Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

SKETCH

XII.

Origin and Progress of American Nations.

HAving no authentic materials for a na

tural history of all the Americans, the following observations are confined to a few tribes, the best known; and to the kingdoms of Peru and Mexico, as they were at the date of the Spanish conquest.

As there has not been discovered any passage by land to America from the old world, no problem has more embarrassed the learned, than to account for the origin. of Ainerican nations : there are as many different opinions as there are writers. Many attempts have been made for discovering a passage by land; but hitherto in vain. Kamskacka, it is true, is divided from America by a narrow strait, full of islands : and M. Buffon, to render the passage still more easy than by these islands, conjectures, that thereabout there may formerly have been a land-passage, {wallowed up in later times by the ocean.

There

There is indeed great appearance of truth in this conjecture; as all the quadrupeds of the north of Asia seem to have made their way to America; the bear, for example, the roe, the deer, the rain-deer, the beaver, the wolf, the fox, the hare, the rat, the mole. He admits, that in America there is not to be seen a lion, a tiger, a panther, or any other Asiatic quadruped of a hot climate: not, says he, for want of a land-passage; but because the cold climate of Tartary, in which such aniinals cannot fubfift, is an effectual bar against them *.

But to give satisfaction upon this subject, more is required than a passage from Kamskatka to America, whether by land or sea. An inquiry much more decisive is totally overlooked, relative to the people on the two sides of the strait; particularly, whether they have the same language.

* Our author, with fingular candor, admits it as a strong objection to his theory, that there are no rain-deer in Afia. But it is doing no more but justice to fo fair a reasoner, to observe, that according to the latest accounts, there are plenty of raindeer in the country of Kamikatka, which of all is the nearest to America.

Now

S 2

Now by late accounts from Russia we are informed, that there is no affinity between the Kamíkatkan tongue, and that of the Americans on the opposite side of the strait, Whence we may assuredly conclude, that the latter are not a colony of the former.

But further. There are several cogent arguments to evince, that the Americans are not descended from any people in the north of Asia or in the north of Europe. Were they descended from either, Labrador, or the adjacent countries, must have been first peopled. And as savages are remarkably fond of their natal foil, they would have continued there, till compelled by over-population to spread wider for food. But the fact is directly contrary. When America was discovered by the Spaniards, Mexico and Peru were fully peopled ; and the other parts less and less, in proportion to their distance from these central countries. Fabry reports, that one may travel one two hundred leagues north-west from the Missisippi, without seeing a human face, or any vestige of a house. And some French officers say, that they travelled more than a hundred leagues from the delicious country

watered Some authors I am aware affert that the Ame. ricans would have beards like other people; but

or

[ocr errors]

watered by the Ohio, through Louisiana, , without meeting a single family of favages. The civilization of the Mexicans and Peruvians, as well as their populousness, make it extremely probable that they were the first inhabitants of America. In travelling northward, the people are more and more ignorant and savage: the Efquimaux, the most northern of all, are the most favage. In travelling fouthward, the Patagonians, the most southern of all, are so stupid as to go naked in a bitter cold region.

I venture still farther; which is, to indulge a conjecture, that America has not been peopled from any part of the old world. The external appearance of the inhabitants, makes this conjecture approach to a certainty; as they are widely different in appearance from

any

other known people. Excepting the eye-lashes, eyebrows, and hair of the head, which is invariably jet black, there is not a single hair on the body of any American : no appearance of a beard *. Another distin

guishing

1

that

[ocr errors]

guishing mark is their copper colour, uniformly the same in all climates, hot and cold; and differing from the colour of every other nation. Ulloa remarks, that the Americans of Cape Breton, resemble the Peruvians, in complexion, in manners, and in customs; the only visible difference being, that the former are of a larger ftature. A third circumstance no less distinguishing is, that American children are born with down upon the skin, which difappears the eighth or ninth day, and never grows again. Children of the old world are born with skins smooth and polished, and no down appears till puberty.

The Esquimaux are a different race from the rest of the Americans, if we can have any reliance on the most striking characteristical marks. Of all the northern nations, not excepting the Laplanders, they are of the smallest size, few of them exceeding four feet in height. They have a

that the men are at great pains to pluck them out, esteeming them unbecoming. But why are they esteemed unbecoming ? Plainly from the grotesque figure that some men make by having a few downy hairs here and there appearing on the chin. These look as unseemly among them as a beard upon a woman among us.

head

.

« AnteriorContinuar »