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and of the Tigris. And it is accordingly in those favored spots, in the vicinity of Mexico, of Santa Fé de Bogota, of Quito, and of Cusco, that were found those agricultural and manufacturing nations, those extensive empires and populous cities, with regular forms of worship and of government, which excited the wonder and inflamed the cupidity of the European invaders.
Although we may not place full reliance on the details and the dates of the Mexican annals, it is indubitable that several nations, some of them speaking different languages, have, sub. sequent to the first civilization of the country, successively occupied the various provinces of the Mexican empire. The ruins of Palenque and of other cities are monuments of those revolutions. The annals and traditions ascend no higher than the Tolteques, as the authors of the first civilization. Whether the merit is due to them, or to some more ancient and unknown people, it may be asked, whence came the subsequent successive conquerors? The abodes of the Azteques, or Mexicans proper, may probably be traced as far north as the Casas Grandas of the Rio Gila ; but from what quarter had they come to that place?
In order to account for their success, it must necessarily be admitted, that they were previously an agricultural people; for the pastoral state cannot exist where there are no domesticated animals; and we know with the utmost certainty, that no purely hunting nations could be numerous enough, or keep together. and support for any length of time a force sufficient successfully to invade, or make any serious impression on a country, such as Mexico is represented to have been, and in fact was at the time of the invasion. But we now know that, north of the latitude of the Rio Gila, there is nothing west of the Rio Colorado but a sandy desert, nothing between that river and the Rio Norte but accumulated ridges of mountains, nothing east of the last river but the buffalo plains. In fact we find in no part of the country, whether east or north, adjacent to the northern civilized provinces of Mexico, any trace, or any probability of the former existence, of an agricultural people. But we may easily understand, that the civilization of Mexico gradually extended its influence, as from a common centre, northwardly as well as southwardly; that the northerly tribes, as far north as the thirtieth degree of latitude, and perhaps the Rio Gila, without having made the same progress in arts, or attained the same degree of wealth as the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, may have been gradually
converted into an agricultural people ; and that, like the German nations in Europe, they may ultimately have conquered their less warlike southern neighbours.
The next and more immediate subject of inquiry is, how we shall account for those ancient tumuli, fortifications, and other remnants, both east and west of the Mississippi, the origin of which is entirely unknown to the Indians, who in the seventeenth century were the sole inhabitants, and still continue to occupy a part of that country.
On this, as on many other subjects relative to our Indians, we are still in want of facts. We are not yet sufficiently acquainted with the extent of the country over which those monuments are spread, or how far they differ in character, extent, or number, in the different sections of the country. They only appear to have been more numerous and of greater importance in the vicinity of the Mississippi and in the valley of the Obio. There is nothing in their construction, or in the remnants which they contain, indicative of a much more advanced state of civilization than that of the present inhabitants. But it may be inferred from their number and size, that they were the work of a more populous nation than any now existing; and if the inference is correct, it would necessarily imply a state of society, in which greater progress had been made in agriculture. For wherever satisfactory evidence of a greater population is found, this could not have existed without adequate means of subsistence, greater than can be supplied by the chase alone.
Those monuments seem in two respects to differ from any erections that can be ascribed to the Indians, such as they were found by the first French or English settlers. Some are of a character apparently different from those purely intended for defence. It may be doubted whether those extensive mounts, so regularly shaped and with a rectangular basis, such as that near the Mississippi, on which the refugee monks of La Trappe had built their convent, one hundred feet in height, facing the four cardinal points, and with those platforms designated by the name of Apron, are entirely the work of man, or whether they may not have been natural hills, artificially shaped by his hands. But if they have been correctly described, they have a strong family likeness to the Mexican pyramids, as they are called, and were probably connected with the worship of the nation. Of these, for there appear to be at least two more, and of other enclosures or works which cannot be accounted for by a reference to military purposes only, we want full and precise descriptions.
But, if considered only as fortifications, ramparts of earth, in a forest country, strike us as a singular mode of defence, against savage enemies and Indian weapons. All the defensive works, without exception, that were used by the Indians, east of the Mississippi, from the time they were first known to us, were of a uniform character. The descriptions of Mauville at the time of De Soto’s expedition, and of Hochelaga by Cartier, agree entirely with the Indian forts within our own knowledge, with that of the Five Nations in the siege of which Champlain was engaged in 1615, and of which he has left a correct drawing, and with every other description given by the early writers. They all consisted of wooden palisades strongly secured, with an internal gallery, from which the besieged party might under cover repel the assailants with missile weapons. And they were also of a moderate size, and such as could be defended by the population of an Indian village. Wood affords the natural means of fortification against a savage enemy, where the material is abundant. It cannot indeed be understood how these works could have been properly defended, unless they were surrounded, not only by the rampart, but also by a palisade. And it is on any supposition extremely difficult to account for works containing five hundred acres, such as that on the banks of the Missouri, which was correctly measured by Lewis and Clarke.
The only conjecture I can form, and it is but a conjecture, is, that the people who erected those works came from the west, and that it was during their residence in the prairie country, that they were compelled to resort to that species of defensive works. They may, as is often the case, have persisted in the habit when there was no longer occasion for it. From the Colorado or the Rio Norte, the way to the Mississippi was easy by the river Platte or the Arkansa. The conjecture is entitled to consideration, only in case further investigation should show a probable connexion between the monuments of the valley of the Mississippi with those of Mexico. The extensive tract of alluvial land along the Mississippi opposite St. Louis, now called the American Bottom, is the place in which are found the strongest indication of a concentrated population.
It is not necessary to refute the opinion of those who would ascribe these works to European emigrants. There is nothing in them, which may not have been performed by a savage people. The Scandinavian colony of Vinland (Newfoundland) is out of the question. The Norwegians might indeed have penetrated through the Straits of Bellisle to the St. Lawrence. But, if not destroyed by the savages, a considerable time must have elapsed, before they could in their subsequent progress, have reached the Mississippi, and ascended its western tributaries. The well ascertained age of trees, growing on those ramparts in the lower part of the valley of the Ohio, proves, that some of those works were erected before the thirteenth century; and we know, that the insignificant colony of Vinland had not left its original seats in the year 1120. Ignorant as we are and shall ever remain of the internal revolutions, which may have formerly taken place amongst the uncivilized tribes of North America, it is not probable that we can ever know by whom the works in question were erected. Should it appear, from a review of all the facts, that they must be ascribed to a populous and agricultural nation, we must, I think, conclude that this was destroyed by a more barbarous people. It appears at least extremely improbable, that, independently of external causes, or of some great catastrophe, a people once become agricultural should take such a retrograde step, as to degenerate again into the hunting or savage state.
All the Indians of North America, north of the civilized districts of the Mexican empire,* may be arranged in two classes; those who cultivated the soil, and those who derived their subsistence exclusively from the natural products of the earth and the sea. The territory, over which cultivation had extended, is that which is bounded on the east by the Atlantic, on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, on the west generally by the Mississippi or perhaps more properly by the prairies, on the north, it may be said, by the nature of the climate. The northern boundary of cultivation was, near the Atlantic, that which divided the Abenakis from the Etchemins, including certainly the river Kennebec, and probably the Penobscot. With the exception of the Hurons and other kindred tribes on the northern shores of Lake Erie, there was no cultivation
These do not now extend so far north as the thirtieth degree of north latitude, unless an exception be found in the long and narrow valley of the Rio Norte called New Mexico. I do not know whether the Indians there cultivated the soil before the Spanish conquest, or whether they have been compelled to do it. The subject deserves investigation.
north of the great Lakes; nor does there appear to have been any amongst the Chippeways, who occupied the country along the southern banks of Lake Superior. They and the Menomonies depended for vegetable food, principally if not altogether on the wild rice, or wild oats, as the plant is called. The few tribes west of the Mississippi, which attend at all to agriculture have already been designated, as well as those, which, extending thence to the Pacific, derive their principal means of subsistence, either from the buffalo, or froin roots and fish. Nor were the inhospitable regions of the north destitute of those means. Innumerable Jakes cover perhaps one third of the inland country, and would afford an abundant supply of food to an industrious and provident population. The musk ox and the American rein-deer are found under those latitudes, where the buffalo and the common deer cannot exist.
Even along the shores of the Arctic Ocean and of its numerous bays, the Eskimaux appear to be as well provided as the more southern Indians. Immense quantities of salmon are caught in the summer, and are easily preserved till the ensuing year. The seal, which is taken even during the winter, supplies the Eskimaux with food, fuel, light, and clothing. And even, where there are neither trees nor drift wood, and where subterraneous abodes are not resorted to, or cannot be excavated, the ice itself affords materials for winter dwellings, as comfortable and as quickly constructed, as the leather lodges or the bark huts of the erratic tribes.
It is obvious, that the population of nations which, for their subsistence, depend exclusively on natural products, is necessarily limited by the quantity naturally produced. A nation of hunters, living exclusively on game, cannot increase the quantity which a given extent of territory can sustain. All they can, at most, effect for that purpose is the destruction of carnivorous animals. If, at any time, their population should be so increased, as to require a greater consumption of food, than is afforded by the natural production of game, this would be checked, and the population would soon be diminished till the equilibrium was again restored. In order to keep up their numbers, the Indians must resist any encroachment on their hunting-grounds. They must fight in their defence, against invaders, as for existence. On the other hand, the great extent of ground necessary to sustain game, sufficient for the subsistence of a very moderate population, compels them to separate