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This volume consists of entire Narratives; that is to say, I have given che originals without the slightest abridgment; nor have I taken any Liberries with the language of any of them, which would in the remotest degree change the sense of a single passage, and the instances are few in which I have ventured to correct peculiarities of expression ; yet I designed that, with regard to grammatical accuracy, there should be as few faults as the nature of such a performance would allow. All expressions of an antiquated date are not attempted to be changed. Some redundancies have been dropped, which could only have been retained at the expense of perspicuity.
I am not unaware that there may be persons who will doubt of the propriety of laying before all classes of the community a work which records so much that is shocking to humanity; but the fashion of studying the book of Nature has now long ubtained, and pervades all classes. I have done no niore than to exhibit a page of it in this collection. To observe man in his uncivilized or natural state offers an approach to a knowledge of his natural history, without which it is hardly obtained.
We find volumes upon volumes on the manners and customs of the Indians, many of the writers of which would have us believe they have exhausted the subject, and consequently we need inquire no further ; but whoever has travelled among distant tribes, or read the accounts of intelligent travellers, do not require to be told that the most endless variety exists, and that the manners and customs of uncultivated nations are no more stationary, nor so much so, as are those of a civilized people. The current of time changes all things. But we have elsewhere observed* that similar necessities, although in different nations, have produced similar customs; such as will stand through ages with very little, if any, variation. Neither is it strange that similar articulations should be found in languages having no other affinity, because imitations of natural sounds must everywhere be the same. Hence it follows that customs are as various as the face of nature itself.
A lecturer on the manners and customs of certain tribes of Indians may assure us that no others observe certain barbarous rites, and that, as they by some sudden mortality have become extinct, the knowledge of those rites is known to none oihers save himself, and that therefore he is the
* Book of the Indians, Book i., p. 10.
only person living who can inform us of them. But he may be assured that captives and other travellers have witnessed customs and ceremonies, which, together with their performers, have passed away also. And there is another view of the matter. Many a custom, as it existed fifty or a hundred years ago, has become quite a different affair now. From these reflections it is easy to see what an endless task it would be to describe all of the manners and customs of a single tribc of Indians, to say nothing of the thousands which have been and still exist.
These observations have been thrown out for the consideration of such as may be looking for some great work upon Indian manners and customs, to comprehend all they have been taught to expect, from those who have, perhaps, thought no deeper upon the subject than themselves. When the reader shall have perused the following narratives, I doubt not he will be convinced of the truth of what has here been delivered.
This is truly an age of essay writing, and we have them in abundance apon every thing and nothing, instead of facts which should be remembered. If a new work upon travels or history appears, we shall doubtless be delighted with descriptions of elegant scenery and splendid sketches about general matters, but arise from its perusal about as ignorant of the events of the history we desire as before. Compositions of this description form no part of these pages. "
I have on other occasions stood out boldly in favor of the oppressed Indian, and I know that a book of INDIAN CAPTIVITIES is calculated to exhibit their character in no very favorable light; but the reader should remember that, in the following narratives, it is not I who speak; yet I believe that, with very small allowances, these narratives are entirely true. The errors, if any, will be found only crrors of judgment, which affect not their veracity.
A people whose whole lives are spent in war, and who live by a continual slaughter of all kinds of animals, must necessarily cultivate ferocity. From the nature of their circumstances they are obliged always to be in expectation of invasion ; living in small communities, dispersed in small parties of five or ten upon hunting expeditions, they are easily surprised by an enemy of equal or even a lesser force. Indians, consequently, are always speaking of strange Indians whom they know not, nor do they know whether such are to appear from one direction or another. When New England was first settled, the Indians about Massachusetts Bay were in a miserable fright from fear of the Tarratines; skulking from copse to copse by day, and sleeping in loathsome fens by night, to avoid them. And all the New England Indians were in constant expectation of the Mohawks ; and scarce a tribe existed in any part of the country who did not constantly expect to be attacked by some cther. And such was the policy of those people that no calculation could be made upon their operations or pretensions, inasmuch as the honor of an action de
pended on the manner in which it was executed. No credit was obtained by open combat, but he that could ensnare and smite an unsuspecting enemy was highly to be commended.
It must have very often happened that the people surprised knew nothing of any reason why they were so dealt with, and the injury for which they suffered may have been committed by their ancestors long before they had existence; and the only sure means a tribe had to avert retaliation was extermination! Hence the perpetual warfare of these people.
As there are a few other collections of Indian Narratives of a similar character to this, it may be necessary to advertise the reader that such are similar in title only; for in those collections the compilers speak for their captives, whereas, in this, they speak for themselves. Those collectors have not only taken upon themselves to speak for their captives or heroes, but have so abridged the majority of their narratives that the perusal of them only gives dissatisfaction even to the general reader. Mr. McClung's “Sketches of Western Adventure" is a work of thrilling interest, but its value is entirely lost in particular instances from the above considerations. Dr. Metcalf was earlier, and set out right, bu: looked back with his hand to the plough. I know of no others worthy of notice.
As several prominent narratives may be looked for in this collection without success, such as those of Hannah Duston, Rev. John Williams, &c., it will be proper to apprize the reader that those, and many others, are contained in the Book of the Indians.
I did not design to notice the works of others, in Indian history, in this introduction ; but accidentally falling upon some acts of pre-eminent injustice to my former labors, committed by several compilers, whose works, from their peculiar point of emanation, or ostentatious external attractions, are calculated to fix in the minds of their readers wrong impressions in respect to the sources whence they have drawn their information, I could not, in justice to myself, let them pass without a notice. For an author to spend many of his best years in the most laborious investigations to bring out a train of facts upon an important inquiry, which, in all proba. bility, no other would ever have taken the pains to have done, from the peculiar nature and difficulty of the undertaking, or situation of the materials out of which he had brought them, and then to see them, no sooner than produced, transferred to the pages of others without even a demand for them upon their author, is matter of which I complain, and, to say the least, is too barefaced a piracy even for this age of freebooting in matters
of literature. Had the author of the Book of the Indians been dead, · leaving but a single copy of his work behind, and that an unpublished
manuscript, some of the compilers, to whom I allude, could scarcely have been freer in their use of it without the hope of detection. No charge is
here intended against such as have copied whole pages into their can works, where they have even acknowledged their source of information ; but I would point the eyes of all such as may read this to their own pages, which have been transferred from that work, or so 'concocted out of it as to induce the belief that it was the fruits of their own labor. Such compilers, doubtless, presume only their own works will be read on the subject of the Indians; or that the obscure and humble author of the Book of the Indians had no means of exposing their piracies. And even now, “after all said and done,” perhaps Queen Victoria will never read this preface, or compare the pages of the GREAT FOLIO “Biography and History of the Indians” with those of the Book of the Indians; yet there may be those on this side of the Atlan:ic who may be benefited by this, though indirect, information. Besides, I am too late now to send a book to her majesty, with the slightest prospect of her ever reading it, for the very reason that she has already several books by American authors on hand! And if she has read even one, is it to be presumed she would ever read another ? Moreover, what would she care whether Col. Stone gave me credit for a fact, or Mr. Thacher, or Henry Trumbull ?
The following Table contains the names of the captives, the time of
their being taken, and the duration of their captivity, where the dates
John Gyles 2 Aug. 1689 Pemmaquid, Me. Six years
Robert Eastburn 27 Mar. '56 Williams' Ft. Pa.2 yrs. & 8 mo's.