Abbildungen der Seite

providential supply of the deer, the buffalo, and the bear. These were to be obtained by every gallant rifleman; and this so abundantly, that the buffalo has often been shot in order to enjoy either its hump or its tongue. The hospitality of these times, was much less a merit than an enjoyment; often a protection to both parties. The fare was rough, but heartily and generously divided with every fellow woodsman.

It would not, however, be justice to the manners and character of the present state of society; any more, than to those of the times we are describing, to conclude the portrait here. Hardihood, bravery, endurance of suffering and generosity, were prominent and undeniable features in the character of the first settlers of Kentucky. These qualities are attested by the whole history of their gallant, hardy, and magnanimous deeds, in the conquest which they made of this lovely land, from such wily, ferocious, and formidable tribes of Indians, assisted by the ample resources of Great Britain. Literature and science with their train of humanizing arts, and the thousand delightful excitements to activity of mind, which they furnish, it would be worse than folly to expect in these, not misnamed, barbarous and primitive times of Kentucky. Government was nearly as simple, as the impalpable policy, subsisting among the Indians; the complexities of law were uncalled for in this condition of few wants, and nearly universal means of gratifying them. Trade, there was none; for there was nothing yet to give in exchange. Did any man want land? He could occupy any quantity that he could defend against the Indians. Did he want clothing or subsistence? His rifle would furnish any supply of either, which his activity and his industry could command. Avarice and the love of gain had scarcely at first a temptation to develope them. What a chasm must then have existed, to be filled by one of the fiercest and most insatiate passions of the human mind! Still let it not be supposed, that our early society was quite one of Arcadian fiction. Though politics did not distract the community with their noisy din and bitter contentions; though traffic and labor did not furnish their topics of strife, and sources of discontent; still there was no

absence of rivalry, and that pursued with sufficient bitterness. They would dispute who was the best shot, who the most supple wrestler, the strongest man, or the "best man' " in a fight; nor were these disputes always bloodless; and even sometimes were settled with the knife and the rifle. The female sex, though certainly an object of much more feeling and regard, than among the Indians, was doomed to endure much hardship, and to occupy an inferior rank in society to her male partner. In fine, our frontier people were much allied to their cotemporaries of the forest in many things, more than in their complexions.

To be sure this is but a general sketch of the early mass: there were among them, men of finer mould and superior character, who would have adorned any state of society; and these remarks must be severely restricted to the body of the earliest emigrants. This picture has little or no resemblance of Clark, of Harrod, and Boone; Bullitt and Logan; Floyd, the Todds, and Hardin; and no doubt many other noble spirits, who were the lights and guides of their times. It was a state of society peremptorily extorting high physical faculties; more than mental exertions, or artificial endowments. When, therefore, we learn that Boone, Harrod, and Logan, were little advanced in artificial learning; let no reader be so unjust or unthinking, as to treat their memory with contempt. Letters could have ill supplied their manly spirit, their vigorous frames, and above all, their talents and tact in commanding the respect and confidence of a rough and fierce class of men, while living; and which excited their sincerest regrets, when dead. These gallant and magnanimous hunters of Kentucky, will ever be sacred to the hearts of all lovers of brave and noble deeds; however they may have been unadorned by the polish and beauty of learning. Charlemagne was no less the emperor of the west of Europe; he was no less the master spirit of his time, stamping his impress on his generation, because he signed, and could not artificially subscribe his name. Artifical education, or the learning of books, is too often confounded with that higher education, consisting in the development of the mind, inspired by surrounding circumstances, and

which is open to all the children of man, whether favored by civilization or not.

The religion of these times most necessarily have suffered amidst the pressing privations surrounding the inhabitants; it could not have been greatly cultivated amidst the struggles with want, and battles with Indians. Yet the heart of the hardiest male, much less of the softer sex, must often have melted with reverence for that Being, whose secret and invisible providence watched over their weakness, and saved them from the perils of the rifle and the tomahawk. True, many fell victims to the Indians; many were burned and tortured, with every refinement of diabolical vengeance; others were harrowed with the recollection of their childrens' brains dashed out against the trees; the dying shrieks of their dearest friends and connexions; still the consolations of heaven, were not absent from the dying spirits of the former; or the wounded hearts of the latter. In the beautiful poetry of Bryant:

"The groves were God's first temples. Ere man learned
"To hew the shaft, and lay the architrave,

"And spread the roof above them, ere he framed

"The lofty vault, to gather and roll back

"The sound of anthems, in the darkling wood,
"Amidst the cool and silence, he knelt down,
"And offer'd to the Mightiest, solemn thanks
"And supplication."

There was,

Temples and their ministers, important as they undoubtedly are, to a cultivation of a love for heavenly meditations, and the moral glories of another and higher state of being, are, let it never be forgotten, not indispensable. The religion of the heart, gratitude to God and love for man, flourish in the rudest stages of society; and not unfrequently with more purity, than amidst the accumulated temptations of refined life. indeed, as might most naturally be expected, a roughness of exterior; (though conventional forms of society are never to be confounded with, the essence of true politeness) there was too exact a retaliation of the savage warfare of their subtle and ferocious enemies; there was too little respect for the rights and moral claims of Indians; but to lie, to cheat, to desert a fellow

hunter in distress, were vices unknown to the brave and simple men who conquered Kentucky. A manly love of truth and independence of spirit, which would right itself in "the court of Heaven," were almost invariable traits in their character.

There are some curious particulars in our early arts, which may well be recorded. *Hats were made of native fur, and sold for five hundred dollars in the paper money of the times; the wool of the buffalo, and the bark or rind of the wild nettle, were used in the manufacture of cloth, and a peculiar sort of linen out of the latter.

In December, 1781, the legislature of Virginia extended the scale of depreciation, at which her issues of paper money should be taken, from one and a half paper dollars for one hard or metalic dollar, to one thousand dollars in paper, for one in silver. The certificates of this depreciation, which were issued in exchange for the previous currency, were directed by law to be taken for taxes and for lands belonging to the State. The price of the latter was fixed at a specie valuation; but so reduced as to make them cost less than five dollars in hard money, or the paper price of the warrant was subjected to the scale of depreciation, so that land was obtained "for less than fifty cents per hundred in silver." A temptation to pour a flood of paper money on the lands of Kentucky, which trebled and quadrupled the land claims of the country, to its deep and lasting distress.


Land Titles-Attempts to sever Kentucky from the United States-John Jay resists them-Supreme District Court established-James Wilkinson-Commercial Associa tion in Philadelphia-Settlement of Washington, in Mason county-Indian depredations-First Convention-Virginia agrees to a separation of Kentucky-Clark's unfortunate expedition in 1786-Colonel Logan's expedition.

During this comparative exemption from Indian hostility, the energies of Kentucky were now principally turned to the acquisition of land: this was particularly facilitated by the arrival of Colonel Thomas Marshall, and George May, as surveyors

* Marshall 1, 124.


for the new counties of Fayette and Jefferson: these gentlemen opened their offices late in November, 1782, having been delayed by the grand expedition under General Clark. One office was opened at Lexington, and another at Coxe's station, in Jefferson county; the third has been already mentioned. Here commenced that scramble for land, which has distressed and desolated society in Kentucky almost as calamitously, as pestilence or famine. The original source of the misfortune was, leaving the survey of the country to individuals, and not doing it by public authority. Could the public lands of Virginia have been delayed in their survey and sale, until they had been laid off by public appointment, how happily might the claims of her regular soldiers, and her irregular, though scarcely less useful pioneers, in another field of her service, have been satisfied! The residue might have been snatched from the speculator and offered in open market for the benefit of her treasury. But other counsels prevailed, and Kentucky was opened to the conflicting claims of innumerable locators and surveyors, producing a lybarinth of judicial perplexities, through which it became necessary to pursue the landed property of the country, to place it in a state of security. It is not known what States besides those of New England, made their sales of land upon previous public surveys. This system was adopted so early as the 20th May, 1785, in regard to the public lands of the United States, and has most wisely been observed to this day.

On the subject of the legal condition of landed estate in Kentucky, the preface to Chief Justice Bibb's Reports, affords a sketch drawn by the hand of a master. The melancholy effects on the peace and prosperity of private citizens, volumes could not pourtray. The breaking up of favorite homes, improved at the hazard of the owner's life, and fondly looked to as a support for declining age; and a reward for affectionate children, swept away by refinements above popular comprehension, produced most wide spread discontent and distress; promoted a litigious spirit, and in some instances, a disregard of legal right in general, which had presented itself in such odious and afflicting aspects.

« ZurückWeiter »