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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter II. — Philosophical Examination of the Argument on the Differing Manners and Customs of the Races of Men.

WHEN, in 1577, Sir Francis Drake visited the Pacific coast, he conferred the name of Albion on a part of it, which was inhabited by a tribe who lived almost in a state of nudity, sheltering themselves in pits excavated in the ground, and who, mingling traits of kindness and simplicity with their barbaric manners and customs, exhibited savage society in some of its most suggestive lights. In a biography of this intrepid adventurer, written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, he carefully depicts those traits of the Albionenses, subjoining the moral conclusions deducible from the state and condition of the nomadic races on the face of the globe, which tower above the ordinary scope of humanitarian philosophy.

"Whether more enlightened nations ought to look upon them with pity, as less happy than themselves, some skeptics have made, very unnecessarily, a difficulty of determining. More, they say, is lost by the perplexities than gained by the instruction of science; we enlarge our vices with our knowledge, and multiply our wants with our attainments, and the happiness of life is better secured by the ignorance of vice, than by the knowledge of virtue.

"The fallacy by which such reasoners have imposed upon themselves, seems to arise from the comparison which they make, not between two men equally inclined to apply the means of happiness in their power to the end for which Providence conferred them, but furnished in unequal proportions with the means of happiness, which is the true state of savage and polished nations; but between two men, of which he to whom Providence has been most bountiful, destroys the blessings by negligence or obstinate misuse; while the other, steady, diligent, and virtuous, employs his abilities and conveniences to their proper end. The question is not, whether a good Indian, or bad Englishman, be most happy? but, which state is most desirable, supposing virtue and reason the same in both?" 684

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Comment on such a conclusion is vain. The libertines of philosophy, who fill the world with new theories, have not failed to inculcate the idea that the heathen nations of the globe are subject to a peculiar moral responsibility, different from the ordinary code, and may derive happiness from, obedience to axioms, rightful or erroneous, not recognised by the canons of revelation. By far the greatest part of the world, since the era when paganism first predominated, are thus placed on a basis differing from, and antagonistic to, the rest. To reconcile this notion with reason, there must be two gradations of intellectual truth, two of virtue, and two of moral accountability. The Indian must be justified, by this theory, in his submission to barbarism, because it constitutes his happiness; and the skeptical world is satisfied to witness the progress of idolatry, and the spread of the empire of the tomahawk. They affirm that education should not be forced on the Indians, because it is not an element essential to their happiness; and that the revelations of Christianity should be withheld, because they do not desire to become Christians.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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