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to farming people in a slave state, where no man can work himself without
losing _caste_, has mainly contributed to retard the increase of
population and prosperity in the neighbourhood of St. Louis.

There are two fur companies established here. The expeditions depart early
in spring, and generally return late in autumn. This trade is very
profitable. A person who is at present at the head of one of those
companies, was five years ago a bankrupt, and is now considered wealthy.
He bears the character of being a regular Yankee; and if the never giving
a direct answer to a plain question constitutes a Yankee, he is one most
decidedly. We had some intention of crossing to Santa Fé, in New Mexico,
and we accordingly waited on him for the purpose of making some inquiries
relative to the departure of the caravans; but to any of the plain
questions we asked, we could not get a satisfactory answer, - at length,
becoming tired of hedge-fighting, we departed, with quite as much
information as we had before the interview.

A trapping expedition is being fitted out for the Rocky mountains, on an
extensive scale. The number of persons intended to be employed on this, is
about two hundred. Teams for the transportation of merchandize and
luggage are preparing, which is an accommodation never enjoyed before by
trappers, as pack-horses have always hitherto been substituted. These
waggons may also be found useful as _barricades_, in case of an attack
from the Indians. The expedition will be absent two or three years.

A trade with Santa Fé is also established. In the Spanish country the
traders receive, in exchange for dry goods and merchandize of every
description, specie, principally; which makes money much more plentiful
here than in any other town in the western country.

The caravans generally strike away, near the head waters of the Arkansas
and Red rivers, to the south-west, close to the foot of the Rocky
mountains - travelling above a thousand miles through the Indian country
before they reach the Mexican boundary. These journeys are long and
tedious, and require men of nerve and muscle to undertake them; the
morasses and rivers which they have to cross - the extensive prairies and
savannahs they have to traverse, and the dense forests to penetrate, are
sufficient to subdue any but iron constitutions.

The countries west of the Mississippi are likely to be greatly enriched by
the trade with Mexico; as, in addition to the vast quantities of valuable
merchandize procured from that country, specie to a very large amount is
put in circulation, which to a new country is of incalculable advantage.
The party which lately returned to Fayette in Missouri, brought 200,000
dollars in specie.

The lead-mines of Galena and Potosi inundate St. Louis with that metal.
The latter mines are extensive, consisting of forty in number, and are
situated near the head of Big-river, which flows into the Merrimac: a
water transportation is thus effected to the Mississippi, eighteen miles
below St. Louis. This, however, is only in the spring and fall, as at
other seasons the Merrimac is not navigable for common-sized boats, at a
greater distance than fifty miles from its mouth. The Merrimac is upwards
of 200 miles in length, and at its outlet it is about 200 yards in
breadth.

The principal buildings in St. Louis are, the government-house, the
theatre, the bank of the United States, and three or four Catholic and
Protestant churches. The Catholic is the prevalent religion. There are two
newspapers published here. Cafés, billiard tables, dancing houses, &c.,
are in abundance.

The inhabitants of St. Louis more resemble Europeans in their manners and
habits than any other people I met with in the west. The more wealthy
people generally spend some time in New Orleans every year, which makes
them much more sociable, and much less _brusque_ than their neighbours.

We visited Florissant, a French village, containing a convent and a young
ladies' seminary. The country about this place pleased us much. We passed
many fine farms - through open woodlands, which have much the appearance
of domains - and across large tracts of sumach, the leaves of which at this
season are no longer green, but have assumed a rich crimson hue. The
Indians use these leaves as provision for the pipe.

We stayed for eight days at a small village on the banks of the
Mississippi, about six miles below St. Louis, and four above Jefferson
barracks, called Carondalet, or, _en badinage, "vide poche."_ The
inhabitants are nearly all Creole-French, and speak a miserable _patois_.
The same love of pleasure which, with bravery, characterizes the French
people in Europe, also distinguishes their descendants in Carondalet.
Every Saturday night _les garçons et les filles_ meet to dance quadrilles.
The girls dance well, and on these occasions they dress tastefully. These
villagers live well, dress well, and dance well, but have
miserable-looking habitations; the house of a Frenchman being always a
secondary consideration. At one of those balls I observed a very pretty
girl surrounded by gay young Frenchmen, with whom she was flirting in a
style that would not have disgraced a belle from the _Faubourg St. Denis_,
and turning to my neighbour, I asked him who she was; he replied, "Elle
s'appelle Louise Constant, monsieur, - c'est la rose de village." Could a
peasant of any other nation have expressed himself so prettily, or have
been gallant with such a grace?

Accompanied by our landlord, we visited Jefferson barracks. The officer to
whom we had an introduction not being _chez-lui_ at that time, we were
introduced to some other officers by our host, who united in his single
person the triple capacity of squire, or magistrate, newspaper proprietor,
and tavern-keeper. The officers, as may be expected, are men from every
quarter of the Union, whose manners necessarily vary and partake of the
character of their several states.

The barracks stand on the bluffs of the Mississippi, and, with the river's
bank, they form a parallelogram - the buildings are on three sides, and
the fourth opens to the river; the descent from the extremity of the area
to the water's edge is planted with trees, and the whole has a picturesque
effect. These buildings have been almost entirely erected by the soldiers,
who are compelled to work from morning till night at every kind of
laborious employment. This arrangement has saved the state much money; yet
the propriety of employing soldiers altogether in this manner is very
questionable. Desertions are frequent, and the punishment hitherto
inflicted for that crime has been flogging; but Jackson declares now that
shooting must be resorted to. The soldiers are obliged to be servilely
respectful to the officers, _pulling off_ the undress cap at their
approach. This species of discipline may be pronounced inconsistent with
the institutions of the country, yet when we come to consider the
materials of which an _American_ regular regiment is composed, we shall
find the difficulty of producing order and regularity in such a body much
greater than at first view might be apprehended. In this country any man
who wishes to work may employ himself profitably, consequently all those
who sell their liberty by enlisting must be the very dregs of society - men
without either character or industry - drunkards, thieves, and culprits who
by flight have escaped the penitentiary, and enlisted under the impression
that the life of a soldier was one of idleness; in which they have been
most grievously mistaken. When we take these facts into consideration, the
difficulty of managing a set of such fellows will appear more than a
little. Yet unquestionably there are individuals among the officers whose
bearing is calculated to inspire any thing but that respect which they so
scrupulously exact, and without which they declare it would be impossible
to command. The drillings take place on Sundays.

Near Carondalet we visited two slave-holders, who employed slaves in
agriculture; which practice experience has shewn in every instance to be
unprofitable. One had thirteen; and yet every thing about his house rather
indicated poverty than affluence. These slaves lived in a hut, among the
outhouses, about twelve feet square - men, women, and children; and in
every respect were fully as miserable and degraded in condition as the
unfortunate wretches who reside in the lanes and alleys of St. Giles' and
Spitalfields, with this exception, that _they_ were well fed. The other
slave-holder, brother of the former, lived much in the same manner; - but
it is necessary to observe that both these persons were hunters, and that
hunters have nothing good in their houses but dogs and venison.

T - - having gone on a hunting excursion with our host, and some of his
friends, B - - and I drove the ladies to the plantation of the latter
gentleman. He had a farm on the bluffs, which was broken and irregular, as
is always the case in those situations. Large holes, called "sink-holes,"
are numerous along these banks; the shape of them is precisely that of an
inverted cone, through the apex of which the water sinks, and works its
way into the river. Cedar trees grow on the rocks, and the scenery is in
many places extremely grand. Wild-geese congregate in multitudes on the
islands in the Mississippi, and at night send forth the most wild and
piercing cries.

Our hostess was one of those sylvan Amazons who could handle any thing,
from the hunting-knife to the ponderous axe; and she dressed in the true
sylph-like costume of the backwoods. Her _robe_, which appeared to be the
only garment with which she encumbered herself, fitted her, as they say at
sea, "like a purser's shirt on a handspike," and looked for all the world
like an inverted sack, with appropriate apertures cut for head and arms;
she wore shoes, in compliment to her guests - her hair hung about her
shoulders in true Indian style; and altogether she was a genuine sample
of backwoods' civilization. We were placed in a good bed - the state-bed of
course - and as we lay, paid our devotions to Urania, and contemplated the
beauties of the starry firmament, through an aperture in the roof which
would have admitted a jackass.

The proprietor assured us that his slaves produced him no more than the
bare interest of the money invested in their purchase, and that he was a
slave-holder not from choice, but because it was the prevailing practice
of the country. He said he had two handsome Mulatto girls hired out at the
barracks for six dollars per month each.

In St. Louis there were seven Indian chiefs, hostages from the Ioway
nation. Their features were handsome - with one exception, they had all
aquiline noses - they were tall and finely proportioned, and altogether as
fine-looking fellows as I ever saw. The colour of these Indians was much
redder than that of any others I had seen; their heads were shaven, with
the exception of a small stripe, extending from the centre of the
crown back to the _organ of philoprogenitiveness_ - the gallant
scalping-lock - which was decorated with feathers so as somewhat to
resemble the crest of a Greek or Roman helmet. Their bodies were uncovered
from the waist upwards, except when they wore blankets, a modern
substitute for the buffalo-robe, which they commonly wore over the left
shoulder, leaving the right arm and breast bare. The Ioways are a nation
dwelling in the Missouri territory, and these hostages delivered
themselves up pending the investigation of an affray that had taken place
between their people and the backwoodsmen.

The day previous to our departure from St. Louis, the investigation took
place in the Museum, which is also the office of Indian affairs. There
were upwards of twenty Indians present, including the hostages. The charge
made against these unfortunate people and on which they had been obliged
to come six or seven hundred miles, to stand their trial before _white
judges_, was, "that the Ioways had come down on the white
territory - killed the cattle, and attacked the settlers, by which attack
four citizens lost their lives." The principal chief implicated in the
affair, named "Big-neck," was called upon for his defence. In the person
of this man there was nothing remarkable. He advanced into the centre of
the room, and disengaging his right arm from the blanket, shook hands with
the judges, and then, in succession, with all the officers of the court.
This ceremony being ended, he paused, and drawing himself up to his full
height, extended his arm forward towards the judge, and inclining his head
a little in the same direction, said, "If I had done that of which my
white brother accuses me, I would not stand here now. The words of my
red-headed father (General Clarke) have passed through both my ears, and I
have remembered them. I am accused, and I am not guilty." (The
interpreter translated each sentence as it was delivered, and gave it as
nearly verbatim as possible - observe, the pronoun I is here used
figuratively, for _his party, and for the tribe_). "I thought I would come
down to see my red-headed father, to hold a talk with him. - I come across
the line (boundary) - I see the cattle of my white brother dead - I see the
Sauk kill them in great numbers - I said that there would be trouble - I
turn to go to my village - I find I have no provisions - I say, let us go
down to our white brother, and trade our powder and shot for a little - I
do so, and again turn upon my tracks, until I reach my village." - He here
paused, and looking sternly down the room, to where two Sauks sat, pointed
his finger at them and said, "The Sauk, who always tells lie of me, goes
to my white brother and says - the Ioway has killed your cattle. When the
lie (the Sauk) had talked thus to my white brother, he comes, thirty, up
to my village - we hear our brother is coming - we are glad, and leave our
cabins to tell him he is welcome - but while I shake hands with my white
brother," he said, pointing to his forehead, "my white brother shoots me
through the head - my best chief - three of my young men, a squaw and his[6]
child. We come from our huts unarmed - even without our blankets - and yet,
while I shake hands with my white brother, he shoots me down - my best
chief. My young men within, hear me shot - they rush out - they fire on my
white brother - he falls, four - my people fly to the woods without their
rifles." He then stated that four more Indians died in the forest of cold
and starvation, fearing to return to their villages, and being without
either blankets or guns. At length returning, and finding that their
"great chiefs" had delivered themselves up, he came to stand his trial.

The next person called was an old chief, named "Pumpkin," who corroborated
the testimony of "Big-Neck," but had not been with the party when the
Sauks were seen killing the cattle. When he came to that part of the story
where the Indian comes from his wig-wam to meet the white man, he said,
nearly in the same words used by Big-neck, "While I shake hands with my
white brother, my white brother shoots me down - my best chief" - he here
paused, and lifting his eyes above the heads of the auditors, his lip
curling a little, but resuming again, almost immediately, its natural
position, he pronounced in a low but distinct guttural tone, the Indian
word meaning "_my_ son." His eye seemed fixed for a few seconds, and then,
as if conscious of his weakness, and that the eyes of the great warriors
of his tribe were upon him, he looked slowly round in a kind of solemn
triumph, and resumed his tale. There was a strong feeling excited in the
court by the misfortune of this old man, for the "best chief" of the
Ioways was his _only_ son. The court asked the chiefs what they thought
should be done in the matter? They spoke a few words to each other, and
then answered promptly, that all they required was, that their white
brother should be brought down also, and confronted with them. The
prisoners were set at liberty on their parole.

Nothing could have been more respectable than the silence and gravity of
the Indians during the investigation. The hostages particularly, were
really imposing in their appearance; an air of solemnity overspread their
manly countenances, whilst their eyes bespoke that unquailing spirit which
the habits and vicissitudes of a sylvan life are calculated rather to
raise than depress. The Indians, when uncontaminated by the vices of the
whites, are really a fine people; and it is melancholy to reflect that in
a few centuries the red-man will be known only by name, for his total
extinction seems almost inevitable.

The upshot of this affair proved that the Indians' statement was correct,
and a few presents was then thought sufficient to compensate the tribe for
this most unwarrantable outrage.

The fact of the prisoners being set free on their parole, proves the high
character they maintain with the whites. An officer who had seen a great
deal of service on the frontiers, assured me that, from _experience_, he
had rather fall into the hands of the Indians, than of the
backwoodsmen.[7] Once, while crossing one of the immense prairies in the
Missouri territory during the winter season, this gentleman, Mr. R - - ,
was seized with rheumatic pains, and unable to proceed. His party,
consisting only of a few men, had no provisions, nor had they any means of
taking him with them, being completely exhausted themselves - he was left
on the plains to die. An old Indian chief, of one of the hostile tribes,
chanced to find him; he carried him home, and nourished him until he was
sufficiently recovered to eat with the warriors; when they came to the hut
of his host, in order as they said to do honour to the unfortunate white
chief. He remained in their village for two months; at the expiration of
which time, being sufficiently recovered, they conducted him to the
frontiers, took their leave, and retired.

Clements Burleigh, who resided thirty years in the United States, says, in
his "Advice to Emigrants," "It may be objected by some that it is
dangerous to go to the frontier country, on account of the Indians, wild
beasts, &c.; this is no more than a scarecrow. Indians in time of peace
are perfectly inoffensive, and every dependence may be placed on them. If
you call at their huts, you are invited to partake of what they have - they
even will divide with you the last morsel they have, if they were starving
themselves; and while you remain with them you are perfectly safe, as
every individual of them would lose his life in your defence. This
unfortunate portion of the human race has not been treated with that
degree of justice and tenderness which people calling themselves
Christians ought to have exercised towards them. Their lands have been
forcibly taken from them in many instances without rendering them a
compensation; and in their wars with the people of the United States, the
most shocking cruelties have been exercised towards them. I myself fought
against them in two campaigns, and was witness to scenes a repetition of
which would chill the blood, and be only a monument of disgrace to people
of my own colour.

"Being in the neighbourhood of the Indians during the time of peace, need
not alarm the emigrant, as the Indian will not be as dangerous to him as
idle vagabonds that roam the woods and hunt. He has more to dread from
these people of his own colour than from the Indians."

FOOTNOTES:

[5] Eighteen miles below the mouth of the Missouri, and thirty-six below
that of the Illinois.

[6] In the Indian tongue there is no distinction of masculine or feminine
gender, but simply of animate and inanimate beings.

[7] "The freedom of manners, and the uncertainty of life, from the
various hazards to which it is inevitably exposed, imparts to the
character of savages a species of liberality, under which are couched
many benevolent principles; a respect for the aged, and in several
instances a deference to their equals. The natural coldness of their
temperament, admits of few outward demonstrations of civility. They are,
however, affable in their mode, and are ever disposed to show towards
strangers, and particularly towards the unfortunate, the strongest marks
of hospitality. A savage will seldom hesitate to share with a
fellow-creature oppressed by hunger, his last morsel of
provisions." - Vide _Heriot_, p. 318.




CHAPTER VI.


On our return to Illinois from Missouri, we visited the tumuli in the
"American bottom," for the purpose of more closely investigating the form
and disposition of these sepulchral mounds. Their shape is invariably
hemispherical, or of the _mamelle_ form. Throughout the country, from the
banks of the Hudson to a considerable distance beyond the Mississippi,
tumuli, and the remains of earthen fortifications were dispersed. Those of
the former which have been removed, were found to contain human bones,
earthen vessels, and utensils composed of alloyed metal; which latter fact
is worthy of particular notice, as none of the Indians of North America
are acquainted with the art of alloying. The vessels were generally of
the form of drinking cups, or ewer-shaped cans, sometimes with a flange to
admit a cover. One of those which I saw in a museum at Cincinnati, had
three small knobs at the bottom on which it stood, and I was credibly
informed that a dissenting clergyman, through the _esprit de métier_,
undertook to prove from the circumstance, that the people who raised these
mounds and fortifications must have been acquainted with the doctrine of
the Trinity. How far the reverend gentleman is correct in his inference, I
leave for theologians to decide.

The Indians do not claim the mounds as depositories for _their_ dead, but
are well aware of their containing human bones. They frequently encamp
near them, and visit them on their journeys, but more as land marks than
on any other account. They approach them with reverence, as they do all
burial places, no matter of what people or nation. The Quapaws have a
tradition, that they were raised "many hundred snows" ago, by a people
that no longer exists; they say, that in those days game was so plenty
that very little exertion was necessary to procure a subsistence, and
there were then no wars - these happy people having then no employment,
collected, merely for sport, these heaps of earth, which have ever since
remained, and have subsequently been used by another people, who succeeded
them, as depositories of their dead. Another tradition is, that they were
erected by the Indians to protect them from the mammoths, until the Great
Spirit took pity on his red children, and annihilated these enormous
elephants. Most of the Indian nations concur in their having been the work
of a people which had ceased to exist before the red men possessed those
hunting grounds.

The numerous mounds, fortifications, and burial caverns, and the skeletons
and mummies, that have been discovered in these catacombs, sufficiently
establish the fact, that a people altogether different from the present
aborigines once inhabited these regions. At what period this by-gone
people flourished still remains a matter of mere conjecture, for to the
present time no discovery has been made that could lead to any plausible
supposition.

De Witt Clinton having paid more attention to the antiquities of America
than any other person of whom I am aware, I shall here insert his
description of the forts. He says, "These forts were, generally speaking,
erected on the most commanding ground. The walls, or breastworks, were
earthen. The ditches were on the exterior of the works. On some of the
parapets, oak trees were to be seen, which, from the number of concentric
circles, must have been standing one hundred and fifty, two hundred and
sixty, and three hundred years; and there were evident indications, not
only that they had sprung up since the erection of these works, but that
they were at least a second growth. The trenches were in some cases deep
and wide, and in others shallow and narrow; and the breastworks varied in
altitude from three to eight feet. They sometimes had one, and sometimes
two entrances, as was to be inferred from there being no ditches at those
places. When the works were protected by a deep ravine, or large stream of
water, no ditch was to be seen. The areas of these forts varied from two
to six acres; and the form was in general an irregular ellipsis; in some
of them, fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to
have been originally human bones, were to be found."


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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 6 of 15)