Page images

first, but ultimately the religion and State policy of France was destined to come into competition with these same elements in the workings of the English mind. The latter prevailed after a long and apparently even-matched warfare, and the hopes of France were dashed to the ground. The English flag now waved over lake, river, and coast, wherever beginnings had been made, but their triumph had but a transient tenure. A new idea seizes upon the minds of men, and a new flag springs into existence. The English in turn are driven from our soil, and only the Indians, its natural inheritors, left to contend against the Americans. A prolonged struggle ensued on their part for existence, and on ours for advancement. Many complex conditions were brought into the issue. The early French relations to the Indians; their inter-marriages and consequent sympathy for them; the fur trade and its medley of associations, evil and good; the partially successful missionary efforts both of the French Roman Catholic Fathers and of the United Brethren, or Moravians. All these brought a charm of romance into the ever open chasın between the pioneer soldiers and the tenacious Indians. Slowly and sadly the latter retreated forever from the blood-stained soil, and few of their offspring are left among the living of to-day. Neither their courage, nor their murderous revenge could save them, and what has been a loss to them (but a few in number), has been a gain to the millions who now own the soil.

Never before in the history of the world has the ambition of man

been stimulated to such extent as here. The jurists, the schoolmasters, and the ministers of New England and Virginia followed the host of pioneers to the new field where all the appliances of civilization were to be built and the timber taken from the stump. During this process the stream of wealth has more than kept pace with expectation, till we now find our selves equal in rank and influence with the older States of the Union. For this position we are partly indebted to recruits from all the enlightened nations of Europe. It is not too much to say that we are made up of the activity and enterprise of the world as it brimmed over its confines at home and found a broader field here for its action.

- The West," "Western," * Western characteristics,”


[ocr errors]

are significant expressions. They mean dash, spirit, elasticity, resolution, and hope. Nor is it strange that these are the prominent traits of a people whose star of destiny has so suddenly risen to the zenith; of a people nurtured into confidence in themselves by an almost unremitting tide of advancement in everything which constitutes national grandeur, except the finishing touches of art and science, which are yet to be perfected.

While these conditions have grown upon us in our progress down the highways of time, we have laid upon ourselves heavy burdens by premature legislation, not unlike those of the erratic sallies of childhoud. Wiser counsels must come to our rescue to make amends for these, just as the well-digested thoughts of maturity recast the images of youth.

Breathing time has now come to view the ground over which we have traveled, doubly endeared to us, because we ourselves were the first to take possession of it, and because we fashioned its institutions after our own model. That our history rises in importance as we assume larger proportions in the body politic, is manifested by the eagerness with which every thing pertaining to the early records of the West is sought after, and by the increasing number of Historical Societies springing up throughout the country, for the preservation of these precious relics.

The rival interests of nations, complicated with religious and social conditions, produce war, and the province of the historian is not circumscribed to the details of the battle-field. These are but the means by which the passions and sympathies of nations achieve their ends. Hence, history, without reference to issues and contingencies, is only a bundle of facts, packed into the leaves of a book too tightly for the wedge of inquiry to let light shine between them. If the historian has failed to introduce to his readers the motive power that lets loose the dogs of war, his book will be like the play of “Hamlet with Hamlet left out." That history has taken the first place in literature, is due to the exhaustless character of its subjects, among which may be found truths which foreshadow the future from the past, and leave a more abiding impression than the teachings of fiction.



Jaques Cartier explores the St. Lawrence River-Settlement

of Quebec— Discovery of Lake Champlain-Expedition against the Iroquois-Dutch settlement at Albany- Discovery of Lake HuronThe Falls of St. Mary reached The French take formal possession of the country, Discovery of the Mississippi River— The Pictured Rocks-Discovery of the Chicago Portage-Marquette winters at Chicago, The Indians' affection for him-Religious services on the prairies-Death of Marquette. The removal of his remains ta St. Ignace-His Journal— Late discovery of his bones.

Far in the depths of a new continent, a flat heatlı of waving grasses is pierced by a small tranquil stream, from whose unrippled face the moon-beams had glittered for ages in silence.

This is all that can be said of the history of Chicago, till the white man visited it, and learned from the Indians that it was a convenient portage from the interior to the lakes.

When Alexander was weeping that there were no more worlds to conquer, with no overstrain of the imagination, we can see the Indian securely gliding his canoe over the Chicago river into Lake Michigan, with an omnipotent reliance upon his own skill and courage, to protect himself from the greatest conqueror on earth, and it is difficult to tell which would have been the most surprised, Alexander or the Indians, could both have been informed of each other.

History begins with mythology, in the old world, —in the new, on an immaculate tablet, simple and positive. Here the white man has raised his altars and commenced making his record, and the traditions of the red man have vanished before him, but still some enduring monuments of his nomenclature remain.

These unlettered lexicographers gave symbolic names to their rivers, lakes, islands and to themselves, and in their vocabulary they had the name Chicago, which, in the language of the Illinois tribes meant an onion. And in the language of the Pottawattomies, who dwelt at Chicago, it meant a pole-cat. These


were its literal meanings in a positive sense, and by this name the place where our city stands, has been known from a period ante-dating its history.* It is high!y probable that it was thus named because wild onions grew in great profusion there. That the name was a synonym of honor, is demonstrated from the fact the Illinois tribes named one of their chiefs Chicago, and thus elevated above his peers, he was sent to France in 1725, and had the distinguished honor of being introduced to the Company of The Indies.t

The discovery and exploration of the whole interior of the country, was the work of French zeal and enthusiasm. To propagate the faith was the first object, at least in theory, but not far behind it was ambition to annex new realms to the crown of France. In pursuit of these two objects, the exploits of their adventurers, soldiers and missionaries, have justly challenged the admitation of the world. Borne along by the tidal wave of glory, these men gathered force and strength as they penetrated into the country, and breathed the air of freedom which pervaded the limitless creation of prairie and forest under the regime of the red man.

Even before the Spaniards under De Soto, had penetrated from Florida to the Mississippi river, which was from 1539 to 1543, the French under Jaques Cartier, had sailed up the St. Lawrence as far as Quebec. *This was in 1534. The delighted adventurers returned to France with the news of their discov. eries of the wedge-shaped river ninety miles wide at its mouth, graduating to the dimensions of a common river at Quebec. What was beyond was left to conjecture for the present, for France was then too much distracted with religious dissensions at home, to utilize her discoveries on the St. Lawrence, and it was not till 1608 that she made the attempt. At that time, Samuel de Champlain, who was justly called the father of New France, made a permanent settlement at Quebec. He was the man for the place: austere in religion, sapient in politics, and courageous in war.

The deeds of the first settlers of all new countries are germ. cells of future destiny. Even the early Indian policy has had its influence, and it is not too much to say, may have had much to do with casting the lot of the Northwest ultimately, with the English colonies, instead of with the French, who were its first discoverers and owners. The tribes along the St. Lawrence, or Hochelega, as it was sometimes called, were friendly with the French, whom they called Ononthio (our older brother.) In

Happily there is now (1878) a living witness (Gurdon S. Hubbard, Esq.,) well known for candor, who was versed in the Illinois language, whose testimony is the authority here given for the meaning of the word, and may be looked upon as conclusive. Schoolcraft and other authorities might also be cited, if more were required.

Shea's Charlevoix. Vol. VI, page 76.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »