Early European Intercourse with the Indians
The discovery of an unknown continent and of a new race of men was the exploit and wonder of the age. Princes dreamed of vast additions to their domains; priests of the conversion of heathen nations and the enlargement of their spiritual possessions; merchants speculated upon the prospect of a profitable trade with the natives; while poets sung of the new El Dorado as of a heaven upon earth, a land of inexhaustible fertility and riches. But neither seer nor statesman, priest nor poet, was able to foresee the future of this continent. No one dreamed that this remote and savage wilderness was soon to become the seat of flourishing and powerful communities, or that it was the chosen arena for the full and unchecked development of human progress and freedom.
Strange stories were told of this new world. Its northern shores were said to be infested by griffins, while two islands north of Newfoundland were known as the Isles of Demons, whose occupants were pictured with wings, horns, and tail. An early geographer wrote that he had heard from many who had voyaged that way that "they heard in the air, in the tops and about the masts, a great clamor of men's voices, confused and inarticulate, such as you may hear from the crowd at a fair or market-place, whereupon they well knew that the Isles of Demons was not far off."
By the first voyagers the natives were found to be simple, hospitable, and friendly. Soon, however, they learned to fear and distrust the strangers, who took every advantage of their ignorance and kindness. The different tribes were found to be widely scattered, many of them in a state of hostility to their neighbors.
Columbus and other early voyagers took some of the natives with them on their return to Europe. Three presented to Henry VII. by Sebastian Cabot, in 1502 were the first Indians seen in England. Those first taken to France were brought thither by Captain Aubert six years later.
From time to time others were kidnapped and sold into slavery, and conflicts between them and their European visitors became frequent. The frauds and injuries of which they were the victims were not forgotten by the natives, but were eventually returned by them with interest.
One of these acts of barbarity is thus related by Captain John Smith, with whom my readers will soon become better acquainted.
"One Thomas Hunt, the master of this ship, when I was gone, betrayed four-and-twenty of these poor salvages aboard his ship, and most dishonestly and inhumanly, for their kind usage of me and all our men, carried them with him to Malaga, and there, for a little private gain, sold these silly salvages. But this vile act kept him ever after from any more employment in those parts."
When we learn what the clergy of that day thought of the poor Indian, we can better understand the infamous conduct of these cruel man-stealers. "We may guess," says that eminent divine of New England, Rev. Cotton Mather, "that probably the devil decoyed these miserable salvages hither, in hopes that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would never come here to destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them."
Columbus says of the natives of the West Indies, "We found them timid, and full of fear, very simple and honest, and exceedingly liberal, none of them refusing anything he may possess when asked for it. Like idiots—they bartered cotton and gold for fragments of glasses, bottles, and jars, which I forbade as being unjust, and myself gave them many beautiful and acceptable articles which I had brought with me, taking nothing from them in return."
Upon his first arrival, Columbus took some of the natives by force, in order that they might learn the language of the Spaniards and communicate what they knew respecting the country; and they were soon able, either by gesture or by signs, to understand each other. They entertained the idea that the white men descended from heaven, and on their arrival at any new place, cried out immediately, with a loud voice, to the other Indians, "Come! come and look upon beings of a celestial race;" upon which both women and men, children and adults, young and old, when they got rid of their first fear, would come out in throngs, crowding the roads to see them, some bringing food, others drink, "with astonishing affection and kindness."
Gaspar Cortereal, a mariner in the service of the King of Portugal, ranged the newly-discovered coast for six hundred or seven hundred miles, as far as the fifteenth parallel, admiring the brilliant verdure and dense forests wherever he landed. He repaid the hospitality with which he was everywhere received by the natives, by taking with him on his return fifty-seven of them, whom he had treacherously enticed on board his ship, and selling them for slaves. From a second voyage he never returned, having been slain in a combat with some Indians whom he was trying to kidnap.
The earliest description of the Atlantic coast of the United States is found in the narrative of John Verrazzano, an Italian mariner, who had been sent on a voyage of discovery by Francis I. of France. He reached the coast in the latitude of Wilmington, N C., and is supposed to have visited the harbors of New York and Newport. He describes the natives as very courteous and gentle, and possessing prompt wit, but as mild and feeble, of mean stature, with delicate limbs and handsome visages.
Seeing many fires ashore, and the natives friendly, he sent his boat to them, but the surf was too violent to permit landing. One of the sailors offered to swim ashore with some presents; but, when he came near, his fears prevailed, and throwing out his presents he attempted to return to the ship, but the waves cast him on the sand half-dead and quite senseless. The Indians immediately ran to his assistance, carried him ashore, dried his clothes before a fire, and did everything to restore him. His alarm, however, was excessive. When they pulled off his clothes to dry them, he thought they meant to sacrifice him to the sun, which then shone brightly in the heavens. He trembled with fear. As soon as he was restored they gently led him to the shore, and then retired to a distance until the ship's boat had been sent for him and they saw him safely on board.
In requital for this kindness, the visitors robbed a mother of her child, and attempted to kidnap a young woman "of tall stature and very beautiful." Her outcries and her vigorous resistance saved her.
At one place, where he remained fifteen days, Verrazzano found the natives "the gentlest people" he had yet seen. They were liberal and friendly, yet so ignorant that, though instruments of steel and iron were often exhibited, they neither understood their use nor coveted their possession. The things they esteemed most were bells, crystals of azure color, and other toys to hang at their ears or about the neck. "When they beheld themselves in our mirrors they suddenly laughed and gave them us again." The women wore ornaments of wrought copper. Wood only was used in the construction of their wigwams, which were covered with coarse matting.
The natives of the more northerly regions visited, perhaps, those of the coast of Maine, having already learned to fear the Europeans, were hostile and jealous. They knew the value of iron, and demanded in trade fish-hooks, knives, and weapons of steel. "When we went on shore," says the narrator, "they shot at us with their bows, making great outcries, and afterwards fled into the woods. When we departed from them they showed all signs of discourtesy and disdain as was possible for any creature to invent."
They were clad in skins or furs, lived by hunting and fishing, and had no grain nor any kind of tillage. Their canoes were trunks of trees hollowed out by fire and with stone hatchets, and their arms were bows and arrows.
Pleased with Verrazzano's report, King Francis said, referring to the edict of the Pope of Rome, giving all America to the Spaniards, "he did not think God had created these new countries for the Castilians alone." His great rival, Charles V. of Spain, had laid claim to all the new discoveries on the ground of priority. "I should like," said the French king. "to see that article of Adam's will which gives him America!" The authenticity of Verrazzano's narrative is yet an unsettled question.
Ten years after Verrazzano's voyage, Jacques Cartier, an experienced navigator of Saint Maio, sailed from France to the region of the St. Lawrence. Landing in the Bay of Gaspé, a lofty cross was raised, bearing a shield with the lilies of France and an appropriate inscription. The country was thus taken possession of for the French king.
The natives, who were very friendly, gazed at this ceremony in wonder. They seemed to have guessed its meaning, for, by signs, they made known to Cartier that the country was theirs, and that no cross should be set up without their leave. Cartier did not scruple to deceive the natives, by telling them that it was only intended as a beacon-light for mariners entering their port. He seized two of these Indians and took then with him to France.
Cartier describes the natives as being "of an indifferent good stature and bigness, but wild and unruly. They wore their hair tied on the top, like a wreath of hay, and put a wooden pin within it instead of a nail, and with them they bind certain birds' feathers. They were clothed with beasts' skins, as well the men as the women, but that the women go somewhat straighter and closer in their garments than the men do, with their waists girded. They paint themselves with certain roan colors; their boats are made of the bark of birch-trees; in them they fish, and take great store of seals."
At their first interview the narrator tells us that "so soon as they saw us they began to flee, making signs that they came to traffic with us, showing us such skins as they clothed themselves withal, which are of small value. We likewise made signs unto them that we wished them no evil, and in sign thereof two of our men ventured to go on land to them, and carry them knives, with other iron wares, and a red hat to give unto their captain, which, when they saw, they also came on land and brought some of their skins, and so began to deal with us, seeming to be very glad to have our iron wares, still dancing, with many other ceremonies, as with their hands to east sea-water on their heads. They showed their friendship in this way, as also by rubbing their hands upon the arms of the European visitors, and lifting them up towards the heavens." From the intense heat here, Cartier named the inlet "Baie de Chaleur," a name it still bears.
The Indians about Gaspé Bay differed from the others both in nature and language, and in being abjectly poor. They were only partly clothed in old skins, and had no structures to protect them from the weather. "I think," said the old narrator, "all they had together, besides their boats and nets, was not worth five sous." They shaved their heads, with the exception of a tuft on the crown, sheltered themselves at night under their canvas, on the bare ground, and ate their food partially cooked. They were unacquainted with the use of salt, and ate nothing that had any taste of it.
In a second voyage, made in the following year, Cartier named the gulf, in honor of the day in which he entered it, the St. Lawrence, a name since extended to the noble river beyond. Sailing up to isle since called Orleans, he was hospitably received by the natives at their village of Stadacona, now Quebec; the two natives Cartier had carried off, and who had been kindly treated, acting as interpreters. He next ascended the river to the chief Indian settlement of Hochelaga, the modern Montreal, which takes its name from the neighboring elevation which they christened Mount Royal.
Every artifice had been made use of by the Indians to prevent their journey to this place. They were jealous lest some of the knives, looking-glasses, and other trinkets should fall into the hands of the rival chieftain and his people.
Three of them, dressed as devils, wrapped in huge skins, white and black, their faces besmeared and black as coals, and with horns on their heads more than a yard long, tried to frighten Cartier, and after holding a long powwow, declared to him that their god had spoken, and that there was so much ice and snow at Hochelaga that whoever went thither should die. The Frenchman only laughed at this trick, and told them that their god was a fool.
The Indian capital they found encompassed by a triple row of high palisades of heavy timber, and having only a single gate of entrance. Over this, and elsewhere on the walls, were platforms for its defenders, provided with ladders and with stones for its defence. It contained some fifty houses, each about fifty paces long, and twelve or fifteen broad, built of wood, and covered with bark, and skilfully joined together. These houses had many rooms, and in the midst of each was a large court, with a place in the centre for a fire. In a room at the top of their houses they stored their corn. Fishing and agriculture furnished them with food. Their chief, an old man, was borne to Cartier's presence on the shoulders of his men; around his forehead he wore a band of red-colored hedgehog skins, but in other respects was dressed no better than his people.
Viewing the white men as heavenly visitors, the Indians crowded around them to touch them, paying them every mark of reverence and respect. They brought to Cartier their lame, blind, diseased, and impotent, to be healed; and he gratified their desires, praying to God to open the hearts of these poor people that they might be converted. The interview closed with his giving them knives, beads, and toys. Before returning to France, in the following spring, Cartier took possession of the country for the king in the usual manner. When he was about to sail, he enticed the chief, Donnaconna, with nine others, on board his ship, seized and confined and, regardless of the cries and entreaties of their people, carried them to France. Four years later all these, excepting one little girl, were dead.
Although the country is so named on a Portuguese map of ten years earlier date than that of his voyage, Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish gentleman, claimed to be the discoverer of Florida. He had distinguished himself at home in the expulsion of the Moors from Granada, had accompanied Columbus in his second expedition, and had been governor of Porto Rico, where he had acquired wealth by oppressing the natives. One of the objects he had in view was the discovery of a fountain whose waters would, according to an ancient fable, impart perpetual youth to whosoever bathed in them. Landing near the point now called Fernandina, he claimed the territory for Spain. He found a delightful climate, charming scenery, and a fragrant atmosphere, but no gold or youth-restoring fountain. Everywhere the Indians displayed determined hostility.
Upon his return, De Leon was rewarded by the King of Spain with the government of Florida for his pretended discovery, but on the condition that he should colonize the country. When he attempted some years later to do so, his men were attacked with great fury by the natives. Many Spaniards were killed, the remainder returned to their ships, and De Leon himself was mortally wounded by an Indian arrow.
Other Spanish voyagers explored the North American coast and encountered the hostility of the natives. Lucas Vasquez D'Ayllon, after treacherously kidnapping a large number of natives of South Carolina, in a subsequent voyage attempted a settlement on the Combahee River. In retaliation for his treachery, his men were unexpectedly set upon by the Indians and nearly all killed. Vasquez, mortally wounded, escaped to his vessel; and thus ended the first attempt to plant a colony within the area of the United States.
The expedition of Pamphilio de Narvaez was disastrous in the extreme. It was this officer who had been sent by the governor of Cuba to take Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, prisoner, and who was himself easily defeated, and captured in the attempt. When brought before Cortez he said to him, with his usual arrogance, "Esteem it great good-fortune that you have taken me captive." Cortez replied, "It is the least of the things I have done in Mexico."
Landing near Tampa Bay, Florida, Narvaez struck into the interior. By his cruelty and want of judgment he provoked the hostility of the natives, who, to rid themselves of these unwelcome intruders, told them of a rich country, only nine days' march to the south. These Indians were of fine stature, great activity, and expert and accurate bowmen, who could hit their mark at the distance of two hundred yards. Instead of rich and populous towns, such as they had hoped to discover, the Spaniards found only clusters of wigwams, and were plundered and cut oil whenever opportunity offered.
After a fatiguing and fruitless six months' tramp, the wretched remnant of the party reached Pensacola Bay in a state of destitution. Narvaez was ill, his men were dispirited, and his horses were reduced to skeletons. Boats must be built, but how was this to be done without tools or materials?
In this exigency a soldier told Narvaez that he could make pipes of wood, and convert them into bellows by the aid of deerskins. The idea was instantly acted upon. A forge was constructed, and immediately stirrups, spurs, cross-bows, etc., were converted into nails, saws, and axes. The pines yielded pitch; a kind of oakum was obtained from the palmetto. Hair from the manes and tails of horses was twisted into ropes, and the shirts of the men supplied sails. The horses were killed and their flesh used for food. Oysters and maize completed their store of provisions. After sixteen days of hard work they had constructed five boats, each of which held fifty-six men.
In these frail vessels the remnant of that once gallant army embarked, and nearly all perished in a storm near the mouth of the Mississippi. Four survivors reached Mexico by land, after eight years of wandering and almost incredible hardships.
The story of these men, that Florida was the richest country in the world, was credited by many. Among them was Fernando de Soto, who had been the favorite companion of Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, where he had acquired both military renown and wealth. He believed that another Peru existed at the north, and aspiring to rival Cortez and Pizarro in fame and wealth, asked and received permission of the king to conquer Florida at his own cost. It must be remembered that the term Florida was at that time a vague expression, covering an immense territory—no less than the whole North American coast.
This was by far the most magnificent and well appointed of the numerous expeditions to this continent. Men of noble birth and good estates sold their lands to join in it. Portuguese soldiers were to be seen in the glittering array of burnished armor, and the Castilians, brilliant with hope, were "very gallant with silk upon silk." Front the numerous aspirants De Soto selected six hundred men—the flower of Spain; many persons of good account who had sold their estates were obliged to remain behind. Everything was provided that experience in former invasions could suggest, including chains for captives, and blood-hounds as auxiliaries against the wretched natives. As the latter were to be converted as well as plundered, twenty-four ecclesiastics accompanied the expedition. The fleet landed at Tampa Bay, on the western coast, the adventurers disembarked, and the memorable march began.
Soon after landing, a party of Spaniards attacked and put to flight a few Indians who were advancing towards them, making friendly signals. One of them had been knocked down, and was about to receive a deadly blow, when he uttered in excellent Spanish these words,
"Sir, I am a Christian! I am a Christian! Slay me not, nor these Indians, for they have saved my life."
The blow was withheld; and this man, whose name was Juan Ortiz, related his most extraordinary story. He was one of the survivors of Narvaez's company, and in a subsequent expedition had fallen into the hands of the natives, and was doomed to suffer death by torture.
Four stakes were set in the ground, to which four ropes were fastened. To these poles the captive, with his legs and arms extended, was bound, at such a distance from the ground that a fire made under him would be a long time in consuming him. Already had the fire been lighted, and the victim resigned himself to his terrible fate, when the daughter of Ucita, the chief, throwing herself at her father's feet, begged his life in these words:
"My kind father, why kill this poor stranger? he can do you nor none of us any injury, seeing he is but one and alone. It is better that you should keep him confined, for even in that condition he may some time be of great service to you."
The chief was silent a short time, but finally ordered his release. His wounds were dressed, and he was made tolerably comfortable. Possibly, this incident suggested to Captain John Smith the story he long afterwards wrote of his rescue from death by Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan.
At one end of Ucita's village stood a temple; over the door was the figure of a bird carved in wood, and with gilded eyes. As soon as the wounds of Ortiz were healed, he was stationed to guard the entrance of this temple, more especially from the inroads of wild beasts. As human victims were sacrificed here, wolves were frequent visitors. Death was the penalty for allowing a body to be removed.
One night he had a terrible scare. A young Indian had been killed, and his body was placed in the temple. Spite of all his efforts, a pack of hungry wolves effected an entrance and seized upon the body. As soon as he recovered from the fright of their first onset, he seized a heavy cudgel, drove them out, and pursued them some distance, dealing one of them a mortal blow.
When morning came, and it was seen that the body was gone, Ortiz was condemned to die; but before executing him Ucita sent a party in pursuit of the wolves, and, if possible, to recover the body. Contrary to all expectations, it was found, and near it the carcass of a huge wolf. The order for Ortiz's execution was revoked, and he was afterwards held in great esteem by the Indians.
Some time afterwards he was again selected for sacrifice, but was a second time saved from a terrible death by the chief's daughter, who aided him to escape to the country of Mocoso, a rival chief, by whom he was well treated, and with whom he remained three years. At the expiration of that time the fleet of De Soto arrived, and Mocoso, out of friendship for Ortiz, sent him to his countrymen, who, as we have seen, supposing him to be what he appeared—an Indian—came near killing him. Ortiz rendered important services to De Soto, as interpreter among the various Indian tribes.
For three years the Spaniards wandered through the country in search of gold, De Soto obstinately refusing to turn back. No gold was discovered; the only wealth of the natives was in their stores of corn; they were poor, but independent, hardy and brave. Everywhere he was met by the most determined hostility on the part of the natives, with whom he had a bloody battle at Mauvilla, or Mobile. For nine hours the Indians fought with desperation, and but for the flames, which consumed their light cabins, they would have repulsed the invaders. Thousands of them were slain. Though protected by their armor, many Spaniards were killed or wounded, and all their baggage was burned.
Mauvilla was a strongly-fortified village on the Coosa. It was surrounded by stout palisades, with loop-holes for arrows. Early in the morning the Indian war-cry was raised. De Soto led his amen to storm the fort. The entrance was narrow and well defended, and some of his best cavaliers were fatally pierced between the joints of their armor, and numbers of horses were killed. The Spaniards were obliged to withdraw. The Indians then sallied from the gates and rushed upon the foe, charging and retiring over the plain; but the advantage was finally with the Spaniards, and the Indians withdrew to their fort.
In a second assault the gate was broken down, when the assailants rushed in, and a furious conflict ensued. The Indians thronged the square; lance, club, and missile were wielded from every quarter. Even their young women snatched up the swords of the slaughtered Spaniards and mingled in the fray, being more reckless than the men. The struggle was so fierce and protracted, particularly from the roofs of the houses, that the soldiers set fire to their combustible dwellings, which were soon in flames. At length the Indians gave way and fled, pursued by the cavalry. They would neither give nor take quarter; not a man surrendered. These Indians were of the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw tribes; among the slain was their famous chief, Tuscaloosa, the Black Warrior.
During the first winter De Soto encamped at the deserted Indian town of Chicaza, where for two months his men enjoyed comparative repose. At length the Chickasaws resolved to burn the encampment, which was constructed of inflammable materials.
A dark and windy night having been chosen, the camp was fired in several places, the savages at the same time uttering furious yells and making a desperate attack. A high wind fanned the flames into irresistible fury, and for a time the confusion was such as rendered it impossible to resist the impetuosity of the assailants. Discipline and courage, how-ever, regained the ascendancy, and the enemy was repulsed. But the camp was totally destroyed, together with all the arms, accoutrements, and provisions of the army. All that had been saved at the conflagration of Manilla was here annihilated. The droves of hogs, which had formed their main dependence for provisions, were burned in their pens. The temper of their swords had been impaired by the action of the fire, and almost every valuable article of equipage consumed.
De Soto more than once displayed great coolness and presence of mind. He had, at one time, pitched his camp near Costa, a town in Alabama, and, with a few of his followers, was conversing with the chief, when some of his troopers entered the town and plundered several of the houses. The justly-incensed Indians fell upon them with their clubs. Seeing himself surrounded by the natives, and in great personal danger, the general seized a cudgel and, with his usual presence of mind, commenced beating his own men. The savages, observing this, became pacified in a moment. In the mean time, taking the chief by the hand, he led him, with flattering words, towards his camp, where the was presently surrounded by a guard and held as a hostage. The Spaniards remained under arms all night. Fifteen hundred armed Indians surrounded them, frequently threatening them with attack, and uttering cries of insult and menace. Restraining his troops, De Soto, aided by a prominent Indian, who had followed him for some time, at length succeeded in restoring peace and in averting what seemed likely to prove a serious affair.
Upon one occasion De Soto tried to overawe the Natchez Indians, who worshipped the sun, by claiming a supernatural birth and demanding tribute.
"You say you are the child of the sun," replied the incredulous chief. "Dry up the river, and I will believe you. If you wish to see me, come to the town where I dwell. If you come in peace I will receive you with special good-will; if in war, I will not shrink one foot back."
The sole achievement of this costly and memorable expedition was the discovery of the Mississippi River at the lowest Chickasaw Bluff. Boats were required to cross, and it took a month to build them. The Spaniards crossed, and extended their tedious journey as far as Kansas. They found the Indians an agricultural people, with fixed places of abode, and subsisting chiefly on the product of the fields. They were neither turbulent nor quarrelsome. Their dress was in part mats; in cold weather they wore deerskins, and mantles woven of feathers. Their villages were generally small, but close together. The natives were treated with the utmost cruelty by the Spaniards, who held their lives as of no account. They would cut off their hands on the slightest suspicion, and the guide who was unsuccessful, or who purposely misled them, was thrown to the hounds or condemned to the flames.
Disappointed and dispirited, De Soto's health rapidly declined, and he was finally carried off by a malignant fever. His body was buried at night in the great river he had discovered. "He had crossed a large part of the continent in search of gold," says the historian Bancroft, and found nothing so remarkable as his burial-place."
His followers wandered about for months afterwards, but at length abandoned their fruitless expedition and returned to the Mississippi. They then, with extraordinary patience and labor, ingeniously constructed some vessels out of their scanty materials, in which Sept. 1543, the survivors, three hundred and eleven in number, finally reached Mexico.
While De Soto was vainly seeking wealth and fame in the American wilderness, Mendoza, the Viceroy of Mexico, organized an expedition under Francis Vasquez Coronado, to search for the "Seven Cities of Cibola," the fame of whose riches was fully credited by the gullible Spaniards. Three hundred men were enlisted for the expedition, who were accompanied by eight hundred Indians.
The tale of the famous seven cities originated in the report of a Spanish missionary, who pretended that he had discovered, north of Sonora, a populous and rich kingdom called Quivera, or the Seven Cities, abounding in gold, the capital of which was called Cibola. Tezon, an Indian, also told the Spanish viceroy, Nuno de Guzman, that his father, who was now dead, had been a trader in ornamental feathers, such as are used in head-dresses, to a people in the interior lying north of the Gila River, and that he brought back in exchange large quantities of precious metals. He had accompanied his father, he said, on one of these journeys, and saw seven cities as large as Mexico, built on a regular plan, with high houses, and that there were entire streets of gold and silver smiths. No story seems to have been too absurd for these credulous Spaniards, and this one was still further corroborated by the return of Cabeca de Vaca with three companions from the ill-fated expedition of Narvaez, whose glowing accounts of the countries through which they had passed, inflamed still further the avarice of their countrymen.
Crossing the Gila, Coronado led his men over a desert and through the valley of a small stream, until they arrived before the lofty, natural walls of Cibola (old Zuni). On the top of these stood the town. The Indians cultivated corn in the valleys below, as they do at this day, wore coarse stuffs for clothing, and manufactured a species of pottery, but possessed neither gold nor mines.
Without waiting to make any inquiries, the Spaniards immediately assaulted the town. The natives rolled down stones from above, one of which struck Coronado and knocked him down. The place being taken after an hour's struggle, the troops found provisions, but no gold nor silver. Proceeding onward in his invasion of New Mexico, Coronado was everywhere resisted by the natives. The explorations were continued to the Colorado River on the west, and to the Rio Grande on the east. Realizing at last that the country was barren and destitute of resources, the Spaniards, after two years of fruitless exploration, returned to Mexico, wiser, but no richer than when they departed.
Nearly seventy years elapsed before France, desolated by civil strife and torn by religions dissensions, could renew her purpose of founding a French empire in America. In the mean time, however, voyages for traffic with the natives were regularly and successfully made, and there had been no less than one hundred and fifty French fishing vessels at Newfoundland in a single year.
The father of the French settlements in Canada was Samuel de Champlain, a skilful seaman, cool, courageous, and persevering, and a man of science. Selecting Quebec as the site for a fort, he returned to France just before the issue to the Sieur De Monts of the patent of Acadia, a region claimed by France to extend from the Delaware River to beyond Montreal. Port Royal, called Annapolis after the conquest of Acadia, in honor of Queen Anne, was settled in the spring of 1605 preceding by two years the first English settlement at Jamestown.
With a view to future settlements, De Monts explored and claimed for France the rivers, coasts, and bays of New England as far south as Cape Cod. Jesuit missions were at once established among the natives. That at St. Mary's, the oldest European settlement in Michigan, was established in 1668. Though many of these heroic men suffered death by torture at the hands of the natives, others sprang forward to take their vacant places. Through their influence the Abenakis of Maine, already hostile to the English, became the allies of France, and made a firm barrier to English encroachments.
Within the present limits of the United States, a French colony was, in 1613, planted at Mount Desert. Quebec was founded by Champlain in 1608. Having formed an alliance with the Algonkin tribes around him, Champlain twice invaded the territory of the Iroquois, their hereditary enemies. Having to take sides, unfortunately for France he took that of the weaker. The story of these Iroquois conflicts will be found in a subsequent chapter.
While residing among the Hurons, Champlain's influence over them was put to a severe test. A quarrel, ending in bloodshed, had occurred between two friendly tribes; the principal Algonkin chief had been murdered, and his band forced to pay a heavy tribute of wampum.
Champlain was made umpire. The great council-house was filled with Huron and Algonkin chiefs, "smoking," says the historian Parkman, "with that immobility of feature beneath which their race often hides a more than tiger-like ferocity." Addressing the assembly, Champlain enlarged on the folly of fighting among themselves, while the common enemy stood ready to devour both; showed them the advantages of the French trade and alliance, and zealously urged them to shake hands and be friends. His good advice was taken, the peace-pipe was smoked, and a serious peril for New France averted.
In 1624 Champlain built the castle of St. Louis—so long the place of council against the Iroquois and the English—and was governor of Quebec at the time of his death in 1635.
The first attempt to found an English colony in New England was made by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, who crossed the ocean in a small bark called the Concord. He first landed on Cape Cod. Some of the natives came along-side in their birch canoes, others ran May along the beaches, gazing in wonder at the strangers. It was observed that the pipes of those who came on board were "steeled with copper," and that one of the Indians wore a copper breastplate.
Gosnold afterwards sailed into Buzzard's Bay, and began a settlement on Elizabeth Island, now known as Cuttyhunk. This, however, was soon abandoned, for want of provision for its support, when his vessel had completed her lading. Here he traded with the Indians, who were frequent visitors, and who are described as "exceeding courteous, gentle of disposition, and well conditioned, exceeding all others that we have seen in shape and looks. They are of stature much higher than we, of complexion much like a dark olive; their eyebrows and hair black, which they wear long, tied up behind in knots, whereon they prick feathers of fowls in fashion of a coronet. They make beards of the hair of beasts, and one of them offered a beard of their making to one of the sailors for his that grew on his face, which, because it was of a red color, they judged to be none of his own.
"They have great store of copper . . . none of them but what have chains, ear-rings, or collars of this metal. They head some of their arrows with it. Their chains, worn about their necks, contain four hundred hollow pieces, very fine and nicely set together. So little did they esteem these that they offered the finest of them for a knife or some similar trifle."
The settlement of Maine was largely owing to the vast fisheries on her coast. For more than a century before, these had been known and drawn from by English and French mariners. The territory, as we have seen, was claimed by the French, but the Abenaki and Micmac tribes were its aboriginal inhabitants. These Indians had permanent villages, enclosed by palisades. They wore many ornaments in their dress, skilfully made from shells and stones. They were agriculturists, amiable and social, brave, faithful to engagements, and especially strong in their family attachments. They had been gained over by the French missionaries, captivated by the picturesque and striking ceremonies of the Catholic religion, which appealed so strongly to the eye and the imagination.
In May, 1605, Captain George Weymouth landed on their coast, and seized some of the natives, whom he carried to England. There was great difficulty in getting the Indians into their boat. The narrator of the voyage tells us that it was as much as five of them could do, for they were strong and naked, so that "their best hold was by their long hair." In England they were objects of great wonder, and crowds of people followed them in the streets, as they had done, a century before, when those brought over by Cabot were exhibited.
Landing with them at Plymouth, the commandant, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, became greatly interested in them, and ultimately became largely concerned in the settlement of New England through the information derived from them. He kept them with him three years, finding in them "great civility of manners, far from the rudeness of our common people." Two of these natives piloted Popham's colony to the Kennebeck River in 1607.
This was the first colony that spent a winter in New England; and a most severe winter it was. From the natives they found "civil entertainment and kind respect, far from brutish or savage nations," but from adverse circumstances gave up the settlement in the following year and returned to England. Gorges, who was far-sighted and energetic, continued to exert himself earnestly and unselfishly to promote a permanent settlement of his countrymen upon the continent.
An act of singular boldness was performed by an Indian named Pechmo. Captain Harlow, while at Monhegan Island, detained him and two others on board his ship, but the leaped overboard and escaped. Not long afterwards he with others cut Harlow's boat from his ship's stern, got her on shore, and filling her with sand, with their bows and arrows prevented the English from recovering her.
Another instance of successful daring and duplicity on the part of the Abenakis is seen in the escape of Epanow, an Indian who had promised Gorges, in a voyage undertaken in 1611, to point out a gold mine in his country. Of this Indian it was said that, "being a man of so great a stature, he was showed up and down London for money as a wonder. He was of no less courage and authority than of wit, strength, and proportion.
"Every precaution was taken to prevent Epanow's escape. He was even obliged to wear long garments, that might easily be laid hold of it occasion should require. Notwithstanding all this, his friends being all come at the time appointed with twenty canoes, the captain called to them to come aboard; but they did not stir. Then Epanow, who was standing between two gentlemen that had been on guard, started suddenly from them, called his friends in English to come aboard, and leaps overboard. And although he was laid hold of by one of the company, yet, being a strong and heavy man, he could not be stayed, and was no sooner in the water but the natives in the boats sent such a shower of arrows, and came withal desperately so near the ship, that they carried him away in despite of all the musketeers aboard. And thus," continues Gorges, "were my hopes of that particular voyage made void and frustrate."
In September, 1609, Henry Hudson, an English navigator of experience, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, sailed in the Half Moon up the noble river that now bears his name. "This day," says the narrator, "the people of the country came aboard of us in canoes made of single, hollowed trees, seeming very glad of our coming, and brought green tobacco, and gave us of it for knives and beads. They go in deerskins, loose, well dressed. They have yellow copper, desire clothes, and are very civil. . . . Next day many of the people came aboard in mantles of feathers. Some women also came to us with hemp; they had red copper tobacco-pipes, and other things of copper they did wear about their necks." One of Hudson's men, named Colman, was killed with an arrow on the following day in a conflict with some of the natives belonging to the fierce tribe of Manhattans.
Hudson then sailed up the river as far as Albany, the natives found above the Highlands being a "very loving people." They brought tobacco, grapes, oysters, beans, pumpkins, and furs to the vessel, for which he paid them in hatchets, beads, and knives. They invited him to visit them on shore, where they made him welcome, and a chief "made an oration and showed him all the country round about."
One thievish Indian climbed up by the rudder and stole some articles, but was shot and killed by the master's mate. The others fled, some taking to the water. A boat was sent out and the articles recovered. "Then," says the narrator, "one of them that swam got hold of our boat, thinking to overthrow it, but our cook took a sword and cut off his hands, and he was drowned."
It was a sad day for the natives when they were, for the first time, brought under the influence of strong drink. Some of the chiefs were invited into Hudson's cabin, and were plied with wine and brandy till they were intoxicated. "That was strange to them," says the old chronicler, "for they could not tell how to take it." One of them was so tipsy that his companions thought him bewitched, and brought charms (strips of beads) to save him from the strangers' arts. As Hudson and his men sailed down the river, the natives followed with friendly presents and hearty regrets at their departure. Hudson put to sea October 4th, and arrived at Dartmouth, England, on the 7th of November.
A few years later the Dutch laid the foundation of Manhattan, now the great city of New York. The first European settlements in America were nearly all trading posts, established at points where they could barter with the Indians for the skins and furs of the animals they had trapped or shot. These were fitted out by trading companies in England, France, and Holland. The traders were constantly defrauding the Indians, and at the same time rendering them formidable by selling them arms. The attempt of Kieft, the Dutch governor, to exact tribute from them, followed by an attack on the Raritans, for an alleged theft at Staten Island, brought on, finally, a desolating warfare, lasting for two years.
In the winter of 1642-43 the dreaded Mohawks came swooping down upon the Algonkin settlements, driving great numbers of them into Manhattan and other Dutch settlements near it. Though these Indians had committed hostile acts, policy and humanity alike suggested that they should be well treated. Instead of this their defenceless condition only suggested to Kieft the policy of exterminating them.
Across the river, at Pavonia, a large number of them had collected, and here, at midnight, the Dutch soldiers, joined by some privateersmen, fell upon them while asleep in their tents, and butchered nearly one hundred of them, including women and little children. This cruel and impolitic act was terribly avenged. The Indians everywhere rose upon the whites, killing the men, capturing the women and children, and destroying and laying waste the settlements. Trading boats on the Hudson were attacked and plundered and their crews murdered. The war extended into Connecticut, and at Pelham's Neck, near New Rochelle, Anne Hutchinson, a remarkable woman, exiled from Boston on account of her religious opinions, was murdered, together with her family, with the exception of a daughter, who was carried into captivity.
The terror-stricken people crowded into Fort Amsterdam, where, during the following winter, they suffered from hunger and cold. Meantime they organized a force, fifty of whom were English, under Captain John Underhill, who had won renown in the Pequot war. Early in 1644 they undertook an expedition against the principal village of the Connecticut Indians, situated near Stamford.
A night-march brought them to the Indian town. They had hoped to surprise the Indians, but it was a bright moonlight night and they found then prepared. The Dutch numbered one hundred and fifty; the Indians, protected by their rude fortifications, were seven hundred strong. Advancing steadily, the Dutch repelled the sorties of the Indians, nearly two hundred of whom fell in the attempt to drive them back. Underhill at last succeeded in setting fire to the village. There was an end of the fighting; it was only slaughter now. But eight of the Indians escaped. This victory put a period to the strife. In the following summer a treaty was concluded with all the hostile tribes on the beautiful spot in front of Fort Amsterdam, now known as the Battery, and the pipe of peace was duly smoked in presence of the entire Dutch population. One week later a day of thanksgiving was kept by the Dutch for the conclusion of this terrible war, in the course of which nearly every one of their settlements had been attacked and destroyed.
Early one morning in September, 1655, during the absence of Governor Stuyvesant, who was besieging the Swedes at Fort Christian, nearly two thousand Algonkin warriors swarmed through the streets of New Amsterdam, and after plundering the houses all day, were finally driven off in the evening after a desperate conflict. They then ravaged the adjacent country, killing the men and making prisoners of the women and children. Stuyvesant hastened back and took prompt measures to meet the emergency; but, instead of attacking the savages, by a prudent and conciliatory course he avoided further trouble, and procured a lasting peace and the return of all the captives.
On the Pacific coast, Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman who sailed round the world, discovered "a fair and good bay," which may have been that of San Francisco, and remained there long enough to refit his vessel and to build a fort upon the shore. He took possession of the country for Queen Elizabeth with the usual formalities, erecting a post upon which an engraved plate of brass was placed, bearing, besides the picture and arms of the Queen, and Drake's arms, the statement of the free resignation of the country by the king and people into her hands.
With the Indians Drake maintained the most friendly relations. Soon after he landed he received a visit from the king of the country, a man of comely presence and stature, who with his train appeared in great pomp. In front of him marched a tall man, with the sceptre or mace of black wood a yard and a half long. Upon it hung two crowns, with three long chains of bone; these had innumerable links and were marks of honor. The king was dressed in rabbit-skins. The common people were almost naked, but their hair was tied with many feathers. Their faces were painted, and they all brought with them some present. The sceptre bearer and another made long speeches, and then there was a dance and a song. They were then understood to ask Drake "to become their king and governor," the king singing with all the rest; and more fully to declare their meaning, set the crown upon Drake's head and encircled his neck with their chains. They then saluted him by the title of Hioh, or king, and sang and danced to show their joy not only at this visit of the gods, but that Drake, the great god, was become their king and patron.
In the interior the natives were found living in villages. Their houses were round holes in the ground, surmounted by poles which met in the centre, the whole being covered with earth to keep out water. The door, "made sloping like the scuttle of a ship," was also the chimney. The people slept in these homes on rushes, on the ground around a fire in the middle. The country was fruitful. Deer and wild horses were plenty. The natives were loving and tractable, and expressed great sorrow at Drake's departure. In his narrative of this voyage, Drake sets forth fully the abundance of gold in California.
The natives who met the founder of Pennsylvania were Lenni-Lenape, who formerly had their seat beyond the Alleghanies, whence they emigrated to the Hudson and the Delaware. The Raritan, Navesink, Mingo, and Assanpink creeks and rivers, preserve for us the names of the tribes commonly known as Delawares. They were of a warlike disposition, and frequently fought with their Indian neighbors. At the time of Penn's visit they had been conquered by and were subjects of the fierce Iroquois.
Penn had thus described them: "They are tall, straight, tread strong and clever, and walk with a lofty chin. Their custom of rubbing the body with bear's fat gives them a swarthy color. They have little black eyes. Their heads and countenances have nothing of the negro type, and I have seen as comely European-like faces among them as on the other side of the sea. Their language is lofty, yet narrow; like short-hand in writing, one word serveth in the place of three, and the rest are supplied by the understanding of the hearers. I have made it my business to learn it that I might not want an interpreter on any occasion.
"In liberality they excel; nothing is too good for their friend. Give them a fine gun, coat, or other thing, it may pass twenty hands before it sticks; light of heart, strong affections, but soon spent. The justice they have is pecuniary. In case they kill a woman, they pay double; and the reason they render is that she breedeth children, which the man cannot do. It is rare that they fall out, if sober, and if drunk they forgive it, saying it was the drink and not the man that abased them."
At Penn's first interview with the Delawares, Taminent, the chief sachem, sat in the middle of a semicircle composed of old men and councillors. At a little distance back sat the young people. One of the sachems addressed Penn, during whose "talk" no one whispered or smiled. Penn and his friends were without arms; he was easily distinguished by a blue silk network sash. The sachem wore a chaplet, with a small horn projecting from it, as a symbol of sovereignty.
The name of the famous Delaware sachem with whom Penn made his treaty has been handed down to posterity in a very singular manner. Notwithstanding the discredit into which it has latterly fallen, the name of Tammany (Taminent) was an honored one, not only during the lifetime of the warrior and sage who bore it, but long after his decease.
A century ago it was adopted by a society in Philadelphia, who, on the first day of May in each year, walked in procession through the streets of that city, their hats decorated with buck's tails, to a place of meeting which they called the wigwam, where the day was passed in mirth and festivity. Since that period the honored name has been associated with a political faction in New York City, at whose meetings a semblance of Indian customs is still preserved.
Penn told the Indians that he desired to live in perfect amity with them, and that he and his friends came unarmed because they never used weapons. In addition to the price of the land he bought of them, he presented them with various articles of merchandise.
He tried in every way to conciliate them and gain their confidence. He walked with them at one of their earliest meetings, sat with them on the ground, and ate with them of their roasted acorns and hominy. They expressed their delight at this by hopping and jumping, in which the staid Quaker himself joined them, and, as the story goes, "beat them all." His open, straightforward, simple manner and kind treatment of them was repaid by friendly offices both to himself and his followers.
His famous treaty with them took place at Shakamaxon, on the northern edge of Philadelphia. Every right of the Indians was to be respected, and every difference adjusted by a tribunal composed of an equal number of men from each race. Neither oaths, signatures, nor seals were made use of in this treaty, and no written record of it exists; but it was sacredly kept for sixty years. Harmony also subsisted with the neighboring Indians, among whom were bands of the war-like Shawnees.