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Henry M. Brackenridge

Views of Louisiana

Pittsburgh: C., S. & E., 1814

  • Title
  • Preface
  • Book I
  • Antiquities
  • Journal
  • Appendix

  • Transcriber's Comments

  • Du Pratz's History of Louisiana, 1774 translation

    (this web-page is under construction)





    OF  A




    Franklin head office.



    [ 3 ]


    IN the spring of 1810, I landed at New Madrid in Upper Louisiana, and proceeded from thence by land to St. Genevieve, with the intention of settling myself in some part of the territory as a lawyer. But finding after a short residence, that prospects of success in that part of the world, were not such as I could have wished, I resolved to employ the time I should remain there, in making observations and remarks on such things as appeared most worthy of attention. I was in a short time, pleased with the employment, which drew me into a more extensive research than I had at first contemplated, and gave rise to a degree of earnestness in a pursuit, to which I had before been almost a stranger; my studies having been chiefly directed to abstract subjects, to history, belles lettres, and to those in some way connected with my profession.

    In the winter of 1811, I published at St. Louis, the capital of Upper Louisiana, a series of essays descriptive of the country, many of which were reprinted in periodical papers in the stages, and spoken of in terms of approbation. It were needless to declare how gratifying this was to my feelings, or, as the reader will choose to think, to my vanity. In the heyday of youth, when the mind is filled with romantic conceits, there is nothing so pleasant as this taste of fame. It is however, sometimes productive of dangerous effects, for where this first manifestation of applause, does not intoxicate the brain, and apralize the energies, causing the infatuated being to believe, that he has already arrived at the highest degree of earthly honors, it is apt to confirm one in that pursuit, where accident may have crowned him with success. -- Hence, I have been in no small danger of becoming an author, perhaps an indifferent one: a professed author in our country, alas! is pitiable indeed. A mere abstract man, without any degree of importance, or consequence, attached to him; he is not ranked as having any employment in the state, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, and necessarily takes up his abode next door to starvation. It has been supposed by some of my friends who read my essays in the public prints, that I had in reality relinquished my profession, and that I was wandering about the

    [ 4 ]

    western country, writing geography, philosophy, history, and the Lord knows what...

    (pages 4-7 under construction)


    [ 9 ]



    L O U I S I A N A.





    THE early history of nearly all the colonies planted by European nations, on this continent, presents us with a series of hardships and misfortunes, encountered by the first settlers, and of injudicious management by those entrusted with their superintendence. From these Louisiana in its first settlement was by no means exempt, on the contrary they were all experienced here, in the severest manner. It was not until after repeated failures, and the lapse of a century, from the first attempt, that a colony could take root, and not for half a century more that it could flourish. It is intended in this imperfect sketch, to pass those events in review, and as far as in the writer's power, to develope their causes.

    The Spaniards from their establishments in Cuba, and in Mexico, at an early period became acquainted with the continent lying opposite the island before mentioned, and had given it the name of Florida. Under this name, they comprehended and claimed, east of the province of Penuco, indefinitely, north, east, and south; and declared that all the French and English possessions in America, belonged to Florida, and were unjust usurpations on the dominions appertaining to the crown of Spain. * They

    * Kerr of Kerrslands Memoirs, 1727 -- History of European Settlements an. 1775, and Postlethwayte on Commerce, published in 1745. -- Don Andres Gonzales de Boreca.

    10                                 VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                                

    (pages 10-180 under construction)


                                ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                             181

    It would be adviseable to leave at intervals, openings in the levee, properly secured on each side, like the sluices of the saw mills, in order to let off the water of the river. An immense quantity escapes through the present levees. In proportion as the levees extend upwards, and those below become properly secured, so as to prevent much of the water from escaping, they must be raised; A vast body of water at the present time passes off in those places, where there are no embankments; if this were kept in, the levees would everywhere require to be several feet higher. Artificial drains at proper distances might in a grcat measure obviate this difficulty. But not having leisure for these speculations, I leave them to others, who are otherwise interested, than as general well-wishers for the prosperity of the country.




    CONSIDERABLE curiosity has been excited by appearaces on the Mississippi and its tributary waters, supposed to prove a more ancient and advanced population, than the state of the country, or the character of the tribes inhabiting it, when first visited by Europeans, would seem to indicate. I need make no apology for devoting a chapter to a subject, which has been dignified by the pens of Mr. Jefferson, Dr. Barton, and a Bishop Madison. Yet, with all possible deference to these respectable names, I cannot but think their theories founded on a very imperfect acquaintance with these remains: having never themselves, visited any but the least considerable, and but few havmg been described by others with accuracy. The subject is still new, and I know of none which apens a wider field for interesting and amusing, speculation.

    182                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    Many, without considering the astonishing number and variety of these remains, have attributed them to a colony of Welsh or Danes, who are supposed to have found their way by some accident to this country, about the ninth century, Without recurring to the reasoning of doctor Robertson against the probability of such a colony, I will oberve, that it is absolutely impossible that they could have gained such a footing as these vestiges indicate, without at the same time leaving others less equivocal. Excepting a wall said to be discovered in North Carolina, but which, on examination, proved to be a volcanic production, I have not heard of a single work of brick or stone north of Mexico. The fortifications in the western country are devoid of those marks which have characterised the European mode of fortilying almost time immemorial; they are mere enclosures, without angles or bastions, and seldom surrounded by a ditch. The place is usually such as convenience would dictate, or as is best adapted to the ground: two miles below Pittsburgh, on a kind of promoutory called M'Kee's Rocks, nearly inaccessible on three sides, there is a fortification formed by a single line on the land side. They are sometimes, it is true, laid off with regularity, in the form of a parallelogram, semicircle, or square, but most commonly they are irregular.

    We are often tempted by a fondness for the marvellous, to seek out remote and improbable causes, for that which may be explained by the most obvious. In the eagerness to prove the existence of the Welsh colony, by attributing to them these remains, we forget that the natives of the country when first discovered by Europeans, were universally in the habit of fortifying. In the early wars of the New England colonists with Indians, we are informed that Philip, chief of the Niphet tribe, defended himself in a fort which he had constructed, and sufficiently large to contain two thousand men. Charlevoix, du Pratz, and others relate the particulars of several sieges. A fortification is one of the first things that would naturally suggest itself in a war: they have been known to all people; the same mind which would invent means of protection for the person of a single individual would also devisise the means of security to large bodies of men. It is no difficult matter to account for the disuse

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              183

    of fortifications amongst the lndians, when we consider the incredible diminution of their numbers and the little use of their forts against the whites; yet in the two last sieges of mons. Perier, in the war of the Natchez (1729), that unfortunate people were able to withstand the approaches and cannon of the enemy for nearly two months. Imlay, in his fanciful description of Kentucky, asserts that the Indians were not acquainted with the use of fortifications. Carver is the first who notices these fortifications, and considers them beyond the ingenuity of the Indians. The French writers, who most probably observed them, do not speak of them, a proof that they had no doubt as to their origin, nor thought of attributing them to any others than the natives of the country. On my voyage up the Missouri I observed the ruins of several villages which had been abandoned twenty or thirty years, and which, in every respect resembled the vestiges on the Ohio and Mississippi. On my arrival at the Arikara and Mandan villages, I found them surrounded by palisades. I have supposed these vestiges to be nothing more than the sites of pallisaded towns or villages, and not mere fortifiations. This custom of pallisading, appears to have been general among the northern tribes; it is mentioned by the earliest travellers. In the library of New Orleans, I found two works at present out of print, which contributed in removing all doubt from my mind; the one is by Lapiteau, a learned Jesuit, and which is sometimes quoted by Dr. Robertson, the other is a singular mixture of fabe and fact, by one La Houton. published 1678, before the discovery of the Mississippi in its full extent. This writer pretends to have travelled on the part which is above the Missouri. Both these works contain a number of curious engravings, in which, amongst other things, the fortified towns are represented.

    That no Welsh nation exists at present on this continent, is beyond a doubt. Mr. Barton has taken great pains to ascertain the languages spoken by those tribes east of thc Mississippi, and the Welsh finds no place amongst them; since the cession of Louisiana, the tribes west of the Mississippi have been sufficiently known; we have had intercourse with them all, but no Welsh are yet found. In the year 1798, a young Welshman of

    184                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    the name of Evans, ascended the Missouri, in company with Makey, and remained two years in that country; he spoke both the ancient and modern Welsh, and addressed himself to every nation between that river and New Spain, but found no Welshmen. When we reflect upon the difficulties that such a colony would have to encounter amidst ferocious savages, is it probable, that isolated and unassisted, they could have been able to exist? The history of all the European establishments, inform us, that they were opposed by the natives with great ferocity. The Welsh would certainly either form considerable establishments, or be totally annihilated; to exist in a distinct and reperate tribe, without preserving any of their arts, and without gaining a superiority over the Indians, but on the contrary adopung their manners, is abolutely impossible.

    Besides the fortifications, there are other remains scattered throughout the western country, much more difficult to account for, and to which the Welsh can lay no claim. It is worthy of observation, that all these vestiges invarably occupy the most eligible situations dor towns or settlements; and on the Ohio and Mississippi, they are most numerous and considerable. -- There is not a rising town or a farm of an eligible situation, in whose vicinity some of them may not be found. I have heard a surveyor of the public lands observe, that wherever any of these remains were met with, he was sure to find :an extensive body of fertile land. An immense population has once been supported in this country. These vestiges may be classed under three different heads -- 1, the walled towns or fortifications, of which I have already spoken; 2, barrows, or places of interment; 3, mounds or pyramids.

    2. Barrows, such as described by Mr. Jefferson, are extremly numerous in every part of the western country. The traces of a village may be alvays found near them, and they have been used exclusively, as place of interment, at least of deposit for the dead. The height is usually eight or ten feet above the surrounding ground, the shape manifesting little or no design. -- These accumulations may be attributed to the custom prevalent amongst the American tribes, of collecting the bones of of such as expired at a distance from their homes, in battle, or otherwise,

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              185

    and at stated periods placing them in some common tomb. The barrows were not the only receptacles; caverns were also used, and places, which from being estraordinary, were considered the residence of Manatoos or spirits.

    3. The mounds or pyramids appear to me to belong to a period different from the others. They are much more ancient, and are easily distinguished from the barrows, by their size and the design which they manifest. Remains of palisaded towns are found in their vicinity, which may be accounted for from the circumstance of the mounds occupying the most eligible situations for villages, or from the veneration of the Indians, for whatever appears extraordinary. From the growth of trees on some of them, they show an antiquity of at least several hundred years. The Indians have no tradition as to the founders of them, though there is no doubt but that when we first became acquainted with those people, they were used as places of defence. The old chief of the Kaskasjia Indians, told Mr. Rice Jones, that in the wars of his nation with the Iroquois, the mounds in the American bottom were used as forts. In one of the plates of Lapiteau's work, there is a representation of an attack on an Indian fort, which is evidently constructed upon one of the mounds: its form is circular, the enclosure of large pickets and heavy beams on the outside, extending to the ground on which the mound stands. Those inside defend themselves with stones, arrows, &c. while the assailants are either aiming their arrows at such as appear above the wall, or endeavoring to set fire to the fort. Until I saw this engraving, I had frequently doubted whether these elevations of earth were intended for any other purpose than places of interment for their great chiefs, or as sites for temples. These were probably the first objects, but experience, at the same time, taught them that they might also answer as forts; perhaps the veneration for these sacred places might induce the Indians, when invaded, to make their final stand in their temples, which therefore became strong holds. -- This is conformable to the history of most nations of the world.

    186                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    The mounds at Grave creek and Marietta have been minutely described, but in point of magnitude they fall far short of others which I have seen.

    To form a more correct idea of these, it will be necessary to give the reader some view of the tract of country in which they are situated. The American bottom, is a tract of rich alluvion land, extending on the Mississippi, from the Kaskaskia to the Cahokia river, about eighty miles in length, and five in breadth; several handsome streams meander through it; the soil of the richest kind, and but little subject to the effects of the Mississippi floods. A number of lakes are interspersed through it, with high and fine banks; these abound in fish, and in the autumn are visited by millions of wild fowl. There is, perhaps, no spot in the western country, capable of being more highly cultivated, or of giving support to a more numerous population than this valley. If any vestige of the ancient population were to be found, this would be the place to search for it -- accordingly, this tract, as also the bank of the river on the western side, * exhibits proofs of an immense population. If the city of Philadelphia and its environs, were deserted, there would not be more numerous traces of human existence. The great number of mounds, and the astonishing quantity of human bones, every where dug up, or found on the surface of the ground, with a thousand other appearances, announce that this vicinity was at one period, filled with habitations and villages. The whole face of the bluff, or hill which bounds it to the east, appears to have been a contined burial ground.

    But the most remarkable appearances, are two groups of mounds or pyramids, the one about ten miles above Cahokia, the other nearly the same distance below it, which in all, exceed one hundred and fifty, of various sizes. The western side, also, contains a considerable number.

    A more minute description of those above Cahokia, which I visited in the fall of 1811, will give a tolerable idea of them all.

    * The Saline, below St. Genevieve, cleared out some time ago, and deepened, was found to contain wagon loads of earthen ware, some fragments bespeaking vessels as large as a barrel, and proving that the salines had been worked before they were known to the whites.

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              187

    I crossed the Mississippi at St. Louis, and after passing through the wood which borders the river, about half a mile in width, entered an extensive open plain. In 15 minutes, I found myself in the midst of a group of mounds, mostly of a circular shape, and at a distance, resembling enormous haystacks scattered through a meadow. One of the largest which I ascended, was about two hundred paces in circumference at the bottom, the form nearly square, though it had entirely undergone considerable alteration from the washing of the rains. The top was level, with an area sufficient to contain several hundred men.

    The prospect from this mound is very beautiful; looking towards the bluffs, which are dimly seen at the distance of six or eight miles, the bottom at this place being very wide, I had a level plain before me, varied by islets of wood, and a few solitary trees; to the right, the prairie is bounded by the horizon, to the left, the course of the Cahokia may be distinguished by the margin of wood upon its banks, and crossing the valley diagonally, S. S. W. Around me, I counted forty-five mounds, or pyramids, besides a great number of small artificial elevations; these mounds form something more than a semicircle, about a mile in extent, the open space on the river.

    Pursuing my walk along the bank of the Cahokia, I passed eight others in the distance of three miles, before I arrived at the largest assemblage. When I reached the foot of the principal mound, I was struck with a degree of astonishment, not unlike that which is experienced in contemplating the Egyptian pyramids. What a stupendous pile of earth! To heap up such a mass must have required years, and the labors of thousands. -- It stands immediately on the bank of the Cahokia, and on the side next it, is covered with lofty trees. Were it not for the regularity and design which it manifests, the circumstances of its being on alluvial ground, and the other mounds scattered around it, we could scarcely believe it the work of human hands. -- The shape is that of a parallelogram, standing from north to south; on the south side there is a broad apron or step, about half way down, and from this, another projection into the plain

    188                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    about fifteen feet wide, which was probably intended as an ascent to the mound. By stepping round the base, I computed the circumference to be at least eight hundred yards, and the height of the mound about ninty feet. The step, or apron, has been used as a kitchen garden, by the monks of La Trappe, settled near this, and the top is sowed with wheat. Nearly west there is another of a smaller size, and forty others scattered through the plain. Two are also seen on the bluff, at the distance of three miles. Several of these mounds are almost conical. As the sward had been burnt, the earth was perfectly naked, and I could trace with ease, any unevenness of surface, so as to discover whether it was artificial or accidental. I every where observed a great number of small elevations of earth, to the heighth of a few feet, at regular distances from each other, and which appeared to observe some order; near them I also observed pieces of flint, and fragments of earthen vessels. I concluded, that a very populous town had once existed here, similar to those of Mexico, described by the first conquerors. The mounds were sites of temples, or monuments to the great men. It is evident, this could never have been the work of thinly scattered tribes. If the human species had at any time been permitted in this country to have increased freely, and there is every probability of the fact, it must, as in Mexico, have become astonishingly numerous. The same space of ground would have sufficied to maintain fifty times the number of the present inhabitants, with ease; their agriculture having no other object than mere sustenance. Amongst a numerous population, the power of the chief must necessarily be more absolute, and where there are no laws, degeneration into despotism. This was the case in Mexico, and in the nations of South America; a great number of individuals were at the disposal of the chief, who treated them little better than salves. The smaller the society, the greater the consequences of each individual. Hence, there would not be wanting a sufficient number of hands to erect mounds or pyramids.

    Hunter and Dunbar describe a mound at the junction of the Catahoula, Washita and Tensa rivers, very similar in shape to

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              189

    the large one on the Cahokia. I saw it last summer: it has a step or apron, and is surrounded by a group of ten or twelve other mounds of a smaller size. In the vicinity of New Madrid, there are a number; one on the bank of a lake, is at least four hundred yards in circumference, and surrounded by a ditch at least ten feet wide, and at present, five feet deep; it is about forty feet in height, and level on the top. I have frequently examined the mounds at St. Louis: they are situated on the second bank just above the town, and disposed in a singular manner; there are nine in all, and form three sides of a parallellogram, the open side towards the country, being protected, however, by three smaller mounds, placed in a circular manner. The space enclosed is about four hundred yards in length, and two hundred in breadth. About six hundred yards above there is a single mound, with a broad stage on the river side; it is thirty feet in height, and one hundred and fifty in length; the top is a mere ridge of five or six feet wide. Below the first mounds there is a curious work, called the Falling Garden. Advantage is taken of the second bank, nearly fifty feet in height at this place, and three regular stages or steps, are formed by earth brought from a distance. This work is much admired -- it suggests the idea of a place of assembly for the purpose of counselling, on public occasions. The following diagram may convey a more precise idea.

    [ graphic -- not reproduced ]

    In tracing the origin of institutions or inventions amongst men, we are apt to forget, that nations, however diversified by manners and languages, are yet the same species, and that the same institutions may originate amongst twenty different people. Adair takes great pains to prove a similarity of customs between

    190                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    the American tribes and the Jews; Lapiteau shews the existence of a still greater number common to the Greeks and Romans, the result to the philosophic mind is no more than this, that the American tribes belong to the human race, and that men, without any intercourse with each other, will, in innumerable instances, fall upon the same mode of acting. The wonder would be, that they should not shew a resemblance. Man is every where found in societies, under governments, addicted to war, hunting, or agriculture, and fond of dances, shows, and distinction. Perhaps the first emplpyment of a numerous population when not engaged in war, would be in heaping up piles of earth, the rudest and most common species of human labor. We find these mounds in every part of the globe; in the north of Europe, and in Great Britain. they are numerous, and much resemble ours, but less considerable. The pyramids of Egypt are perhaps the oldest monuments of human labor in that country, so favorable to the production of a numerous population. The pyramids of Mexico are but little known, and yet scarcely less considerable, like those of Egypt jave their origin hid in the night of oblivion. Humboldt is of opinion, that "these edifices must be classed with the pyramidal monuments of Asia, of which traces were found even in Arcadia; for the conical mausoleum of Callistus was a true tumulus, covered with fruit trees, and served for the base to a small temple consecrated to Diana." The Greeks, who were successful in the chariot races at the Olympic games, to shew their gratitude to their horses, gave them an honorable burial, and even erected pyramids over their graves. The altar of Jupiter, at Olympis, was nothing more than a huge mound of earth, with stone steps to ascend. Humboldt * remarks with astonishment, the striking similarity of the Asiatic and Egyptian pyramids, to those of Mexico. The similarity of those which he describes, to the mounds or pyramids on the Mississippi, is still more striking, but not a matter of so much wonder. The only difference is, that a few of the Mexican pyramids are larger, and some appear to have been faced with stone or

    * See Appendix, No. I.

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              191

    brick. Like those of Mexico, wherever there has been a considerable town, we find two large pyramids, supposed to represent the sun and moon, and a number of smaller ones, to represent the stars. There is very little doubt but that they originated with the same people, for they may be considered as existing in the same country. What is the distance between Red river and the northern part of the intendancy of Vera Cruz, in which the pyramid of Papantla is situated? little more than ten or fifteen days journey. Even supposing there were no mounds in the intermediate space, the distance is not such, as to preclude the probability of intercourse. There is no obstruction in the way; a coach and four has been driven from Mexico to Nacogdoches.

    The Mexican histories give uncertain accounts of the origin of those works, nor are the antiquarians able to form any satisfactory hypothesis. They are attributed to the Toultec nation, as far back as the ninth century, who emigrated to Mexico from the north, perhaps from the banks of the Mississippi; and by others, to the Olmec nation, still more ancient, who came to Mexico from the east. A curious discovery, made a few years ago in the state of Tennessee, proves beyond a doubt, that at some remote period the valley of the Mississippi had been inhabited by a much more civilized people, than when first known to us. Two human bodies were found in a copperas cave, in a surprising state of preservation. They were first wraped up in a kind of blanket, supposed to have been manufactured of the lint of nettles, afterwards with dressed skins, and then a mat of nearly sixty yards in length. They were clad in a beautiful cloth, interwoven with feathers, such as was manufactured by the Mexicans. The flesh had become hard, but the features were well preserved. They had been here, perhaps, for centuries, and certainly were of a different race from the modern Indians. They might have belonged to the Olmec, who overran Mexico about the seventh century, to the Toultec, who came centuries afterwards, or to the Aztecs, who founded the great city of Mexico, in the thirteenth century.

    These subjects can only bewilder; every nation, in tracing back its history, must finally lose itself in fable. The Aztec (Mexican) mode of preserving their chronicles, must necessarily

    192                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    have been defective; the Egyptians could lay but little better claim to authenticity. The simple fact of the emigration to the country of the Olmecs, or Toultecs, may be relied on, but as to the time and circumstances, we must look for very slender accounts. It is only since the invention of letters that we can form a well grounded hope of the permanency of human institutions, of the certainty of history, and of the uninterrupted progress of improvements. Had this noble invention been unknown, how many of our most useful arts would have been lost during that night of barbarism, called the dark ages!

    A French writer has fancifully observed, that civilization arises, de la fermentation dune nomvreuse peuplade, and that it would be as idle to expect this result without a numerous population, as to think of making wine by the fermentation of a single grape. Experience shews, that a numerous population will always be attended with some degree of improvement, because, as Mr. Jefferson observes, the chances of improvement are multiplied. It is not without reason, that the Creator gave his command to increase and multiply, since many of the intellectual faculties would not otherwise be completely unfolded. It is not every country, however, which can of itself attain the full extent of the population of which it may be rendered susceptible. In unfriendly soils and climates, nature must be forced by the arts and labors of agriculture, to afford sustenance for a numerous population. The inhabitants of such have therefore been usually found in wandering tribes, engaged in constant wars, and probably unable ever to orginate their own civilization. A mighty warrior, at the head of his own tribe, might subdue the tribes around him, and form a little empire, and peace being secured to a great proportion of his subjects, their numbers would increase, but it would fall into fragments, long before the useful arts could be invented. It has ever been in the mildest climates, gifted by nature with plenty, that civilization has had its origin. Egypt and fruitful Asia, first became possessed of a numerous population, and first cultivated the arts and sciences. In America civilization first appeared, in similar climates, where nature, with little help from man, produces abundance of food. In both the old and the new world, the

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              193

    celestial spark kindled in those happy climes, would be carried to less favored regions. But the human race has every where experienced terrible revolutions. Pestilence, war, and the convulsions of the globe, have annihilated the proudest works, and rendered vain the noblest efforts. Ask not the sage, by whom, and when, were erected those lingering ruins, the "frail memorials" of ages which have long since been swallowed up in the ocean of time; ask not the wild Arab, where may be found the owner of the superb palace, within whose broken walls he casts his tent; ask not the poor fisherman, as he spreads his nets, or the ploughman, who whistles over the ground, where is Carthage, where is Troy, of whose splendor, historians and poets have so much boasted! Alas! "they have vanished from the things that be," and have left but the melancholy lesson of the instability of the most stupendous labors, and the vanity of immortaility on earth!

    In the wanderings of fancy, I have sometimes conceived this hemisphere, like the other, to have experienced the genial ray of civilization, and to have been inhabited by a numerous, polite, and enlightened people. * Why may not great revolutions have been experienced in America? It is certain, that Mexico, Peru,

    * Even this idea, strange and novel as it may seem, might, by an ingenious theorist, have an air of importance given to it, by bringing into view, some vague passages of ancient authors. Plato, in one of his dialogues, speaks of a people, who had come from the Atlantic in great numbers, and overran the greater part of Europe and Asia. Many circumstances related of the island of the Atlantic, correspond with America. This occurence, to which Plato alludes, was considered of great antiquity, and preserved by obscure tradition. The island was said to have sunk by an earthquake. The fact is certain, that amongst the Greeks, there prevailed a belief of the existence of another continent, in the atlantic ocean, and inhabited by a powerful people, who, in remote antiquity, had invaded the old world. Amongst the Romans, who borrowed the greater part of their learning from the Greeks, the same belief prevailed. Seneca has this remarkable passage: "In ages to come, the seas will be traversed, and in spite of the wind and waves, avarice and pride will discover a New World, and Thule shall be no longer considered the extreme part of the globe." Mons Peyroux has in a very ingenious essay, rendered even probable, that the ancients had

    194                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    and Chili, when first visited by Europeans, exhibited only the dawn of civilization? Perhaps it was the fiftieth approach doomed to suffer a relapse, before the sacred flame could be extended to other portions of the continent: perhaps, at some distant period the flame had been widely spread, and again extinguished by the common enemies of the human race. But I am asked, if this had been the case, should we not see indubitable proofs, in the remains of antiquity, edifices of stone, mines, and laborious works of human hands. I answer, that nature is ever laboring to restore herself, she is ever engaged in replacing in its primitive state, whatever changes the hand of man may effect in her appearance. Excavations of the earth would be filled up by the hand of time, and piles of stone when seperated from the living rock, would crumble into dust. America may have been less fortunate than Europe in those happy inventions which serve in some measure to perpetuate improvements, and yet, in some of the arts she may have attained a greater excellence. The character of her civilization may have been different from any of which we have a knowledge, and her relapse produced by causes of which we can form no conjecture.

    Who will assign, as the age of America, a period of years different from that allowed to, what has been denominated, the old world? A multiplicity of proofs counterdict the recency of her origin; deeply embedded stores of carbonated wood, the traces of ancient volcanoes! I could appeal on this subject to her time-worn cataracts, and channels of mighty rivers, and to her venerable mountains, which rose when the Creator laid the foundations of the earth! When the eye of Europe first beheld her, did she appear but lately to have sprung from the deep? No, she contained innumerable and peculiar plants and animals, she was inhabited by thousands of Indians, possessing different languages, manners, and appearances. Grant then, that America may have existed a few thousand years; the same causes prevailing, like effects will be produced; the same revolutions

    been acquainted with America in very remote antiquity. Plato places the destruction of the Atlantides, at nine thpusand years before his time.

                                  ANTIQUITIES. -- BOOK II.                              195

    as have been known in the old world may have taken place here.

    Before the invention of letters, there would be a constant succession of advances to civilization, and of relapses to barbarism. The Chaldeans, through the glimmer of ancient history, are represented to us as the first inventors of the arts; but may not those people have been preceded by the same revolutions as have succeeded them. In long and ardous advances, they might attain to a great height in civilization, and wars, pestilence, or other calamities, precipitate them to the state of the barbarian or the savage. It is true, the traces of art would long remain undefaced; but they would not remain forever: Time would obliterate them. "He grasp'd a hero's antique bust,
    The marble crumbled into dust,
    And sunk beneath the shade." -- SELLECK OSBORNE.


    [ 196 ]


    THE reader will easily discover that this Journal contains little more than hasty notes, Taken with the intention of being extended and enlarged at leisure: but not regarding my voyage as much importance as I had imagined it would be, when I undertook it, this idea has been abandoned. I might have related many anecdotes and amusing incidents, quorum magna pars fui, confided to memory, and have added many remarks on Indian manners. I took some pains in making vocabularies of six or seven different Indian languages, but being informed, that Lewis and Clark had formed much greater collections than my opportunities would admit, I have not thought proper to make use of them. With respect to the natural history of the country, I have hopes that Mr. Bradbury will favor the world with the result of his observations. I have confined myself chiefly to such observations on the face of the country, as would give an idea of its capacity for reception of population. For the table which accompanies, I am indebted to general Clark. I take this opportunity of acknowledging my obligations to that gentleman, who politely favored me with every means of information in his power.

    [ 197 ]



    A  VOYAGE, &c.



    MR. MANUEL LISA, of whom I have spoken in the "Views," was chosen by the company, to take the management of its affairs on the Missouri, and endeavor to retrieve them if possible. The profits expected, owing to a variety of unforeseen misfortunes, had not been realized; indeed, it appeared to be a prevailing opinion, that the situation of the company was desperate. Besides the loss by fire, at the Sioux establishment, and the hostility of the Blackfoot Indians, the remnant of the company's men, under Mr. Henry, had crossed the Rocky mountains, and it was not known what had become of them. To ascertain this, was therefore another object of the expedition, and if possible, to carry them assistance. Mr. Lisa, also, privately entertained the hope of being able to make peace with the Blackfoot Indians, and to be permitted to remain quietly in the country, which offered the greatest advantages to the company.

    A person better qualified for this arduous undertaking, could not have been chosen. Mr. Lisa is not surpassed by any one, in the requisite experience in Indian trade and manners, and has few equals in perseverance and indefatigable industry. Ardent, bold and enterprising, when any undertaking is begun, no dangers, or sufferings are sufficient to overcome his mind. I believe

    198                               VIEWS  OF  LOUISIANA.                              

    there are few men so completely master of that secret of doing much in a short space of time, which arises, from turning every moment to advantage, as will appear in the course of the Journal...

    (pages 199-264 under construction)


    [ 265 ]




    Pages 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, & 119, '20, '21, '22, '23, & 171, '72, '73, '74.

    (No. 1.)

    THE only ancient monuments in the Mexican valley, which from their size or their masses can strike the eyes of a European, are the remains of the of the two pyramids of San Juan de Teotihuacan, situated to the north east of the lake of Tezcuco, consecrated to the sun and moon, which the Indians called Tonatiuh Ytzaqual, house of the sun, and Metzli Ytzaqual, house of the moon. According to the measurements made in 1803 by a young Mexican servant, doctor Oteyza, the first pyramid, which is the most southern, has in its present state a base of 208 metres * (645 feet) length, and 55 metres (66 Mexican vara, † or 171 feet ‡) of perpendicular elevation. The second, the pyramid of the moon, is eleven metres § (30 feet) lower, and its base is much

    270                                       APPENDIX.                                      

    (remainder of text under construction)


    Transcriber's Comments

    Henry M. Brackenridge's Louisiana

    H. M. Brackenridge (1786-1871)

    The following quote is from page 185 of the 1834 edition of Josiah Priest's American Antiquities. It was either taken from the second, expanded edition of Brackenridge's Views of Louisiana, or from his 1813 paper, "On the Population and Tumuli of the Aborigines of North America," in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, N. S. No. 1, 1818. Brackenridge also addressed the same subject in his 1818 "Brief Report" in the Analectic Magazine. See also "Views of Louisiana" in the Dec. 1813 issue of the Pittsburgh Western Gleaner and "Brackenridge's Voyage up the Missouri" in the Nov. 1816 issue of The North American Review.

    "These tumuli, (says Mr. Breckenridge,) as well as the fortifications, are to be found at the junction of all the rivers along the Mississippi, in the most eligible positions for towns, and in the most extensive bodies of fertile land. Their number exceeds, perhaps, three thousand; the smallest, not less than twenty feet in height, and three hundred, in circumference at the base. Their great number, and their amazing size, may be regarded as furnishing, with other circumstances, evidences of their great antiquity.

    I have been sometimes induced to think, that at the period when these were constructed, there was a population as numerous as that which once animated the borders of the Nile, or of the Euphrates. The most numerous, as well as the most considerable of these remains, are found precisely in those parts of the country where the traces of a numerous population might be looked for, namely, from the mouth of the Ohio, on the east side of the river, to the Illinois, and on the west side, from the St. Francis to the Missouri. I am perfectly satisfied that cities, similar to those of ancient Mexico, of several hundred thousand souls, have existed in this western country.

    From this view we are compelled to look upon those nations as agriculturists, or they could not have subsisted; neither wild game nor fish could possibly support so great a population. If agriculturists, then it must follow, of necessity, that many modes of building, as with stone, timber, earth or clay, were practised and known, as well us methods of clearing the earth of heavy timber. And if they had not a knowledge of metals, we cannot well conceive how they could have removed the forests for the purposes of husbandry, and space for building."

    (under construction)


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