Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the rifle with fatal precision; they were successful warriors and good hunters; yet they were well-bred men, of easy manners, cultivated minds, liberal opinions, and unbounded hospitality. A fair proportion of them were persons of extensive property, or at least, in easy circumstances, which placed them above selfish considerations, and enabled them to live up to the native liberality of the Virginian character. The people and the institutions of the country, imbibed their spirit. Brave and hardy the Kentuckians must have been, from their manner of life; but we must attribute much of their hospitality, their polish, and their intelligence, to the gentlemen of Virginia, who came in early times to this state, bringing with them education, wealth, and talents.

Another fact is true of Kentucky, which does not occur in the history of other western states, or of new countries in general. This district, when first settled, formed a part of the territory of Virginia, lying in actual contact with the mother state; and its settlement was considered rather an expansion of the Old Dominion, than as the formation of a new community. We do not discover, either in the traditions or the writings of these times, which have come down to us, that the settlers of Kentucky were called emigrants. "The idea of expatriation did not connect itself with their change of residence; they moved out to an unsettled part of their own state, considered themselves as remaining in their native land, and transferred to the soil of Kentucky all the pride, the local attachment, the love of country, which we find so prominent, so characteristic, so

graceful in the Virginia character. They were still Virginians.

The peculiarities of the society thus constituted, were but little adulterated by manners or institutions foreign from their own; there was little emigration to Kentucky from any other states than Virginia and North Carolina-- none from Europe, and scarcely any from the eastern states. There was, therefore, a purely American population, whose institutions began to be organized at a period contemporaneous with the birth of our national independence, when the pride of newly gained freedom was glowing brightly, and patriotism was a new-born and highly cherished virtue.

When all these facts are considered, in connexion with the geographical position, the fertility, and the resources of the country, it is not difficult to understand the causes of those peculiarities of national character, which have always distinguished the Kentuckians, and which still point them out to the most casual observer, as a separate people. The first stock were hunters or military men- an athletic, vigorous race, with hardy frames, active minds, and bold spirits; and they lived for years surrounded by dangers which kept them continually alert, and drew them often into active military service. Obliged to think and act for themselves, they acquired independence of thought and habitual promptitude of demeanor. Separated from the parent state, and compelled to build up their own civil institutions, they canvassed freely every subject connected with their political rights and internal policy. They inherited

the frankness and generosity of the southern character; and these traits were not deteriorated by their residence in a fertile country, surrounded with abundance. Courage would naturally be held in high estimation, by a people whose ancestors were brave and continually engaged in warfare; and we find, accordingly, that this virtue is still in great repute among the Kentuckians. They are daring, impetuous, and tenacious of their honor-chivalrous, fond of adventure, courteous to females, and hospitable to the stranger.

And is it not obvious, that the Kentuckians must be an enthusiastic, a poetic, and an eloquent race? That they are so in fact, we are all aware; and it seems natural that such should be their character. The mercurial temperament of the southern constitution, has been preserved in them and improved by the circumstances of their history; to the high-toned feeling and hot blood of the south, there has been added a hardiness of frame and an energy of mind, naturally growing out of the incidents of border life. They live in a land of unrivaled beauty, where the bounties of Heaven have been poured out upon the earth in rich profusion-in a wide, a boundless country, filled with gigantic productions. The whole period of their history, is crowded with romantic adventure. From their cradles, they have been accustomed to listen to the wildest and most curious legends — to tales of such thrilling horror, as to curdle the blood of the hearer, while they awaken his incredulity. Their traditions are wonderfully rich, and full of the most absorbing interest. There is

hardly a family which does not preserve the reminiscence of some mournful catastrophe, or cherish the recollection of a daring exploit. With such an origin, such scenes, and such recollections, they cannot be other than an original and highly romantic people.

CHAPTER XIII.

FOREIGN INFLUENCE OVER THE INDIANS.

WHILE the pioneers were thus active in the forests of Kentucky, the enterprising spirit of our countrymen had led them to explore other parts of the Ohio valley, and to undertake adventures similar to those which we have described. Tennessee began to be settled from North Carolina about the same time, and by a similar class of men. Sevier, Blount, Robinson, and other prominent leaders in that region, closely resembled the Harrods, the Logans, the Hardins, and Bullitts of Kentucky, in mental energy and physical hardihood. We do not enter upon their history, because it would lead us to a repetition of events precisely analagous to those which we have detailed; and in giving merely the spirit of western history, it is not our intention to repeat similar circumstances, occurring at different places and to different individuals, but merely to select such examples as may best illustrate the whole subject. We refrain also, from touching upon the annals of Tennessee, because the events which occurred in that region, are not connected or involved with those that took place in the settlement of Kentucky and the territory northwest of the Ohio. Although contemporaneous and similar, the actors were different, and the transactions entirely independent of each other.

It may, however, be stated, as a curious coincidence, and as another illustration of some of the re

« AnteriorContinuar »