An Account Of The Customs And Manners Of The Micmakis And Maricheets Savage Nations, Now Dependent O


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Page 1


For the better understanding of the letter immediately following, it may
not be unnecessary to give the reader some previous idea of the people
who are the subject of it, as well of the letter-writer.

The best account of the _Mickmakis_ I could find, and certainly the most
authentic, is in a memorial furnished by the French ministry in April,
1751, from which the following paragraph is a translated extract:

"The government of the savages dependent on Cape-Breton exacts a
particular attention. All these savages go under the name of
_Mickmakis_. Before the last war they could raise about six hundred
fighting-men, according to an account given in to his most Christian
majesty, and were distributed in several villages established on
Cape-Breton island, island of St. John, on both the coasts of Acadia
(Nova-Scotia) and on that of Canada. All, or most of the inhabitants of
these villages have been instructed in the Christian religion, by
missionaries which the king of France constantly maintains amongst them.
It is customary to distribute every year to them presents, in the name
of his majesty, which consist in arms, ammunition of war, victuals,
cloathing, and utensils of various sorts. And these presents are
regulated according to the circumstances of the time, and to the
satisfaction that shall have been given to the government by the conduct
of these savages. In the last war they behaved so as to deserve our
approbation, and indeed have, on all occasions, given marks of their
attachment and fidelity. Since the peace too, they have equally
distinguished themselves in the disturbances that are on foot on the
side of Acadia (Nova-Scotia)."

The last part of this foregoing paragraph needs no comment. Every one
knows by what sort of service these savages merit the encouragement of
the French government, and by what acts of perfidy and cruelty exercised
on the English, they are to earn their reward.

The _Maricheets_, mentioned in the said letter form a distinct nation,
chiefly settled at St. John's, and are often confounded with the
_Abenaquis_, so as to pass for one nation with them, though there is
certainly some distinction. They used, till lately, to be in a constant
state of hostility with the Mickmakis. But, however, these nations may
be at peace or variance with one another, in one point they agree, which
is a thorough enmity to the English, cultivated, with great application
by the missionaries, who add to the scandal of a conduct so contrary to
their profession, the baseness of denying or evading the charge by the
most pitiful equivocations. It is with the words peace, charity, and
universal benevolence, for ever in their mouths, that these
incendiaries, by instigations direct and indirect, inflame and excite
the savages to commit the cruellest outrages of war, and the blackest
acts of treachery. Poor Captain How! is well known to have paid with his
life, infamously taken away by them, at a parley, the influence one of
these missionaries (now a prisoner in the island of Jersey,) had over
these misguided wretches, whose native innocence and simplicity are not
proof against the corruption, and artful suggestions of those holy
seducers.

It would not, perhaps, be impossible for the English, if they were to
apply proper means, and especially lenient ones, to recover the
affections of these people, which, for many reasons, cannot be entirely
rooted in the French interest. That great state-engine of theirs,
religion, by which they have so strong a hold on the weak and credulous
savages, might not, however, be an invincible bar to our success, if it
was duly counter-worked by the offer of a much more pure and rational
one of our own, joined to such temporal advantages as would shew them
their situation capable of being much meliorated, in every respect; and
especially that of freedom, which they cannot but be sensible, is daily
decreasing under the insidious encroachments and blandishments of the
French, who never cares but to enslave, nor hug but to stifle, whose
pretences, in short, to superior humanity and politeness, are not
amongst their least arts of conquest.

As to the letter-writer, he is an abbot much respected in those parts,
who has resided the greatest part of his life amongst the Mickmakis, and
is perfectly acquainted with their language, in the composing of a
Dictionary of which he has labored eighteen or twenty years; but I
cannot learn that it is yet published, and probably for reasons of
state, it never may. The letter, of which the translation is now given,
exists only in a manuscript, having never been printed, being entirely
written for the satisfaction of a friend's curiosity, in relation to the
original manners and customs of the people of which it treats, and
which, being those of savages in the primitive state of unpolished
nature, may perhaps, to a philosophical enquirer, afford more amusement
and instruction than those of the most refined societies. What man
really is, appears at least plainer in the uncultivated savage, than in
the civilized European.

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