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But if there be anything in their survey of our actions, which causes them to weep, it is the sight of a drunken father in the domestic circle. Instructed reason, and sound piety, have united their voices in decrying the evils of intemperance. Physicians have described its effects in deranging the absorbent vessels of the stomach, and changing the healthy organization of the system. Moralists have portrayed its fatal influence on the intellectual faculties. Divines have pointed out its destructive powers on the soul. Poetry, philosophy and science, have mourned the numbers who have been cut down by it. Common sense has raised up its voice against it. It is indeed—
"a monster of so frightful mien,
That to be hated, needs but to be seen."
Like the genie of Arabic fable, it has risen up, where it was least
expected, and stalked through the most secret and the most public
apartments. And wherever it has appeared, it has prostrated the human
mind. It has silenced the voice of eloquence in the halls of justice and
legislation. It has absorbed the brain of the scientific lecturer. It has
caused the sword to drop from the hand of the military leader. It has
stupefied the author in his study, and the pastor in his desk. It has
made the wife a widow in her youth, and caused the innocent child to
weep upon a father's grave. We dare not look beyond it. Hope, who
has attended the victim of intemperance through all the changes of his
downward fortune, and not forsaken him in any other exigency, has
forsaken here. Earth had its vanities to solace him, but eternity has
"Wounds of the heart—care, disappointment, loss,
If such, then, are the effects of ardent spirits upon the condition of civilized man, who has the precepts of instructed reason to enlighten him, and the consolations of Christianity to support him, what must be the influence of intemperate habits upon the aboriginal tribes? I propose to offer a few considerations upon this subject. And in so doing I disclaim all intention of imputing to one nation of the European stock, more than the other, the national crime of having introduced ardent spirits among the American Indians. Spaniards, Portuguese, Swedes, Dutch, Italians, Russians, Germans, French and English, all come in for a share of the obloquy. They each brought ardent spirits to the New World— a proof, it may be inferred, of their general use, as a drink in Europe, at the era of the discovery. Whatever other articles the first adventurers took to operate upon the hopes and fears of the new found people, distilled or fermented liquor appears to have been, in no instance, overlooked or forgotten. It would be easy to show the use made of them in the West Indies, and in the southern part of our hemisphere. But our object is confined to the colonies planted in the North. And in this portion of the continent the English and French have been the predominating powers. It had been well, if they had predominated in everything else—if they had only been rivals for courage, wisdom and dominion. If they had only fought to acquire civil power—conquered to spread Christianity— negotiated to perpetuate peace. But we have too many facts on record to show, that they were also rivals in spreading the reign of intemperance among the Indians; in gleaning, with avaricious hand, the furs from their lodges; in stimulating them to fight in their battles, and in leaving them to their own fate, when the battles were ended.
Nor do we, as Americans, affect to have suddenly succeeded to a better state of feelings respecting the natives than our English ancestry possessed. They were men of sterling enterprise; of undaunted resolution; of high sentiments of religious and political liberty. And we owe to them and to the peculiar circumstances in which Providence placed us, all that we are, as a free and a prosperous people. But while they bequeathed to us these sentiments as the preparatives of our own national destiny, they also bequeathed to us their peculiar opinions respecting the Indian tribes. And these opinions have been cherished with obstinacy, even down to our own times. The noble sentiments of benevolence of the 19th century had not dawned, when we assumed our station in the family of nations. If they were felt by gifted individuals, they were not felt by the body of the nation. Other duties—the imperious duties of self-existence, national poverty, wasted resources, a doubtful public credit, a feeble population, harassing frontier "wars, pressed heavily upon us. But we have seen all these causes of national depression passing away, in less than half a century. With them, it may be hoped, have passed away, every obstacle to the exercise of the most enlarged charity, and enlightened philanthropy, respecting the native tribes.
Nationality is sometimes as well characterized by small as by great things—by names, as by customs. And this may be observed in the treatment of the Indians, so far as respects the subject of ardent spirits. Under the French government they were liberally supplied with brandy. Under the English, with Jamaica rum. Under the Americans, with whisky. These constitute the fire, the gall, and the poison ages of Indian history. Under this triple curse they have maintained an existence in the face of a white population. But it has been an existence merely. Other nations are said to have had a golden age. But there has been no golden age for them. If there ever was a state of prosperity among them, which may be likened to it, it was when their camps were crowned with temporal abundance—when the races of animals, furred and unfurted, placed food and clothing within the reach of all—and when they knew no intoxicating drink. To counterbalance these advantages, they were, however, subject to many evils. They were then, as they are now, indolent, improvident, revengeful, warlike. Bravery, manual strength, and eloquence, were the cardinal virtues. And their own feuds kept them in a state of perpetual insecurity and alarm. The increased value given to furs, by the arrival of Europeans, created a new era in their history, and accelerated their downfall. It gave an increased energy and new object to the chase. To reward their activity in this employment, ardent spirits became the bounty, rather than the price. A twofold injury ensued. The animals upon whose flesh they had subsisted became scarce, and their own constitutions were undermined with the subtle stimulant.
Historical writers do not always agree: but they coincide in their testimony respecting the absence of any intoxicating drink among the northern Indians, at the time of the discovery. It is well attested that the Azteeks, and other Mexican and Southern tribes, had their pope, and other intoxicating drinks, which they possessed the art of making from various native grains and fruits. But the art itself was confined, with the plants employed, to those latitudes. And there is no historical evidence to prove that it was ever known or practised by the tribes situated north and east of the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Robertson, an able and faithful describer of Indian manners, fully concurs with the Jesuit authors, in saying that no such beverage was known in the north, until Europeans found it for their pecuniary interest to supply it. After which, intoxication became as common among the northern as the southern tribes.*
Three hundred and forty years ago there was not a white man in America. Columbus discovered the West India Islands; but Cabot and Verrizani were the discoverers of North America. Cartier and Hudson followed in the track. The first interview of Hudson with the Mohegan tribes, took place at the mouth of the river which now bears his name. It is remarkable as the scene of the first Indian intoxication among them. He had no sooner cast anchor, and landed from his boat, and passed a friendly salutation with the natives, than he ordered a bottle of ardent spirits to be brought. To show that he did not intend to offer them what he would not himself taste, an attendant poured him out a cup of the liquor, which he drank off. The cup was then filled and passed to the Indians. But they merely smelled of it and passed it on. It had nearly gone round the circle untasted, when one of the chiefs, bolder than the rest, made a short harangue, saying it would be disrespectful to return it untasted, and declaring his intention to drink off the potion, if he should be killed in the attempt. He drank it off. Dizziness and stu
* Robertson's History of America.
por immediately ensued. He sank down and fell into a sleep—the sleep of death, as his companions thought. But in due time he awoke—declared the happiness he had experienced from its effects—asked again for the cup, and the whole assembly followed his example.*
Nor was the first meeting with the New England tribes very dissimilar. It took place at Plymouth, in 1620. Massasoit, the celebrated chief of the Pokanokets, came to visit the new settlers, not long after their landing. He was received by the English governor with military music and the discharge of some muskets. After which, the Governor kissed his hand. Massasoit then kissed him, and they both sat down together. "A pot of strong water," as the early writers expressed it, was then ordered, from which both drank. The chief, in his simplicity, drank so great a draught that it threw him into a violent perspiration during the remainder of the interview.t
The first formal interview of the French with the Indians of the St. Lawrence is also worthy of being referred to, as it appears to have been the initial step in vitiating the taste of the Indians, by the introduction of a foreign drink. It took place in 1535, on board one of Cartier's ships, lying at anchor near the Island of Orleans, forty-nine years before the arrival of Amidas and Barlow on the coast of Virginia. Donnaconna, a chief who is courteously styled the " Lord of Agouhanna," visited the ship with twelve canoes. Ten of these he had stationed at a distance, and with the other two, containing sixteen men, he approached the vessels. When he drew near the headmost vessel, he began to utter an earnest address, accompanied with violent gesticulation. Cartier hailed his approach in a friendly manner. He had, the year before, captured two Indians on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and he now addressed the chief through their interpretation. Donnaconna listened to his native language with delight, and was so much pleased with the recital they gave, that he requested Cartier to reach his arm over the side of the vessel, that he might kiss it. He was not content with this act of salutation, but fondled it, by drawing the arm gently around his neck. His watchful caution did not, however, permit him to venture on board. Cartier, willing to give him a proof of his confidence, then descended into the chief's canoe, and ordered bread and wine to be brought. They ate and drank together, all the Indians present participating in the banquet, which appears to have been terminated in a temperate manner. J
But like most temperate beginnings in the use of spirits, it soon led to intemperance in its most repulsive forms. The taste enkindled by wine, was soon fed with brandy, and spread among the native bands like a wildfire. It gave birth to disease, discord, and crime, in their most
'* Heckewelder's Account of the Indians.
shocking forms. Too late the government and the clergy saw their error, and attempted to arrest it; but it was too deeply seated among their own countrymen, as well as among the Indians. Every effort proved unsuccessful; and the evil went on until the Canadas were finally transferred to the British crown, with this "mortal canker" burning upon the northern tribes. Those who have leisure and curiosity to turn to the early writers, will see abundant evidence of its deep and wide-spread influence. It became the ready means of rousing to action a people averse to long continued exertion of any kind. It was the reward of the chase. It was the price of blood. It was the great bar to the successful introduction of Christianity. It is impossible that the Indian should both drink and pray. It was impossible then, and it is impossible now: and the missionary who entered the forest, with the Bible and crucifix in one hand, and the bottle in the other, might say, with the Roman soliloquist, who deliberated on self-murder,
"My bane and antidote are both before me:
National rivalry, between the English and French governments, gave the character of extreme bitterness to the feelings of the Indians, and served to promote the passion for strong drink. It added to the horrors of war, and accumulated the miseries of peace. It was always a struggle between these nations which should wield the Indian power; and, so far as religion went, it was a struggle between the Catholic and Protestant tenets. It was a power which both had, in a measure, the means of putting into motion: but neither had the complete means of controlling it, if we concede to them the perfect will. It would have mitigated the evil, if this struggle for mastering the Indian mind had terminated with a state of war, but it was kept up during the feverish intermissions of peace. Political influence was the ever-present weight in each side of the scale. Religion threw in her aid; but it was trade, the possession of the fur trade, that gave the preponderating weight. And there is nothing in the history of this rivalry, from the arrival of Roberval to the death of Montcalm, that had so permanently pernicious an influence as the sanction which this trade gave to the use of ardent spirits.
We can but glance at this subject; but it is a glance at the track of a tornado Destruction lies in its course. The history of the fur trade is closely interwoven with the history of intemperance among the Indians. We know not how to effect the separation. Look at it in what era you will, the barter in ardent spirits constitutes a prominent feature. From Jamestown to Plymouth—from the island of Manhattan to the Lake of the Hills, the traffic was introduced at the earliest periods. And we cannot now put our finger on the map, to indicate a spot where ardent spirits is not known to the natives. Is it at the mouth of the Columbia,