Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Henry R. Schoolcraft,
Oneota, or The Red Race of America]

Now that the Red Race have well nigh melted from our sight, relentings and regret arise that they had not been more prized, at least as an object of study. With the primitive features of the landscape this primitive aspect of human nature was indissolubly united; before the advance of the white settler both vanish, almost with the rapidity of thought, and soon will be but a memory, yet we should wish that memory to be faithful for there was a grandeur in that landscape, and in the figures that animated it, in itself too poetic, to be misused as theme or suggestion for mere fancy pictures.

Mr. Schoolcraft possesses unusual pretensions to this rare merit of fidelity. His long and intimate connexion with the race, and the knowledge possessed by his wife and her family of the people from whom they were descended on the mother's side, combined with a power of examining materials from the European point of view, have brought into his possession a large stock of valuable and well-prepared materials. We hope the public will, by a ready sympathy, encourage him to devote himself to arranging them all for general use.

Mr. Schoolcraft gives the following account of the prejudices which he shares with most of our people, the hatred of the injurer for the injured.

“My earliest impressions of the Indian race were drawn from fireside rehearsals of incidents which had happened during the perilous times of the American Revolution, in which my father was a zealous actor, and were all inseparably connected with the fearful ideas of the Indian yell, the tomahawk, the scalping knife, and the fire-brand. In these recitals the Indian was depicted as the very impersonation of evil—a sort of wild demon, who delighted in nothing so much as blood and murder. Whether he had mind, was governed by any reasons, or even had any soul, nobody inquired, and nobody cared. It was always represented as a meritorious act in old Revolutionary reminiscences, to have killed one of them in the border wars, and thus aided in ridding the land of a cruel and unnatural race, in whom all feelings of pity, justice, and mercy were supposed to be obliterated. These early ideas were sustained by printed

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