AN ACCOUNT OF SA-GO-YE-WAT-HA OR RED JACKET AND HIS PEOPLE, 1750-1830.
BY JOHN N. HUBBARD
To the Hon. Henry G. Hubbard, of Middletown, Conn.
DEAR SIR: Your name, associated with many pleasant memories in the past, and in later years with substantial tokens of esteem, is held in grateful recollection; and the hope that these pages may serve to interest an occasional leisure hour, has led to their being inscribed to you, by your friend and relative.
The "Life and Times of Red Jacket" by Colonel William L. Stone, has been before the public for many years. The industry and ability of the author have made it a work of great value, and his extensive researches have left but little room for anything new to be said, by one coming after him. Yet the fact need not be concealed that many, who were intimately acquainted with Red Jacket, were disappointed when they came to read his biography. If it had been prepared under the direct influence and superintendence of Thayendanegea, or Brant, it could not have reflected more truly the animus of that distinguished character. Red Jacket in his day was the subject, at different times of much angry feeling, and jealousy. The author has not taken pains to embalm it, in these memorials of the great orator of the Senecas. Much that was the subject of criticism during his life, admits of a more charitable construction, and the grave should become the receptacle of all human resentments.
The author acknowledges his indebtedness to the labors of Col. Stone, and by an honorable arrangement, liberty was obtained for the use made of them, in the following pages. Acknowledgments are due also to others, whose names will appear in the course of this work.
TRACY, CAL., April 12th, 1885.
Red Jacket—Name widely known—Interest connected with his history—His origin—Development of his genius—Opinion of Capt. Horatio Jones—Customs of his people—Their councils—Love of eloquence—Distinguished names— Eloquence an art among them—Peculiarity of their language—Field opened for his genius.
Glance at the early history of the Iroquois—Territory they occupied— Location of the different tribes—Strength of their Confederacy— Tuscaroras—Traditions—Probable course of their migrations—Senecas— Story of their origin—Singular romance.
Name Red Jacket, how acquired—Indian name—Name conferred—Singular superstition—Red Jacket during the war of the Revolution—Neutrality of the Indians proposed—Services sought by Great Britain—Sketch of Sir Wm. Johnson—Red Jacket's position—Taunt of cowardice—Testimony of Little Beard—Charge made by Brant—Red Jacket's indifference—Anecdote—Early love of eloquence—Interesting reminiscences.
Early struggles—Red Jacket's opportunity for trial—Council at Fort Stanwix—Office of Sachem—His opposition to the treaty—Excitement produced by his speech—Part taken by Cornplanter—His influence in deciding the treaty—How it affected him.
United States claim to Indian lands—Conflicting claims between states— Manner of adjustment—Attempt to acquire by a lease—Attempt defeated— Lands acquired by New York—From Onondagas, Oneidas, Cayugas—Indian destitution—Indications of trouble—Design of severing western New York from the rest of the state—How defeated—Phelps and Gorham purchase.
Union of the western Indians—Hostile influence of the British Indian department in Canada—Ambitious project of Thayendanegea or Brant—Visits England, desiring British aid in the event of war with the United States— Council at Tioga Point—Indian ceremonies—Visit of Cornplanter and others at the seat of government—Fresh occasion of trouble.
Expedition under General Harmar—Its failure—High expectations of the Indians—Colonel Proctor visits the Indians at Buffalo creek—Red Jacket's speech—Indian deputation refused—Interference of the matrons—Council at Painted Post—Chiefs invited to Philadelphia.
Expedition to the Indian country under General St. Clair—Washington's charge—Approach to Indian villages—Sudden surprise—Disastrous battle— Indian victory—Retreat of American force to Fort Jefferson—Boldness of the Indians—Friendly Indian deputation—Welcome of the governor of Pennsylvania—Red Jacket's speech in reply—Address of President Washington—Red Jacket's reply—Cause of Indian hostilities.
Indian appropriation—Deputation to the west promised—Instructions— Silver medal given to Red Jacket by the president—Military suits— Washington's address at parting—Thayendanegea's visit—Council at Au Glaize—Another Indian council—Delegation—British control—Washington's letter—Army under General Wayne—Successful campaign—Treaty concluded.
Canandaigua at an early day—Facts in the early settlement of Bloomfield— Indian council—Its object—Indian parade—Indian dress—Opening of the council—Speeches—Liberal offers of the government—Mr. Savary's journal —Conclusion of treaty—Account of Red Jacket by Thomas Morris.
Valley of the Genesee—Indian misgivings—Mill yard—Effort to obtain their land—Council at Big Tree—Coming of the Wadsworths—Indian villages—Refusal to sell—Discussion between Red Jacket and Thomas Morris—Breaking up of the council.
Interview between Farmer's Brother and Thomas Morris—Mr. Morris addresses the women—Distributes presents—Negotiations continued—Treaty concluded with the women and warriors—Manner of payment—Inquiries about a bank— Their reservations—White women—Young King's dissent—Final settlement— Charge of insincerity.
Council at Canawangus—Interesting reminiscence of Red Jacket—Address of Farmer's Brother—Jasper Parish—Horatio Jones—Red Jacket's visit at Hartford, Conn.
Cornplanter in disrepute—Effort to regain his standing—Red Jacket charged with witchcraft—His defense—Further notice of Cornplanter—Early recollections—With the Indians who defeated Gen. Braddock in 1755—With the English in the war of the Revolution—Takes his father a prisoner—His address—Release of his father—Address to the governor of Pennsylvania— Visit of President Alden—Close of his life.
Change in Red Jacket's views—Causes producing it—Unfavorable to any change in the habits of his people—Opposes the introduction of Christianity among them—Visit of a missionary—Missionary's speech—Red Jacket's reply—Unpleasant termination of the council.
Tecumseh and Indian confederation—Aid given by Elskawata—Doings at the Prophet's town—Great Indian council at the West—Red Jacket's claim for precedence to be given the Senecas—His adherence to the United States— Hostilities encouraged by British agents—Warriors gathered at the Prophet's town—Visited by General Harrison at the head of his troops— Hostilities disclaimed—Surprised by a sudden attack—Indians defeated— War proclaimed against England—Indians take sides—Unfavorable commencement—Different successes—Part taken by Red Jacket.
Taking of Fort Erie—Battle of Chippewa—Service rendered by the Indians— General Porter's account of the campaign—Red Jacket commended—Withdrawal of Indian forces—Other successes—Conclusion of peace.
Pre-emptive right to the Indian reservations, sold to the Ogden Company— Council to obtain an extinguishment of the Indian title—Red Jacket's reply to Mr. Ogden's speech—Indians refuse to sell—Another council called—Account given by Hon. Albert Tracy—Various utterances of the orator on that occasion—Indians appeal to the governments of the United States and New York—Noble response of Governor De Witt Clinton of New York—Final success of the Ogden Company.
Witchcraft—Case of Tom. Jemmy—Testimony of Red Jacket—Red Jacket's philippic—Finding of the court—Remarkable interview of Dr. Breckenridge with Red Jacket—Further expression of views.
Personal characteristics—Interview with General Lafayette—Visit of a French nobleman—Col. Pickering reproved—Address on launching a schooner bearing his name—Anecdote of Red Jacket and Capt. Jones—His humor— Strong memory—Its cultivation—Contempt for pretension without merit— Love of the sublime—Portraits—Acute perception—Refined sense of propriety—First bridge at Niagara Falls—Loss of his children—Care for his people.
Views at the close of life—Incident—His lifework—Unfavorable influences —Advance of Christian party—Conversion of Red Jacket's wife—Leaves her —His return—Red Jacket deposed—Journey to Washington—His restoration— Rapid decline—Regards his end as near—Talks with the people—Endeavors to unite them—Sickness and death.
Portrait of Red Jacket Portrait of King Hendrick View of Johnson Hall Portrait of Sir John Johnson Portrait of Barry St. Leger Portrait of Joseph Brant Facsimile of Washington's Medal View of Seneca Mission Church View of Red Jacket's House
Name widely known—Interest naturally awakened in his history—His origin —Development of his genius—Opinion of Capt. Horatio Jones—Customs of his people—Their love of eloquence—Distinguished orators among them—The inviting field opened.
Among the aborigines of this country, few names have excited a deeper interest, or have been more widely and familiarly known than that of RED JACKET. The occasion of this notoriety was the rare fact that, though a rude and unlettered son of the forest, he was distinguished for the arts and accomplishments of the orator. His life marks an era in the history of his nation and his name like that of Demosthenes, is forever associated with eloquence.
Other circumstances however, impart interest to his history. His was the last great name of a nation, and he is entitled to remembrance, on the soil which was once the home of his fathers. And though linked with a melancholy association, as connected with the waning history of a people that once laid a claim to greatness, but are now fast passing into obscurity, it is not on this account the less attractive, but presents another reason for our regard.
Such was the name of SA-GO-YE-WAT-HA, or, as he has more commonly been called, Red Jacket. Having risen, by the force of his eloquence, from an obscure station to the highest rank among his people, he became conspicuous in all of those great transactions, in which they gradually relinquished a title to their old hunting grounds, and gave place to the intrusive white man. And he lived to see his nation pass from the pride of their ancient dominion, to so humble an inheritance, that his last days were embittered with the thought, that the red men were destined to become extinct. With him has ceased the glory of their council fire, and of their name.
His origin, as we have intimated, was obscure. He must be introduced, as he has come down to us, without rank or pedigree. His pedigree nature acknowledged, and gave him a right to become great among her sons. His birth is a matter of fact, its time and place, circumstances of conjecture. Some affirm that he was born at the Old Seneca Castle, near the foot of Seneca lake, not far from 1750. [Footnote: Hist. of North American tribes by Thos. L. McKenney.]
Another tradition awards the honor of his birth to a place at, or near Canoga, on the banks of the Cayuga lake. [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Report.]
Who were his parents? and what, his early history? As the wave casts upon the shore some treasured fragment, and then recedes to mingle with its parent waters, so their names, and much of his early history have been lost in the oblivion of the past.
So likewise it is uncertain, as to the time when the wonderful powers of his genius began to be developed, or as to the steps by which he arrived at the high distinction of orator among his people.
Whether by dint of study he gained the requisite discipline of mind, and acquired that elegance of diction for which he was distinguished; whether by repeated trial and failure, accompanied by a proud ambition, and an unyielding purpose, he reached, like Demosthenes, the summit of his aspirations; or, assisted more by nature than by art, emerged, like Patrick Henry at once, into the grand arena of mind, and by a single effort attained distinction and fame, is to be gathered more from circumstances than from facts.
It is generally conceded, however, that the powers of his intellect were of the highest order. Captain Horatio Jones, the well known interpreter and agent among the Indians, and than whom no one was more intimately acquainted with this orator of the Seneca nation, was accustomed to speak of him as the greatest man that ever lived. "For," said he, "the great men of our own and of other times, have become so by education; but RED JACKET WAS AS NATURE MADE HIM. Had he enjoyed their advantages, he would have surpassed them, since it can hardly be supposed that they, without these, would have equalled him." [Footnote: Conversation of the author with Col. Wm. Jones, of Geneseo, Livingston Co., N. Y., son of Capt. Horatio Jones.]
Some allowance should be made for this statement, perhaps, on the ground that Mr. Jones was a warm admirer of the orator's genius; yet his admiration sprang from an intimate knowledge of him, seen under circumstances, that afforded the best opportunity of forming a just opinion of his talents; and these, he maintained, "were among the noblest that nature ever conferred upon man."
But genius, while it may have smoothed the way, may not have spared him the pains, by which ordinary minds ascend to greatness. For since it is so universally the fact, that the path to eminence, is rugged and steep, and the gifts of fame seldom bestowed but in answer to repeated toil; curiosity would inquire by what means one, who was reputed a barbarian, gained the highest distinction ever awarded to civilized man. It is not enough to reply simply, "that nature made him so," or to receive, without qualification, his own proud assertion, "I AM AN ORATOR, I WAS BORN AN ORATOR." The laws of mind are the same for peasants, and princes in intellect; great minds as well as small, must take measures to compass their object, or leave it unattained.
It does not appear that his genius was sudden, or precocious in its development. It is said that his mind, naturally active and brilliant, gradually opened, until it reached its meridian splendor. Nor did his powers grow without any means to mature and perfect them. As the young oak is strengthened by warring with the storm, so the faculties of his mind gained force by entering freely into conflicts of opinion. Accustomed to canvass in private the questions which agitated the councils of his nation, he began to ascertain the reality of his own power, and by measuring his own with other minds, he gained the confidence that flows from superior wisdom. [Footnote: Conversation with Col. Wm. Jones.]
The tastes and regulations of his own people favored very much, the promptings of his genius. They were lovers of eloquence, and their form of government fostered its cultivation. This though differing but little from the simplicity found in rude states of society, presented a feature peculiar among a people not far advanced in civilization, which served greatly to promote elevation of mind, and advance them far above a condition of barbarism. They were in the habit of meeting in public assemblies, to discuss those questions that pertained to the interests, or destiny of their nation. Around their council fires their chiefs and warriors gathered, and entered freely, so far as their dignity, consideration, or power of debate admitted, into a deliberation on public affairs. And here were manifested an ability and decorum which civilized nations even, have viewed with admiration and surprise. For though we might suppose their eloquence must have partaken of rant and rhapsody, presenting a mass of incoherent ideas, depending for their interest on the animation of gesture and voice, with which they were uttered, yet we would do injustice to their memory, if we did not give their orators the credit of speaking as much to the purpose, and of exhibiting as great a force of intellect, as many who would claim a higher place than they in the scale of intelligence and refinement.
Many of their orators were distinguished for strength of mind, and in native power of genius, might compare favorably, with the men of any age or clime. The names of Garangula, Adario, Hendrick, Skenandoah, Logan and others, might be mentioned with pride by any people.
GARANGULA, has been styled the very Nestor of his nation, whose powers of mind would not suffer in comparison with a Roman, or more modern Senator. [Footnote: Drake.]
ADARIO is said to have been a man of "great mind, the bravest of the brave," and possessing altogether the best qualities of any Indian known to the French in Canada. [Footnote: Charlevoix.]
It has been remarked of HENDRICK, that for capacity, bravery, vigor of mind, and immovable integrity united, he excelled all the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States, of whom any knowledge has come down to the present time. [Footnote: Dr. Dwight.]
SKENANDOAH in his youth was a brave and intrepid warrior, and in his riper years one of the best of counsellors among the North American tribes. He possessed a most vigorous mind, and was alike active, sagacious, and persevering. He will long be remembered for a saying of his to one who visited him toward the close of life; "I am," said he, "an aged hemlock, the winds of an hundred winters have whistled through my branches. I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belonged has run away and left me." He was a sincere believer in the Christian religion, and added to the above "why I live the Great and Good Spirit only knows. Pray to my Jesus, that I may have patience to wait for my appointed time to die." [Footnote: Annals of Tryon County.]
And Mr. Jefferson regarded the appeal of LOGAN to the white men, after the extirpation of his family, as without a parallel in the history of eloquence.
These were men who have been revered by the civilized world, as worthy of a place with the distinguished and great among mankind.
"Oratory was not alone a natural gift, but an art among the Iroquois. It enjoined painful study, unremitting practice, and sedulous observation of the style, and methods of the best masters. Red Jacket did not rely upon his native powers alone, but cultivated the art with the same assiduity that characterized the great Athenian orator. The Iroquois, as their earliest English historian observed, cultivated an Attic or classic elegance of speech, which entranced every ear, among their red auditory." [Footnote: Mr. Bryant's speech.]
Those public games, entertainments, religious ceremonies and dances, common among the Indian tribes, added interest to their council gatherings, and made them a scene of attraction for the entire nation. Thither the young and old of both sexes were accustomed to resort, and, assembled at their national forum, listened with profound attention and silence to each word spoken by their orators. "The unvarying courtesy, sobriety and dignity of their convocations led one of their learned Jesuit historians to liken them to the Roman Senate." [Footnote: W. C. Bryant's speech before the Buffalo Historical Society on the occasion of the re- interment of Red Jacket's remains.]
"Their language was flexible and sonorous, the sense largely depending upon inflection, copious in vowel sounds, abounding in metaphor; affording constant opportunity for the ingenious combination and construction of words to image delicate, and varying shades of thought, and to express vehement manifestations of passion; admitting of greater and more sudden variations in pitch, than is permissable in English oratory, and encouraging pantomimic gesture, for greater force and effect. In other words it was not a cold, artificial, mechanical medium for the expression of thought or emotion, or the concealment of either, but was constructed, as we may fancy, much as was the tuneful tongue spoken by our first parents, who stood in even closer relations to nature." [Footnote: Ib.]
Hence, though the Iroquois were a warlike people, and delighted in deeds of bravery, there was an inviting field opened to one, who could chain their attention by his eloquence, and sway their emotions at will.
Such advantages being presented for the exercise of the powers of oratory, it can hardly be supposed that a mind endowed as richly, as was Red Jacket's, by the gifts of nature, would fail to perceive the path in which lay the true road to eminence among his people. And his subsequent career indicates but too clearly, the choice he made of the field in which to exercise his noble powers.
Glance at the early history of the Iroquois—The territory occupied— Tuscaroras—Original strength—Traditions—Probable course of migration— The Senecas—Story of their origin—Singular romance.
Rising up from the obscurity of the past, we find a people, singular in their habits and character, whose history has been strangely, and in some respects sadly interwoven with our own. They were the original occupants of the soil, claiming to have lived here always, and to have grown out of the soil like the trees of the forest. Scattered over this continent were various Indian tribes, resembling each other in their general features and habits, but in some instances exhibiting stronger and more interesting traits of character than the others. Among these were the Iroquois, and if Red Jacket was distinguished among his own people, his own people were not less conspicuous among the North American Indians.
He sprang from the Senecas, and was accustomed to speak of his origin with feelings of conscious pride. For the Senecas were the most numerous and powerful of the six nations, of whom they were a part. Such was the title given to that celebrated Indian confederacy which, for a length of time unknown to us, inhabited the territory embraced by the State of New York.
Here they lived in a line of settlements extending from one end to the other, through the middle of the State, and their domain as thus occupied, they were accustomed to style their Long House. It was a shadowy dome, of generous amplitude, covered by the azure expanse above, garnished with hills, lakes, and laughing streams, and well stored with provisions, in the elk and deer that bounded freely through its forest halls, the moose that was mirrored in its waters, and the trout, those luscious speckled beauties, that nestled cosily in its crystal chambers.
The eastern door was guarded by the Mohawks, who resided at one, and its western by the Senecas, who dwelt at the other extremity of this abode.
When ever a messenger from another nation came to them on business, or knocked, as it was termed, at the eastern or western door of their long house, it was the duty of the nation to which he came, to give him entertainment, and examine into the nature of his embassy. If it was of small importance, it was decided by their own council; but if it was such as to demand the united wisdom of the tribes, a runner was sent with a belt of wampum to the nearest nation, which would take the belt and send a runner with it to the next, and so on, and thus with but little delay, a general meeting was summoned of all the tribes.
This confederacy at one time consisted of five nations, but afterward embraced six, by the addition of the Tuscaroras, a tribe that once occupied the territory of North Carolina.
This tribe is said to have belonged at an early day to the Iroquois family, and to have inherited the enterprising and warlike character of the parent stock. They fought successfully with the Catawbas, Cowetas, and the Cherokees, and thought to exterminate by one decisive blow, all of the white inhabitants within their borders. Unsuccessful in the attempt, pressed sorely by the whites, who resisted the attack, and unwilling themselves to submit, they removed to the north, and through sympathy, similarity of taste, manners, or language, or from the stronger motives of consanguinity, became incorporated with the confederated tribes of the Iroquois. [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Report. Mr. Schoolcraft prefers, and quite justly the name Iroquois, as descriptive of this confederacy, instead of Six Nations, since the term is well known, and applicable to them in every part of their history. Whereas the other is appropriate only during the time when they were numerically six.]
Thus constituted they presented the most formidable power, of which we have any knowledge in the annals of the Indian race. By their united strength they were able to repel invasion, from any of the surrounding nations, and by the force of their arms and their prowess in war, gained control over an extent of territory much greater than they occupied.
They sent their war parties in every direction. The tribes north, east, south, and west of them were made to feel the power of their arms, and yield successively to their dexterity and valor. Now they were launching their war-canoes upon the lakes and rivers of the west, now engaged in bloody conflicts with the Catawbas and Cherokees of the south, now traversing regions of snow in pursuit of the Algonquins of the north, and anon spreading consternation and dread among the tribes at the remotest east. Their energy and warlike prowess made them a terror to their foes, and distant nations pronounced their name with awe.
By what means these several tribes had been brought to unite themselves under one government, how long they had existed in this relation, and what was the origin of each one, or of all, are questions which will never perhaps be fully determined. There being no written records among them, all that can be ascertained of their history previous to their becoming known to the whites, must be gathered from the dim light of tradition, from their symbolic representations, from antique remains of their art, and from their legends and myths. These present in an obscure and shadowy form, a few materials of history, whose value is to be measured by the consideration, that they are all we have to tell the story of a noble and interesting race of men.
Their traditions speak of the creation of the world, the formation of man, and the destruction of the world by a deluge. They suppose the existence originally of two worlds, an upper and lower. The upper completed and filled with an intelligent order of beings, the lower unformed and chaotic, whose surface was covered with water, in which huge monsters careered, uncontrolled and wild. From the upper there descended to the lower a creating spirit, in the form of a beautiful woman. She alighted on the back of a huge tortoise, gave birth to a pair of male twins and expired. Thereupon the shell of the tortoise began to enlarge, and grew until it became a "big island" and formed this continent.
These two infant sons became, one the author of good, the other of evil. The creator of good formed whatever was praiseworthy and useful. From the head of his deceased mother he made the sun, from the remaining parts of her body, the moon and stars. When these were created the water- monsters were terrified by the light, and fled and hid themselves in the depths of the ocean. He diversified the earth by making rivers, seas and plains, covered it with animals, and filled it with productions beneficial to mankind. He then formed man and woman, put life into them, and called them Ong-we Hon-we a real people. [Footnote: This term is significant of true manhood. It implies that there was nothing of sham in their make up.]
The creator of evil was active in making mountains, precipices, waterfalls, reptiles, morasses, apes, and whatever was injurious to, or in mockery of mankind. He put the works of the good out of order, hid his animals in the earth, and destroyed things necessary for the sustenance of man. His conduct so awakened the displeasure of the good, as to bring them into personal conflict. Their time of combat, and arms were chosen, one selecting flag-roots, the other the horns of a deer. Two whole days they were engaged in unearthly combat; but finally the Maker of Good, who had chosen the horns of a deer, prevailed, and retired to the world above. The Maker of Evil sank below to a region of darkness, and became the Evil Spirit, or Kluneolux of the world of despair. [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Indian Cosmogony.]
Many of their accounts appear to be purely fabulous, but not more so perhaps than similar traditions, to be found in the history of almost every nation.
The Iroquois refer their origin to a point near Oswego Falls. They boldly affirm that their people were here taken from a subterranean vault, by the Divine Being, and conducted eastward along the river Ye-no-na-nat-che, going around a mountain, now the Mohawk, until they came to where it discharges into a great river running toward the mid-day sun, the Hudson, and went down this river and touched the bank of a great water, while the main body returned by the way they came, and as they proceeded westward, originated the different tribes composing their nation; and to each tribe was assigned the territory they occupied, when first discovered by the whites. [Footnote: Account by David Cusick, as contained in Schoolcraft's report. Mr. S. regards this account correct as indicating the probable course of their migrations.]
The Senecas, the fifth tribe of the Iroquois, were directed in their original location, to occupy a hill near the head of Canandaigua lake. This hill, called Ge-nun-de-wa, is venerated as the birth place of their nation. It was surrounded anciently by a rude fortification which formed their dwelling in time of peace, and served for a shelter from any sudden attack of a hostile tribe. Tradition hallows this spot on account of the following very remarkable occurrence.
Far back in the past, the inhabitants of the hill Genundewa, were surprised on awaking one morning, to behold themselves surrounded by an immense serpent. His dimensions were so vast as to enable him to coil himself completely around the fort. His head and tail came together at its gate. There he lay writhing and hissing, presenting a most menacing and hideous aspect. His jaws were widely extended, and he hissed so terribly no one ventured to approach near.
The inhabitants were thus effectually blockaded. Some endeavored, but in vain, to kill this savage monster. Others tried to escape, but his watchful eyes prevented their endeavors. Others again sought to climb over his body, but were unable; while others still attempted to pass by his head, but fell into his extended jaws. Their confinement grew every day more and more painful, and was rendered doubly annoying by the serpent's breath, which was very offensive.
Their situation drove them at length to an extremity not to be endured. They armed themselves with hatchets, and clubs, and whatever implements of war they could find, and made a vigorous sally upon their dreadful foe, but, alas! were all engulfed in his terrific jaws.
It so happened that two orphan children remained, after the destruction which befell the rest. They were directed by an oracle to make a bow of a certain kind of willow, and an arrow of the same, the point of which they were to dip in poison, and then shoot the monster, aiming so as to hit him under his scales.
In doing this, they encountered their adversary with entire success. For no sooner had the arrow penetrated his skin, than he presently began to grow sick, exhibiting signs of the deepest distress. He threw himself into every imaginable shape, and with wonderful contortions and agonizing pains, rolled his ponderous body down along the declivity of the mountain, uttering horrid noises as he went, prostrating trees in his course, and falling finally into the lake below.
Here he slaked his thirst, and showed signs of great distress, by dashing about furiously in the water. Soon he vomited up the heads of those whom he had swallowed, and immediately after expired and sank to rise no more. [Footnote: As related to the author by Col. Wm. Jones.]
From these two children, as thus preserved, the Seneca nation are said to have sprung.
So implicitly has this tradition been received by the Senecas, that it has been incorporated into the solemnities of their worship, and its remembrance continued from one generation to another by the aid of religious rites. Here they were formerly in the habit of assembling in council, and here their prayers and thanksgivings were offered to the Great Spirit, for having given them birth, and for rescuing their nation from entire destruction.
In speaking of this to the whites, they point to the barren hillside, as evincing the truth of the story, affirming that one day the forest trees stood thick upon it, but was stripped of them by the great serpent as he rolled down its declivity. The round stones found there in great abundance, resembling in size and shape the human head, are taken as additional proof, for they affirm that these are the heads disgorged by the serpent, and have been petrified by the waters of the lake. [Footnote: The author remembers well that in conversation with a Seneca Indian on this point, he seemed to take it as quite an affront that doubts should be expressed by the white people as to the reality of this occurrence.]
If nearness of locality will justify a glance of the eye for a moment, to an object not directly in the line of our pursuit, we might survey in passing a bold projecting height, not far from the hill Genundewa, marked by a legend which draws a tear from the eye of the dusky warrior, or sends him away in a thoughtful mood, with a shade of sadness upon his usually placid brow. The story is not of the same character and is of a more recent date than that of the serpent, but is said to be of great antiquity. It has been written with great beauty by Col. Stone, and as we are authorized, we present it in his own language.
"During the wars of the Senecas and Algonquins of the north, a chief of the latter was captured and carried to Genundewa, whereon a fortification, consisting of a square without bastions, and surrounded by palisades, was situated. The captive though young in years, was famed for his prowess in the forest conflict, and nature had been bountiful to his person in those gifts of strength and symmetry, which awaken savage admiration. After a short debate he was condemned to die on the following day, by the slow torture of empalement. While he was thus lying in the cabin of death, a lodge devoted to condemned prisoners, the daughter of the sachem brought him food, and struck with his manly form and heroic bearing, resolved to save him or share his fate. Her bold enterprise was favored by the uncertain light of the gray dawn, while the solitary sentinel, weary of his night-watch, and forgetful of his duty, was slumbering. Stealing with noiseless tread to the side of the young captive, she cut the thongs wherewith his limbs were bound, and besought him in breathless accents to follow her.
"The fugitives descended the hill by a wooded path conducting to the lake; but ere they reached the water, an alarm whoop, wild and shrill, was heard issuing from the waking guard. They tarried not, though thorny vines and fallen timber obstructed their way. At length they reached the smooth beach, and leaping into a canoe previously provided by the considerate damsel, they plied the paddle vigorously, steering for the opposite shore. Vain were their efforts. On the wind came cries of rage, and the quick tramp of savage warriors, bounding over rock and glen in fierce pursuit. The Algonquin with the reckless daring of a young brave, sent back a yell of defiance, and soon after the splash of oars was heard, and a dozen war canoes were cutting the billows in their rear. The unfortunate lovers on landing, took a trail leading in a western direction over the hills. The Algonquin, weakened by unhealed wounds, followed his active guide up the aclivity, with panting heart and flagging pace; while his enemies, with the grim old sachem at their head, drew nearer and nearer. At length finding further attempts at flight useless, she diverged from the trail, and conducted her lover to a table-crested rock that projected over a ravine or gulf, one hundred and fifty feet in depth, the bottom of which was strewed with misshapen rocks, scattered in rude confusion. With hearts nerved to a high resolve, the hapless pair awaited the arrival of their yelling pursuers. Conspicuous by his eagle plume, towering form and scowling brow, the daughter soon descried her inexorable sire, leaping from crag to crag below her. He paused abruptly when his fiery eye rested on the objects of his pursuit. Notching an arrow on the string of his tried and unerring bow, he raised his sinewy arms—but ere the missile was sent, Wun-nut-hay, the Beautiful, interposed her form between her father and his victim. In wild appealing tones she entreated her sire to spare the young chieftain, assuring him that they would leap together from the precipice rather than be separated. The stern old man, deaf to her supplication, and disregarding her menace, ordered his followers to seize the fugitive. Warrior after warrior darted up the rock, but on reaching the platform, at the moment when they were grasping to clutch the young brave, the lovers, locked in fond embrace, flung themselves
'From the steep rock, and perished.'
"The mangled bodies were buried in the bottom of the glen, beneath the shade of everlasting rocks; and two small hollows, resembling sunken graves, are to this day pointed out to the curious traveler, as the burial place of the lovers." It is a sweet, wild haunt, the sunbeams fall there with softened radiance, and a brook near by gives out a complaining murmur, as if mourning for the dead. [Footnote: Mr. Stone adds in a note— "This interesting legend was derived many years ago from a Seneca chief of some note, named Chequered Cap, and was communicated to me by W. H. C. Hosmer, Esq., of Avon. On the top of Genundewa the remains of an Indian orchard are visible, a few moss-grown and wind-bowed apple trees still linger, sad, but fitting emblems of the wasted race by whom they were planted."]
Let us return to the inquiry we were pursuing. Of the origin of the Iroquois confederacy, some traditionary accounts have been given, which represent the different tribes as dwelling for a time, in the separate locations assigned them, independent of each other. Here they increased in valor, skill and knowledge, suited to their forest home. At length becoming numerous, rival interests arose among them, which did not exist when they were small and feeble. They fell into contention, and wasted and destroyed each other. Each tribe fortified his own position, and dwelt in constant fear of being surprised and overcome by his neighboring foe.
At length one of their sachems, distinguished for his wisdom and address, proposed that they should cease from a strife, which was only destroying themselves, and unite their energies against the Alleghans, the Adirondacks, the Eries, and other ancient and warlike tribes, who were their superiors in their isolated and divided condition. Already weary of their unprofitable conflicts, the proposal was received with favor, and Ato-tar-ho, an Onandaga chieftain, unequalled in valor, and the fame of whose skill and daring was known among all the tribes, became the leading spirit of this confederacy, and by common consent was placed at its head. So fully did experience demonstrate the wisdom of this arrangement, that they used every means to strengthen the bands of their union, and by the most solemn engagements of fidelity to each other, they became the Ko-nos- hi-o-ni, or United people. [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Report.]
How long this confederacy had existed before their discovery by the whites, is unknown. There is a tradition which places it one age, or the length of a man's life, before the white people came to this country. [Footnote: Pyrlaus, a missionary at the ancient site of Dionderoga, or Fort Hunter, writing between 1742 and 1748, gives this as the best conjecture he could form, from information derived from the Mohawks. It is thought however that this time is too short, to account for the degree of development attained by the Iroquois, in their united capacity, at the time of their first discovery by the whites.]
The union of these several tribes was the means of securing their pre- eminence over the other Indians in this country. Their individual traits are thus very fittingly represented;—"in their firm physical type, and in their energy of character, and love of independence, no people among the aboriginal race have ever exceeded, if any has equalled the Iroquois." [Footnote: Schoolcraft.] They occupied a region surpassed by no other on the continent, for grandeur and beauty united, and inherited from this or some other source, a mental constitution of noble structure, which placed them in the fore-front of their race, and when united, no tribe on this continent could stand before them. This has served to render their history, a matter of earnest and interesting inquiry.
Name Red Jacket, how acquired—Indian name—Conferred name—Singular tradition—Red Jacket during the war of the Revolution—Neutrality of the Indians—Services sought by Great Britain—Sketch of Sir William Johnson— Position of Red Jacket—Taunt of cowardice—Testimony of Little Beard— Charge made by Brant—Red Jacket's indifference—Anecdote—Early love of eloquence—Interesting reminiscences.
The name Red Jacket, so familiar to the whites, was acquired during the war of the Revolution. He was distinguished at this time as well as afterward, for his fleetness on foot, his intelligence and activity. Having attracted the attention of a British officer by the vivacity of his manners, and the speedy execution of those errands with which he was intrusted, he received either in token of admiration, or for services rendered, or both, a beautifully ornamented jacket of a scarlet color.
This he took pride in wearing, and when worn out, he was presented with another, and continued to wear this peculiar dress until it became a mark of distinction, and gave him the name by which he was afterward best known. At a treaty held at Canandaigua in 1794, Captain Parrish, who was for many years agent of the United States for the Indians, presented him with another red jacket to perpetuate a name of which he was particularly fond. [Footnote: McKenney's Indian Biography Politely favored by Alfred B. Street, Esq., and assistant Mr. J. H. Hickox, of the State Library, Albany, N. Y.]
His original name was Oti-ti-ani, always ready. Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, the title conferred upon him at his election to the dignity of Sachem, has been rendered, "The keeper awake, he keeps them awake, and the author, or cause of a wakeful spirit." [Footnote: This latter translation was given to the author by the late Wm. Jones, a half-blood, son-in-law of Red Jacket and a chief of some note. This interpretation was given to some gentlemen from Buffalo who proposed to erect a monument at Red Jacket's grave. It was given in a full council of the chiefs of his tribe.]
The name is connected with a curious superstition among his people, and will best be understood, by an acquaintance with the circumstances under which it is used.
If during the still hours of night, an Indian's mind is taken up with thoughts that cause sleep to pass from him, preventing every effort of Morpheus to lock him in fond embrace, he ascribes it to a spirit, which he calls Sa-go-ye-wat-ha.
The impressions made are regarded as ominous of some important event, joyful or otherwise, according to the feelings awakened. If his thoughts are of a pleasing nature, he is led to anticipate the occurrence of some joyful event. If they are of a melancholy turn, he regards it as foreboding evil.
He may be led to dwell with interest on some absent friend; that friend he will expect to see the next day, or soon after. Yet should his thoughts be troubled or anxious, he would expect to hear soon of that friend's death, or that something evil had befallen him. [Footnote: Conversation with Wm. Jones, Seneca chief.]
Such was the spirit they called Sa-go-ye-wat-ha. He could arrest the current of their thought, bring before them visions of delight, or send upon them melancholy reflections, and fill their minds with anxiety and gloom.
This title conferred on Red Jacket, while it indicated the cause of his elevation, presented the highest compliment that could be paid to his powers of oratory. By the magic spell of his words, he could control their minds, make their hearts beat quick with emotions of joy, or send over them at will the deep pulsations of grief.
The incident referred to as giving rise to the name, Red Jacket, introduces him in connection with the war of the Revolution. As his conduct during this period has been the subject of frequent remark, severely criticised by some, and not very favorably viewed by others, justice to the orator's memory requires a brief statement of his reasons for the course he pursued.
While thoughts of this contest were pending, the colonists took measures to secure the favorable disposition of the Iroquois, and these efforts at the time were successful.
The general government advised them to remain neutral, during the anticipated conflict. This course met the approval of their most considerate sachems. For though inured to war, and apt to enter with avidity into the excitement of a conflict, their forces had been reduced by recent encounters with the Indians at the west, and south, and also with the French; and the few intervening years of peace served to convince them of its value, and caused them to receive with favor this proposition from our government.
At a council held with the Iroquois at German Flats, in June, 1776, by Gen. Schuyler, who had been appointed for this purpose, these assurances of neutrality were renewed.
Great Britain also was not indifferent about the course these Indian tribes would pursue. Wishing to prevent an alliance of the Indians with the colonists, willing to secure forces already on the ground, and with a view possibly, of striking terror into the minds of her rebellious subjects, her agents in this country spared no pains to enlist the sympathies of the Iroquois on her side.
In this they were but too successful. Through their agents, Britain had been in correspondence with these tribes for more than a hundred years, had supplied them with implements of war, articles of clothing, and with many of the comforts and conveniences of life. The Indians had learned to be dependent upon her, and they called her king their "great father over the water." Her agents spent their lives among them. Through them their communications were made to the crown, and they regarded them as essential to their happiness. Hence they exerted a very great influence over them.
This was especially true of Sir William Johnson, who died at Johnson Hall in the month of June, 1774.
Mr. Johnson was a native of Ireland, of a good family and fitted by nature and education, to adorn the walks of civilized life. He came to this country not far from 1738, as land agent of his uncle, Sir Peter Warren, an admiral in the English navy, who had acquired a considerable tract of land upon the Mohawk, in the present county of Montgomery.
Possessing a romantic disposition, he readily adapted himself to the rude customs that prevailed in the wilds of America.
The Gentleman's Magazine of London said of him in 1755,—"Besides his skill and experience as an officer, he is particularly happy in making himself beloved by all sorts of people, and can conform to all companies and to all conversations. He is very much of a gentleman in genteel company, but as the inhabitants next to him are mostly Dutch, he sits down with them and smokes his tobacco, drinks flip, and talks of improvements, bear and beaver skins. Being surrounded with Indians, he speaks several of their languages well, and has always some of them with him. He takes care of their wives, and old Indians, when they go out on parties; and even wears their dress. In short, by his honest dealings with them in trade, and his courage, which has often been successfully tried with them, he has so endeared himself to them, that they chose him as one of their chief sachems, or princes, and esteem him as their father."
Not far from the year 1755, while the French and English were at war, he was made general of the colonial militia, and by virtue of a leadership that had been created by the Iroquois, he was head warrior of all the Indian tribes, who favored the English.
The gifts of his sovereign, and the opportunity he had of purchasing Indian lands, were the means of his securing great wealth. The ease with which he secured land of the Indians is illustrated by an amusing occurrence between him and a noted chief, Hendrick. Soon after entering upon his duties as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in this country, he received from England some richly embroidered suits of clothes.
Hendrick, a Mohawk chief, was present, when the package containing them was opened, and could not refrain from expressing his admiration of them. He went away very thoughtful, but soon after returned and said to Sir William, that he had dreamed a dream.
"Ah! And what did you dream?" said Sir William.
"I dreamed," said Hendrick, "that you gave me one of those new suits of uniform."
Sir William could not refuse it, and one of the elegant suits was presented to Hendrick, who went away to show his gift to his countrymen and left Sir William to tell the joke to his friends. A while after the general met Hendrick and said—"Hendrick, I have dreamed a dream."
Whether the Sachem mistrusted he was now to be taken in his own net or not, is not certain, but he also inquired,—"And what did you dream?"
The general said he dreamed that Hendrick presented him with a certain piece of land which he described. It consisted of about five hundred acres, of the most valuable land in the Mohawk valley.
Hendrick replied,—"It is yours;" but, shaking his head, said, "Sir William I will never dream with you again." [Footnote: Drake's Book of the Indians.]
Sir William's large estate, the partiality of his countrymen, together with his military honors, and his great influence with the Indians, rendered him "as near a prince as anything the back-woods of America has witnessed." [Footnote: The expression of an English lady.—Turner.]
He built two spacious and convenient residences on the Mohawk river, known as Johnson Castle and Johnson Hall. The Hall was his summer residence. Here he lived something like a sovereign, kept an excellent table for strangers and officers, whom the course of duty led into these wilds, and by confiding entirely in the Indians, and treating them with truth and justice, never yielding to solicitations once refused, they were taught to repose in him the utmost confidence.
His personal popularity with the Indians, gave him an influence over them greater it is supposed, than any one of our own race has ever possessed. He was the first Englishman that contended successfully with French Indian diplomacy, as exercised by their governors, missionaries and traders. [Footnote: Turner's Phelps and Gorham Purchase.]
Had he lived until the war of the Revolution, it is supposed by some he might have remained neutral, and have kept the Indians from engaging in the conflict, though this is altogether uncertain. He lived to see the gathering of the storm that swept away most of his great possessions.
On the death of Sir William, his son John Johnson succeeded to his titles and estate. The office of General Superintendent of the Indians, fell into the hands of Col. Guy Johnson, a son-in-law, who appointed Col. Claus, another son-in-law, as his deputy.
Into their hands fell the property, and a large share of the influence over the Indians, possessed by Sir William Johnson. This influence was exerted in favor of Great Britain.
When the Indians heard of the uprising in Boston, and of the battle of Lexington, they were told, that these out-breaks were the acts of disobedient children, against the great king, who had been kind to them, as he had to the Six Nations. That their "great father over the water," was rich in money and men; that the colonists were poor, and their numbers small, and that they could easily be brought into subjection.
At a council of the Iroquois convened at Oswego, by Sir John Johnson and other officers and friends of the crown, they were informed that the king desired them to assist him in subduing the rebels, who had taken up arms against him, and were about to rob him of a part of his great possessions.
But the chiefs one by one assured the British agents that they had the year before, in a council with General Schuyler, pledged themselves to neutrality, and could not without violating their promise, take up the hatchet.
But they were assured that the rebels justly merited all the punishment that white men and Indians could inflict;—that they would be richly rewarded for their services, and that the king's rum was as plenty as the waters of Lake Ontario.
This appeal to their appetites, already vitiated, together with the promise of large rewards, at length prevailed; and a treaty was concluded, in which the Indians pledged themselves to take up arms against the rebels, and continue in service during the war. They were then presented each with a suit of clothes, a brass kettle, a gun, a tomahawk, a scalping knife, a quantity of powder and lead, and a piece of gold. [Footnote: Life of Mary Jemison.]
The Senecas were among those who consented to join the royal standard. Of this action Red Jacket did not approve. He declared plainly and unhesitatingly to those who had determined to engage in the war,—"This quarrel does not belong to us,—and it is test for us to take no part in it; we need not waste our blood to have it settled. If they fight us, we will fight them, but if they let us alone, we had better keep still." [Footnote: Testimony given to the author by Wm. Jones, Seneca chief, and confirmed by Col. Wm. Jones, son of the Indian interpreter, who affirms that prominent Indian chiefs had declared in his hearing that these were the sentiments of Red Jacket at this time.]
Red Jacket at this time was not far from twenty-six years old. His forensic abilities had not been called forth, and his influence weighed but little in comparison with that of older men. But it may be observed that his conduct ever after this, will be found consistent with the sentiments he entertained, and was free to express. Though young, his perceptions were keen, he had a deep and penetrating mind and saw at a glance that in this contest his people were doomed to suffer, to be ground between the upper and nether mill stone.
When, in the summer of 1777, his people received an invitation to join the forces that were preparing to march under the command of Col. St. Leger upon Fort Stanwix, being assured that they would not be required to endure the fatigues and dangers of the battle, but might "sit down quietly and smoke their pipes, and see the sport;" Red Jacket endeavored, but in vain, to prevent his people from going. He said to them, "it's a cheat; the design is to deceive you, and if you go you will find that you have been deluded."
They threw back the taunt,—"You are a coward, you have the mind of a woman, and are not fit to go to war."
Red Jacket though not at this time a chief, was a young man of acknowledged talent and influence, and having a right to express his opinion, did not hesitate to give it in favor of peace. His opinion was well known among his people. Little Beard has frequently been seen to bury his face in his blanket, and give vent to his tears, in view of the havoc made among the Senecas by the war, at the same time declaring,—"Red Jacket was opposed to the war, HE WAS ALWAYS IN FAVOR OF PEACE, and how much better it had been, had we listened to his advice." [Footnote: Conversation of the author with Col. Jones.]
Red Jacket's prediction was too nearly verified. The Senecas suffered most severely in that campaign. They fell under the command of Thay-en-dan-e- gea or Brant, who went with a company of Tories, led by Col. Butler, to intercept General Herkimer, who was reported as coming to the relief of the garrison. At a certain point on the way, where they expected the general would pass, they formed an ambuscade, and though they selected their ground with wisdom, and acquitted themselves with great bravery, they were unable to stand before the invincible courage of the heroes of Oriskany.
The Senecas claim to have lost in that engagement thirty-three of their chiefs, and their feelings in view of it are said to have been sad in the extreme. [Footnote: "The mourning was excessive, and was expressed by the most doleful yells, shrieks and howlings and by inimitable gesticulations."—Mrs. Jemison's Narrative.]
The charge of cowardice applied by the young warriors to Red Jacket, upon their first starting out on this campaign, was one frequently made during the war. His views were at different times expressed in opposition to it, and his arguments as often repelled by the young braves, who could not endure his invectives. The reply was easily made, and hence in more frequent demand, than if it had imposed a greater tax upon their intellects. The epithet has often been applied to him since, and though his tastes did not lead him to seek the fame of a warrior, still it is believed he was not so devoid of courage, as has sometimes been represented.
His views of the war, were not those of a partisan, hence his conduct was often censured by those who had entered heartily into the contest.
Brant has charged him with being the occasion of trouble to him, in his efforts to arrest the march of Sullivan, and his army, into the Indian country. Particularly at Newtown, where considerable preparations had been made for defense. Says Col. Stone,—"Sa-go-ye-wat-ha was then twenty-nine years old, and though it does not appear that he had yet been created a chief, he nevertheless seems to have been already a man of influence. He was in the practice of holding private consultations with the young warriors, and some of the younger and less resolute chiefs, for the purpose of fomenting discontents, and persuading them to sue for what Brant considered, ignominious terms of peace.
"On one occasion as Brant has alleged, Red Jacket had so far succeeded in his treachery, as to induce some of the disaffected chiefs to send a runner into Sullivan's camp, to make known dissensions he himself had awakened, and invite a flag of truce, with propositions of peace to the Indians."
Though charged with acting criminally, it is here expressly asserted, that it was to obtain peace. Peace he most earnestly desired for his people, who were doomed to be wasted in a contest not their own.
Nor, in view of his feelings respecting the war, is it surprising he should have incurred the displeasure of Cornplanter, while endeavoring to bring his countrymen to make a stand against a portion of the invading army, on the beach of Canandaigua lake, where was an Indian village of some size. Not finding in Red Jacket an ardor for the undertaking which corresponded in any degree with his own, he turned to the young wife of the orator and exclaimed,—"Leave that man, he is a coward; your children will disgrace you, they will all be cowards." [Footnote: Col. Wm. Jones.]
The epithet thus applied occasioned uneasiness to none less than to the orator himself. Whenever he chose to notice it, he would make a good return for what he had received.—In a war of words, he was on his own chosen ground. He was a match for their greatest champion, and in cross- firing, it could easily be seen that his missiles were directed by one who was perfect master of the art. He could handle at will the most cutting sarcasm, and while maintaining a good natured, playful mood, deal his blows with such power and effect, as to make the victim of his irony resort to some other means of defense, than the tongue. It is said that frequently by his cool, good natured railery, he has caused the victim of his sport to turn upon and strike him. He would answer it by a hearty laugh, unless the blow was of such a nature as to demand of him a different reception. [Footnote: Wm. Jones, Seneca chief.] He seemed to be armed at every point, as with a coat of mail, against the arrows of his assailants. Their most powerful weapons would be turned aside by his presence of mind, and matchless skill, and leave him apparently unharmed.
A circumstance illustrating this point, once occurred between him and Little Billy, a chief of some note among the Senecas, who was frequently in the orator's company. This chief, with Red Jacket and one or two others, were once passing from their settlement on Canandaigua lake, to the old Seneca Castle, near the foot of Seneca lake. On their way they encountered a large grizzly bear. Little Billy and the others in the company, were frightened and began to run. Red Jacket who was distinguished as a hunter, and an excellent marksman, drew up his rifle, and brought the monster to the ground.
It so happened, on one occasion sometime afterward, that Little Billy was very pertinacious in calling Red Jacket a coward. The orator did not appear to notice him at first; but finding that he persisted in the charge, he turned to him and coolly and sarcastically said,—"Well, if I am coward I never run unless it's for something bigger than a bear." [Footnote: Conversation with Seneca chief, Wm. Jones.]
It is hardly necessary to add, that nothing more was heard from Little Billy concerning his cowardice on that day.
This charge of cowardice was owing in a great degree to the orator's position. He was not on the popular side. The majority of his people were against him. Had he acted in accordance with their wishes, it is a question whether anything would ever have been said about his deficiency in courage. And this supposition is strengthened by the fact, that at a subsequent period in his history, a little display of courage, when acting in accordance with the wishes of his people, gained for him a marked degree of approbation, and gave rise to the affirmation, "the stain fixed upon his character, was thus wiped away by his good conduct in the field." [Footnote: McKenney's Indian Biography.]
In opposing the wishes of his people, when bent on a war of which he did not approve, he gained the epithet of coward. With less intelligence, and less moral courage, he might have seconded the views of his nation, and been ranked a brave.
Hence, though we do not claim for Red Jacket the possession of qualities, adapted to make him conspicuous as a military chieftain, we are disposed to attribute to him the higher courage of acting in accordance with his own convictions of propriety and duty. "He was born an orator, and while morally brave, lacked the stolid insensibility to suffering and slaughter, which characterized the war-captains of his nation." [Footnote: Bryant's address.]
We readily concede that Red Jacket was fitted by nature to excel in councils of peace, rather than in enterprises of war; to gain victories in a conflict of mind with mind rather than in physical strife, on the field of battle.
And it may be questioned whether the qualities adapted to the highest achievements of oratory, would be congenial to the rough encounters of war. Especially when the mind is already preoccupied with inward thirstings after the glory of the rostrum; it will not be apt to sigh for the camp, or the noise and tinsel of mere military fame.
It is related of him that when a boy, he was present at a great council held on the Shenandoah. Many nations were there represented by their wise men and orators. The greatest among them was Logan, who had removed from the territory of his tribe to Shamokin. He was the son of Shikellemus, a celebrated chief of the Cayuga nation, who, before the Revolution was a warm friend of the whites.
On the occasion referred to, Red Jacket was so charmed with Logan's style, and manner of delivery, that he resolved to attain if possible the same high standard of eloquence; though he almost despaired of equalling his distinguished model.
On his return to Cunadesaga, near the Seneca lake, which was at that time his home, he sometimes incurred the displeasure and reproof of his mother, by long absence from her cabin, without any ostensible cause. When hard pressed for an answer, he informed his mother, that "he had been playing Logan."
"Thus in his mighty soul the fire of a generous emulation had been kindled, not to go out until his oratorical fame threw a refulgent glory on the declining fortunes of the once formidable Iroquois. In the deep and silent forest he practiced elocution, or to use his own expressive language, played Logan, until he caught the manner and tone of his great master. Unconsciously the forest orator, was an imitator of the eloquent Greek, who tuned his voice on the wild sea beach, to the thunders of the surge, and caught from nature's altar his loftiest inspiration.
"Not without previous preparation, and the severest discipline, did Red Jacket acquire his power of moving and melting his hearers. His graceful attitudes, significant gestures, perfect intonation, and impressive pauses, when the lifted finger, and flashing eye told more than utterance, were the result of sleepless toil; while his high acquirement was the product of stern habitual thought, study of man, and keen observation."
"He did not trust to the occasion alone for his finest periods, and noblest metaphors. In the armory of his capacious intellect the weapons of forensic warfare had been previously polished and stored away. Ever ready for the unfaltering tongue was the cutting rebuke, or apt illustration. By labor, persevering labor, he achieved his renown. By exercising his faculties in playing Logan when a boy, one of the highest standards of mortal eloquence, either in ancient or modern times, he has left a lesson to all ambitious aspirants, that there is no royal road to greatness; that the desired goal is only to be gained by scaling rugged cliffs, and treading painful paths." [Footnote: This statement, together with the remarks that follow, is presented almost entire, from a reminiscence of Red Jacket, given by Mr. Turner in his Pioneer History of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, a work that has rescued from oblivion, many interesting and valuable historical recollections.]
The habit thus acquired in the orator's youth, became characteristic of him, at a later period of his life. Previous to his making any great forensic effort, he could be seen walking in the woods alone, apparently in deep study. [Footnote: Col. Wm. Jones.]
Early struggles—Red Jacket's opportunity for trial—Council at Fort Stanwix—Red Jacket's office of Sachem—Red Jacket's opposition to the proposed treaty—Excitement created by his speech—Allayed by Cornplanter —His influence in deciding the treaty—How it affected him.
How long and toilsome the way, ere the ambitious aspirant passes from the low grounds of obscurity, to the dazzling heights of fame! How many hours of anxious toil, through wearisome days and nights, protracted through months and years, are passed, before the arena even is entered, where the race commences in earnest! How many struggling emotions between hope and fear, encouragement and doubt, promise and despair, mark the experience, and clothe it with the sublimity and interest that belong to action in its highest forms!
Did this child of nature cherishing the bright dream from early life, never suffer from these contending emotions, ere he awoke finally to the consciousness of the reality, where he could exclaim, I am an orator, yes, I AM AN ORATOR!
This idea Red Jacket began now to cherish. He had practiced in his native wilds, the forest depths had echoed back those strains of eloquence, that had struggled for utterance in his impassioned bosom, and their force being expended here, served but to awaken a still stronger desire to try his powers, where he could have the answering sympathy of human hearts. His fame and greatness were yet to be achieved. With the inward consciousness of strength that would secure for him the eminence he desired, he awaited eagerly the opportunity for its exercise. This opportunity came.
When the storm of war had rolled by, the hour came for deliberation, and council. England and America had concluded peace, and the jurisdiction of the country of the Iroquois had been surrendered to the United States. Still no provision had been made by the crown for those tribes that had freely fought in her defence. They were left to make their own peace, or prosecute the war on their own account. Their attitude was yet hostile. No expedition of importance was undertaken, but the border men were constantly annoyed by Indians, who drove away their horses and cattle, and committed other acts of depredation. And the inhabitants of the frontier had suffered so severely from the Indian tribes during the war, that these acts served to awaken still deeper feelings of hostility toward them, and led some openly to recommend that the Indians be driven from their lands, and that these be forfeited to the State.
These councils were strenuously resisted by the general government. The humane and considerate Washington thought it wiser to try and conciliate them, and if possible win their confidence and esteem, claiming that their lands, when needed, could be obtained at a cheaper rate by negotiation and purchase, than by war and conquest.
This course, the excellence of which experience has fully demonstrated, was finally adopted, and in pursuance of this design, a general council of the Iroquois was convened at Fort Stanwix, in the fall of 1784. It was attended by Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler, and Arthur Lee, who were appointed commissioners on the part of the United States. The different tribes of the Iroquois were represented, and Red Jacket was present, and took an active part in its deliberations. He had now been elected to the office of Sachem; at what time precisely, is not known, but probably not far from the close of the war of the Revolution.
The manner in which he gained this office has been ascribed by some to artifice as well as the force of his eloquence. Col. Stone says, that "aspiring to the rank of chief, he not only wrought upon the minds of his people, by the exertion of that faculty which was ever with them a high standard of merit, but he succeeded in availing himself of the superstitious constitution of his race, to effect his purpose. His first essay was to dream that he was, or should be a chief, and that the Great Spirit was angry that his nation had not advanced him to that dignity. This dream, with the necessary variations, he repeated until, fortunately for him, the small pox broke out among the Senecas. He then proclaimed the loathsome infliction a judgment sent by the Great Spirit, to punish them for their ingratitude to him. The consequence ultimately was, that by administering flattery to some, working upon the superstitious fears of others, and by awakening the admiration of all by his eloquence, he reached the goal of his ambition." [Footnote: Col. Stone's Life and Times of Thayendanegea and Life and Times of Red Jacket. This statement has been denied by some, who affirm that his eloquence was the sole cause of his elevation. If this representation came from Brant, it may be recollected that between Red Jacket and Brant there did not exist a very strong attachment, and statements made by one concerning the other, would not be likely to bear the coloring of a very warm friendship.]
However this may have been, it is certain this course was not necessary to establish Red Jacket's position among his people. The circumstances of their history created a necessity for his transcendent abilities, and the light of his genius, though it may have been obscured for a time, must eventually have shone forth, in its original beauty and splendor.
Red Jacket was now called upon to assist in the deliberations of his people, and from this time to the day of his death, we find him connected with, and bearing an important part in all of their public transactions.
The council at Fort Stanwix was the first occasion in which he appeared before the public. It was a meeting of no small moment. With an anxious heart the Indian left his home and wended his way, through his native forests, to the place where he was to meet in council, the chiefs of the thirteen fires. His own tribes had been wasted, by a long and bloody war. The nation they had so long clung to, and by whose artifice they had been led to engage in the strife, stood confessedly vanquished. A new power had arisen in the land, what bearing would it have on their future fortunes?
With the importance of this gathering none were more deeply impressed than Red Jacket.—Yonder he stands, alone;—his knit brow, and searching glance indicate a process of thought, which stirs deeply the emotions of the inner man.—Tread lightly, lest you disturb the silent evolutions of that airy battalion, that is wheeling into rank and file, thoughts that discharged in words, reach the mark and do execution.—Now he wears a look of indignation, which presently turns to one of proud defiance, as he contemplates the encroaching disposition of the white race.—Now you may detect an air of scorn, and his eye flashes fire, as he regards them at first a feeble colony, which might easily have been crushed by the strong arm of the Iroquois.—A feeling of deep concern directly overspreads his features, as he thinks of their advancing power, and of the prospect of their surpassing even the glory of his own ancestry.—A still deeper shade steals over him as he thinks of the waning fortunes of his people.— Presently his countenance is lighted up;—his feelings are all aglow,—a bright thought, has entered his mind.—He conceives the idea of the union of the entire race of red men, to resist the encroachments of the whites. —Are they not yet strong? And united, would they not yet be, a formidable power?
With anxious and matured thoughts, Red Jacket comes to this council gathering. Its bearing on his nation and race, he deeply scans, and treasures up those burning thoughts, with which he is to electrify, and set on fire the bosoms of his countrymen.
Of the proceedings of this council, little is known aside from the bare treaty itself. By this treaty perpetual peace and amity were agreed upon between the United States, and the Iroquois, and the latter ceded to the United States, all their lands lying west of a line commencing at the mouth of a creek four miles east of Niagara, at a place on Lake Ontario called Johnson's Landing; thence south, in a direction always four miles east of the portage, or carrying-path, between Lakes Erie and Ontario, to the mouth of Buffalo creek, on Lake Erie; thence due south to the north boundary of the state of Pennsylvania; thence west to the end of said boundary; thence south along the west boundary of the state of Pennsylvania to the Ohio river.
In consideration of this surrender to the United States of their claim to western lands, the Iroquois were to be secure in the peaceful possession of the lands they inhabited in the state of New York.
This treaty Red Jacket strenuously resisted. He regarded the proposed cession of lands as exorbitant and unjust, and summoned all the resources of his eloquence to defend his position. The course of his argument and the various means he took to enforce it, we have no means of adequately presenting. A few hints respecting it, and the testimony of those present as to the effect produced, is all we have to guide us in forming any estimate of its merits.
After giving a vivid representation of the encroachments already made upon them by the whites, and of the advances they were making in numbers and power, as well as extent of territory, he reminded his hearers of the ancient glory of the Iroquois, and contrasted it with their present wasted and feeble condition. They had been passing through a mighty convulsion, the hurricane had swept over their dwellings, their homes were laid waste, their country made desolate.
He directed them to the extensive dominion they had exercised. Their empire was wide, on the north, and east, and south, and west, there were none to stay their hand, or limit their power. A broad continent was open to them on every side, and their seats were large. But now they were met by a people to whom they had surrendered a large portion of their lands, and "they are driving us on toward the setting sun. They would shut us in, they would close up the path to our brethren at the west. We demand an open way."
They had no right, he affirmed, to part with their western lands. Their laws, their ancient usages forbade it. They ought never to decide a question so momentous as this, without giving all the parties a hearing, who have any interest in its decision. They should be present and join in their deliberations. Their brethren at the west had a right to be consulted in this matter.—It would be unworthy of the name, and exalted fame of the Iroquois, to decide the question without reference to them.— It was a question that affected deeply the interests of the entire race of red men on this continent. He declared finally that rather than yield to the exorbitant demands of the treaty, they should take up their arms, and prosecute the war on their own account.
Such is the scanty outline of a speech that made a wonderful impression on the minds of all his people who were present. During the progress of his speech, their emotions were wrought up to a pitch, that seemed to betoken a rising storm, and at times it seemed as though it needed but a spark to set on fire a flame that was ready to burst out with consuming force.
Those present, who did not understand the language of the orator, were deeply interested in his voice, his manner of elocution, and his perfect and inimitable action. They caught fire from his eye, and felt the inspiration, which was kindled in the minds of all who listened to him understandingly. When he sat down his work was accomplished. There was but one heart among his people. From this time on, he was the peerless orator of his nation.
A very interesting sketch of Red Jacket as an orator, refers, for the existence of the facts which form the basis of its statements, to a treaty held at Canandaigua in 1794. It has been copied by Drake, and published in almost every sketch of the orator's life. Mr. Stone questions its truthfulness on the ground that there is no notice of it in any notes of this council taken at the time, and because also there was evidently an absence of the peculiar circumstances, which the speech referred to, seems to demand. Still he introduces it under the supposition that if delivered there at all, it might have been during the excitement produced among the Indians, by the rejection from the council, by Col. Pickering, of one Johnson, a messenger from Brant, who had been invited to be present at that council. Yet this is by no means probable, as Red Jacket would have been far from rising into eloquence on an occasion, which from his known relations to the proud Mohawk, he would naturally view with satisfaction, instead of resentment. The more probable supposition is, that the writer caught up this as a traditionary statement, which, owing to the lapse of time and the uncertainty of memory, had been changed in one or two of its items, and receiving it as correct, penned it in good faith, as having transpired at that treaty. It is a correct presentation of some of the points in the orator's speech on this occasion, and is as follows: [Footnote: Mr. Stone justly supposes this speech might have been made at the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784.]
"... The witnesses of the scene will never forget the powers of native oratory. Two days had passed away in negotiation with the Indians for a cession of their lands. The contract was supposed to be nearly completed, when Red Jacket arose. With the grace and dignity of a Roman Senator, he drew his blanket around him, and with a piercing eye surveyed the multitude. All was hushed. Nothing interposed to break the silence, but the rustling of the leaves. After a long and solemn, but not unmeaning pause, he commenced in a low voice, and sententious style. Rising gradually with the subject, he depicted the primitive simplicity and happiness of his nation, and the wrongs they had sustained from the usurpations of white men, with such a bold and faithful pencil, that every auditor was soon roused to vengeance, or melted to tears. The effect was inexpressible. But ere the emotions of admiration and sympathy had subsided, the white men became alarmed. They were in the heart of an Indian country, surrounded by ten times their number, who were inflamed by a remembrance of their injuries, and excited to indignation by the eloquence of a favorite chief. Appalled and terrified, the white men cast a cheerless gaze on the hordes around them. A nod from the chiefs might be the onset of destruction. At this portentious moment, Farmer's Brother interposed. He replied not to his brother chief, but with a sagacity truly aboriginal, he caused the cessation of the council, introduced good cheer, commended the eloquence of Red Jacket, and before the meeting had reassembled, with the aid of other prudent chiefs, he had moderated the fury of his nation to a more salutary view of the question before them."
The commissioners replied, but without making much headway on account of the agitation and excitement, produced by the orator's speech; that by the common usages of war they might lay claim to a much larger extent of territory; that their demand was characterized by great moderation, and insisted on their yielding to the terms proposed.
There was little disposition among them to yield the point, yet the treaty was finally brought to a successful issue, by the influence of Cornplanter.
Cornplanter was a noble specimen of the Indian race. He had all the sagacity for which his people were distinguished, and was equally active, eloquent and brave. He was well qualified by his talents to engage in the legislative councils of his nation, and was unsurpassed by any, for prowess and daring in the bloody field of strife. No chief, Thayendanegea not excepted, had gained higher laurels for personal valor, and none commanded more fully the confidence and esteem of his nation. His people looked up to him as a tower of strength, and when he spake, his words fell upon them with the weight of great authority. Better acquainted than his junior associate with the details of war, and understanding likewise the wasted and feeble condition of his people, and having learned in the late conflict something of the power of the enemy they would have to encounter, he regarded the idea of their resistance as wholly impracticable, and advised a compliance with the terms of the treaty. Though he regretted the loss of any more territory, he wisely concluded it was better to lose a part, than to be deprived of all. And by throwing his influence decidedly in favor, he succeeded finally in quieting the minds of his people, and in persuading them to accede to the proposals made.