Here society is reduced to its original elements, the whole fabric of art and conventionality is struck rudely to pieces, and men find themselves suddenly brought back to the wants and resources of their original natures.
The lot of the favored guest of an Indian camp or village is idleness without repose, for he is never left alone, with the repletion of incessant and inevitable feasts.
A boundless vision grows upon us; an untamed continent; vast wastes of forest verdure; mountains silent in primeval sleep; river, lake, and glimmering pool; wilderness oceans mingling with the sky. Such was the domain which France conquered for Civilization. Plumed helmets gleamed in the shade of its forests, priestly vestments in its dens and fastnesses of ancient barbarism. Men steeped in antique learning, pale with the close breath of the cloister, here spent the noon and evening of their lives, ruled savage hordes with a mild, parental sway, and stood serene before the direst shapes of death. Men of courtly nurture, heirs to the polish of a far-reaching ancestry, here, with their dauntless hardihood, put to shame the boldest sons of toil.
His [Champlain's] books mark the man,Â—all for his theme and his purpose, nothing for himself. Crude in style, full of the superficial errors of carelessness and haste, rarely diffuse, often brief to a fault, they bear on every page the palpable impress of truth.
The monk, the inquisitor, and the Jesuit were lords of Spain,Â— sovereigns of her sovereign, for they had formed the dark and narrow mind of that tyrannical recluse. They had formed the minds of her people, quenched in blood every spark of rising heresy, and given over a noble nation to a bigotry blind and inexorable as the doom of fate. Linked with pride, ambition, avarice, every passion of a rich, strong nature, potent for good and ill, it made the Spaniard of that day a scourge as dire as ever fell on man.
A military road led from this point to Fort Leavenworth, and for many miles the farms and cabins of the Delawares were scattered at short intervals on either hand.
Humanity, morality, decency, might be forgotten, but codfish must still be had for the use of the faithful in Lent and on fast days.
The most momentous and far-reaching question ever brought to issue on this continent was: Shall France remain here, or shall she not?
A true hero, after the chivalrous mediaeval type, his [Champlain's] character was dashed largely with the spirit of romance. Though earnest, sagacious, and penetrating, he leaned to the marvellous; and the faith which was the life of his hard career was somewhat prone to overstep the bounds of reason and invade the domain of fancy.
If any pale student, glued to his desk, here seek an apology for a way of life whose natural fruits is that pallid and emasculate scholarship of which New England has had too many examples, it will be far better that this sketch had not been written. For the student there is, in its season, no better place than the saddle, and no better companion than the rifle or the oar.
The reader need not be told that John Bull never leaves home without encumbering himself with the greatest possible load of luggage. Our companions were no exception to the rule.
America was still a land of wonder. The ancient spell still hung unbroken over the wild, vast world of mystery beyond the sea,Â—a land of romance, adventure, and gold.
In one point the plan was fatally defective, since it involved the deadly enmity of a race whose character and whose power were as yet but ill understood,--the fiercest, boldest, most politic, and most ambitious savages to whom the American forest has ever given birth.
The Revolution began at the top,Â—in the world of fashion, birth, and intellect,Â—and propagated itself downwards.
America, when it became known to Europeans, was, as it had long been, a scene of wide-spread revolution.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, Spain was the incubus of Europe. Gloomy and portentous, she chilled the world with her baneful shadow.
The Spanish voyager, as his caravel ploughed the adjacent seas, might give full scope to his imagination, and dream that beyond the long, low margin of forest which bounded his horizon lay hid a rich harvest for some future conqueror; perhaps a second Mexico with its royal palace and sacred pyramids, or another Cuzco with its temple of the Sun, encircled with a frieze of gold. Haunted by such visions, the ocean chivalry of Spain could not long stand idle.
And now, in ample measure, the French began to reap the harvest of their folly. Conquest, gold, and military occupation had alone been their aims. Not a rod of ground had been stirred with the spade. Their stores were consumed, and the expected supplies had not come. The Indians, too, were hostile. Satouriona hated them as allies of his enemies; and his tribesmen, robbed and maltreated by the lawless soldiers, exulted in their miseries. Yet in these, their dark and subtle neighbors, was their only hope.
In the year 1562 a cloud of black and deadly portent was thickening over France. Surely and swiftly she glided towards the abyss of the religious wars. None could pierce the future, perhaps none dared to contemplate it: the wild rage of fanaticism and hate, friend grappling with friend, brother with brother, father with son; altars profaned, hearth-stones made desolate, the robes of Justice herself bedrenched with murder. In the gloom without lay Spain, imminent and terrible.
The state of international relations in the sixteenth century is hardly conceivable at this day. The Puritans of England and the Huguenots of France regarded Spain as their natural enemy, and on the high seas and in the British Channel they joined hands with godless freebooters to rifle her ships, kill her sailors, or throw them alive into the sea. Spain on her side seized English Protestant sailors who ventured into her ports, and burned them as heretics, or consigned them to a living death in the dungeons of the Inquisition. Yet in the latter half of the century these mutual outrages went on for years while the nations professed to be at peace. There was complaint, protest, and occasional menace, but no redress, and no declaration of war.
Art, industry, and commerce, so long crushed and overborne, were stirring into renewed life, and a crowd of adventurous men, nurtured in war and incapable of repose, must seek employment for their restless energies in fields of peaceful enterprise.
It was a rich and gorgeous sunset - an American sunset; and the ruddy glow of the sky was reflected from some extensive pools of water among the shadowy copses in the meadow below.
The young nobles, of whom there were many, were volunteers, who had paid their own expenses in expectation of a golden harvest, and they chafed in impatience and disgust. The religious element in the colonyÂ—unlike the former Huguenot emigration to Brazil--was evidently subordinate. The adventurers thought more of their fortunes than of their faith.
Crossing the Penobscot, one found a visible descent in the scale of humanity.
Many of the Iroquois and Huron houses were of similar construction, the partitions being at the sides only, leaving a wide passage down the middle of the house.