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The Rev. Mr. Jones, in a letter to Catcott, comments thus on the passage : “ Those who are inclined to slight it as allegori cal, and think the earthquake described by Plato is incredible, because some fabulous circumstances are blended with the ac count, should endeavor to show us, what could possibly give rise to such a report in the eastern world; for that Plato should so expressly describe an opposite continent such as is actually now discovered, together with the way that led to it from the straits of Gibraltar, and that this strange report should be grounded on no ancient knowledge of the American continent, and prove to be true afterwards only by accident, all this would be more incredible than the matter reported, which, if the natural monuments of this great earthquake, still subsisting, are taken into the account, has all the appearance of truth that can be desired.” (The above correspondent of Mr. Catcott, I believe, was the Rev. William Jones, a learned clergyman of the Church of England, who died in 1801.)
Now, in support of Plato's Egyptian story of a vast tract of land having been swallowed up in the ocean, of which the Canaries, St. Matthew, St. Thomas, St, Helena, the Azores, the great Banks of Newfoundland, and the West India Islands are so many remaining fragments, standing like pieces of a wreck above the waves, and still exhibiting to us some footsteps, as it were, of the ancient path that once led from Africa to America ; besides the evidence which these ruins themselves present; besides the evidence involved in the very nature of the tradition ; - which, if fiction, must be pronounced the most extraordinary ever invented, since it has proved to be fact; besides the facility with which it accounts for all the phenomena of animal existence in this remote hemisphere; besides all the evidence in its favor, from these and similar considerations, additional confirmation is afforded, according to several eminent critics and commentators, by Scripture itself when rightly interpreted. I offer no opinion of my own, either in regard to the statement from Plato, or in regard to the criticism on the sacred text which
prevented any attempts to navigate it long after every real obstacle had been removed, or after the sea had acquired suf. ficient depth for the purpose.
The true sea mentioned by Plato, to which his continent, ly. ing beyond the island Atlantis, was adjacent, is the Great South Sea or Pacific Ocean.
I am going to cite from Catcott. Both, whether true or false, are sustained by the authority of distinguished scholars. The reader will appreciate them according to his own judgment.
It were to be presumed a priori, it is argued, that Moses, in speaking of the migration of mankind towards repeopling the earth, would make some mention, or give some hint or intimation, concerning the manner by which so large a part of the world, as the continent of America, became inhabited. And such there is reason to think he has done, and left recorded in the following remarkable passage: “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg ; for in his days was the earth divided.” Gen. 10: 25. Also 1 Chron. 1: 19. On these words Bengelius remarks, that Peleg was so named from the division of the earth which happened in his days. Now the genealogical and political divisions mentioned by Moses are always expressed by different words in the original Hebrew, as may be seen by recurring to Gen. 10: 5, 18, 32, and 11: 9. But a very different kind of division is meant by the word Peleg ; namely, a physical and geographical division, which happened at once, and which was so remarkable, and of such extent, as to justify the naming of the patriarch from the event. By this word Peleg, that kind of division is principally denoted which is applicable to land and water. Whence, in the Hebrew tongue, Peleg came to signify a river. In the Greek néhayos, and in the Latin Pelagus denote the sea. From this precise meaning of the word, then, we may conclude that the earth was split or divided ašunder for a very great extent, and the sea came between, in the days of Peleg ; and that this was the grand division intended by the passage under consideration ; and that soon after the confusion of tongues, and the dispersion of mankind upon the face of the whole earth, some of the sons of Ham, to whom Africa was allotted, went out of Africa into that part of America which now looks towards Africa; and the earth being divided or split asunder in the days of Peleg, they, with their posterity, the Americans, were, for many ages, separated from the rest of mankind. From all this it may be inferred that Africa and America were once joined, or at least separated from each other only by a very narrow gulf or strait, and that, some time after the flood (say, between the close of the first and third centuries, in the days or during the lifetime of Peleg), the earth was divided or parted asunder, probably by means of an earthquake, and then this middle land
way by whicherica mightered (continued
sunk beneath the ocean.” This is certainly a curious coinci. dence, to say the least, that Plato, whose information was derived through Solon from the Egyptian priests, is thus made to accord with Moses, who was profoundly skilled in all the wisdom and science of Egypt, when at the very acme of her glory, in arms, in policy and in arts.
«Thus we have discovered (concludes Catcott) an easy way by which America might have been, and I apprehend, the true way by which it really was, supplied with inhabitants after the flood; a way this, that affords a very convenient passage, through a warm and fruitful climate, for the most tender and delicate animals, and such as could not endure any great degree of cold, and of course a very easy one for robust man."*
If America was peopled from Africa, then the Indians of this continent are descended from Ham; and consequently lie under the prophetic curse pronounced by Noah upon their wicked ancestor. " And he said, cursed be Canaan ; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." Gen. 9: 25, 27. How this malediction was finally accomplished upon the Canaanites, the
* The only copy of Catcott's work on the Deluge, which I have ever seen, belonged to the Library of Nassau-Hall. My extracts were made in 1820, during my residence at Princeton ; and they are so mixed up with my own comments, that I may not have given him due credit for either the language or ideas which I have borrowed. My attention has been directed to Catcott and to my old manuscript notes, by two recent references to his book. 1. By John Delafield, in “ An Inquiry into the Origin of the Antiquities of America.” He dissents from Catcott, Bengelius and Plato,—though for very insufficient reasons, as it appears to me. 2. By a writer in the January (1841) number of the Princeton Review, upon the “ Origin of the Aborigines of America ;" who quotes largely and approvingly from the identical volume, I presume, which, many years ago, awakened my own curiosity and led me to sundry inquiries and speculations relative to the ancient population of this continent, a subject, with me, still sub judice. I have never seen the work of the Rev. John Dunmore Lang, D. D., and know nothing more of his theory than can be gleaned from the above Review and from a brief article or two in the NewYork Observer.
Babylonians, the Phænicians, the Carthagenians, the Egyptians, etc., is well known to every reader of the Bible and of profane history. “The whole continent of Africa was peopled principally by the descendants of Ham; and for how many ages have the better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, and then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks !” (Newton.) And, it may be added, Africa has been, for centuries past, the common slave-mart and slaughterhouse for all Christendom. “There never has been a son of Ham, who has shaken a sceptre over the head of Japheth. Shem hath subdued Japheth, and Japheth subdued Shem; but Ham never subdued either.” (Mede.)
How exactly does the fate of the American savages correspond with the general destiny of Ham's posterity! They have been, without exception, conquered and enslaved, or reduced to a state of extreme vassalage; or they have been utterly exterminated, as were the nations of Palestine by the Israelites. How widely different their fate from that of the barbarous hordes of Northern and Western Europe, and of all the acknowledged descendants of either Shem or Japheth! Here is a phenomenon, not easily explicable, except upon the hypothesis that they belong to the doomed race. And to this category, I should be disposed to assign them, from the very peculiarity of their fortunes, independently of mere ethnographical or other considerations. A like application of scriptural prophecy to the lost tribes of Israel might satisfy any candid mind that they can never be found among our native Indians, If they still exist here,--are yet to be discovered, recognized and restored to their ancient home or converted to the Christian faith,-it is manifest that this wonderful event must soon take place, or there will not remain an Indian representative of that people upon our continent. The prophecies would thus be rendered nugatory, from the sheer want of subjects, upon whom or by whom they were to be fulfilled. Now the singular destiny of every branch of the Abrahamic family is its miraculous preservation amidst all sorts of calamities and dispersions; while that of the American savage is certain destruction, -complete, absolute, inevitable extinction from the face of the earth." At least, this is true in regard to those North American tribes among whom any traces of a Hebrew origin are supposed to have been discovered.
I do not advance this prophetic argument to sustain the Atlan
Straits of the shores of the primitive inha
with its entire new Atlanticarthquake which unication with a
tis of Plato or the logic of Catcott. The former is a distinct, substantive, independent, and hitherto unoccupied ground. The latter may be rejected; and so may every other theory about the ancient highway from the Old world to the New. And yet the Indians may be the descendants of Ham,-either from Asia or Africa. If from the latter, it does not follow that they must have been of the Negro or Ethiopian race. None of the Asiatic Hamites were negroes. Nor is it probable that the primitive inhabitants of northern Africa, along the shores of the Mediterranean, from the Nile to the Straits of Gibraltar, were negroes. And from these must have issued the early colonies which settled the lost Atlantis (if such an island ever existed), and, at length, America. Soon after reaching the latter, they were suddenly and forever cut off from all future communication with their eastern brethren, by the earthquake which buried beneath the waves of the new Atlantic Ocean, the intervening land together with its entire population. Now we can easily suppose the condition, character and circumstances of the forlorn, destitute, isolated remnant that survived and were compelled to subsist as best they could in this gloomy wilderness, to have been such, that they naturally and speedily degenerated into savages; as did their kindred throughout central and southern Africa.
Nor does my argument from prophecy require that all the aborigines of this continent should be the offspring of Ham. The Esquimaux, for instance, belong to the Mongolian race according to Blumenbach, and are presumed to be descendants of Japheth. There may be others of the same family. Some tribes also may be identified, perhaps, with the South Sea Islanders and the Asiatic Malays. There is ample scope for exceptions, and for diversity of opinions in regard to several clans or nations. Theorists, moreover, are welcome to all the capital which they can make of the Mexicans, Peruvians, Natchez and Bogotians. So striking, however, is the resemblance between the aboriginal tribes in every part of the country, from Labrador to Cape Horn, that they are generally regarded by naturalists as constituting but one distinct variety of the human species. The great mass of them also appear evidently subjected to the same deplorable destiny; namely, bondage or extermination at the hands of Christian Japheth,-a destiny without a parallel, on so large a scale, in the history of man, and altogether inexplicable, except upon the assumption that they are the posterity of Ham, and are therefore still enduring
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