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The Indians of America have always betrayed an unquenchable thirst for strong drink. The checks of fear and shame are impotent in restraining this propensity; and accordingly, its pestilential control extends to both sexes and to all ages. After supplying the scanty food which actual necessity demands, their funds are entirely subservient to this great “ ruling passion” of their lives. The aggregate enjoyments of connubial life will by no means compensate for the deprivation of bacchanalian pleasures, which the support of a family must necessarily involve; and this state of things has produced what a king of Persia, once, it is said, endeavoured to produce by royal proclamation,-a general, indiscriminate prostitution. As an aggravation to this disgraceful circumstance, we are compelled to state, that some of the civilized inhabitants have not been ashamed to dally with the easy nymphs of the western Indians: the consequences resulting to population from this promiscuous concubinage, need not be pointed out.
But the effects of this passion for drunkenness do not stop here. With the dissipation of their revenue, the Indians are constantly lessening their means of supply. A part of the time they spend in senseless drunkenness; and the lucid in. terlapse of sobriety is chiefly occupied with schemes of future intoxication. They become idle, enervated, and improvident. All other passions have dwindled into insignificance, or have been totally swallowed up, by their insatiable desire for the pleasures of drinking. Such is not the state of society in which we are to expect frequent marriages and numerous families.
We are aware of the futility of attempting to scrutinize the designs of Providence; but, in our reflections on the subject under consideration, we are often upon the point of concluding, that forests and savages were originally intended for each other, and that the levelling of the former will almost necessarily be accompanied by the depopulation of the latter. Long before the epoch of Columbus's discovery, the aborigines of this couutry had, perhaps, arrived at their maximum of population. A very small number of inhabitants--concentrated in some insignificant hamlet-were the proprietors of a very extensive area of territory, and derived their subsistence almost solely from the flesh of those animals within their dominion;-animals which were little less savage than themselves, and which, with them, were the joint owners and occupants of the land. This disproportion between the number of inhabitants and the extent of territory, was a necessary result of their circumstances. It was chiefly owing to the fact, that the subsistence afforded by the wild animals in any given portion of country, bore no ratio to that which the same land might have produced, had it been subjected to agriculture.
But this extensive and fruitful continent was not fated to be always a mere hunting-ground. The hordes of European emigration set their restless feet upon its soil. The deer and the buffaloe soon discovered that civilization was a more intolerable enemy than savagery. Habitations regularly constructed, and plains denuded of their trees, were not to be borne by eyes which had never seen any thing but the “ brown thickets" of an interminable wilderness. The blows of the busy axe, and the explosions of the deadly musket, were stunning to ears which had never been pricked but to the strokes of the tomahawk, or to the twang of the bowstring. Soon, therefore, the Indians saw their forests deserted, and themselves unable to depend any longer for subsistence upon the capture of game: they did not, however, inmediately follow the example of the wild beasts, by flying before the obtrusive new-comers from another world; but considered themselves as lords of the soil, and were resolved to repel the advances of civilization. The tenure of occupancy had given them a crude idea of property; and that which they had long fought for and long enjoyed was not to be submissively yielded up. But their resolution was not inflexible, nor their resistance uninterrupted. The superiority of civilized warfare often frightened them into submission, and the disappearance of game frequently compelled them to seek subsistence from their antagonists by an unwelcome accession to ephemeral treaties. Their frequent infractions of these compacts did not wholly arise from bad faith: there were some paliative circumstances which furnish at least the semblance of an apology for their conduct. When game was no longer to be found, necessity forced them to have recourse to their enemies for a temporary subsistence; but no sooner had the demands of hunger been satisfied, than they began to reflect again upon their relations with the new-comers. They saw the flaming sword of extirmination suspended over their heads, and could think of no method to avert the danger, but by one more effort to repel the invaders. Thus were they the constant subjects of countervailing necessities, and only escaped from the one to be driven back by the other. The disappearance of game compelled them to adopt the more expensive diet of their enemies, and the superiority of civilized war induced them to exchange the bow and tomahawk for the rifle and hatchet,
We have to lament that this revolution in manners should have stopped here. It would be some consolatory recompense for the devastation of the aboriginal tribes, to see one converted Indian to grace the triumph of civilization. The result of more than three hundred years of experience is now before our eyes,—and what ground of hope does it give us, that we shall ever be able to domesticate the aborigines? Attempts have, not unfrequently, been made to initiate them into all the refinements of civilized society; nay, in some instances, to give them the rare endowment of a liberal education: but they have uniformly relapsed into their primitive state, quitting the pursuits of literature for the more congenial pleasures of the chase.
Perhaps nothing is more fantastically odd, than the appearance of an Indian tricked out in his national costume, reluctantly following the steps of the tardy ox, and endeavouring to make his rebellious nature submit to the drudgery of agriculture. Every act betrays an utter absence of all mo
tive to exertion. The whole current of his education and of his life runs against such kinds of employment. He wants to be bounding through the forest in pursuit of his game-lurking in ambush for an approaching foe-displaying the horrors of savage grimrce in the antic evolutions of the war-danceor, by his wild and oriental eloquence, swaying the councils of his nation, and unwittingly convincing European monopolizers of talent that America is not the country
“ Where Genius sickens and where Faney dies."
He hates to see his common divided by fences and lacerated by the ploughshare. It violates all his notions of property; and compels him to transfer his exertion from the forest to the field. The elastic vigour of his constitution sinks into enervation. He cannot make his provision extend from seed-time to harvest. He comes to his agricultural task with a total ignorance of the tools which he is to handle, and with no anticipation of the benefits which he is to reap.
We may observe further, under this head, that laziness is much less grievous to an Indian than to a member of civilized society. Idleness and oscitancy seem to be the usual characteristics of beings who are seldom employed in any business but such as requires only the exercise of their corporeal powers. What Mr. Jefferson observes of the negro slaves in this country, may be applied with equal propriety to the situation of the aborigines.-" The existence of negro slaves in America,” says he, in his Notes on Virginia, “ appears to participate more of sensation than of reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in their labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep, of course." Under their present circumstances, the aborigines spend a much greater portion of their time in sleep than they did before the presence of civi. lization had driven the game from their hunting-grounds. The time which was formerly allotted to the chase, is now chiefly divided between drunkenness and sleep.
But the depopulation of the aboriginal communities is, in part, occasioned by their continual emigrations. In general, the departure of emigrants from any country does not diminish the average number of its population: for as the multiplication of the species is indefinite, and the productiveness of any given portion of ground is limited, it is quite clear that a country may retain its usual supply of inhabitants, and yet be constantly sending forth bodies to seek new seats. All emigration, however, is occasioned, more or less, by a disproportion between the number of inhabitants and the quantity of provision;-the very same cause that operates to lessen the numbers of those who stay at home. It is the disappearance of game that both curtails the population of those Indians who continue resident on their ancient grounds, and acts as a motive to those who relinquish the habitations of their forefathers.
From these brief considerations, it is apparent that the natives of this country are beset with more causes of depopulation than any other community on the globe. First, they are swept away by drunkenness:-secondly, they are deprived of the usual supply of their accustomed diet, and are obliged to use the far more expensive food which has been introduced by civilization:-thirdly, they have lost all energy of character and motive to exertion:--and, fourthly, numbers of them are compelled to emigrate to other portions of the country. The wonder is not, therefore, that the aboriginal tribes should have disappeared so rapidly, but that they should so long have maintained their ground against the encroachments of civilization:—and we may safely assert, that, were it not for the annuities which some of the state governments have granted to the race, their depopulation would have proceeded with a much more accelerated pace.
In the course of the above reflections, we have hinted that it is hopeless to think of civilizing the Indians. To pre