written before I arrived." The same person, three days later,
says: "The official instructions are preparing for your expedition,
and will, I hope, be off to-day." They were written on the 3d of
May, and are as follows:--
"Your letter of Feb. 13th has been received, and its general views
are approved. The Secretary of War deems it important that you
should proceed to the country upon the head of the Mississippi, and
visit as many of the Indians in that and the intermediate region, as
circumstances will permit.
"Reports have reached this department from various quarters, that
the Indians upon our frontiers are in an unquiet state1,
and that there is a prospect of extensive hostilities among
themselves. It is no less the dictate of humanity, than of policy,
to repress this feeling and to establish permanent peace among these
tribes. It is also important to inspect the condition of the trade
in that remote country, and the conduct of the traders. To ascertain
whether the regulations and the laws are complied with, and to
suggest such alterations as may be required. And finally, to inquire
into the numbers, standing, disposition, and prospects of the
Indians, and to report all the statistical facts you can procure,
and which will be useful to the government in its operations, or to
the community in the investigation of these subjects."
"In addition to these objects, you will direct your attention to the
vaccination of the Indians. An act for that purpose has passed
Congress, and you are authorized to take a surgeon with you. Vaccine
matter prepared and put up by the Surgeon General, is herewith
transmitted to you, and you will, upon your whole route, explain to
the Indians the advantages of vaccination, and endeavor to persuade
them to submit to the process. You will keep and report an account
of the number, ages, sex, tribe, and local situation of the Indians
who may be vaccinated, and also of the prevalence, from time to
time, of the small-pox among them, and of its effects as far as
these can be ascertained."
While preparations for this expedition were being made, some things
that transpired deserve notice.
NATURAL HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES.--On the 26th of May, Mr. G.W.
Featherstonhaugh, of Philadelphia, sends me a printed copy of a
prospectus for a "Monthly American Journal of Natural Science," with
the following note: "As the annexed prospectus will explain itself,
I shall only say, that I shall be most happy to receive any paper
from you for insertion, on subjects connected with Natural
History. Your minute acquaintance with the North-western Territory
must have placed many materials in your possession, and I trust you
may be induced to transfer some of them to the periodical about to
"We consider Mr. Eaton's geological notions and nomenclature as very
empirical here, as they are considered in France and England, and
his day has passed by."
The prospectus says: "Amidst these general contributions to science,
it is painful to perceive what conspicuous blanks are yet left for
America to fill up, and especially in those important branches,
American geology and American organic remains. This feeling is
greatly increased by the occasional taunts and sneers we see
directed against us in foreign scientific works. They are aimed, it
is true, against individuals insignificant enough to elude them, and
therefore the larger body, the nation, is hit and wounded by them.
Neither is there any defence open to us. We send abroad gigantic
stories of huge antediluvian lizards, 'larger than the largest
size,' and we ourselves are kept upon the stare at our own wonders
from Georgia to Maine, until we find out we have been exulting over
the stranded remains of a common spermaceti whale. At this present
moment, a huge animal dug out of the Big Bone Lick, sixty feet long,
and twenty-five feet high, is parading through the columns of the
European newspapers, after making its progress through our own. This
is, what every naturalist supposed it be, also a great imposition.
Within these few days, drums and trumpets have been sounded for
other monsters. A piece of one of our common coal plants is conjured
into a petrified rattlesnake, and one of the most familiar fossils
solemnly announced all the way from Canada, under a name exploded,
and long forgotten by naturalists. All these gibes and reproaches we
ought to have been spared. There ought to have been the ready means
amongst us, together with the independence and intelligence, to put
down these impostures and puerilities as they arose."
This is well said, and if it be intended to refer to the popular
class, who have not made science a study; to men who make
wheelbarrows or sell cotton and sugar--to the same classes of men,
in fact, who in England, are busied in the daily pursuits by which
they earn their bread, leaving science to scientific men, but
respecting its truths, cannot tell "a hawk from a handsaw"--it is
all true enough. But if it be applied to the power and determination
of American mind, professedly, or as in a private capacity, devoted
to the various classes of natural history spoken of, it is not only
unjust in a high degree, but an evidence of overweening
self-complaisance, imprecision of thought, or arrogance. No trait of
the American scientific character has been more uniformly and highly
approbated, by the foreign journals of England, France, and Germany,
than its capacity to accumulate, discriminate, and describe facts.
For fourteen years past Silliman's Journal of Science, though not
exclusively devoted to natural sciences, has kept both the
scientific and the popular intelligent mind of the public well and
accurately advised of the state of natural science the world over.
Before it, Bruce's Mineralogical Journal, though continued
but for a few years, was eminently scientific, Cleaveland's Mineralogy has
had the effect to diffuse scientific knowledge not only among men of
science, but other classes of readers. In ornithology, in conchology,
and especially in botany, geology and mineralogy, American mind has
proved itself eminently fitted for the highest tasks.
A REMINISCENCE.--When I returned from the West to the city of New
York in 1819, Mr. John Griscomb was a popular lecturer on chemistry
in the old almshouse. He apprised me that the peculiar friable white
clay, which I had labeled chalk from its external characters,
contained no carbonic acid. It was a chemical fact that impressed
me. I was reminded of this fact, and of his friendly countenance,
ever after, on receiving a letter of introduction from him by a Mr.
William R. Smith, with three volumes of his writings (28th May). I
am satisfied that we store up the memory of a kind or friendly act,
however small (if it be done in a crisis of our affairs), as long
as, and more tenaciously than, an unkind one.
VOYAGE INLAND.--At length, all things being ready, I embarked at the
head of the portage of the St. Mary's, and proceeded to the small
sandy plain at the foot of Point Iroquois, at the entrance into Lake
Superior, where I encamped. To this point I was accompanied by Mrs.
Schoolcraft and the children, and Lt. Allen and the Miss Johnstons,
the day being calm and delightful, and the views on every hand the
most enchanting and magnificent. While at Detroit during the winter,
I had invited Dr. Douglass Houghton to accompany me to vaccinate the
Indians. He was a man of pleasing manners and deportment, small of
stature, and of a compact make, and apparently well suited to
withstand the fatigues incidental to such a journey. He was a good
botanist and geologist--objects of interest to me at all times; but
especially so now, for I should have considered it inexcusable to
conduct an expedition into the Indian country, without collecting
data over and above the public duties, to understand its natural
history. I charged myself, on this occasion, more particularly with
the Indian subject--their manners and customs, conditions,
languages, and history, and the policy best suited to advance them
in the scale of thinking beings, responsible for their acts, moral
Lt. Robt. E. Clary, 2d U.S. Infantry, commanded a small detachment
of troops, which was ordered to accompany me through the Indian
country. I had invited Mr. Melancthon Woolsey, a printer of Detroit,
a young man of pleasing manners and morals, to accompany me as an
aid in procuring statistical information. I had an excellent crew of
experienced men, guides and interpreters, and full supplies of
everything suited to insure respect among the tribes, and to
accomplish, not only the government business, but to give a good
account of the natural history of the country to be explored. It was
the first public expedition, authorized by the new administration at
Washington, and bespoke a lively interest on the subject of Indian
Affairs, and the topics incidentally connected with it. I was now to
enter, after crossing Lake Superior, the country of the Indian
murderers, mentioned 22d June, 1825, and to visit their most remote
villages and hiding places.
It was the 27th of June when we left that point--the exploring party
to pursue its way in the lake, and the ladies, in charge of Lt.
Allen, to return to St. Mary's.
1: The Sauc war under Blackhawk broke out within
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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