George Copway.

Life, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. online

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picture of the old tree. After salutation, she said,
'there is the tree under which William Penn made his
treaty with the Indians. I have understood that you
were inquiring for a piece of it, and many have tried
to get it from me ; and I do not know why I have not
parted with it before ; and now, it seems to me is the
proper time to part with it. I will give it to you.'

And, I took it in my hand and pressed it to my bo-
som. There it is, and I hope as long as I live, and
venerate the name of William Penn, that I shall keep
it close to where my heart beats, for I revere the mem-
ory of that old man. I venerate the very day when he
first came to negotiate with the Indians of this coun-
try. For seventy years not a cloud in the Heavens
portended danger and discord. The Great Spirit
even smiles upon the wild Indian and the white man,
as they smoked the pipe of peace. Oh, last summer,
when I was in the city of Washington, on the 4th of
July, I thought to myself, when I saw the people en-
joying themselves, and flocking around at the laying
of the corner-stone of the monument to the memory
of Washington, that if the day came when the Indi-
ans shall have peaceable possession of their homes iia
the West, I would get my people to raise another mon-
ument to the memory of George Washington. We
will point our children to his noble form, and speak
of his exalted character, and love of country, in the
hope that they may emulate his spirit, and follow his
glorious example in all that was. great and good.


We trust that the time may come when the Indians
of the far West will have it in their power as it is
their inclination, to erect a monument as well to the
memory of Gen. Washington as to that of William
Penn. The eagle of liberty is stretching forth his
wings all over the earth, and the mountains of France
and Germany have received . him. The isles of the
sea are celebrating their songs of liberty; and will
not, I ask, the Indian participate in the glorious jubi-
lee 1 You, gentlemen, have too much patriotism in
your hearts, — you have too much love in your hearts,
to let the Indian die without being lamented.

Many have asked — 'Who is that Indian % Where
has he come from, and where was he born 1 And
what is he about V They have asked one another
these questions when I have been endeavoring to ex-
plain my views in relation lo the salvation of my poor
countrymen. Thank Heaven, I am an Indian. Yes j
were I to be the last to stand on the peaks of the
Rocky Mountains, 1 would still raise my hand to the
world as a part of a noble specimen of humanity, the
representative of the Indians who once lived in this
country. I heard one gentleman say to another —
<Who is that V [Alluding to myself] 'Who is he V
Now if he is in this Hall at the present time, tell him
*I am a native American.' [Applause and laughter.]

Mr, C. in conclusion, said — 'I beg this audience —
highly inteligent and respectable as it is — to receive
my warm acknowledgments for your kind attention
this evening ; and I pray the Great Spirit that you
and I may, while we live, do something for the benefit
of the world — that, when we are about to visit the


world to come, and the Angel of Death appears to sever
our bodies from our souls, that the latter may fly,
like an eagle, to mansions in the skies. I trust that
the white man and the Indian may meet where they
shall swear eternal friendship before their God,

Correspondence of the Flag,




J^ew York,

Before leaving these Atlantic Cities for the woods
in the far distant west, permit me to converse with your
readers, some of whom may have seen notices of the ad-
dresses and lectures of an Indian chief, in the halls of
different legislatures from South to North.

The great object of my efforts has been to awaken an
interest in the minds of the people of these Atlantic
States, in behalf of that long neglected race, the Abori-
gines of America. That government might collect the
Indians in one body in the west, for the purpose of form-
ing them in one state, thus preparing the way for their

The deep interest I have seen manifested in behalf of
the Indians, by the American people of the States
through which I have travelled, leads me to believe that
the majority of the pale-faces wish the red men well.

The North Carolina Legislature passed a joint reso-
lution after I had addressed them, strongly recommend-
ing my plan to the consideration of the American gov-
ernment J and the resolution was transmitted to Con-


My next visit was to the Legislature of South Caroli-
na, where I was received in the kindest manner, and
had the honor of addressing the meiaibers on the 15th of
last December. At the expiration of a few days a reso-
lution was passed by the House, in my favor, and con-
curred in by the Senate.

I then started for the north, remaining for a short
time in Charleston, where the crowds who attended my
lectures denoted the feeling of the people of that city,
to whom I am indebted for numerous favors.

I stopped in Wilmington, N. C, addressed the Vir^-
ginia Legislature, but that body was so pressed with
business that no resolution was passed, but 1 was inform-
ed that one will be at its next session.

My address before the Pennsylvania Legislature was
published in full. I greatly esteem the people of that
State, for their deep regard for my efforts to educate
and elevate the Indian, They are worthily the desen-
dants of William Penn. They have always heen friends
of the Indians, and have stood at their side when all
others forsook them and fled. They have taught them
to handle the hoe, and taught them to love the Maker of

After delivering a course of lectures, by request of
the mayor, and other eminent citizens in Philadelphia,
I left for New York. This is the Rome of the Ne\v World.
It takes full one year of close effort to interest the peo-
ple, and there is but one way in which this can be done —
to let the shadow of a mighty dollar, appear on the walls
of there public halls.

By the advice of friends I visited your city, in which
I found many warm-hearted friends. The kindness be-


stowed upon an Indian stranger by your worthy gover-
nor, by Amos A. Lawrence, Esq., and other influential
citizens, can never be forgotten. As my friend, H. W.
Longfellow, has beautifully said —

" Friends, my soul with joy remembers !
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers,

On tlie hearth stone of my heart."
What else could I do but love and esteem the Ameri-
can people 1 I love their Bible and their institutions.
1 admire their magnanimity and their perseverance. In-
dustry, being guided by their intelligence, causes the
sea to do their will, and has opened channels, through
which commerce pours its treasures at their feet. The
roar of the cannon speaks for its defence, and the flag
that waves over it, is the charter of its rights.

While revolution after revolution follows in the Old
World, and thrones crumble beneath the giant tread of
freedom, our own nation stands firm in the right, and
instead of blood and carnage, diff'uses among its inhabi-
tants the principles of education. The struggle in the
Old World has but commenced. The fearful struggle
betwen the powers of darkness aid the powers of light,
betwen the lion of despotism and the eagle of freedom.
America ! America ! I adore thee ! Land of intelli-
gence, of industry, and the fruits thereof. I have drank
from thy mountain streams. 1 have gazed at thy lofty
mountains, and floated in my birchen canoe over the
calm surface of thy glassy lakes.

America, America, heaven's blessingc attenend thee,
While we live we shall cherish and love and defend thee !
Tho' the scorner may sneer, and the witless defame thee,
Onr heart swells with idadness whenever we name thee.'


My letter is dated in New York. As an Indian, I
walk these streets amid the palaces of the white man.
The walls, how high, the streets how hard. All rush by
me with arrow-like speed. Silks and rags go side by
side in Broadway. Here are the world's extremes. I
cannot remain here long. I must away to the western
woods and lakes, to the Falls of St. Anthony, across the
Prairies to the base of the Rocky Mountains. I shall
take the fish-hook and pole. When 1 have been lucky
you shall hear from me, and 1 will send you an invita-
tion to partake of a feast at the foot of the Hocky Moun-

You will hear from me at Washington, before I leave
for the West.

Yours, &c.



Washington^ May, 1849.

In my last I told you that I would write from
Washington, and now, not knowing how soon 1 may be
off from here, I sit down to talk once again with your
numerous readers.

Washington ! What a name. The nation's pride, the
centre of patriots and the model of men for centuries


to come. The wide world's languages with their dia-
lects have learned to pronounce it. The fame of the
man, though silent, will speak to new-born millions.
Mothers whisper this name in the ears of inocency.
How appropriate for a new-born republic. Those mas-
sive pillars of the Capitol and the White House, and
that shaft which is about to be reared to the skies,
must wear away before the name will cease to be a
motto for nations abroad, and for the two hundred
States which must exist when all this American land
is subdued by commerce and art.

Washington is comparatively still to what it gener-
ally is. But the same dust that rose in white columns
when I first saw the city three years ago, is still here
rising from the avenue. To-day the north-west winds
have been rather uncourteous to aged heads, and gar-
ments play rather curious tricks.

The trees on the avenue look quite green. The song
of birds among them is heard, and the tiny homes for
a tiny race are being built. The flowers sweeten the
air, and children sportfully play with the gold fish in
the reservoir, in front of the Capitol. To-day, tired
of looking at mud walls, just before sunset I went to
Georgetown heights- I passed by people who had the
same disagreeable disease with which Yankeedom is
afflicted, namely, 'curiosity,' — white men and women,
a glorious mixture — you know what I mean. Mouths
were opened, 'there is that Indian chief,' said an ur-
chin, advancing before me. I made at him as though
I would cane him, and 1 have not since seen him ; for,
as he started he made an effort to squeal^ and whirled
around a corner as though he would run to the end of


the world and neither stop nor look back. Scare that
boy again in like manner, and he would be as white as
his neighbors. Poor child, I would not harm a straight
hair of your head.

After reaching the top, nearly out of breath, I glan-
ced my eyes over the panoramic yiew about me. The
wind, how bracing, the gentle rustling of the leaves
of the trees, how musically delightful. Before me lay
the waters of the Potomac clothed with white sails.

'What is yon dark streak V inquires my friend. It
is the bridge, a mile and a quarter long.

The sun began to sink. With what a gorgeous fold
it enwraps itself, as the music of creation lulls it to
rest. The clouds around it, attending ministers on its
departure, on one side appeared as a full blaze, on the
other like giant waves foaming and careering onward.
It has sank behind the trees and their foliage is in a
crimson hue. O, could I have a bower there. Me-
thinks that when I slept I should dream of Eden's
pleasant groves.

What a beautiful sight ! A Boston poet stood be-
fore me Uke a statue, gazed, wondered, admired ! He
said nothing, but his eyes flashed with the fire of his
soul. In his silence there was language ! Far off on
yonder branch sings the mocking bird of the south, and
nearer was a robin, both chanting the praise of their
Creator. Other birds flew by to their nest. Night
creeping over the vale below, I turned away reluctant-
ly from the glorious scene.

Just now I have passed the large buildng, the Treas-
ury — Uncle Samuel's pocket — in which is held the
common cents of the nation.


Good night ! My friend has gone ahead of me, and
is waiting my arrival in the land of nod.

May 15. — 1 have just learned a Washington secret,
viz, that my friend is to dine with the Cabinet to-
day, or rather that the Cabinet is to dine with him.
Mention it to no one. You can whisper it to the ladies,
however — they can keep a secret.

The dust ! I wish to leave it and away to the green
fields of the west. I am to know to day whether I am
to receive the aid of government in the prosecution of
my plan to concentrate and civilize the Indians of the
west. God knows that the Indians deserve aid and in-
struction from the American people, and they seem de-
sirous to grant it. What the people wish to do, the gov-
ernment will not hinder them^ from doing, and, to the
credit of the men at the head of national affairs be it
said, they seem anxious to recompense the red men for
the wrongs of the past.

I must close. The clouds are at this moment gath-
ering in their might, and threaten to flood us with cold

I am yours,




Mount Vernon^ May, 1849.

To-day for the first time I had the good fortune to
find time to visit this place j the final resting spot of
the greatest of modern men.

Mayor Seaton, of Washington, gave us a note to the
present occupant, Mr. Washington — and after a ride of
sixteen miles by land, in company with my friend
Mr. John S. Adams, of Boston, we came in view of the
spot. On our way to the tomb we were obliged to
travel a most disagreeable road, ditches, rivulets, nar-
row passes, tangled woods, and other evils obstructed
our way. We drove up to the gate and 'uncle' some-
body came hobbling along to open it. In these dig-
gins, habituate yourself in calling every negro you meet
who is half a minute older than youself, 'uncle,' and
you will pass anywhere.

He opened the gate and we entered, looking upon the
old dilapidated brick walls on our right hand, and going
up to the door, delivered my note, and was soon reques-
ted to walk in the passage.

'Dah,' said a curly-headed urchin, 'walk round and
and see what you can see.'

'But where is Mr, W-ashington V I inquired.

*He is in dat room dah, sir.'

'What, is he sickl'

'No sair — but you will look round de room and see
what you can see.'

We strolled about the parlor, sitting-room, and pas-
sage, and used all the exertion we could to 'see what


we could see/ We looked about us in vain for some
person to conduct us to the tomb. When 1 asked the
colored boy the location of it, he stuck out his long
arm in a horizontal position, and pointing to a long
brick wall, said, 'Dah !'

1 went to the front of the once elegant mansion, and
stood on the brow of a hill under the branches of a tall
tree. The Potomac lay below and not a ripple was to
be seen. The air was sultry and still. O, how still.
Two magnolia trees in front of the house were seem-
ingly drooping into decay, but the cool air of the even-
ing was only needed to revive them.

The house was in a very neglected, timeworn condi-
tion ; the oak trees seemed to flourish better than any-
thing else, and the windows corresponded with other
parts of the house, except two of them, which seemed
to have more attention bestowed on them than did the
others, being adorned with superb curtain hangings.

Seeing no white man, we availed ourselves of the
guidance of an old negro. He began to speak of the
greatness of George Washington, and between each
word would escape a sigh.

'There,' said he, 'is the place where massa Washing-
ton sleeps.'

Here at the gate, I stood, and when I gazed on the
marble coffin Avhich contained his body, an indescriba-
ble feeling filled my soul — of pleasure and regret. Here
rests the remains of a man whose fame is as boundless
as the ocean — whose honor towers above the skies — •
whose virtues are sung in other lands, and will be a
lesson to the children of generations yet to come — a
model for heroes, a model for Christians. Here rests the


man in whose breast burned the true flame of patriot-
ism; the man whose voice was heard above the din of
battle — whose counsels piloted the ship of freedom
through tempestuous seas, and who hoisted the stars
and stripes, beneath which American commerce nov/
floats in security. It was he who fed the young eagles
in their defenceless homes, in their hour of peril, till
they became strong, till the hour of peril was past, and
they were let loose to bear over the world the charter
of freedom which Washington marked out for it.
They go from east to west, and soon all shall be free,
this earth a paradise, and men and angels one.

Who of all the ambitious CsBsars of the Old World
could be compared with George Washington 1 When
we speak of Napoleon, the heart is sickened with the
thought of blood. But around the memory of Wash-
ington, the light of an unclouded sun is seen. The
one led on his warriors with an iron sceptre — the other
governed them with a smile. Both died. One sooth-
ed by the hands of an angel, the other pressed down by
the thoughts of the anguish he had caused. The
grave of one was where. the ocean looked in fury, the
grave of the other in quiet, watered by the tears of
grateful millions of freemen.

Absorbed with thoughts like these, for the first time
my inflexible nature gave way to its feelings. I could
not help it.

1 am sorry that they do not If eep it better. It should
be a marble castle in which the angel of light might
watch his dust till the morn of the resurrection.

I turned from the tomb, and on the tree there sat a
moaning dove. It seemed to be conscious that we


came there to weep. Warble on, little bird ! When
we are blest with a home in paradise, I will feed thee
with fruits immortal.

The sun is sinking in a blaze of glory. The skies
are of a crimson hue, and the foliage of the tree throws
its shadow upon our path. The tame deer are sport-
ing around us, and with many pleasures and regrets
we leave.

It is now nearly 7 o'clock, P. M., and we have 18
miles to go ; so for the present, farewell.



Norfolk, Va., May 29, 1849.
Dear Sir :

From the date of my letter you will learn that
I am still going south, instead of north or west.

Norfolk is now full of alarming rumors. The chol-
era is here, and people are more religiously inclined
than usual. A revival is now in progress in one of the
churches, the result of which, will I trust remain long-
er than the epidemic; though, doubtless, in some cases
It will pass away with the alarm that gave it birth.

This place is favorably situated for commerce, hav-
ing a good harbor, the best I have ever seen. The
land in its vicinity is very good for agricultural pur-


poses, and the principal products are corn, tobacco and
sweet potatoes. Ships are here from all ports. In
view are vessels just arrived, others just departing.
Hark! you can hear the sailor's song and the rattling
of the cordage. Up, up go the sails, one toss of the
sailor's hat, one adieu to the landsmen and they are
off. These white sails on the ocean are like lilies on
the pond, dotting it wherever commerce has travelled.

There is something sublimely grand in the idea of a
frail bark struggling across from continent to continent.
Storm raging, winds howling and waves moaning, and
thus to be upon the deep, hemmed in by the mighty
walls of the ocean ! — but I must stop writing about it,
for a sensation of sea sickness already creeps over me
at the bare thought of it.

It is near 10 o'clock A. M., and curiosity leads me
to go over the ferry to the place where that ship of
ships, the 'Pennsylvania,' is anchored. Her masts
tower above all others, a hundred feet higher than the
highest. When I inquired whether I could be convey-
ed on board, I was told that the cholera was on board,
and that one of the four persons who had been attack-
ed by it was dead, So, instead of going on board the
ship, I strolled about the navy yard, which exceeds any
place of the kind I have ever seen ; the row of houses,
work-shops and ship houses. What a noisy place.
Go it, ye hammer and tongs and saw-mills ! There
are at present a thousand men at work in this yard.
Spike-makers cable and anchor-makers, groups here
and groups there making extensive preparations for
war! and nothing is done for peace. 1 think the day
is not far distant when the good reputation of


our nation will not be based on the number of its guns
or the size of its naval fleet.

Cannons and balls ! This is a part of civilization
which I hope my people will never learn. Some time
ago the famous warrior Black Hawk was brought from
Washington to this yard to seethe preparations which
the government was making for war ; more particular-
ly, however, to see the great ship. I am told that he
was conducted all over the yard, and no sign of emotion
did he manifest until he was led to the great ship.
He gazed in wonder at the tall masts, the strong rig-
ging, the steam engine and the boilers, and asked 'Who
made this great canoe V He was told, and with a
shake of the heed, said, 'I should like to see the man
that made this big canoe; he must be a great warrior.'
He inquired who it was that guided it. When he was
shown, he could hardly believe that the person had
power in his arms to steer such a canoe in a storm.

Strawberries are plenty here, but few person eat
them, supposing them to contain too much cholera. I
devoured g. pretty good portion of them the other day,
and am certain there was none in those I ate. In
Portsmouth, I found the streets well limed and white-
washed. I think the prevailing epidemic will rage here
as the ground is very low, flat, and there is much stag-
nant water.

The famous Cypress Swamp is not far from here,
where the staves are obtained, and in which snakes and
alligators abound.

Many runaway slaves are housed in this swamp and
live like bears in the woods, seldom seeing any white
people. Some have lived thus for twenty years. They


raise their grain in patches, and the region is very

The Virginians are a very hospitable people. About
a year ago while in Richmond, a request was sent to me
to visit Charles city. In about a week afterwards I
made arrangements to go.

When I arrived in the city I did not know it. 1
alighted and found obout one thousand people who had
met to hear the Indian. A church was open. Tall
oaks and pines shadowed us, that had 'maintained
their position, for at least a hundred years. There was
not another house at a less distance than three miles —
and such was Charles city ! I thought if that w^as a
city, we could boast of many cities in the wild woods.

Though the people here are very hospitable, there
are two classes of Yankees against whom they hold
an inveterable dislike, namely, fanatical abolitionists
and clock-pedlers

Would to God slavery was abolished; but there is
too much fire and brimstone in the denunciations of
men of misguided zeal. What! crush the Constitu-
tion of the United States ] It seems like a mole be-
neath the earth, crying out, 'take down the sun, for it
does me no good.. If you ask, what shall be done to
abolish slavery 1 I reply, use those means which are in
the hands of the people; diffuse sound education, let
the ministry of north and south preach and pi'actise a
pure Christianity ; then will the slaves be set free.

The Virginians are not a stubborn people. Many of
them have spoken freely to me and expressed their
convictions of the evils of slavery, but they are much
like the Indian in one particular ; they will not be driven


to do a good act. You may drive an Indian to the very-
gate of heaven, but he will not enter to enjoy its pleas-
ures ; but entwine the thread of love and gentleness
with the hand of kindness and you can lead him. Yea,
a nation too. That spirit which is thus diffused in the
act, disarms the savage breast of its fires-, and thus it
is with all men.

I had expected to have been on my way west before
this, but the Indian Department having no funds at its

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Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 13 of 15)