Mr. Eaton, in his letter we published lately, very exultingly referred to the condition of the Senecas, to prove the utter unpossibility (sic) of civilizing the Indians. He probably had seen the wretched portion of the tribe, for that the northern Indians are not so degraded as he would represent them, we believe is evident from the following very satisfactory account of a visit to the Stockbridge Indians on the Grand Kaw-kaw-lin. It is contained in the nineteenth number of a series of 'Letters From the West,' addressed to the editors of the New York Observer.
Yesterday was the Sabbath; and a blessed day it was. I had never expected to be obliged to come into this wilderness so called, among savages so esteemed, to enjoy a Christian Sabbath, without witnessing a single impropriety among a whole people--to see the congregation, the parents with the children, and the stranger within their gates, going up to the house of God in company; seating themselves with a reverence and decorum that might shame a civilized people; listening with fixed and unrelaxed attention to all the public services, many of them demonstrating a thorough religious abstraction and absorption,and when their consciences and hearts were appealed to in the application of discourse, showing a depth and quickness of feeling which agitated their bosoms, and forced its passage through the watery channels of the eye. And then to attend the Sabbath school, reduced to all the order of discipline, which characterize the best schools of this sort in our white settlements; superintended, indeed, by the missionaries, but employing as many as were necessary of the adult natives for instructors, who engaged in their work with a ready aptitude and with apparent satisfaction. This, too, was a scene unexpected and grateful beyond my power to express. And all done in the English language, so pure, that if any eyes had been shut, ' I could have forgotten where I was, my ears would have assured me, that I was at home, and listening to the common exercises of a Sabbath school among the whites.
In the afternoon the preaching is done through an interpreter, as a small part of the people cannot readily understand English. I had always been told, that the Indians are good singers. It is an exercise for which they have great fondness. But the half had not been told me. They seem all of them to be singers: and the mellowness and sweetness of their voices, together with the accuracy of their ear and their horror of discord ensure the sweetest harmonies in their chorus. This tribe have been so long practiced in the art of sacred music, and their taste os so good in the selection of tunes and set pieces, that they are perfectly familiar with the mst extensive range of English Christian Psalmody. I heard about 30 of them that evening, male and female, after the conclusion of a prayer meeting, sing an hour and a half without interruption, passing from one tune and from one set piece to another, without repetition--all done without a book, in good style of performance, and in pure English, except occasionally when requested in their own tongue. They have many psalms and hymns translated into the same meter, so that a part often use the English, and a part their own tongue, simultaneously, without confusion. It seems impossible for Indians when they sing together, to avoid a simultaneous movement--a fault so common and incurable among the whites. This, I think, must be owing to a natural superiority in the nicety and quickness of their musical perceptions.
I noticed yesterday two interesting features appertaining to the order of their public worship; one was the staff and office of the tithing man of the olden times of New England; which doubtless came down from that source. The staff of office in the present instance is a long switch, about eight feet, which the functionary cuts from the woods as he comes to church-and woe to the boy that plays, or the man or woman that sleeps. The former is switched over the ears with a smartness which, I think, from the sound of its whizzing, must make them tingle. When a man or woman dozes, the big end of the switch makes the stove pipe overhead ring again, accompanied with the startling cry, in Indian, 'Wake up there.' And this in the midst of the sermon. Now although this may excite a smile among the whites, who, in these republican times, have abandoned this good sort of discipline, it all passes off here, by the power of custom, with the utmost gravity, and produces apparently a very quickening and salutatory effect. The prerogatives of this functionary also extend to the keeping of order out of doors during the intermission of public worship, and while the congregation are assembling and retiring, so that no boy or youth dares offend in his presence. And I am told there is no partiality shown by this officer, even to his father or mother; and that a stranger must take care he does not offend. Certain it is, I discovered no disposition to levity among the children and youth either within or without the house. But all was decency and gravity, comporting with the solemnities of the day. The other peculiarity which I noticed was, that after the benediction was pronounced, the congregation resumed their seats, not for the purpose of a short and silent prayer, as is the custom, with some sects, but to give opportunity for those nearest the door to retire gradually,without crowding and bustle, the moral effect of which is very pleasant.
In the evening a prayer meeting was held at the mission house, at which I had the pleasure of hearing two Indians pray in their native tongue, with fluency and with great apparent fervor and importunity. There were about fifty present. All kneeled down in prayer. At the request of the missionaries. I had addressed the Indians in the day on the common topics of religion. In the evening I spoke to them again, and advised them of their own interests as a people, especially to defend themselves and their people from the evils of intemperance. They were very attentive. And to my surprise, one of the principal men rose to reply, apologizing for not speaking in English, and called upon an interpreter. He thanked God that I had come so far to visit them, and for all the good words I had spoken to them that day and evening. He thanked all the well wishers and benefactors to the Indians among the white people. He reflected, with great feeling, upon the goodness of God in having sent them the Gospel at so early a period, and in turning the hearts of Christian white people to their spiritual welfare so long time. The depravity of man was very great, and they (the Indians) had abused their privileges, and yet God had not taken them way. He said his heart was penetrated, when I spoke to them of the dangers of intemperance, and declared they were ready to do all in their power to prevent its prevalence and progress, and concluded by saying, 'I have no more to say.' I do not pretend to give his address, but have only indicated some of its principal topics. I found myself unexpectedly listening to an eloquent impromptu of an Indian, formally and most respectfully addressed to myself-a thing I had never anticipated-and with a manner and tones of voice; which spoke directly from the heart. All that I had ever heard or imagined of Indian speeches, instantaneously rushed upon my mind, and I saw the living reality before me, without detracting in the least from the vividness of the romantic ideal. The deference and respect which the Indian pays to others, when put upon the interchange of good feeling is unrivalled. No art of civilized life can pretend to keep company with his politeness. The white man feels his littleness and bows in silence to such moral greatness.
On the whole, the Sabbath I have spent at the Grand Kawkawlin is one I can never forget. While listening to the songs of Zion, so sweetly attuned by these children of the forest last evening, accompanied with all its associations, I found myself repeatedly and involuntarily exclaiming within myself, Have I lived so long and enjoyed so many privileges, to come here, where it is supposed no such privileges are had, to be raised in feeling nearer to heaven than I ever found myself before? Many times did I think, in the midst of the scenes brought before me yesterday, could the whole Christian world see and hear this, they would forget all else they were doing, and run and come bending, like the angels of heaven who delight in errands of mercy, over these guileless children of the wilderness, and never leave them, till they were all converted to Christ. It would open their hearts and all their treasures, and nothing would be wanting to advance and consummate so benevolent a design. With what expressions of good feeling and gratitude do they crowd forward, old and young, male and female, without any formality of introduction, to shake hands with a stranger, whom they believe to be kind towards them. And never did a Christian people cherish their pastor with kinder affections and offices, than these do their missionaries.