The Colonies In Their Relation To The Natives
A large part of America, at the time of its discovery, was comparatively uninhabited. The West India islands had in proportion to their extent a considerable population. Mexico, a part of Central America, and Peru were well-occupied regions, containing probably an aggregate of several millions of people. But north of Mexico any great mass of inhabitants was nowhere to be found. The broad prairie region was almost untenanted. We should be making no illiberal estimate if we should reckon the whole number of Indians north of the present Mexican border as not exceeding half a million at the time that the English and the French began their settlements.
1 Speaking of the region of the United States east of the Mississippi, George Bancroft says: "We shall approach, and perhaps rather exceed, a just estimate of their numbers at the spring-time of English colonization if to the various tribes of the Algonkin race we allow about ninety thousand; of the eastern Dakotas less than three thousand; of the Iroquois, including their southern kindred, about seventeen thousand; of the Catawbas, three thousand; of the Cherokees, twelve thousand; of the Mobilian confederacies and tribes, -- that is, of the Chicasaws, Choctaws, and-Creeks, including the Seminoles,--fifty thousand; of the Uchees, one thousand; of the Natchez four thousand; in all, it may be not far from one hundred and eighty thousand souls." (History of the United States, ii. 100.) L. H. Morgan adds the comment: "This is as large a number as our information will justify. There is not the slightest reason for supposing that they ever exceeded that number." (Indian Migrations, in Beach's Indian Miscellany.) "M. de la Joncaire, in 1736, drew up for the information of the home government an official estimate of the number of fighting men among all the savage tribes then in existence between Quebec and Louisiana (that is, nearly the whole of New France), and the total he ventured to give was but 18,000."(Garneau, History of Canada, i. 121.) Morgan, on the basis of reports from the Spanish explorers, concludes that the Pueblo (or village) Indians in New Mexico and its neighborhood numbered, near the middle of the sixteenth century,about fifty thousand. (Indian Migrations.) The Spanish missionaries, in 1802 estimated the California Indians at a little over thirty two thousand. (Ibid.) In 1851 Sir George Simpson reckoned the Indian population of British America east of the Rocky Mountains at sixty-seven thousand, and those west of the mountains at eighty thousand. (Ibid.)
The more civilized of the aboriginal communities -- the Incas in Peru, the Quichés in Guatemala, the Mayas in Yucatan, the Aztecs with their confederates in Mexico, and the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico--had evidently a territorial right that was worthy of some respect in the sight of the nations. They presented the aspect of settled communities, and some of them, the Peruvians in particular, used much diligence in developing the resources of their country. As for the other races or tribes,-their occupation and improvement of the soil were evidently on too limited a scale to establish anything more than a partial title. While they might rightfully claim all that was needed for their sustenance, they had no just prerogative to keep waste so vast an inheritance by making it the exclusive domain of their savagery.
Whatever the right in any quarter, there was little power to enforce it against the grasping Europeans. The unity requisite for any formidable opposition was wanting. A bloody civil strife had greatly weakened Peru just before the coming of Pizarro, and the more legitimate claimant of the crown was a prisoner at the commencement of the conquest. The Aztec rule in Mexico was so feared or hated by various tribes that Cortés was able readily to unite a mass of native warriors with his little army of Spaniards, and thus to destroy the central power of the native empire. In the more northern regions the animosities of the tribes against each other caused that their strength should be expended in mutual slaughter rather than in checking the European invader. In only two instances was there any extended combination against the foreigners, -- that of Philip in 1675, and that of Pontiac in 1763.
In the civil polity of the less advanced tribes, as in case of the old Germanic barbarians, there was a mixture of the hereditary and the elective principles, of democracy and chieftainship. The centrifugal tendency was conspicuous; but in some instances the process of separation into distinct tribes was offset by confederation. Among confederacies the Iroquois presented the example of the greatest power and success, While they might be reckoned among the fiercest of barbarians, they were in their way tolerably keen diplomats and statesmen.
The religion of the Indians was a polytheism tinged more or less with fetichism. They may have believed in a superior, but scarcely in a supreme Spirit. Even after their idea of the Great Spirit had been enlarged by contact with the Europeans, it was often sufficiently crude and anthropomorphic,
1 Parkman says: "The primitive Indian was as savage in his religion as in his life. He was divided between fetich-worship and that next degree of religious development which consists in the worship of deities embodied in the human form. His conception of their attributes was such as might have been expected His gods were no whit better than himself Even when he borrows from Christianity the idea of a Supreme and Universal Spirit, his tendency is to reduce Him to a local habitation and a bodily shape; and this tendency disappears only in tribes that have been long in contact with civilized white men. The primitive Indian, yielding his untutored homage to One All-pervading and Omnipotent Spirit, is a dream of poets, rhetoricians, and sentimentalists." (Jesuits in North America, Intro. lxxxix.)The religion of the more civilized Indians was not many degrees better than that of the rude tribes. The Aztecs and the Incas may have had a more elaborate ceremonial and priestly system, and may also have reached in a few points higher views of religious truth. But with both the more worthy elements were overlaid by a mass of superstitions, and in case of the Aztecs the offering of human sacrifices formed a more odious feature than any contained in the worship of the savage tribes. A like practice has been charged against the Incas, but it is claimed that the imputation grew out of a misunderstanding of the ancient Peruvian language, and is not sustained by the evidence. 1 C. R. Markham, in Narrative and Critical History of America, edited by Justin Winsor, vol, i.
The Spaniards seem to have conceived that they brought with themselves a full right to whatever territories they might discover. They did not deem it necessary to solicit grants from the natives. On the contrary, they considered themselves licensed to seize the most valuable possessions of the natives, and made little or no scruple also about seizing their persons. Enormous cruelties stained the path of conquest. The gross estimates given by one and another Spanish witness, we need not believe. We think it a great exaggeration when Oviedo reports that two millions of the natives were sacrificed by the tyranny of Pedrarias, the governor at the Isthmus, or when Las Casas says that four or five millions were slaughtered in Guatemala within a period of sixteen years. 2 H. H. Bancroft, Central America, i. 614; ii 235, 236.
Such estimates border on the ridiculous. But that the lives of the natives were recklessly wasted, and in the most cruel ways, is not to be doubted. Oviedo reports of the adventurous De Soto that he much enjoyed the sport of killing Indians. 3 J. G. Shea, in Narrative and Critical History of America, vol, ii. It is said that during the governorship of Pedrarias eighteen caciques were on one occasion given to bloodhounds, to be torn in pieces. 1 Bancroft, Central America, i. 410. Ovando, the governor of Hayti, caused eighty caciques, who were suspected of disaffection, to be burned at the stake. 2 R. G. Watson, Spanish and Portuguese South America, i. 69. Cortés, in reprisal for the Pánuco rebellion, burned four hundred natives, if his own story may be believed. 3 Bancroft, Mexico, ii. 122, vol. v. of Pacific States. Nuño de Cuzman caused men to be hanged for simply neglecting to sweep the roads before him, and, maliciously identifying discontent with rebellion, enslaved whole towns which had been guilty of no real offense. 4 Bancroft, Mexico, ii. 264, 267, 286. Mendoza, the first viceroy, though not in general a bad ruler, thought it proper to brand five thousand, who had ventured to assert their independence by force of arms, as slaves, besides inflicting cruel punishments and mutilations. 5 Ibid. ii. 532.
Enslavement of the natives, actual or virtual, was part of the regular programme of the Spanish conquerors, and whatever restraint was put upon the practice was due to interference from without. Columbus thought it no sin to make slaves of the Indians, and was quite jubilant over the prospect of the revenue which might be obtained from cargoes of the human merchandise. The Spanish government, it is true, did not fully second this feature in the enterprise of the great explorer. Nevertheless, in conceding that Indians taken in war or guilty of specially odious crimes might be condemned to bondage, it left open a wide door to enslavement. Under the existing conditions an unfair advantage was certain to be taken of the concession. For forty years, or until the publication of the so-called New Laws in 1543, this evil license was continued. And long after that date legal provision existed for placing the natives in wardship or a species of serfdom. Such was the encomienda system, which provided that the natives in a conquered district should be divided among the settlers, to be held by them for a term of years or for one or more lives, receiving from them instruction and protection, and obligated to render to them a certain service. This system was in vogue for two centuries. The result was that the great body of the natives had little of personal liberty. Forced labor and melancholy thinned their ranks, and with terrible rapidity in some quarters. The native population of the West India islands was soon reduced to a poor fraction of the former total. The yoke was also heavy upon the Peruvians; especially did the compulsory labor in the mines tell upon them with deadly effect. A part of the waste may have been the unavoidable result of contact with new conditions. To men who have not a good degree of robustness the impact of a new civilization is apt to bring a scathing influence. But a large part of the ruin must undoubtedly be charged to the greed and despotism of the conquerors.
This is the dark side of the subject. The brighter side is the courage and perseverance with which distinguished philanthropists, like Las Casas, sought to protect the natives and to work out humane laws in their behalf. The response which the Spanish government made to the appeals of these advocates is also a feature of relief. From the time that the New Laws were issued -- and to some extent before that date -- it sought by repeated enactments to protect the natives. The temper of the colonists caused it to retract some of the more generous of its provisions; nevertheless it continued to exhibit conspicuous zeal and watchfulness in behalf of the aboriginal peoples. Its record on the whole is very creditable; at least it would be necessary to account it so, if it had not given such an example of merciless rigor in the home administration, and had not promoted the enslavement of Africans while seeking to restrict that of Indians.
1 The Portuguese had instituted African slavery near the middle of the fifteenth century. America, however, first offered them a considerable market. About a decade from the first voyage of Columbus, Negroes began to be imported into Hayti. The rapid decline of the native population gave a strong incentive to the traffic.
Hand in hand with conquest went the work of converting the natives. The stern invaders themselves had a species of religious zeal, and for every two glances which they directed to the golden calf were ready to bestow one upon the Virgin Mary. The friars who followed plentifully in their wake, as they took in general a kindly interest in the welfare of the natives, labored zealously to induct them into the Christian religion. Among the settled populations the displacement of the old idolatry progressed rapidly. To practice it openly under the eyes of their masters was out of the question, and various motives conspired to make them willing to accept, at least nominally, the substitute which was offered. What Bancroft says of the Mexicans, in this relation, will apply in part to the other semi-civilized communities. There were several reasons, he remarks, for the broad, though superficial, success in proselyting. "Foremost stood fear and policy, for it was dangerous to disobey the conquerors, while favors could be gained by courting them. Then came the undefined belief with many that the religion of men so superior in prowess and intelligence must contain some virtue, something superior to their own. . . . Further, the new rites and doctrines had many similarities to their own to commend them to the natives. Baptism was used for infants generally, and purifying water was applied also by ascetics; the communion was taken in different forms, as wafer or bread, and as pieces from the consecrated dough statue of the chief god, the latter form being termed teoqualo, 'God is eaten;' confession was heard by regular confessors, who extended absolution in the name of the deity concerned. The idea of a trinity was not unknown, and according to Las Cases' investigations, even a virgin-born member of it; the flood existed in recorded traditions, and Cholula pyramid embodied a Babel myth, while the mysterious Quetzal-coatl lived in the hopes, especially of the oppressed, as the expected Messiah. Lastly the cross, so wide-spread as a symbol, held a high religious significance also here, bearing among other names that of the 'tree of life.' Although these similarities appeared to the friars partly as a profanation, and were pointed out as a perversion by the Evil One, nevertheless they failed not to permit a certain association or mingling of pagan and Christian ideas in this connection, with a view to promote the acceptance of the latter. The Indians on their side availed themselves so freely of this privilege as frequently to rouse the observation that they had merely changed the names of their idols and rites." Mexico, ii. 181, 182. Not a few, it would appear, made even a less change than this in accepting Christianity. With a good degree of pertinacity they continued to practise some of the old rites in spite of their new professions. "Many placed the images behind the crosses and saint tablets, or worshipped them with elaborate ceremonies, in common with others, in secret localities. When remonstrated with for his obstinacy, a cacique once exclaimed: 'How is it,' pointing to the picture of a saint, 'that you Spaniards preach so much against idolatry while you yourselves worship images?' The Spaniard replied with the usual explanation, 'that they did not adore the images, but gazed on them in meditation of the great virtues of the saints whom they represent.' Hereupon the chieftain remarked: 'Neither do we worship images of gold or wood; our prayers and sacrifices are offered to God.'" 2 Bancroft, Mexico, ii. 179.
The uncertain tenure of Christianity in the minds of its native professors was signally illustrated in New Mexico. In all the pueblos of that region it had been enthroned within a generation from the conquest. In 1630, if Spanish accounts may be trusted, the Christianized natives amounted to sixty thousand. Yet, fifty years later, when the signal for rebellion was sounded, Christianity was almost universally repudiated. 3 Bancroft, New Mexico and Arizona, vol, xii., in Pacific States. In Zuñi Bloae was any respect paid to its memorials or its rites during the twelve years of independence which followed the uprising of 1680. The reinstatement of Spanish authority was at the same time a restoration of the Roman Catholic religion; but the mission had seen by far its best days. By 1760 the pueblo natives had been reduced to a total of less than ten thousand.
Among the uncivilized tribes the results of missionary effort were not specially encouraging. In this field the Spaniards as well as the French expended not a little of self-sacrificing devotion. At times the work seemed prosperous; but it never gained a solidity which enabled it to withstand adversity. In Florida the harvest was not large in comparison with the martyr blood that was shed in founding the mission. It was only a very moderate success also that was achieved in Texas. In California, on the other hand, the Franciscans were able to boast of considerable progress (1769-1840). Here the plan was pursued of gathering the baptized natives into communities, where their industrial as well as religious training was in the hands of the missionaries. The last of these communities was formed in 1823, when the list was made up to twenty-one. An approach to this species of establishments had been exemplified by the Jesuits in Lower California until the work there was taken from their contro1 (1767). It was, however, the "reductions" in Paraguay (1610-1767) which afforded the most conspicuous example, under Jesuit auspices, of the policy of isolating the converted Indians from outside influences and subjecting them to a minute and searching tuition. See the account given in the preceding volume, pp. 407, 408. This policy had its obvious advantages. The ultimate result, nevertheless, was not highly satisfactory. It was found that the Indians had gained no independent basis of religious or civilized manhood. Both in the Californian and the Paraguayan instance, as soon as the fostering and the guiding hand of the missionary was withdrawn, there remained but a scant memorial of the labor expended. The terrible death-rate among the gathered natives, at least in the California establishments, was also a drawback. In mentioning these qualifying features we have no design to prefer any radical impeachment against either the skill or the humanity of the missionaries. The fact is, the uncivilized red man was a fearfully hard subject to manage. Leave him with his tribe, and it was exceedingly difficult to get into him any genuine religion or civilization. Change his outward condition and place him under the restraints of an orderly life, in the midst of Christian surroundings, and on the one hand his health was subjected to a severe trial, while on the other the root of his savagery still remained in his breast, ready to spring up as soon as opportunity might come, into the old tempers and habits.
1 This fact is graphically set forth in the following from a Roman Catholic writer: "After months, nay years, of teaching, the missionaries found that the fickle savage was easily led astray; never could they form pupils to our life and manners. The nineteenth century failed, as the seventeenth tailed, in raising up priests from the Iroquois or the Algonquin; and at this day  a pupil of the Propaganda, who disputed in Latin on theses of Peter Lombard, roams at the head of a half-naked band in the billowy plains of Nebraska." (J. G. Shea, History of Catholic Missions among the Indian Tribes of the United States, p. 26.)
The settlement of the Portuguese in Brazil had its favorable aspect for the natives. They came not as gold-hunters, or plunderers and extortioners, but with the purpose of improving the country agriculturally. Their appearance, however, had its doleful prophecy for the poor aborigines. For the Portuguese were the most eager, practised, and expert slave-catchers of the time. It is hardly necessary to state that it did not take long for their evil aptitude to display itself to the serious cost of the Indians.
Happily there were those in the Portuguese settlements who rivalled the industrious philanthropy which Las Casas had displayed for the Indians under Spanish rule. The Jesuits were represented in Brazil by men of conspicuous talents and devotion, as is sufficiently evidenced by the names of Nobrega, Anchieta, and Vieyra. In them and their associate missionaries the natives found powerful advocates. Vieyra in particular was untiring in his efforts to secure protective measures from the government. Bounds were thus set to the enslavement of the Indians, especially as the importation of Negroes supplied a substitute for their labor. The decree for their complete emancipation came simultaneously with that for the expulsion of the Jesuits (1759-60).
A prominent item of the missionary method adopted in Brazil was the placing of the natives in villages by themselves under the supervision of their religious instructors. These villages, however, were not given over so completely to the control of the missionaries as were the reductions in Paraguay. While the Portuguese settlers were not expected to dwell in them, they were privileged to make requisition upon their superintendents for a quota of laborers, to serve for a portion of the year. The Brazilian Indians accordingly did not come to feel such an absolute dependence upon their religious directors as did those in Paraguay.
The relation of the French to the Indians was different from that which the Spaniards or the English assumed with them. They neither adopted toward them the mien of conquerors nor asked from them grants of territory. Their ostensible relation was in part that of allies, and in part that of patrons. Few in numbers and receiving but small resources from the French government, they made up by diplomacy for their lack of strength. They dwelt with the natives on friendly terms, were careful to avoid affronting their feeling of independence, and were content to bring them gradually into the status of subjects of France. No other nationality can be said to have shown equal tact in dealing with the uncivilized red men, or equal capacity for entering into sympathetic relationship with them.
The French missions covered a wide range. They included the Abenakis in Maine, the Hurons in Upper Canada and Michigan, the Iroquois in New York, the Ottawas in Michigan and Wisconsin, the Illinois in the region which still bears their name, and various tribes in the lower valley of the Mississippi. The Iroquois mission was only temporary (1667-1687). A number of the converts, however, were transferred to Canadian soil, and formed there the basis of an Iroquois community. A colony from the Christianized Abenakis was also transferred to the northern region.
The method pursued in this mission field is thus described, in contrast with that which prevailed in some of the Spanish territories: "The French missionary planted his cross among the heathen, and won all that he could to the faith, and whenever he could, formed a distinct Pillage of Christians; but these villages were never like the missions of the Spanish missionaries. The French priest left his neophyte free,--setting him no task, building no splendid edifices by his toil. The Spanish mission contained its workshops, dormitories, infirmaries, and granaries; the French mission was a fort against hostile attack, and inclosed merely the church, mission-house, and mechanics' sheds,-- the Indians all living without in cabins or houses, and entering the fort only in time of danger." 1 Shea, Catholic Missions, p. 128.
The Récollets, or Franciscans of the Strict Observance, were the first missionaries in the region of Quebec. After ten years, or in 1625, they were joined by the Jesuits.
2 Representatives of the Order of Jesuits had come to Port Royal in Acadia in 1611. Two years later they attempted a settlement at Mt. Desert, on the coast of Maine, but the unkind visit of Argall from Virginia spoiled their project in this region.The temporary occupation of Quebec, by the English, which occurred a few years later, gave a brief interruption to the mission. In the resumption of the enterprise (1633) the Jesuits took the lead, and the following decades were the heroic period of the Order in New France. A preceding page has given us occasion to mention the name of Brébeuf and others, who exhibited in a notable degree the devotion and fortitude of martyrs. 3 See the first volume of The Modern Church, pp. 408, 409.
That the French Jesuits were their own historians has no doubt affected the estimate of their work. An impartial outsider would have given to the narrative of their labors a somewhat different coloring from that which it bears in their "relations."
This is the view of one of the most recent of Canadian historians. Speaking of the papal decree closing the publication of missionary letters (1673), as being probably directed especially against those of the Jesuits, he adds: "Ce qui est certain, c'est que, au Canada, les habitants étaient, depuis des années, mécontents de ces récits dans lesquels les faits étaient presque toujours dénaturés. ... Ľexclueivisme qui règne dans ces narrations et que l’on a voulu excuser en disant qu’elles sont consacrées uniquement aux affaires religieuses, n'est que trop réel et par suite condamnable. Les jésuites savaient bien ce qu’ils faisaient en représentant les choses sous un jour favorable à leurs seuls interêts. . . On a raison de se moquer, comme 1'a fait le père Le Clercq, de ce nombre prodigieux de sauvages convertis qui ont disparu du moment où les Relations cessèrent de circuler en France. . . . Sous le couvert de la religion, l’intrigue a été longtemps victorieuse en Canada, et encore de nos jours, la presse bonasse accepte la prétendue tradition des 'jésuites bienfaiteurs de ce pays,' sans rien connaître et sans rien peser." (Benj. Sulte, Histoire des Canadiens-Français, iv., 107, 108.)The authentic record, while it has its bright pages, has others that are quite destitute of lustre. It may justly be charged that the Jesuits were over-anxious for their own importance. They sought to control the administration at Quebec. They wished to duplicate among the western tribes the theocratic regime of Paraguay, and showed a pronounced jealousy toward La Salle, while he was undertaking the exploration of the Mississippi, because his project did not appear to be directed to their aggrandizement. Count Frontenac may have acted the part of a prejudiced witness when he wrote: "The Jesuits will not civilize the Indians because they wish to keep them in perpetual wardship. They think more of beaver skins than of souls, and their missions are pure mockeries," 1 Parkman, Count Frontenac and New France, p. 25. This is undoubtedly too strong. But it is certain that the religion of many of their neophytes was a thin veneer of so-called Catholicity spread over a savagery that had undergone no appreciable abatement. How far the missionaries were responsible for the unchristian ferocity still remaining is not easy to determine. The Indians, it must be allowed, were not altogether passive subjects in their hands.
The much greater number of the English colonists made them of necessity, in their relations to the aborigines, a more encroaching power than the French. It is probably true also that the former, as a body, were stiffer and less affable than the latter in dealing with the children of the forest. Their natural sentiments interposed a wider social barrier against the Indians than was raised by the temper of the French. Notwithstanding the example of John Rolfe, they showed less inclination to intermarry with the natives. In this incompatibility there was evidently a poor omen for the Indians. Unable to mix with the English, it only remained for them to retreat before the sturdy aggressive race, unless extraordinary wisdom and charity should be at hand to adjust and supervise their mutual relations.
Still, the evidence shows that the English colonies started on the basis of a friendly treatment of the natives. Whatever injuries may have been done here and there by representatives of the "mixed multitude," the tenor of the early colonial legislation was in the line of fair dealing. The ruthlessness with which the Spaniards fell upon the occupants of the soil was nowhere exhibited. In a large proportion of instances the settlers entered into a specific agreement with the natives and paid a stipulated price for their lands. Speaking of the Plymouth colony, Josiah Winslow was able, in 1676, to make this declaration: "I think I can clearly say that before these present troubles broke out, the English did not possess one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian proprietors. Nay, because some of our people are of a covetous disposition, and the Indians are in their straits easily prevailed with to part with their lands, we first made a law that none should purchase or receive of gift any land of the Indians without the knowledge and allowance of our Court. . . . and if at any time they brought complaints before us, they have had justice impartial and speedy, so that our own people have frequently complained that we erred on the other hand in showing them overmuch favor." John Fiske is of opinion that the same might be said of the neighboring colonies. "The general laws of Massachusetts and Connecticut," he adds, "as well as of Plymouth, bear out what Winslow says, and show us that as a matter of policy the colonial governments were fully sensible of the importance of avoiding all occasions for quarrel with their savage neighbors." 1 Beginnings of New England, pp. 199, 200. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania likewise there was a purchase of lands from the natives. In Georgia they were consulted respecting territorial occupation, and were treated by Oglethorpe with exemplary kindness. Virginia and Maryland also showed a good degree of discretion and equity in their dealings with the Indians.
A darker phase, it must be conceded, entered finally into the general picture. Indian atrocities were responded to with fierce energy, and reprisals did not always stop short with the guilty. In New England the terrible ravages consequent upon the war of extermination which was undertaken by Philip and his allies, quenched sympathy for the Indians, engendered toward them a deep distrust, and kindled in too many hearts an unpitying hate. It is scarcely surprising that the colonists, thinking of ruined homes and friends ruthlessly butchered, should have been incited to sell some hundreds of the captive Indians into slavery. The act, nevertheless, was far from being humane or Christian. So, even at that time, judged a few of the more just and clear-sighted New Englanders. In South Carolina the settlers enslaved the natives without waiting for any such weighty provocation. One fourth of all the slaves of the province were reported in 1708 as being Indians.
That the missionary enterprise of the English was on a much smaller scale than that of the Spaniards or the French is a fact that can be readily explained. Such enterprise, to be largely prosecuted, needs both special institutions and special habitudes. Protestantism in the first century of its history was sufficiently occupied with the Herculean task of maintaining its own existence in Europe. At the time, therefore, that the English colonies were planted, it had not been habituated to the work of evangelizing the uncivilized races, and had little or no equipment for such work. The requisite agents were not within reach. The more southern colonies found it difficult to secure anything like an adequate supply of pastors even for the white population, and those in the North had no excess. In the great orders of the Romish Church, on the other hand, -- the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and the Jesuits, -- there was almost a superfluity of laborers to be utilized in any field that might be opened. Protestantism was to demonstrate its missionary capacity; but the conditions ordained that the demonstration should not come in the seventeenth century, though possibly it might have come earlier than the nineteenth century had there been no culpable torpor. Romish apologists, who have endeavored to make capital out of the contrasts of the colonial epoch, might have saved some of their rhetoric had they viewed the situation with more candor and insight.
In New England, which enjoyed in the seventeenth century a larger religious equipment than the other English settlements, it is to be noticed that a very good beginning was made toward the evangelization of the natives. It is estimated that in 1674 the number of "Praying Indians" amounted to four thousand.
Continuous effort to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith was begun by Thomas Mayhew, upon the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard about 1643. After his death (1657), his father, of the same name, took up the work and passed it on to a line of successors in the Mayhew family. Near the same time that the evangelization of the natives on the islands was undertaken, a fruitful work was begun within the bounds of the Plymouth colony by the benevolent and enterprising laymen, Richard Bourne and Thomas Tupper. In Massachusetts the most distinguished laborer was John Eliot, and it is not without a certain justice that he has been called the apostle of the Indiana, though several were only second to him in their achievements. From the time that he began to preach to the natives at Nonantum, in 1646, to the time of his death, he was their unfailing friend, counselor, advocate, and teacher. His enormous labor in translating the whole Bible, together with some other writings, into the Indian tongue, calls for scarcely more admiration than the rare combination of patience, firmness, and tact with which he directed and trained his eccentric pupils. As his work progressed he became convinced that the Christian natives should be placed in communities by themselves. Several villages of Praying Indians were accordingly founded, the first being that of Natick (1651). In the management of these he endeavored to introduce, as far as was feasible, the element of self-help and self-dependence. The Indiana themselves were intrusted with the town administration; and, moreover, such of them as had the necessary gifts were encouraged to use them in religious instruction. Some fifteen hundred were under this regime on the eve of Philip's war. Unhappily that war proved to be a serious ordeal for these communities. After the besom of destruction had gone by they were found, where not extinct, to be much reduced, and the full measure of former prosperity never returned.
The work of Eliot and his contemporaries awakened no little interest in England. In 1649 a practical response was given by the passage of an ordinance instituting the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Indians, and providing for the collection of funds. This society was re-established early in the reign of Charles II., under the presidency of the distinguished Robert Boyle, and rendered a valuable assistance to Eliot in supplying a financial basis to his enterprise.
In the eighteenth century an effort affording not a little encouragement was made among the Mohegan Indians at Stockbridge, on the western border of Massachusetts. The labors of John Sergeant were specially fruitful in this field (1734-1749). His mantle fell upon his son of the same name, who continued the work, after an interval during which the mission was in the charge successively of Jonathan Edwards and Stephen West. Contemporary with the progress of the Stockbridge mission were the labors of the Connecticut minister, Eleazar Wheelock, who exhibited much earnestness and ability in educating Indian youth. In the same period also New England sent several laborers westward among the Iroquois.
If other sections in general did less than New England for the religious instruction of the Indians, there was at least an exhibition of good intentions. The first Virginia assembly legislated as follows: "Be it enacted, that for laying a surer foundation of the conversion of the Indians to the Christian religion, each town, city, borough, and particular plantation, do obtain unto themselves by just means a certain number of the natives' children to be educated by them in true religion and a civil course of life; of which children the most towardly boys in wit and graces of nature to be brought up by them in the first elements of literature, so as to be fitted for the college intended for them, that from thence they may be sent to that work of conversion." This action was in accordance with the instructions of King James and the Virginia Company. Only a few steps, however, were taken toward carrying out the plan. The great Indian massacre of 1622 fatally interfered with the generous enterprise, which without this drawback would probably have needed, in order to be made eminently successful, better appliances than were then available.
Good designs were also entertained in connection with other colonies. Something in the way of actual achievement was accomplished by the Dutch pastors at Albany and Schenectady among the neighboring Mohawks, and by various representatives of the Episcopalian and Presbyterian clergy in New York among the Iroquois during the course of the eighteenth century. The success of David Brainerd (1742-1747) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania indicated that the cause of Indian evangelization had found in him a specially competent workman; but his early death gave but a brief opportunity to his talents and devotion. The missionary enterprise, which became a passion with the Moravians almost from the time of their organization under Zinzendorf, was generously expended in efforts to convert the Indians during the last sixty years of the eighteenth century. A promising beginning was made by them in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Rude interruptions despoiled them in large part of the proper fruit of their toil. So much the more should historic justice pay tribute to their devotion. Especially does the work of David Zeisberger, the apostle of the Delawares, including as it did three score years of unremitting efforts for the salvation of the red men, call for a grateful and reverent acknowledgment.