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- Tecumseh: A Drama - 10/21 -
On fearless ears. Knows he not of our force, Which in the East swarms like mosquitoes here? Our great Kentucky and Virginia fires? Our mounted men and soldier-citizens? These all have stings--let him beware of them!
TECUMSEH. Who does not know your vaunting citizens! Well drilled in fraud and disciplined in crime; But in aught else--as honor, justice, truth-- A rabble, and a base disordered herd. We know them; and our nations, knit in one, Will challenge them, should this, our last appeal, Fall on unheeding ears. My brother, hearken! East of Ohio you possess our lands, Thrice greater than your needs, but west of it We claim them all; then, let us make its flood A common frontier, and a sacred stream Of which our nations both may drink in peace.
HARRISON. Absurd! The treaties of Fort Wayne must stand. Your village chiefs are heads of civil rule, Whose powers you seek to centre in yourself, Or vest in warriors whose trade is blood. We bought from those, and from your peaceful men-- Your wiser brothers--who had faith in us.
TECUMSEH. Poor, ruined brothers, weaned from honest lives!
HARRISON. They knew our wisdom, and preferred to sell Their cabins, fields, and wilds of unused lands For rich reserves and ripe annuities. As for your nations being one like ours-- 'Tis false--else would they speak one common tongue. Nay, more! your own traditions trace you here-- Widespread in lapse of ages through the land-- From o'er the mighty ocean of the West. What better title have you than ourselves, Who came from o'er the ocean of the East, And meet with you on free and common ground? Be reasonable, and let wisdom's words Displace your passion, and give judgment vent Think more of bounty, and talk less of rights-- Our hands are full of gifts, our hearts of love.
TECUMSEH. My brother's love is like the trader's warmth-- O'er with the purchase. Oh, unhappy lives-- Our gifts which go for yours! Once we were strong. Once all this mighty continent was ours, And the Great Spirit made it for our use. He knew no boundaries, so had we peace In the vast shelter of His handiwork, And, happy here, we cared not whence we came. We brought no evils thence--no treasured hate, No greed of gold, no quarrels over God; And so our broils, to narrow issues joined, Were soon composed, and touched the ground of peace. Our very ailments, rising from the earth, And not from any foul abuse in us, Drew back, and let age ripen to death's hand. Thus flowed our lives until your people came, Till from the East our matchless misery came! Since then our tale is crowded with your crimes, With broken faith, with plunder of reserves-- The sacred remnants of our wide domain-- With tamp'rings, and delirious feasts of fire, The fruit of your thrice-cursed stills of death, Which make our good men bad, our bad men worse, Aye! blind them till they grope in open day, And stumble into miserable graves. Oh, it is piteous, for none will hear! There is no hand to help, no heart to feel, No tongue to plead for us in all your land. But every hand aims death, and every heart, Ulcered with hate, resents our presence here; And every tongue cries for our children's land To expiate their crime of being born. Oh, we have ever yielded in the past, But we shall yield no more! Those plains are ours! Those forests are our birth-right and our home! Let not the Long-Knife build one cabin there-- Or fire from it will spread to every roof, To compass you, and light your souls to death!
HARRISON. Dreams he of closing up our empty plains? Our mighty forests waiting for the axe? Our mountain steeps engrailed with iron and gold? There's no asylumed madness like to this! Mankind shall have its wide possession here; And these rough assets of a virgin world Stand for its coming, and await its hand. The poor of every land shall come to this, Heart-full of sorrows and shall lay them down.
LEFROY. (_Springing to his feet_.) The poor! What care your rich thieves for the poor? Those graspers hate the poor, from whom they spring, More deeply than they hate this injured race. Much have they taken from it--let them now Take this prediction, with the red man's curse! The time will come when that dread power--the Poor-- Whom, in their greed and pride of wealth, they spurn-- Will rise on them, and tear them from their seats; Drag all their vulgar splendours down, and pluck Their shallow women from their lawless beds, Yea, seize their puling and unhealthy babes, And fling them as foul pavement to the streets. In all the dreaming of the Universe There is no darker vision of despairs!
1ST OFFICER. What man is that? 'Tis not an Indian.
HARRISON. Madman, you rave!--you know not what you say.
TECUMSEH. Master of guile, this axe should speak for him!
[_Drawing his hatchet as if to hurl it at_ HARRISON.]
2ND OFFICER. This man means mischief! Quick! Bring up the guard!
[GENERAL HARRISON _and officers draw their swords. The warriors spring to their feet and cluster about_ TECUMSEH, _their eyes fixed intently upon_ HARRISON, _who stands unmoved._ TWANG _and his friends disappear. The soldiers rush forward and take aim, but are ordered not to fire_.]
END OF SECOND ACT.
SCENE FIRST.--VINCENNES.--A COUNCIL CHAMBER IN GENERAL HARRISON'S HOUSE.
_Enter_ HARRISON _and five_ COUNCILLORS.
HARRISON. Here are despatches from the President, As well as letters from my trusted friends, Whose tenor made me summon you to Council.
[_Placing papers on table_.]
1ST COUNCILLOR. Why break good news so gently? Is it true War is declared 'gainst England?
HARRISON. Would it were! That war is still deferred. Our news is draff, And void of spirit, since New England turns A fresh cheek to the slap of Britain's palm. Great God! I am amazed at such supineness. Our trade prohibited, our men impressed, Our flag insulted--still her people bend, Amidst the ticking of their wooden clocks, Bemused o'er small inventions. Out upon't! Such tame submission yokes not with my spirit, And sends my southern blood into my cheeks, As proxy for New England's sense of shame.
2ND COUNCILLOR. We all see, save New England, what to do; But she has eyes for her one interest-- A war might sink it. So the way to war Puzzles imagining.
HARRISON. There is a way Which lies athwart the President's command. The reinforcements asked for from Monroe Are here at last, but with this strict injunction, They must not be employed save in defence, Or in a forced attack.
[_Taking up a letter_.]
Now, here is news, Fresh from the South, of bold Tecumseh's work, The Creeks and Seminoles have conjoined, Which means a general union of the tribes, And ravage of our Southern settlements. Tecumseh's master hand is seen in this, And these fresh tidings tally with his threats Before he left Vincennes.
3RD COUNCILLOR. You had a close Encounter with him here.
HARRISON. Not over close, Nor dangerous--I saw he would not strike. His thoughts outran his threats, and looked beyond To wider fields and trials of our strength.
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