Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

valuable work: “However fond we may have been of accusing the Indians of treachery and infidelity, , it must be confessed that the example was first set them by the Europeans. Had we always treated them with that justice and humanity which our religion inculcates, and our true interest at all times required, we might have lived in as much harmony with them, as with any other people in the globe."*

* Belknap's Hist. of New Hampshire, vol. i. ch. 1 and 5.

CHAPTÉR VIII.

BANEFUL EFFECTS ARISING FROM THE PRACTICE

OF SUPPLYING THE INDIANS WITH SPIRITUOUS
LIQUORS.

[ocr errors]

Of the numerous vices imported from the Old World into the New, there is none which has proved so great a scourge to the Indians as the intemperate use of spirituous liquors. To the French, the Dutch, the Swedes, the British, and, in later times, to the Americans of the United States, have the North American Indians been indebted for the pernicious effects which intoxicating liquors have produced among them : and so far as Great Britain is implicated in the charge, the only excuse which can be reasonably advanced why her legislature seems never, at any early period, to have interfered in endeavouring to prevent the mischief in those trans-Atlantic colonies subject to her control, is, that the mother country was probably never fully aware of the extent and magnitude of the evil, which stood so much in need of legislative restriction.

That the baneful and destructive system of disposing of spirits to the Indians had always pre

vailed in full force, is not to be controverted; and the practice not only tended to increase their natural ferocity in time of war, but to prevent their improvement in time of peace. Those who have witnessed the effects of intoxication only upon Europeans, can scarcely form an adequate notion of the frenzy with which a North American Indian is infuriated when under the influence of liquor. In that state, every savage passion which nature or habit has implanted in him, is let loose. He will then, with equal indifference, shed the blood of friend or foe; will sacrifice his nearest and dearest connexions, murdering without compunction, or the slightest cause of offence, his parents, his brethren, his wife, or his offspring. When the fit of insanity has passed, and the unfortunate wretch has recovered his reason, he laments in vain the misery which his own fury has entailed upon him; but while he justly ascribes to the European the blame of having supplied him with what caused such desolation, he will not scruple to seize the first opportunity of again obtaining it, and plunging with headlong infatuation into new scenes of riot and bloodshed.

As the Indians, likewise, are but too wont to transmit to their posterity their deep-rooted feelings of revenge for murdered kinsmen, the extent of the evil may, in some degree, be appreciated.

Indian intemperance has been often productive of wars, which have ended only in the total extirpation of numerous tribes, who took up the hatchet to avenge the blood of their relations or countrymen whose lives had been lost in a drunken feast or quarrel. It is true that in many cases these murders are excused on the convenient plea of their having been committed under the influence of intoxication, or aré expiated by the timely intervention of friends, and the atonement of presents—à custom termed by the Indians covering the dead. In the early account given by Monsieur Denys of those Indians upon the river St. Lawrence, among whom he resided for almost forty years, he observes, “If

any of the Indians happen to be killed in these drunken frays, the person who committed the offence is not only obliged to entreat forgiveness on the score of intoxication, but he must make some present to the widow of the deceased.” Volney mentions a celebrated chief, near Fort Miami, who one day being drunk, met with another Indian against whom he had retained a hatred for two-and-twenty years. Finding him alone, he availed himself of the opportunity, and murdered

• Description de l'Amérique Septentrionale, &c par M. Denys, Gouverneur-Lieutenant pour le Roi, vol. ij. ch. 27. Paris, 1672.

him. The family of the deceased came in arms to revenge the murder. The chief went to the commandant of the fort (from whom Volney had the story), and thus addressed him: “Father, they want my death; that is just. My heart divulged its secret; the liquor made me a fool. But they wish to kill sny son; that is not just. Try, Father, if this matter can be accominodated. I will-give them all that I possess; my two horses, my gold and silver ornaments, my fire-arms-except one pair. If they will not receive these, let them fix the time and place: I shall be there alone, and they may take my life. :: Dr. Robertson, in his History of America, observes : “The people of North America, when first discovered, were not acquainted with any

intoxicating drink, but as the Europeans early found it their i interest to supply them with spirituous liquors, drunkenness soon became as universal among them as among their countrymen to the south; and the women having acquired this new taste, indulge in it with as little decency and moderation as the men.” + Lafitau states, that the natives of Mexico (as well as of the southern

life.” *

* Volney's View of the United States of America, vol. iii.

art. 5.

† Robertson's History of America, book iv.

« ElőzőTovább »