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William Robertson
History of America

Philadelphia: Johnson & Warner, 1812

  • Title Page (Vol. I)
  • Preface

  • Book 1   Book 2   Book 3
  • Book 4   Book 5   Appendix

  • Vol. II   Vol. III   1807 ed.

  • Transcriber's Comments

  • Acosta's Natural & Moral History (1604)  |  Southey's Madoc (1805)  |  Clavigero (1806 ed)
    Von Humboldt's Researches (1814)  |  Del Rio's Ruins (1822)  |  View of the Hebrews (1823)

    (this web-page is under construction)















    VOL. I.





    [ iii ]


    In fulfilling the engagement which I have come under to the public with respect to tlie History of America, it was my intention not to have published any part of the work until the whole was completed. The present state of the British Colonies has induced me to alter that resolution. While they are engaged in civil war with Great Britain, inquiries and speculations concerning their ancient forms of policy and laws, which exist no longer, cannot he interesting. The attention and expectation of mankind are now turned towards their future condition. In whatever manner this unhappy contest may terminate, a new order of things must arise in North America, and its affairs will assume another aspect. I wait, with the solicitude of a good citizen, until the ferment subsides, and regular government be reestablished, and then I shall return to this part of my work, in which I had made some progress. That together with the history of Portuguese America, and of the settlements made by the several nations of Europe in the West India islands, will complete my plan.

    The three volumes which I now publish, contain an account of the discovery of the New World, and of the progress of the Spanish arms and colonies there. This is not only the most splendid portion of the American story but so much detached, as, by itself, to form a

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    perfect whole, remarkable for the unity of the subject. As the principles and maxims of the Spaniards in planting colonies, which have been adopted in some measure by every nation, are unfolded in this part of my work, it will serve as a proper introduction to the history of all the European establishments in America, and convey such information concerning this important article of policy, as may be deemed no less interesting than curious.

    In describing the achievements and institutions of the Spaniards in the New World, I have departed, in many instances, from the accounts of preceding historians, and have often related facts which seem to have been unknown to them. It is a duty I owe the public to mention the sources from which I have derived such intelligence as justifies me either in placing transactions in a new light, or in forming any new opinion with respect to their causes and effects. This duty I perform with greater satisfaction, as it will afford an opportunity of expressing my gratitude to those benefactors who have honoured me with their countenance and aid in my researches. As it was from Spain that I had to expect the most important information, witli regard to this part of my work, I considered it as a very fortunate circumstance for me, when lord Grantham, to whom I had the honour of being personally known, and with whose liberality of sentiment, and disposition to oblige, I was well acquainted, was appointed ambassador to the court of Madrid. Upon applying to him, I met with such a reception as satisfied me that his endeavours would be employed in the most proper manner, in order to obtain the gratification of my wishes; and I am perfectly sensible, that

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    What progress I have made in my inquiries among the Spaniards, ought to be ascribed chiefly to their knowing how much his Lordship interested himself in my success.

    But did I owe nothing more to Lord Grantham, than the advantages which I have derived from his attention in engaging Mr. Waddilove, the chaplain of his embassy, to take the conduct of my literary inquiries in Spain, the obligations I lie under to him would be very great. During five years, that gentleman has carried on researches for my behoof, with such activity, perseverance and knowledge of the subject, to which his attention was turned, as have filled me with no less astonishment than satisfaction. He procured for me the greater part of the Spanish books, which I have consulted; and as many of them were printed early in the sixteenth century, and are become extremely rare, the collecting of these was such an occupation as alone required much time and assiduity. To his friendly attention I am indebted for copies of several valuable manuscripts, containing facts and details which I might have searched for in vain, in works that have been made public. Encouraged by the inviting good will with which Mr. Waddilove conferred his favours, I transmitted to him a set of queries with respect both to the customs and policy of the native Americans and the nature of several institutions in the Spanish settlements, framed in such a manner, that a Spaniard might answer them, without disclosing any thing that was improper to be communicated to a foreigner. He translated these into Spanish, and obtained from various persons who had resided in

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    most of the Spanish colonies, such replies as have afforded me much instruction.

    Notwithstanding those peculiar advantages with which my inquiries were carried on in Spain, it is with regret I am obliged to add, that their success must be ascribed to the beneficence of individuals, not to any communication by public authority. By a single arrangement of Philip II. the records of the Spanish monarchy are deposited in the Archivo of Simancas, near Valladolid, at the distance of a hundred and twenty miles from the seat of government, and the supreme courts of justice. The papers relative to America, and chiefly to that early period of its history, towards which my attention was directed, are so numerous, that they alone according to one account, fill the largest apartment in the Archive; and, according to another they compose eight hundred and seventy-three large bundles. Conscious of possessing, in some degree, the industry which belongs to a historian, the prospect of such a treasure excited my most ardent curiosity. But the prospect of it is all that I have enjoyed. Spain with an excess of caution, has uniformly thrown a veil over her transactions in America. From strangers they are concealed with peculiar solicitude. Even to her own subjects the Archivo of Simancas is not opened without a particular order from the crown; and after obtaining that, papers cannot be copied with out paying fees of office so exorbitant, that the expense exceeds what it would be proper to bestow, when the gratification of literary curiosity is the only object. It is to be hoped, that the Spaniards will at last discover this system of concealment to be no less impolitic than illiberal. From what I have experienced in the course

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    of my inquiries, I am satisfied, that upon a more minute scrutiny into their early operations in the New World, however reprehensible the actions of individuals may appear, the conduct of the nation will he placed in a more favourable light.

    In other parts of Europe very different sentiments prevail. Having searched, without success, in Spain, for a letter of Cortes to Charles V, written soon after he landed in the Mexican empire, which has not hither to been published; it occurred to me, that as the emperor was setting out for Germany at the time when the messengers from Cortes arrived in Europe, the letter with which they were entrusted might possibly be preserved in the Imperial library of Vienna. I communicated this idea to Sir Robert Murray Keith, with whom I have long had the honour to live in friendship, and I had soon the pleasure to learn, that upon his application, her Imperial Majesty had been graciously pleased to issue an order, that not only a copy of that letter (if it were found,) but of any other papers in the library, which could throw light upon the History of America, should be transmitted to me. The letter from Cortes is not in the Imperial library, but an authentic copy attested by a notary, of the letter written by the magistrates of the colony planted by him at Vera Cruz, which I have mentioned, Vol. i. p. 411, having been found, it was transcribed and sent to me. As this letter is no less curious, and as little known as that which was the object of my inquiries, I have given some account in its proper place, of what is most worthy of notice in it. Together with it, I received a copy of a letter from Cortes, containing a long account of his expedition to Honduras, with respect to which I did not

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    think it necessary to enter into any particular detail; and likewise those curious Mexican paintings, which I have described, Vol ii. p. 190.

    My inquiries at St. Petersburgh were carried on with equal facility and success. In examining into the nearest communication between our continent and that of America, it became of consequence to obtain authentic information concerning the discoveries of the Russians in their navigation from Kamchatka towards the coast of America. Accurate relations of their first voyage, in 1741, have been published by Muller and Gmellin. Several foreign authors have entertained an opinion, that the court of Russia studiously conceals the progress which has been made by more recent navigators, and suffers the public to be amused with false accounts of their route. Such conduct appeared to me unsuitable to those liberal sentiments, and that patronage of science, for Which the present sovereign of Russia is eminent; nor could I discern any political reason, that might render it improper to apply for information concerning the late attempts of the Russians to open a communication between Asia and America. My ingenious countryman, Dr. Rogerson, first physician to the empress, presented my request to her Imperial Majesty, who not only disclaimed any idea of concealment, but instantly ordered the journal of Captain Krenitzin, who conducted the only voyage of discovery made by public authority since the year 1741, to be translated, and his original chart to be copied for my use. By consulting them, I have been enabled to give a more accurate view of the progress and extent of the Russian discoveries, than has hitherto been communicated to the public.

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    From other quarters I have received information of great utility and importance. Mr. le Chevalier de Pinto, the minister from Portugal to the court of Great Britain, who commanded for several years at Matagrosso, a settlement of the Portuguese in the interior part of Brazil, where the Indians are numerous, and their original manners little altered by intercourse with Europeans, was pleased to send me very full answers to some queries concerning the character and institutions of the natives of America, which his polite reception of an application made to him in my name encouraged me to propose. These satisfied me, that he had contemplated, with a discerning attention, the curious objects which his situation presented to his view, and I have often followed him as one of my best instructed guides.

    M. Suard, to whose elegant translation of the History of the Reign of Charles V. I owe the favourable reception of that work on the continent, procured me answers to the same queries from M. de Bougainville, who had opportunities of observing the Indians both of North and South America, and from M. Godin le jeune, who resided fifteen years among the Indians in Quito, and twenty years in Cayenne. The latter are more valuable from having been examined by M. de la Condamine, who, a few weeks before his death, made some short additions to them, which may be considered as the last effort of that attention to science which occupied a long life.

    My inquiries were not confined to one region in America. Governor Hutchinson took the trouble of recommending the consideration of my queries to Mr. Hawley and Mr. Brainerd, two protestant missionaries, employed

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    among the Indians of the Five Nations, who favoured me with answers, which discover a considerable knowledge of the people whose customs they describe. From William Smith, Esq. the ingenious historian of New York, I received some useful information. When I enter upon the History of our colonies in North America, I shall have occasion to acknowledge how much I have been indebted to many other gentlemen of that country.

    From the Valuable Collection of Voyages made by Alexander Dairymple, Esq. with whose attention to the History of navigation and discovery the public is well acquainted, I have received some very rare books, particularly two very large volumes of Memorials, partly Manuscript and partly in print, which were presented to the court of Spain during the reigns of Philip III. and Philip IV. From these I have learned many curious particulars with respect to the interior state of the Spanish colonies, and the various schemes formed for their improvement. As this collection of Memorials formerly belonged to the Colbert Library, I have quoted them by that title.

    All those books and manuscripts I have consulted with that attention which the respect due from an author to the public required; and by minute references to them, I have endeavoured to authenticate whatever I relate. The longer I reflect on the nature of historical composition, the more I am convinced that this scrupulous accuracy is necessary. The historian who records the events of his own time, is credited in proportion to the opinion which the public entertains with respect to his means of information and his veracity. He who delineates

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    the transactions of a remote period, has no title to claim assent, unless he produces evidence in proof of his assertions. Without this, he may write an amusing tale, but cannot he said to have composed an authentic history. In those sentiments I have been confirmed by the opinion of an author, * whom his industry, erudition, and discernment, have deservedly placed in a high rank among the most eminent historians of the age.

    My readers will observe, that in mentioning sums of money, I have uniformly followed the Spanish method of computing by pesos. In America, the peso fuerte, or duro, is the only one known, and that is always meant when any sum imported from America is mentioned. The peso fuerte, as well as other coins, has varied in its numerary value; but I have been advised, without attending to such minute variations, to consider it as equal to four shillings and sixpense of our money. It is to be remembered, however, that in the sixteenth century, the effective value of a peso, i. e. the quantity of labour which it represented, or of goods which it would purchase, was five or six times as much as at present.

    N. B. Since this edition was put into the press, a History of Mexico, in two volumes in quarto, translated from the Italian of the Abbe D. Francesco Savario Clavigero, has been published. From a person, who is a native of New Spain, who has resided forty years in that country and who is acquainted with the Mexican language, it was natural to expect much new information,

    * Mr. Gibbon.

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    Upon perusing his work, however, I find that it contains hardly any addition to the ancient History of the Mexican empire, as related by Accosta and Herrera, but what is derived from the improbable narratives and fanciful conjectures of Torquemada and Boturini. Having copied their splendid descriptions of the high state of civilization in the Mexican empire, M. Clavigero, in the abundance of his zeal for the honour of his native country, charges me with having mistaken some points, and with having misrepresented others, in the history of it. When an author is conscious of having exerted industry in research, and impartiality in decision, he may, without presumption, claim what praise is due to these qualities, and he cannot be insensible to any accusation that tends to weaken the force of his claim. A feeling of this kind has induced me to examine such strictures of M. Clavigero on my History of America as merited any attention, especially as these are made by one, who seemed to possess the means of obtaining accurate information; and to show that the greater part of them is destitute of any just foundation. This I have done in notes upon the passages in my History, which gave rise to his criticisms.

    March 1st 1788.


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    of heat to counterbalance the natural frigidity of the soil and climate. * At the Cape of Good Hope, several of the plants and fruits peculiar to the countries within the tropics, are cultivated with success; whereas, at St. Augustine, in Florida, and Charleston, in South-Carolina, though considerably nearer the line, they cannot be brought to thrive with equal certainty. † But, if allowance be made for this diversity in the degree of heat, the soil of America is naturally as rich and fertile as in any part of the earth. As the country was thinly inhabited, and by a people of little industry, who had none of the domestic animals, which civilized nations rear in such vast numbers, the earth was not exhausted by their consumption. The vegetable productions, to which the fertility of the soil gave birth, often remained untouched, and being suffered to corrupt on its surface, returned with increase into its bosom. ‡ As trees and plants derive a great part of their nourishment from air and water, if they were not destroyed by man and other animals, they would render to the earth more, perhaps, than they take from it, and feed rather than impoverish it. Thus the unoccupied soil of America may have gone on enriching for many ages. The vast number as well as enormous size of the trees in America, indicate the extraordinary vigour of the soil in its native state. When the Europeans first began to cultivate the New World, they were astonished at the luxuriant power of vegetation in its virgin mould; and in several places the ingenuity of the planter is still employed in diminishing and wasting its superfluous fertility, in order to bring it down to a state fit for profitable culture. §
    § XV. Having thus surveyed the state of the New World at the time of its discovery, and considered the peculiar features and qualities which distinguish and

    * See Note XXXVIII.

    † See Note XXXIX.

    ‡ Buffon Hist. Nat. i. 242. Kalm, i. 151.

    § Charlevoix, Hist de Nouv. Fran. iii. 405. Voyage du Des Marchais, iii. 229. Lery ap de Bry, part iii. p. 174. See Note XL.

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    characterise it, the next inquiry that merits attention is, How was America peopled ? By what course did mankind migrate from the one continent to the other? And in what quarter is it most probable that a communication was opened between them?

    § XVI. We know, with infallible certainty, that ali the human race spring from the same source, and that the descendants of one man, under the protection as well as in obedience to the command of Heaven, multi plied and replenished the earth. But neither the an nals nor the traditions of nations reach back to those re mote ages, in which they took possession of the differ ent countries, where they are now settled. We cannot trace the branches of his first family, or point out with certainty the time and manner in which they divided and spread over the face of the globe. JEven among the most enlightened people, the period of authentic histo ry is extremely short, and every thing prior to that Is fabulous or obscure. It is not surprising, then, that the unlettered inhabitants of America, who have no soli citude about futurity, and little curiosity concerning what is past, should be altogether unacquainted with their own original. The people on the two opposite coasts of America, who occupy those countries in Amer ica which approach nearest to the ancient continent, are so remarkably rude, that it is altogether vain to search among them for such information as might discover the place from whence they came, or the ancestors of whom they are descended.* Whatever light has been thrown on this subject, is derived, not from the natives of Amer ica, but from the inquisitive genius of their conquerors. XVII. When the people of Europe unexpectedly dis covered a New World, removed at a vast distance from every part of the ancient continent which was then known, and filled with inhabitants whose appearance and Manners differed remarkably from the rest of the hu- * Vanega's Hist, of California, i, 60, 24S HISTORY 01? AMERICA* man species, the question concerning their original be* came naturally an object of curiosity and attention. The theories and speculations of ingenious men with respect to this subject, would fill many volumes $ but are often so wild and chimerical, that I should offer an insult to the understanding of my readers, if I attempted either minutely to enumerate or to refute them. Some have presumptuously imagined, that the people of America were not the offspring of the same common parent with the rest of mankind, but that they formed a separate race of Hien, distinguishable by peculiar features in the constitu tion of their bodie% as well as in the characteristic qual ities of tkeir minds. Others contend, that they are de scended from some remnant of the antediluvian inhab^ itants of the earth, who survived the deluge, which swept away the greatest part of the human species in the days of Noah ; and preposterously suppose rude un civilized tribes, scattered over an uncultivated continent^ to be the most ancient race of ^people on the earth. There is hardly any nation from the north to the south pole, to which some antiquary, in the extravagance of conjecture, has not ascribed the honour of peopling America. The Jews, the Canaanites, the Phosnicians, the Carthagenians, the Greeks, the Scythians in ancient times, are supposed to have settled in this western world. The Chinese, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the "Welsh, the Spaniards, are said to have 'sent colonies thither in later ages, at different periods, and on va rious occasions. Zealous advocates stand forth to sup* port the respective claims of those people; and though they rest upon no better foundation than the casual re- semblance of some customs, or the supposed affinity be tween a few words in their different languages, much erudition and more zeal have been employed, to little purpose, in defence of the opposite systems. Those re* gions of conjecture and controversy belong not to the Historian. His is a more limited province, confined to what is established by certain, or highly probable evi- HISTORY OF AMERICA* 249 rfence. Beyond this I shall not venture, in offering a few observations, which may contribute to throw some light upon this curious and much agitated question. XVIII. 1. There are authors Avho have endeavour ed, by mere eo-p'^iires to account for the peopling of America. Some have supposed that it was originally united to the ancient continent, and disjointed from it by the shock of an earthquake, or the irruption of a deluge. Others have imagined, that some vessel being forced from its course by the violence of a westerly wind, might be driven by accident towards the Amer ican coast, and have given a beginning to population in that desolate continent.* But with respect to all those systems, it is vain either to reason or inquire, be cause it is impossible to come to any decision. Such events as they suppose are barely possible, and may have happened. That they ever did happen, we have no evi dence, either from the clear testimony of history, or from the obscure intimations of tradition. XIX. 2. Nothing can be more frivolous or uncer tain than the attempts to discover the original of the Americans, merely by tracing the resemblance between their manners and those of any particular people in the ancient continent. If we suppose two tribes, though placed in the most remote regions of the globe, to live in a climate nearly of the same temperature, to be in the same state of society, and to resemble each other in the degree of their improvement, they must feel the same wants, and exert the same endeavours to supply them. The same objects will allure, the same passions will annimate them, and the same ideas and sentiments will arise in their minds. The character and occupations of the hunter in America must be little different from those of an Asiatic, who depends for subsistence on the chase. A tribe of savages on the banks of the Danube must * Parson's Remains of Japhet, p. 240. Ancient Univers. Hist, vol. xx. p. 164. P, Feyjoo Teatro Critico, torn, v. p. 304, etc. Acosta Hist. Moral. Novi Orbis, lib. i. c. 16, L9. VOL, T. 32 250 HISTORY OP AMERICA. nearly resemble one upon the plain washed by the Mis sissippi. Instead then of presuming from this similari ty, that there is any affinity between them, we should only conclude, that the disposition and manners of men are formed by their situation, and arise from the state of society in which they live. The moment that begins to vary, the character of a people must change. In pro portion as it advances in improvement, their manners refine, their powers and talents are called forth. In every part of the earth the progress of man hath been nearly the same, and we can trace him in his career from the rude simplicity of savage life, until he attains the industry, the arts, and the elegance of polished so ciety. There is nothing wonderful then in the simili tude between the Americans and the barbarous nations of our continent. Had Lafitau, Garcia, and many other authors, attended to this, they would not have perplex ed a subject which they pretend to illustrate, by their fruitless endeavours to establish an affinity between va> rious races of people in the old and new continents, up on no other evidence than such a resemblance in their manners as necessarily arises from the similarity of their condition. There are, it is true, among every people, some customs which, as they do not flow from any natural want or desire peculiar to their situation, may be denominated usages of arbitrary institution. If between two nations settled in remote parts of the earth, a perfect agreement with respect to any of these should be discovered, one might be led to suspect that they were connected by some affinity. If, for example, a na tion were found in America that consecrated the seventh day to religious worship and rest, we might justly sup pose that it had derived its knowledge of this usage, which is of arbitrary institution, from the Jews. But, if it were discovered that another nation celebrated the first appearance of every new moon with extraordinary demonstrations of joy, we should not be entitled to con clude that the observation, of this monthly festival was HISTORY OF AMERICA. 251 borrowed from the Jews, but ought to consider it mere ly as the expression of that joy which is natural to man on the return of the planet which guides and cheers him in the night. The instances of customs, merely arbi trary, common to the inhabitants of both hemispheres, are, indeed, so few and so equivocal, that no theory concerning the population of the New World ought to be founded upon them. XX. 3. The theories which have been formed with re spect to the orignal of the Americans, from observation of their religious rites and practices, are no less fanci ful, and destitute of solid foundation. When the reli gious opinions of any people are neither the result of rational inquiry, ner derived from the instructions of revelation, they must needs be wild and extravagant. Barbarous nations are incapable of the former, and have not been blessed with the advantages arising from the latter. Still, however, the human mind, even where its operations appear most wild and capricious, holds a course so regular, that in every age and country the do minion of particular passions will be attended with sim ilar effects. The savage of Europe or America, when filled with superstitious dread of invisible beings, or with inquisitive solicitude to penetrate into the events of futurity, trembles alike with fear, or glows with impa tience. He has recourse to rites and practices of the same kind, in order to avert the vengeance which he supposes to be impending over him, or to divine the se cret which is the object of his curiosity. Accordingly, the ritual of superstition, in one continent, seems, in many particulars, to be a transcript of that established in the other, and both authorize similar institutions, sometimes so frivolous as to excite pity* sometimes so bloody and barbarous as to create horrour. But with out supposing any consanguinity between such distant nations, or imagining that their religious ceremonies were conveyed by tradition from the one to the other, we may ascribe this uniformity, which in many instances 252 HISTORY OF AMERICA* seems very amazing, to the natural operation of super stition and enthusiasm upon the weakness of the human mind. XXI. 4. We may lay it down as a certain principle in this inquiry, that America was not peopled by any nation of the ancient continent, which had made con siderable progress in civilization. The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude, as to be unacquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity in its advance to wards improvement. Even the most cultivated nations of America were strangers to many of those simple in ventions, which were almost coeval with society in other parts of the world, and were known in the earliest pe riod of civil life, with which we have any acquaintance. From this it is manifest, that the tribes which original ly migrated to America, came off from nations which must have been no less barbarous than their posterity, at the time when they were first discovered by the Eu ropeans. For, although the elegant and refined arts may decline or perish, amidst the violent shocks of those revolutions and disasters to which nations are exposed, the necessary arts of life, when once they have been in troduced among any people, are never lost. None of the vicissitudes in human affairs affect these, and they continue to be practised as long as the race of men ex ists. If ever the use of iron had been known to the sa vages of America, or to their progenitors, if ever they had employed a plough, a loom, or a forge, the utility of those inventions would have preserved them* and it is impossible that they should have been abandoned or for gotten. We may conclude then, that the Americans sprung from some people, who were themselves in such an early and unimproved stage of society, as to be un acquainted with all those necessary arts, which continu ed to be unknown among their posterity, when first vis ited by the Spaniards*, HISTORY OP AMERICA. XXII. 5. It appears no less evident that America was not peopled by any colony from the more southern na tions of the ancient continent. None of the rude tribes settled in that part of our hemisphere can be supposed to have visited a country so remote. They possessed neither enterprise, ingenuity, nor power, that could prompt them to undertake, or enable them to perform, such a distant voyage. That the more civilized nations in Asia or Africa are not the progenitors of the Ameri cans is manifest, not only from the observations which I have already made concerning their ignorance of the most simple and necessary arts, but from an additional circumstance. Whenever any people have experienced the advantages which men enjoy, by their dominion over the inferiour animals, they can neither subsist without the nourishment which these aftbrd, nor carry on any considerable operation independent of their ministry and labour. Accordingly, the first care of the Spaniards* when they settled in America? was to stock it with all the domestic animals of Europe $ and if, prior to them? the Tyrians, the Carthaginians, the Chinese, or any other polished people, had taken possession of that con tinent, we should have found there the animals peculiar to those regions of the globe where they were originally seated. In all America, however, there is not one ani* mal, tame or wild, which properly belongs to the warm, r even to the more temperate, countries of the ancient continent. The camel, the dromedary, the horse, the cow, were as much unknown in America as the elephant or the lion. From which it is obvious, that the people who first settled in the western world did not issue from the countries where those animals abound, and where men, from having long been accustomed to their aid, would naturally consider it, not only as beneficial, but, as indispensably necessary to the improvement, and even the preservation, of civil society. $ XXIII. 6. From considering the animals with which America is stored, we may conclude that the nearest 254 HISTORY or AMERICA; point of contact, between the old and new continents, is towards the northern extremity of both, and that there the communication was opened, and the intercourse car ried on, between them. All the extensive countries in America, which lie within the tropics, or approach near to them, are filled with indigenous animals of various kinds, entirely different from those in the corresponding regions of the ancient continent. But the northern pro- vinces of the New Wrld abound with many of the wild animals which are common in such parts of our hemis phere as lie in a similar sHuation. The bear, the wolf, the fox, the hare, the deer, the roebuck, the elk, and several x>ther species frequent the forests of North America, no less than those in the north of Europe and Asia.* It seems to be evident, then, that the two con tinents approach each other in this qnarter, and are either united, or so nearly adjacent, that these animals might pass fro^ t!te one to the other, XXIV. 7. The actual vicinity of the two continents is so clearly established by mordern discoveries, that the chief difficulty with respect to the peopling of Amer ica is removed. While those immense regions, which stretch eastward from the river Oby to the sea of Kam chatka were unknown, or imperfectly explored, the north-east extremities of our hemisphere were supposed to be so far distant from any part of the New World, that it was not easy to conceive how any communication should have been carried on between them. But, the Russians having subjected the western part of Siberia to their empire, gradually extended their knowledge of that vast country, by advancing towards the east into un known provinces. These were discovered by hunters in their excursions after game, or by soldiers employed in levying the taxes, and the court of Moscow estimated the importance of those countries only by the small ad dition which they made to its revenue. At length Peter * Buffon Hist. Nat- ix. p. 97, etc. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 255 Oie Great ascended the Russian throne. His enlightened, comprehensive mind, intent upon every circumstance that could aggrandize his empire, or render his reign il lustrious, discerned consequences of those discoveries, which had escaped the observation of his ignorant pre decessors. He perceived, that in proportion as the re gions of Asia extended towards the east, they must ap proach nearer to America ; that the communication be* tween the two continents, which had long been searched for in vain, would probably be found in this quarter, and that by opening it some part of the wealth and com merce of the western world might be made to flow into his dominions by a new channel. Such an object suited a genius that delighted in grand schemes. Peter drew up instructions with his own hand for prosecuting this design, and gave orders for carrying it into execution.* His successors adopted his ideas, and pursued his plan. The officers whom the Russian court employed in this service, had to struggle with so many difficulties, that their progress was extremely slow. Encouraged by sonis faint traditions among the people of Siberia, concerning a successful voyage in the year one thousand six hundred and forty-eight, round the north-east pro montory of Asia, they attempted to follow the same course. Vessels were fitted out, with this view at dif ferent times, from the rivers Leaa and Kolyma ; but in a frozen ocean, which nature seems not to have destin ed for navigation, they were exposed to many disasters, without being able to accomplish their purpose. No ves sel fitted out by the Russian court ever doubled this for midable Cape $| we are indebted for what is known of those extreme regions of Asia, to the discoveries made in excursions by land. In ail those provinces an opinion prevails, that there are countries of great extent and fertility, which lie at no considerable distance from * Muller Voyages et Decouvertes par les Russes, ton*, i. p. 4, 5, 141. t See Note XLI, 255 HISTORY OF AMERICA. their own coasts. These the Russians imagined to btf part of America ; and several circumstances concurred not only in confirming them in their belief* but in per suading them that some portion of that continent could not be very remote. Trees of various kinds, unknown in those naked regions of Asia, are driven upon the coast by an easterly wind. By the same wind, float ing ice is brought thither in a few days 5 flights of birds arrive annually from the same quarter ; and a tradition obtains among the inhabitants, of an intercourse for merly carried on with some countries situated to the east. After weighing all these particulars, and comparing tihe position of the countries in Asia which had been dis covered, with such parts in the north-west of America as were already known, the Russian court formed a plan* which would have hardly occurred to a nation less ae* eustomed to engage in arduous undertakings, and to con tend with great difficulties. Orders were issued to build two vessels at the small village of Ochotz, situated on the sea of Kamchatka, to sail on a voyage of discovery. Though that dreary uncultivated region furnished noth ing that could be of use in constructing them, but some larch trees $ though not only the iron, the cordage, the sails, and all the numerous articles requisite for their equipment, but the provisions for victualling them were to be carried through the immense deserts of Siberia, down rivers of difficult navigation, and along roads al most impassable, the mandate of the sovereign, and the perseverance of the people, at last surmounted every obstacle. Two vessels were finished, and, under the command of the captains Behring and Tschirikow, sail ed from Kamchatka, ;a quest of the New World, in a quarter where it had never been approached.-* They shaped their course towards the east ; and though a storm soon separated the vessels,, which never rejoined, and many disasters befel them, the expectations from * June 4, A. D. 1741. HISTORY OF AMERICA. tlie voyage were not altogether frustrated. Each of the commanders discovered land, which to them appeared to be part of the American continent 5 and according to their observations, it seems to he situated within a few degrees of the north-west coast of California. Each set some of his people ashore | but in one place the inhabit ants fled as the Russians approached | in another, they carried off those who landed, and destroyed their boats* The violence of the weather, and the distress of their crews, obliged both captains to quit this inhospitable coast. In their return they touched at several islands, which stretched in a chain from east to west between the country which they had discovered and the coast of Asia. They had sonic intercourse with the natives, who seemed to them to resemble the North Americans. They presented to the Russians the calumet, or pipe of peace* which is a symbol of friendship universal among the people of North America, and an usage of arbitrary in stitution, peculiar to them. Though the islands of this New Archipelago have been frequented since that time by the Russian hunters, the court of St. Petersburg!!, during a period of more than forty years, seems td have relinquished every thought of prosecuting discoveries in that quarter. But in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight, it was unexpectedly resumed. The Sovereign* who had been lately seated on the throne of Peter the Great* possessed the genius and talents of her illustrious pre decessor. During the operations of the most arduous and extensive Avar in which the Russian empire was ever engaged, she formed schemes and executed undertak ings, to which more limited abilities would have been incapable of attending but amidst the leisure of pacific times. A new Voyage of discovery from the eastern extremity of Asia was planned, and captain Krenitzin and lieutenant Levasheff were appointed to command the two vessels fitted out for that purpose. In their voyage outward they lield nearly the same course with the for- vox, i, 33 HISTORY OF AMERICA. mer navigators, they touched at the same islands, ob served their situation and productions more carefully, and discovered several new islands, with which Behring and Tschirikow had not fallen in. Though they did not proceed so far to the east as to revisit the country which Behring and Tschirikow supposed to he part of the American continent, yet, by returning in a course con siderably to the north of theirs, they corrected some capital mistakes into which their predecessors had fallen, and have contributed to facilitate the progress of future navigators in those seas.^ Thus the possibility of a communication between the continents in this quarter rests no longer upon mere con jecture, but is established by undoubted evidence.! Some tribe, or some families of wandering Tartars, from the restless spirit peculiar to their race, might migrate to the nearest islands, and, rude as their knowledge of na vigation was, might, by passing from one to the other, reach at length the coast of America, and give a begin ning to population in that continent. The distance be tween the Marian or Ladrone islands and the nearest land in Asia, is greater than that between the part of America which the Russians discovered and the coast of Kamchatka ; and yet the inhabitants of those islands are manifestly of Asiatic extract. If, notwithstanding their remote situation, we admit that the Marian islands were peopled from our continent, distance alone is no reason why we should hesitate about admitting that the Americans may derive their original from the same source. It is probable that future navigators in those seas, by steering farther to the north, may find that the continent of America approaches still nearer to Asia. According to the information of the barbarous people \vho inhabit the country about the north-east promonto ry of Asia, there lies, off the coast, a small island, to * See Note XLII. t Muller's Voyages, torn. i. 248, etc. 267, 276. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 259 which they sail in less than a day. From that, they can descry a large continent, which, according to their de scription, is covered with forests, and possessed hy peo ple whose language they do not understand.* By them they are supplied with the skins of martens, an animal unknown in the northern parts of Siberia, and which is never found but in countries abounding with trees. If we could rely on this account, we might conclude, that the American continent is separated from ours only by a narrow strait, and all the difficulties with respect to the communication between them would vanish. What could be offered only as a conjecture when this History was first published is now known to be certain. The near approach of the two continents to each other has been discovered and traced in a voyage, undertaken upon princi ples so pure and so liberal, and conducted with so much professional skill, as reflect lustre upon the reign of the Sovereign by whom it was planned, and do honour to the officers entrusted with the execution of it.f XXV. It is likewise evident from recent discoveries, that an intercourse between our continent and America might be carried on with no less facility from the north west extremities of Europe. As early as the ninth cen tury, the Norwegians discovered Greenland,^ and plant ed colonies there. The communication with that coun try, after a long interruption, was renewed in the last century. Some Lutheran and Moravian missionaries, prompted by zeal for propagating the Christian faith, have ventured to settle in this frozen and uncultivated region.^ To them we are indebted for much curious in formation with respect to its nature and inhabitants. We learn, that the north-west coast of Greenland is se parated from America by a very narrow strait ; that, at the bottom of the bay into which this strait conducts, it * Muller's voyages et Decouv. i. 166. f See Note XLIII. $ A. D. 830. Crantz' Hist, of Greenl. i. 242, 244, Prevot Hist. Gen. des Voyages, torn. xv. 152, not. (96.) HISTORY OF AMERICA. is highly probable that they are united 5* that the inha bitants of the two countries have some intercourse with one another ; that the Esquimaux of America perfectly resemble the Greenlanders in their aspect, dress, and mode of living; that some sailors, who had acquired the knowledge of a few words in the Greenland! sh lan guage, reported that these were understood by the Es quimaux ,f that, at length, a Moravian missionary, well acquainted with the language of Greenland, having vis ited the country of Esquimaux, found, to his aston ishment, that they spoke the same language with the Greenlanders, that they were in every respect the same people, and he was accordingly received and entertained by them as a friend and a brother.:): By these decisive facts, not on]y the consanguinity of the Esquimaux and Greenlanders is established, but the possibility of peopling America from the north of Eu rope is demonstrated, If the Norwegians, in a barbar ous age, when science had not begun to dawn in the nopth of Europe, possessed such naval skill as to open a communication with Greenland, their ancestors, as much addicted to roving by sea, as the Tartars are to wander ing by land, might at some Jijore remote period accom plish the same voyage, and settle a colony there, whose descendants might, in progress of time, migrate into America. But if, instead of venturing to sail directly from their own coast to Greenland, we suppose that the Norwegians held a more cautions course, and advanced from Shetland to the Feroe Islands, and from them to Iceland, in all which they had planted colonies, their progress may have been so gradual, that this navigation cannot be considered as either longer or more hazardous than those voyages which that hardy and enterprising race of men is known to have performed in every age. XXYI. 8. Though it be possible that America may have received its first inhabitants from our continent, * Eggede, p, 2. 3. f A. D. 1T64. \ Crantz' Hist of Greenl. p. 261, 262, HISTORY OF AMERICA. 261 either by the north-west of Europe or the north-east of Asia, there seems to he good reasons for supposing that the progenitors of all the American nations, from Cape Horn to the southern confines of Labrador, migrated from the latter rather than the former. The Esquimaux are the only people in America who, in their aspect or char acter, bear any resemblance to the northern Europeans. They are manifestly a race of men, distinct from all the nations of the American continent, in language, in disposition, and in habits of life. Their original, then* may warrantably be traced up to that source which I have pointed out. But, among all the other inhabitants of America, there is such a striking similitude in the form of their bodies, and the qualities of their minds, that, notwithstanding the diversities occasioned by the influence of climate, or unequal progress in improve- i ent, we must pronounce them to be descended from pne source. There may be a variety in the shades, but we can every where trace the same original colour. Each tribe has something peculiar which distinguishes it, but in all of them we discern certain features com mon to the whole race. It is remarkable, that in every peculiarity, whether in their persons or dispositions, which characterise the Americans, they have some re semblance to the rude tribes scattered over the north east of Asia, but almost none to the nations settled in the northern extremities of Europe. We may, there fore, refer them to the former origin, and conclude that their Asiatic progenitors, having settled in those parts of America, where the Russians have discovered the proximity of the two continents, spread gradully over its various regions. This account of the progress of population in America, coincides with the traditions of the Mexicans concerning their own origin, which, im perfect as they are, were preserved with more accuracy, and merit greater credit, than those of any people in the New World. According to them, their ancestors came from a remote country, situated to the north -west 262 HISTORY O* AMEUICl. of Mexico. The Mexicans point out their various stations as they advanced from this, into the interiour provinces, and it is precisely the same route which they must have held, if they had heen emigrants from Asia. The Mexi cans, in deseribisig the appearance of their progenitors,, their manners and habits of life, at that period, exactly delineate those of the rude Tartars, from v/hoin I sup pose them to have sprung.* Thus have I finished a disquisition which has been deemed of so much importance, that it would have been improper to omit it in writing the history of Amer ica. I have ventured to inquire, hut without presuming to decide. Satisfied with offering conjectures, I pretend not to establish any system. When an investigation is, from its nature, so intricate and obscure, that it is im possible to arrive at conclusions which are certain, there may be some merit in pointing out such as are probable. f XXVII. The condition and character of the Ameri can nations, at the time when they became known to the Europeans, deserve more attentive consideration than the inquiry concerning their original. The latter is merely an object of curiosity ; the former is one of the most important as well as instructive researches which can occupy the philosopher or historian. In order to complete the history of the human mind, and attain to a perfect knowledge of its nature and operations, we must contemplate man in all those various situations wherein he has been placed. We must follow him in his progress through the different stages of society, as he gradually advances from the infant state of civil life to wards its maturity and decline. We must observe, at each period, how the faculties of his understanding un fold, we must attend to the efforts of his active powers, * Acosta Hist. Nat. et. Mor. lib. vii. c. 2, etc. Garcia Origen de los Indies, lib. v. c. 3. Torquemada Monar. Ind. lib. i. c. 2, etc. Boturini Benaduci Idea de tma Hist, de la Amer. Septentr, xvii. p. 127. t Memoires sur la Louisiana, par Dumont, torn, i p. 1 19. HISTORY OF AMERICA, the various movements of desire and affection, as they rise in his breast, and mark whither they tend, anl \vith what ardour they are exerted. The philosophers and historians of ancient Greece and Rome, our guides in this as well as every other disquisition, had only a limited view of this subject, as they had hardly any op portunity of surveying man in his rudest and most early state. In all those regions of the earth with which they were well acquainted, civil society had made con siderable advances, and nations had finished a good part of their career before they began to observe them. The Scythians and Germans, the rudest people of whom any ancient author has transmitted to us an au thentic account, possessed flocks and herbs, had acquir ed property of various kinds, and, when compared with mankind in their primitive state, may be reckoned to have attained a great degree of civilization. XXVIII. But the discovery of the New World en larged the sphere of contemplation, and presented na tions to our view, in stages of their progress, much less advanced than those wherein they have been observed in our continent. In America, man appears under the rud est form in which we can conceive him to subsist. We behold communities just beginning to unite, and may ex amine the sentiments and actions of human beings in the infancy of social life, while they feel but imperfect ly the force of its ties, and have scarcely relinquished their native liberty. That state of primaeval simplicity, which was known in our continent only by the fanciful description of poets, really existed in the other. The greater part of its inhabitants were strangers to indus try and labour, ignorant of arts, imperfectly acquaint ed with the nature of property, and enjoying, almost without restriction or eoutroul, the blessings which flow ed spontaneously from the bounty of nature. There were only two nations in this vast continent which had emerged from this rude state, and had made any con siderable progress in acquiring the ideas, and adopting HISTORY 0* AMERICA, 7 the institutions, which belong to polished societies Their government and manners will fall naturally under our review in relating the discovery and conquest of the Mexican and Peruvian empires ; and we shall have there an opportunity of contemplating the Americans in the state of highest improvement to which they ever attain ed. XXIX. At present, our attention and researches shall be turned to the small independent tribes which occupied every other part of America. Among these, though with some diversity in their character, their manners, and institutions, the state of society was near ly similar, and so extremely rude, that the denomina tion of Savage may be applied to them all. In a gene ral history of America, it would be highly improper to describe the condition of each petty community, or to investigate every minute circumstance which contributes to form the character of its members. Such an inquiry would lead to details of immeasurable and tiresome ex tent. The qualities belonging to the people of all the different tribes have such a near resemblance, that they may be painted with the same features. Where any cir cumstances seem to constitute a diversity in their char* acter and manners worthy of attention, it will be suf ficient to point these out as they occur, and to inquire into the cause of such peculiarities. XXX. It is extremely difficult to procure satisfying and authentic information concerning nations while they remain uncivilized* To discover their true character under this rude form, and to select the features by which they are distiaguished, requires an observer possessed of no less impartiality than discernment. For, in every stage of society, the faculties, the sentiments and desires of men are so accommodated to their own state, that they become standards of excellence to themselves, they affix the idea of perfection and happiness to those at tainments which resemble their own, and wherever the objects and enjoyments to which they have been accus- HISTORY OF AMERICA), tomed are wanting, confidently pronounce a people to be barbarous and miserable. Hence the mutual contempt with which the members of communities, unequal in their degrees of improvement, regard each other. Pol ished nations, conscious of the advantages which they derive from their knowledge and arts, are apt to view rude nations with peculiar seorn ? and, in the pride of superiority, will hardly allow either their occupations^ their feelings, or tLeir pleasures? to be worthy of men. It has seldom been the lot of communities, in their ear ly and unpolished state, to fall under the observation of persons endowed with force of mind superiour to vulgar prejudices, and capable of contemplating man, under whatever aspect lie appears, with a candid and discern ing' eye. $XXXI The Spaniards* who first visited America* and who had opportunity of beholding its various tribes while entire and unsubdued, and before any change had been made in their ideas or manners by intercourse with a race of men much advanced beyond them in improve ment, were far from possessing the qualities requi site for observing the striking spectacle presented to their view. Neither the age in which they lived, nor the nation to which they belonged, had made such pro gress in true science, as inspires enlarged and liberal sentiments; The conquerors of the New World were mostly illiterate adventurers^ destitute of all the ideas which should have directed them in contemplating ob jects so extremely diflerent from those with which they were acquainted. Surrounded continually with danger, OP struggling with hardships, they had little leisure, and less capacity, for any speculative inquiry. Eager to take possession cf a country of such extent and opulence, and happy in finding it occupied by inhabitants so inca pable to defend it, they hastily pronounced them to be a wretched order of men, formed merely for servitude.! and were more employed in computing the profits of their labour, than in inquiring i&to the operations of voi,. i. 3* HISTORY or AMERICA! their minds, or the reasons of their customs and insii- tutions. The persons who penetrated at subsequent pe- riods into the interiour provinces, to which the know ledge and devastations of the first conquerors did not reach, were generally of a similar character \ brave and enterprising in a high degree* hut so uninformed as to he little qualified either for observing or describing what they beheld* XXXII. Not only the incapacity, but the prejudices of the Spaniards, render their accounts of the people of America extremely defective. Soon after they planted colonies in their new conquests, a difference in opinion arose with respect to the treatment of the natives. One party, solicitous to render their servitude perpetual, re presented them as a brutish, obstinate race, incapable either of acquiring religious knowledge, or of being trained to the functions of social life. The other, full of pious concern for their conversion, contended that, though rude and ignorant, they were gentle, affection ate, docile, and by proper instructions and regulations, might be formed gradually into good Christians and use ful citizens. This controversy * as I have already relat ed, was carried on with all the warmth which is natural, when attention to interest on the one hand, and religious zeal on the other, animate the disputant?. Most of the laity espoused the former opinion j nil the ecclesiastics were advocates for the latter ; and we shall uniformly find that* accordingly as an author belonged to either of these parties, he is apt to magnify the virtues or aggra vate the defects of the Americans far beyond truth. Those repugnant accounts increase the difficulty of at taining a perfect knowledge of their character, and ren der it necessary to peruse all the descriptions of them by Spanish writers with distrust, and to receive their information with some grains of allowance. XXXIII. Almost two centuries elapsed after the discovery of America, before the manners of its inha bitants attracted, in, any considerable degree, the atten- > * HISTORY OF AMERICA, don of philosophers. At length, they discovered that the contemplation of the condition and character of the Americans in their original state, tended to complete our knowledge of the human species, might enable ug to fill up a considerable chasm in tke history of its pro gress, and lead to spec illations no less curious than im portant. They entered upon this new field of study with great ardour ; but, instead of throwing light upon tk$ subject, they have contributed, in some degree, to in* volve it in additional obscurity. Too impatient to in quire, they hastened to decide ; and began to erect sys tems, when they should have been searching for facts on which to establish their foundations, Struck with the appearance of degeneracy in the human species through out the New World, and astonished at beholding a vast continent occupied by a naked, feeble, and ignorant race of 'men, some authors of great name have maintained, that this part of the globe had but lately emerged from the sea, and become lit for the residence of man ; that every thing in it bore marks of a recent original j and that its inhabitants, lately called into existence, and still at the beginning of their career, were unworthy to be compared with the people of a more ancient and improv ed continent. 3 ^ Others have imagined, that, under the influence of an unkindly climate, which checks and ener vates the principle of life, man never attained in Ameri ca, the perfection which belongs to his nature, but re* mained an animal of an inferiour order, defective in the vigour of his bodily frame, and destitute of sensibility, as well as of force, in the operations of his mind.f In op position to both these, other philosophers have supposed that man arrives at his highest dignity and excellence long before he reaches a state of refinement ; and, in the rude simplicity of savage life, displays an elevation of sentiment, an independence of mind, and a warmth of * M. de Buffon Hist. Nat. iii. 484, etc. ix. 103, 114, t M, de P. Recherches Philos. sur les Americ. passing HISTOBY 0* AMERICA. attachment, for which it is vain to search among -the members of polished societies.* They seem to consider that as the most perfect state of man which is the least civilized. They describe the manners of the rude Ameri cans with such rapture^ as if they proposed them for models to the rest of the species. These contradictory theories have been proposed with equal confidence, and uncommon powers of genius and eloquence have been exerted, in order to clothe them with an appearance of truth. As all those circumstances concur in rendering an in quiry into the state of the rude nations in America in tricate and obscure, it is necessary to carry it on with caution. When guided in our researches by the intelli gent 'observations of the few philosophers who have vis ited this part of the globe we may venture to decide. When obliged to have recourse to the superficial re- marks of vulgar travellers, of sailors, traders, bucan- iers, and missionaries, we must often pause, and com paring detached facts, endeavour to discover what they wanted sagacity to observe. Without indulging conjec ture, or betraying a propensity to either system, we must study with equal care to avoid the extremes of ex travagant admiration, or of supercilious contempt for those manners which we describe. XXXIV. In order to conduct this inquiry with great er accuracy, it should be rendered as simple as possible. Man existed as an individual before he became the mem ber of a community; and the qualities which belong to him under his former capacity should be known, before "we proceed to examine those which arise from the lat ter relation. This is peculiarly necessary in investigat ing the manners of rude nations. Their political union is so incomplete, their civil institutions and regulations so few, so simple, and of such slender authority, that men in this state ought to be viewed rather as Jnde- * M. Rousseau. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 269 pendent agents, than as members of a regular society* The character of a savage results almost entirely from his sentiments or feelings as an individual, .and is but lit tle influenced by his imperfect subjection to government and order, I shall conduct my researches concerning tho manners of the Americans in this natural order, proceed^ ing gradually from what is simple to \vhat is more com plicated. I shall consider, 1, The bodily consitution of the Americans in those regions now under review. 2. The qualities of their minds, 3. Their domestic state. 4? Their political state and institutions. 5. Their system of war, and public security. 6, The arts with which they were acquainted, 7. Their religious ideas and in stitutions, 8, Such singular detached customs as are not reducible to any of the former heads, 9. I shall con clude with a general review and estimate of their virtues and defects. XXXV, 1. The bodily constitution of the Ameri cans. The human body is less affected by climate than that of any other animal. Some animals are confin ed to a particular region of the globe, and cannot exist be yond it ; others, though they may be brought to bear the injuries of a climate foreign to them, cease to multiply when carried out of that district which Nature destined to be their mansion. Even such as seem capable of be ing naturalized in various climates, feel the effect of eve ry remove from their proper station, and gradually dwin dle and degenerate from the vigour and perfection pecu liar to their species. Man is the only living creature whose frame is at once so hardy and so flexible, that he can spread over the whole earth, become the inhabit ant of every region, and thrive and multiply under eve ry climate. Subject, however, to the general law of Nature, the human body is not entirely exempt from the operation of climate ; and when exposed to the ex tremes either of heat or cold, its size or vigour dimin- 270 HISTORY OF AMERICA, XXXVI. The first appearance of the inhabitants of the New World, filled the discoverers with such aston ishment, that they were apt to imagine them a race of men different from those of the other hemisphere. Their complexion is of a reddish brown* nearly resembling the colour of copper.* The hair of their heads is always black, long, coarse, and uncurled, They have no beard, and every part of their body is perfectly smooth. Their persons are of a full size, extremely straight, and well proportioned.! Their features are regular, though of ten distorted by absurd endeavours to improve the beau ty of their natural form, or to render their aspect more dreadful to their enemies. In the islands, where four-- footed animals were both few and small, and the earth yielded her productions almost spontaneously, the con ititution of the natives, neither braced by the active ex ercises of the chase, nor invigorated by the labour of cultivation, was extremly feeble and languid. On the continent, where the forests abound with game of va rious kinds, and the chief occupation of many tribes was to pursue it, the human frame acquired greater firmness. Still, however, the Americans were more re markable for agility than strength. They resembled beasts of prey, rather than animals formed for labour.! They were not only averse to toil, but incapable of it ; and when roused by force from their native indolence, and compelled to work, they sunk under tasks which the people of the other continent would have performed with ease. This feebleness of constitution was univer sal among the inhabitants of those regions in America which we are surveying, and may be considered as char acteristic of the species there.fl * Oviedo Somario, p. 46, D. Life of Columbus, c. 24. f See Note XLIV. j See Note XLV. Oviedo Som. p. 51, C. Voy. de Correal, ii. 138. Wafer's Description, p. 131. 1 B. Las Casas Brev. Relac. p. 4. Torquem. Monnar. 1. 580. Oviedo Sommario, p. 41. Histor. lib. iil c 6. Herrera ; dec. L lib. ix. c. 5. Simon, p. 41. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 271 The beardless countenance and smooth skin of the American seems to indicate a defect of vigour, occasion ed by some vice in his frame. He is destitute of one sign of manhood and of strength, This peculiarity, by which the inhabitants of the New World are distinguish ed from the people of all other nations, cannot be at tributed, as some travellers have supposed, to their mode of subsistence.^ For though the food of many Ameri cans be extremely insipid, as they are altogether unac quainted with the use of salt, rude tribes in other parts of the earth have subsisted on aliments equally simple? without this mark of degradation, or any apparent symp tom of a diminution in their vigour. XXXVII. As the external form of the American? leads us to suspect that there is some natural debility in their frame, the smallness of their appetite for food has been mentioned by many authors as a confirmation of this suspicion. The quantity of food which men con sume varies according to the temperature of the cliniat* in which they live, the degree of activity which they ex ert, and the natural vigour of their constitutions, Un< der the enervating heat of the torrid zone, and when men pass their days in indolence and ease, they require less nourishment than the active inhabitants of temper ate or cold countries. But neither the warmth of their climate, nor their extreme laziness, will account for the uncommon defect of appetite among the Americans. The Spaniards were astonished with observing this, not only in the islands, but in several parts of the continent. The constitutional temperance of the natives far exceeded? iu their opinion, the abstinence of the most mortified her mits ;f while, on the other hand, the appetite of the Spaniards appeared to the Americans insatiably vora cious ; and they affirmed, that one Spaniard devoured more food in a day than was sufficient for ten Americans.:*: * Charley. Hist, de Nouv. Fr. iii. 310. t Ramusio. iii. 304, F. 306, A. Simon Conquista, etc, p. 39. Hakluyt,iii; 468, 508. J Hen-era, dec. 1. lib. ii. c, 16. HISTORY 03? AMERICA^ XXXVIII. A proof of some feebleness ia tlieir frame, still more striking, is the insensibility of the Americans to the charms of beauty, and the power of love. That passion which was destined to perpetuate life, to be the bond of social union, and the source of tenderness and joy, is the most ardent in the human breast. Though the perils and hardships of the savage state, though excessive fatigue, on some occasions, and the difficulty at all times of procuring subsistence, may seem to be adverse to this passion, and to have a ten dency to abate its vigour, yet the rudest nations in every other part of the globe seem to feel its influence more powerfully than the inhabitants of the New World. The negro glows with all the warmth of desire natural to his climate ; and the most uncultivated Asiatics discover that sensibility, which, from tlieir situation on the globe, we should expect them to have felt. But the Americans are, in an amazing degree, strangers to the force of this first instinct of nature. In every part of the New World the natives treat their women with coldness and indif ference. They are neither the objects of that tender at tachment which takes place in civilized society, nor of that ardent desire, conspicuous among rude nations. Even in climates where this passion usually acquires its greatest vigour the savage of America views his female with disdain as an animal of a less noble species. He is at no pains to win her favour by the assiduity of courtship, and still less solicitous to preserve it by in dulgence and gentleness.* Missionaries themselves, not withstanding the austerity of monastic ideas, cannot re frain from expressing tlieir astonishment at the dispas sionate coldness of the American young men in their in tercourse with the other sex.f Nor is this reserve to be * Hennepin Mceurs des Sauvages, 32, etc. Rochefort H : ct ties isles Antilles, p. 461. Voyage de Coreal, ii. 141. Ramusio? iii. 309. F. Lozano Descr. del Gran. Chaeo, 71. Faikner's Descr. of Patagon. p. 125. Lettere di P. Cataneo ap Muratori II Chris tian. Felice, i. 505. t Chanvalon. p. 61. Lettr. Edif. torn. xxiv. 318. Terore, ii, 377. Venegas, i, 81. Ribas Hist, de les Triumf. p. 11. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 273 ascribed to any opinion which they entertain with re spect to the merit of female chastity. That is an idea too refined for a savage, and suggested hy a delicacy of sentiment and affection to which he is a stranger. XXXIX, But in inquiries concerning either the bo dily or mental qualities of particular races of men, there is not a more common or more seducing errour, than that of ascribing to a single cause, those charac teristic peculiarities, which are the effect of the combin ed operation of many causes. The climate and soil of America differ, in so many respects, from those of the other hemisphere, and this difference is so obvious and striking, that philosophers of great eminence have laid hold on this as sufficient to account for what is peculiar in the constitution of its inhabitants. They rest on phy sical causes alone, and consider the feeble frame and languid desire of the Americans, as consequences of the temperament of that portion of the globe which they oc cupy. But the influence of political and moral causes ought not to have been overlooked. These operate with no less effect than that on which many philosophers rest as a full explanation of the singular appearances which have been mentioned. Wherever the state of society is such as to create many wants and desires, which cannot he satisfied without regular exertions of industry, the body accustomed to labour becomes robust and patient of fatigue. In a more simple state where the demands of men are so few and so moderate, that they may be gratified, almost without any effort, by the spontaneous productions of nature, the powers of the body are not called forth nor can they attain their proper strength. The natives of Chili and of North-America, the two temperate regions in the New World, who live by hunt ing, may be deemed an active and vigorous race when compared with the inhabitants of the isles, or of those parts of the continent where hardly any labour is requi site to procure subsistence. The exertions of a hunter are not, however, so regular, or so continued, as those VOL. I* 35 274 HISTORY OF AMERICA* of perso-ns employed in the culture of the earth, or in the various arts of eivilized life, and though' his agility may be greater than theirs, his strength is on the whole inferiour. If another direction were given to the active powers of man in the New World, and his force aug mented by exercise, he might acquire a degree of vigour which he does not in his present state possess. The truth of this is confirmed by experience. Wherever the Amer icans have been gradually accustomed to hard labour, their constitutions become robust, and they have been found capable of performing such tasks, as seemed not only to exceed the powers of such a feeble frame as has been deemed peculiar to their country, but to equal any effort of the natives either of Africa or of Europe.* The same reasoning will apply to what has been ob served concerning their slender demand for food. As a proof that this should be ascribed as much to their ex treme indolence, and often total want of occupation, as to any thing peculiar in the physical structure of their bodies, it has been observed, that in those districts, where the people of America are obliged to exert any unusual effort of activity, in order to procure subsistence, or wherever they are employed in severe labour, their appetite is not inferiour to that of other men, and, in some places, it has struck observers as remarkably vo- racious.f The operation of political and moral causes is still more conspicuous, in modifying the degree of attach ment between the sexes. In a state of high civilization, this passion, inflamed by restraint, refined by delicacy, and cherished by fashion, occupies and engrosses the the heart. It is no longer a simple instinct of nature ; sentiment heightens the ardour of desire, and the most tender emotions of which our frame is susceptible, * See Note XLVL t Gumilla, ii. 1 2. 70. 247. Lafitau, i. 5 1 5. Ovalle Church, ii SI. Muratori, i. 295. HISTORY 05 1 AMERICA. 275 soothe and agitate the soul. This description, however, applies only to those, who, by their situation, are ex empted from the cares and labours of lite. Among per sons of inferiour order, who are doomed by their condi tion to incessant toil, the dominion of this passion is less violent ; their solicitude to procure" subsistence, and to provide for the first demand of nature, leave little lei sure for attending to its second call. But if the nature of the intercourse between the sexes varies so much in persons of different rank in polished societies, the con dition of man, while he remains uncivilized, must oc casion a variation still more apparent. We may well supppose, that amidst the hardships, the dangers, and the simplicity of savage life, where subsistence is al ways precarious and often scanty, where men are almost continually engaged in the pursuit of their enemies, or in guarding against their attacks, and where neither dress nor reserve are employed as arts of female allure ment, that the attention of the Americans to their wo men would be extremely feeble, without imputing this solely to any physical defect or degradation in their frame. It is accordingly observed, that in those countries of America, where, from the fertility of the soil, the mild ness of the climate, or some farther advances which the natives have made in improvement, the means of sub sistence are more abundant, and the hardships of savage life are less severely felt, the animal passion of the sexes becomes more ardent. Striking examples of this occur among some tribes seated on the banks of great rivers well stored with food, among others who are masters of hunting-grounds abounding so much with game, that they have a regular and plentiful supply of nourishment with little labour. The superiour degree of security and affluence which these tribes enjoy, is followed by their natural effects. The passions implanted in the human frame by the hand of nature acquire additional force 5 new tastes and desires are formed ; the women, 276 HISTORY OP AMERICA, as they are more valued and admired, become more at tentive to dress and ornament ; the men, beginning to feel how much of their own happiness depends upon them, no longer disdain the arts of winning their favour and affection. The intercourse of the sexes becomes very different from that which takes place among their ruder countrymen ; and as hardly any restraint is im posed on the gratification of desire, either by religion, or laws, or decency, the dissolution of their manners is excessive.^ XL. Notwithstanding the feeble make of the Ameri cans, hardly any of them are deformed, or mutilated, OP defective in any of their senses. All travellers have been struck with this circumstance, and have celebrat ed the uniform symmetry and perfection of their exter nal figure. Some authors search for the cause of this appearance in their physical condition. As the parents are not exhausted or over fatigued with hard labour, they suppose that their children are born vigorous and sound. They imagine, that in the liberty of savage life, the hu man body, naked and uneonfined from its earliest age, preserves its natural fo*m ; and that all its limbs and members acquire a juster proportion, than when fetter ed with artificial restraints, which stint its growth and distort its shape.f Something, without doubt, may be ascribed to the operation of these causes ; but the true reasons of this apparent advantage, which is common to all savage nations, lie deeper, and are closely interwoven with the nature and genius of that state. The infancy of man is so long and so helpless, that it is extremely difficult to rear children among rude nations. Their means of subsistence are not only scanty, but precarious. Such as live by hunting must range over extensive coun tries, and shift often from place to place. The care of children, as well as every other laborious task, is de- * Biet. 389. Charley, iii. 423. Dumcnt Mem. sur Louisi- ane,i. 155. t Piso, p. 6. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 277 volved upon the women. The distresses and hardships of the savage life, which are often sueh as can hardly be supported hy persons in full vigour, must he fatal to those of more tender age. Afraid of undertaking a task so laborious, and of sueh long duration, as that of rearing their offspring, the women, in some parts of America, procure frequent abortions by the use of cer tain herbs, and extinguish the first sparks of that life which they are unable to cherish.* Sensible that only stout and well formed children have force of constitu tion to struggle through such a hard infancy, other na tions abandon or destroy such of their progeny as appear feeble or defective, as unworthy of attention.! Even when they endeavour to rear all their children without distinction, so great a proportion of the whole number perishes under the rigorous treatment which must be their lot in the savage state, that few of those who la boured under any original frailty attain the age of man- hood4 Thus, in polished societies, where the means of subsistence are secured with certainty, and acquired with ease ; where' the talents of the mind are often of more importance than the powers of the body ; children are preserved notwithstanding their defects or deformity, and grow up to be useful citizens. In rude nations, such persons are either cut off as soon as they are born, or becoming a burden to themselves and to the community, cannot long protract their lives. But in those provinces of the New World where, by the establishment of the Europeans, more regular provisions has been made for the subsistence of its inhabitants, and they are restrain ed from laying violent hands on their children, the Americans are so far from being eminent for any supe- riour perfection in their form, that one should rather * Ellis's Voyage to Hudson's Bay, 198. Hen-era, dec 7. lib. ix. c. 4. t Gumilla Hist. ii. 234. Techo's Hist, of Paraguay, etc. Churchill's Collect, vi. 108. | Creuxii Hist. Canad. p. 57. 278 HISTORY OF AMERICA. suspect some peculiar imbecility in the race, from the extraordinary number of individuals who are deformed, dwarfish, mutilated, blind, or deaf.* XLI. How feeble soever the constitution of the Americans may be, it is remarkable, that there is less rariety in the human form throughout the New World* than in the ancient continent. When Columbus and the other discoverers first visited the different countries of America which lie within the torrid zone, they natural ly expected to find people of the same complexion with those in the corresponding regions of the other hemis phere. To their amazement, however, they discovered that America contained no negroes,-)- and the cause of this singular appearance became as much the object of curiosity, as the fact itself was of wonder. In what part or membrane of the body that humour resides which tinges the complexion of the negro with a deep black, it is the business of anatomists to inquire and de scribe. The powerful operation of heat appears man ifestly to be the cause which produces this striking va riety in the human species. All Europe, a great part of Asia, and the temperate countries of Africa, are in habited by men of a white complexion. All the torrid zone in Africa, some of the warmer regions adjacent to it, and several countries in Asia, are filled with people of a deep black colour. If we survey the nations of our continent, making our progress from cold and temperate countries towards those parts which are exposed te the influence of vehement and unremitting heat, we shall find, that the extreme whiteness of their skin soon be gins to diminish ; that its colour deepens gradually as we advance $ and after passing through all the successive gradations of shade, terminates in an uniform unvary ing black. But in America, where the agency of heat is cheeked and abated by various causes, which I have * Voyage de Ulloa, i. 232. f P. Martyr, dec. p. 71. HISTORY OF AMEiUCA. 279 already explained, the climate seems to be destitute of that force which produces such wonderful effects on the human frame. The colour of the natives of the tor rid zone in America, is hardly of a deeper hue than that of the people in the more temperate parts of their continent. Accurate observers, who had an oportunity of viewing the Americans in very different climates and in provinces far removed from each other have been struck with the amazing similarity of their figure and aspect.* But though the hand of nature has deviated so little from one standard in fashioning the human form in America, the creation of fancy hath been various and extravagant. The same fables that were current in the ancient continent have been revived with respect to the New World, and America too has been peopled with hu man beings of monstrous and fantastic appearance. The inhabitants of certain provinces were described to be pigmies of three feet high ; those of others to be giants of an enormous size. Some travellers published ac counts of people with only one eye, others pretend to have discovered men without heads, whose eyes and mouths were planted in their breasts. The variety of Nature in her productions is, indeed, so great, that it is presumptuous to set bounds to her fertility, and to re ject indiscriminately every relation that does not per fectly accord with our own limited observations and ex perience. But the other extreme of yielding a hasty as sent, on the slightest evidence, to whatever has the ap pearance of being strange and marvellous, is still more unbecoming the philosophical inquirer, as, in every pe riod, men are more apt to be betrayed into errour, by their weakness in believing too much than by their arro gance in believing too little. In proportion as science extends, and nature is examined with a discerning eye, the wonders which amused ages of ignorance disappear. * See Note XL VII, 330 HISTORY Otf AMERICA* The tales of credulous travellers concerning America are forgotten ; the monsters which they describe have been searched for in vain $ and those provinces where they pretend to have found inhabitants of singular forms, are now known to be possessed by people nowise differ ent from the other Americans. Though those relations may, without discussion, be rejected as fabulous, there are other accounts of varie ties in the human species in some parts of the New World, which rest upon better evidence, and merit more attentive examination. This variety has been particu larly observed in three different districts. The first of these is situated in the isthmus of Darien, near the cen tre of America. Lionel Wafer, a traveller possessed of more curiosity and intelligence than w r e should have ex pected to find in an associate of bucaniers, discovered there a race of men, few in number, but of a singular make. They are of a low stature, according to his de scription, of a feeble frame, incapable of enduring fa tigue. Their colour is a dead milk white ; not resemb ling that of fair people among Europeans, but without any tincture of a blush or sanguine complexion. Their skin is covered with a fine hairy down of a chalky white, the hair of their heads, their eye-brows, and eye-lash es, are of the same hue. Their eyes are of a singular form, and so weak, that they can hardly bear the light of the sun ; but they see clearly by moon light, and arc most active and gay in the night.* No race similar to this has been discovered in any other part of America. Cortes, indeed, found some persons exactly resembling the white people of Darien, among the rare and mon strous animals which Montezsima had collected.! But as the power of the Mexican empire extended to the provinces bordering on the isthmus of Darien, they were probably brought thenee. Singular as the appear- * Wafer's Descript. of Isth. ap. Dampier, Hi. p. 346. t Cortes ap, Ramus. iii. p. 241. E. HI9TOEY 0^ AMERICA*


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    William Robertson (1721-1793)

    Robertson's History of America

    entry forthcoming

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