Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

THE

PRINCETON REVIEW.

APRIL 1842.

No. II.

Art. 1.— The Life and Times of Red-Jacket, or Sa-Go-Ye

Wat-Ha; being the sequel to the History of the Six Nations. By William L. Stone. 8vo. pp. 484. New York and London. Wiley and Putnam. 1841.

In the volume of the Repertory for January, 1839, we took a highly favourable notice of a larger work by the same author, containing an account of the “ Life and Times of Joseph Brant," the famous Mohawk chief. We remarked, that, under this title, Colonel Stone, while he made Brant a conspicuous and very striking figure in his narrative, had contrived to embrace a large amount of interesting and instructive matter, and, in fact, had given an entirely new history of the war which issued in American Independence. It cannot be said that the volume before us comprehends as large a portion of the history of our country as the preceding work; but we may truly say of this, as well as of that, that the “ Life of Red Jacketoccupies a prominent place in a large and rich narrative, which brings to our view, in a manner no less instructive than interesting, a great number of facts and characters with which the life of the celebrated Orator of the Senecas was immediately or remotely connected.

The Seneca chief and orator, popularly known by the name of Red Jacket, was born about the year 1750, at a place called Old Castle, about three miles from the town VOL. XIV. NO. II.

24

of Geneva, at the foot of Seneca Lake. Of his early history little is known, excepting that he was remarkable in his youth for great agility, and swiftness of foot, and was, on this account, often employed as a messenger among his own people; and afterwards, during the war of the American revolution, as a runner for the British officers engaged in the border service. His Indian name was Sa-go-ye-watha, which signifies “ He-keeps-them-awake.” The name of Red-Jacket, by which he was so long and familiarly known among the white people, is said to have been acquired in the following manner :-During the war just mentioned, his activity and intelligence attracted the attention of several military officers in the service of the British crown, and acquired for him their friendship. One of them, either as a complimentary gratuity, or as a reward for services rendered, presented him with a richly embroidered scarlet jacket, which he took great delight and pride in wearing. When this was worn out, he was presented with another; and he continued to wear this peculiar dress, until it became a mark of distinction, and gave him the name by which he was afterwards best known. At the treaty of 1794, held at Canandaigua, Captain Parish, one of the interpreters in the service of the United States, gave him another red jacket, to perpetuate the name to which he was so much attached.

In comparing the hero of this work, with Joseph Brant, the principal figure in the larger work of the same author, we are struck with a remarkable dissimilarity. Though they were both distinguished and truly great savages, scarcely any two men could be more unlike.

Brant, celebrated by Col. Stone in his former work, enjoyed, to a considerable extent, the advantages of early education. He was for some time a member of the Institution styled “ Moor's Charity School," at Lebanon, Connecticut; and though not much praised either for his diligence or his success in study, yet he seems to have availed himself very respectably of his opportunities for gaining the elements of knowledge. He spoke the English language with all the ease and propriety of a white man. His literary acquirements were by no means inferior. He wrote with ease and fluency, and might be said to wield the pen with more dexterity than many a man who has passed through College. In truth, he was master of a style in writing, rather remarkable for its perspicuity, correctness,

and vigour.

But Red-Jacket was destitute of all these advantages He seems never to have learned either to read or write. Nor did he ever learn to speak the English language, with any thing like ease or readiness, but always employed an interpreter when he addressed an English audience. He was eminently a child of nature. His voice, his noble, expressive countenance, his peculiar, penetrating sagacity, his firmness and self-possession in debate, his promptness in reply-all marked him out as a finished orator; but he was indebted to none but the Author of nature for these accomplishments. He had no literary culture. Again; Brant was eminently a brave man.

He was not only distinguished in council, but still more distinguished in what the Indians call “ the war-path.” Indeed his most prominent character through life, was that of a fearless, skilful, and even ferocious warrior. On the contrary, RedJacket was, in grain, and notoriously, a coward. Amidst all his eminence in other respects, he was, as to this point, the laughing-stock of his countrymen, and of all who knew him. Some of the evidences of this fact given by Colonel Stone, are as ludicrous as they are conclusive.

Further; Brant was not distinguished as a great orator. He had, it is true, a noble, commanding person; the countenance and air of a superior dignified man; and a style of address and manners, when he chose, strongly marked by dignity, and even courtliness. And when he had occasion to speak in public, he acquitted himself in a manner becoming his vigourous intellect and his elevated station. But he by no means had the character of an extraordinary orator. Such a character, however, was the pre-eminent distinction of Red-Jacket. He seems not only to have been a great, but a consummate orator. General Peter B. Porter, in a communication to Col. Stone, speaks of him thus: “He was a man endowed with great intellectual powers; and, as an orator, was not only unsurpassed, but unequalled, longo intervallo, by any of his contemporaries. Although those who were ignorant of his language could not fully appreciate the force and beauty of his speeches, when received through the medium of an interpretation-generally coarse and clumsy-yet such was the peculiar gracefulness of his person, attitudes and action, and the mellow tones of his Seneca dialect, and such the astonishing effects produced on the part of the auditory who did understand him, and whose souls appeared to be engrossed and borne away

with the orator, that he was listened to by all, with perfect delight. He drew his arguments from the natural relations and fitness of things. His mind glanced through the visible creation, and from analogy he reasoned in a way that often baffled and defied refutation. His figures were from the same inexhaustible fountain, and were frequently so sublime, so apposite, and so beautiful, that the interpreters often said the English language was not rich enough to allow of doing him justice.” p. 353. Another gentleman who had been familiar with the most elegant men, and the most renowned orators of our country, speaking of the same accomplishment, expresses himself thus: “When I first knew RedJacket he was in his prime, being probably about thirtysix years of age. He was decidedly the most eloquent man amongst the Six Nations. His stature was rather above than below the middle size. He was well made. His eyes were fine, and expressive of the intellect of which he possessed an uncommon portion. His address, particularly when he spoke in Council, was very fine, and almost majestic. He was decidedly the most graceful speaker I ever heard. He was fluent without being too rapid. You could always tell when he meant to speak, from the pains he would take before he rose to arrange the silver ornaments on his arms, and the graceful fold he would give to his blanket. On rising he would first turn toward the Indians, and bespeak their attention to what he meant to say in their behalf to the commissioner of the United States. He would then turn toward the commissioner, and bending toward him, with a slight, but dignified inclination of the head, proceed.” p. 371.

There was yet another point concerning which Brant and Red-Jacket entirely differed. Brant was a believer in revelation, and a warm friend to the evangelizing of his people. In early life he is said to have been under very serious impressions of religion. These impressions, however, were not so marked or visible in more advanced age. He made a profession of religion by entering the communion of the Episcopal church. He assisted with zeal in preparing books for the use of the Indians. He aided the missionaries in making a translation of the book of common prayer into the Iroquois language. And he devoted a considerable portion of his time to a version of the gospel according to the evangelist Mark into the language of his tribe. When he entered into stipulations for a tract of

« ÎnapoiContinuați »