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Father !-You have got the arms and ammunition which our great father sent for his red children. If you have an idea of going away, give them to us, and you may go and welcome for us. Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it be his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.”
This celebrated speech is probably as good a specimen as any on record, of the eloquence of Tecumseh. It was a natural eloquence, characteristic, as all natural eloquence must be, of the qualities of the man. As Charlevoix says of the Canadian savages, it was such as the Greeks admired in the barbarians,'strong, stern, sententious, pointed, perfectly undisguised. It abounded with figures and with graphic touches, imprinted by a single effort of memory or imagination, but answering all the purposes of detailed description, without its tediousness or its weakness. The President was drinking his wine in his town,' while Tecumseh and Harrison were fighting it out over the mountains. The Indians were hallooed upon the Americans, like a pack of starved hounds. The British nation was our great Father, and our great Father was laid flat on his back. So the policy of the United States, in extending their settlements, was a mighty water, and the scheme of common property in the tribes, was a dam to resist it.*
Tecumseh belonged to a nation noted,' as Mr. Heckewelder describes them,' for much talk,'as well as for hard fighting; and he was himself never at a loss for words, though he used them with a chariness which might be imitated without disadvantage by some of our modern orators. It was only when he spoke for the explanation or vindication of that great cause to which his whole heart and mind were devoted, that he indulged himself in any thing beyond the laconic language of necessity. His appearance was always noble—his form symmetrical—his carriage
* McAfee's History, p. 17.
erect and lofty_his motions commanding-but under the excitement of his favorite theme, he became a new being. The artifice of the politician, the diffidence of the stranger, the demure dignity of the warrior, were cast aside like a cloak. His fine countenance lighted up with a fiery and haughty pride. His frame swelled with emotion. Every posture and every gesture had its eloquent meaning. And then language, indeed, the irrepressible outbreaking of nature,-flowed glowing from the passionfountains of the soul.
We have drawn the portrait of this eminent chieftain hitherto, only so far as to sketch some of those strongly-marked lineaments by which he was best known to his contemporaries, and by which he will be longest remembered. But there was something more in his character than strong savage talent and savage feeling. Injured and irritated as he often was, and constantly as he kept himself excited by an interest in the fate of his countrymen, and by the agitation of his own schemes, there is no evidence either of coarseness in his manners, or of cruelty in his conduct. For reasons easily to be imagined, he regarded Governor Harrison with less partiality, than most other individual Americans; and hence, the British General is said to have stipulated early in the war, that the Governor, if taken prisoner, should be his captive. But he is understood to have always treated that gentleman with such courtesy, that we apprehend, had this casus-fæderis unfortunately occurred, he would have gloried only in conveying him off the battle-field in the manner of the Black-Prince, and in setting before him, with the royal munificence of Massasoit, all the dry pease in his wigwam.
When the Governor proposed to him, on his first visit to Vincennes in 1810, that, in the event of a war, he would as far as possible put a stop to the cruelties which the Indians were accustomed to inflict upon women and children, and others no longer in a situation to resist,—he readily gave his assent to the proposition, and voluntarily pledged himself to adhere to it. There is reason to believe, that he remembered this promise; and that amidst temptations and provocations,-and, many would be inclined to add, examples, from an authority he might have been supposed to respect-of a most extraordinary nature.
In one of the sorties from Fort Meigs, a hundred or more of the American garrison were taken prisoners, and put into Fort Miami. Here, McAfee and others relate that the British Indians garnished the surrounding, rampart, and amused themselves by loading and firing at the crowd within, or at particular individuals. This proceeding is said to have continued nearly two hours, during which time twenty of the unfortunate prisoners were massacred. The chiefs were at the same time holding a council, to determine the fate of the residue. A blood-thirsty mob of cut-throat Pottawatamies were warmly in favor of despatching them all on the spot, while the Wyandots and Miamies opposed that course. The former prevailed; and had already systematically commenced the work of destruction, when Tecumseh, descrying them from the batteries, came down among them, reprimanded the ring-leaders for their dastardly barbarity in murdering defenceless captives in cold blood, and thus saved the lives of a considerable number. That all this was done by express permission of the English commander, and in presence of the English army, as is farther stated, it does not belong to us, in the pursuit of our present subject, either to assert or prove. If there be any truth in the charge, or in a tithe of those of the same character which have been brought against the same party, the sooner the veil of oblivion is dropped over them, the better.
In fine, the character of Tecumseh, in whatever light it be viewed, must be regarded as remarkable in the highest degree. That he proved himself worthy of his rank as a general officer in the army of his Britannic Majesty, or even of his reputation as a great warrior among all the Indians of the North and West, is, indeed, a small title to distinction. Bravery is a savage virtue; and the Shawanees are a brave people,-as too many of the American pation have ascertained by experience. His oratory speaks more for his genius. It was the utterance of a great mind, roused by the strongest motives of which human nature is susceptible, and developing a power and a labor of reason, which commanded the admiration of the civilized, as justly as the confidence and pride of the savage. But other orators, too, have appeared among his countrymen, as eloquent and as eminent as Tecumseh, wherever the same moving causes and occasions could give birth and scope to the same emulous effort. And the mere oratory, in all these cases, was not so much an absolute vindication, as a naked and meagre index of the mighty intellect and noble spirit within. Happily for the fame of Tecumseh, other evidences exist in his favor, such as were felt as well as heard in his own day, such as will live on the pages of civilized history, long after barbarous tradition has forgotten them. He will be named with Philip and Pontiac, the agitators' of the two centuries which preceded his own.
The schemes of these men were,fortunately for the interest which they lived and labored to resist,-alike unsuccessful in their issue ; but none the less credit should for that reason be allowed to their motives or their efforts. They were still statesmen, though the communities over which their influence was exerted, were composed of red men instead of white. They were still patriots, though they fought only for wild lands and for wild liberty. Indeed, it is these very circumstances that make these very efforts,--and especially the extraordinary degree of success which attended them,
the more honorable and the more signal; while they clearly show the necessity of their ultimate failure, which existed in the nature of things. They are the best proofs, at once, of genius and of principle.
MICHIKINAQWA, or the LITTLE TURTLE_Early History
Engages in a combination of the Indians against the United States-BLUE-JACKET—The Turtle defeats two detachments of American troops-Some account of the North-Western war from 1791 to 1795—The Turtle defeated by General Wayne-He becomes unpopular after the peace-Some of the charges against him examined- Anecdotes of his intercourse with distinguished Americans-His letter to Gen. Harrison-His death in 1812-His character.
In the Life of Buckongahelas, we have alluded to the powerful influence of one individual,' as having enabled Governor Harrison, despite the exertions of that chieftain, to effect the important negotiations concluded at Fort Wayne in 1803. That individual was the LITTLE TURTLE, a personage of both talent and celebrity, second in modern times only to those of Tecumseh. Indeed, he may be considered in some respects one of the most remarkable Indians of any age; and although he has been deceased about twenty years, his grave, in the neighborhood of the station just named, is not only still shown, but still visited by Indians from various quarters, who cherish the memory of the old warrior with the deepest veneration.
The vernacular name of the Turtle was MICHIKINAQWA or Mechecunaqua. He was the son of a Miami chief, but his mother was a Mohegan woman; and as the Indian maxim in relation to descents is generally the same with that of the civil law in relation to slaves--that the condition of the offspring follows the condition of the mother*the Turtle had no advan
* Partus sequitur ventrem.'