26 OCTOBER 1867, Page 20


Mn. PARRIdAli has done ample justice to his subject. Candid and impartial, with an insight into character unclouded by any mists of prejudice, he has succeeded in bringing before us in much • The Jesuits in North America. By Frauds Parkman. Boston: Little, Brown, and Cu. 1807.

of its primal freshness a canvas which has long seemed blackened with the marks of time, and on which the original picture was half effaced by the figures of a later date which crowded the foreground.

It is difficult, amid the whirl of railways, the hurry of steam- boats, and the hum of a countless population, to realize New York as a wild village, Quebec a mere dot in the else unbroken wil- derness, and Montreal a solitude, its sileuce broken by the gather- ing together of wild Indians at the voice of the French Jesuit ; the finger of the latest offspring of European civilization and priestly power touching the already rotting body of worn-out barbarism, and thinking with the magic touch to make the dry bones live. Nor can we arraign at the bar of human judg- ment the band of devoted men who left home, land, and whatever was most dear to men of gentle nurture and cultivated intellect, to carry into the wilderness a medicine which had no power against a disease whose name was Death.

Mr. Parktuan turns over for us a page of history, we may do well to pause and read, and get, perhaps, some dim insight into problems which seem at first hopelessly inexplicable. One has well said, "In all the soul's experiments there has always remained in the last analysis a residuum it could not resolve." And the science has yet to be born or revealed, which shall silence our questioning as to the why, the wherefore, and the end of the vast savage tribes which dwindle away before the footsteps of the white man as wild grass before the ploughshare. But none the has is it worth while to analyze the process of decay, to see the two forces in juxtaposition, and watch the issue. "God comes to see us with- out bell." And it may be, in the quietness we gather around our inner selves in the contemplation of a dead past, we may perceive more truth than is discernible by the spirit when its intensest side is turned towards the hum of the present.

More than two hundred years have passed away since Le Jenne and his brother Jesuit, De Noub, entered the cottage of the widow of the first settler in Canada, "to offer beneath her roof the long forbidden sacrifice of the Mass." Few were the people speaking their own tongue in that wild land, and fewer still hailed their arrival, for the fur traders and few soldiers who formed the sole European population looked with a jealous eye on the advent of the Jesuits among them. Nor were they in the foreground of the missionaries' thoughts. They had not left France, with all that France meant to them, behind, to look after a few stray sheep, but to win, as they fondly dreamed, a kingdom for the Church. The wild tribes of the Iroquois, the Hurons, and the Alqouquins were to sit clothed and in their right mind at the foot of the Cross. It was no easy task they set themselves. "The true Iroquois, or Five Nations, extended through central New York front the Hudson to the Genesee. . . . . . . The vast tract of wilderness from the Mississippi to the Atlantic and from the Carolinas to Hudson's Bay was divided between two great families of tribes, distinguished by a radical difference of language ;" whilst a part of Virginia and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, south-eastern New York, New England, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Lower Canada were occupied, so far as occupied at all, by tribes speaking various Algonquin languages and dialects. Nor were the members of these wild tribes simply degraded savages, with their minds a blank, ready for any impression. Custom supplied to them the place of law. Nor were they without the rude elements of a democratic government. They hadchiefs for war, chiefs in council, and the representatives of each tribe and section, all chosen by the people, all meeting as on equal ground, yet with clearly defined rank, and in the "Senate," which held its meetings around the smoky fires of the blackened wigwams, any man took part in the discussions whose age and experience qualified him to do so. It was, says Mr. Parkman, "merely the gathered wisdom of the nation." And we find the younger men and the women had each their councils from which deputies were sent to the larger assembly, by whom all questions concerning the great interests of Indian life were settled. Their ignorance of writing was compensated by a singular device ; the wampum belts, made of strung beads, served the purpose of more civilized records. The events, speeches, or covenants made from time to time were signified by curious devices on the belts, which were committed to the guardianship of old men of the nation, who were expected to remember and interpret their meaning. And by this means their memories were tasked and cultivated to a point which often astonished the European officials who were brought in contact with them. These tribes, too, were not without certain laws concerning crime and its punishment. Murder was not atoned for by the death of the murderer, but by presents to the family of the slain, which presents had to be sufficient in value to satisfy their demands, otherwise the murderer was delivered over to them as a slave, but might in no instance be put to death. In cases of robbery the injured party night "not only retake his property by force if he could, but also strip the robber of all he had." They had their own rough dis- cipline, sternly enforced, by which their bands were held together in war ; each band under its own chief, and yet each man having "a voice in the conduct of affairs, and never for a moment divorced from his wild spirit of independence." The constant aim of the chief, Mr. Parkman says, was to exercise authority without seem- ing to do so, and adds that they were no richer, often poorer, than the others, as foul, greasy, and unsavoury as the rest, yet in them withal was often seen a dignity of bearing which ochre and bear's grease could not hide.

Their religion, such as it was, amounted to little more than superstitious dread of every living thing, which from its very universality of object lost everything like a definite hold over their actions. They apologized to the very animals they killed, but killed them none the less. To them the sun was a beneficent being, the moon malignant ; and the Iroquois recognized another being, "Taounyawatha, or Hiawatha, said to be a divinely ap- pointed messenger." But whatever might be the Indian's vague conception of some higher power than was visible around him, he never clothed this being with any attributes higher than those shared by the lowest and most degraded of the human race. The nearest approach they appear to have made to anything like a purer thought than their daily life afforded was in the belief that all Nature was sentient, sleeping in winter, but in summer keenly alive to their every utterance. So that tales embodying their religious belief were never told except in winter, lest the Spirits of Nature awake should hear and take offence. But there was a darker side to the picture, on which we do not care to dwell, nor does Mr. Parkman linger on it long ; the habitations of these ends of the earth are full of cruelty, there was no doubt of the existence of cannibalism among them, the practice of torture in its cruelest forms was their pastime, and their homes were a scene of wild, unbridled licence. Into their midst, with their lives in their hands, came the French Jesuits. It is not for us, at this moment, nor does Mr. Parkman, pause to examine critically the mighty machine of which the individual Jesuit formed not so much as a lynch-pin. Enough, that the men who in obedience to its orders went out to Canada were honest and devoted, burning -with zeal, holding their lives cheap, so that they might rescue these wild Indians from the Devil's grip. We may smile at their rejoicings over children clandestinely baptised with sugared water, may even see a relation between their superstitious belief that every wild Indian so signed witir the cross was safe ; and the superstitious and necromancy they denounced but by very force of their own devotedns, their purer manners, and the Christianity which, apart from the rubbish with which they had overlaid it, saturated their lives, a result must have been attained, however little commensurate with the idea on which their mission was foutidAi. The information they have handed down to us of the innermost life of these wild tribes is in itself invaluable.

Never had men a better opportunity for forming a correct judgment. Determined to master the language, determined in its widest sense to become all things to all men if by any means some might be brought into the fold of the Church, the Jesuit, even snch an one as Le Jeune, bore the hardships of an Indian's roving life, helped to carry the heavy burdens, sat in the filthy dens which served them for a home, and bore with patience the vile banter worse than blows heaped on him, spending months in the midst of a life which had reached the lowest depths of social degradation, and at the close of a toilsome winter had learned the little progress that could be made, unless these wandering hordes could be settled in fixed abodes, and determined to direct the eyes of the missionaries to where, "by the vast lakes of the west dwelt numerous stationary populations, and particularly the Hurons, on the lake which bears their name." The way was full of peril, "Toil, hardship, famine, filth, sickness, solitude, insult—all that is most revolting to men nurtured among arts and letters, all that is most terrific to monastic credulity ; such were the promise and the reality of the Huron Mission."

"But tasks in hours of insight willed

Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled."

Brebeuf, Chaumonot, Gamier, Daniel, all live before us in these pages, preserving their own iudividuality, while blending their efforts towards one common end. And with their names are united others not less worthy of notice. Joques, scholar and martyr ; Marie de St. Bernard, the young nun whose merriment ,Jkas like the old familiar music of home to the grave, weary sisters she helped so indefatigably in their efforts to aid the peat-stricken natives ; Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the brave founder of Montreal, — these and many others are carefully portrayed. Their labours were all unavailing, the Indian's hour of doom had struck, and he was to perish by suicide. Not by the sword of the white man, but by deadly internal feud, famine, and disease the work of extermination went on. A few "harmless weavers of baskets and sewers of moccasins" on the banks of the St. Charles remain to recall the memory of the great Huron nation. The very demon of war seemed to have entered into the Iroquois ; they rushed from one scene of battle to another, till they had mown down all other tribes before them. "They made a solitude, and called it peace," but discovered too late that their triumphs had cost them their own life-blood ; for more than half a century they remained "a terror and a scourge to the colonists of New France," but it was but the feeble flickering of the candle in the socket. One act in the life of that great continent had closed. " New scenes succeed, and other actors enter on the stage." We hope Mr. Parkman will raise the curtain as speedily as possible.