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incredible number and variety of game. The situ: ation of the inhabitants was rendered very eligible from these sources of subsistence, connected with a very productive soil, for they had passed over the pastoral state, and followed agriculture as well as fishing and hunting. The selection of this country for a habitation, was the wisest expedient that could have been adopted by a military nation to satiate their thirst for glory, and to extend their conquests over the continent; and if they prefers red the arts of peace, there was none better calculated for this important purpose. In a few days their forces could be seen, their power could be felt, at the mouth of the Ohio or the Missouri, on the waters of the Hudson or the St. Lawrence, of in the bays of Delaware or Chesapeak.
It is not a little difficult to define the territorial Jimits of this extraordinary people,* for on this subject there are the most repugnant representations by the French and English writers, arising from interest, friendship, prejudice and enmity. While the French on the one hand were involved in continual hostility with them, the English on the other hand were connected by alliance and by commerce. By the 15th article of the treaty of Utrecht concluded in 1713, it was stipulated " that the subjects of France inhabiting Canada and others, shall hereafter give no hindrance or molestation to the Five nations or cantons subject to the dominion of Great Britain.”+: As between France and England the confederates were, therefore, to be considered as the subjects of the latter, and of course the British dominion was co-extensive with the rightful territory of the five cantons,
Rogers's concise account of North America, page 6_-1 Colden, 37-1 Pownall on the Colonies, 235, &c.-Smith's New-York, 58--179, &c.--Douglass's Summary 11, &c.Pownall's Geographical deseription, &c.--Charlevoix His: toire Generale de la Nouvelle France, &c.
+ Chalmer's Collection of Treaties, vol. i, page 382.
it then became the policy of France to diminish, and that of England to enlarge this territory. But notwithstanding the confusion which has grown out of these clashing interests and contradictory representations, it is not perhaps very far from the truth, to pronounce that the Five nations were entitled by patrimony or conquest to all the territory in the United States and in Canada, not occupied by the Creeks, the Cherrokees and the other southern Indians, by the Sioux, the Ministeneaux and the Chippewas—and hy the English and French, as far west as the Mississipi and Lake Winnipeg, as far north-west as the waters which unite this lake and Hudson's Bay, and as far north as Hudson's Bay and Labrador. The Five nations claim, says Smith, “ all the land not sold to the English from the mouth of Sorel River, on the south side of Lakes Erie and Ontario, on both sides of the Ohio, till it falls into the Mississipi ; and on the north side of these lakes, that whole territory between the Outawas River and Lake Huron, and even beyond the streights between that and Lake Eric.” The principal point of dispute between the English and French was, whether the dominion of the confederates extended north of the Great Lakes ; but I think it is evident that it did. It is admitted by several French writers, that the Iroquois had several villages on the North side of Lake Ontario, and they are even laid down in the maps attached to Charlevoix, and it cannot be denied but that they subdued the Hurons and Algopkins, who lived on that side of the Great Lakes, and consequently were entitled to their country by the rights of conquest. The true original name of the Great River, now called St. Lawrence, was the river of the Iroquois, thereby indicating, that they occupied a considerable portion at least of its banks. Douglass estimates their territory as about 1200 miles in length from north to south, and from 7 to 800 miles in breadth. This was either hereditary or conquered. Their patrimonial, and part of their conquered country, were used for the purposes of habitation and hunting, Their hunting grounds were very extensive, including a large triangle on the south-east side of the St. Lawrence River—the country lying on the south and east sides of Lake Erie—the country between the Lakes Erie and Michigan, and the country lying on the north of Lake Erie and northwest of Lake Ontario, and between the Lakes Ontario and Huron. All the remaining part of their territory was inhabited by the Abenaquis, Algonkins, Shawanese, Delawares, Illinois, Miamies and other vassal nations. · The acquisition of supremacy over a country of such amazing extent and fertility, inhabited by warlike and numerous nations, must have been the result of unity of design and system of action, proceeding from a wise and energetic policy, continued for a long course of time. To their social combinations, military talents, and exterior arrangements, we must look for this system, if such a system is to be found.
The Confederates had proceeded far beyond the first element of all associations, that of combination into families—they had their villages, their tribes, their nations and their confederacy; but they had not advanced beyond the first stage of government. They were destitute of an executive and judiciary to execute the determinations of their councils—and their government was therefore merely advisory and without a coercive principle. The respect which was paid to their chiefs, and the general odium that attached to disobedience, rendered the decisions of their legislatures, for a long series of time, of as much validity, as if they had been enforced by an executive arm.
They were originally divided into five nations, the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas and the Senekas. In 1712, the Tuscaroras, who lived on the back parts of North Carolina and who had formed a deep and general conspiracy to exterminate the whites, were driven from their country, were adopted by the Iroquois as a sixth nation, and lived on lands between the Oneidas and Onondagas, assigned to them by the former. *
The Mohawks had four towns and one small village, situated on and near the fertile banks of the river of that name. The position of the first was at the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River, and the others were farther to the west. This nation from their propinquity to the settlements of the whites, from their martial renown and military spirit have, like Holland, frequently given their name to the whole confederacy, which is often denominated the Mohawks in the annals of those days; and it may be found employed in the pages of a celebrated periodical writer of Great Britain, for the purpose of the most exquisite humour.f This nation was always held in the greatest veneration by its associates. At the important treaty of -1768 at Fort Stanwix, by Sir William Johnson, they were declared by the other nations " the true old heads of the confederacy.” The Oneidas had their principal seat on the south of the Oneida Lake, the Onondagas near the Onondaga, and the Cayugas near the Cayuga Lake. The principal village of the Senecas was near the Genesee River, about
* Smith's New-York, 46-Douglass's Summary, 243. # Spectator.
# The proceedings of this treaty were never published. I have seen them in manuscript in the possession of the late Vice President Clinton.
20 miles from Irondequoit Bay. Each nation was divided into three tribes : the tortoise, the bear and the wolf: and each village was like the cities of the United Netherlands a distinct republic, and its concerns were managed by its particular chiefs.* Their exterior relations, general inte, rests and national affairs, were conducted and superintended by a great Council, assembled annually in Onondaga, the central canton, composed of the chiefs of each republic; and eighty Sachenis were frequently convened at this national Assembly. It took cognizance of the great questions of war and peace of the affairs of the tributary nations, and of their negotiations with the French and English colonies. All their proceedings were conducted with great deliberation, and were distinguished for order, decorum and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and in all the characteristics of personal policy, they surpassed an assembly of feudal barons, and were perhaps not far inferior to the great Amphyctionic Council of Greece. Dr. Robertson, who has evinced, in almost every instance, a strong propensity to degrade America below its just rank in the scale of creation, was.compelled to qualify the generality of his censures in relation to its political institutions, by, saying, “ If we except the celebrated league which united the Five Nations in Canada into a federal republic, we can discern few such traces of political wisdom among the rude American tribes,as discover any great degree of foresight or extent of intellectual abilities.”+
A distinguished feature in the character of the confederates, was an exalted spirit of liberty, which revolted with equal indignation at domestic or foreign control. “We are born free, (said Garangula in his admirable speech to the Governor Gene
See Charlevoix, Colden, &c.
f 1 Robertson's America, p. 435)