« ZurückWeiter »
followed the public opinion, and spoken favourably of the author and his work?
If, then, the credit given by the Quarterly Review, at the distance of three thousand miles from the scenes of Hunter's life, is evidence of an unpardonable credulity, and even of malignity towards this country, which deserve the taunts and sarcasms of this writer, what terms of reproach could he find in the whole compass of his mother tongue, sufficient to characterize the stupid cullibility of his own countrymen, who gave the same credit to the publication here, and whose letters of recommendation gave currency to Hunter among the friends and patrons of that very journal
Among the various topics discussed by this Reviewer, nothing has occasioned more surprise than his remarks upon Major Long's Expeditions. The public has received these as works published under the sanction of our government, and containing the most authentic information. This reviewer, indeed, allows that they contain “much valuable matter," and that the gentlemen associated in those expeditions, manifest "a laudable anxiety" to procure “every fact which could aid them or their readers in forming just conclusions on the various topics discussed.” p. 61. But he immediately proceeds to destroy the whole value of their " valuable matter by asserting, that the sources of information on which they relied, were entitled to little or no credit. “ The task,” says he, “ would be ungrateful in itself, and peculiarly disagreeable to us, to point out the numerous errors of fact and opinion into which they have been led;" and he expressed, in a very significant manner, a hope that in any future expedition those gentlemen will carry with them at least a moderate portion of scepticism." p. 64. “It is not every man, ” he adds, in a sarcastic manner, which Major Long and his associates, as well as the public, will understand, “it is not every man who has lost sight of the flag-staff of an interior post, or who has seen a buffalo or a muskrat, that can add any thing valuable to the immense stock of materials which has been accumulating for more than three centuries." p. 61.
The inconsistency of these sweeping remarks with other parts of the review, has been very properly noticed by the editor of the National Gazette ; and in the judgment of every candid man, it would have been more useful to the public, and more just to Major Long and his companions, to have pointed out
numerous errors of fact and opinion," than to have thus praised and censured them in the gross, and left the reader to grope his way, as well as he could, through this wilderness of promiscuous error and truth. And why it should be “pecu
liarly disagreeable” to this reviewer to have done it, I cannot discern. That the omission does not proceed from any“ peculiar” friendship to Major Long and his associates, is very clear.
The next subjects of this writer's animadversions, are the Reverend Mr. Heckewelder's Historical Account of the Indians, and the Correspondence between him and Mr. Du Ponceau relative to the Indian languages.
It has given pain to every liberal mind, that this reviewer should have indulged himself in remarks calculated to make the impression which this part of his article has done; for, notwithstanding some formal expressions of general civility and commendation, his observations upon several particulars discussed by those writers, if the reader gives any credit to what he states, cannot fail to diminish the weight of their authority, and lessen the respect now entertained, and justly I believe, for their publications. Every man who happens not to know their real merit from
other sources than this review, will inevitably conclude, that Mr. Heckewelder was an extremely weak and credulous man, and therefore not to be relied upon in his statements, either respecting the Indian character, or even the Indian languages, though he was conversant with both for about forty years; and, that Mr. Du Ponceau, though possessed of much learning, was an “ecstatic philologist,” bent on making beautiful, but shadowy theories, and destitute of sober judgment enough to keep his imagination under restraint, or to entitle his opinions to our confidence.
Remarks of this tendency, however adroitly or gracefully arrayed in a thin veil of general praise, even if justifiable in any case, on the part of a reviewer, who is supposed to be an impartial judge, are not often to be thus resorted to; but when, as in the present case, they are unsupported by facts, I hardly dare characterize them in the terms they deserve.
I may observe here, by the way, that I have been much surprised to meet with them at all in the pages of the same journal, which only a short time since, spoke of this very work of Mr. Heckewelder's, in the following strong language : “ that it abounded in facts and anecdotes, calculated not merely to entertain the reader, but to lay open, in the most authentic and satisfactory manner, the character and condition" of the Indians; and that “from the extensive philosophical views of Mr. Du Ponceau, and the thorough practical knowledge of Mr. Heckewelder, the learned have now a rare opportunity of knowing accurately the real character of the Indian dialects of this country."* In a subsequent number of this journal, also,
* N. A. Rev. for June, 1819, vol. 9. p. 178, 180, 181. VOL. II.
we are told that “this venerable writer (Heckewelder) spoke from a long experience, and there is every reason to confide in his representations."*
At the time when this high character was given of the works in question, I thought they must be worthy of a place in one's library, and accordingly bought them. But judge of my surprise, when I read in the present number of the same journal, that notwithstanding Mr. Heckewelder's book does contain " valuable information," and though it was written with honest intentions, yet“ perhaps no work that has appeared for half a century has produced more erroneous impressions on this subject."|
În the observations I have here made upon these conflicting judgments pronounced on Mr. Heckewelder's book, I speak of what is contained in the text of the late number of the North American. I am aware, that at the close of the strictures on Mr. Du Ponceau and Mr. Heckewelder, after the reader's feelinys have been excited, by the warm and rapid current of the text, to a tolerable degree of dissatisfaction with those writers for “ inflicting" upon the public an octavo volume of missionary credulity, and philological ecstacies, he all at once encounters a strange note, (strongly commending the former of them in conjunction with Mr. Pickering,) which seems to have drifted as much out of its latitude, as an island of polar ice, when it reaches the heated regions of the equator. Whether this note was written by the author of the article, or by the editor of the North American, does not appear. But, as it has no distinguishing signature, it is to be presumed to come from the former; and then the question naturally arises, why this portion of the author's remarks were thrust into a note, (where they would be overlooked by many readers,) instead of making a part of the text. If, too, this note had been added to give the public the sentiments of the respectable editor, who, I believe, would not intentionally give currency to undeserved animadversions on Mr. Heckewelder, or Mr. Du Ponceau, he would not have inserted a note, but would, in the exercise of his editorial discretion, have modified the text of the article itself, in such a manner, as to prevent injustice being done to those gentlemen, and to avoid an apparent disagreement between different parts of the journal.
Whether the North American, or any other literary journal, is to be considered as a mere repository of essays on both sides of a question, or whether it is pledged to support that side only,
* N. A. Rev. for Oct. 1824, vol. 19.
464. † N. A. Rev. for Jan. 1826. n. 65.
which the editors believe to be right, I do not pretend to decide. But if, like an individual, a journal may, for good reasons, change its views, and, of course, at one time condemn what at another time it approves, then we must presume, that, of two conflicting opinions, the latest is that which the conductors of the work hold to be the soundest.' If this rule is to be applied in the present instance, the editor has been unfortunate; for it is evident that in certain points his correspondent, who furnished this article, has misled him.
I am one of those who have lived long enough in the world not to place reliance upon a writer's assertions, just in proportion as he is dogmatical and confident. On the contrary, the least indication of those qualities invariably, as by à natural instinct, puts me on my guard, and makes me look on all sides, to see that I am not in hazard of being deceived. And I must frankly say, that this article of the North American, with all its real merit, which I am as ready as any man to acknowledge, does display so much of that undoubting manner, which in its greatest excess, is denominated charlatanism, that it immediately excited my suspicions; and these suspicions, I am sorry to add, were not at all diminished upon a more deliberate perusal of it.
The reviewer in the outset admits, that Mr. Heckewelder's "entire life was passed among the Delawares;” but he seems to place little reliance upon his opinions, because " he thought and reasoned like an Indian, and a Delaware ;” and “ in all the contests between the whites and their neighbours, he adopted the train of feeling of the latter." Now, it is true, that the circumstance of his passing his “ entire life” with one tribe of Indians might give him a strong partiality for that tribe, and lead him to give credit to their tales and traditions, respecting their own prowess, rather than to those of other tribes, especially hostile ones; just as we white men should naturally place more reliance upon any statements relative to our "red brethren," however erroneous or unjust, from a white reviewer, than we should upon the declarations and opinions of an Indian, however just and well authenticated they might be. Yet it must be admitted, that constant familiarity with any one tribe of Indians, could not but qualify Mr. Heckewelder in an eminent degree, to describe the Indian character, manners and customs, which have many resemblances in every tribe ; and, above all, to give accurate information in respect to the language of that particular nation with which he was thus domesticated. But, strange as it may seem, our reviewer has discovered at this late day, that Mr. Heckewelder was a mere novice and blunderer, even
in the language of the Delawares, a tribe with which he spent his “ entire life.” Now, to my poor understanding, this is quite as absurd as it would be to maintain, that Mr. Du Ponceau, who has lived about as many years among his adopted American brethren, as Mr. Heckewelder did among the aboriginals, can have but a very imperfect knowledge of our English language; and I must be allowed to say, that a Frenchman, who had passed but a short time among us, would have quite as good a right to contradict Mr. Du Ponceau in a plain matter of fact, such as the received meaning of an English word, as this reviewer has (if I may judge from his little knowledge of the Delaware language) to question Mr. Heckewelder's correctness in regard to the acceptation of words in that Indian dialect.
The reviewer begins his attack on Mr. Heckewelder's knowledge of Indian languages, by a criticism on his orthography and on his explanation of the Indian name of the Delaware tribe, which Mr. H., following the example of Mr. Zeisberger, and other German missionaries, write thus, Lenni Lenape. Now it is evident, that this writer has never read Mr. H's. work as hé ought; for if he had, he surely would not have been so destitute of candour, as to omit all mention of what that respectable author says on this very subject of writing the Indian languages. “There being,” says he, “ so many words in the language of the Lenape and their kindred tribes, the sound of which cannot well be represented according to the English pronunciation, I have in general adopted for them the German mode of spelling."* Nor would the reviewer, if he had been acquainted with the modern languages, and their orthography, have hazarded this very extraordinary remark, that "the unsettled orthography adopted in this work, (Mr. H's.) conveys to the reader very imperfect notions of the sounds of the words ???
p.77. Now, of all the modes of writing the Delaware language, the German happens to be the most settled! Every man who has the least acquaintance with the alphabets of the modern languages of Europe, will, on this point, agree with Mr. Du Ponceau, who justly observes, that the German mode is more perfect than either the French or English ; and " a better idea of the sounds of the Indian languages, is given by means of the German alphabet than of any other."
In connexion with these objections to the mode of writing the name of the Delaware nation, this critic indulges himself in animadversions upon the signification of the name Lenni Lenape,
* Heckewelder's Account of the Indians, Introd. p.
27. † Notes to Eliot's Ind. Gram.p. xi.