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habits and customs are barbarous, in a thousand instances; but, after all, in matters which they consider as wrong, and which the public condemns, we observe among them less criminality than in France, although here the only punishment of crime is the shame of having committed it.”*
Père Vivier, another of the Jesuits, thus describes the Illinois Indians, among whom he resided for a long period, about the middle of the last century. “ The Indians are of a character mild and sociable. They appear to have more intelligence than most of our French peasantry; which is probably owing to the liberty in which they are brought up. Respect never renders them timid; and as they have no degrees of rank nor dignity among them, every man appears to be on an equal footing. An Illinois would speak as boldly to the king of France as to the meanest of his subjects.”+
Le Clercq, who belonged to one of the early Recollet or Franciscan missions, gives the following general description of those Indians with whom he had long resided near the mouth of the river St. Lawrence.
“ As I took great pains to become thoroughly acquainted with their manners, maxims, and reli
• Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1645, par le Père Jerome Lallemant, p. 153.
+ Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses, écrites des Missions Etrangères, vol. vii. p. 82. Ed. 1780-81.
gion, I think I am able to give to the public a true and faithful idea of them; and happy shall I be if the reading affords to them the same pleasure as the writing has given to me, of those details which I have selected as the most curious and agreeable, in the missions I had the honour of belonging to during the twelve years I resided in New France. There exists in Europe a very prevailing error which it is proper to remove from the mind of the public, who suppose that the natives of America, in consequence of their never having been educated according to the rules of civilized society, possess nothing human but the name; and that they have none of those good qualities, either corporeal or mental, which distinguish the human race from that of brutes : imagining that they are covered with hair like bears, and more savage than tigers and leopards.”—“ Nature has endowed them with too much kindness towards each other, towards their children, and even towards strangers, to have ever given cause for comparing them to wild beasts. This fact it will not be difficult to establish in the course of the following History; in wbich I shall exhibit, with fidelity, the Indian of this country in every view in which I can consider him."
Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspésie, par le Père le Clercq, Missionaire Recollet, chap. 1. Paris, 1691.
Lescarbot, who published his History of New France in 1618, and who had visited that country from curiosity, makes the following remark respecting the Indians. “ I cannot avoid confessing that the people whom I have to describe are possessed of many good qualities. They are valorous, faithful, generous, and humane; and their hospitality so great, that they extend it to every one who is not their enemy. They speak with much judgment and reason, and when they have any important enterprise to undertake, the chief is attentively listened to for two or three hours together, and he is answered, point to point, as the subject may require. If, therefore, we call them savages, it is an abusive appellation, which they do not deserve, as will be proved in the course of this History
In the Report transmitted in 1656 from the Jesuit mission among the Iroquois, that celebrated people are thus noticed.
“ Among many faults caused by their blindness and barbarous education, we meet with virtues enough to cause shame among the most of Christians. Hospitals for the poor would be useless among them, because there are no beggars; for those who have, are so liberal to those who are in want, that every thing is
Histoire de la Nouvelle France, par Marc Lescarbot, Avocat en Parlement, liv. i. chap. 1. Paris, 1618.
almost enjoyed in common; the whole village must be in complete distress before any individual is left in necessity.”*
“ When they talk in France of the Iroquois,” writes La Potherie, who resided in Canada about the end of the seventeenth century, “ they suppose them to be barbarians always thirsting for human blood. This is a great error. The character which I have to give of that nation is very different from what these prejudices assign to it. The Iroquois are the proudest and most formidable people in North America, and, at the same time, the most politic and sagacious. This is evident from the important affairs which they conduct with the French, the English, and almost all the people of that vast continent.”+
The Indian confederacy, generally called the Iroquois, or Five Nations, is supposed to have existed from times of very remote antiquity. It was composed of the Mohawks, Oneydas, Cayugas, Onondagas, and Senecas.
These were joined, about the beginning of the last century, by the Tuscaroras; but the confederacy still continued to be known by the name of the Five, although sometimes of the Six Nations. Loskiel, in his History of the Missions among the Indians, notices
• Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1656-57, chap. 12.
+ La Potherie, Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale, vol. üi. Preface.
the political constitution of this singular people, as described by one of the Moravian missionaries about the middle of the last century. He states that it resembled a republic, each of the six nations being independent of the other, or, as they expressed it, having their own fire, round which their chiefs and elders assembled to deliberate on the affairs of their nation. They had also at Onondago a large common fire, to which the great council of the confederacy resorted. None in general were admitted into the council house but the representatives of the nations. All public business between the Iroquois and any other tribe, was brought before the great fire in Onondaga; at the same time they had agents among other nations to watch over their interests.
The writers of later times give similar accounts of the Indians among whom they resided. Heckewelder, the celebrated Moravian missionary, who lived upwards of thirty years among them, makes the following observations. My long residence among these nations, in the constant habit of unrestrained familiarity, has enabled me to know them well, and made me intimately acquainted
* Loskiel's History of the Missions among the Indians, &c., part i. chap. 2. An interesting and ample account of the Iroquois Confederacy is to be found in Governor Clinton's Discourse, delivered before the New York Historical Society at their Anniversary Meeting in 1811. New York, 1812.