You are here

View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3e

Printer-friendly version

View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3e

Ethan Smith

[beginning of page 117]

“The priests of the Indians (he adds) who are at the same time their physicians--while they heal their wounds, or cure their diseases, they interpret their dreams, and satisfy their desires of searching into futurity.” But Capt. Carver unites with other authors on the subject, in speaking of the difficulty of strangers among them obtaining much knowledge of their religious rites. He says; “It is very difficult to attain to a perfect knowledge of the religious principles of the Indians. They endeavor to conceal them.” It is no wonder then, that Capt. Carver, passing by them on a tour of upwards of five thousand miles, discovered but few of these many rites resembling the religion of ancient Israel, stated by Mr. Adair. He says there was “one particular female custom” bearing resemblance to the rites in the Mosaic law; alluding to the well known Indian separation of women. Speaking of their “religious principles,” which he says are “few and simple,” he adds, “they (the Indians) have not deviated, as many other uncivilized nations, and too many civilized ones have done, into idolatrous modes of worship.” “On the appearance of the new moon they dance and sing; but it is not evident that they pay that planet any adoration.”

Here then, according to this author, is their one God, infinitely good, the giver of life, and of all good, presiding over all, who is the only object of worship; though they sometimes beg of the evil spirit to avert their calamities, which in their opinion, he brings.--Here are their good angels, ministering to the good; here their priests; and a “particular female custom” inexplicable unless by the Mosaic law. Here is their firm adherence to their “few simple doctrines,” or rites, less deviating to idolatry than other uncivilized, and even many civilized nations. These facts are far from being destitute of their favourable bearing on our subject. How should such things be true of those savages, were they not the descendants of ancient Israel?

It was observed in this book, that the Esquimaux natives and people round Hudson’s Bay appear a different race from the American Indians, and may have come from the north of Europe. Capt. Carver notes an assertion from Grotius, that “some of the Norwegians passed into America by way of Greenland.” Here may be the origin of the people of Greenland, Iceland, and round Hudson’s Bay. But it gives not satisfactory account of the origin of the numerous Indian tribes of America.

Rev. Mr. Chapman, missionary of the United Foreign Missionary Society, at the Union Mission, in a letter of March 24, 1823, gives an account of some of the manners and customs of the Osage Indians.

[beginning of page 118]

He went with a large company of them to Fort Smith, who went to form a treaty of peace with the Cherokees. The evening before they arrived, on a hill, the chiefs informed that in the morning they must make their customary peace medicine, (a religious ceremony previous to a treaty) for the purpose of cleansing their hearts, and securing their sincerity of thinking and acting.-- “Ten of the principal warriors, including the priest of the Atmosphere, (a name of one of their clans) were selected and sent beneath a ledge, to dream or learn whether any error had been committed thus far--or (as they expressed it) to watch the back track. ” Mr. Chapman proceeds to state their ceremonies--prayers, sacred paintings, anointings, &c.-- Among these he says; “about two feet in advance, and in a line with our path, were three bunches of grass, which had been cut and piled about three feet apart, as an emblem of him whom they worshipped.

Here the priest stood with his attendants, and prayed at great length. Having finished his prayer, he again ordered the march on foot. The Indians from the right and left entered the path with great regularity; and on wheeling forward every individual was compelled to step upon each bunch of the grass.” The company proceeded about forty rods; then halted and formed as before. The priest now “ordered his senior attendant to form a circle of grass about four feet in diameter, and to fix a handsome pile in the centre.” By this he made another long prayer. Then stepping on the circle, and followed in this by his attendants, they passed on. The chief informed Mr. Chapman that this circle of grass too was a representation of their God. Mr. Chapman says; “It is the universal practice of these Indians to salute the dawn of every morning with their devotion.” And upon the ceremonies he had described he adds; “Perhaps the curious may imagine that some faint allusion to the lost ten tribes of Israel may be discovered in the select number of dreamers (they being ten); -- to the Trinity in unity, in the bunches (and the circle) of grass; -- to the Jewish anointings and purifications, in their repeated paintings; -- to the sacred rite of the sanctuary, in their secret consultations; -- and to the prophetic office, in the office of their dreamers.”

Let us look at the natives in an extreme part of South America, and see if they exhibit any evidence similar to what has been adduced of the natives of North America.

Don Alonzo de Ericilla, in his history of Chili, says of the natives there; “The religious system of the Araucanians is simple. They acknowledge a Supreme Being, the author of all things, whom

[beginning of page 119]

they call Pillan, a word derived from Pulli, or Pilli, the soul; and signifies the Supreme Essence. They call him also, Guenupillan; the Spirit of Heaven; Bulagen, the Great Being; Thalcove, the Thunderer; Vilvemvoe, the Omnipotent; Mollgelu, the Eternal; and Avnolu, the Infinite.” He adds; “The universal government of Pillan, (his Supreme Essence,) is a prototype of the Araucanian polity. He is the great Toqui of the invisible world.” He goes on to speak of his having subordinate invisible beings under him, to whom he commits the administration of affairs of less importance. These, this author sees fit to call “subaltern divinities.” We may believe they are but a traditional notion of angels, good and bad; such as is held by the Indians of North America.

This author says of this people; “They all agreed in the belief of the immortality of the soul. This consolatory truth is deeply rooted, and in a manner innate with them. -- They hold that man is composed of two substances essentially different; the corruptible body and the soul, incorporeal and eternal.”

Of their funerals, he says; “Their bier is carried by the principal relations, and is surrounded by women who bewail the deceased in the manner of the hired mourners among the Romans.”

He also says; “They have among them a tradition of a great deluge, in which only a few persons were saved, who took refuge on a high mountain called Thegtheg, which possessed the property of moving upon the water.”

Here then it seems the remote natives of Chili (a region 1260 miles south of Peru, in South America,) furnish their quota of evidence that they originated in the same family with the North American Indians, and hold some of their essential traditions.

Whence could arise the tradition of those natives, of one “Supreme Being, author of all things?” That he is the “Supreme Essence; the Spirit of Heaven; the Thunderer; the Omnipotent; the Eternal; the Infinite?” Whence their tradition of the flood, and of several persons being saved on a floating mountain, meaning no doubt the ark? Whence their ideas so correct of man’s immortal soul?

This author says of those native Chilians, “Many suppose that they are indigenous to the country; while others suppose they derive their origin from a foreign stock, and at one time say, that their ancestors came from the north, and at another time from the west.”

Their better informed or wise men, it seems, retain some impressions of their original emigration from a foreign land, and from

[beginning of page 120]

the north-west, or Beering’s Straits. Is it possible to give a satisfactory account of such traditions among those native Indians of Chili, short of their having received them from the Hebrew sacred Scriptures? And if from thence, surely they must be Hebrews.

The Southern Intelligencer, in extracts from the missionaries among the Chickasaws, informs us that an old Indian, stating to them some of the traditions of the Chickasaws, informs us that an old Indians, stating to them some of the traditions of the Chickasaws, (most of which were sufficiently wild and pagan) gave the following, “The Great Spirit first made the ground, and animals; afterward he made man;” -- “A woman was made in like manner.” -- “The Great Spirit drew lines on the surface of the earth with his rod; these afterward became rivers.” There is an old tradition (he adds) concerning a great flood of water.” He goes on to speak of its rising to the skies. “The Chickasaws came from the west,” he says.--”The world is to be burned, or turned upside down; it is generally thought it will be burned.” (See Isa. xxiv. 1-6) “A certain description of persons infamously wicked, will be burned with it. They will roll in fire, yet cannot die.” “There are to be other signs before the end of the world; such as great shaking of the earth, &c.” This old Indian adds; “It has been said by old Indians that before that event should take place, (the burning of the world) the Indians and whites would mix, so that the tribes would be confused and lost, and not know to what nation they formerly belonged.”

It appears that among abundance of trash, in Indian traditions, there are running through them some things which must have been transmitted from the Hebrew Scriptures.

This old Indian has promised the missionaries to visit them again, and relate to them more of their traditions.

In Long’s expedition to the Rocky Mountains, we learn that the Omawhaw tribe of Indians (who inhabit the west side of the Missouri River, fifty miles above Engineer Cantonment,) believe in one God. They call him Wahconda; and believe him to be the greatest and best of beings; the Creator and Preserver of all things; the Fountain of mystic medicine.*1 Omniscience, omnipresence, and vast power are attributed to him.--And he is supposed to afflict them with sickness, poverty, or misfortune, for their evil deeds. In conversation he is frequently appealed to as an evidence of the truth of their asservations-- “Wahconda hears what I say.”

[beginning of page 121]

These Indians have many wild pagan notions of this one God. But they have brought down by tradition, it seems, the above essentially correct view of him, in opposition to the polytheistical world.

Their name of God is remarkable--Wahconda. It has been shown that various of the Indians call God Yohewah, Ale, Yah, and Wah, doubtless from the Hebrew names Jehovah, Ale, Jah. And it has been shown that these syllables which compose the name of God, are compounded in many Indian words, or form the roots from which they are formed. Here we find the fact; while the author from whom the account is taken, it is presumed, had no perception of any such thing. Wah-conda; the last syllable of the Indian Yohewah, compounded with conda. Or Jah, Wah, their monosyllable name of God thus compounded.--Here is evidence among those children of the desert, both as to the nature and the name of their one God, corresponding with what has been exhibited of other tribes.

A religious custom, related by Mr. Long, goes to corroborate the opinion that these people are of Israel. He relates that from the age of between five and ten years, their little sons are obliged to ascend a hill fasting, once or twice a week during the months of March and April, to pray aloud to Wahconda. When this season of the year arrives, the mother informs the little son, that the “ice is breaking up in the river; the ducks and geese are migrating, and it is time for you to prepare to go in clay.” The little worshipper then rubs himself over with whitish clay, and at sun rise sets off for the top of a hill, instructed by the mother what to say to the Master of Life. From his elevated position he cries aloud to Wahconda, humming a melancholy tune, and calling on him to have pity on him, and make him a great hunter, warrior, &c.

This has more the appearance of descending from Hebrew tradition, than from any other nation on earth; teaching their children to fast in clay, as “in dust and ashes;” and to cry to Jah for pity and protection.--Such are the shreds of evidence furnished, one here and another there, through the wilds of America, suggesting what is the most probable, if not evident origin, of the natives of this continent.

In the Percy Anecdotes, we have an account that the Shawano Indians in an excursion captured the Indian warrior called Old Scranny, of the Muskhoge tribe, and condemned him to a fiery torture. He told them the occasion of his falling into their hands was, he had “forfeited the protection of the Divine Power by some impurity or other, when carrying the holy ark of war against his devoted enemy.

[beginning of page 122]

Here he recognized the one God, his providence, speaks of his holy ark borne against enemies, alludes to the purity of those who bear it, and if they become impure, the Divine Being will forsake them. The bearing, which ideas like these have on our subject, needs no explanation.

Melvenda and Acasta (authors noted in the Star in the West) both affirm that some of the natives had a tradition of a Jubilee, according to the Jubilee in Israel. Edwards, in his West Indies, assures us, that the striking uniformity of the prejudices and customs of the Caribbean Indians to he practices of the Jews, had not escaped the notice of historians, as Gomella, Du Testre, and others.

In Hunter’s narrative of the manners and customs of the Indians, printed in Philadelphia in 1823, things are exhibited strikingly to our purpose. This writer spent the younger part of his life among the Indians in the Arkansas territories, and up the Missouri. He was taken by the Indians when a child. He grew up among them, and lived among them many years. He seems (if I mistake not) not to be aware of any question relative to their origin. And he seems not to have undertaken to make any comparison between them and ancient Israel, as though they might be of that people. But he states many facts, which may answer for themselves. Among the many opinions and traditions of those wild natives, he gives the following. I shall give them in his own words, that all may judge for themselves. “It is certain that they acknowledge, at least as far as my acquaintance extends, one Supreme all powerful, and intelligent Being, viz. the Great Spirit, or Giver of life, who created, and governs all things.”--That he (the Great Spirit) often held councils and smoked with the red men (i.e. in ancient times;) gave them laws to be observed--but that in consequence of their disobedience, he withdrew from and abandoned them to the vexations of the bad spirit, who had since been instrumental of all their degeneracy and sufferings.”

“They believe that notwithstanding the offences of his red children, he continues to shower down on them all the blessings they enjoy. In consequence of this his parental regard for them they are truly filial and sincere in their devotions, and pray to him for such things as they need; and return thanks for such good things as they receive.” Mr. Hunter goes on to speak of these Indians believing the Great Spirit to be present, and invisible, and being eternally unchangeable. And he adds; “They believe in a future state of existence.” As to their devotions, he says: “At the breaking up of winter, having

[beginning of page 123]

supplied themselves with such things as were necessary, we offered up our orisons (devotions) to the Great Spirit for having preserved us, and supplied all our wants. This (he adds) is the constant practice of the Osages, Kansas, and many other nations of Indians west of the Mississippi.--You then witness (he says) the silent but deep, impressive communication the native of the forest holds with his Creator.”

Mr. H. goes on to assure us that the natives have their particular times “set apart for devotional purposes,--such as the declaration of war; the restoration of peace; and extraordinary visitations.” He adds; They have also rejoicings which assume something of the pious form; such as their harvests, and the return of the new moon. In general, however, a day seldom passes with an elderly Indian, or others who are esteemed wise and good, in which a blessing is not asked, or thanks returned, to the Giver of life.”

“Shortly after a council have determined on war, all who are able to walk, and the old men sometime borne by others, assemble in a grove, or some place rendered sacred, and offer up their prayers to the Great Spirit for success against their enemies. Some one of the old men, or prophets, addresses the assembly; states the cause of their grievances; and enjoins on the warriors to merit success by being brave, and placing their confidence in the great Giver of life.” “Similar meetings (he adds) are generally held on the conclusion of peace; or the attainment of victory. When triumphant, they dance and sing songs of victory, in which the name of the Great Spirit is frequently introduced with great reverence.” How exactly do these accounts accord with those of Messrs. Boudinot, Adair, and others, of the natives in other regions! Who can doubt but these Indians have all one origin? and who can doubt the origin of their religion?

On the occurrence of an epidemic, such meetings are holden; and some old man, or a prophet (if one be present) addresses the Indians, and assures them that the calamity is a visitation from the Great Spirit, to chastise them for their ill spent lives, and wilful offences against him. He then commands them to be penitent for what has passed, and to reform. Silent prayers are then offered, with promises to become more obedient to their Great Father.--All amusements and recreations cease; and individual prayers and fastings are frequently observed for many successive days.--All their various devotions are performed in a standing posture.”

“At the ingathering of corn, (he adds) they observe general rejoicings; at which all who are able join in appropriate dances, songs,

[beginning of page 124]

and feasts, and in thanks to the Great Spirit for his munificence toward them.”--He goes on to state that on those occasions, and at new moons, they keep lamps burning all night before and after the occasion: but for what purpose neither he nor they can tell; “as the Indians themselves conform to it only in obedience to usage.” Possibly the nightly lamps burning in the temple of ancient Israel, may best explain the origin of this custom. The writer says; “They in general on discovering the new moon utter a short prayer to the Great Spirit.” In all the tribes I have visited, (he adds) a belief of a future state of existence; and of future rewards and punishments, is maintained; though this in many respects is various, and generally confused and indistinct.” “This belief of their accountability to the Great Spirit, (he adds) makes the Indians generally scrupulous and enthusiastic observers of all their traditionary dogmas.--This conduct with most of the Indians is founded on a perfect conviction that the cultivation and observance of good and virtuous actions in this life, will in the next entitle them to the perpetual enjoyment of ease and happiness--where they will again to be restored to the favour and enjoy the immediate presence, counsel and protection of the Great Spirit; while dereliction from it--will as assuredly entail on them endless afflictions.” The writer continues-- “Every Indian of any standing has his sacred place, such as a tree, rock, fountain, &c. to which he resorts for devotional exercise. Sometimes many resort to the same place. Preceding any public meeting held either for religious or festive purposes, or the assembling of a counsel, they uniformly retire to their respective places of private worship, and solicit the counsel and protection of the Great Spirit. Those who omit (these meetings) are thought less of, and their conduct is ascribed to an indifference to holy things, and want of solicitude for the national welfare.”

“The religious opinions entertained, and modes of worship observed by the several Indian tribes, with which I have any acquaintance, (says Mr. Hunter) vary in their general character but little .” “I have several times heard the chief of the Great Osages observe, both in public and private meetings, that all good actions would be rewarded, and all bad actions punished by the Great Spirit.”

“At first (says Mr. Hunter) one might be led to suppose that this belief was a modification of doctrines taught by some of the missionaries; but such is not the case.” He goes on to state reasons to show that “these things are from Indian tradition previous to their having any knowledge of white people.”

[beginning of page 125]

In stating his attendance at a sacrifice at the Rickara villages, where the ceremony was performed on an altar and in a holy place, where none might tread but the priest, Mr. Hunter says; “The only thing farther connected with this circumstance, and worthy of remark, was the dress or habiliment of the priest. His cap was very high, and made of a beaver’s skin, the tail of which was curiously ornamented with stained porcupine quills, and hung down on his back. His robe was a buffalo skin singularly decorated with various coloured feathers, and dyed porcupine quills. And he wore on his breast, suspended from his neck, a dressed beaver skin stretched on sticks, on which were painted various hieroglyphic figures in different colours.”

“The Indians speak of similar characters being among some other tribes.” Here, as in Mr. Adair’s account, is their high priest’s robe and breast plate. On ordinary occasions, they retire secretly (Mr. H. adds) to their sacred places, and invoke the assistance of the Great Spirit, and make the most solemn vows to him, which they never fail to perform, should events correspond to their prayers. But at times more momentous, such as the declaration of war, conclusion of peace, or the prevalence of epidemics, &c. they impose on themselves long fastings, and severe penance, take narcotics and nauseating drugs.” Mr. Hunter gives a long description of the Indian green corn feast; also of the harvest feast; and the feast of the new moon. None of their green corn may be eaten, till permission is given by well known order and a feast is celebrated; after which “they are permitted (he says) to gather without restraint whatever their wants require. But the Indians both old and young look upon it, as upon their game, as the gift of the Great Spirit, and never wantonly destroy either.”

“Murder (he adds) is punished blood for blood, according to the Mosaic law, by the relations of the deceased.”

“Their mode of reckoning time (says Mr. Hunter) is very simple. Their year begins about the vernal equinox; and their diurnal reckoning from sunset to sunset.” (This is perfectly Mosaic.) Upon their determining on war, he says: “Then follow the ceremonials of fasts, ablutions, anointings, and prayers to the Great Spirit, to crown their undertaking with success. They take drastic cathartics, bathe repeatedly, and finally anoint themselves with bear’s grease.” Relative to their returning from the war with prisoners, near their village they meet with their connexions and friends, who sally forth to congratulate them. Mr. Hunter says; “Every village has a post planted near the council lodge. It is the prisoner’s place of refuge. On arriving

[beginning of page 126]

within a short distance of it, the women and children, armed with clubs, switches, and missiles, and sometimes even with firebrands, place themselves in two ranks, between which the warriors (prisoners) one by one are forced to pass. It is in general a flight for life. Those who reach it, (the place of refuge) are afterwards treated kindly, and permitted to enjoy uninterrupted repose, till a general council determines their fate.”

Had Mr. Hunter been an enthusiastic believer in the Hebrew origin of the Indians, and had he undertaken to [forge] accounts to favour the hypothesis; what could he have said more direct to the purpose? But in stating these facts, he seems to have had no idea of such an hypothesis; but artlessly states facts from his own knowledge. And he had been brought up among them from his childhood. Instead of commenting on the accounts he gives of their one God, their views of him, their worship and devotions, God’s anciently giving them his law, then rejecting them yet continuing to preserve them; their fasts and feasts so similar to those in Israel; their reckoning of time, years and days; the official dress of their high priests, and his resemblance of the breastplate; and other things; I would only ask the reader to reperuse the quotations from this author; and compare them with the accounts given by Boudinot, Adair, and others, of other and distant tribes of Indians; yea, with the laws of Moses; and then say whether he can give any rational account of these things short of the American natives being the descendants of Israel?

May it not with some confidence be asked, among what other people on earth can such evidence be found of their being the ten tribes of Israel? Where are those ancient people of God, who have long been lost from the knowledge of the world; but who must soon come to light, and be recovered? Whence came the natives of our continent? They certainly found their way hither, and no doubt over Beering’s Straits from the north east of Asia. And the tribes of Israel might have found their way hither in that direction, as well as any other people. Our natives are here, and have brought down all these Israelitish traditions, and ceremonial observances, which it seems as though could be furnished from no other quarter than from the Mosaic law, the commonwealth of Israel.

Let the inquirer then, before he concludes that some other kind of evidence must be obtained, before the proposition can be adopted, consider, that the divine manner of affording evidence is not always such as human wisdom would dictate. The Jews had their strong

[beginning of page 127]

objections against the evidences which God saw fit to furnish of the Divinity of Christ, of his resurrection, and ascension to glory. These were not such as they would have chosen. In the midst of such evidence as God saw fit to afford, the Jews required something besides. “What sign showest thou?”--”How long dost thou make us to doubt?” “If he be Christ, let him descend from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Naaman had formed his expectation how his cure should be effected. “I thought he would come out, and lay his hand on the sore, and call upon his God, and heal the leprosy.” For want of this, he turned and was going very unpleasantly to retire.

Many things may be fancied concerning the kind and degrees of evidence, which shall bring to light the ten tribes. But Providence may adopt a different method. The methods adopted by the Most High, relative to the affairs of men, have usually been such as to baffle human wisdom, and to stain the pride of all glory.

We are to expect no new revelation from heaven. And the days of miracles are thought to be past. We probably must look for just such evidence, to exhibit to the world that people so long lost, as is in fact exhibited by the natives of America. And can we expect to find more evidence of this kind among any other people who have been for more than two millenaries lost from the world, and without records or letters? Could we well have expected to find so much? Consider, our aborigines have remained essentially distinguished from all the heathen on earth, in the uniform belief of most of them at least, of one God; and their freedom from false gods and gross idolatry.

Should it even be ascertained that some customs and habits are found among the American natives similar to what is found in the north east of Asia; this may be accounted for, without supposing these Indians to have descended from those Asiatics. For the Indians must have passed through their regions, to reach this country. They might have caught some of their manners. Some of those Asiatics might have mingled with them in their migration to this country; and though they here amalgamated with Israel, they may have perpetuated some of their own customs and manners. This is much more naturally and easily accounted for, than to account for those northern Asiatics being possessed of so much of the religious traditions of the Hebrews. If the Indians be not Hebrews, but of the wild Asiatics, their traditions are utterly unaccountable. The heathen nations, and the corrupt feelings of men, were not so fond of the laws

[beginning of page 128]

and knowledge of God, as that the ancient, far distant, and savage Scythians of the north-east should learn and retain so much of the religion of the Israel of God, and transmit it for thousands of years to the distant ramifications of their descendants over the vast continent of North and South America. Those who can believe the affirmative, (when no account can be given how the religion and traditions of the Jews could ever have been disseminated through the far distant wilds of Scythia,) ought never to complain that the believers in the Indians being descendants from Israel, are wild and conjectural. Their solution of the difficulty is far more wild, and every way improbable!

That various heathen nations bordering on ancient Israel, should have learned something of their names of the true God, and of their theology;--and that various heathen nations should have brought down some traditionary notions of the creation, of the deluge, and Noah’s ark, and of some general accounts of early events taught in ancient tradition and revelation, (as Grotias de Veritate asserts) is nothing strange. And it furnishes an incontestible argument in favour of the divinity of our bible. But that the northern roving savages of ancient Scythia should learn and adopt so much of the special rites of Israel’s ceremonial law, as has in fact been found among the American Indians, and that they should so firmly embrace them as to transmit them to their posterity for thousands of years, peopling a continent so distant from their own, and of the vast dimensions of this new world, is not only incredible, but attended with moral impossibility! It is in no sense to be placed on a par with the fact of some heathen nations retaining a tradition of the flood, the ark, &c. These were general facts anciently known to all; while the ceremonial laws of Moses were revealed and practised only in one nation, in after days, when men had become scattered over the eastern world, and had fallen into a state of gross idolatry and paganism. It was an economy designed to distinguish the tribes of Israel from all other nations; and it did distinguish and insulate them; and other nations did not receive Israel’s ceremonial code as their religion. Hence we are not to expect to find any traditionary observances of the ancient ceremonial law among any of the nations of the earth, at this day, except among the descendants of that ancient people of God; any more than we are to expect to find the doctrines of Confucius among the coloured race of Guinea. If some of the Arabs have practised circumcision; this makes nothing against us. Circumcision was long antecedent to the ceremonial code. And Ishmael, the father of the Arabians, being himself a

[beginning of page 129]

son of Abraham, was circumcised. How naturally would his descendants follow him in this rite, at least for some time. And the heathen nations being in the practice of offering sacrifices, furnishes no argument against us. For sacrifices had been offered by the progenitors of all the nations from the beginning, and were not at all peculiar to the ceremonial code. All heathen nations then, derived this their practice from their remote ancestors.

But when we now find a race of men in the conscientious practice of many of the ceremonial laws in Israel; and cautiously maintain those traditions, merely because they descended from their remote ancestors; we certainly have found considerable of that very kind of evidence, which must eventually (and at a period not far from the present) bring to light the descendants of ancient Israel. And however many difficult questions may attach themselves to the subject, they are all less difficult, than to account for the origin of these traditions on any other principle, than that they are of Israel.

Some have felt a difficulty arising against the Indians being the ten tribes, from their ignorance of the mechanic arts, of writing, and of navigation. Ancient Israel knew something of these; and some imagine, that these arts being once known, could never be lost. But no objection is hence furnished against our scheme. The knowledge of mechanic arts possessed in early times has been lost by many nations. Noah and his sons must have known considerable of these arts, as appears in their building of the ark. And his early posterity must have known something considerable of them, as appears in their building of Babel. But how many of the descendants of those ancient mechanics lost this knowledge. And Israel in an outcast state might as well have lost it. It seems a fact that Israel have lost it, let them be who or where they may. Otherwise, they must have been known in the civilized world.

But that the people who first migrated to this western world did possess some knowledge of the mechanic arts, (as much doubtless, as was possessed by Israel when they disappeared in the east) appears from incontestible facts, which are furnished in Baron Humbolt, and in the American Archaeology, such as the finding of brick, earthen ware, sculptures, some implements of iron, as well as other metals, and other tokens of considerable improvement; which furnish an argument in favour of the Indians having descended from the ten tribes. For the ancient Scythians, and people of the north east of Asia,

[beginning of page 130]

had no such degree of civilization at the time the Indians must have reached this land. Hence they could not have been from them.

The probability then is this; that the ten tribes, arriving in this continent with some knowledge of the arts of civilized life; finding themselves in a vast wilderness filled with the best of game, inviting them to the chase; most of them fell into a wandering idle hunting life. Different clans parted from each other, lost each other, and formed separate tribes. Most of them formed a habit of this idle mode of living, and were pleased with it. More sensible parts of this people associated together, to improve their knowledge of the arts; and probably continued thus for ages. From these the noted relics of civilization discovered in the west and south, were furnished. But the savage tribes prevailed; and in process of time their savage jealousies and rage annihilated their more civilized brethren. And thus, as a holy vindictive Providence would have it, and according to ancient denunciations, all were left in an “outcast” savage state. This accounts for their loss of the knowledge of letters, of the art of navigation, and of the use of iron. And such a loss can no more operate against their being of the ten tribes, than against their being of any other origin. Yea, we cannot so well account for their evident degeneracy in any other way, as that it took place under a vindictive Providence, as has been noted, to accomplish divine judgments denounced against the idolatrous ten tribes of Israel.

It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.

This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient, and from centuries before Columbus discovered America. These magnificent works have been found, one near Newark in Licking county, Ohio; one in Perry county, Ohio; one at Marietta; one at Circleville; one on Paint Creek; one on the eastern bank of the Little Miami river, Warren county; one on Paint Creek near Chillicothe; one on the Scioto river; and other places.

[beginning of page 131]

These works have evinced great wars, a good degree of civilization, and great skill in fortification. And articles dug from old mounds in and near those fortified places, clearly evince that their authors possessed no small degree of refinement in the knowledge of the mechanic arts.

These partially civilized people became extinct. What account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them, after long and dismal wars. And nothing appears more probable than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to this continent, who for a long time retained their knowledge of the mechanic and civil arts; while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild. No other hypothesis occurs to mind, which appears by any means so probable. The degrees of improvement, demonstrated to have existed among the authors of those works, and relics, who have ceased to exist, far exceed all that could have been furnished from the north-east of Asia, in those ancient times.

But however vindictive the savages must have been;--however cruel and horrid in extirpating their more civilized brethren; yet it is a fact that there are many excellent traits in their original character. There is in the minds of the native Americans a quality far superior to what is found in the minds of most other heathen on earth; and such as might have been expected from the descendants of the ancient Israel of God; as appears from numerous testimonies, such as the following.

A Rev. Mr. Cushman, in a sermon preached at Plymouth in 1620, says, upon the base slanders uttered against the Indians; “The Indians are said to be the most cruel and treacherous people--like lions;; but to us they have been like lambs; so kind, and submissive, and trusty, that a man may truly say, many Christians are not so kind and sincere. When there were not six able persons among us, and the Indians came daily by hundreds to us, with their sachems or kings, and might in one hour have made dispatch of us; yet they never offered us the least injury, in word or deed.”

Governor Hutchinson says of them; “The natives showed courtesy to the English at their first arrival;--were hospitable; and made such as would eat their food welcome to it; and readily instructed them in planting and cultivating the Indian corn. Some of the English who lost themselves in the woods, they relieved and conducted home.”

[beginning of page 132]

William Penn spake and wrote in the highest terms of the kindness and benevolence of this people. Col. Smith, in his history of New Jersey, says; “For near a century, the Indians of that state had all along maintained an intercourse of great cordiality and friendship with the inhabitants, being interspersed among them, and frequently receiving meat at their houses, and other marks of good will and esteem.”

Charlevoix, who early travelled from Quebec to New Orleans, had a great opportunity to learn the true Indian character; and he speaks highly in their favour. He says; “They rarely deviate from certain maxims and usages founded on good sense alone, which holds the place of law. They manifest much stability in the engagements they have entered upon, patience in affliction, as well as submission in what they apprehend to be the appointment of Providence. In all this, (he adds) they manifest a nobleness of soul, and constancy of mind, at which we rarely arrive with all our philosophy and religion.

Du Pratz says; “I have studied these Indians a considerable number of years; and I never could learn that there ever were any disputings or boxing matches among either the boys or men. I am convinced (he adds) that it is wrong to denominate them savages. They have a degree of prudence, faithfulness and generosity exceeding that of nations who would be offended at being compared with them. No people are more hospitable and free.

Bartram, of a part of the Creek nation, says; “Joy, contentment, love, and friendship without guile or affectation, seem inherent in them, or predominant in their vital principle; for it leaves them but with the last breath of life.”

Bartram missed his way, and got lost among them. He saw an Indian at the door of his habitation beckoning to him to come in. He complied. Of himself and horse were taken the best care. When he wished to go, the Indian led him to his right way. This Indian proved to be the chief of Whotoga. Would an Indian receive such treatment among us? Bartram was a considerable time among them; and says; “they are just, honest, liberal, hospitable to strangers, considerate, loving and affectionate to their wives and relations, fond of their children, frugal, and persevering; charitable, and forbearing.”

Col. Smith speaks of their “living in love, peace, and friendship, without disputes; and in this respect being an example to many who profess Christianity.”

[beginning of page 133]

These things were said of the Indians, who were not demoralized and corrupted by a connexion with the unprincipled whites. Too many of the latter description become sufficiently hateful.

Their doleful cruelties to their prisoners of war, was a religious custom among them, which they performed with savage firmness; as was their pursuit and slaughter of one who had killed a relative. So the ancient law in Israel directed. “The avenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer; when he meeteth him he shall slay him.” Numbers, xxxv. 18, 19.--Aside from these cruelties of principle, the Indians are faithful and kind.

When the Pequods were destroyed in the early days of the old colony, the noble wife of a Sachem who had before herself rescued from the Indians the maidens of Weathersfield, and returned them home,--made two requests; that her chastity might not be violated;--and that her children might not be torn from her. “The amiable sweetness of her countenance (says a writer,) and the modest dignity of her deportment, were worthy of the character she supported for innocence and justice.” Whether her requests were granted, the historian neglects to inform.

De Las Casas, who spent much time in New Spain, says of the natives; “Did they not receive the Spaniards, who first came among them, with gentleness and humanity? Did they not show more joy in proportion, in lavishing treasures upon them, than the Spaniards did greediness in receiving them? But our avarice was not yet satisfied. Though they gave up to us their lands, and their riches; we would take from them also their wives, their children, and their liberties. To blacken the characters of these people, their enemies assert that they are scarce human. But it is we (adds the author) who ought to blush for having been less men, and more barbarous than they.” The natives are said to be free from the European vices of blasphemy, swearing, treachery in peace, and similar vices.

Columbus, enamoured with what he saw among this people, declared in a communication to the king and queen of Spain, that “there is not a better people in the world than these;--more affectionate, affable, or mild. They love their neighbour as themselves.--They always speak smiling.”

These are a few of innumerable testimonies to the same point, relative to the moral character of the natives of America. Certainly then they have deserved better treatment than they received from the

[beginning of page 134]

whites. And these things furnish a rich quota of evidence that they probably had as good an origin as from the ancient people from Israel.

Some testimonies furnished by Baron Humbolt, in his Political Essays on the Kingdom of New Spain, will here be added. Relative to this noted author,--his translator, John Black, in his preface says; “It is observed by a popular French writer, that by far the most valuable and entertaining part of modern literature is the department filled up by travellers.” He adds; “M. de Humbolt belongs to a higher order of travellers, to whom the public have of late been very little accustomed. We would place him beside a Nieubahr, a Pallas, a Bruce, a Chardin, a Barrow; and his works will probably be long consulted as authorities, respecting the countries which he describes. He seems to be a stranger to few departments of learning, or science; and his fortune enabled him to provide himself with every thing which could most advance his pursuits, and lead him to make that appearance among persons of rank and authority necessary to remove obstacles in the way of the traveller in every country.”

“M. de Humbolt (his translator adds) has brought forward a great mass of information relative to New Spain; a country of which we before knew very little indeed.” He compares his information with that of Robertson, and gives him the decided preference.

The Baron de Humbolt was a native of Germany, and a most celebrated character. His works were published in New York, in 1811. His travels in New Spain were in the early part of the present century. He ventures no opinion on the origin of the natives of America. He probably was a stranger to the sentiment of their having descended from Israel. Whatever evidence may be collected from him relative to this point, will hence be deemed the more precious, when he viewed it as having no such bearing.

The object, in exhibiting some things from this author will be, to show the far greater probability that our natives descended from Israel, than that they descended from the Scythians, or Tartars.--That they all had one origin.--That many of them had made such improvements in knowledge and arts, as to indicate that they had had the advantages enjoyed in the commonwealth of Israel.--And some things may be given more directly evidential of the fact. Relative to our natives having one origin, our author says: “The Indians of New Spain bear a general resemblance to those who inhabit Canada, Florida, Peru, and Brazil. They have the same swarthy and copper colour; flat and smooth hair; small beards; long eyes, with the corner

[beginning of page 135]

directed upward; and prominent cheek bones.--The American race occupies the greatest space on the globe. Over a million and a half of square leagues, from the Terra del Fuego islands, to the river St. Lawrence, and Beering’s Straits, we are struck at the first glance with the general resemblance in the features of the inhabitants. We think we perceive that they all descended from the same stock.” He goes on to note some who are of a different opinion. But he adds; “In the faithful portrait which an excellent observer (M. Volney) has drawn of the Canada Indians, we undoubtedly recognize the tribes scattered in the meadows of the Rio Apure, and the Corona. The same style of features exists no doubt in both Americas.”

As to the improvements of some of the natives, M. Humbolt, speaking of the Mexicans before the Spanish conquests, says; “When we consider that they had an almost exact knowledge of the duration of the year; that they intercalated at the end of their great cycle of 104 years, with more accuracy than did the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, we are tempted to believe that this progress is not the effect of the intellectual development of the Americans themselves; but that they were indebted for it to their communications with some very cultivated nations of central Asia.” But how improbable is it that these nations of Mexico could have any communication with people in central Asia, on the other side the globe from them, when vast oceans, or many thousands of leagues of pathless deserts, lay between them! How could they, in periods subsequent to their emigration to this continent, have traversed back and forward round the world, and learned from central Asia the arts and sciences? Had this been the case, this continent and its inhabitants would have been known in the eastern world. Such an hypothesis is vastly improbable at least. But they retained and might have made progress in arts and some degree of science brought down from ancient Israel. Our author says; “The Taultees appeared in New Spain in the seventh, and the Aztees in the twelfth centuries, (as he learned from the hieroglyphical tables of the Aztees) who drew up the geographical map of the country traversed by them;--constructed cities, highways, dikes, canals, and immense pyramids very accurately designed, of a base of 1416 feet in length.” How striking the view here given of their historical hieroglyphics ancient dates, and emigrations! as well as geographical and mechanical improvements! Can such improvements be imputed to a northern Scythian origin? Striking evidence follows.


1. *Sacred rites.



Chapter 3f >>