Indian History--The subjoined letter is from the pen of a distinguished gentleman, whose name, were we permitted to use it, would add great weight to the opinion which it expresses. Our opinion would be of little comparative value; but we have for days sought for an opportunity to speak of the undertaking of Mr. McKENNEY as we think it deserves, in the light of a great National Memorial. The engraved and colored delineations of the features of individual Indians are fit ornaments of the work, and beautiful, as well as accurately executed.
HISTORY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS.
Within a few days, there has been placed at the Congressional Library the first number of a history of the North American Indians. The design of the very respectable author is honorable to himself, his country, and the age. He proposes to give a general historical view of the numerous bands of North American Indians, from the discovery of this continent by Columbus to the present period, and a particular account of nineteen tribes which reside within the bounds of the United States, with copious vocabularies of their languages and biographical sketches of one hundred and twenty distinguished chiefs, warriors, and females, who have visited the Seat of Government, and whose portraits painted in a masterly style, by King, are suspended in the Indian Department of the War Office.
This most instructive, valuable, and splendid work, was long since announced as being in preparation, ' it can be confidently asserted that public expectation will be realized.
For many years Col. McKENNEY was at the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and made frequent excursions among the different tribes, as a commissioner for negotiating treaties which enabled him to become intimately acquainted with the extraordinary character, habits, manners, governments, and religions of the primitive lords of this immense region; he is therefore singularly qualified to execute, in an able and satisfactory manner, the arduous and responsible labor which he has so fortunately assumed.
The work will consist of 20 large folio livraisons, each embellished with six colored portraits; but as it is intended that it shall be simultaneously published in this country and Europe, there will necessarily be some delay in its appearance, to enable him to make the requisite arrangements for accomplishing that object.
The specimen which as been given of this superb addition to our historical and biographical collections of the natives of the western hemispheres is from the celebrated press-Messrs. Child ' Inman, of Philadelphia. It is worthy of all praise for the beauty and faithful execution of the typography and engravings. The letters are exact copies of the original paintings and have been lithographed with such consummate skill and colored with such exquisite taste and elegance as to render them splendid monuments of the rapid progress and elevated character of this branch of the fine arts in the seat of science, genius, intelligence, and enterprise,- that magnificent emporium of commerce-the flourishing city of the illustrious Penn.
The citizens of the United States, as well as the disciples of letters throughout the world, are under the greatest obligations to the accomplished author for adventurously undertaking this great national work. The aborigines of America are rapidly disappearing; and the period is not distant when the ill starred race must become extinct, at least within the bounds of this Union, and it is of infinite importance that whatever relates to this remarkable portion of the great human family should be now collected and transmitted to posterity. The red man has gradually receded before the advance of his Anglo-Saxon conquerors. He is no longer to be seen on the borders of the Atlantic-his countrymen are fast passing beyond the mighty river of the West, and the last remnant of numerous and once powerful nations will expire on the distant shores of the Pacific.
Who, then, in after times, that shall read the early history of the Colonies, and of the National Republic, will not be deeply interested in whatever relates to the intercourse, alliances, and wars with the Indians, from the first interview of Smith with the kind and affectionate Pocahantas, and of Carver with the magnanimous and faithful Massasiot, to the recent conflict with the mustering tribes of the far Northwest, under Black Hawk, their distinguished warrior. It is not sufficient, that the character, government, and customs should be delineated, but exact representations of the persons of this various and characterized people should be preserved. Their physiognomy is as remarkable and peculiar, as are their invincible attachments to a savage life; their indomitable chivalry in battle, their fortitude in adversity, and their wonderful talents in eloquence. They resemble no other race now existing upon the earth, unless some affinity is found between them and the Tartars or Arabians, but both of these memorable nations have evinced a disposition to advance in the arts of civilization, and made considerable progress in refinement, at various periods of their eventful history. Letters and science have flourished among them. On the one side, their disposition for intellectual improvement has been developed by the conquerors and sovereigns of China; and on the other, in the seminaries of learning and splendid cities, which formerly flourished in that vast region of country which extends from the shores of the Euphrates to the waves of the Red Sea. But here the wilderness has not only been the temple where the Indians offered up their prayers to the Great Spirit, but their constant place of residence; hunting their pastime, and subsistence, war their occupation, and deeds of desperate valor their only ambition.
It is to be hoped that Col. McKenny will find his countrymen more generous, more devoted to the advancement of literature and the arts, and more studious of the honor of the republic, than did the illustrious Audubon; and not to be compelled to accomplish the object of his commendable enterprise for want of patronage, in his native land and be obliged to seek in foreign climes, that encouragement which his meritorious industry, superior endowments, and extensive researches justly claim. The work he has undertaken is calculated to give immortality to his name and glory to the nation; and there cannot be a doubt that his fellow citizens will rejoice in the opportunity to cheer him on, in his adventurous career, by a liberal general, and adequate support, and in a manner the most acceptable and proper, a subscription to his work.