Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831
See, in Charlevoix, Vol. I, p. 235, the history of the first war which the French inhabitants of Canada carried on, in 1610, against the Iroquois. The latter, armed with bows and arrows, offered a desperate resistance to the French and their allies. Charlevoix is not a great painter, yet he exhibits clearly enough in this narrative the contrast between the European manners and those of savages, as well as the different sense which the two races had of honor. .
“When the French,” says he, “seized upon the beaver-skins which covered the Indians who had fallen, the Hurons, their allies, were greatly offended at this proceeding; but they set to work in their usual manner, inflicting horrid cruelties upon the prisoners, and devouring one of those who had been killed, which made the Frenchmen shudder. Thus the barbarians prided themselves upon a disinterestedness which they were surprised at not finding in our nation, and could not understand that there was less to reprehend in stripping dead bodies than in devouring their flesh like wild beasts.”
Charlevoix, in another place (Vol. I, p. 230), thus describes the first torture of which Champlain was an eyewitness, and the return of the Hurons into their own village.
“Having proceeded eight leagues,” says he, “our allies halted and having singled out one of their captives, they reproached him with all the cruelties that he had practised upon the warriors of their nation who had fallen into his hands, and told him that he might expect to be treated in like manner, adding that if he had any spirit, he would prove it by singing. He thereupon chanted his war-song, and all the songs he knew, but in a very mournful strain,” says Champlain, who was not then aware that all savage music has a melancholy character. “The tortures which succeeded accompanied by all the horrors which we shall mention hereafter, terrified the French, who made every effort to put a stop to them but in vain. The following night, one of the Hurons having dreamt that they were pursued, the retreat was changed to a real flight, and the savages never stopped until they were out of the reach of danger. “The moment they perceived the huts of their own village, they cut themselves long sticks, to which they fastened the scalps which had fallen to their share, and carried them in triumph. At this sight, the women swam to the canoes, where they took the bloody scalps from the hands of their husbands and tied them round their necks. “The warriors offered one of these horrible trophies to Champlain; they also presented him with some bows and arrows, the only spoils of the Iroquois which they had ventured to seize, en- treating him to show them to the King of France.”
Champlain lived a whole winter quite alone among these barbarians, without being under any alarm for his person or property.
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