Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

protecting them from imposition. The specimens which have been quoted, sufficiently indicate that they were less able to provide for themselves than the negroes, who as a class, have never been a burden to the community. They added little to the resources of the colony or state. But their ancient familiarity with the sea, aided by their unfixed, and migratory habit of life, well fitted many of them to become sailors—the only pursuit of the white men for which they have shown any peculiar aptitude. Their numbers may have been underrated in Berkeley's day, or he spoke only of Indians of pure blood. The census on which he relied, seems not very exact. But the tribe was still wasting away, when, in 1774, there was an apparent increase. There were in that year still 1479 persons called Indians, of whom there were in Charlestown 528, in South Kingstown 210; of the other towns where they were most numerous, Providence had 68, in Newport there were 46, and Warwick returned 88, many of these last being domestic servants. During the last century, the old pride of race yielded to a sense of the common degradation. They were now mingled with the negroes, whom in earlier days, they had regarded with an aversion exceeding any which they had borne to the Englishmen. As all who had a mixture of Indian blood might now share the benefits of the "reservation," it is probable that many were now styled Indians, who in former times had been accounted negroes, and that there was no real increase. It was for the interest of the towns, to reckon as many legal "Indians” as possible, and by quartering them on the reservation, to exempt the freeholders from taxes for their relief. The mixed race, (the negro element constantly and largely increasing), has long been the sole representative of the original stock. There has been a strange mingling of discordant qualities. In former times, it must have been as difficult to tempt the negro to leave his reservation, as to persuade the Indian to remain there.

(1) Compare Callender, p. 141.

The characteristic traits which arrested the attention of Williams, long since disappeared. If he could have revisited, in this half century, the poor remnant of the once formidable Narragansetts, he could scarcely have recognized in them the descendants of a race whose favour he had been glad to purchase, and to whom he had been grateful for a refuge in their domain.

After they had ceased to be of any account to soldiers or to legislators, the Narragansetts became subjects for rhetoricians and poets. These extenuated their barbaric vices, and imagined for them virtues which had found no exhibition in historical events. Anecdotes and sayings claim our admiration, for which there is no sufficient authority, in contemporary testimony or in any trustworthy tradition. When the story of the last sachems was told, some two centuries after their overthrow, their characters were surrounded by a halo which had never been visible to those most interested in discerning it. These are the reflections of two American writers upon the death of Philip of Pokanoket. The first had studied the Indian character in too near a view to be misled by sentiment. Imagination lent no false colour to the hard realities of colonial life. At sunset, after the battle near Mount Hope, Captain Church was called to see the body of Philip. He says:

“Captain Church ordered his body to be pulled out of the mire to the upland. So, some of Captain Church's Indians took hold of him and drew him from the mud to the uplands, and a great naked dirty beast he looked like. Captain Church then said that forasmuch as he had caused many an Englishman's body to be unburied, and to rot above ground, that not one of his bones should be buried,” etc.

A century and a half went by. Washington Irving thus concluded a meditation at Mount Hope:

“He went down, like a lonely bark foundering amid darkness and tempest,—without a pitying eye to weep his fall, or a friendly hand to record his struggle.”2

(1)Church's "Entertaining history of King Philip's War," p. 44. (2) Irving's "Sketch book," (ed. 1848), p. 377.

The fashion of bestowing Indian names, upon villages, buildings, or on other than natural objects, is of modern date in New England. It marks a period when society has been long delivered from Indian neighbours—has forgotten their dirt, theft and drunkenness, and, (the actual facts forgotten), can regard them with the charity which is readily bestowed upon extinct evils. The first generations of American birth felt too much pride in their heritage of civilisation, to confer barbaric names upon their towns. They neither felt nor professed much .sympathy with the native race. They had inherited nothing from them. Their municipal and social traditions were from a nobler origin. They suffered ancient names to remain as landmarks among the rivers and hills. They could do no otherwise. But they borrowed little, even of emblems or symbols from the race which they had supplanted. When comparison is made of the taste and fancy of early Rhode Island, with those of Massachusetts, we shall not find ourselves at a disadvantage, in contrasting their heraldic shields. The anchor of Rhode Island loses none of its beauty or appropriateness as years go on. The red Indian who rejected to the last the ideas of civilisation, and who perished in his devotion to his native barbarism, seems a strange device for an enlightened and progressive commonwealth.

EARLY VOTARIES OF NATURAL SCIENCE IN

RHODE ISLAND.

BY CHARLES W. Parsons, M. D.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »