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Cruel and implacable as the savages of North America were, it would be doing them great injustice to say, that instances of extraordinary friendship, of fidelity, kindness and forbearance, were unknown. Instances of this nature in our early history frequently occur, which ought to suffuse the cheek of civilization with crimson ; but we forbear.
The American savage is, upon the whole, a perfect anomaly in the history of our race his origin is unknown. His progress, thus far, has been attended by all the vicissitudes that accompany civilized, as well as barbarous nations ; and his course seems to have been marked out, by the hand of Providence, for an extraordinary end.
Origin of the Indians–Egyptian Hieroglyphics- The Rosetta Stone-Egyptian Pyra.
mids- Dr. Robertson's Theory of American Colonization, Ancient Civilization Solon-Opinions of the Ancients on the subject of a Western Continent— Theopom. pus-Hanno—Diodorus Siculus-Plato-Aristotle-Seneca-Pliny-Strabo-Cicero -Cotton Mather-Welch-America civilized before Greece or Rome-Its Monuments and Ruins evidence-Baron Humboldt-Stephens-Catherwood and Norman -Ruins of Copan— Temple-Idols-Altars-Hieroglyphics--Quiriga–PalenqueUxmal-Mounds-Mount Joliet-Canal across the Isthmus of Darien.
The origin of the extraordinary people, whose character we have endeavored in the preceding chapter to elucidate, is involved, as already stated, in mystery. Some have supposed that the original inhabitants of this vast Continent were not the offspring of the same common parent, with the rest of mankind. Others have contended, that they are the remnant of some antediluvian race that escaped the deluge. Indeed, there is scarcely a nation on the globe, says Dr. Robertson, to which some antiquarian, in the extravagance of conjecture, has not ascribed the honor of peopling America. The Jews, the Canaanites, the Phænicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, and the Scythians, are supposed by many at an early period to have emigrated to this western world. The Chinese, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the Welch, and the Spaniards, it is said also, have sent colonies thither at different periods, and on various occasions. Each have had their advocates, and their opinions predicated on no other foundation than a similarity of some casual customs—some supposed affinity of language, or some religious ceremonies common to each, have been urged with more zeal than knowledge, more pertinacity than learn. ing, and sometimes, it is presumed, with but little profit or advantage.
The subject, however, is one of interest ; and fortunately for the pres. ent age, the recent discoveries in South America will, in a short time, put the question at rest for ever.
“ Egypt, for centuries,” says Gliddon, “ had been a sealed book, whose pages could not be opened, until Napoleon's thunderbolts had riven the clasps asunder." A French officer of engineers in August, 1799, in laying the foundation of Fort Julian, on the western bank of the Nile, between Rosetta and the sea, near the mouth of the river, discovered the fragment of a block of basalt, (since called the inestimable Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum,) on which was written in three different languages an account of the coronation of King Epiphanes, “Son of the
Sun, Ptolemy, ever living, beloved of Pthah,' which took place at Memphis in the month of March, one hundred and ninety-six years before the Christian era. Its length is about three feet, its breadth about two feet and five inches, and its thickness about ten or twelve inches. It bears three inscriptions: one of them in sacred characters, (that is, in hiero. glyphics,) one of them in the writing of the country, (that is, in the ancient Egyptian or Coptic dialect,) and the other in ancient Greek—the latter purports to be a translation of the other two.
“ This fact being ascertained, its importance became apparent. The monumental legends of ancient Egypt, by aid of the key thus discovered, were at once laid open to common observation, and more, it is presumed, will shortly be known by the American reader on the banks of the Missouri, the Illinois, or the Arkansas, of Egyptian history and its ancient inhabitants before the birth of Abraham, than is known at the present time by the inhabitant of London in regard to the English nation, ante. rior to the reign of Alfred—or by the Parisian, of French history previous to the time of Charlemagne. The era heretofore predicted, it would seem, therefore, is now approaching, when the origin and object of the Egyptian pyramids—the inscriptions on her obelisks and her temples, and the biography of her mummies, shall be apparent to all—when her papyri shall be unrolled, and their contents translated into every tongue, and the treasures of antiquity-the mysteries of ages, and the wisdom of Ham's posterity, be revealed in all their glory."*
Should the American antiquarian be alike successful in deciphering the hieroglyphics which have recently been exhibited for our inspection in South America, the like results will probably follow, and the long agitated question, “How was America peopled ?" be finally solved.
In the meantime, a few moments devoted to this inquiry, cannot be misspent.
Dr. Robertson, in giving his views upon the subject, lays it down as a certain principle, that America was not peopled by any nation of the ancient Continent, which had made considerable progress in civilization ; because, “although the elegant and refined arts of life may decline or perish amid the violent shocks of those revolutions and disasters to which nations are exposed, the necessary arts of life, when once introduced among a people, are never lost.” However specious the above reasoning may appear in theory, its truth is contradicted by the whole history of man,
The ancient Egyptians were a polished people in the time of her Pharaohs; acquainted, not only with the elegant and refined arts of life, but with those of every day's use, which tend essentially to our convenience. Those arts have for centuries been lost to their descendants,
The erection of the vast pyramids and temples that border upon the Nile, required the use of tools and skill in the mechanic arts, unknown to the people that now occupy its valley. The conquerors of ancient Rome obliterated, in many instances, every vestige of art, and the Arab of the desert, even at this day, erects his tent amid the ruins of ancient magnificence.
* Gliddon's Egypt.
The same elegant author further remarks, that America was not peopled by any colony from the southern nations of the ancient Continent, because none of the rude tribes settled in that part of the eastern hemi. sphere, can be supposed to have visited a country so remote.
That they possessed neither enterprise nor ingenuity, nor power that would prompt them to undertake, or enable them to perform, so distant a voyage.
In making the above remarks, the learned author seems to have forgotten, that the northern Africans were a learned and polished people, when England was unknown; that they were “dressed in purple and fine linen,” when our ancestors, clothed in skins, were almost vagrants upon the earth. That the Bishops of Alexandria and Carthage vied in splendor with the Bishop of Rome, and that Northern Africa, ere conviction of the truth of Mohammad's tenets flashed from the Moslem's blade, was more fervent in its devotions than any part of Christendom.
Before we call the attention of our readers to the evidence derived from ancient monuments, recently discovered in Copan and elsewhere in South America, appertaining to the long agitated question, whether America was known to the ancients, it may be well, perhaps, to inquire on what authority (if any) the assertion of that fact is predicated.
The wisdom of the ancients, especially the Egyptians, we have no doubt, is frequently underrated. They must have been a learned and polished nation before Abraham's journey thither. Of this fact, their pyramids and their temples are conclusive evidence. Besides, Moses, we are told, (Acts vii. 22.) “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Abraham went up out of Egypt, (Genesis xii. 2,)“ rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” Job (in chap. xix. 23,) exclaims : “Oh, that my words were written; oh, that they were printed in a book ;" and again, (in chap. xxxi. 35,) “Oh, that one would hear me : behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that my adversary had written a book.” It would seem, then, that written chronicles, and even the sublimest poetry, were in common use among the Egyptians anterior to the age of Moses. The Hebrews had a book called the Wars of Jehovah, referred to in Numbers, (chap. xvi. 14,) as the book of the wars of the Lord. They had also national ballads, in a book entitled Sipher Hajasher, (see Joshua x. 13,) “is it not written in the book of Jasher ?" A description of the ark of the Covenant, (in Exodus) of the tabernacle-of the holy garments for Aaron—of the breastplate, and the ephod—of the robe, and the broidered coat—of the mitre, and the girdle—shows conclusively, that the Egyptians at an early day had made great progress in the arts. The same evidence is derived, also, from their monuments. More than a thousand years before the Pelasgian Greeks studded the isles and capes of the Archipelago with their forts and their temples, and fifteen centuries before Roman civilization first
dawned upon Europe, “ the art of cutting granite with a copper chisel, and of giving elasticity to a copper swordof making glass with the varie. gated hues of the rainbow--of moving single blocks of polished syenite, nine hundred tons in weight, for any distance by land or water-of build. ing arches, round and pointed, with masonic precision unsurpassed at the present day, antecedent by two thousand years to the Cloacum Mag. num of Rome—of sculpturing a Doric column a thousand years before the Dorians are known in history-of Frescoe painting in imperishable colors, and of practical knowledge in anatomy, astronomy, and mathematics, were taught and practiced in great perfection upon the Nile.
Every craftsman can now behold, in Egyptian monuments, the progress of his art four thousand years ago; and whether it be a wheel. wright building a chariot—a shoemaker drawing his twine-a leathercutter using the self-same form of knife of old, as is considered the best form now—a white-smith using the identical form of blow-pipe, but lately recognized as the most efficient—the seal engraver, cutting in hierogly. phics, such names as Shoophoe, four thousand three hundred years ago or even the poulterer, removing the pip from geese ; all these and many more astonishing evidences of Egyptian skill and culture, are now laid bare to common observation."
Is it singular, then, that a people so learned and so wise, should have had some knowledge or information of the “ Far West ?”
Two thousand years before Vasco de Gama doubled the Cape of Good Hope, Africa, we are told from unquestionable authority, was circumnavigated by order of Pharaoh Necho. Plato informs us that when Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, was receiving instruction in the sacerdotal col. leges of Egypt, (about five hundred and forty-nine years before Christ,) he was informed by “ Sonchis, one of the priests, of the existence of the Atlantic isles, which, Sonchis said, were larger than Africa and Asia uni. ted.” Europe, it will be recollected, was at that time too little known, or of too little consequence, to be spoken of. When Solon afterward was discoursing with the Egyptian sages, of what had happened to the Greeks, one of the most venerable of the sacerdotal ancients exclaimed : “Oh! Solon! Solon! you Greeks are always children, nor is there such a thing as an aged Grecian among you ; all your souls are juvenile, neither en. tertaining any ancient opinions derived from remote tradition, nor any discipline, hoary from its existence in former periods of time.” How natural then for Campbell, the English poet, to exclaim in his beautiful address to the Mummy in Belzoni's collection :
“ Antiquity appears to have begun
Long after thy primeval race was run."
Theopompus, a learned historian, cotemporary with Alexander the Great, in a book called the Thaumasia, gives a sort of dialogue between Midas, the Phrygian, and Selinus. The book itself is lost, but Strabo