« PoprzedniaDalej »
his service, and when they arrive at a competent age, are given some employment conformable to their talents ; some pass their lives either in hunting or fishing, for the supply of his table : others are engaged in agriculture; others are employed for no other purpose but to swell his train. If he chances to die, all his domestics sacrifice themselves with pleasure to follow their dear master. They immediately put on their most splendid attire, and go to the place of execution, which is opposite the temple, where all the people are assembled. After having sung and danced for a time sufficiently long, they pass around their neck a cord of ox-hide, with a slip-knot, and immediately the ministers appointed for this kind of execution, set about strangling them, at the same time charging them to go and rejoin their master, and to resume in the oiher world, stations still more honourable than those which they have filled in this. The principal domestics having been strangled after this manner, their bones, especially those of the arins and the thighs, are cleaned of the flesh; they are left to dry up for two months in a kind of tomb, after which they are taken out to be enclosed in huskets, and placed in the temple by the side of those of their master. As to the other domestics, their kindred carry them to their huts, and bury them with their arms and their attire. This same ceremony is observed in like manner at the death of the brothers and sisters of the Great Chief. The women are always strangled, to follow their mistresses, except those who have infants at the breast, for in that case, they continue to live in order to suckle them. Many, however, seek nurses for their children, or they themselves strangle their infants, that they may not lose the right of sacrificing themselves in the public place, according to the ordinary ceremonies, and as the law ordains.
• Formerly the nation of the Natchez was very considerable—it counted sixty villages, and eight hundred suns or princes; now it is reduced to six small villages, and eleven suns. In each of these villages there is a temple, where the fire is always kept up, as in that of the Great Chief, to whom all the other chiefs are subordinate. It is the Great Chief who appoints to all the most considerable offices of the state, such as the two commanders in war, the two masters of ceremony in the worship of the temple, &c.
“Every year the people assemble to sow a great field of Indian corn, of beans, of gourds, and of melons. They assemble in the same manner to gather in the harvest. A great hut, situated in a beautiful prairie, is intended to preserve the fruits of this harvest. Every summer, towards the end of July, the people collect together by order of the Great Chief, to partake of a grand feast which is given. This festival lasts three days and three nights. Every one contributes whatever he can furnish-some bring game, others fish, &c. There are dances almost continually. The Great Chief and his sister are lodged in a hut elevated and covered with foliage, whence they observe the amusements of their subjects. The princes, the princesses, and those, who, by their offices, hold a distinguished rank, keep very near the Chief, to whom they show their respect and their submission by an infinity of cere
“ The Great Chief and his sister make their entry to the place of assemblage upon a sedan carried by eight of the largest men. The Chiet holds in his band a large sceptre, adorned with painted feathers; all the people dance and sing round about him, in token of the public joy. On the last day of this festival, he collects all his subjects, and makes them a long harangue, in which he exhorts them to fulfil all the duties of religion ; he advises them, above all things, to have a great veneration for the spirits who dwell in the temple, and to instruct their children well. If any one has signalized himself by any action of zeal, he publicly eulogizes him. This happened in the year 1702. The lightning having struck the temple, and reduced it to ashes, seven or eight women cast their infants into the midst of the flames to appease the wrath of heaven. The Great Chief summoned out these women, and bestowed upon them great praise for the resolution with which they had sacrificed that which was most dear to them, and finished his panegyric by exhorting the other females to imitate so noble an example in a similar conjuncture.
“The fathers of families never fail to carry to the temple the earliest productions of their fruit, their grain, and their vegetables—they are, indeed, presents made to the nation: they are immediately offered at the door of the temple, where the guardian, after having displayed them and presented them to the spirits, carries them to the Great Chief, who makes such a distribution of them as he thinks proper, without exciting the least sign of discontent.
They never sow any land of which the grain has not been presented to the temple with the usual ceremonies. Whenever these people approach the temple, they lift up their arms, through respect, and give three bowls. After which they strike their hands upon the earth, and rise up three times with as many reiterated howls. When they only pass before the temple, they stop simply to salute it, with their eyes cast down, and their arms elevated. If a father or a mother perceives that their child omits this ceremony, he will be immediately punished by some strokes of the baton."
We trust that exertions will be made to collect the facts respecting a race of men who must be viewed by every American with deep interest. The nature of the publication which we have thus partially reviewed, has greatly confined the view which we should like to see taken by our literary associations. It is too much the fashion to be satisfied with noticing what falls under our own observation; and, speculating upon possible causes, we waste that time which might be employed in the investigation of what has actually occurred.
In conclusion, we throw out the question amongst our antiquarians, whether the mounds upon which the Natchez built their temples, might not account for those hillocks, of which so many are found, and concerning which so little is known?
Art. II.-1. Sketches of a Naval History of the United States.
By THOMAS CLARK. Philadelphia. 1813. 2. The United States Naval Chronicle. By C. W. GOLDS
BOROUGH. 1st Vol. · 1824. 3. Report of the Naval Committee of the House of Representatives.
1st Session. 12th Congress. 4. Bill for the Gradual Improvement of the Navy. 1827. 5. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy. 1828. 6. Report of the Secretary of the Navy, covering a plan for a Naval Peace Establishment. 1828.
ALTHOUGH we possess abundant materials of the choicest kind for American Naval History, no writer has yet appeared qualified to do full justice to the subject. Alarmed at the
magnitude of the undertaking, or deterred by its difficulties, most of the labourers in this fruitful tield, have abandoned their unfinished work, relinquishing to those who are to come, the task of gathering the rich harvest which has thus been left almost untouched. It is not a little singular, that all who have essayed to write the Naval History of the United States, should have stopped short in the midst of their career, leaving half of their story untold. And yet, we must believe there is no species of historical writing more generally interesting, we had almost said, more extensively useful, than that which records the heroic deeds, and commemorates the exalted virtues of that hardy and chivalrous race of men " whose home is on the deep."
The intense interest excited by the developement of traits of individual character, and the display of extraordinary personal qualities, is, in this case, greatly heightened by the magnificent theatre of action, as well as the uncommon nature of the scenes exhibited. To the landsman, the ocean, with all its wonders, is a new and unexplored world, and the men who inhabit it-with their peculiar language, and singular habits and mannersa strange race, the subjects of never-ending speculation and wonder. When to this is added, that the ocean is the common high-way of nations—the great mart, where in times of peace, men of all countries and languages, and of every variety of manners, habits and opinions, meet together in harmonious intercourse--and where, in war, the fiercest passions and most exalted virtues of our nature are alternately displayed-it is
not at all to be wondered at, that naval histories should, at all times, be found to contain deeply interesting portions of the annals of mankind. It is nowise surprising that the love of the marvellous, so deeply implanted in the bosom of man, should find a gratification in contemplating the character of the gallant tar, and should view it, with all its hardihood, indifference to danger, and generosity, as scarcely inferior to any which is produced in the best constructed tales of poetry or romance. Under these circumstances, we must repeat the expression of our surprise, that no writer has yet arisen among us, to give, in an attractive and enduring form, a complete naval history of the United States—a history, not consisting of mere statistical details, or a formal list, in due chronological order, of the acts of Congress—not of rude and exaggerated sketches of the lives of those who have, froni time to time, distinguished themselves in naval warfare; nor yet of a mere abstract of the official accounts of our battles—but an historical view of the navy from its origin to the present moment-marking the great eras in its progress, interspersing the narrative with judicious views on the commercial policy and naval resources of the country, (as illustrated by important events in our history) and adorning the whole with the exploits of our most distinguished commanders. This is a task, we admit, not of very easy performance. Most of the events during the Revolution, are, perhaps, already involved in impenetrable obscurity; and the destruction of many of the public records, and the death of most of the actors in the busy scenes which it would beconie the duty of the historian to describe, would, unquestionably, present serious embarrassments in his way. Still we think that competent talents, ardently, faithfully and perseveringly devoted to the task, would surmount most of these difficulties, and we are persuaded, that a truly classical history of the American navy, would meet with such universal favour as to reward most amply, the exertion of the best talents the country can afford. We think we know more than one individual fully competent to the task, and we feel great satisfaction in stating, that one of these-perhaps of all others the best qualified for its successful execution—if not now actually engaged in the work, has given a pledge, that it shall, at some future period, and we hope at no distant day, command his undivided attention. Mr. Cooper, the celebrated author of the “Spy" and the “Pilot," certainly one of the ablest and most popular of the writers who has yet appeared in our country, made, we are informed, a public declaration to bis literary friends, on the eve of his departure for France, of his intention to write the Naval History of his
country. Mr. Cooper has been by profession a seaman, and has acquired in the course of many years experience, a thorough acquaintance with nautical affairs, and a perfect knowledge of the character and habits of nautical men. No writer in the English language-no writer, perhaps, in any age or country, has ever displayed greater power—a happier or more exquisite tact in delineating the characters, and describing the events which are peculiar to the ocean. The habits of his whole life have, moreover, brought him into close and intimate communion with the naval officers best acquainted with the public and secret history-indeed, with the whole career of the navy—and when to all these advantages, we add, the possession of an easy and graceful style, and descriptive powers of a very high order, we cannot but believe that Mr. Cooper is capable of producing a work on this subject, which will become one of the standard histories of the age.
With respect to the works which stand at the head of this article, we have, perhaps, already said enough, to convey to the reader our impression of their merits. Clark's History consists of little more than a list of the vessels which have, from time to time, been built for the Navy, or captured by them; of the acts and resolutions of Congress in relation to the naval establishment; and of extremely loose accounts of naval actions, interspered with brief and imperfect notices of the lives of our most distinguished naval men, and of many nowise distinguished, with occasional reflections, not very profound, on the naval policy of the United States. Both Clark's and Goldsborough's works, however, exhibit very commendable industry on the part of their authors, and contain many valuable records and documents for the use of the future historian. The work of Mr. Goldsborough, (who-is, we understand, Secretary of the Board of Navy Commissioners at Washington) is peculiarly valuable on this account. It is to be regretted, that the second volume of his work has never been published, as it would, probably, have been much more interesting and valuable than the first. We must not be understood, however, as meaning to depreciate the value of either of these books. We regard them as store-houses, in which a mass of interesting materials (that might otherwise have perished) have been gathered together and treasured up, until some one, more highly gifted than the authors of the “ Naval History," or the “Chronicle," will be able to apply them to the most valuable purposes. We doubt much whether either of these authors ever aimed higher, than to render this useful and acceptable service to their country.