« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Braver men never lived; truer men never drew the bow. They had courage, and fortitude, and sagacity, and perseverancé, beyond most of the human race. They shrank from no dangers, and they feared no hardships.
If they had the vices of savage life, they had the virtues also. They were true to their country, their friends, and their homes. If they forgave not injury, neither did they forget kindness. If their vengeance was terrible, their fidelity and generosity were unconquerable also. Their love, like their hate, stopped not on this side of the grave.
But where are they? Where are the villages, and warriors, and youth? The sachems and the tribes? The hunters and their families? They have perished. They are consumed. The wasting pestilence has not alone done the mighty work.
No nor famine, nor war. There has been a mightier power, a moral canker, which hath eaten into their heart-cores plague, which the touch of the white man communicated a poison, which betrayed them into a lingering ruin.
The winds of the Atlantic fan not a single region which they may now call their own. Already the last feeble remnants of the race are preparing for their journey beyond the Mississippi. I see them leave their miserable homes — the aged, the helpless, the women, and the warriors, “ few and faint, yet fearless still.” The ashes are cold on their native hearths. The smoke no longer curls round their lowly cabins. They move on with a slow, unsteady step. The white man is upon their heels, for terror or despatch; but they heed him not. They turn to take a last look of their deserted villages. They cast a last glance upon the graves of their fathers. They shed no tears; they utter no cries; they heave no groans.
There is something in their hearts which passes speech. There is something in their looks, not of vengeance or submission, but of hard necessity, which stifles both; which chokes all utterance; which has no aim or method. It is courage absorbed in despair. They linger but for a mo ment. Their look is onward. They have passed the fatal stream. It shall never be repassed by them, — no, never. Yet there lies not between us and them an impassable gulf. They know, and feel, that there is for them still one remove farther, not distant, nor unseen. It is to the general burialground of their race.
Reason as we may, it is impossible not to read, in such a fate, much that we know not how to interpret; much of provocation to cruel deeds and deep resentments; much of apology for wrong and perfidy; much of pity mingling with indignation; much of doubt and misgivings as to the past ; much of painful recollections; much of dark foreboding.
Philosophy may tell us, that conquest in other cases has adopted the conquered into its own bosom, and thus, at no distant period, given them the common privileges of subjects; but that the red men are incapable of such an assimilation. By their very nature and character they can neither unite themselves with civil institutions, nor with safety be allowed to remain as distinct communities. The question, therefore, is necessarily reduced to the consideration, whether the country itself shall be abandoned by civilized man, or maintained by his sword as the right of the strongest.
It may be so; perhaps, in the wisdom of Providence, it must be so. I pretend not to comprehend, or solve, such weighty difficulties. But neither philosophy nor policy can shut out the feelings of nature. Humanity must continue to sigh at the constant sacrifices of this bold, but wasting race. And Religion, if she may not blush at the deed, must, as she sees the successive victims depart, cling to the altar with a drooping heart, and mourn over a destiny without hope and without example.
0:- command, commit, compress, compare, compel, con
cern, contend, content; - combustion, completion, conjecture.
It is difficult to speak of the character of Pocahontas without falling into extravagance. Though our whole knowledge of her is confined to a few brilliant and striking, incidents, yet there is in them so complete a consistency, that reason, as well as imagination, permits us to construct the whole character from these occasional manifestations. She seems to have possessed every quality essential to the perfection of the female character ; the most graceful modesty, the most winning sensibility, strong affections, tenderness and delicacy of feeling, dovelike gentleness, and most entire disinterestedness. These beautiful qualities were not in her nurtured and trained by the influences of refined life, but were the native and spontaneous growth of her heart and soul.
Her mind had not been formed and fed by books, or the conversation of the gifted and cultivated; the nameless graces of polished life had not surrounded her from her birth, and created that tact in manner and deportment, and becoming propriety in carriage and conversation, which all wellbred people, however differing originally in refinement and delicacy of perception, seem to possess in about the same degree; nor had the coarse forms of actual life been, to her eyes, concealed by the elegant drapery which civilization throws over them. From her earliest years she had been familiar with rude ways of living, uncouth habits, and lawless passions. Yet she seems to have been, from the first, a
being distinct from and unlike her people, though in the midst of them. She reminds us of a delicate wild-flower, growing up in the cleft of a rock, where the eye can discern no soil for its roots to grasp, and sustain its slender stalk. We behold her as she came from the hands of her Maker, who seems to have created her in a spirit of rebuke to the pride of civilization, giving to an Indian girl, reared in the depths of a Virginian forest, that symmetry of feminine loveliness which we but seldom see, with all our helps and appliances, and all that moral machinery with which we work upon the raw material of character.
But in our admiration of what is lovely and attractive in the character of Pocahontas, we must not overlook the higher moral qualities, which command respect almost to reverence. Moral courage, dignity, and independence, are among her most conspicuous traits. Before we can do justice to them, we must take into consideration the circumstances under which they were displayed. At the time when the English first appeared in Virginia, she was a child but twelve or thirteen
These formidable strangers immediately awakened in the breasts of her people the strongest passions of hatred and fear; and Captain Smith, in particular, was looked upon as a being whose powers of injuring them were irresistible and superhuman. What could have been more natural than that this young girl should have had all these feelings exaggerated by the creative imagination of childhood; that Captain Smith should have haunted her dreams; and that she should not have had the courage to look upon man to whom her excited fancy had given an outward appearance corresponding to his frightful attributes ?
But the very first act of her life, as known to us, puts her far above the notions and prejudices of her people, and stamps at once a seal of marked superiority upon her character. And from this elevation she never descends. Her motives are peculiar to herself, and take no tinge from the passions and opinions around her. She thinks and acts for
herself, and does not hesitate, when thereto constrained, to leave her father, and trust for protection to that respect which was awakened alike by her high birth and high character among the whole Indian race. It is certainly a remarkable combination which we see in her, of gentleness and sweetness with strength of mind, decision, and firm consistency of purpose, and would be so in any female, reared under the most favorable influences.
The lot of Pocahontas may be considered a happy one, notwithstanding the pang which her affectionate nature must have felt, in being called so early to part from her husband and child. It was her good fortune to be the instrument, in the hand of Providence, for bringing about a league of peace and amity between her own nation and the English — a consummation most agreeable to her taste and feelings. The many favors, which she bestowed upon the colonists, were by them gratefully acknowledged, and obtained for her a rich harvest of attentions in England. Her name and deeds have not been suffered to pass out of the minds of men, nor are they discerned only by the glimmering light of tradition. Captain Smith has repaid the vast debt of gratitude which he owed her, by the immortality which his eloquent and feeling pen has given her. Who has not heard the beautiful story of her heroism ? and who, that has heard it, has not felt his heart throb quick with generous admiration ? She has become one of the darlings of history, and her name is as familiar as a household word to the numerous and powerful descendants of the “ feeble folk” whom she protected and befriended.
Her own blood flows in the veins of many honorable families, who trace back with pride their descent from this daughter of a despised people. She has been a powerful, though silent, advocate in behalf of the race to which she belonged. Her deeds have covered a multitude of their sins. When disgusted with numerous recitals of their cruelty and treachery, and about to pass an unfavorable judgment in