Letters from an American Farmer
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur

Part 4 out of 4

An elderly looking man, with wide trousers and a large leather apron
on, looking at me said, "My name is Bertram, dost thee want me?"
Sir, I am come on purpose to converse with you, if you can be spared
from your labour. "Very easily," he answered, "I direct and advise
more than I work." We walked toward the house, where he made me take
a chair while he went to put on clean clothes, after which he
returned and sat down by me. The fame of your knowledge, said I, in
American botany, and your well-known hospitality, have induced me to
pay you a visit, which I hope you will not think troublesome: I
should be glad to spend a few hours in your garden. "The greatest
advantage," replied he, "which I receive from what thee callest my
botanical fame, is the pleasure which it often procureth me in
receiving the visits of friends and foreigners: but our jaunt into
the garden must be postponed for the present, as the bell is ringing
for dinner." We entered into a large hall, where there was a long
table full of victuals; at the lowest part sat his negroes, his
hired men were next, then the family and myself; and at the head,
the venerable father and his wife presided. Each reclined his head
and said his prayers, divested of the tedious cant of some, and of
the ostentatious style of others. "After the luxuries of our
cities," observed he, "this plain fare must appear to thee a severe
fast." By no means, Mr. Bertram, this honest country dinner
convinces me, that you receive me as a friend and an old
acquaintance. "I am glad of it, for thee art heartily welcome. I
never knew how to use ceremonies; they are insufficient proofs of
sincerity; our society, besides, are utterly strangers to what the
world calleth polite expressions. We treat others as we treat
ourselves. I received yesterday a letter from Philadelphia, by which
I understand thee art a Russian; what motives can possibly have
induced thee to quit thy native country and to come so far in quest
of knowledge or pleasure? Verily it is a great compliment thee
payest to this our young province, to think that anything it
exhibiteth may be worthy thy attention." I have been most amply
repaid for the trouble of the passage. I view the present Americans
as the seed of future nations, which will replenish this boundless
continent; the Russians may be in some respects compared to you; we
likewise are a new people, new I mean in knowledge, arts, and
improvements. Who knows what revolutions Russia and America may one
day bring about; we are perhaps nearer neighbours than we imagine. I
view with peculiar attention all your towns, I examine their
situation and the police, for which many are already famous. Though
their foundations are now so recent, and so well remembered, yet
their origin will puzzle posterity as much as we are now puzzled to
ascertain the beginning of those which time has in some measure
destroyed. Your new buildings, your streets, put me in mind of those
of the city of Pompeia, where I was a few years ago; I attentively
examined everything there, particularly the foot-path which runs
along the houses. They appeared to have been considerably worn by
the great number of people which had once travelled over them. But
now how distant; neither builders nor proprietors remain; nothing is
known! "Why thee hast been a great traveller for a man of thy
years." Few years, Sir, will enable anybody to journey over a great
tract of country; but it requires a superior degree of knowledge to
gather harvests as we go. Pray, Mr. Bertram, what banks are those
which you are making: to what purpose is so much expense and so much
labour bestowed? "Friend Iwan, no branch of industry was ever more
profitable to any country, as well as to the proprietors; the
Schuylkill in its many windings once covered a great extent of
ground, though its waters were but shallow even in our highest
tides: and though some parts were always dry, yet the whole of this
great tract presented to the eye nothing but a putrid swampy soil,
useless either for the plough or for the scythe. The proprietors of
these grounds are now incorporated; we yearly pay to the treasurer
of the company a certain sum, which makes an aggregate, superior to
the casualties that generally happen either by inundations or the
musk squash. It is owing to this happy contrivance that so many
thousand acres of meadows have been rescued from the Schuylkill,
which now both enricheth and embellisheth so much of the
neighbourhood of our city. Our brethren of Salem in New Jersey have
carried the art of banking to a still higher degree of perfection."
It is really an admirable contrivance, which greatly redounds to the
honour of the parties concerned; and shows a spirit of discernment
and perseverance which is highly praiseworthy: if the Virginians
would imitate your example, the state of their husbandry would
greatly improve. I have not heard of any such association in any
other parts of the continent; Pennsylvania hitherto seems to reign
the unrivalled queen of these fair provinces. Pray, Sir, what
expense are you at e'er these grounds be fit for the scythe? "The
expenses are very considerable, particularly when we have land,
brooks, trees, and brush to clear away. But such is the excellence
of these bottoms and the goodness of the grass for fattening of
cattle, that the produce of three years pays all advances." Happy
the country where nature has bestowed such rich treasures, treasures
superior to mines, said I: if all this fair province is thus
cultivated, no wonder it has acquired such reputation for the
prosperity and the industry of its inhabitants.

By this time the working part of the family had finished their
dinner, and had retired with a decency and silence which pleased me
much. Soon after I heard, as I thought, a distant concert of
instruments.--However simple and pastoral your fare was, Mr.
Bertram, this is the dessert of a prince; pray what is this I hear?
"Thee must not be alarmed, it is of a piece with the rest of thy
treatment, friend Iwan." Anxious I followed the sound, and by
ascending the staircase, found that it was the effect of the wind
through the strings of an Eolian harp; an instrument which I had
never before seen. After dinner we quaffed an honest bottle of
Madeira wine, without the irksome labour of toasts, healths, or
sentiments; and then retired into his study.

I was no sooner entered, than I observed a coat of arms in a gilt
frame with the name of John Bertram. The novelty of such a
decoration, in such a place, struck me; I could not avoid asking,
Does the society of Friends take any pride in those armorial
bearings, which sometimes serve as marks of distinction between
families, and much oftener as food for pride and ostentation? "Thee
must know," said he, "that my father was a Frenchman, he brought
this piece of painting over with him; I keep it as a piece of family
furniture, and as a memorial of his removal hither." From his study
we went into the garden, which contained a great variety of curious
plants and shrubs; some grew in a greenhouse, over the door of which
were written these lines:

"Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks through nature, up to nature's God!"

He informed me that he had often followed General Bouquet to
Pittsburgh, with the view of herbalising; that he had made useful
collections in Virginia, and that he had been employed by the king
of England to visit the two Floridas.

Our walks and botanical observations engrossed so much of our time,
that the sun was almost down ere I thought of returning to
Philadelphia; I regretted that the day had been so short, as I had
not spent so rational a one for a long time before. I wanted to
stay, yet was doubtful whether it would not appear improper, being
an utter stranger. Knowing, however, that I was visiting the least
ceremonious people in the world, I bluntly informed him of the
pleasure I had enjoyed, and with the desire I had of staying a few
days with him. "Thee art as welcome as if I was thy father; thee art
no stranger; thy desire of knowledge, thy being a foreigner besides,
entitleth thee to consider my house as thine own, as long as thee
pleaseth: use thy time with the most perfect freedom; I too shall do
so myself." I thankfully accepted the kind invitation.

We went to view his favourite bank; he showed me the principles and
method on which it was erected; and we walked over the grounds which
had been already drained. The whole store of nature's kind
luxuriance seemed to have been exhausted on these beautiful meadows;
he made me count the amazing number of cattle and horses now feeding
on solid bottoms, which but a few years before had been covered with
water. Thence we rambled through his fields, where the right-angular
fences, the heaps of pitched stones, the flourishing clover,
announced the best husbandry, as well as the most assiduous
attention. His cows were then returning home, deep bellied, short
legged, having udders ready to burst; seeking with seeming toil to
be delivered from the great exuberance they contained: he next
showed me his orchard, formerly planted on a barren sandy soil, but
long since converted into one of the richest spots in that vicinage.

"This," said he, "is altogether the fruit of my own contrivance; I
purchased some years ago the privilege of a small spring, about a
mile and a half from hence, which at a considerable expense I have
brought to this reservoir; therein I throw old lime, ashes, horse-
dung, etc., and twice a week I let it run, thus impregnated; I
regularly spread on this ground in the fall, old hay, straw, and
whatever damaged fodder I have about my barn. By these simple means
I mow, one year with another, fifty-three hundreds of excellent hay
per acre, from a soil, which scarcely produced five-fingers [a small
plant resembling strawberries] some years before." This is, Sir, a
miracle in husbandry; happy the country which is cultivated by a
society of men, whose application and taste lead them to prosecute
and accomplish useful works. "I am not the only person who do these
things," he said, "wherever water can be had it is always turned to
that important use; wherever a farmer can water his meadows, the
greatest crops of the best hay and excellent after-grass, are the
sure rewards of his labours. With the banks of my meadow ditches, I
have greatly enriched my upland fields, those which I intend to rest
for a few years, I constantly sow with red clover, which is the
greatest meliorator of our lands. For three years after, they yield
abundant pasture; when I want to break up my clover fields, I give
them a good coat of mud, which hath been exposed to the severities
of three or four of our winters. This is the reason that I commonly
reap from twenty-eight to thirty-six bushels of wheat an acre; my
flax, oats, and Indian corn, I raise in the same proportion. Wouldst
thee inform me whether the inhabitants of thy country follow the
same methods of husbandry?" No, Sir; in the neighbourhood of our
towns, there are indeed some intelligent farmers, who prosecute
their rural schemes with attention; but we should be too numerous,
too happy, too powerful a people, if it were possible for the whole
Russian Empire to be cultivated like the province of Pennsylvania.
Our lands are so unequally divided, and so few of our farmers are
possessors of the soil they till, that they cannot execute plans of
husbandry with the same vigour as you do, who hold yours, as it were
from the Master of nature, unencumbered and free. Oh, America!
exclaimed I, thou knowest not as yet the whole extent of thy
happiness: the foundation of thy civil polity must lead thee in a
few years to a degree of population and power which Europe little
thinks of! "Long before this happen," answered the good man, "we
shall rest beneath the turf; it is vain for mortals to be
presumptuous in their conjectures: our country, is, no doubt, the
cradle of an extensive future population; the old world is growing
weary of its inhabitants, they must come here to flee from the
tyranny of the great. But doth not thee imagine, that the great
will, in the course of years, come over here also; for it is the
misfortune of all societies everywhere to hear of great men, great
rulers, and of great tyrants." My dear Sir, I replied, tyranny never
can take a strong hold in this country, the land is too widely
distributed: it is poverty in Europe that makes slaves. "Friend
Iwan, as I make no doubt that thee understandest the Latin tongue,
read this kind epistle which the good Queen of Sweden, Ulrica, sent
me a few years ago. Good woman! that she should think in her palace
at Stockholm of poor John Bertram, on the banks of the Schuylkill,
appeareth to me very strange." Not in the least, dear Sir; you are
the first man whose name as a botanist hath done honour to America;
it is very natural at the same time to imagine, that so extensive a
continent must contain many curious plants and trees: is it then
surprising to see a princess, fond of useful knowledge, descend
sometimes from the throne, to walk in the gardens of Linnaeus? "'Tis
to the directions of that learned man," said Mr. Bertram, "that I am
indebted for the method which has led me to the knowledge I now
possess; the science of botany is so diffusive, that a proper thread
is absolutely wanted to conduct the beginner." Pray, Mr. Bertram,
when did you imbibe the first wish to cultivate the science of
botany; was you regularly bred to it in Philadelphia? "I have never
received any other education than barely reading and writing; this
small farm was all the patrimony my father left me, certain debts
and the want of meadows kept me rather low in the beginning of my
life; my wife brought me nothing in money, all her riches consisted
in her good temper and great knowledge of housewifery. I scarcely
know how to trace my steps in the botanical career; they appear to
me now like unto a dream: but thee mayest rely on what I shall
relate, though I know that some of our friends have laughed at it."
I am not one of those people, Mr. Bertram, who aim at finding out
the ridiculous in what is sincerely and honestly averred. "Well,
then, I'll tell thee: One day I was very busy in holding my plough
(for thee seest that I am but a ploughman) and being weary I ran
under the shade of a tree to repose myself. I cast my eyes on a
daisy, I plucked it mechanically and viewed it with more curiosity
than common country farmers are wont to do; and observed therein
very many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some horizontal. What
a shame, said my mind, or something that inspired my mind, that thee
shouldest have employed so many years in tilling the earth and
destroying so many flowers and plants, without being acquainted with
their structures and their uses! This seeming inspiration suddenly
awakened my curiosity, for these were not thoughts to which I had
been accustomed. I returned to my team, but this new desire did not
quit my mind; I mentioned it to my wife, who greatly discouraged me
from prosecuting my new scheme, as she called it; I was not opulent
enough, she said, to dedicate much of my time to studies and labours
which might rob me of that portion of it which is the only wealth of
the American farmer. However her prudent caution did not discourage
me; I thought about it continually, at supper, in bed, and wherever
I went. At last I could not resist the impulse; for on the fourth
day of the following week, I hired a man to plough for me, and went
to Philadelphia. Though I knew not what book to call for, I
ingeniously told the bookseller my errand, who provided me with such
as he thought best, and a Latin grammar beside. Next I applied to a
neighbouring schoolmaster, who in three months taught me Latin
enough to understand Linnaeus, which I purchased afterward. Then I
began to botanise all over my farm; in a little time I became
acquainted with every vegetable that grew in my neighbourhood; and
next ventured into Maryland, living among the Friends: in proportion
as I thought myself more learned I proceeded farther, and by a
steady application of several years I have acquired a pretty general
knowledge of every plant and tree to be found in our continent. In
process of time I was applied to from the old countries, whither I
every year send many collections. Being now made easy in my
circumstances, I have ceased to labour, and am never so happy as
when I see and converse with my friends. If among the many plants or
shrubs I am acquainted with, there are any thee wantest to send to
thy native country, I will cheerfully procure them, and give thee
moreover whatever directions thee mayest want."

Thus I passed several days in ease, improvement, and pleasure; I
observed in all the operations of his farm, as well as in the mutual
correspondence between the master and the inferior members of his
family, the greatest ease and decorum; not a word like command
seemed to exceed the tone of a simple wish. The very negroes
themselves appeared to partake of such a decency of behaviour, and
modesty of countenance, as I had never before observed. By what
means, said I, Mr. Bertram, do you rule your slaves so well, that
they seem to do their work with all the cheerfulness of white men?
"Though our erroneous prejudices and opinions once induced us to
look upon them as fit only for slavery, though ancient custom had
very unfortunately taught us to keep them in bondage; yet of late,
in consequence of the remonstrances of several Friends, and of the
good books they have published on that subject, our society treats
them very differently. With us they are now free. I give those whom
thee didst see at my table, eighteen pounds a year, with victuals
and clothes, and all other privileges which white men enjoy. Our
society treats them now as the companions of our labours; and by
this management, as well as by means of the education we have given
them, they are in general become a new set of beings. Those whom I
admit to my table, I have found to be good, trusty, moral men; when
they do not what we think they should do, we dismiss them, which is
all the punishment we inflict. Other societies of Christians keep
them still as slaves, without teaching them any kind of religious
principles: what motive beside fear can they have to behave well? In
the first settlement of this province, we employed them as slaves, I
acknowledge; but when we found that good example, gentle admonition,
and religious principles could lead them to subordination and
sobriety, we relinquished a method so contrary to the profession of
Christianity. We gave them freedom, and yet few have quitted their
ancient masters. The women breed in our families; and we become
attached to one another. I taught mine to read and write; they love
God, and fear his judgments. The oldest person among them transacts
my business in Philadelphia, with a punctuality, from which he has
never deviated. They constantly attend our meetings, they
participate in health and sickness, infancy and old age, in the
advantages our society affords. Such are the means we have made use
of, to relieve them from that bondage and ignorance in which they
were kept before. Thee perhaps hast been surprised to see them at my
table, but by elevating them to the rank of freemen, they
necessarily acquire that emulation without which we ourselves should
fall into debasement and profligate ways." Mr. Bertram, this is the
most philosophical treatment of negroes that I have heard of; happy
would it be for America would other denominations of Christians
imbibe the same principles, and follow the same admirable rules. A
great number of men would be relieved from those cruel shackles,
under which they now groan; and under this impression, I cannot
endure to spend more time in the southern provinces. The method with
which they are treated there, the meanness of their food, the
severity of their tasks, are spectacles I have not patience to
behold. "I am glad to see that thee hast so much compassion; are
there any slaves in thy country?" Yes, unfortunately, but they are
more properly civil than domestic slaves; they are attached to the
soil on which they live; it is the remains of ancient barbarous
customs, established in the days of the greatest ignorance and
savageness of manners! and preserved notwithstanding the repeated
tears of humanity, the loud calls of policy, and the commands of
religion. The pride of great men, with the avarice of landholders,
make them look on this class as necessary tools of husbandry; as if
freemen could not cultivate the ground. "And is it really so, Friend
Iwan? To be poor, to be wretched, to be a slave, are hard indeed;
existence is not worth enjoying on those terms. I am afraid thy
country can never flourish under such impolitic government." I am
very much of your opinion, Mr. Bertram, though I am in hopes that
the present reign, illustrious by so many acts of the soundest
policy, will not expire without this salutary, this necessary
emancipation; which would fill the Russian empire with tears of
gratitude. "How long hast thee been in this country?" Four years,
Sir. "Why thee speakest English almost like a native; what a toil a
traveller must undergo to learn various languages, to divest himself
of his native prejudices, and to accommodate himself to the customs
of all those among whom he chooseth to reside."

Thus I spent my time with this enlightened botanist--this worthy
citizen; who united all the simplicity of rustic manners to the most
useful learning. Various and extensive were the conversations that
filled the measure of my visit. I accompanied him to his fields, to
his barn, to his bank, to his garden, to his study, and at last to
the meeting of the society on the Sunday following. It was at the
town of Chester, whither the whole family went in two waggons; Mr.
Bertram and I on horseback. When I entered the house where the
friends were assembled, who might be about two hundred men and
women, the involuntary impulse of ancient custom made me pull off my
hat; but soon recovering myself, I sat with it on, at the end of a
bench. The meeting-house was a square building devoid of any
ornament whatever; the whiteness of the walls, the conveniency of
seats, that of a large stove, which in cold weather keeps the whole
house warm, were the only essential things which I observed. Neither
pulpit nor desk, fount nor altar, tabernacle nor organ, were there
to be seen; it is merely a spacious room, in which these good people
meet every Sunday. A profound silence ensued, which lasted about
half an hour; every one had his head reclined, and seemed absorbed
in profound meditation, when a female friend arose, and declared
with a most engaging modesty, that the spirit moved her to entertain
them on the subject she had chosen. She treated it with great
propriety, as a moral useful discourse, and delivered it without
theological parade or the ostentation of learning. Either she must
have been a great adept in public speaking, or had studiously
prepared herself; a circumstance that cannot well be supposed, as it
is a point, in their profession, to utter nothing but what arises
from spontaneous impulse: or else the great spirit of the world, the
patronage and influence of which they all came to invoke, must have
inspired her with the soundest morality. Her discourse lasted three
quarters of an hour. I did not observe one single face turned toward
her; never before had I seen a congregation listening with so much
attention to a public oration. I observed neither contortions of
body, nor any kind of affectation in her face, style, or manner of
utterance; everything was natural, and therefore pleasing, and shall
I tell you more, she was very handsome, although upward of forty. As
soon as she had finished, every one seemed to return to their former
meditation for about a quarter of an hour; when they rose up by
common consent, and after some general conversation, departed.

How simple their precepts, how unadorned their religious system: how
few the ceremonies through which they pass during the course of
their lives! At their deaths they are interred by the fraternity,
without pomp, without prayers; thinking it then too late to alter
the course of God's eternal decrees: and as you well know, without
either monument or tombstone. Thus after having lived under the
mildest government, after having been guided by the mildest
doctrine, they die just as peaceably as those who being educated in
more pompous religions, pass through a variety of sacraments,
subscribe to complicated creeds, and enjoy the benefits of a church
establishment. These good people flatter themselves, with following
the doctrines of Jesus Christ, in that simplicity with which they
were delivered: an happier system could not have been devised for
the use of mankind. It appears to be entirely free from those
ornaments and political additions which each country and each
government hath fashioned after its own manners.

At the door of this meeting house, I had been invited to spend some
days at the houses of some respectable farmers in the neighbourhood.
The reception I met with everywhere insensibly led me to spend two
months among these good people; and I must say they were the golden
days of my riper years. I never shall forget the gratitude I owe
them for the innumerable kindnesses they heaped on me; it was to the
letter you gave me that I am indebted for the extensive acquaintance
I now have throughout Pennsylvania. I must defer thanking you as I
ought, until I see you again. Before that time comes, I may perhaps
entertain you with more curious anecdotes than this letter affords.-
-Farewell. I----N AL----Z.



I wish for a change of place; the hour is come at last, that I must
fly from my house and abandon my farm! But what course shall I
steer, inclosed as I am? The climate best adapted to my present
situation and humour would be the polar regions, where six months
day and six months night divide the dull year: nay, a simple Aurora
Borealis would suffice me, and greatly refresh my eyes, fatigued now
by so many disagreeable objects. The severity of those climates,
that great gloom, where melancholy dwells, would be perfectly
analogous to the turn of my mind. Oh, could I remove my plantation
to the shores of the Oby, willingly would I dwell in the hut of a
Samoyede; with cheerfulness would I go and bury myself in the cavern
of a Laplander. Could I but carry my family along with me, I would
winter at Pello, or Tobolsky, in order to enjoy the peace and
innocence of that country. But let me arrive under the pole, or
reach the antipodes, I never can leave behind me the remembrance of
the dreadful scenes to which I have been a witness; therefore never
can I be happy! Happy, why would I mention that sweet, that
enchanting word? Once happiness was our portion; now it is gone from
us, and I am afraid not to be enjoyed again by the present
generation! Whichever way I look, nothing but the most frightful
precipices present themselves to my view, in which hundreds of my
friends and acquaintances have already perished: of all animals that
live on the surface of this planet, what is man when no longer
connected with society; or when he finds himself surrounded by a
convulsed and a half dissolved one? He cannot live in solitude, he
must belong to some community bound by some ties, however imperfect.
Men mutually support and add to the boldness and confidence of each
other; the weakness of each is strengthened by the force of the
whole. I had never before these calamitous times formed any such
ideas; I lived on, laboured and prospered, without having ever
studied on what the security of my life and the foundation of my
prosperity were established: I perceived them just as they left me.
Never was a situation so singularly terrible as mine, in every
possible respect, as a member of an extensive society, as a citizen
of an inferior division of the same society, as a husband, as a
father, as a man who exquisitely feels for the miseries of others as
well as for his own! But alas! so much is everything now subverted
among us, that the very word misery, with which we were hardly
acquainted before, no longer conveys the same ideas; or rather tired
with feeling for the miseries of others, every one feels now for
himself alone. When I consider myself as connected in all these
characters, as bound by so many cords, all uniting in my heart, I am
seized with a fever of the mind, I am transported beyond that degree
of calmness which is necessary to delineate our thoughts. I feel as
if my reason wanted to leave me, as if it would burst its poor weak
tenement: again I try to compose myself, I grow cool, and
preconceiving the dreadful loss, I endeavour to retain the useful

You know the position of our settlement; I need not therefore
describe it. To the west it is inclosed by a chain of mountains,
reaching to----; to the east, the country is as yet but thinly
inhabited; we are almost insulated, and the houses are at a
considerable distance from each other. From the mountains we have
but too much reason to expect our dreadful enemy; the wilderness is
a harbour where it is impossible to find them. It is a door through
which they can enter our country whenever they please; and, as they
seem determined to destroy the whole chain of frontiers, our fate
cannot be far distant: from Lake Champlain, almost all has been
conflagrated one after another. What renders these incursions still
more terrible is, that they most commonly take place in the dead of
the night; we never go to our fields but we are seized with an
involuntary fear, which lessens our strength and weakens our labour.
No other subject of conversation intervenes between the different
accounts, which spread through the country, of successive acts of
devastation; and these told in chimney-corners, swell themselves in
our affrighted imaginations into the most terrific ideas! We never
sit down either to dinner or supper, but the least noise immediately
spreads a general alarm and prevents us from enjoying the comfort of
our meals. The very appetite proceeding from labour and peace of
mind is gone; we eat just enough to keep us alive: our sleep is
disturbed by the most frightful dreams; sometimes I start awake, as
if the great hour of danger was come; at other times the howling of
our dogs seems to announce the arrival of the enemy: we leap out of
bed and run to arms; my poor wife with panting bosom and silent
tears, takes leave of me, as if we were to see each other no more;
she snatches the youngest children from their beds, who, suddenly
awakened, increase by their innocent questions the horror of the
dreadful moment. She tries to hide them in the cellar, as if our
cellar was inaccessible to the fire. I place all my servants at the
windows, and myself at the door, where I am determined to perish.
Fear industriously increases every sound; we all listen; each
communicates to the other his ideas and conjectures. We remain thus
sometimes for whole hours, our hearts and our minds racked by the
most anxious suspense: what a dreadful situation, a thousand times
worse than that of a soldier engaged in the midst of the most severe
conflict! Sometimes feeling the spontaneous courage of a man, I seem
to wish for the decisive minute; the next instant a message from my
wife, sent by one of the children, puzzling me beside with their
little questions, unmans me: away goes my courage, and I descend
again into the deepest despondency. At last finding that it was a
false alarm, we return once more to our beds; but what good can the
kind sleep of nature do to us when interrupted by such scenes!
Securely placed as you are, you can have no idea of our agitations,
but by hear-say; no relation can be equal to what we suffer and to
what we feel. Every morning my youngest children are sure to have
frightful dreams to relate: in vain I exert my authority to keep
them silent, it is not in my power; and these images of their
disturbed imagination, instead of being frivolously looked upon as
in the days of our happiness, are on the contrary considered as
warnings and sure prognostics of our future fate. I am not a
superstitious man, but since our misfortunes, I am grown more timid,
and less disposed to treat the doctrine of omens with contempt.

Though these evils have been gradual, yet they do not become
habitual like other incidental evils. The nearer I view the end of
this catastrophe, the more I shudder. But why should I trouble you
with such unconnected accounts; men secure and out of danger are
soon fatigued with mournful details: can you enter with me into
fellowship with all these afflictive sensations; have you a tear
ready to shed over the approaching ruin of a once opulent and
substantial family? Read this I pray with the eyes of sympathy; with
a tender sorrow, pity the lot of those whom you once called your
friends; who were once surrounded with plenty, ease, and perfect
security; but who now expect every night to be their last, and who
are as wretched as criminals under an impending sentence of the law.

As a member of a large society which extends to many parts of the
world, my connection with it is too distant to be as strong as that
which binds me to the inferior division in the midst of which I
live. I am told that the great nation, of which we are a part, is
just, wise, and free, beyond any other on earth, within its own
insular boundaries; but not always so to its distant conquests: I
shall not repeat all I have heard, because I cannot believe half of
it. As a citizen of a smaller society, I find that any kind of
opposition to its now prevailing sentiments, immediately begets
hatred: how easily do men pass from loving, to hating and cursing
one another! I am a lover of peace, what must I do? I am divided
between the respect I feel for the ancient connection, and the fear
of innovations, with the consequence of which I am not well
acquainted; as they are embraced by my own countrymen. I am
conscious that I was happy before this unfortunate Revolution. I
feel that I am no longer so; therefore I regret the change. This is
the only mode of reasoning adapted to persons in my situation. If I
attach myself to the Mother Country, which is 3000 miles from me, I
become what is called an enemy to my own region; if I follow the
rest of my countrymen, I become opposed to our ancient masters: both
extremes appear equally dangerous to a person of so little weight
and consequence as I am, whose energy and example are of no avail.
As to the argument on which the dispute is founded, I know little
about it. Much has been said and written on both sides, but who has
a judgment capacious and clear enough to decide? The great moving
principles which actuate both parties are much hid from vulgar eyes,
like mine; nothing but the plausible and the probable are offered to
our contemplation.

The innocent class are always the victim of the few; they are in all
countries and at all times the inferior agents, on which the popular
phantom is erected; they clamour, and must toil, and bleed, and are
always sure of meeting with oppression and rebuke. It is for the
sake of the great leaders on both sides, that so much blood must be
spilt; that of the people is counted as nothing. Great events are
not achieved for us, though it is by us that they are principally
accomplished; by the arms, the sweat, the lives of the people. Books
tell me so much that they inform me of nothing. Sophistry, the bane
of freemen, launches forth in all her deceiving attire! After all,
most men reason from passions; and shall such an ignorant individual
as I am decide, and say this side is right, that side is wrong?
Sentiment and feeling are the only guides I know. Alas, how should I
unravel an argument, in which reason herself hath given way to
brutality and bloodshed! What then must I do? I ask the wisest
lawyers, the ablest casuists, the warmest patriots; for I mean
honestly. Great Source of wisdom! inspire me with light sufficient
to guide my benighted steps out of this intricate maze! Shall I
discard all my ancient principles, shall I renounce that name, that
nation which I held once so respectable? I feel the powerful
attraction; the sentiments they inspired grew with my earliest
knowledge, and were grafted upon the first rudiments of my
education. On the other hand, shall I arm myself against that
country where I first drew breath, against the play-mates of my
youth, my bosom friends, my acquaintance?--the idea makes me
shudder! Must I be called a parricide, a traitor, a villain, lose
the esteem of all those whom I love, to preserve my own; be shunned
like a rattlesnake, or be pointed at like a bear? I have neither
heroism not magnanimity enough to make so great a sacrifice. Here I
am tied, I am fastened by numerous strings, nor do I repine at the
pressure they cause; ignorant as I am, I can pervade the utmost
extent of the calamities which have already overtaken our poor
afflicted country. I can see the great and accumulated ruin yet
extending itself as far as the theatre of war has reached; I hear
the groans of thousands of families now ruined and desolated by our
aggressors. I cannot count the multitude of orphans this war has
made; nor ascertain the immensity of blood we have lost. Some have
asked, whether it was a crime to resist; to repel some parts of this
evil. Others have asserted, that a resistance so general makes
pardon unattainable, and repentance useless: and dividing the crime
among so many, renders it imperceptible. What one party calls
meritorious, the other denominates flagitious. These opinions vary,
contract, or expand, like the events of the war on which they are
founded. What can an insignificant man do in the midst of these
jarring contradictory parties, equally hostile to persons situated
as I am? And after all who will be the really guilty?--Those most
certainly who fail of success. Our fate, the fate of thousands, is
then necessarily involved in the dark wheel of fortune. Why then so
many useless reasonings; we are the sport of fate. Farewell
education, principles, love of our country, farewell; all are become
useless to the generality of us: he who governs himself according to
what he calls his principles, may be punished either by one party or
the other, for those very principles. He who proceeds without
principle, as chance, timidity, or self-preservation directs, will
not perhaps fare better; but he will be less blamed. What are we in
the great scale of events, we poor defenceless frontier inhabitants?
What is it to the gazing world, whether we breathe or whether we
die? Whatever virtue, whatever merit and disinterestedness we may
exhibit in our secluded retreats, of what avail?

We are like the pismires destroyed by the plough; whose destruction
prevents not the future crop. Self-preservation, therefore, the rule
of nature, seems to be the best rule of conduct; what good can we do
by vain resistance, by useless efforts? The cool, the distant
spectator, placed in safety, may arraign me for ingratitude, may
bring forth the principles of Solon or Montesquieu; he may look on
me as wilfully guilty; he may call me by the most opprobrious names.
Secure from personal danger, his warm imagination, undisturbed by
the least agitation of the heart, will expatiate freely on this
grand question; and will consider this extended field, but as
exhibiting the double scene of attack and defence. To him the object
becomes abstracted, the intermediate glares, the perspective
distance and a variety of opinions unimpaired by affections,
presents to his mind but one set of ideas. Here he proclaims the
high guilt of the one, and there the right of the other; but let him
come and reside with us one single month, let him pass with us
through all the successive hours of necessary toil, terror and
affright, let him watch with us, his musket in his hand, through
tedious, sleepless nights, his imagination furrowed by the keen
chisel of every passion; let his wife and his children become
exposed to the most dreadful hazards of death; let the existence of
his property depend on a single spark, blown by the breath of an
enemy; let him tremble with us in our fields, shudder at the
rustling of every leaf; let his heart, the seat of the most
affecting passions, be powerfully wrung by hearing the melancholy
end of his relations and friends; let him trace on the map the
progress of these desolations; let his alarmed imagination predict
to him the night, the dreadful night when it may be his turn to
perish, as so many have perished before. Observe then, whether the
man will not get the better of the citizen, whether his political
maxims will not vanish! Yes, he will cease to glow so warmly with
the glory of the metropolis; all his wishes will be turned toward
the preservation of his family! Oh, were he situated where I am,
were his house perpetually filled, as mine is, with miserable
victims just escaped from the flames and the scalping knife, telling
of barbarities and murders that make human nature tremble; his
situation would suspend every political reflection, and expel every
abstract idea. My heart is full and involuntarily takes hold of any
notion from whence it can receive ideal ease or relief. I am
informed that the king has the most numerous, as well as the
fairest, progeny of children, of any potentate now in the world: he
may be a great king, but he must feel as we common mortals do, in
the good wishes he forms for their lives and prosperity. His mind no
doubt often springs forward on the wings of anticipation, and
contemplates us as happily settled in the world. If a poor frontier
inhabitant may be allowed to suppose this great personage the first
in our system, to be exposed but for one hour, to the exquisite
pangs we so often feel, would not the preservation of so numerous a
family engross all his thoughts; would not the ideas of dominion and
other felicities attendant on royalty all vanish in the hour of
danger? The regal character, however sacred, would be superseded by
the stronger, because more natural one of man and father. Oh! did he
but know the circumstances of this horrid war, I am sure he would
put a stop to that long destruction of parents and children. I am
sure that while he turned his ears to state policy, he would
attentively listen also to the dictates of nature, that great
parent; for, as a good king, he no doubt wishes to create, to spare,
and to protect, as she does. Must I then, in order to be called a
faithful subject, coolly, and philosophically say, it is necessary
for the good of Britain, that my children's brains should be dashed
against the walls of the house in which they were reared; that my
wife should be stabbed and scalped before my face; that I should be
either murdered or captivated; or that for greater expedition we
should all be locked up and burnt to ashes as the family of the B---
-n was? Must I with meekness wait for that last pitch of desolation,
and receive with perfect resignation so hard a fate, from ruffians,
acting at such a distance from the eyes of any superior; monsters,
left to the wild impulses of the wildest nature. Could the lions of
Africa be transported here and let loose, they would no doubt kill
us in order to prey upon our carcasses! but their appetites would
not require so many victims. Shall I wait to be punished with death,
or else to be stripped of all food and raiment, reduced to despair
without redress and without hope. Shall those who may escape, see
everything they hold dear destroyed and gone. Shall those few
survivors, lurking in some obscure corner, deplore in vain the fate
of their families, mourn over parents either captivated, butchered,
or burnt; roam among our wilds, and wait for death at the foot of
some tree, without a murmur, or without a sigh, for the good of the
cause? No, it is impossible! so astonishing a sacrifice is not to be
expected from human nature, it must belong to beings of an inferior
or superior order, actuated by less, or by more refined principles.
Even those great personages who are so far elevated above the common
ranks of men, those, I mean, who wield and direct so many thunders;
those who have let loose against us these demons of war, could they
be transported here, and metamorphosed into simple planters as we
are, they would, from being the arbiters of human destiny, sink into
miserable victims; they would feel and exclaim as we do, and be as
much at a loss what line of conduct to prosecute. Do you well
comprehend the difficulties of our situation? If we stay we are sure
to perish at one time or another; no vigilance on our part can save
us; if we retire, we know not where to go; every house is filled
with refugees as wretched as ourselves; and if we remove we become
beggars. The property of farmers is not like that of merchants; and
absolute poverty is worse than death. If we take up arms to defend
ourselves, we are denominated rebels; should we not be rebels
against nature, could we be shamefully passive? Shall we then, like
martyrs, glory in an allegiance, now become useless, and voluntarily
expose ourselves to a species of desolation which, though it ruin us
entirely, yet enriches not our ancient masters. By this inflexible
and sullen attachment, we shall be despised by our countrymen, and
destroyed by our ancient friends; whatever we may say, whatever
merit we may claim, will not shelter us from those indiscriminate
blows, given by hired banditti, animated by all those passions which
urge men to shed the blood of others; how bitter the thought! On the
contrary, blows received by the hands of those from whom we expected
protection, extinguish ancient respect, and urge us to self-defence-
-perhaps to revenge; this is the path which nature herself points
out, as well to the civilised as to the uncivilised. The Creator of
hearts has himself stamped on them those propensities at their first
formation; and must we then daily receive this treatment from a
power once so loved? The Fox flies or deceives the hounds that
pursue him; the bear, when overtaken, boldly resists and attacks
them; the hen, the very timid hen, fights for the preservation of
her chickens, nor does she decline to attack, and to meet on the
wing even the swift kite. Shall man, then, provided both with
instinct and reason, unmoved, unconcerned, and passive, see his
subsistence consumed, and his progeny either ravished from him or
murdered? Shall fictitious reason extinguish the unerring impulse of
instinct? No; my former respect, my former attachment vanishes with
my safety; that respect and attachment was purchased by protection,
and it has ceased. Could not the great nation we belong to have
accomplished her designs by means of her numerous armies, by means
of those fleets which cover the ocean? Must those who are masters of
two thirds of the trade of the world; who have in their hands the
power which almighty gold can give; who possess a species of wealth
that increases with their desires; must they establish their
conquest with our insignificant innocent blood!

Must I then bid farewell to Britain, to that renowned country? Must
I renounce a name so ancient and so venerable? Alas, she herself,
that once indulgent parent, forces me to take up arms against her.
She herself, first inspired the most unhappy citizens of our remote
districts, with the thoughts of shedding the blood of those whom
they used to call by the name of friends and brethren. That great
nation which now convulses the world; which hardly knows the extent
of her Indian kingdoms; which looks toward the universal monarchy of
trade, of industry, of riches, of power: why must she strew our poor
frontiers with the carcasses of her friends, with the wrecks of our
insignificant villages, in which there is no gold? When, oppressed
by painful recollection, I revolve all these scattered ideas in my
mind, when I contemplate my situation, and the thousand streams of
evil with which I am surrounded; when I descend into the particular
tendency even of the remedy I have proposed, I am convulsed--
convulsed sometimes to that degree, as to be tempted to exclaim--Why
has the master of the world permitted so much indiscriminate evil
throughout every part of this poor planet, at all times, and among
all kinds of people? It ought surely to be the punishment of the
wicked only. I bring that cup to my lips, of which I must soon
taste, and shudder at its bitterness. What then is life, I ask
myself, is it a gracious gift? No, it is too bitter; a gift means
something valuable conferred, but life appears to be a mere
accident, and of the worst kind: we are born to be victims of
diseases and passions, of mischances and death: better not to be
than to be miserable.--Thus impiously I roam, I fly from one erratic
thought to another, and my mind, irritated by these acrimonious
reflections, is ready sometimes to lead me to dangerous extremes of
violence. When I recollect that I am a father, and a husband, the
return of these endearing ideas strikes deep into my heart. Alas!
they once made it to glow with pleasure and with every ravishing
exultation; but now they fill it with sorrow. At other times, my
wife industriously rouses me out of these dreadful meditations, and
soothes me by all the reasoning she is mistress of; but her
endeavours only serve to make me more miserable, by reflecting that
she must share with all these calamities, the bare apprehensions of
which I am afraid will subvert her reason. Nor can I with patience
think that a beloved wife, my faithful help-mate, throughout all my
rural schemes, the principal hand which has assisted me in rearing
the prosperous fabric of ease and independence I lately possessed,
as well as my children, those tenants of my heart, should daily and
nightly be exposed to such a cruel fate. Selfpreservation is above
all political precepts and rules, and even superior to the dearest
opinions of our minds; a reasonable accommodation of ourselves to
the various exigencies of the time in which we live, is the most
irresistible precept. To this great evil I must seek some sort of
remedy adapted to remove or to palliate it; situated as I am, what
steps should I take that will neither injure nor insult any of the
parties, and at the same time save my family from that certain
destruction which awaits it, if I remain here much longer. Could I
insure them bread, safety, and subsistence, not the bread of
idleness, but that earned by proper labour as heretofore; could this
be accomplished by the sacrifice of my life, I would willingly give
it up. I attest before heaven, that it is only for these I would
wish to live and to toil: for these whom I have brought into this
miserable existence. I resemble, methinks, one of the stones of a
ruined arch, still retaining that pristine form that anciently
fitted the place I occupied, but the centre is tumbled down; I can
be nothing until I am replaced, either in the former circle, or in
some stronger one. I see one on a smaller scale, and at a
considerable distance, but it is within my power to reach it: and
since I have ceased to consider myself as a member of the ancient
state now convulsed, I willingly descend into an inferior one. I
will revert into a state approaching nearer to that of nature,
unencumbered either with voluminous laws, or contradictory codes,
often galling the very necks of those whom they protect; and at the
same time sufficiently remote from the brutality of unconnected
savage nature. Do you, my friend, perceive the path I have found
out? it is that which leads to the tenants of the great------village
of------, where, far removed from the accursed neighbourhood of
Europeans, its inhabitants live with more ease, decency, and peace,
than you imagine: where, though governed by no laws, yet find, in
uncontaminated simple manners all that laws can afford. Their system
is sufficiently complete to answer all the primary wants of man, and
to constitute him a social being, such as he ought to be in the
great forest of nature. There it is that I have resolved at any rate
to transport myself and family: an eccentric thought, you may say,
thus to cut asunder all former connections, and to form new ones
with a people whom nature has stamped with such different
characteristics! But as the happiness of my family is the only
object of my wishes, I care very little where we be, or where we go,
provided that we are safe, and all united together. Our new
calamities being shared equally by all, will become lighter; our
mutual affection for each other, will in this great transmutation
become the strongest link of our new society, will afford us every
joy we can receive on a foreign soil, and preserve us in unity, as
the gravity and coherency of matter prevents the world from
dissolution. Blame me not, it would be cruel in you, it would beside
be entirely useless; for when you receive this we shall be on the
wing. When we think all hopes are gone, must we, like poor
pusillanimous wretches, despair and die? No; I perceive before me a
few resources, though through many dangers, which I will explain to
you hereafter. It is not, believe me, a disappointed ambition which
leads me to take this step, it is the bitterness of my situation, it
is the impossibility of knowing what better measure to adopt: my
education fitted me for nothing more than the most simple
occupations of life; I am but a feller of trees, a cultivator of
land, the most honourable title an American can have. I have no
exploits, no discoveries, no inventions to boast of; I have cleared
about 370 acres of land, some for the plough, some for the scythe;
and this has occupied many years of my life. I have never possessed,
or wish to possess anything more than what could be earned or
produced by the united industry of my family. I wanted nothing more
than to live at home independent and tranquil, and to teach my
children how to provide the means of a future ample subsistence,
founded on labour, like that of their father, This is the career of
life I have pursued, and that which I had marked out for them and
for which they seemed to be so well calculated by their
inclinations, and by their constitutions. But now these pleasing
expectations are gone, we must abandon the accumulated industry of
nineteen years, we must fly we hardly know whither, through the most
impervious paths, and become members of a new and strange community.
Oh, virtue! is this all the reward thou hast to confer on thy
votaries? Either thou art only a chimera, or thou art a timid
useless being; soon affrighted, when ambition, thy great adversary,
dictates, when war re-echoes the dreadful sounds, and poor helpless
individuals are mowed down by its cruel reapers like useless grass.
I have at all times generously relieved what few distressed people I
have met with; I have encouraged the industrious; my house has
always been opened to travellers; I have not lost a month in illness
since I have been a man; I have caused upwards of an hundred and
twenty families to remove hither. Many of them I have led by the
hand in the days of their first trial; distant as I am from any
places of worship or school of education, I have been the pastor of
my family, and the teacher of many of my neighbours. I have learnt
them as well as I could, the gratitude they owe to God, the father
of harvests; and their duties to man: I have been as useful a
subject; ever obedient to the laws, ever vigilant to see them
respected and observed. My wife hath faithfully followed the same
line within her province; no woman was ever a better economist, or
spun or wove better linen; yet we must perish, perish like wild
beasts, included within a ring of fire!

Yes, I will cheerfully embrace that resource, it is an holy
inspiration; by night and by day, it presents itself to my mind: I
have carefully revolved the scheme; I have considered in all its
future effects and tendencies, the new mode of living we must
pursue, without salt, without spices, without linen and with little
other clothing; the art of hunting, we must acquire, the new manners
we must adopt, the new language we must speak; the dangers attending
the education of my children we must endure. These changes may
appear more terrific at a distance perhaps than when grown familiar
by practice: what is it to us, whether we eat well made pastry, or
pounded alagriches; well roasted beef, or smoked venison; cabbages,
or squashes? Whether we wear neat home-spun or good beaver; whether
we sleep on feather-beds, or on bear-skins? The difference is not
worth attending to. The difficulty of the language, fear of some
great intoxication among the Indians; finally, the apprehension lest
my younger children should be caught by that singular charm, so
dangerous at their tender years; are the only considerations that
startle me. By what power does it come to pass, that children who
have been adopted when young among these people, can never be
prevailed on to readopt European manners? Many an anxious parent I
have seen last war, who at the return of the peace, went to the
Indian villages where they knew their children had been carried in
captivity; when to their inexpressible sorrow, they found them so
perfectly Indianised, that many knew them no longer, and those whose
more advanced ages permitted them to recollect their fathers and
mothers, absolutely refused to follow them, and ran to their adopted
parents for protection against the effusions of love their unhappy
real parents lavished on them! Incredible as this may appear, I have
heard it asserted in a thousand instances, among persons of credit.
In the village of------, where I purpose to go, there lived, about
fifteen years ago, an Englishman and a Swede, whose history would
appear moving, had I time to relate it. They were grown to the age
of men when they were taken; they happily escaped the great
punishment of war captives, and were obliged to marry the Squaws who
had saved their lives by adoption. By the force of habit, they
became at last thoroughly naturalised to this wild course of life.
While I was there, their friends sent them a considerable sum of
money to ransom themselves with. The Indians, their old masters,
gave them their choice, and without requiring any consideration,
told them, that they had been long as free as themselves. They chose
to remain; and the reasons they gave me would greatly surprise you:
the most perfect freedom, the ease of living, the absence of those
cares and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us; the
peculiar goodness of the soil they cultivated, for they did not
trust altogether to hunting; all these, and many more motives, which
I have forgot, made them prefer that life, of which we entertain
such dreadful opinions. It cannot be, therefore, so bad as we
generally conceive it to be; there must be in their social bond
something singularly captivating, and far superior to anything to be
boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we
have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice
become Europeans! There must be something more congenial to our
native dispositions, than the fictitious society in which we live;
or else why should children, and even grown persons, become in a
short time so invincibly attached to it? There must be something
very bewitching in their manners, something very indelible and
marked by the very hands of nature. For, take a young Indian lad,
give him the best education you possibly can, load him with your
bounty, with presents, nay with riches; yet he will secretly long
for his native woods, which you would imagine he must have long
since forgot; and on the first opportunity he can possibly find, you
will see him voluntarily leave behind him all you have given him,
and return with inexpressible joy to lie on the mats of his fathers.
Mr.----, some years ago, received from a good old Indian, who died
in his house, a young lad, of nine years of age, his grandson. He
kindly educated him with his children, and bestowed on him the same
care and attention in respect to the memory of his venerable
grandfather, who was a worthy man. He intended to give him a genteel
trade, but in the spring season when all the family went to the
woods to make their maple sugar, he suddenly disappeared; and it was
not until seventeen months after, that his benefactor heard he had
reached the village of Bald Eagle, where he still dwelt. Let us say
what we will of them, of their inferior organs, of their want of
bread, etc., they are as stout and well made as the Europeans.
Without temples, without priests, without kings, and without laws,
they are in many instances superior to us; and the proofs of what I
advance, are, that they live without care, sleep without inquietude,
take life as it comes, bearing all its asperities with unparalleled
patience, and die without any kind of apprehension for what they
have done, or for what they expect to meet with hereafter. What
system of philosophy can give us so many necessary qualifications
for happiness? They most certainly are much more closely connected
with nature than we are; they are her immediate children, the
inhabitants of the woods are her undefiled off-spring: those of the
plains are her degenerated breed, far, very far removed from her
primitive laws, from her original design. It is therefore resolved
on. I will either die in the attempt or succeed; better perish all
together in one fatal hour, than to suffer what we daily endure. I
do not expect to enjoy in the village of------an uninterrupted
happiness; it cannot be our lot, let us live where we will; I am not
founding my future prosperity on golden dreams. Place mankind where
you will, they must always have adverse circumstances to struggle
with; from nature, accidents, constitution; from seasons, from that
great combination of mischances which perpetually lead us to new
diseases, to poverty, etc. Who knows but I may meet in this new
situation, some accident from whence may spring up new sources of
unexpected prosperity? Who can be presumptuous enough to predict all
the good? Who can foresee all the evils, which strew the paths of
our lives? But after all, I cannot but recollect what sacrifice I am
going to make, what amputation I am going to suffer, what transition
I am going to experience. Pardon my repetitions, my wild, my
trifling reflections, they proceed from the agitations of my mind,
and the fulness of my heart; the action of thus retracing them seems
to lighten the burden, and to exhilarate my spirits; this is besides
the last letter you will receive from me; I would fain tell you all,
though I hardly know how. Oh! in the hours, in the moments of my
greatest anguish, could I intuitively represent to you that variety
of thought which crowds on my mind, you would have reason to be
surprised, and to doubt of their possibility. Shall we ever meet
again? If we should, where will it be? On the wild shores of----. If
it be my doom to end my days there, I will greatly improve them; and
perhaps make room for a few more families, who will choose to retire
from the fury of a storm, the agitated billows of which will yet
roar for many years on our extended shores. Perhaps I may repossess
my house, if it be not burnt down; but how will my improvements
look? why, half defaced, bearing the strong marks of abandonment,
and of the ravages of war. However, at present I give everything
over for lost; I will bid a long farewell to what I leave behind. If
ever I repossess it, I shall receive it as a gift, as a reward for
my conduct and fortitude. Do not imagine, however, that I am a
stoic--by no means: I must, on the contrary, confess to you, that I
feel the keenest regret, at abandoning an house which I have in some
measure reared with my own hands. Yes, perhaps I may never revisit
those fields which I have cleared, those trees which I have planted,
those meadows which, in my youth, were a hideous wilderness, now
converted by my industry into rich pastures and pleasant lawns. If
in Europe it is praise-worthy to be attached to paternal
inheritances, how much more natural, how much more powerful must the
tie be with us, who, if I may be permitted the expression, are the
founders, the creators of our own farms! When I see my table
surrounded with my blooming offspring, all united in the bonds of
the strongest affection, it kindles in my paternal heart a variety
of tumultuous sentiments, which none but a father and a husband in
my situation can feel or describe. Perhaps I may see my wife, my
children, often distressed, involuntarily recalling to their minds
the ease and abundance which they enjoyed under the paternal roof.
Perhaps I may see them want that bread which I now leave behind;
overtaken by diseases and penury, rendered more bitter by the
recollection of former days of opulence and plenty. Perhaps I may be
assailed on every side by unforeseen accidents, which I shall not be
able to prevent or to alleviate. Can I contemplate such images
without the most unutterable emotions? My fate is determined; but I
have not determined it, you may assure yourself, without having
undergone the most painful conflicts of a variety of passions;--
interest, love of ease, disappointed views, and pleasing
expectations frustrated;--I shuddered at the review! Would to God I
was master of the stoical tranquillity of that magnanimous sect; oh,
that I were possessed of those sublime lessons which Appollonius of
Chalcis gave to the Emperor Antoninus! I could then with much more
propriety guide the helm of my little bark, which is soon to be
freighted with all that I possess most dear on earth, through this
stormy passage to a safe harbour; and when there, become to my
fellow passengers, a surer guide, a brighter example, a pattern more
worthy of imitation, throughout all the new scenes they must pass,
and the new career they must traverse. I have observed
notwithstanding, the means hitherto made use of, to arm the
principal nations against our frontiers. Yet they have not, they
will not take up the hatchet against a people who have done them no
harm. The passions necessary to urge these people to war, cannot be
roused, they cannot feel the stings of vengeance, the thirst of
which alone can compel them to shed blood: far superior in their
motives of action to the Europeans, who for sixpence per day, may be
engaged to shed that of any people on earth. They know nothing of
the nature of our disputes, they have no ideas of such revolutions
as this; a civil division of a village or tribe, are events which
have never been recorded in their traditions: many of them know very
well that they have too long been the dupes and the victims of both
parties; foolishly arming for our sakes, sometimes against each
other, sometimes against our white enemies. They consider us as born
on the same land, and, though they have no reasons to love us, yet
they seem carefully to avoid entering into this quarrel, from
whatever motives. I am speaking of those nations with which I am
best acquainted, a few hundreds of the worst kind mixed with whites,
worse than themselves, are now hired by Great Britain, to perpetuate
those dreadful incursions. In my youth I traded with the----, under
the conduct of my uncle, and always traded justly and equitably;
some of them remember it to this day. Happily their village is far
removed from the dangerous neighbourhood of the whites; I sent a man
last spring to it, who understands the woods extremely well, and who
speaks their language; he is just returned, after several weeks
absence, and has brought me, as I had flattered myself, a string of
thirty purple wampum, as a token that their honest chief will spare
us half of his wigwam until we have time to erect one. He has sent
me word that they have land in plenty, of which they are not so
covetous as the whites; that we may plant for ourselves, and that in
the meantime he will procure for us some corn and some meat; that
fish is plenty in the waters of---, and that the village to which he
had laid open my proposals, have no objection to our becoming
dwellers with them. I have not yet communicated these glad tidings
to my wife, nor do I know how to do it; I tremble lest she should
refuse to follow me; lest the sudden idea of this removal rushing on
her mind, might be too powerful. I flatter myself I shall be able to
accomplish it, and to prevail on her; I fear nothing but the effects
of her strong attachment to her relations. I will willingly let you
know how I purpose to remove my family to so great a distance, but
it would become unintelligible to you, because you are not
acquainted with the geographical situation of this part of the
country. Suffice it for you to know, that with about twenty-three
miles land carriage, I am enabled to perform the rest by water; and
when once afloat, I care not whether it be two or three hundred
miles. I propose to send all our provisions, furniture, and clothes
to my wife's father, who approves of the scheme, and to reserve
nothing but a few necessary articles of covering; trusting to the
furs of the chase for our future apparel. Were we imprudently to
encumber ourselves too much with baggage, we should never reach to
the waters of---, which is the most dangerous as well as the most
difficult part of our journey; and yet but a trifle in point of
distance. I intend to say to my negroes--In the name of God, be
free, my honest lads, I thank you for your past services; go, from
henceforth, and work for yourselves; look on me as your old friend,
and fellow labourer; be sober, frugal, and industrious, and you need
not fear earning a comfortable subsistence.--Lest my countrymen
should think that I am gone to join the incendiaries of our
frontiers, I intend to write a letter to Mr.---, to inform him of
our retreat, and of the reasons that have urged me to it. The man
whom I sent to----village, is to accompany us also, and a very
useful companion he will be on every account.

You may therefore, by means of anticipation, behold me under the
Wigwam; I am so well acquainted with the principal manners of these
people, that I entertain not the least apprehension from them. I
rely more securely on their strong hospitality, than on the
witnessed compacts of many Europeans. As soon as possible after my
arrival, I design to build myself a wigwam, after the same manner
and size with the rest, in order to avoid being thought singular, or
giving occasion for any railleries; though these people are seldom
guilty of such European follies. I shall erect it hard by the lands
which they propose to allot me, and will endeavour that my wife, my
children, and myself may be adopted soon after our arrival. Thus
becoming truly inhabitants of their village, we shall immediately
occupy that rank within the pale of their society, which will afford
us all the amends we can possibly expect for the loss we have met
with by the convulsions of our own. According to their customs we
shall likewise receive names from them, by which we shall always be
known. My youngest children shall learn to swim, and to shoot with
the bow, that they may acquire such talents as will necessarily
raise them into some degree of esteem among the Indian lads of their
own age; the rest of us must hunt with the hunters. I have been for
several years an expert marksman; but I dread lest the imperceptible
charm of Indian education, may seize my younger children, and give
them such a propensity to that mode of life, as may preclude their
returning to the manners and customs of their parents. I have but
one remedy to prevent this great evil; and that is, to employ them
in the labour of the fields, as much as I can; I am even resolved to
make their daily subsistence depend altogether on it. As long as we
keep ourselves busy in tilling the earth, there is no fear of any of
us becoming wild; it is the chase and the food it procures, that
have this strange effect. Excuse a simile--those hogs which range in
the woods, and to whom grain is given once a week, preserve their
former degree of tameness; but if, on the contrary, they are reduced
to live on ground nuts, and on what they can get, they soon become
wild and fierce. For my part, I can plough, sow, and hunt, as
occasion may require; but my wife, deprived of wool and flax, will
have no room for industry; what is she then to do? like the other
squaws, she must cook for us the nasaump, the ninchicke, and such
other preparations of corn as are customary among these people. She
must learn to bake squashes and pumpkins under the ashes; to slice
and smoke the meat of our own killing, in order to preserve it; she
must cheerfully adopt the manners and customs of her neighbours, in
their dress, deportment, conduct, and internal economy, in all
respects. Surely if we can have fortitude enough to quit all we
have, to remove so far, and to associate with people so different
from us; these necessary compliances are but part of the scheme. The
change of garments, when those they carry with them are worn out,
will not be the least of my wife's and daughter's concerns: though I
am in hopes that self-love will invent some sort of reparation.
Perhaps you would not believe that there are in the woods looking-
glasses, and paint of every colour; and that the inhabitants take as
much pains to adorn their faces and their bodies, to fix their
bracelets of silver, and plait their hair, as our forefathers the
Picts used to do in the time of the Romans. Not that I would wish to
see either my wife or daughter adopt those savage customs; we can
live in great peace and harmony with them without descending to
every article; the interruption of trade hath, I hope, suspended
this mode of dress. My wife understands inoculation perfectly well,
she inoculated all our children one after another, and has
successfully performed the operation on several scores of people,
who, scattered here and there through our woods, were too far
removed from all medical assistance. If we can persuade but one
family to submit to it, and it succeeds, we shall then be as happy
as our situation will admit of; it will raise her into some degree
of consideration, for whoever is useful in any society will always
be respected. If we are so fortunate as to carry one family through
a disorder, which is the plague among these people, I trust to the
force of example, we shall then become truly necessary, valued, and
beloved; we indeed owe every kind office to a society of men who so
readily offer to assist us into their social partnership, and to
extend to my family the shelter of their village, the strength of
their adoption, and even the dignity of their names. God grant us a
prosperous beginning, we may then hope to be of more service to them
than even missionaries who have been sent to preach to them a Gospel
they cannot understand.

As to religion, our mode of worship will not suffer much by this
removal from a cultivated country, into the bosom of the woods; for
it cannot be much simpler than that which we have followed here
these many years: and I will with as much care as I can, redouble my
attention, and twice a week, retrace to them the great outlines of
their duty to God and to man. I will read and expound to them some
part of the decalogue, which is the method I have pursued ever since
I married.

Half a dozen of acres on the shores of---, the soil of which I know
well, will yield us a great abundance of all we want; I will make it
a point to give the over-plus to such Indians as shall be most
unfortunate in their huntings; I will persuade them, if I can, to
till a little more land than they do, and not to trust so much to
the produce of the chase. To encourage them still farther, I will
give a quirn to every six families; I have built many for our poor
back settlers, it being often the want of mills which prevents them
from raising grain. As I am a carpenter, I can build my own plough,
and can be of great service to many of them; my example alone, may
rouse the industry of some, and serve to direct others in their
labours. The difficulties of the language will soon be removed; in
my evening conversations, I will endeavour to make them regulate the
trade of their village in such a manner as that those pests of the
continent, those Indian traders, may not come within a certain
distance; and there they shall be obliged to transact their business
before the old people. I am in hopes that the constant respect which
is paid to the elders, and shame, may prevent the young hunters from
infringing this regulation. The son of----will soon be made
acquainted with our schemes, and I trust that the power of love, and
the strong attachment he professes for my daughter, may bring him
along with us: he will make an excellent hunter; young and vigorous,
he will equal in dexterity the stoutest man in the village. Had it
not been for this fortunate circumstance, there would have been the
greatest danger; for however I respect the simple, the inoffensive
society of these people in their villages, the strongest prejudices
would make me abhor any alliance with them in blood: disagreeable no
doubt, to nature's intentions which have strongly divided us by so
many indelible characters. In the days of our sickness, we shall
have recourse to their medical knowledge, which is well calculated
for the simple diseases to which they are subject. Thus shall we
metamorphose ourselves, from neat, decent, opulent planters,
surrounded with every conveniency which our external labour and
internal industry could give, into a still simpler people divested
of everything beside hope, food, and the raiment of the woods:
abandoning the large framed house, to dwell under the wigwam; and
the featherbed, to lie on the mat, or bear's skin. There shall we
sleep undisturbed by fruitful dreams and apprehensions; rest and
peace of mind will make us the most ample amends for what we shall
leave behind. These blessings cannot be purchased too dear; too long
have we been deprived of them. I would cheerfully go even to the
Mississippi, to find that repose to which we have been so long
strangers. My heart sometimes seems tired with beating, it wants
rest like my eye-lids, which feel oppressed with so many watchings.

These are the component parts of my scheme, the success of each of
which appears feasible; from whence I flatter myself with the
probable success of the whole. Still the danger of Indian education
returns to my mind, and alarms me much; then again I contrast it
with the education of the times; both appear to be equally pregnant
with evils. Reason points out the necessity of choosing the least
dangerous, which I must consider as the only good within my reach; I
persuade myself that industry and labour will be a sovereign
preservative against the dangers of the former; but I consider, at
the same time, that the share of labour and industry which is
intended to procure but a simple subsistence, with hardly any
superfluity, cannot have the same restrictive effects on our minds
as when we tilled the earth on a more extensive scale. The surplus
could be then realised into solid wealth, and at the same time that
this realisation rewarded our past labours, it engrossed and fixed
the attention of the labourer, and cherished in his mind the hope of
future riches. In order to supply this great deficiency of
industrious motives, and to hold out to them a real object to
prevent the fatal consequences of this sort of apathy; I will keep
an exact account of all that shall be gathered, and give each of
them a regular credit for the amount of it to be paid them in real
property at the return of peace. Thus, though seemingly toiling for
bare subsistence on a foreign land, they shall entertain the
pleasing prospect of seeing the sum of their labours one day
realised either in legacies or gifts, equal if not superior to it.
The yearly expense of the clothes which they would have received at
home, and of which they will then be deprived, shall likewise be
added to their credit; thus I flatter myself that they will more
cheerfully wear the blanket, the matchcoat, and the Moccasins.
Whatever success they may meet with in hunting or fishing, shall
only be considered as recreation and pastime; I shall thereby
prevent them from estimating their skill in the chase as an
important and necessary accomplishment. I mean to say to them: "You
shall hunt and fish merely to show your new companions that you are
not inferior to them in point of sagacity and dexterity." Were I to
send them to such schools as the interior parts of our settlements
afford at present, what can they learn there? How could I support
them there? What must become of me; am I to proceed on my voyage,
and leave them? That I never could submit to. Instead of the
perpetual discordant noise of disputes so common among us, instead
of those scolding scenes, frequent in every house, they will observe
nothing but silence at home and abroad: a singular appearance of
peace and concord are the first characteristics which strike you in
the villages of these people. Nothing can be more pleasing, nothing
surprises an European so much as the silence and harmony which
prevails among them, and in each family; except when disturbed by
that accursed spirit given them by the wood rangers in exchange for
their furs. If my children learn nothing of geometrical rules, the
use of the compass, or of the Latin tongue, they will learn and
practise sobriety, for rum can no longer be sent to these people;
they will learn that modesty and diffidence for which the young
Indians are so remarkable; they will consider labour as the most
essential qualification; hunting as the second. They will prepare
themselves in the prosecution of our small rural schemes, carried on
for the benefit of our little community, to extend them further when
each shall receive his inheritance. Their tender minds will cease to
be agitated by perpetual alarms; to be made cowards by continual
terrors: if they acquire in the village of---, such an awkwardness
of deportment and appearance as would render them ridiculous in our
gay capitals, they will imbibe, I hope, a confirmed taste for that
simplicity, which so well becomes the cultivators of the land. If I
cannot teach them any of those professions which sometimes embellish
and support our society, I will show them how to hew wood, how to
construct their own ploughs; and with a few tools how to supply
themselves with every necessary implement, both in the house and in
the field. If they are hereafter obliged to confess, that they
belong to no one particular church, I shall have the consolation of
teaching them that great, that primary worship which is the
foundation of all others. If they do not fear God according to the
tenets of any one seminary, they shall learn to worship him upon the
broad scale of nature. The Supreme Being does not reside in peculiar
churches or communities; he is equally the great Manitou of the
woods and of the plains; and even in the gloom, the obscurity of
those very woods, his justice may be as well understood and felt as
in the most sumptuous temples. Each worship with us, hath, you know,
its peculiar political tendency; there it has none but to inspire
gratitude and truth: their tender minds shall receive no other idea
of the Supreme Being, than that of the father of all men, who
requires nothing more of us than what tends to make each other
happy. We shall say with them, Soungwaneha, esa caurounkyawga,
nughwonshauza neattewek, nesalanga.--Our father, be thy will done in
earth as it is in great heaven.

Perhaps my imagination gilds too strongly this distant prospect; yet
it appears founded on so few, and simple principles, that there is
not the same probability of adverse incidents as in more complex
schemes. These vague rambling contemplations which I here faithfully
retrace, carry me sometimes to a great distance; I am lost in the
anticipation of the various circumstances attending this proposed
metamorphosis! Many unforeseen accidents may doubtless arise. Alas!
it is easier for me in all the glow of paternal anxiety, reclined on
my bed, to form the theory of my future conduct, than to reduce my
schemes into practice. But when once secluded from the great society
to which we now belong, we shall unite closer together; and there
will be less room for jealousies or contentions. As I intend my
children neither for the law nor the church, but for the cultivation
of the land, I wish them no literary accomplishments; I pray heaven
that they may be one day nothing more than expert scholars in
husbandry: this is the science which made our continent to flourish
more rapidly than any other. Were they to grow up where I am now
situated, even admitting that we were in safety; two of them are
verging toward that period in their lives, when they must
necessarily take up the musket, and learn, in that new school, all
the vices which are so common in armies. Great God! close my eyes
for ever, rather than I should live to see this calamity! May they
rather become inhabitants of the woods.

Thus then in the village of---, in the bosom of that peace it has
enjoyed ever since I have known it, connected with mild hospitable
people, strangers to OUR political disputes, and having none among
themselves; on the shores of a fine river, surrounded with woods,
abounding with game; our little society united in perfect harmony
with the new adoptive one, in which we shall be incorporated, shall
rest I hope from all fatigues, from all apprehensions, from our
perfect terrors, and from our long watchings. Not a word of politics
shall cloud our simple conversation; tired either with the chase or
the labour of the field, we shall sleep on our mats without any
distressing want, having learnt to retrench every superfluous one:
we shall have but two prayers to make to the Supreme Being, that he
may shed his fertilising dew on our little crops, and that he will
be pleased to restore peace to our unhappy country. These shall be
the only subject of our nightly prayers, and of our daily
ejaculations: and if the labour, the industry, the frugality, the
union of men, can be an agreeable offering to him, we shall not fail
to receive his paternal blessings. There I shall contemplate nature
in her most wild and ample extent; I shall carefully study a species
of society, of which I have at present but very imperfect ideas; I
will endeavour to occupy with propriety that place which will enable
me to enjoy the few and sufficient benefits it confers. The solitary
and unconnected mode of life I have lived in my youth must fit me
for this trial, I am not the first who has attempted it; Europeans
did not, it is true, carry to the wilderness numerous families; they
went there as mere speculators; I, as a man seeking a refuge from
the desolation of war. They went there to study the manner of the
aborigines; I to conform to them, whatever they are; some went as
visitors, as travellers; I as a sojourner, as a fellow hunter and
labourer, go determined industriously to work up among them such a
system of happiness as may be adequate to my future situation, and
may be a sufficient compensation for all my fatigues and for the
misfortunes I have borne: I have always found it at home, I may hope
likewise to find it under the humble roof of my wigwam.

O Supreme Being! if among the immense variety of planets, inhabited
by thy creative power, thy paternal and omnipotent care deigns to
extend to all the individuals they contain; if it be not beneath thy
infinite dignity to cast thy eye on us wretched mortals; if my
future felicity is not contrary to the necessary effects of those
secret causes which thou hast appointed, receive the supplications
of a man, to whom in thy kindness thou hast given a wife and an
offspring: View us all with benignity, sanctify this strong conflict
of regrets, wishes, and other natural passions; guide our steps
through these unknown paths, and bless our future mode of life. If
it is good and well meant, it must proceed from thee; thou knowest,
O Lord, our enterprise contains neither fraud, nor malice, nor
revenge. Bestow on me that energy of conduct now become so
necessary, that it may be in my power to carry the young family thou
hast given me through this great trial with safety and in thy peace.
Inspire me with such intentions and such rules of conduct as may be
most acceptable to thee. Preserve, O God, preserve the companion of
my bosom, the best gift thou hast given me: endue her with courage
and strength sufficient to accomplish this perilous journey. Bless
the children of our love, those portions of our hearts; I implore
thy divine assistance, speak to their tender minds, and inspire them
with the love of that virtue which alone can serve as the basis of
their conduct in this world, and of their happiness with thee.
Restore peace and concord to our poor afflicted country; assuage the
fierce storm which has so long ravaged it. Permit, I beseech thee, O
Father of nature, that our ancient virtues, and our industry, may
not be totally lost: and that as a reward for the great toils we
have made on this new land, we may be restored to our ancient
tranquillity, and enabled to fill it with successive generations,
that will constantly thank thee for the ample subsistence thou hast
given them.

The unreserved manner in which I have written must give you a
convincing proof of that friendship and esteem, of which I am sure
you never yet doubted. As members of the same society, as mutually
bound by the ties of affection and old acquaintance, you certainly
cannot avoid feeling for my distresses; you cannot avoid mourning
with me over that load of physical and moral evil with which we are
all oppressed. My own share of it I often overlook when I minutely
contemplate all that hath befallen our native country.

The End


Back to Full Books