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Incentives to the Study of the Ancient Period of American History An address, delivered before the New York Historical Society, at its forty-second anniversary, 17th November 1846   By: (1793-1864)

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INCENTIVES TO THE STUDY OF THE ANCIENT PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY.

AN ADDRESS,

DELIVERED BEFORE THE

NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY,

AT ITS FORTY SECOND ANNIVERSARY, 17TH NOVEMBER, 1846.

BY

HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT.

PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE SOCIETY.

NEW YORK: PRESS OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

1847.

NEW YORK: WILLIAM VAN NORDEN, PRINTER, NO. 39 WILLIAM STREET.

NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

At a special meeting of the New York Historical Society, November 17th, 1846, being the Forty Second Anniversary of the Society, Hon. LUTHER BRADISH in the Chair, on motion of Mr. PHILIP HONE, it was unanimously

Resolved , That the thanks of the Society are due to Mr. HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT, for his learned and interesting Address, delivered this evening, and that a copy be respectfully requested to be deposited in the archives of the Society, and published.

Extract from the Minutes.

ANDREW WARNER,

Recording Secretary .

AN ADDRESS.

To narrow the boundaries of historical mystery, which obscures the early period of the American continent, is believed to be an object of noble attainment. Can it be asserted, on the ground of accurate inquiry, that man had not set his feet upon this continent, and fabricated objects of art, long anterior to the utmost periods of the monarchies of ancient Mexico and Peru? Were there not elements of civilization prior to the landing of Coxcox, or the promulgation of the gorgeous fiction of Manco Capac? What chain of connection existed between the types of pseudo civilization found respectively at Cuzco, west of the Andes, and in the valley of Anahuac? Did this chain ever link in its causes the pyramids of Mexico with the mounds of the Mississippi valley? It is not proposed to enter into the details of this discussion. Such an inquiry would far transcend the limits before me. It is rather designed to show the amplitude of the field as a subject of historical inquiry, than to gather its fruits. It will entirely compass the object I have in view, if the suggestions I am to make shall have the tendency, in any degree, to draw attention to the topic, and to denote the strong incentives which exist, at the present time, to study this ancient period of American history. This is the object contemplated.

Nations, in their separation from their original stocks, and dispersion over the globe, are yet held together by the leading traits, physical and intellectual, which had characterized them as groups. And in spreading abroad, they are found to have left behind them a golden clue, which we recognize in physiology, languages, arts, monuments, and mental habitudes. These traits are so intimately interwoven in the woof of the mind, and so firmly interlaced in the structure and tendencies to action of the whole organization of the man, that they can be detected and generalized after long eras of separation, and the most severe mutations of history. Such is the judgment, at least, of modern research. Ethnology bases its claims to confidence in the recognition of the dispersed family of man, in these proofs. And when they have been eliminated from the dust of antiquity, they are offered as contributions to the body of well considered facts and inferences, which are to compose the thread of antique history and critical inquiry.

And what, it may be inquired, are the evidences the study produces, when these means of scrutiny come to be applied to the existing red race of this continent? or to their predecessors in its occupancy? Do their languages tell the story of their ancient affinities with Asia, Africa, or Europe? Do we see, in their monuments and remains of art, increments of a pre existing state of advance, or refinement, in the human family, in other parts of the globe? It is confessed, that in order to answer these enquiries, we must first scrutinize the several epochs of the nations with whom we are to compare them, and the changes which they themselves have undergone. Without erecting these several standards of comparison, no certainty can attend the labor... Continue reading book >>




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