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XIII. LETTERS WRITTEX WHILE ON AN EXPEDITION ACROSS THE STATE OF MAINE TO ATTACK
QUEBEC, IN 1775, ÞY COL. BENEDICT ARNOLD; WITH A JOURNAL OF A TOUR FROM
NOTICE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
The first volume of the “Collections of the Maine Historical Society," has been out of print for several years. As five additional volumes have, from time to time, been published, the demand for the first volume, to complete the sets, has been continually increasing. The society have therefore concluded to reprint the first volume, and in doing so they improve the occasion to make such corrections and additions as experience and the lapse of time render expedient and useful.
It is now forty-two years since the organization of the society, under a charter granted to fortynine of the most respected citizens of the State. Of these, but nine survive. When the first volume was published, thirty-three years ago, the society consisted of one hundred and thirty-five members, of whom thirty-five are living. A list of the present resident and corresponding members is contained in the sixth volume.
On the publication of the first volume, our society was poor and struggling with many difficulties We had no funds, and depended for our ways and means on our annual assessment, with difficulty collected, and from some members not at all; and it was not until, by the great exertions of the late John McKeen, a grant of a half-township of land was obtained from the State, that any case, or much progress attended our exertions. Little interest had previously been taken among our people in historical studies, and although our State furnished most ample materials for the antiquarian explorer, scarcely any persons were found ready to engage in the pursuit. Few historical or literary works had, previous to the publication of our original volume, been issued from any press in the State. Gov. Sullivan's history of Maine appeared in 1795, from the Boston press. “A statistical view of the District of Maine," by Moses Greenleaf, was published by him in Boston, in 1816. Greenleaf's Ecclesiastical Sketches of Maine, a most valuable work, was published in 1821, at Portsmouth, and the same year Mr. Freeman's edition of the Rev. Mr. Smith's journal appeared from a Portland press. The latter two in duodecimo form. In 1829, Moses Greenleaf published his map of Maine, and accompanied it with an octavo volume of statistics relating to Maine, prepared with great care, and making an important addition to the history of the State. This was printed in Portland. The next historical work preceding the publication of our first volume was the “History of Saco and Biddeford,” in 1830, by George Folsom, a member of this society, which contained the result of much careful research, and preserving many interesting and valuable facts. Beside these, only a few brief articles in pamphlet form, or in the Massachusetts Historical Collections, relating to Maine, had been published.
In 1831, the volume, of which the present is a reprint, made its appearance, the first of a series of six octavo volumes, which have been issued by the society, and which have produced no inconsiderable effect in turning public attention to many points of great interest in the early colonization and progressive history of our State. The present volume is issued in the hope that it will still further excite historical investigation, promote the honor and usefulness of the Maine Historical Society, and shed new light upon our early history.
The additional matter of this volume will be included in brackets [ ].
It is as natural for a young nation as for a young man to look forward to the future rather than back on the past, to be more occupied by anticipation than reflection, and to live on hope rather than memory. To such a nation, its limited experience offers but few objects for memory to dwell upon, but little which can either gratify self-love or bring with it self-reproach; but the unbounded future presents itself dressed in the gayest colors of hope. The mind loves to dwell on the pleasing visions of anticipated prosperity, while it fashions to itself, at will, a career of successful enterprise and honorable fame; and, before the proud consciousness of its untried strength has been chastened by the lessons of experience, easily and naturally slides into a tone of sentiment, partaking a little of ostentation and vain glory.
This has often been made by foreigners a matter of reproach to our countrymen. We are told sometimes in a style of sarcasm, and sometimes in a tone of patronising superiority, that Americans love rather to tell of what they will do than of what they have done, and boast more of what their posterity will be than of what their ancestors have been. If such be peculiarly the habits of our countrymen, they are the natural result of our position and circumstances. If our eyes are turned forward rather than back, it is not because the past presents any thing humiliating to our pride. We are yet but a young people, just emerged from our minority. All about us is yet youthful and vigorous, and it is as evident to foreigners as to ourselves, that we have obtained but a small part of our growth. The immense extent of territory under our jurisdiction admits of an almost indefinite extension of national power; and when we look forward to the time when the march of civilization under our free constitutions and laws shall have passed the rocky mountains, and populous cities and a cultivated country shall be seen flourishing under our dominion, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, a little, we think, may be pardoned to the spirit of exaggeration. It must be a cold and phlegmatic temper that is not warmed into something of enthusiasm, perhaps of extravagance, in contemplating what may, nay what certainly will be our destiny as a nation, if we are true to ourselves. With such prospects before us, it is at least excusable to dwell on the brilliant future with a little more complacency than do the inhabitants of other countries, which have already received the maximum of their growth, who have attained the zenith of their power, and who must comparatively decline in the scale of nations as their neighbors rise.
But if we are still a young people, we have passed the period of childhood. We have arrived at an age in our national existence when there is a sober and chastened pleasure in looking backward as well as forward. The mosses of more than two centuries have already gathered themselves on the tombs of the first settlers. The early events of our national story are beginning to appear misty and indistinct in the distance, and are fast acquiring something of that hallowed interest that belongs to antiquity. The large number of journals, memoirs, and other writings, which have been published within a few years relating to the early history of the country--the avidity with which these have been received by the public, and the numerous historical and antiquarian societies formed for the purpose of collecting and preserving the records of the primitive condition of the country, and of its earliest inhabitants, all serve to show that a lively and general interest is now beginning to be felt in what may be termed, without doing much violence to the proprieties of language, our ancient history,
It was this feeling that led to the establishment of the society, the first volume of whose collections is now offered to the public. The object of an historical society is not to furnish a history of the country, but to collect and preserve authentic materials, out of which it may be written. As a society, we can do nothing more than indicate the objects which more particularly deserve attention. The rest must be the work of individual diligence.
One of the first if not the very first object of interest to an American antiquarian is whatever relates to the original inhabitants of the country. This singular and interesting people are now fast vanishing from the face of the earth. Nation after nation of the race once exercising a powerful sway, and extending their authority over a wide extent of country, have already disappeared. Fuimus Troes has long ago been recorded of the proudest empires that adorned this western world, and the inevitable doom of the melancholy remains of other tribes and nations, is already sealed and cannot be very long delayed. The utter extinction of an entire race of people, once occupying a whole continent, and constituting one of the great varieties of the human race, will be one of the most extraordinary, and at the same time one of the most melancholy events in the whole record of history. And judging of the future from our experience of the past, at the end of two centuries more we can scarcely expect that there will remain a single pure and unmixed specimen of the primitive inhabitants of this country, as the representative of his race in the whole extent of the American continent.
In future ages, when this singular people shall live only in memory, their character, manners, and history will become objects of extreme curiosity. Every thing that can illustrate their manners and customs, their civil polity, their domestic habits, and their primitive religion, will be sought for with an avidity and an intensity of interest, of which we of the present age, who know them familiarly, can form but a very inadequate idea. Their strange and romantic story, so different from that of the civilized races of men, the unconquerable firmness of their wild and savago natures, their daring spirit of adventure, their patient courage, and the steady and inflexible obstinacy with which they refused to adopt the manners and incorporate themselves into the society of their civilized conquerors, even when this alternative presented itself as the only possible mode of escaping the total and utter extinction of their race, will become the theme of popular poetry and stirring romance. The traditions which they leave behind them under the creative hands of futuro poets, will constitute the true mythological or romantic period of our history. And they will not only afford materials for the imagination of the poets, but subjects of curious speculation in philosophy. Their moral and physical natures will, we may easily believe, become the objects of profound philosophical investigation, and reasons will be sought for to explain a fact, so remarkable and unique in the history of the world, as the entire extinction of a race of men, once composing numerous and powerful nations. When a barbarous nation has been subjugated by one of superior civilization, the usual result has been, that the conquered people have adopted the manners of their conquerors, have become mixed with them by intermarriages, and the two nations have soon become amalgamated into one, leaving no visible trace by which the different origin of the indir: duals can be distinguished. But the American Indians instead of adopting the manners and arts of their conquerors, instead of becoming incorporated with them by intermarriages, have kept themselves separate, have rapidly declined and melted away, and disappeared like snow before tho summer sun. They have steadily and sullenly refused to adopt modes of life which they see prevailing among their more refined neighbors. All attempts to introduce among them the arts and sciences have failed; even the most common and useful arts, have been received among them, but to a very limited extent, and that with a sullen and disdainful reluctance; and in proportion as they have been received, the nobleness and generosity of their wild nature has been debased by the vices of civilization, instead of being elevated and adorned by its refinements and graces.
The causes which have made the natives of this country an exception to all the other experiences of the world, are well worthy the inquiries of curious and philosophical minds, and will be likely to excite a higher interest as they recede more and more from future ages. They seem to imply a difference, if not an inferiority of nature. Everything therefore which can serve to illustrate their character, whether in their primitive and natural state, or in their decline and degenerate con