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Monday, August 8, 2016

"Melville" defends his favorable view of "Indian character"

The deportment of the whole Cherokee people throughout the transactions which have ended in their expulsion, exhibits a magnanimity which we fear will scarcely find a counterpart in the proceedings of the nation which compelled their removal.

CHARACTER OF THE INDIANS.

In the Watchman of October 19, appeared a letter from a ‘missionary among the Indians,’ in one paragraph of which it was said that ‘Melville, a writer in the Ch. Watchman of Nov. 10, 1837,’ had ‘formed mistaken ideas of the Indian character.’ He adds, ‘Nor is he alone; such I presume is the general impression among those who have not had an opportunity to be among them.’ In proof of this first statement, the missionary who signs himself J. G. P., presents a quotation from the article of ‘Melville,’ which, he avers, represents the Indian character in a too favorable view, and in one which is totally opposed by the experience of himself and brethren among the native tribes.

The writer of the article to which J. G. P. refers, begs leave to state that his description was founded on testimony which he had the very best reasons to consider authentic, from authors whose well known character commands implicit belief to their statements. He relied also on the accounts of some acquaintances who had enjoyed opportunities to observe the Indian character; and he had himself seen cases which answered most happily to these representations. Neither can he readily believe that a nation like our own of proverbial acuteness, which has been in contact with the Indians these two-hundred years, and at war with them no small part of the time, can have invariably ascribed to the Indian character virtues which never existed there.— The deportment of the whole Cherokee people throughout the transactions which have ended in their expulsion, exhibits a magnanimity which we fear will scarcely find a counterpart in the proceedings of the nation which compelled their removal.

That virtues frequently appear in the Indian character, according to the common use of the term, he thinks will hardly be disputed; but he regrets to learn, what he readily admits to be true, that the observation of J. G. P., and other missionaries had ascertained them to be more rarely discoverable than the friends of this unfortunate race could desire. After all it must probably be conceded that the Indian is commonly much like other men—virtuous and happy with the gospel, degraded and wretched without it.

‘Melville’ begs that J. G. P. will do him the justice to believe that his stricture is received with the most unfeigned candor, since it appears to have been made in that spirit, and since he certainly desires to entertain upon this subject only the simple truth. It is his candid wish and prayer to Almighty God, that br. J. G. P. may experience the divine blessing in his labors; and he trusts that no one who feels an obligation to devote himself to the eternal interests of the Indians will be deterred by the consideration that their condition is less happy, and their spiritual wants even more imperative than they have usually been supposed to be.

MELVILLE.

 --From the Christian Watchman [Boston, Massachusetts] Friday, November 23, 1838; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.

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