Imagens das páginas



BEFORE we proceed in our colonial history, it may be proper to give some account of the inhabitants of this newly discovered country. Their history becomes so much blended with that of the colony, as to make an inquiry into their situation and population at this time an object worthy the attention of the reader. Our limits will confine us, however, to a few general observations.

According to the account of captain John Smith, that part of Virginia that lies between the sea and the mountains was inhabited by forty-three different tribes of Indians. Thirty of these were united in a grand confederacy under the emperor Powhatan. The dominions of this mighty chief, who was long the most powerful rival, and most implacable foe, with whom the English had to contend, extended over that part of the country that lies south of


the Potowmack betwixt the coast and the falls of the rivers.

In comparison with civilized countries this extensive territory contained but a scanty popu. lation. The Powhatan confederacy consisted of but about eight thousand inhabitants, which is less than a twentieth of its present population.

Besides this confederacy, there were two others which were combined against that of Powhatan. These were the Mannahoacks and Manakins; the former of whom, consisting of eight tribes, occupied the country lying between Rappahannock and York rivers; and the latter, consisting of five tribes, was settled between York and James rivers above the falls. Besides these, were the Nottoways, the Meherricks, the Tuteloes, and several other scattering and independent tribes.

The hereditary dominions of Powhatan lay on Janies river which originally bore his name. * He had a seat on this river about a mile below

* Powhatan, Arrowhattock, Appamattock, Pamunkey, Youghtanund and Mattapoment, descended to him from his ancestors.

the falls, where Richmond now stands, and another at Werowocomoco on the north side of York river, within the present county of Gloucester. *

This monarch was remarkable for the strength and vigour of his body, as well as for the energies of his mind. He possessed great skill in intrigue and great courage in battle. His equaninity in the career of victory, was only equalled by his fortitude in the hour of adversity. If he had many vices incident to the savage life, he had some virtues seldom found among the civilized. He commanded a respect rarely paid by savages to their werowance, and main. tained a dignity and splendour worthy the monarch of thirty nations. He was constantly attended by a guard of forty warriors, and during the night a sentry regularly watched his palace. Though unlimited by custom in the number of his wives, his seraglio exhibited the apathy of the Indian character. When he slept one of his women sat at his head and

[ocr errors]

* See Trumbull's History of the United States, chapter first, and Jefferson's Notes.

another at his feet. When he dined they at. tended him with water, or brought him a bunch of feathers to wipe his hands. His regalia, free from the glitter of art, showed only the simple royalty of the savage. He wore a robe composed of skins, and sat on a throne spread with mats and decked with pearls and with beads. The furniture of his palace, like . the qualities of his mind, was adapted to war, and the implements of death rather than of pleasure garnished his halls.

The small number of the natives compared with their extent of territory, may to some be a matter of wonder. It is however a circum. stance inseparable from savage life, where. the checks to population are numerous and powerful. Amongst uncivilized nations the means of subsistence are often precarious and always scanty. The labours and hardships of the women, and the constant and destructive wars of the men, equally tend to retard the progress of population.

When the first settlement of Europeans was made in Virginia, it is probable the whole

number of Indians did not amount to twenty thousand.* The wants and even the superfluities of civilized life tend equally to condense and increase the mass of society. Arts and manu. factories, trade and commerce, strengthen its bonds and promote its population. But to savages who support themselves by hunting, whose places of abode are the forest and the wilderness, the multiplication of their species is rather an inconvenience than a blessing, as it lessens the public stock and divides the means of subsistence.

The Indians of Virginia were generally well formed, and something above the European sta. ture. Smith, in his History of Virginia, represents some of the tribes, particularly the Susquehannocks, as approaching to the gigantic. He describes one of their chiefs, the calf of whose leg, he says, measured three quarters of a yard in circumference. Their complexion in infancy is white, but in riper age it becomes a

* Trumbull estimates their population at sixteen thousand. See his History of the United States, page 33.

« AnteriorContinuar »