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Although we have here traced the character of a primitive people, yet it cannot be doubted that another people, more civilized and more advanced in all respects, had preceded it in the same regions.

An obscure tradition, which prevailed among the Indians to the north of the Atlantic, informs us that these very tribes formerly dwelt on the west side of the Mississippi. Along the banks of the Ohio, and throughout the central valley, there are frequently found, at this day, _tumuli_ raised by the hands of men. On exploring these heaps of earth to their centre, it is usual to meet with human bones, strange instruments, arms and utensils of all kinds, made of a metal, or destined for purposes, unknown to the present race.

The Indians of our time are unable to give any information relative to the history of this unknown people. Neither did those who lived three hundred years ago, when America was first discovered, leave any accounts from which even an hypothesis could be formed. Tradition--that perishable, yet ever-renewed monument of the pristine world--throws no light upon the subject. It is an undoubted fact, however, that in this part of the globe thousands of our fellow-beings had lived. When they came hither, what was their origin, their destiny, their history, and how they perished, no one can tell.

How strange does it appear that nations have existed, and afterward so completely disappeared from the earth, that the remembrance of their very name is effaced: their languages are lost; their glory is vanished like a sound without an echo; but perhaps there is not one which has not left behind it a tomb in memory of its passage. The most durable monument of human labor is that which recalls the wretchedness and nothingness of man.

Although the vast country which we have been describing was inhabited by many indigenous tribes, it may justly be said, at the time of its discovery by Europeans, to have formed one great desert. The Indians occupied, without possessing it. It is by agricultural labor that man appropriates the soil, and the early inhabitants of North America lived by the produce of the chase. Their implacable prejudices, their uncontrolled passions, their vices, and still more, perhaps, their savage virtues, consigned them to inevitable destruction. The ruin of these nations began from the day when Europeans landed on their shores: it has proceeded ever since, and we are now seeing the completion of it. They seemed to have been placed by Providence amid the riches of the New World to enjoy them for a season, and then surrender them. Those coasts, so admirably adapted for commerce and industry; those wide and deep rivers; that inexhaustible valley of the Mississippi; the whole continent, in short, seemed prepared to be the abode of a great nation, yet unborn.

In that land the great experiment was to be made by civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past.

Notes:

[3] Darby's "View of the United States."

[4] Mackenzie's river.

[5] Warden's "Description of the United States."

[6] See Appendix A.

[7] Malte Brun tells us (vol. v., p. 726) that the water of the Caribbean sea is so transparent, that corals and fish are discernible at a depth of sixty fathoms. The ship seemed to float in the air, the navigator became giddy as his eye penetrated through the crystal flood, and beheld submarine gardens, or beds of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among tufts and thickets of seaweed.

[8] See Appendix B.

[9] With the progress of discovery, some resemblance has been found to exist between the physical conformation, the language, and the habits of the Indians of North America, and those of the Tongous, Mantchous, Moguls, Tartars, and other wandering tribes of Asia. The land occupied by these tribes is not very distant from Behring's strait; which allows of the supposition, that at a remote period they gave inhabitants to the desert continent of America. But this is a point which has not yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun, vol. v.; the works of Humboldt; Fischer, "Conjecture sur l'Origine des Américains;" Adair, "History of the American Indians."

[10] See Appendix C.

[11] We learn from President Jefferson's "Notes upon Virginia," p. 148, that among the Iroquois, when attacked by a superior force, aged men refused to fly, or to survive the destruction of their country; and they braved death like the ancient Romans when their capital was sacked by the Gauls. Further on, p. 150, he tells us, that there is no example of an Indian, who, having fallen into the hands of his enemies, begged for his life; on the contrary, the captive sought to obtain death at the hands of his conquerors by the use of insult and provocation.

[12] See "Histoire de la Louisiane," by Lepage Dupratz; Charlevoix, "Histoire de la Nouvelle France;" "Lettres du Rev. G. Hecwelder;" "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society," v. i.; Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," pp. 135-190. What is said by Jefferson is of especial weight, on account of the personal merit of the writer, and of the matter-of-fact age in which he lived.

[13] See Appendix D.

American Institutions and Their Influence Chapter II Origin Of The Anglo-Americans And Its Importance, In Relation To Their Future Condition