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- A Brief History of the United States - 2/72 -
when a date or place is pointed out, to state the event associated with it.
It will be noticed that the book is written on an exact plan and method of arrangement. The topics of the epochs, chapters, sections and paragraphs form a perfect analysis; thus, in each Presidential Administration, the order of subjects is uniform, viz.: Domestic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Political Parties--the subsidiary topics being grouped under these heads. The teacher is therefore commended _to place on the board the analysis of each Epoch, and conduct the recitation from that without the use of the book in the class_.
[Illustration: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES]
WHO FIRST SETTLED AMERICA?--It was probably first peopled from Asia, the birth-place of man. In what way this happened, we do not know. Chinese vessels, coasting along the shore according to the custom of early voyagers, may have been driven by storms to cross the Pacific Ocean, while the crews were thankful to escape a watery grave by settling an unknown country or, parties wandering across Behring Strait in search of adventure, and finding on this side a pleasant land, may have resolved to make it their home.
AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES.--In various parts of the continent, remains are found of the people who settled the country in prehistoric times. Through the Mississippi valley, from the Lakes to the Gulf, extends a succession of defensive earthworks.
[Footnote: It is a singular fact that banks of earth grassed over are more enduring than any other work of man. The grassy mounds near Nineveh and Babylon have remained unchanged for centuries. Meantime massive buildings of stone have been erected, have served long generations, and have crumbled to ruin.]
Similar ruins are found in various other sections of the United States. The largest forest trees are often found growing upon them. The Indians have no tradition as to the origin of these structures. They generally crown steep hills, and consist of embankments, ditches, &c., indicating considerable acquaintance with military science. At Newark, Ohio, a fortification exists which covers an area of more than two miles square, and has over two miles of embankment from two to twenty feet high.
Mounds, seemingly constructed as great altars for religious purposes or as monuments, are also numerous. One, opposite St. Louis, covers eight acres of ground, and is ninety feet high. There are said to be 10,000 of these mounds in Ohio alone.
[Illustration: THE SERPENT MOUND.]
A peculiar kind of earthwork has the outline of gigantic men or animals. An embankment in Adams County, Ohio, represents very accurately a serpent 1000 feet long. Its body winds with graceful curves, and in its wide-extended jaws lies a figure which the animal seems about to swallow. In Mexico and Peru, still more wonderful remains have been discovered. They consist not alone of defensive works, altars, and monuments, but of idols, ruined temples, aqueducts, bridges, and paved roads.
[Illustration: MOUNDS NEAR LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS.]
THE MOUND BUILDERS is the name given to the people who erected the mounds of North America. They seem to have emigrated to Central America, and there to have developed a high civilization. They built cities, wove cotton, worked in gold, silver, and copper, labored in the fields, and had regular governments.
THE INDIANS who were found on this continent east of the Mississippi, by the first European settlers, did not exceed 200,000 in number. In Mexico, Peru, and the Indies, however, there was an immense population. The Indians were the successors of the Mound Builders, and were by far their inferiors in civilization. We know not why the ancient race left, nor whence the Indians came. It is supposed that the former were driven southward by the savage tribes from the north.
[Footnote: This description applies to the Indians inhabiting the present limits of the United States.]
_Arts and Inventions_.--The Indian has been well termed the "Red Man of the Forest." He built no cities, no ships, no churches, no school-houses. He constructed only temporary bark wigwams and canoes. He made neither roads nor bridges, but followed foot-paths through the forest, and swam the streams. His highest art was expended in a simple bow and arrow.
_Progress and Education_.--He made no advancement, but each son emulated the prowess of his father in the hunt and the fight. The hunting-ground and the battle-field embraced everything of real honor or value. So the son was educated to throw the tomahawk, shoot the arrow, and catch fish with the spear. He knew nothing of books, paper, writing, or history.
[Footnote: Some tribes and families seem to have been further advanced than others and to have instructed then children, especially those young men who hoped to become chiefs, in the history and customs of their nation.]
[Illustration: INDIAN LIFE.]
_Domestic Life_.--The Indian had no cow, or domestic beast of burden. He regarded all labor as degrading, and fit only for women. His squaw, therefore, built his wigwam, cut his wood, and carried his burdens when he journeyed. While he hunted or fished, she cleared the land for his corn by burning down the trees, scratched the ground with a crooked stick or dug it with a clam-shell, and dressed skins for his clothing. She cooked his food by dropping hot stones into a tight willow basket containing materials for soup. The leavings of her lord's feast sufficed for her, and the coldest place in the wigwam was her seat.
[Illustration: SPECIMEN OF INDIAN HIEROGLYPHICS.]
[Footnote: This cut represents a species of picture-writing occasionally used by the Indians. Some Indian guides wished to inform their comrades that a company of fourteen whites and two Indians had spent the night at that point. Nos. 9, 10 indicate the white soldiers and their arms; No. 1 is the captain, with a sword; No. 2 the secretary, with the book; No. 3 the geologist, with a hammer; Nos. 7, 8 are the guides, without hats; Nos. 11,12 show what they ate in camp; Nos. 13,14,15 indicate how many fires they made.]
_Disposition_.--In war the Indian was brave and alert, but cruel and revengeful, preferring treachery and cunning to open battle. At home, he was lazy, improvident, and an inveterate gambler. He delighted in finery and trinkets, and decked his unclean person with paint and feathers. His grave and haughty demeanor repelled the stranger; but he was grateful for favors, and his wigwam stood hospitably open to the poorest and meanest of his tribe.
_Endurance_.--He could endure great fatigue, and in his expeditions often lay without shelter in the severest weather. It was his glory to bear the most horrible tortures without a sign of suffering.
[Illustration: ROVING INDIANS OF THE PRESENT TIME.]
_Religion_.--If he had any ideas of a Supreme Being, they were vague and degraded. His dream of a Heaven was of happy hunting-grounds or of gay feasts, where his dog should join in the dance. He worshipped no idols, but peopled all nature with spirits, which dwelt not only in birds, beasts and reptiles, but also in lakes, rivers and waterfalls. As he believed that these had power to help or harm men, he lived in constant fear of offending them. He apologized, therefore, to the animals he killed, and made solemn promises to fishes that their bones should be respected. He placed great stress on dreams, and his camp swarmed with sorcerers and fortune-tellers.
THE INDIAN OF THE PRESENT.--Such was the Indian two hundred years ago, and such he is to-day. He opposes the encroachments of the settler, and the building of railroads. But he cannot stop the tide of immigration. Unless he can be induced to give up his roving habits, and to cultivate the soil, he is doomed to destruction. It is to be earnestly hoped that the red man may yet be Christianized, and taught the arts of industry and peace.
THE NORTHMEN (inhabitants of Norway and Sweden) claim to have been the original discoverers of America. According to their traditions, this continent was seen first about the year 1000, by one Biorne, who had been driven to sea by a tempest. Afterward other adventurers made successful voyages, established settlements, and bartered with the natives. _Snorre_, son of one of these settlers, is said to have been the first child born of European parents upon our shore.
[Footnote: Snorre was the founder of an illustrious family. One of his descendants is said to have been _Albert Thorwaldsen_, the great Danish sculptor of the present century. The beautiful photographs of Thorwaldsen's "Day," "Night," and "The Seasons," which hang in so many American parlors, thus acquire a new interest by being linked with the pioneer boy born on New England shores so many centuries ago.]
The Northmen claim to have explored the coast as far south as Florida. How much credit is to be given to these traditions is uncertain. Many historians reject them, while others think there are traces of the Northmen yet remaining, such as the old tower at Newport, R.I., and the singular inscriptions on the rock at Dighton, Mass. Admitting, however, the claims of the Northmen, the fact is barren of all results. No permanent settlements were made, the route hither was lost, and even the existence of the continent was forgotten.
[Footnote: See "The Old Mill at Newport" in _Scribner's Magazine_, March, 1879, and the _Magazine of American History_, September, 1879.]
The true history of this country begins with its discovery by Columbus in 1492. It naturally divides itself into six great epochs.
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