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T H E
HOUGH'évery one that is in the least acquainted with the Affairs of North-America, knows of
what Consequence the Indians, commonly known to the People of New-York by the Name of the Five Nations, are, both in Peace and War ; I know of no Accounts of them, published in English, but what are very imperfect, and indeed meer Translations of French Authors, who themselves know little of the Truth. This seems to throw some Reflections on the Inhabitants of our Province, as if we wanted Curiosity to enquire into our own Affairs, and were willing to reft fatisfied with the Accounts the French give us of our own Indians, notwithstanding that the French in Canada are always in a different Interest, and fometimes in open Hoftility with us. This Consideration, I hope, will justify any attempting to write an History of the Five Nations at this Time ; and having had the Perufal of the Minutes of the Commissioners for Indian Affairs, I have been enabled to collečt many Materials for this History, which are not to be found any where
elle; and cannot but think, that a History of this Kind will be of great Use to all the British Colonies in North-America, since it may enable them to learn Experience at the Expence of others: And if I can contribute any Thing to so good a Purpose, I shall not think my Labour loft.
It will be necesary for me bere to say something in Excuse of two Things in the following Performance, which, I am afraid, will naturally be found Fault with in it. The first is, the filling up so great Part of the Work with the Adventures of small parties, and sometimes with those of one fingle Man: And the second is, the inserting so many Speeches at length.
As to the first, the History of Indians would be very lame, without an Account of these private Adventures; for their warlike Expeditions are almost always
carried on by surprising each other, and their whole · Art of War: consists in managing small Parties. The whole Country being one continued Forest, gives great Advantages to these skulking Parties, and has obliged the Christians to imitate the Indians in this Method of making War among them. And some would, doubtless, be desirous to know the Manners and Customs of ibe Indians, in their publick Treaties especially, who could not be satisfied without taking Notice of several minute Circumstances, and Things otherwise of no Consequence. We are fond of searching into remote Antiquity, to know the Manners of our earliest Progenitors; and, if I am not mistaken, the Indians are living Images of them.
My Design therefore in the second was, that thereby the Genius of the Indians might appear. An Historian may peint Mens Aétions in lively Colours, or in faint Sbades, as he likes bejt, and in both Cases preserve a Perfeet Likeness ; but it will be a difficult Task to sheme the Wit, Judgment, Art, Simplicity, and Ignorance of the several Parties, managing a Treaty, in other Words than their own. As to my Part, I thought
myself incapable of doing it, without depriving the judicious Observer of the Opportunity of discovering much of the Indian Genius, by my contracting or paraphrasing their Harangues, and without committing often gross Mistakes. For, on these Occafons, a filful Manager often talks confusedly, and obscurely, with Design ; which if an Historian fnould endeavour to amend, the Reader would receive the History in a false Light.
The Reader will find a great Difference between fome of the Speeches bere given of those made at Albany, and those taken from the French Authors. Ours are genuine and truly related, as delivered by the sworn Interpreters, of whom Truth only is required; a rough Stile, with Truth, is preferable to Eloquence without it : This may be said in Justification of the Indian Expression, thougb I must own, that I suSpeet our Interpreters may not have done Justice to the Indian Eloquence. For the Indians having but fecer Wirds, and few complex Ideas, use many Metaphors in their Discourse, which interpreted by an unskilful Tongue, may appear mean, and strike our Imagination faintly ; but under the Pen of a skilful Reprefenter, might strongly move our Passions by their lively Images. I have heard an" old Indian Sachem speak with much Vivacity and Elocution, so that the Speaker pleased and moved the Auditors with the Manner of delivering his Discourse ; which however, as it afterwards came from the Interpreter, disappointed us inour Expectations. After the Speaker had employed a considerable Time in baranguing with much Elocution, the Interpreter. often explained the whole by one fingle Sentence. I believe the Speaker, in that Timo, embellished and adorned bis Figures, that they might have their full Force on the Imagination, while the Interpreter contented himself with the Sanse, in as few Words as it could be exprefle?
lie thelt for Rs 1, History of Things, which cre not geval Pening
mmil, ar much as
possible, to make the Evidence of the Truth depend in. tirely on his own Veracity and Judgment; and for this Reason I bave related several Transaktions in the Words of the Registers, when this is once done, be that shall write afterwards, need not act with so mucb Caution.
The History of these Indians, I promise myself, will give an agreeable Amusement to many ; almost every one will find something in it suited to his own Palate ; but every Line will not please every Man; on the contrary, one will naturally approve what another condemns, as one desires to know what another thinks not worth the Trouble of reading , for which Reason, I think, it is better to run the Risque of being sometimes tedious to certain Readers, than to omit any Thing that may be useful to the World.
I have sometimes thought, that Histories wrote with all the Delicacy of a fine Romance, are like French Dishes, more agreeable to the Palate than the Stomach, and less wholesome than more common and coar
fer Diet. An Historian's Views must be curious and extensive, and the History of different People and different Ages requires different Rules, and often different Abilities to write it ; I hope therefore the Reader will, from thefe Confiderations, receive this first Attempt of this kind, with more than usual Allowances.
The Inbabitants of New-York bave been much more concerned in the Transaktions, which followed the Year 1688, than in those which preceded it. And as it requires uncommon Courage and Resolution to engage willingly in the Wars against a cruel and barbarous Enemy, I should be sorry to forget any that might deserve to be remembered by their Country, with Gratitude on that Occasion.