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their time, to the awkward and defective nature of their tools, and to their cold and phlegmatic temper it is almost impossible to rouse them from that habitual indolence in which they are sunk; nothing but war and hunting can excite in them a single vigorous effort.

VII. We next come to the consideration of their religious rites and tenets, which have been imperfectly understood, and in general represented with little fidelity. There are two fundamental doctrines upon which the whole system of natural religion is established. These respect the being of God, and the immortality of the soul. In the early and most rude periods of savage life, dispositions of this nature are entirely unknown. When the intellectual powers are just beginning to unfold, their feeble exertions are directed towards a few objects of primary necessity and use. Several tribes of America have no idea whatever of a supreme Being, and no rites of religious worship; they pass their days, like the animals around them, without knowledge or veneration of any superior power. It is, however, only in the most uncultivated state of nature that men are totally insensible to impressions of an invisible power. The human mind, to which the principles of religion are peculiarly adapted, soon opens to the reception of ideas which are destined to be the source of consolation amidst the calamities of life. Among some of the American tribes may be discerned apprehensions of some invisible and powerful beings. These seem to be suggested rather by the dread of impending evils, than to flow from gratitude for blessings received. While Nature holds on her course with uniform and undisturbed regularity, men enjoy the benefits resulting from it without inquiring concerning

its cause. But every deviation from this regular course rouses and astonishes them: they search for the reasons of it with eager curiosity. Dejected with calamities which oppress him, and exposed to dangers which he cannot repel, the savage no longer relies upon himself; he feels his own impotence, and sees no prospect of being extricated but by the interposition of some unseen arm. Hence, in all unenlightened nations, the first rites which bear any resemblance to acts of religion have for their object to avert evils which men suffer or dread.

Among other tribes who have made great progress in improvement may be discerned some feeble pointing towards more just and adequate conceptions of the power which presides in nature. They seem to perceive that there must be some universal cause to whom all things are indebted for their being, whom they denominate the Great Spirit. But their ideas are faint and confused; and the word spirit has a meaning with them very different from that which we assign to it. They believe their gods to be of human form, though of a nature more excellent than man, whose protection they implore when threatened with danger or oppressed with calamity. The sun was the chief object of worship among the Natchez. In their temples, which were constructed with magnificence, and decorated with various ornaments, they preserved a perpetual fire, as the purest emblem of their divinity. Ministers were appointed to watch and feed the sacred flame. To this great luminary they paid their daily devotions, and instituted in his honour stated returning festivals. This is, perhaps, the most refined species of superstition known in America, and one of the most


natural, as well as most seducing. The sun is the apparent source of the joy, fertility, and life, diffused through nature; and while the human mind contemplates and admires his universal and animating energy, its admiration is apt to stop short at what is visible, without reaching to the unseen cause; and pays that adoration to the beneficial work of God which is due only to him who formed it.

Among the people of Bogota the sun and moon were the chief objects of veneration. Their system of religion was more complete, though less pure, than that of the Natchez. They had temples, altars, priests, sacrifices, and that long train of ceremonies which superstition introduces wherever she has fully established her dominion over the minds of men. But the rites of their worship were cruel and bloody.

With respect to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul the sentiments of the Americans were more united. It may be traced from one extremity of America to the other; in some regions more faint and obscure, in others more perfectly developed, but no where unknown. The most uncivilized of its savage tribes do not apprehend death, as the extinction of being. All entertain hopes of a future and more happy state, where they shall be for ever exempt from the calamities which embitter human life in its present condition. The highest place in this state they assign to the skilful hunter and successful warrior: and as they imagine that departed spirits begin their career anew in the world whither they are gone, that their friends may not enter upon it defenceless and unprovided, they bury, together with the bodies of the dead, their bow, their arrows, and other weapons used in hunting



hunting or war: they deposit in their tombs also whatever is reckoned necessary for their simple mode of life.

VIII. To form a complete idea of the uncultivated nations of America, we must not pass unobserved some singular customs which, though universal and characteristic, could not be reduced to any of the foregoing articles: such as dancing, for which savages in every part of the globe have an unbounded passion. This is not merely a pastime but a serious and important occupation, which mingles in every occurrence of public and private life. If any intercourse be necessary between two American tribes, the ambassadors of the one approach in a solemn dance and present the calumet, or emblem of peace; the sachems of the other receive it with the same ceremony. If war is denounced against an enemy it is by a dance, expressive of the resentment which they feel and of the vengeance which they meditate. If the wrath of the gods is to be appeased, or their beneficence to be celebrated; if they rejoice at the birth of a child or mourn the death of a friend, they have dances appropriated to each of these situations, and suited to the different sentiments with which they are then animated. If a person is sick, a dance is prescribed as the most effectual means of restoring health; and if he cannot endure the fatigue of such exercise, the physician or conjurer performs it in his name, as if the virtue of his activity could be transferred to his patient.

All their dances are imitations of some action; but the war dance is the most striking. It is a perfect representation of a complete American campaign: the departure of the warriors from their village, their march into the enemy's country, the


caution with which they encamp, the address with which they station some of the party in ambush, the manner of surprising the enemy, the noise and ferocity of the combat, the scalping of those who are slain, the seizing of prisoners, the triumphant return of the conquerors, and the torture of the victims, are successfully exhibited.

An immoderate love of play, especially at games of hazard, which seems natural to all people unaccustomed to the occupations of regular industry, is likewise universal among the Americans. The same cause which so often prompts persons in civilized life, who are at their ease, to have recourse to this pastime, renders it the delight of the savage. The former are independent of labour, the latter do not feel the necessity of it; and as both are unemployed, they run with transport to whatever is interesting enough to stir and to agitate their minds. Hence the Americans, who at other times are so indifferent, and animated with so few desires, as soon as they engage in play, become rapacious, impatient, noisy, and almost frantic with eagerness. Their furs, their domestic utensils, their clothes, their arms, are staked at the gaming-table; and when all is lost, high as their sense of independence is, in a wild emotion of despair and hope they will often risk their personal liberty upon a single cast.

From causes similar to those which render them fond of play, the Americans are extremely addicted to drunkenness. It seems to have been one of the first exertions of human ingenuity to discover some composition of an intoxicating quality, and there is hardly any nation so rude as not to have succeeded in this fatal research. The most barbarous of the American tribes have been so unfortunate as to attain this art. Accordingly, whatever be the occa sion

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