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I met with a criticism in Archbishop Tillotson's sermons, some years ago, which removed a difficulty I had about a text you quoted in your late sermon, which, if you have not seen it, will be pleasing. The text is, " The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal" &c.; upon which he remarks that, "though a-^payk is generally translated seal, yet it strictly and properly signifies an inscription; and the text contains an allusion to the custom of that day, as well as later times, of making inscriptions on the foundation stones of buildings." Adieu.
Yours, E£en. Hazard.
BELKNAP TO HAZARD.
March 13, 1780
Dear Sir,—I find by consulting Chambers's Dictionary, the Dictionary 01 Arts and Sciences, and the Universal Dictionary, Vol. 35, that the ising-glass, or Lapis specularis, or " Marien glas," as 'tis called in Russia, is found in great quantities in Siberia, and is used all over that country, as well as in all parts of Russia, for window lights. It was known and used by the ancient Romans as such. It is used in England, where it is called Muscovy glass, to cover pictures; but its most useful quality, and which renders it superior to glass, is its elasticity, which enables it to stand the explosion of cannon, and it is therefore preferred for ships' windows and lanterns, particularly for the powder room. I think therefore that it must be a valuable discovery, and I wish it were more generally known. The place where it is found is about fifty miles west from hence. Pigwacket, where the grindstone is said to be, is, I suppose, seventy or eighty north. Could you tell me when you would be here, I should be glad to order my affairs so as to make a journey with you, but dare not engage to do it for fear I should fail. The copperas is about twelve miles from hence, at a place where I am wrell acquainted, and 't is said there is a copper mine in the same neighbourhood. Nothing would please me better than to be your fellow-traveller, in quest of natural curiosities, and I am of the Bishop of St. Asaph's mind, that America contains u a treasure yet untouched" of them. I wish I had some good system of Natural History. I can command nothing of this kind but "Nature Displayed," which is an entertaining epitome, and gives a relish to an inquisitive mind for further enquiries. You ask about dyes. We go on chiefly in the common track with indigo, logwood, redwood, and barks of various kinds. I know of nothing peculiar done here except that in dyeing black the yarn is first scalded in a strong decoction of sorrell, and dried, which makes it take a deeper black and prevents it from smutting. The ingredients for black are, as usual, logwood and copperas. The bark of the oil nut or butternut tree, with sumach berries, both gathered in September, and set with soap, make a very strong dark russet colour. Mrs. Belknap also tells me (for I am consulting her on this part of -my letter) that a sheep's black, or the wool of a black sheep, dipped in a qommon blue dye, makes a very strong and lasting black, and does not smut. They make a very pretty green, with blue yarn dipped in the liquor of barberry-bush bark, but I cannot say how it holds the colour.
I rejoice to hear of a Philosophical Society being thought of in the Massachusetts. I hope it will have a regular communication with that of Philadelphia, and that no jealousy, or envy, or pride of pre-eminence, will obstruct their searches into Nature.
Old Hennepin has afforded me considerable entertainment this winter, and there are some things in him worthy of your notice. He speaks of an ebb and flow of the water in the great lakes, which I never remember to have seen mentioned before, though I have often thought it probable. Speaking of the Bay of Puans, part of Lake Illinois or Michigan, he says: "At the extremity one may easily observe that this bay has its settled tides, just as the sea. This is not a proper place to enquire whether the flowing and ebbing of the water of this bay may be properly called a tide, or whether they are occasioned by the winds, which never, or very seldom, fail to blow from the same point upon the moon's ascending our horizen; but this I may say, that, in the greatest calm, the waters in this bay flow and ebb according to the motion of the moon, though I will not deny but that the winds which* move the waters towards the middle of the lake may contribute to this effect/' Speaking of Lake Ontario, he says: "The waves are tossed by mighty winds, which are very frequent, and their surges are full as high as those of the sea, but much more dangerous, for they are shorter and steeper; so that a vessel riding along cannot yield and keep touch with them. There are likewise some very plain appearances of a flux and reflux; for they observe the water to flow and ebb by little tides, and that it flows oftimes against the wind, when very high!" He gives a most frightful, marvellous, and romantic account of Niagara Fall, which his imagination made 600 feet in height, though by admeasurement it falls short of 140. But he makes ample amends for such an imposition, by the very sensible remarks he makes on the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians, of which, though a Franciscan fryar, and pretty zealous too in some things, he entertains no very sanguine expectations.
"That people," says he, "though so barbarous and rude, have a piece of civility peculiar to themselves; for a man would be accounted very impertinent if he contradicted any thing that is said in their council, and if he does not approve the greatest absurdity therein proposed. Notwithstanding this seeming approbation, they believe what they please and no more, and therefore 'tis impossible to know when they are really persuaded of those things you have mentioned to them, which I take to be one of the greatest obstructions to their conversion. For their civility hindering them from making any objection, or contradicting what is said to them, they seem to approve it, though perhaps they laugh at it in private, or else never bestow a moment to reflect upon it, such being their indifference to a future life. From these observations I conclude that the conversion of that people is to be despaired of till they are subdued by the Europeans, and that their children have another sort of education, unless God be pleased to work a miracle in their favour." And in another place: "These miserable dark creatures listen to all we say concerning our mysteries, just as if it were a song; they will suffer themselves to be baptized ten times in a day for a glass of brandy or a pipe of tobacco, and offer their children to be baptized, but all without any religious motive. Those that one takes pains to instruct for a winter together, as I myself have taught some at Fort Frontenac, give no better signs of edification than others in our Articles of Faith. So wrapt up are they in insensibility to what concerns religion/' "They come to us, and attend to what we say, purely out of idleness and natural curiosity; or rather they are tempted to follow us by the kindness and flatteries we express towards them-, or because of the benefits their sick receive from us, &c. We teach them prayers, but they repeat them like songs. Those we have catechized a long time are very wavering, except some few. They renounce all, return to their woods, take up their old superstitions upon the least crotchet that comes into their heads." And he frankly owns that the pomp and ceremony of the Romish religion is the only thing that makes any impression upon them. This is honestly said by a priest of the Church of Rome, and shews that he was a man of judgment and candour, though he sometimes dealt in the marvellous. One piece of his casuistry is rather diverting. Two of their men had taken down two coats of beaver, which the Indians had hung on a tree near the Fall of St. Antony, in the River Mississippi, as an offering to the divinity that was supposed to reside there. The men, it seems, neither regarded the superstition of the Indians, nor feared their resentment. But the Sieur du Luth, their commander, viewed it as an affront, which the Indians would not fail to revenge, and thought it but right to oblige the fellows to carry back the coats, lest the Indians should pursue and insult them in their passage. Here Father Hennepin interposed, allowing that what the Sieur said was according to the rules of human prudence, but maintained that the action was good in itself, as it tended to shew the barbarians that they disapproved their superstition, and therefore God, who had hitherto, preserved them in the greatest dangers, would have a more peculiar care of them on this occasion. Would not this be an excellent argument to justify the robbing of some rich Romish churches, and converting their useless treasures to more valuable purposes than the adorning of wooden saints, or the inshrining of rotten bones?
But, to have done with Father Hennepin, — New Hampshire, you know, abounds with geniuses, and our legislature is made up of a number of the brightest of them. Some of them perhaps you know. One there is who, for the propriety and elegance of his language, has this winter been created a pro tempore speaker. A specimen of his talent at speechifying, exhibited when he was a member of the committee of safety, about two years ago, is preserved by the Democritus of Exeter. The following is an imperfect repetition of part of it from my memory. If you could get the whole, it would richly deserve a place in your miseel. curiosa.