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Full text of "The library of American biography"

CONDUCTED BY 





BOSIPOIf. 

17. JiiKKELIK ^HD JAMJS 
MDCCCiTVlI. 






THE 



LIBRARY 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



CONDUCTED 
By JARED SPARKS. 



VOL. 



THR 

T2LEL&SITY 




BOSTON: 
CHARLES C. LITTLE AND JAMES BROWN. 

NEW ORLEANS : 
ALSTON MYGATT. 

1848. 






Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1847, by 

CHARLES C. LITTLE AND JAMES BROWN, 
in the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 



CONTENTS. 



Page. 
Preface 3 

CHAPTER I. 

Birth and Parentage. Early Education. 
Enters Dartmouth College. His Fondness 
for Theatrical Exhibitions while at College. 
Travels among the Indians of the Six Na 
tions. His Return to College. Constructs 
a Canoe, and descends the Connecticut River 
in it alone to Hartford. Dangers of the 
Passage. His Enterprise compared to that 
of Mungo Park on the Niger 7 

CHAPTER II. 

Commences the Study of Theology. Visits sev 
eral Clergymen on Long Island. Returns 
to Connecticut. Abandons his Purpose of 
studying Divinity. Sails from New London 
on a Voyage to Gibraltar. Enlists there as 
a Soldier into the regular Service. Released. 



VI CONTENTS. 

Returns Home by Way of the Barbary 
Coast and the West Indies. Sails from 
New York to England. Enlists in the na 
val Service. Embarks with Captain Cook 

on his last Voyage round the World. ... 30 

CHAPTER III. 

Sails for the Cape of Good Hope, and thence 
to New Holland and New Zealand. Man 
ners and Peculiarities of the People. Omai, 
the Otaheitan. Departs from New Zealand, 
and visits newly discovered Islands. Arri 
val at the Friendly Islands. People of Ton- 
gataboo. Ledyard passes a Night with the 
King. Character and Habits of the Natives. 

Their Propensity to Thieving. Depart 
ure from Tongataboo 51 

CHAPTER IV. 

Society Islands. Otaheite. Language, Cus 
toms, Religion, Laws, and Government of the 
Natives. Sandwich Islands discovered. 
Nootka Sound. Cannibalism. Origin and 
Practice of Sacrifices. Bering s Strait. 
Cook sends Ledyard with two Indians in 
Search of a Russian Establishment. Re 
turns to the Ships, and reports to Captain 
Cook. Sails to the Sandwich Islands. . . 83 



CONTENTS. 711 



CHAPTER V. 

Cook arrives again at the Sandwich Islands. 
The Natives show .Symptoms of Uneasiness. 
Cook departs, but is compelled by a Storm to 
return. Natives receive him coldly. Is at 
tacked and killed. Ledyard s Description of 
the Event. Expedition sails for Kamtschat- 
ka, and returns to England. Ledyard s 
Opinions respecting the Jirst Peopling of the 
South Sea Islands 120 

CHAPTER VI. 

Ledyard returns to America. Interview with 
his Mother. Writes his Journal of Cook s 
Voyage. Visits New York, Philadelphia, 
and Boston. Plans a Voyage to the North 
west Coast. Failure of the Enterprise. 
Was the Jirst to propose such a Voyage. 
Sails for Cadiz ; thence to L Orient. Goes 
to Paris 166 

CHAPTER VII. 

Sleets with Mr. Jefferson at Paris. Project 
of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast with 
Paul Jones. Jefferson and Lafayette. 
Ledyard proposes a Journey through Russia 
and Siberia to Bering s Strait. Observations 
in Paris. Proceeds to London. Sir Joseph, 



Vili CONTENTS. 

Banks and other Gentlemen contribute Funds 

to aid him in his Travels 201 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Ledyard proceeds to Hamburg ; thence to Copen 
hagen and Stockholm. Journey round the 
Gulf of Bothnia. Arrives at Petersburg. 
Procures a Passport from the Empress. 
Sets out for Siberia. Crosses the Uralian 
Mountains. Descriptions of the Country and 
the Inhabitants. Arrives at Irkutsk. . . 233 

CHAPTER IX. 

Residence at Irkutsk. Account of the Tar 
tars. Fur Trade on the American Coast. 
Lake Baikal. Leaves Irkutsk for the Rivet 
Lena. Scenery around the Baikal. Esti 
mate of the Number of Rivers in Siberia. 
Proceeds down the, Lena in a Bateau. Hos 
pitality of the Inhabitants. Ends his Voy 
age at Yakutsk 271 

CHAPTER X. 

Interview with the Commandant of Yakutsk. 
Detained under false Pretences. The Ya- 
kuti Tartars. Influence of Religion upon 
them. Peculiarities of Features in the Tar 
tar Countenance. Difficulty of taking Vo 
cabularies of unknown Languages. Classi- 



CONTENTS.. IX 

faation of the Tartars and North American 
Indians. Causes of the Difference of Color 
in the Human Race. Tartars and Amer 
ican Indians the same People 295 

CHAPTER XL 

Climate in Siberia. Particulars concerning 
that Country. Ledyard s celebrated Eulogy 
on Women. Captain Billings meets him at 
Yakutsk. Bering s Discovery. Russian 
Voyages. Russian Fur Trade. Billings s 
Expedition. His Instructions 332 

CHAPTER XII. 

Lcdyard returns to Irkutsk. Is seized by Or 
der of the Empress, and hurried off in the 
Charge of two Guards. Returns through 
Siberia to Kazan. Further Observations on 
the Tartars. Passes Moscow, and arrives 
in Poland. Proceeds to Konigsberg, and 
thence to London. Inquiry into the Motives 
of the Empress. Her Declaration to Count 
Segur. Lafayette s Remark on her Conduct. 353 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Interview with Sir Joseph Banks in London. 
Engages to travel in Africa under the Aus 
pices of the African Association. Remark 
able Instance of Decision of Character. 



CONTENTS. 



Letter to his Mother. Visits Mr. Jefferson 
and Lafayette in Paris. Sails from Mar 
seilles to Alexandria in Egypt. Arrives in 
Cairo. . 372 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Interview with the Aga. Observations on the 
Customs of the Arabs. Information respect 
ing the Interior of Africa. Visit to the 
Caravans and Slave Markets. Reflections 
on his Condition and Prospects. His last 
Letter to Mr. Jefferson. Joins a Caravan, 
and prepares to depart for Sennaar. Taken 
suddenly ill. His Death. His Person 
and Character. . 396 



LIFE 



JOHN LEDYARD 



VOL. XIV. 1 



PREFACE 



TO THE FIRST EDITION 



NOT long after the death of JOHN LEDYARD, 
the traveller, some progress was made in col 
lecting materials for an account of his life by 
his relative, Dr. Isaac Ledyard, of New York. 
The biographer s task was never begun, how 
ever, and the project was abandoned ; but the 
papers procured for the purpose have been pre 
served by the family of Dr. Ledyard, and have 
furnished the facts for much the larger portion 
of the present narrative. Researches have also 
been made in other quarters, and important 
original letters obtained. Particular acknowl 
edgment is due to Mr. Henry Seymour, of 
Hartford, Connecticut, for the aid he has ren 
dered in this respect. All the papers that have 
been used are entitled to the credit of unques 
tionable authenticity. 

Wherever it could be done, without deviat 
ing too much from a regular and proportionate 
train of events, the traveller has been allowed 
to speak for himself. His manner of thinking, 



PREFACE. 



as well as of acting, was so peculiar, that a 
true picture of his mind and genius, his mo 
tives and feelings, could not be exhibited in 
any other way with so much distinctness, as 
through the medium of his own language. 
Free and full selections from his manuscript 
Letters and Journals are interspersed. His in 
cessant activity, want of leisure, and few op 
portunities of practising composition as an art, 
afford an apology for the imperfections of his 
style, which the candid reader will regard in 
the favorable light it deserves. His diction is 
never polished, and his words are not always 
well chosen ; but his ideas are often original, 
copious, well combined, and forcibly expressed. 
In executing this work, the only aim has 
been to bring together a series of facts, which 
should do justice to the fame and character 
of a man, who possessed qualities and per 
formed deeds, that rendered him remarkable, 
and are worthy of being remembered. If the 
author has been successful in this attempt, he 
is rewarded for the labor it has cost him. 

OCTOBER, 1827. 



SOON after the first publication of this Me 
moir, it was ascertained that a portrait of Led- 



PREFACE. 5 

yard existed in Stockholm, painted by Breda, 
an artist of celebrity, who had known Led- 
yard in London. The picture was seen at 
Stockholm, by an American traveller, in pos 
session of the artist, who was then far ad 
vanced in life. It is doubtless the same that 
is mentioned by Ledyard as his "Swedish 
portrait," and which he pronounces to be "not 
only a perfect likeness, but a good painting." 
An effort was immediately made to procure 
this picture, or a copy ; but, on inquiry, it was 
found that the artist had died, his pictures had 
been sold and dispersed, and no one could tell 
into whose hands this portrait had fallen. It 
is therefore probably lost to the world, as few 
persons now living could identify it. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



CHAPTER I. 

Birth and Parentage. Early Education. En 
ters Dartmouth College. His Fondness for 
Theatrical Exhibitions while at College. 
Travels among the Indians of the Six Na 
tions. His Return to College. Constructs 
a Canoe, and descends the Connecticut River 
in it alone to Hartford. Dangers of the 
Passage. His Enterprise compared to that 
of Mungo Park on the Niger. 

JOHN LEDYARD, the celebrated traveller, was 
born in the year 1751, at Groton, in Connecti 
cut, a small village on the bank of the River 
Thames, opposite to New London. The place 
of his birth is but a few hundred yards from 
Port Griswold, so well known in the history 
of the American revolution. 

His grandfather, named also John Ledyard, 
came in early life to America, and settled at 



8 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Southold, Long Island, as a small trader in 
dry goods. He was a native of Bristol, Eng 
land, and had been bred a merchant in Lon 
don. Being prosperous in business at South- 
old, he was soon married to a lady of amiable 
qualities and good fortune, the daughter of 
Judge Young, a gentleman of character and 
influence in that place. From Southold he 
removed to Groton, where he purchased an 
estate, and resided many years. He had ten 
children, and after the death of his wife he 
removed to Hartford, in Connecticut, and there 
spent the remainder of his life. For his sec 
ond wife he married Mrs. Ellery, a respectable 
widow lady of Boston. 

To his eldest son, who had the same name 
as himself, he gave the estate at Groton. He 
was a sea captain, engaged in the West India 
trade, a man of sound understanding, vigorous 
constitution, and industrious habits. But he 
died at the age of thirty-five, leaving a widow 
and four children, three sons and one daughter, 
of whom the subject of this memoir was the 
eldest. Colonel William Ledyard, the brave 
commander in the memorable action of Fort 
Griswold, who was barbarously slain after the 
capitulation, was the second son. 

It thus appears that John Ledyard, the trav 
eller, was the third of that name in lineal de- 



JOHNLEDYARD, 9 

scent. His mother, who was the daughter of 
Robert Hempsted, of Southold, has been de 
scribed as a lady of many excellences of mind 
and character, beautiful in person, well in 
formed, resolute, generous, amiable, kind, and, 
above all, eminent for piety and the religious 
virtues. Such a mother is the best gift of 
Heaven to a family of helpless young children. 
In the present instance, all her courage and 
all her strength of character were necessary, 
to carry her through the duties and trials 
which devolved upon her. The small estate, 
which had belonged to her husband in Groton, 
was, by some strange neglect of her friends, 
or criminal fraud never yet explained, taken 
from her soon after his death. During a visit 
to Long Island, the deed, which she had left 
with a confidential person, disappeared. As 
this deed was the only evidence of her title 
to the property, and her claim could not be 
substantiated without it, the whole reverted to 
its former owner, her husband s father, who 
was still living. The particulars of this trans 
action are not now known, nor is it necessary 
to inquire into them. It is enough to state 
the fact that such an event occurred, and that 
the widowed mother with four infant children 
was thus thrown destitute upon the world. In 
this condition she and her children repaired 



10 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to the house of her father in Southold, where 
they found protection and support. The es 
tate at Groton afterwards fell into the hands 
of Colonel William Ledyard. 

It may be supposed that misfortune did not 
weaken her parental solicitude, nor make her 
neglectful of her high trust. The education 
of her children was the absorbing object of 
her thoughts and exertions. Her eldest son 
was now of an age to receive impressions, that 
would become deeply wrought into his mind, 
and give a decided bias to his future charac 
ter. In the marked features of his eventful 
life, eccentric and extraordinary as it was, full 
of temptations, crosses, and sufferings, may often 
be traced lineaments of virtues, and good im 
pulses, justly referred to such a source, to the 
early cares and counsels of a judicious, sensi 
ble, and pious mother. Nor were these coun 
sels scattered in a vacant mind, nor these cares 
wasted on a cold heart ; in his severest disap 
pointments and privations, in whatever clime 
or among whatever people, whether contending 
with the fierce snows of Siberia or the burn 
ing sands of Africa, the image of his mother 
always came with a beam of joy to his soul, 
and was cherished there with delight. Such 
of his letters to her as have been preserved 
are written with a tenderness of filial affec- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 11 

tion, that could flow only from an acute sen 
sibility and a good heart. 

A few years after leaving Groton, and set 
tling at Southold, Mrs. Ledyard was married 
to a second husband, Dr. Moore, of the latter 
place. At this time her son John was taken 
into the family of his grandfather at Hartford, 
who, from that period, seems to have consid 
ered him as wholly under his charge. Tra 
dition tells of peculiarities in his manners and 
habits at this early age, of acts indicating the 
bent of his genius, and the romantic disposi 
tion that gave celebrity to his after life. But 
no record of his schoolboy adventures has 
come down to us, and we are left to conjec 
ture in what manner the wild spirits of a 
youth like his would exhibit themselves. He 
attended the grammar school in Hartford, it is 
to be presumed, with commendable proficiency, 
since he was at first designed for the profes 
sion of the law. Several months were passed 
by him as a student in the office of Mr. 
Thomas Seymour, a respectable lawyer of that 
place, who had married his aunt. 

Meantime his grandfather died, and Mr. Sey 
mour became his guardian, and took him to 
his own house. Whether Ledyard turned his 
thoughts to the law by his voluntary choice, 
or by the advice and wishes of his friends, 



12 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

who desired to quiet his temper, by fixing 
him in some settled pursuit, is. not related ; 
most probably the latter, for it was soon man 
ifest, that neither the profound wisdom, the 
abstruse learning, nor the golden promises of 
the law, had any charms for him. It was de 
cided without reluctance on his part, therefore, 
that he should leave the path, which he had 
found so intricate, and in which he had made 
so little progress, and enter upon one more 
congenial to his inclination, and presenting ob 
jects more attractive to his taste and fancy. 

Here was a difficult point to be determined. 
The pursuit, which would accord best with 
the propensities, temperament, and wishes of 
John Ledyard, and best promote his future 
usefulness and success, was a thing not to be 
decided, even at that time of his life, by the 
common rules of judging in such cases ; it 
was a preliminary, which no one probably 
would have been more perplexed than him 
self to establish. Never was he accustomed 
to look forward with unwavering predilections, 
to prepare for contingencies, or to mark out a 
course from which he would not stray. To 
be seeking some distant object, imposing and 
attractive in his own conceptions, and to move 
towards it on the tide of circumstances, 
through perils and difficulties, was among the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 13 

chief pleasures of his existence. On enter 
prises, in which no obstacles were to be en 
countered, no chances to be run, no disappoint 
ments to be apprehended, no rewards of haz 
ardous adventure to be looked for, he bestowed 
not a thought ; but let a project be started, 
thickly beset with dangers, and promising suc 
cess only through toils and sufferings, deeds of 
courage, and the resolute efforts of an untiring 
spirit, and not a man would grasp at it so 
eagerly, or pursue it with so much intenseness 
of purpose. The wholesome maxim of pro 
viding for the morrow rarely found a place in 
his ethics or his practice ; and as he never 
allowed himself to anticipate misfortunes, so 
he never took any pains to guard against 
them. 

He was now at the age of nineteen, with 
very narrow means, few friends, and no defi 
nite prospects. In this state of his affairs, as 
it was necessary for something to be done, he 
was compelled to look around him, and for a 
moment to exercise that foresight, which the 
tenor of his life proves him to have been so 
reluctant on most occasions to call to his aid. 
And, after all, he was more indebted to acci 
dent, than to his own deliberations, for the 
immediate events that awaited him. Dr. 
Wheelock, the amiable and pious founder of 



14 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Dartmouth College, had been the intimate 
friend of his grandfather ; and prompted by 
the remembrance of this tie, he invited Led- 
yard to enter his institution, recently estab 
lished at Hanover, New Hampshire, amidst the 
forests on the banks of the Connecticut River. 
This offer was accepted, and in the spring of 
1772, he took up his residence at this new 
seat of learning, with the apparent intention 
of qualifying himself to become a missionary 
among the Indians. 

His mother s wishes and advice had proba 
bly much influence in guiding him to this 
resolution. In accordance with the religious 
spirit of that day, she felt a strong compassion 
for the deplorable state of the Indians, and it 
was among her earliest and fondest hopes of 
this her favorite son, that he would be edu 
cated as a missionary, and become an approved 
instrument in the hands of Providence to 
bring these degraded and suffering heathen to 
a knowledge of a pure religion, and the bless 
ings of civilized life. When she saw this 
door opened for the realizing of her hopes, 
and her son placed under the charge of the 
most eminent laborer of his day in the cause 
of the Indians, her joy was complete. 

From the first settlement of the country 
much zeal and much disinterested philan- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 15 

thropy have been exercised, in attempts to 
convert the Indians to Christianity, and induce 
them to adopt the manners and participate 
the comforts of civilized men. Eliot (rightly 
named the Apostle to the Indians) and the 
May hews are entitled to the praises, which 
succeeding times have bestowed on them ; 
and the efforts of the Society in Great Brit 
ain for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign 
Parts, were prompted by motives of the no 
blest kind, and were bestowed with an ardor 
and with sacrifices, that demand a generous 
tribute from the pen of history, and the grate 
ful remembrance of posterity. For many years 
little had been done, however, till the popular 
talents and fervent zeal of David Brainerd 
caused the journals of his missionary tours to 
be read throughout the country, his labors ap 
plauded, and his success regarded as an evi 
dence of the great work, that might be 
wrought by the proper use of means. 

About this time the Reverend Eleazer 
Wheelock, who was then a settled clergyman 
in Lebanon, Connecticut, formed the scheme 
of an Indian School, which should have the 
double object of preparing young preachers for 
the missionary field, and of educating Indian 
youth, who should return to their tribes, and 
become teachers among their own people. 



16 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Without show or ostentation, Dr. Wheelock 
commenced the school at his own house, and 
almost at his own charge. He began with 
two pupils, one of whom was Sampson Oc- 
cum, an Indian of the Mohegan tribe, after 
wards so much celebrated as a preacher, and 
for his instructions to the Indians. The 
school gradually increased, and so benevolent 
an undertaking, pursued with such singleness 
of purpose, could not fail to attract public no 
tice and approbation. He was aided by con 
tributions from individuals, and the province of 
Massachusetts voted to pay, for a certain time, 
the expense of educating six Indian children. 
Mr. Joshua Moor, who owned lands in Leba 
non, gave a portion of them for the benefit of 
this school ; and from this circumstance the 
seminary for the education of Indian boys, 
afterwards attached to Dartmouth College, was 
called Moor s Indian School. 

But Dr. Wheelock still found, that pupils 
from the forest flocked to him faster than he 
could provide for them. He thought it now 
time to adopt the expedient of sending to 
England, and soliciting assistance from the 
wealthy and charitable on the other side of 
the water. For this object, Sampson Occum 
and another clergyman were sent out as 
agents, furnished with testimonials of their 



JOHN LEDYARD. 17 

character, and certificates of approbation from 
eminent persons in the colonies. Occum was 
looked upon as a wonder in England. He 
was the first Indian preacher from North 
America, that had ever been seen in the Old 
World; wherever he went crowds gathered 
around him, and it has been the lot of few 
speakers to address audiences so thronged. A 
North American Indian in a pulpit, eloquently 
preaching in the English tongue, was a phe 
nomenon too nearly miraculous to pass un 
seen or unheard. It was said, moreover, that 
he exhibited in his person and character a 
practical example of what might be done with 
Indians, when fairly brought under the influ 
ence of instruction. 

All this was highly favorable to the great 
ends of the mission, and in a few months a 
subscription was obtained, and money paid to 
the amount of nearly ten thousand pounds. 
The King gave two hundred pounds, and sev 
eral gentlemen one hundred each. The mon 
ey was deposited in the hands of trustees in 
England, and drawn out as occasion required. 
With this addition to his resources, Dr. Whee- 
lock began to think of enlarging the plan of 
his school, and removing nearer to the fron 
tiers, both to diminish the expense of living, 
and to be nearer the Indians. After examin- 

70L. XIV. 2 



18 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ing several situations, he selected Hanover, 
then almost a wilderness, to which place he 
removed in 1770, cut away the trees, and 
erected the institution, which he called Dart 
mouth College, in honor of Lord Dartmouth, 
who had manifested zeal and liberality in col 
lecting the Indian fund in England. 

To this college, about two years after it was 
founded, Ledyard resorted, to prepare himself 
for the arduous office of a missionary among 
the Indians. The nature of a missionary s 
life at that time, and the prospects of the 
young candidate for such a station, may be 
fully realized by a perusal of the letters from 
the Reverend Samuel Kirkland to Dr. Whee- 
lock, written previously to the removal from 
Lebanon. Mr. Kirkland was a graduate of 
Nassau Hall, in New Jersey, and, when quali 
fied for the ministry, he undertook a mission 
to the Seneca Indians, the most remote and 
fierce of the confederate nations. He contin 
ued there more than a year and a half, and 
gained the confidence of some of the chief 
persons of the tribe ; but so general was the 
aversion to the whites, and to the arts of civ 
ilized life, that, after a thorough experiment, 
he despaired of any such success as would be 
adequate to the sacrifices he must make, and 
the sufferings he must endure. Leaving the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 19 

Senecas, therefore, he next proceeded to the 
Oneidas, with whom he took up a permanent 
residence. Here poverty, and famine, and 
wretchedness stared him in the face. Nor 
were these the worst evils, with which he was 
obliged to contend. The capricious temper 
and furious passions of the savages, especially 
when intoxicated, frequently put his life in 
jeopardy, and kept him in a state of unceas 
ing alarm. 

All these things were endured by Mr. Kirk- 
land with a Christian fortitude, which nothing 
but a deep sense of the sacred nature of his 
duties could have enabled him to maintain. 
He triumphed at last ; he lived many years 
with the Oneidas, and had the satisfaction to 
see that his toils were not fruitless. The In 
dians revered him as a father; they had the 
wisdom to respect and sometimes to follow 
his counsels ; a visible change took place in 
their character and modes of life ; the rough 
features of the savage were softened, famine 
and want chased away, and the comforts of 
life multiplied. These advantages the sons of 
the forest saw and felt. No man has ever 
been more successful than Mr. Kirkland in 
improving the condition of the Indians, and, 
to the last day of his life, he continued to 
receive from them earnest demonstrations of 
affection and gratitude. 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

To this brief sketch it is hardly necessary 
to add that, when the revolutionary war came 
on, a check was given to the designs of the 
benevolent in behalf of the Indians. They 
engaged in the strife, which had been kindled 
by their white neighbors, and the voice of the 
missionary was silenced by the war whoop 
and the din of battle. Many of Dr. Whee- 
lock s Indian pupils, having gone through a 
regular course of instruction, had returned to 
their homes, and were beginning to scatter the 
light they had received ; but their influence 
was lost amidst the ravages of war. Much 
was it to be lamented, that the agency of a 
school, to which Dr. Wheelock had devoted 
the years of a long and toilsome life, and 
which had awakened a lively interest in the 
friends of humanity, should be so soon brought 
to an end, and nothing be seen in the result 
but a melancholy waste of time, talents, and 
money. 

Such was the condition of a missionary 
among the Indians, and such the origin and 
purpose of the institution, to which Led yard 
resorted for an education, which should qual 
ify him to enter upon his destined task. Not 
many memorials remain of his college life. 
The whole time of his residence at Dart 
mouth was not more than one year, and dur- 



JOHNLEDYARD. 21 

ing that period he was absent three months 
and a half, rambling among the Indians. A 
classmate still living recollects, that he had 
then some amusing singularities, was cheerful 
and gay in conversation, winning in his ad 
dress, and a favorite with his fellow-students. 
His journey from Hartford to Hanover was 
performed in a sulky, the first vehicle of the 
kind that had ever been seen on Dartmouth 
plain ; and it attracted curiosity not more from 
this circumstance, than from the odd appear 
ance of the equipage. Both the horse and the 
sulky gave evident tokens of having known 
better days ; and the dress of their owner was 
peculiar, bidding equal defiance to symmetry 
of proportions and the fashion of the times. 
In addition to the traveller s own weight, this 
ancient vehicle was burdened with a quantity 
of calico for curtains, and other articles to as 
sist in theatrical exhibitions, of which he was 
very fond. From the character of this outfit, 
we may conclude that he did not intend time 
should pass on heavy wings at Dartmouth. 

Considering the newness of the country, the 
want of bridges, and the bad state of the 
roads, this jaunt in a crazy sulky was thought 
to indicate no feeble spirit of enterprise. The 
journey might have been performed with much 
more ease and expedition on horseback, but in 



22 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

that case his theatrical apparatus must have 
been left behind. 

As a scholar at college he was respectable, 
but not over diligent. He acquired knowledge 
with facility, and could make quick progress 
when he chose ; but he was impatient under 
discipline, and thought nothing more irksome 
than to go by compulsion to a certain place 
at certain times, and tread from day to day the 
same dull circle of the chapel, the recitation 
room, the commons hall, and the study. It is 
not affirmed, that he ever ventured to set up 
any direct hostility to the powers that ruled, 
but he sometimes demeaned himself in a man 
ner, that must take from him the praise of a 
shining example of willing subordination. In 
those primitive times, the tones of a bell had 
not been heard in the forests of Dartmouth, 
and the students were called together by the 
sound of a conch-shell, which was blown in 
turn by the freshmen. Ledyard was indignant 
at being summoned to this duty, and it was 
his custom to perform it with a reluctance and 
in a manner corresponding to his sense of the 
degradation. 

The scenic materials, brought with so much 
pains from Hartford, were not suffered to lie 
useless. The calico was manufactured into 
curtains, a stage was fitted up, and plays were 



JOHN LEDYARD. 23 

acted, in which our hero personated the chief 
characters. Cato was among the tragedies 
brought out upon his boards, and in this he 
acted the part of old Syphax, wearing a long 
gray beard, and a dress suited to his notion of 
the costume of a Numidian prince. His trage 
dies were doubtless comedies to the audience, 
but they all answered his purpose of amuse 
ment, and of introducing a little variety into 
the sober tenor of a student s life. At this 
period he was much addicted to reading plays, 
and his passion for the drama probably stole 
away many hours, that might have been more 
profitably employed in preparing to exhibit 
himself before his tutors. 

He had not been quite four months in col 
lege, when he suddenly disappeared without 
previous notice to his comrades, and apparent 
ly without permission from the president. The 
full extent of his travels during his absence 
cannot now be known, but he is understood 
to have wandered to the borders of Canada, 
and among the Six Nations. It is certain, 
that he acquired in this excursion a knowl 
edge of Indian manners and Indian language, 
which was afterwards of essential service to 
him in his intercourse with savages in various 
parts of the world. His main object, probably, 
was to take a cursory survey of the mission- 



24 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ary ground, which he was contemplating as 
the theatre of his future career ; and, judging 
from what followed, we may suppose that this 
foretaste put an end to all his anticipations. 
Nothing more is heard of his missionary pro 
jects, although it is not clear at what time 
he absolutely abandoned them. When three 
months and a half had expired, he returned to 
college and resumed his studies. 

If his dramatic performances were not re 
vived, as it would seem they were not, his 
erratic spirit did not sink into a lethargy for 
want of expedients to keep it alive. In mid 
winter, when the ground was covered with 
deep snow, Ledyard collected a party, whom 
he persuaded to accompany him to the sum 
mit of a neighboring mountain, and there pass 
the night. Dr. Wheelock consented to the 
project, as his heart was bent on training up 
the young men to be missionaries among the 
Indians, and he was willing they should be 
come inured to hardships, to which a life 
among savages would frequently expose them. 
The projector of the expedition took the lead 
of his volunteers, and conducted them by a 
pathless route through the thickets of a swamp 
and forests, till they reached the top of the 
mountain, just in time to kindle a fire, and ar 
range their encampment on the snow before it 



JOHN LEDYARD. 25 

was dark. The night, as may be supposed, 
was dreary and sleepless to most of the party, 
and few were they who did not greet the 
dawn with gladness. Their leader was alert, 
prompt at his duty, and pleased with his suc 
cess. The next day, they returned home, all 
perfectly satisfied, unless it were Ledyard, with 
this single experiment of their hardihood, 
without being disposed to make another sim 
ilar trial. He had a propensity for climbing 
mountains, as will be seen hereafter when we 
meet him at the Sandwich Islands. 

After abandoning his missionary schemes, 
he began to grow weary of college, and the 
more so, probably, as his unsettled habits now 
and then drew from the president a salutary 
admonition on the importance of a right use 
of time, and a regard for the regulations of the 
establishment. Such hints he conceived to be 
an indignity, and fancied himself ill treated. 
That there was value in rules of order and 
discipline he did not pretend to deny, but 
seemed at a loss to imagine why they should 
apply to him. That the whole subject might 
be put at rest, without involving any puzzling 
questions of casuistry, he resolved to escape. 

On the margin of the Connecticut River, 
which runs near the college, stood many ma 
jestic forest trees, nourished by a rich soil. 



26 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

One of these -Ledyard contrived to cut down. 
He then set himself at work to fashion its 
trunk into a canoe, and in this labor he was 
assisted by some of his fellow-students. As 
the canoe was fifty feet long and three wide, 
and was to be dug out and constructed by 
these unskilful workmen, the task was not a 
trifling one, nor such as could be speedily exe 
cuted. Operations were carried on with spirit, 
however, till Ledyard wounded himself with 
an axe, and was disabled for several days. 
When recovered, he applied himself anew to 
his work ; the canoe was finished, launched 
into the stream, and, by the further aid of his 
companions, equipped and prepared for a voy 
age. His wishes were now at their consum 
mation, and, bidding adieu to these haunts of 
the muses, where he had gained a dubious 
fame, he set off alone, with a light heart, to 
explore a river, with the navigation of which 
he had not the slightest acquaintance. The 
distance to Hartford was not less than one 
hundred and forty miles, much of the way 
was through a wilderness, and in several places 
there were dangerous falls and rapids. 

With a bearskin for a covering, and his 
canoe well stocked with provisions, he yielded 
himself to the current, and floated leisurely 
down the stream, seldom using his paddle, and 



JOHN LEDYARD. 27 

stopping only in the night for sleep. He told 
Mr. Jefferson, in Paris, fourteen years after 
wards, that he took only two books with him, 
a Greek Testament and Ovid, one of which 
he was deeply engaged in reading when his 
canoe approached Bellows s Falls, where he 
was suddenly roused by the noise of the wa 
ters rushing among the rocks through the nar 
row passage. The danger was imminent, as 
no boat could go down that fall without be 
ing instantly dashed in pieces. With diffi 
culty he gained the shore in time to escape 
such a catastrophe, and through the kind as 
sistance -of the people in the neighborhood, who 
were astonished at the novelty of such a voy 
age down the Connecticut, his canoe was 
drawn by oxen around the fall, and committed 
again to the water below. From that time, 
till he arrived at his place of destination, we 
hear of no accident, although he was carried 
through several dangerous passes in the river. 
On a bright spring morning, just as the sun 
was rising, some of Mr. Seymour s family were 
standing near his house on the high bank of 
the small river, that runs through the city of 
Hartford, and empties itself into the Connecti 
cut River, when they espied at some distance 
an object of unusual appearance moving slow 
ly up the stream. Others were attracted by 



28 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the singularity of the sight, and all were con 
jecturing what it could be, till its questiona 
ble shape assumed the true and obvious form 
of a canoe ; but by what impulse it was 
moved forward none could determine. Some 
thing was seen in the stern, but apparently 
without life or motion. At length the canoe 
touched the shore directly in front of the 
house ; a person sprang from the stern to a 
rock in the edge of the water, threw off a 
bearskin in which he had been enveloped, and 
behold John Ledyard, in the presence of his 
uncle and connections, who were filled with 
wonder at this sudden apparition, for they had 
received no intelligence of his intention to 
leave Dartmouth, but supposed him still there 
diligently pursuing his studies, and fitting him 
self to be a missionary among the Indians. 

However unimportant this whimsical adven 
ture may have been in its results, or even its 
objects, it was one of no ordinary peril, and 
illustrated in a forcible manner the character 
of the navigator. The voyage was performed 
in the last part of April or first of May, and 
of course the river was raised by the recent 
melting of the snow on the mountains. This 
circumstance probably rendered the rapids less 
dangerous, but it may be questioned whether 
there are many persons at the present day, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 29 

who would willingly run the same hazard, 
even if guided by a pilot skilled in the navi 
gation of the river. 

We cannot look back to Ledyard, thus 
launching himself alone in so frail a bark 
upon the waters of a river wholly unknown 
to him, without being reminded of the only 
similar occurrence, which has been recorded, 
the voyage down the River Niger by Mungo 
Park, a name standing at the very head of 
those most renowned for romantic and lofty 
enterprise. The melancholy fate, it is true, by 
which he was soon arrested in his noble ca 
reer, adds greatly to the interest of his situa 
tion when pushing from the shore his little 
boat Joliba, and causes us to read his last af 
fecting letter to his wife with emotions of 
sympathy more intense, if possible, than would 
be felt if the tragical issue were not already 
known. In many points of character there 
was a strong resemblance between these two 
distinguished travellers, and they both perished 
martyrs in the same cause, attempting to ex 
plore the hidden regions of Africa. 



30 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



CHAPTER II. 

Commences the Study of Theology. Visits sev 
eral Clergymen on Long Island. Returns to 
Connecticut. Abandons his Purpose of study 
ing Divinity. Sails from Neiv London on a 
Voyage to Gibraltar. Enlists there as a Sol 
dier into the regular Service. Released. 
Returns Home by Way of the Barbary Coast 
and the West Indies. Sails from New York 
to England. Enlists in the naval Service. 
Embarks with Captain Cook on his last Voy 
age round the World. 

As Ledyard left Hanover when Dr. Whee- 
lock was absent, this was probably seized upon 
by him as a fit opportunity for taking his de 
parture. A few days after his arrival in Hart 
ford, his uncle thought proper to show him 
some of Dr. Wheelock s letters, in which were 
very just complaints of his conduct, his disre 
gard of discipline, and particularly his thought 
less waste of the small means he possessed, 
which his friends flattered themselves might, 
with good economy, be made to pay the ex 
penses of his education. These letters of the 
president were apparently written not so much 
by way of accusation, as to vindicate himself 



JOHN LEDYARD. 31 

from any charge of neglect that might be 
made against him, on account of the ill suc 
cess of his efforts to manage a young man, 
whom he had no other motive for taking un 
der his particular care, than good will for the 
grandson of his deceased friend, and regard for 
his family. 

Ledyard was much incensed at these letters, 
and replied to them under the impulse of 
feelings not the most kindly or respectful. 
From his nature he was extremely impatient 
of reproach, and ever deemed it an unpardon 
able offence in any one to question his mo 
tives, or insinuate that he could act delib 
erately and intentionally wrong. His foibles 
he could bear to have touched with a gentle 
hand, but no one ventured a suspicion of his 
integrity, or of the kindness of his heart, with 
impunity. He often lamented the failure of 
purposes caused by his fondness for change 
and love of adventure ; but at no time did he 
allow himself to think, that he was not pur 
suing great and worthy objects, and such as 
would redound to his honor, and the good of 
mankind. With this disposition, and this con 
fidence in himself, it was natural that he 
should sometimes regard the opinions, which 
others entertained of his conduct, with stronger 
feelings of disapprobation than the merits of 



32 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the case required. In reading the following 
extracts from a letter to Dr. Wheelock, these 
particulars should be kept in mind ; and it 
should, moreover, be remembered that, whether 
right or wrong, he really fancied himself not 
well treated at Dartmouth. 

" When I sit down to write," says he, " I 
know not where to begin, or where to end, or 
what to say, especially since I have the con 
tents of two of your letters concerning my 
affairs. What do I see? Who is this that 
assumes the port of compassion, kindness, be 
nevolence, charity, and writes as he writes? 
You begin, Sir, with a surprise, that my leg 
acy was so much exhausted. Justly might 
you, Sir, but not more so than my unfortunate 
self; and if truth has not turned liar, if any 
protestations, any declarations of, honesty, up 
rightness, or anything else can avail, I now, 
under the most sacred obligations, bond fide, 
declare I was not aware of it ; and when I 
saw the letters and account, I was so much 
ashamed of my inadvertency, and so justly 
culpable before you, that I could not compose 
myself to come before you, and answer for 
my misconduct. But from that moment, with 
much anxiety and care, I studied to remedy 
the matter. This I declare was the honest 
purpose of my heart ; and to make you rep- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 33 

aratiou still is ; and, under Heaven,, you shall 
say you are satisfied. Then, Sir, you say, a 
little after, that you could have no confidence 
in me, after the character given of me by Mr. 
Seymour. I am sorry, Sir, you could not. 

11 1 take what you have said, in regard to 
my pride, very ill natured, very unkind in you. 
So far as I know myself, I came to your col 
lege under influences of the good kind, wheth 
er you, Sir, believe it or not. The acquaint 
ance I have gained there is dearer than I can 
possibly express. Farewell, dear Dartmouth ! 
Doctor, my heart is as pure as the new fallen 
snow. Farewell, and may the God of Abra 
ham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless you and yours. 
I am, honored and reverend Sir, though sorely 
beset, your obliged and dutiful young servant." 

Here end all the particulars, which have 
come to my knowledge, respecting Ledyard s 
college life. He next appears before us in the 
character of a student in divinity. Within a 
month after mooring his canoe at the river s 
bank in Hartford, he is found at Preston, in 
Connecticut, advising with the Reverend Mr. 
Hart, a clergyman of that town, on the subject 
of his theological studies and prospects, and 
also with the Reverend Dr. Bellamy, at that 
time a preacher of wide fame in Connecticut. 
Both of these clergymen gave him such en- 
VOL. xiv. 3 



34 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

couragement, that he resolved to apply him 
self immediately to a preparation for dischar 
ging the sacred functions of a divine, and turn 
the ruffled tenor of his life into the quiet and 
grateful occupation of a parish minister. He 
speaks of his anticipations on this occasion 
with a heartiness and enthusiasm, which show, 
at least, that he imagined himself sincere, and 
that in the future he fancied he had only to 
look for the unalloyed blessings of tranquillity, 
competence, and peace. Such was his haste 
to realize these precious hopes, that he had 
not patience to wait the usual term required 
of young candidates, who had not been grad 
uated at a college. 

To facilitate the attainment of this end, his 
advisers recommended that he should go to 
Long Island, and there pass through his initia 
tory studies, where, it was said, smaller at 
tainments were required for admission to the 
desk ; and, when once admitted, he might re 
turn and procure a settlement wherever there 
should be an opening. With this scheme he 
was well satisfied, and being furnished by the 
above gentlemen with suitable letters of rec 
ommendation, he mounted his horse and set 
off for Long Island, with the same buoyancy 
of spirits as when, two months before, he en 
tered his canoe at Dartmouth, and with a 



JOHN LED YARD. 35 

purpose much more definite, and higher ex 
pectations. 

In describing this tour, I shall let him speak 
in his own language, as contained in a letter 
written to a friend at the time. 

" Equipped with my credentials, I embarked 
for Long Island. The next day I fortunately 
arrived at Southold, surprised my mother with 
a visit, and after remaining with her twenty- 
four hours. I rode to the eastward. With an 
other recommendatory letter from the Reverend 
Mr. Storrs, I crossed Shelter Island Ferry, and 
thence to East Hampton, where I met with a 
kind reception from the Reverend Mr. Buell, 
moderator of the synod, an influential man, 
and a glorious preacher. Here I was intro 
duced to a very large library, and, in company 
with another young candidate, I spent about a 
month with intense application to study. But 
this was only an interregnum. Mr. Buell let 
me know, that the presbytery here proceed in 
these matters with a perfect extreme of delib 
eration ; and since my circumstances were as 
they were, he advised me to comply with the 
dispensations of Providence, and seek a school, 
and study under some divine. I knew his 
advice to be as that from a father to a son, 
and. without a moment s hesitation, wiping the 
sweat of care from my brow, I bestrided my 



36 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Rosinante with a mountain of grief upon my 
shoulders, but a good letter in my pocket. I 
jogged on groaning, but never desponding, 
passed to Bridgetown, thence to Southampton, 
and through many little villages to Sataucket 
Quorum, then to Smithtown, Fireplace, Oyster 
Bay, and so on, visiting and making acquaint 
ance with the clergy wherever I went. 

" At length, after a ride of almost one hun 
dred miles, by crossing the island I arrived at 
Huntington, a large town about forty miles 
from New York, where I visited the minister 
of the place, old Mr. Prime. After about 
twelve days feasting upon his great library, 
and a quickly made friendship with the inge 
nious Dr. Prime, formerly of New York, and a 
fruitless attempt to get a school, I was return 
ing, but stopped to become acquainted with 
the excellent Irishman, the Reverend Mr. Cald- 
well, of Elizabeth Town, and the popular Dr. 
Rogers of New York ; and, after some cordials 
of consolation and encouragement, they bade 
me go on, and God speed rne. They told me 
that the sufferings I met with, and the con 
temptuous ideas the people where I was born 
and educated had of me, were nothing strange, 
but reflected honor on me ; that a prophet is 
hardly accepted in his own country, and the 
like. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 37 

" I returned, after a very fatiguing journey, 
to Mr. Buell s, and stayed a short time with that 
hermit, where and with whom I longed to be 
buried in ease but I scorned to be a coward, 
and chose to die in front of battle, if any 
where. We advised together anew, and it was 
resolved, that, since I was so disappointed, I 
should proceed with renewed vigor. Accord 
ingly, with warm letters I came again to the 
continent, where I arrived in the evening, but 
thought it most prudent not to stop there, 
no, not where I was born. I dropped a tear 
upon the occasion, and rode on toward Pres 
ton till eleven at night, when, feeling quite 
exhausted, for I had been severely sea-sick, I 
dismounted, left my horse to graze, looked up 
to heaven, and under its canopy fell asleep. 
The next morning I rode to my cousin Isaac s 
house, and being refreshed, I advanced once 
more to Mr. Hart s, where I was again hand 
somely and kindly received." 

Thus disappointed in his expectations on 
Long Island, his ardor was somewhat damped, 
but his resolution remained unshaken. He 
made up his mind to apply again to his old 
friends, and seek their sympathy and counsel. 
As they had expressed themselves warmly in 
his favor, and recommended him in flattering 
terms to the Long Island clergy, he was san- 



38 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

guine in the faith, that they would not, when 
things came to an extremity, hesitate to do, on 
their own part, what they had encouraged so 
earnestly in their brethren. With some confi 
dence, therefore, he repeated his solicitations to 
Mr. Hart. The result shall likewise be given 
in his own words. 

" We have advised together, and read the 
aforesaid letters. The amount of all is this ; 
Don t be discouraged, Mr. Ledyard ; you will 
think the better of fair weather after this 
storm. My private sentiments and my public 
conduct, in your case, are two things. I don t 
doubt one single instant of your probity and 
well-meaning. What the world does, I cannot 
say j but, as I officiate in a public character, 
I must deal with you as so officiating ; and 
for that reason, as well as securing your fu 
ture tranquillity in the ministry, by making a 
good beginning, I by all means advise, first, 
that you write speedily to the Reverend Mr. 
Whitman, and get him to write to us respect 
ing you what he can, as you have lived long 
under him ; secondly, that you write also to 
Dartmouth, to procure a regular dismission 
from the president. When we have these, we 
shall proceed with confidence in the face of 
all men, and not be ashamed to introduce you 
anywhere. Now, Sir, though but very brief, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 39 

I have given you an exact account of my 
situation, and the fatigues of my pursuits. You 
see what bars my sitting directly down. 

" As Dartmouth is at such a distance, the 
clergy here do not insist on a return from 
that place so soon as from Hartford ; but the 
sooner I have an answer from Mr. Whitman, 
the sooner will my mind be at rest. There 
are four ministers that stand ready to advance 
me the moment this is done, among whom 
the famous Dr. Bellamy is one. The clergy 
are very exact in these things, and I have 
sometimes thought that they meant to keep 
me humming around them till I was tired, 
and so get clear of an absolute refusal ; or, as 
Dr. Young expresses it, to 

Fright me, with terrors of a world unknown, 
From joys of this, to keep them all their own. 

They have found me affliction proof, if this 
was their motive ; but I plainly see they mean 
it for my honor, and their own too. The re 
quest, in short, which I make of you is, that 
you will please to wait on Mr. Whitman with 
my letter, hurry him for an answer, and send 
it to me by the earliest opportunity." 

That such an answer never came, may be 
inferred from the fact that he was never li 
censed as a preacher ; and the judgment of his 
friends, the clergymen, is not to be so much 



40 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, 

censured in this, perhaps, as in the unjustifia 
ble encouragement they held out to him. 
They could not suppose him qualified for the 
clerical office, with the limited knowledge and 
experience he possessed, and it was wrong to 
delude him with the notion that they would, 
under any circumstances, publicly approve him 
as such, merely upon receiving two letters, 
which, at most, could testify only to his gen 
eral character. His attainments were after 
wards to be made. He was doubtless impor 
tunate, and Mr. Hart and Dr. Bellamy were 
good natured ; but their kindness would have 
been better applied, especially to a mind like 
that of Ledyard s, if they had been more frank 
and decided in the outset. 

His sensibility was keenly touched by the 
disappointment, which, as much as anything 
perhaps, drove him, somewhat disgusted, from 
prosecuting his theological studies. That he 
engaged in them with considerable ardor, no 
one can doubt after reading his remarks above ; 
that he would have continued long of the 
same mind is not very likely; but it was a 
mistaken exercise of benevolence to foster 
hopes, which there was no chance of seeing 
ripened into realities, and thus enticing him 
into a profession, for which he was hardly in 
any one respect fitted. As a further proof that 



JOHN LEDYARD. 41 

he was in earnest at the beginning, it may be 
mentioned, that he not only applied himself as 
siduously to study, but was accustomed to de 
claim in the woods and retired places, that he 
might discipline his voice, and prepare himself 
for public speaking. 

But his studies in theology were of short 
duration. He was mortified at the ill success 
of his application to the clergy for being ap 
proved as a candidate, and other circumstances 
concurred to annoy and wound him. The 
effect of these on his feelings will appear in 
the following postscript to a letter, written 
three months after the one last quoted. " I 
send you this from Groton, even the little 
Groton, where it seems I must at last hide my 
head, and relinquish all the glorious purposes 
I had in view. Tis hard. Do you not won 
der that I still live, when there is such in 
quiry about the strange man in Hartford, when 
I am the mark of impertinent curiosity, when 
everything around me opposes my designs ? 
Do you not wonder that I have my senses in 
so great a degree as to let you know, that I 
am as unmoved as my observers and op- 
posers ? " These hints are enough to show 
that obstacles of a serious kind, whether im 
aginary or real, met him in various quarters, 
and that a weight of corroding cares hung 
upon his soul. 



42 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

But we are not left long to sympathize 
with him in his griefs. All thoughts of di 
vinity being now abandoned, he is introduced 
to us, a few weeks afterwards, in a totally new 
character, that of a sailor on board a vessel 
bound to Gibraltar. Captain Deshon, who re 
sided in New London, and sailed from that 
port, had been his father s friend, and the hero 
of our narrative now shipped with him for a 
voyage to the Mediterranean. He entered as 
a common sailor, but was treated by the cap 
tain rather as a friend and associate, than as 
one of the ordinary crew ; and his good hu 
mor, suavity of manners, and intelligence, made 
his company highly acceptable to all on board. 
The voyage was first to Gibraltar, next to a 
port on the Barbary coast for taking in a car 
go of mules, and thence homeward by way 
of the West Indies. 

One incident only has been transmitted, as 
worthy of notice during this voyage. While 
the ship was lying at Gibraltar, Ledyard was 
all at once missing, and it was some time be 
fore anything could be heard of him. There 
came a rumor, at length, that he was among 
the soldiers in the barracks. A person was 
sent to make inquiry, who descried him in 
the ranks, dressed in the British uniform, 
arrned and equipped from head to foot, and 



JOHNLEDYARD. 43 

carrying himself with a martial air and atti 
tude, which proved that, to whatever vocation 
he might be called, he was not to be outdone 
by his comrades. Captain Deshon went to his 
quarters, and remonstrated with him for this 
strange freak, and urged him to return. He 
said he enlisted because he was partial to the 
service, and thought the profession of a soldier 
well suited to a man of honor and enterprise j 
but that he would not be obstinate, and was 
willing to go back, if the captain insisted on 
it, and would procure his release. When the 
circumstances were made known to the British 
commanding officer, he consented to release his 
new recruit, who returned on board the ship 
and prosecuted his voyage. 

While at Gibraltar, he wrote home a very 
full and amusing account of what he saw in 
that place, but the letter has been lost. 

Within a year from the time of sailing from 
New London, the vessel anchored again in the 
same harbor, and the only profit yielded by 
the voyage to our young adventurer was a 
little experience of the hardships of a sailor s 
life, and knowledge of the mysteries of his 
profession. However valuable might be this 
species of gain as stock in hand for future 
use, it had no power to satisfy immediate 
want. Poverty stared him in the face ; and, 



44 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

at the age of twenty-two, he found himself a 
solitary wanderer, dependent on the hounty of 
his friends, without employment or prospects, 
having tried various pursuits and failed of suc 
cess in all. Neither his pride, nor his sense 
of duty, would suffer him to remain in this 
condition one moment longer, than till he 
could devise a method of escape from it ; yet 
the peculiar frame of his mind and temper was 
such, that nothing would have been more idle, 
either in himself or any other person, than to 
think of chaining him down to any of the 
dull courses of life, to which the great mass 
of mankind are contented to resort, as the 
means of acquiring a fortune, gaining a com 
petence, or driving want from the door. 

That he must provide for himself by his 
own efforts, was a proposition too forcibly im 
pressed upon him to be denied ; but there 
seemed not a single propensity of his nature, 
which inclined him to direct these efforts in 
the same manner as other people, or to attain 
common ends by common means. Poverty 
and privation were trifles of no weight with 
him, compared with the irksome necessity of 
walking in the same path that all the world 
walked in, and doing things as all the world 
had done them before. He thought this a 
very tame pursuit, unworthy of a rational man, 



JOHN LED YARD. 45 

whose soul should be fired with a nobler am 
bition. 

Entertaining such views of the objects of 
human life, it is not surprising that he should 
feel himself hanging loosely upon society, and 
should discover that, while he continued with 
out purpose and without property, he would 
exhibit slender claims to the respect of the 
community, or the confidence of his friends. 
Their sympathy he might have ; but this was 
a boon whicli he disdained to accept, when 
elicited by misfortunes springing from his own 
improvidence, or by evils which he had power 
to avoid. That he had no intention of fixing 
himself down in any steady occupation, is 
proved by a remark in a letter written from 
Gibraltar. " I allot to myself," said he, " a 
seven years ramble more, although the past 
has long since wasted the means I possessed." 
Often had he heard his grandfather descant 
on his ancestors, and his wealthy connections 
in England ; and the thought had entered our 
rambler s head, that one day it might be no 
unwise thing for him to visit these relatives, 
and claim alliance with them as a hopeful 
branch of so worthy a stock. 

In this stage of his affairs, he was convinced 
that the proper time had come, and he suf 
fered now and then a bright vision to play 



46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

before his fancy, of the happy change that 
would ensue, by the aid and influence of his 
newly found friends in England, who would 
receive with joy so promising a member 
of their family from America. Elated with 
dreams like these, he took a hasty leave of 
the place of his nativity, and the associates of 
his youth, and made the best of his way to 
New York, there to seek out a passage to the 
land of promise. 

The first vessel about to sail for England 
was bound to Plymouth, and in this he ob 
tained a berth, probably on condition of work 
ing as a sailor. His trip to the Mediterranean 
was now to yield its fruits. On his arrival in 
Plymouth and leaving the vessel, he was re 
duced to the extreme of want, without money 
in his pocket, or a single acquaintance to 
whom he could apply for relief. Thus sit 
uated, it behoved him to make haste to Lon 
don, where he looked for an immediate wel 
come and a home among the relations, whose 
wealth and virtues he had heard so much ex 
tolled by his grandfather. As the good fortune 
of the moment would have it, he fell in with 
an Irishman, a genuine specimen of the hon 
esty, frankness, and good nature, which char 
acterize many of the sons of Erin ; whose 
plight so exactly resembled his own, that they 



JOHNLEDYARD. 47 

formed a mutual attachment almost as soon as 
they came in contact with each other. 

There is a sympathetic power in misfortune, 
which is heedless of the forms of society, and 
acts not by any cold rules of calculation. Both 
the travellers were pedestrians bound to Lon 
don, both were equally destitute, having noth 
ing wherewith to procure a subsistence. They 
agreed to take turns in begging on the road. 
In this manner they travelled harmoniously to 
gether, till they reached London, without hav 
ing any reason to complain that Providence 
had neglected them on the way, or that there 
was a lack of generous and disinterested feel 
ing in the human kind. 

Ledyard s thoughts were now gay ; for, al 
though in beggary, he fancied that the next 
step would place him at the summit of his 
wishes, and open to him wide the door of 
prosperity. Had he possessed the very lamp 
of Aladdin, and been endued with the Der- 
vise s power, he could not have been more 
confident or happy. To find out his relations 
was now his only anxiety. By accident he 
saw the family name on a carriage, and he 
inquired of the coachman where the owner 
lived, and what was his occupation. The an 
swer was, that he was a rich merchant, ana 
the place of his residence was pointed out. 



48 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Our eager traveller hastened to the house, 
inquired for the occupant, and ascertained that 
he was not at home. A son was there, how 
ever, who listened to his story, but gave him 
soon to understand, that he put no faith in his 
representations, as he had never heard of any 
such relations as he told of in America. He 
observed, moreover, that he resembled one of 
the family, who had been absent some years 
in the East Indies, and whom they were ex 
tremely anxious to see, assuring him that, if 
he were really the person, he would be re 
ceived with open arms. This was a very un 
lucky interview, for nothing ever raised Led 
yard s anger to so high a pitch, as a suspicion 
expressed or implied of his integrity and hon 
est intentions. He seemed, from that moment, 
determined to prosecute his inquiry after his 
family connections no further, but to shun all 
that bore the name. The son pressed him to 
remain till his father should return, but he 
abruptly left the house, and never went back. 

Some time afterwards, when he had gained 
acquaintances of respectable name in London, 
to whom he related his story, they went with 
it to the same gentleman, telling him, that the 
young man seemed honest, and they doubted 
not the truth of what he had stated. The 
gentleman refused at first to credit him, unless 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



49 



he would bring some written evidence. Upon, 
further inquiry, however, he was better satis 
fied, and sent for Ledyard to come to his 
house. This invitation was declined in no 
very gracious manner : and when money was 
sent to him afterwards by the same person, 
who had heard that he was in distress, he re 
jected it with great indignation, and command 
ed the bearer to carry it back to his master, 
and tell him that he belonged not to the race 
of the Ledyards. Such was the end of his 
dreams about his rich relations, and it must 
be acknowledged, that his own haughty spirit 
seems to have been the chief enemy to his 
success. He would, probably, have called it 
magnanimous self-respect ; and, name it as we 
will, since it operated wholly against himself, 
he must certainly be freed from any charge 
of mean motives or selfish ends. 

It was just at this time, that Captain Cook 
was making preparation for his third and last 
voyage round the world. So successful had he 
been in his former expeditions, and so loud 
was the sound of his fame, that the whole 
country was awake to his new undertaking, 
and the general sensation was such, as to in 
spire adventurous minds with a wish to par 
ticipate in its glory. Nothing could more ex 
actly accord with the native genius and cher- 
VOL. xiv. 4 



50 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ished feelings of Ledyard. As a first step 
towards becoming connected with this expedi 
tion, he enlisted in the marine service, and 
then, by his address, he gained an introduction 
to Captain Cook. It may be presumed, that 
on an occasion of so much moment to him, 
he would set himself forward to the best ad 
vantage j and he had great power in recom 
mending himself to the favor of others, when 
ever he chose to put it in action. His manly 
form, mild but animated and expressive eye, 
perfect self-possession, a boldness not obtrusive, 
but showing a consciousness of his proper 
dignity, an independent spirit, and a glow of 
enthusiasm giving life to his conversation and 
his whole deportment ; these were traits which 
could not escape so discriminating an eye as 
that of Cook ; they formed a rare combination 
peculiarly suited to the hardships and perils of 
his daring enterprise. They gained the confi 
dence of the great navigator, who immediately 
took him into his service, and promoted him 
to be a corporal of marines. 

In this capacity he sailed from England ; 
but tradition reports, on what authority I know 
not, that he was in due time raised to the 
post of sergeant. That he should have been 
willing to undertake so long a voyage, in so 
humble a station, can be accounted for only 



JOHN LEDYARD. 51 

from his burning desire to be connected with 
the expedition. His skill in nautical matters 
was not yet such as to qualify him for a 
higher place, even if he had been able to ex 
hibit stronger pretensions through the agency 
and influence of friends. But he was in the 
midst of strangers, without any other claims 
to notice, than such as he presented in his 
own person. These were his only passport to 
the favor of Cook, and, in relying on them, no 
one was ever deceived. 



CHAPTER III. 

Sails for the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to 
New Holland and New Zealand. Manners 
and Peculiarities of the People. Omai, the 
Otaheitan. Departs from New Zealand, and 
visits newly discovered Islands. Arrival at the 
Friendly Islands. People of Tongataboo. 
Ledyard passes a Night with the King. Char 
acter and Habits of the Natives. Their Pro 
pensity to Thieving. Departure from Ton- 
gataboo. 

THE particulars of this voyage have been 
so often repeated from the official narrative, 
and are so well known, that any formal at- 



52 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tempt to give a connected series of events 
would be superfluous and without interest. I 
shall, therefore, chiefly confine myself to such 
incidents as came under our traveller s obser 
vation, and to such remarks and reflections of 
his own, as indicate his opinions and the char 
acter of his mind. He kept a private journal 
of the whole voyage, but on the return of the 
expedition, before any person had landed, all 
papers of this description were taken away 
from both officers and men, by order of the 
commander, and Ledyard s journal among the 
rest. This precaution was necessary to pre 
vent an imperfect account of the voyage going 
abroad, before one could be issued under the 
sanction of the Admiralty.* 

Ledyard never recovered his papers; but 
when he returned to Hartford, more than two 
years after the termination of the voyage, his 
friends induced him to write the short ac 
count, which appeared with his name. To 
satisfy public curiosity till a complete work 
could be prepared, a very brief sketch of the 
voyage in a single volume had already been 

* In a review of the first London edition of this Me 
moir, in the London Quarterly Review, understood to have 
been written by Sir John Barrow, it is stated that parts 
of Ledyard s original journal are still preserved in the 
Admiralty. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 53 

published by authority in England. This vol 
ume Ledyard had procured, and he relied on 
it for dates, distances, the courses of the ves 
sels, and for other particulars serving to revive 
his recollection of what he had experienced 
and witnessed. Extracts are made without 
alteration in two or three instances, and sev 
eral of the last pages are literally copied. 
With no other written materials Ledyard pro 
duced his manuscript journal, which he sold 
to Mr. Nathaniel Patten, publisher in Hartford, 
for twenty guineas. It was printed in a duo 
decimo volume containing a chart, and a ded 
ication to Governor Trumbull, expressive of 
the author s gratitude for the generosity and 
kindness, which he had received from that 
veteran patriot. 

A narrative thus drawn up must, of course, 
be in many respects imperfect j but the narrator 
makes no high pretensions. He never taxes 
our faith beyond the obvious bounds of prob 
ability, nor calls our attention to hearsay re 
ports and speculations of others. He describes 
what he saw and heard, and utters his own 
sentiments. In a few instances, he varies from 
the accounts afterwards published in England ; 
but these commonly relate either to occur 
rences, as to which he had a better opportu- 



54 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

nity for personal knowledge, or concerning 
which, for various reasons, it was the policy 
of the leaders of the expedition to preserve 
silence. The train of events at the Sandwich 
Islands, which led to the death of Captain 
Cook, is narrated by Ledyard in a manner 
more consistent and natural, than appears in 
any other account of it. The precipitancy of 
the officers, and of Cook particularly, or at 
least their want of caution, which was the 
primary cause of the tragical issue, was kept 
out of sight by the authorized narrators, and a 
mystery long hung over that catastrophe, ow 
ing to the absence of any obvious coherency 
between causes and effects. On this point 
Ledyard s narrative is full and satisfactory, as 
will be seen in its proper place. 

As a proof of our traveller s activity of 
mind, and his ardor of inquiry, during this voy 
age, I shall here quote a passage from a work 
recently published by Captain James Burney, 
entitled "A Chronological History of North 
eastern Voyages of Discovery." The author 
of this book was a lieutenant under Cook in 
his two last voyages, son of Dr. Burney, and 
consequently brother of Madame d Arblay, the 
celebrated novelist. He is repeatedly men 
tioned in Ledyard s journal, and was a very 
enterprising officer. The estimation in which 



JOHN LEDYARD. 55 

oui hero was held by him will appear from 
the following extract, as well as from other 
parts of the work. 

" With what education I know not," says 
Captain Burney, "but with an ardent disposi 
tion, Ledyard had a passion for lofty senti 
ment and description. When corporal of ma 
rines on board of the Resolution, after the 
death of Captain Cook, he proffered his ser 
vices to Captain Clerke to undertake the office 
of historiographer to our expedition, and pre 
sented a specimen, which described the man 
ners of the Society Islanders, and the kind of 
life led by our people whilst among them. 
He was not aware how many candidates he 
would have to contend with, if the office to 
which he aspired had been vacant; perhaps 
not with fewer than with every one in the 
two ships who kept journals. Literary ambi 
tion and disposition to authorship led us in 
each ship to set up a weekly paper. When 
the paper in either ship was ready for deliv 
ery, a signal was made, and, when answered 
by a similar signal from the other ship, Cap 
tain Cook, if the weather was fine, would good- 
naturedly let a boat be hoisted out to make 
the exchange, and he was always glad to read 
our paper, but never favored our editors with 
the contribution of a paragraph. I believe 



56 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

none of these papers have been saved, nor do 
I remember by what titles we distinguished 
them. Ledyard s performance was not crit 
icized in our paper, as that would have en 
titled him to a freedom of controversy not con 
sistent with military subordination. His ideas 
were thought too sentimental, and his language 
too florid. No one, however, doubted that his 
feelings were in accord with his expressions ; 
and the same is to be said of the little, which 
remains of what he has since written, more 
worthy of being preserved, and which its wor 
thiness will preserve, and particularly of his 
celebrated commendation of women in his Si 
berian Tour." 

Ledyard s contributions to the paper here 
mentioned, and his account of the Society 
Islanders, were probably taken from him with 
his manuscript journal, as I have found no 
remnants of them among his papers. His 
printed Journal contains a graphic and ani 
mated description of the Society Islands, but 
it was evidently written from recollection, like 
the rest of the volume. This testimony of 
Captain Burney in favor of his habits of ob 
servation and literary industry, may justly in 
spire confidence in his writings. 

The last expedition under Captain Cook, and 
the one in which our traveller was engaged, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 57 

left England on the 12th of July, 1776. It 
consisted of two ships, the Resolution and 
Discovery, the former commanded by Captain 
Cook, and the latter by Captain Clerke. After 
touching at Teneriffe, they proceeded to the 
Cape of Good Hope, and came to anchor in 
Table Bay, where they were to refit, lay in a 
new stock of provisions, and prepare for en 
countering the inconveniences and dangers of 
a long voyage in the great Southern Ocean, 
with the certainty that many months must 
elapse, before they could hope to arrive again 
in a port of civilized people. 

Several days were passed here in getting all 
things in readiness the men of science em 
ployed themselves in short excursions into the 
country ; provisions were collected by the prop 
er officers, and the sailors were busy at their 
daily tasks. Last of all were taken on board 
various live animals, designed to be left at the 
islands where they did not exist, making, in 
connection with those brought from England, 
a motley collection of horses, cattle, sheep, 
goats, hogs, dogs, cate hares, rabbits, monkeys, 
ducks, geese, turkeys, and peacocks. Thus, 
says our voyager, " did we resemble the ark, 
and appear as though we were going as well 
to stock as to discover a new world." JEsop 
might have conversed for weeks with such a 



58 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

congregated multitude. The monkeys and 
peacocks seem to have been out of place in 
this assembly of sober and useful animals, and, 
in the end, they did little credit to their com 
munity. The monkeys never ceased from 
mischief, and the gay attire of the peacocks 
tempted a chief of Tongataboo to steal and 
carry them off. 

On the 1st of December, Cook departed 
from the Cape of Good Hope, and proceeded 
in a southeasterly direction, intending to shape 
his course around the southern extremity of 
New Holland. After sailing twenty-five days 
and passing two islands, the tops of which 
were covered with snow, although it was mid 
summer in those latitudes, he came to anchor 
at an island, which had been recently discov 
ered by Kerguelen, a French navigator. A 
bottle was found suspended by a wire between 
two rocks, sealed, and containing a piece of 
parchment, on which was written, in French 
and Latin, an account of Kerguelen s voyage 
and discovery. The island was desolate, with 
out inhabitants, trees, or shrubs. A little grass 
was obtained for the cattle, and a species of 
vegetable was found resembling a wild cab 
bage, but of no value. It rained profusely, 
streams of fresh water came down from the 
hills, and the empty casks were replenished. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 59 

The shore was covered with seals and sea- 
dogs, the former of which, apparently uncon 
scious of danger, were killed without difficulty, 
and they afforded a seasonable supply of oil 
for lamps and other purposes. Vast flocks of 
birds hovered around, and the penguins, so lit 
tle did they understand the character of their 
visitors, would allow themselves to be ap 
proached and knocked down with clubs. Man 
was an enemy, whose sanguinary prowess 
these tenants of the lonely island had never 
learnt to fear, and the simple penguin received 
his death blow with a composure and uncon 
cern, that would have immortalized a stoic 
philosopher. 

The sailors were indulged in celebrating 
Christmas at Kerguelen s Island, after which 
the ships sailed, and the next harbor to be 
gained was Adventure Bay, in Van Diemen s 
Land, being at the southern limits of New 
Holland. As no discoveries were to be at 
tempted during this run, they proceeded di 
rectly to the point of destination, at which 
they safely arrived within less than two months 
after leaving the Cape of Good Hope. 

The ships being moored in this bay, called 
by Tasman, who discovered it, Frederic Hen 
ry s Bay, the sailors were sent out in parties 
to procure wood, water, and grass, all of which 



60 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

existed there in great plenty. No inhabitants 
appeared, although columns of smoke had been 
seen here and there rising through the woods 
at some distance, affording a sign that people 
were in the neighborhood. After a day or 
two, the natives came down to the beach in 
small parties, men, women, and children ; but 
they seemed the most wretched of human be 
ings, wearing no clothes, and carrying with 
them nothing but a rude stick about three 
feet long, and sharpened at one end. Their 
skin was black, hair curly, and the beards of 
the men, as well as their hair, besmeared with 
a red oily substance. They were inoffensive, 
neither manifesting fear, nor offering annoy 
ance to their visitors. When bread was given 
them, it was thrown away without being 
tasted, although they were made to under 
stand that it was to be eaten; the same they 
did with fish, which had been caught in the 
harbor ; but they accepted birds, and intimated 
a fondness for that kind of food. When a 
gun was fired, they all ran off like wild deer 
to the woods, and were seen no more that 
day; but their fright was not of long dura 
tion, for they came again the next morning 
with as little unconcern as ever. 

In all respects, these people appeared in the 
lowest stage of human advancement. " They 



JOHN LEDYARD. 61 

are the only people," says Ledyard, " who 
are known to go with their persons entirely 
naked, that have ever yet been discovered. 
Amidst the most stately groves of wood, they 
have neither weapons of defence, nor any 
other species of instruments applicable to the 
various purposes of life ; contiguous to the sea, 
they have no canoes ; and exposed from the 
nature of the climate to the inclemency of the 
seasons, as well as to the annoyances of the 
beasts of the forest, they have no houses to 
retire to, but the temporary shelter of a few 
pieces of old bark laid transversely over some 
small poles. They appear, also, to be inactive, 
indolent, and unaffected with the least curi 
osity." Cook remarked, that the natives here 
resembled those, whom he had seen in his 
former voyage on the north part of New Hol 
land ; and from this and other circumstances 
it was inferred, that New Holland from that 
point northward was not divided by any strait. 
Subsequent discoveries overthrew this conjec 
ture, and it has since been made known, that 
Van Diemen s Land is an island separated 
from New Holland by a passage, or strait, 
nearly one hundred miles broad, and contain 
ing many small islands. It is remarkable, that 
no resemblance has been discovered between 



62 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the language of the natives here and that 
spoken by the New Hollanders. 

On Van Diemen s Island are now some of 
the most flourishing settlements in the British 
dominions. The wilderness is disappearing be 
fore the strong arm of enterprise, and, under 
the hand of culture, the hills and valleys yield 
in abundance all the products common to sim 
ilar latitudes in the north. Emigrants from 
England annually flock to that country, invest 
their capital in lands, and engage in agricul 
tural pursuits. Towns have been built, and 
commerce established. Wheat, maize, wool, 
cattle, and other articles, are largely exported ; 
and there is hardly recorded in history an in 
stance of a new colony having increased so 
rapidly in numbers and wealth. The wild 
men, like our North American Indians, retreat 
and leave their native soil to a better destiny. 

When Cook had provided his ships with 
wood and water, they were unmoored, and 
their course directed to New Zealand, where 
they entered a cove in Queen Charlotte s 
Sound. Here they remained a month, which 
afforded time for observations, and for laying 
in such provisions as were found in the coun 
try. New Zealand consists of two islands, 
which are situate between parallels of latitude 
on the south of the equator, nearly correspond- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 63 

ing with those of the United States on the 
north, thus having a variable climate, and a 
soil suited to most of the productions of tem 
perate regions. In the character of the inhab 
itants are exhibited contrasts never perceived 
in any other people. They are cannibals, de 
vouring human victims with eagerness and de 
light, ferocious beyond example in their wars, 
deadly in their revenge, and insatiable in their 
thirst for the blood of their enemies ; yet they 
have many of the opposite traits, strong at 
tachment to friends, with a quick sensibility 
to their sufferings, and grief inconsolable at the 
death of a relative j nor are they devoid of 
generosity, or unsusceptible of the tender pas 
sion. 

Living as they do in a temperate climate, 
they are an athletic, hardy race of people, 
whose progress in refinement bears no propor 
tion to their natural powers of body and 
mind ; and thus, no proper balance being main 
tained, the contending elements of human na 
ture, the propensities, passions, and affections, 
shoot forth into the wildest extremes. How 
they should differ so entirely from their neigh 
bors, the New Hollanders, who are in nearly 
the same external condition, is a question 
upon which the curious may speculate, but 
will hardly come to a satisfactory conclusion. 



64 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Plausible reasons may, nevertheless, be ad 
duced to prove, that the New Zealanders and 
New Hollanders, notwithstanding their proxim 
ity, have originated from stocks widely remote. 
While the ships lay at anchor in Queen 
Charlotte s Sound, a singular love adventure 
occurred between a young English sailor and 
a New Zealand girl, the particulars of which 
are related in Led yard s journal, as they are 
also in Cook s Voyages, and which prove the 
softer sex among savages, even the daughters 
of cannibals, to be capable of deep affection 
and strong attachment. An intimacy was con 
tracted between a sailor and a native girl about 
fourteen years of age, which grew stronger 
from day to day, till, at length, all the time 
he could spare from his duties was devoted to 
her society. He furnished her with combs to 
decorate her hair, and with ornaments for her 
person ; and, to make himself more attractive 
in her eyes, he submitted to be tattooed ac 
cording to the custom of the country. His 
passion was reciprocated in the most ardent 
and artless manner by the maiden, Gowanna- 
hee, whom no conventional rules had taught 
to conceal the emotions of nature ; and, al 
though they understood not each other s lan 
guage, yet love whispered in accents, which 
they found no difficulty in comprehending. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 65 

Thus their days and hours flew rapidly 
away, till the time of separation approached. 
Gowannahee was much distressed when such 
an event was hinted at ; she would throw her 
arms around her lover s neck, and insist that 
he should not go ; and such were the allur 
ing arts she used, and such the willingness of 
the youth to be led by them, that he resolved 
to desert from the ship and remain behind. 
He contrived to remove his clothing and other 
effects on shore, and to escape by the strata 
gem of dressing himself in the costume of the 
natives and mingling in the crowd, just as or 
ders were given to sail, and the New Zea- 
landers were required to leave the ships. 
When the roll was called to ascertain if all 
hands were on board, his absence was discov 
ered. The cause was easily apprehended j and 
some of the officers were disposed to let such 
an instance of true love have its reward, and 
not to disturb the enamored sailor in his 
dreams of future felicity among the savages 
of New Zealand. The less sentimental Cook 
was not moved by these mild counsels ; he 
saw mischief in such a precedent, and he was 
inflexible ; a guard of marines was despatched 
to search for the truant, and bring him back 
to duty. 

He had proceeded to the interior and se- 
VOL. xiv. 5 



66 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

creted himself with his faithful Gowannahee, 
but his hiding-place was at last discovered. 
As soon as she perceived their intention to 
take him away, she was overwhelmed with 
anguish; and, at the parting scene on the 
beach, she yielded herself up to expressions 
of grief and despair, which the stoutest heart 
could not witness unmoved. The young sailor 
was examined and tried for his misdemean 
or ; but Cook was so much amused with the 
schemes he had devised for himself, and the 
picture he had drawn of his future prospects 
and greatness, as the husband of Gowannahee, 
and a chief of renown, that he forbore to ag 
gravate the pains of disappointed hope by any 
formal punishment. 

Recent observations have confirmed all that 
was said by Cook and his companions of the 
New Zealanders. English missionaries have 
for some years past been stationed among 
them, and possessed the means of becoming 
perfectly acquainted with their character and 
habits. They have witnessed their banquets 
of human flesh, their extremes of passion, their 
savage barbarity at one time, and their docile, 
affectionate temper and keen sensibility at an 
other. War is their highest delight, and, in 
pursuing an enemy, nothing of the human be 
ing seems left, except his reason maddened 



JOHN LEDYARD. 67 

with revenge, and making him adroit in the 
work of death. In several instances, boats and 
ships crews have been cut off and devoured 
by them. 

Yet these people are superstitious and full 
of religious fear, imagining themselves to be 
surrounded by invisible spirits, who have power 
over them, and who must be conciliated by 
prayers and ceremonies ; who control the ele 
ments, bring rain on the land, and rouse up 
the winds and waves at sea. The missionaries 
have known persons become so frantic, at the 
death of a near relation, as to commit suicide ; 
and it is a common thing for them to wound 
and mangle their bodies in a frightful manner 
on such occasions. When Mr. Marsden made 
his second missionary tour to these islands, 
after having been away two or three years, 
his old acquaintances burst into tears in talk 
ing of their friends, who had died during his 
absence. History does not acquaint us with 
more eminent examples of humanity and pious 
efforts, of resolution and self-denial, than are 
manifested in the missionaries, who have for 
saken even the common comforts of civilized 
life, and settled down with a determination to 
pass their days in this region of moral dark 
ness and human debasement. 

While Cook was at New Zealand, he was 



68 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

greatly assisted in his intercourse with the 
people by Omai, a native of the Society 
Islands, whom he had taken to England on 
a former voyage, and who was now returning 
to his country, loaded with presents from the 
king, and other persons whom curiosity had 
drawn around him in Great Britain. Although 
Omai had never before seen a New Zealander, 
yet the language so much resembled his own, 
that he could easily converse with the inhab 
itants. As he knew English, he thus became 
a ready interpreter. This was an advantage, 
which Cook had never been able to enjoy on 
any former occasion. 

The vessels weighed anchor and departed 
from dueen Charlotte s Sound, destined to 
Otaheite, or, as it is now called, Tahiti, the 
largest of the Society Islands, and about fif 
teen hundred miles distant from New Zealand. 
Head winds and boisterous weather forced 
them out of their course ; grass and water for 
the cattle, as well as fresh provisions for the 
men, began to fail; and it was thought best 
to bear away for the Friendly Islands, where 
a supply could be at once obtained. On this 
passage, they fell in with several islands never 
before discovered, but their shores were so 
closely bound with coral reefs as to prevent 
the approach of the ships. The natives came 



JOHN LEDYARD. 69 

off in canoes, and brought hogs and fruit, 
which they gave in exchange for articles of 
little value. 

A small party, consisting of Mr. Burney, 
three or four other officers, and Omai, landed 
on one of these islands, called Watteeoo, where 
they were immediately plundered of everything 
they had about them, and detained through 
the day. Great crowds gathered around, and 
annoyed them much, but no violence was of 
fered to their persons. Here Omai was aston 
ished to find three of his own countrymen. 
Their story was affecting. Several years be 
fore, they had set off in a large canoe, with a 
party of about twenty persons, men, women, 
and children, to pass from Otaheite to Ulietea, 
a neighboring island. A storm overtook them, 
and, after continuing three days, drove them so 
far out to sea, that they knew not where 
they were, nor what course to steer. Some 
of the women and children had perished in 
the storm, and others were so much exhausted 
as to survive no longer. The canoe was car 
ried along by the current from day to day ; 
water and provision failed ; some of the sur 
vivors died of hunger and fatigue j others, in 
the frenzy of despair, jumped overboard and 
were drowned ; and after thirteen days, when 
the canoe was discovered by the natives of 



70 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Watteeoo, it contained but four men, and these 
so much reduced by famine and suffering as 
to be unconscious of their situation, and scarce 
ly to be distinguished from the dead bodies, 
with which they were promiscuously lying, in 
the bottom of the boat. They were taken 
on shore, and by kind treatment they gradu 
ally recovered their consciousness and strength. 
One had since died, but the other three said 
they were happy in their adopted country, 
and declined Omai s invitation to return with 
him to their native islands, adding that their 
nearest relatives had perished before their eyes 
on the disastrous voyage, and it would only be 
renewing their grief to visit again the places 
in which they had formerly known them. 

The distance between Otaheite and Wat 
teeoo is more than fifteen hundred miles, and 
this voyage of a canoe affords an important 
fact in solving the great problem, which has 
so long perplexed geographers and speculating 
philosophers, as to the manner in which the 
innumerable clusters of islands in the Pacific 
Ocean have been peopled. We here have 
proof incontestable, that a communication be 
tween remote islands was possible, even by 
such means only as the natives themselves 
possessed. This single fact, in short, is enough 
to settle the question. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 71 

After touching at Anamoca, and remaining 
some days at the Happaee Islands, Cook came 
to anchor in a harbor of Tongataboo, on the 
9th of June. Here they stayed twenty-six days, 
collecting a great abundance of provisions, and 
living on social and friendly terms with the 
natives. This island is exceedingly fertile, 
covered with forests and luxuriant herbage. 
Agriculture and the arts of life were carried 
to a much greater extent here than at New 
Zealand, or indeed most of the South Sea 
Islands. The kind disposition of the people 
had given to Tongataboo, and the cluster of 
islands in its neighborhood, the name of the 
Friendly Islands. 

Later experience has proved, that they had 
a smaller claim to this distinction than was 
at first supposed. It is very probable, however, 
that their acquaintance with civilized men was 
the principal cause of their apparent change 
of character. They learnt new vices faster 
than they acquired a knowledge of their crim 
inality, or the moral power of resisting temp 
tation. Nowhere have the missionaries found 
their situation more uncomfortable, or their task 
more difficult, than at the Friendly Islands. 
When visited by Cook, the people were com 
paratively amiable, simple, and happy, addicted 
to the weaknesses, but not to the grosser 



72 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

crimes of the savage state ; accustomed to 
warlike enterprises, but not making them, as 
did the New Zealanders, the chief source of 
their pleasure, and the great business of their 
lives. On the contrary, they had amusements 
of an innocent kind, as well as curious reli 
gious ceremonies, which occupied much of 
their time, and were suited to a state of peace 
and tranquillity. These were often exhibited, 
and obviously as much with a desire to please 
their visitants, as to show off their skill to ad 
vantage, or promote their own gratification. 
The king, or great chief, whose name was 
Poulaho, treated Cook with marked respect, 
and caused all his people to do the same, as 
far as he could exercise his power to that end. 
Led yard describes in an agreeable manner the 
scenes, that came under his observation at 
Tongataboo. The day after landing, it was 
his duty to be on shore, and he passed the 
night with Poulaho, who had declined Cook s 
invitation to go with him on board. 

"It was just dusk," says Ledyard, "when 
they parted, and as I had been present during 
a part of this first interview, and was detained 
on shore, I was glad he did not go off, and 
asked him to my tent ; but Poulaho chose 
rather to have me go with him to his house, 
where we went and sat down together with- 



JOHNLEDYARD. 73 

out the entrance. We had been here but a 
few minutes, before one of the natives ad 
vanced through the grove to the skirts of the 
green, and there halted. Poulaho observed 
him, and told me he wanted him, upon which 
I beckoned to the Indian, and he came to us. 
When he approached Poulaho, he squatted 
down upon his hams, and put his forehead to 
the sole of Poulaho s foot, and then received 
some directions from him, and went away, and 
returned again very soon with some baked 
yams and fish rolled up in fresh plantain 
leaves, and deposited in a little basket made 
of palm leaves, and a large cocoanut shell full 
of clean fresh water, and a smaller one of salt 
water. These he set down, and went and 
brought a mess of the same kind, and set 
them down by me. Poulaho then desired I 
would eat ; but preferring salt, which I had 
in the tent, to the sea water which they used, 
I called one of the guard, and had some of 
that brought me to eat with my fish, which 
was really most delightfully dressed, and of 
which I ate very heartily. 

" Their animal and vegetable food is dressed 
in the same manner here, as at the southern 
and northern tropical islands throughout these 
seas, being all baked among hot stones laid in 
a hole, and covered over first with leaves and 



74 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

then with mould. Poulaho was fed by the 
chief who waited on him, both with victuals 
and drink. After he had finished, the re 
mains were carried away by the chief in wait 
ing, who returned soon after with two large 
separate rolls of cloth, and two little low 
wooden stools. The cloth was for a covering 
while asleep, and the stools to raise and rest 
the head on, as we do on a pillow. These 
were left within the house, or rather under the 
roof, one side being open. The floor within 
was composed of coarse dry grass, leaves, and 
flowers, over which were spread large well 
wrought mats. On this Poulaho and I re 
moved and sat down, while the chief un 
rolled and spread out the cloth ; after which 
he retired, and in a few minutes there ap 
peared a fine young girl, about seventeen years 
of age, who, approaching Poulaho, stooped and 
kissed his great toe, and then retired and sat 
down in an opposite part of the house. 

" It was now about nine o clock, and a 
bright moonshine j the sky was serene, and 
the winds hushed. Suddenly I heard a num 
ber of their flutes, beginning nearly at the 
same time, burst from every quarter of the 
surrounding grove ; and whether this was 
meant as an exhilarating serenade, or a sooth 
ing soporific to the great Poulaho, I cannot 



JOHNLEDYARD. 75 

tell. Immediately on hearing the music he 
took me by the hand, intimating that he was 
going to sleep, and showing me the other 
cloth, which was spread nearly beside him, 
and the pillow, invited me to use it." 

After describing the occupations of the na 
tives, their traffic, articles of trade, and some 
of their customs, he speaks of their amuse 
ments. 

" The markets being over, there were gen 
erally an hour or two, and those before dark, 
in which the natives, to entertain us and ex 
hibit their own accomplishments, used to form 
matches at wrestling, boxing, and other ath 
letic exercises, of which they were very vain, 
and in which they were by far the best ac 
complished of all the people we ever visited 
before or after. These exercises were always 
performed on the green within the circle, and 
among the Indian spectators there were a cer 
tain number of elderly men, who presided over 
and regulated the exercise. When one of the 
wrestlers, or combatants, was fairly excelled,, 
they signified it by a short sonorous sentence, 
which they sung, expressing that he was fall 
en, fairly fallen, or that he was fairly con 
quered, and that the victor kept the field. 
From this there was no appeal, nor indeed 
did they seem to want it, for among their 



76 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

roughest exercises I never saw any of them 
choleric, envious, malicious, or revengeful ; but 
preserving their tempers, or being less irascible 
than we generally are, they quit the stage with 
the same good nature with which they en 
tered it. 

"When they wrestle, they seize each other 
by a strong plaited girdle, made of the fibres 
of the cocoa-nut, and worn round the waist 
for that purpose ; and they describe nearly the 
same operations in this contest that we do in 
what we call hugging or scuffling. In boxing 
their manoeuvres are different. They had both 
hands clinched, and bound round separately 
with small cords, which perhaps was intended 
to prevent their clinching each other when 
closely engaged, thus preventing foul play ; or 
it might be to preserve the joints of the fin 
gers, and especially the thumb, from being dis 
located. Perhaps the best general idea I can 
convey of their attitudes in this exercise, is to 
compare them with those of the ancient glad 
iators of Rome, which they much resembled. 

" They are very expert and intrepid in these 
performances, but, as they are mere friendly 
efforts of skill and prowess, they continue no 
longer than till the purposes of such a con 
tention are answered ; and the combatant, as 
soon as he finds that he shall be conquered, 



JOHNLEDYARD. 77 

is seldom such an obstinate fool as to be beat 
out of his senses to be made sensible he is so, 
but retires most commonly with a whole skin. 
But the exercise of the club is not so, and as 
these contests are very severe, and even dan 
gerous, they are seldom performed. We never 
saw but one instance of it, but it was a most 
capital one, as the performers were capital char 
acters ; and though we expected the exhibition 
to be very short, yet it lasted nearly twenty 
minutes, protracted by the skill of the com 
batants in avoiding each other s blows, some 
of which were no less violent than artful. 
After being pretty well buffeted about the 
body, a fortuitous blow upon the head of one 
decided the matter, and the conquered was 
carried off, while the victor, elated with suc 
cess, stood and enjoyed the subsequent shouts 
of praise, that proceeded from the spectators. 
When these shouts ended, the young women 
round the circle rose, and sang, and danced a 
short kind of interlude in celebration of the 
hero." 

Not to be outdone by the monarch of the 
Friendly Isles in politeness and attempts to 
please, Cook got up a brilliant exhibition of 
fireworks, with which Poulaho and all his 
people were greatly astonished and delighted. 
The mathematical and astronomical instru- 



78 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

merits, which had been fitted up in tents on 
shore, were also matters of curiosity and won 
der. The natives were particularly amused, 
likewise, with the horses, cows, sheep, goats, 
and other animals, which Led yard said, on 
leaving the Cape of Good Hope, made the 
ships resemble Noah s ark. As dogs and hogs 
were the only animals found on the islands, 
and of course the only ones ever before seen 
by the inhabitants, they seemed completely 
puzzled to know what to make of these new 
orders of the creation. The sheep and goats 
they called birds j but the horses, cows, cats, 
and rabbits, were nondescripts for which no 
place had been assigned in their scientific ar 
rangement. 

Thus agreeably passed the days at Tonga- 
taboo ; the good natured people omitted noth 
ing, which was in their power, to gratify their 
visitors, whether by supplying them with the 
best provisions the islands afforded, or by 
amusing them with innocent pastimes. One 
thing only marred the harmony of their inter 
course. These simple and hospitable people, 
each and all, from the highest rank down 
wards, were incorrigible thieves ; that is, they 
made no scruple to take whatever they could 
lay their fingers upon, and appropriate it to 
their own use. This habit was prevalent 



JOHNLEDYARD. 79 

throughout all the South Sea Islands, but no 
where had the voyagers been so much an 
noyed by it, as at these islands of friendship. 

Cook resorted to summary and severe meas 
ures to teach the natives what he thought of 
this vice, and sometimes inflicted punishments 
little suited to the moral light of the people, 
whom he arraigned as transgressors. It does 
not appear that pilfering was deemed a crime, 
or a disreputable offence ; and indeed the his 
torian of Cook s Voyages declares, that " the 
inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, in their 
petty larcenies, were actuated by a childish 
disposition, rather than a thievish one." In 
this view of the subject, it can hardly be im 
agined that there was any natural right in the 
civilized visitors to inflict harsh punishment 
on their ignorant and kind entertainers ; on 
the contrary, it was cruel and unjust; it was 
the last way to gain friends, or to inspire the 
natives with a love of the moral code. 

Ledyard speaks with warmth of some ex 
amples of this kind, which came under his 
notice, but adds, alluding to Cook, " It must 
be remembered that the ability of performing 
the important errand before us, depended very 
much, if not entirely, upon the precarious sup 
plies we might procure from these and other 
such islands, and he must of consequence be 



80 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

very anxious and solicitous in this concern 
ment j but perhaps no consideration will ex 
cuse the severity, which he sometimes used 
towards the natives on these occasions ; and 
he would probably have done better to con 
sider, that the full exertion of extreme power 
is an argument of extreme weakness ; and na 
ture seemed to inform the insulted natives of 
the truth of this maxim, for, before we quitted 
Tongataboo, we could not go anywhere into 
the country upon business or pleasure without 
danger." 

One instance is related with more particu 
larity than others, as it occurred in high life, 
and was made a state concern. In Tongata 
boo was a chief called Feenou, a man of fine 
personal appearance, graceful and commanding 
in his carriage, frank in his disposition, gener 
ous, enterprising, and bold ; in short, he was 
the idol of the people, and throughout all the 
isles there was no chief whose renown was so 
loudly and heartily trumpeted as that of Fee 
nou. He was the man, whom the great Pou- 
laho delighted to honor above others. 

When the strangers came, Feenou was their 
early and devoted friend, and his attachment 
and kind offices held out to the last. " If 
they lost any goods, and these were carried 
either to the interior of Tongataboo, or to any 



JOHN LEDYARD. 81 

of the detached islands, their only confidential 
resource was Feenou j or if any other emer 
gency required despatch, policy, courage, or 
force, Feenou was the man to advise and act." 
Such were the character and deeds of this 
chief. He could subdue the hearts of men, 
and the strength of an enemy, but he could 
not conquer the tyranny of habit. From day 
to day he had gazed with inward raptures 
upon the gaudy plumage of the peacocks, 
which had been brought with much care and 
trouble from England ; their charms were ir 
resistible ; just as the vessels were about to 
sail the peacocks disappeared ; Feenou was 
also out of the way ; he had stolen the birds, 
and concealed himself with his booty. 

The affront was resented by Cook in an 
extraordinary manner ; he immediately ordered 
Poulaho, the king, to be arrested, and placed a 
guard over him in his own house, giving him 
to understand that he should be held a pris 
oner till the peacocks were restored. This 
was a novel mode of making a king answer 
able for the acts of his subjects. Much dis 
order ensued ; the chiefs felt the insult offered 
to their sovereign, and began to assume a war 
like attitude, and threaten the guard ; but 
Poulaho advised them to desist, and preserve 
peace till a reconciliation should be attempted ; 
VOL. xiv. 6 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and when Cook appeared, the king saluted 
him with dignity and respect, but with a man 
ifest sense of the injustice that was practised 
upon him. His coolness and counsel kept the 
people from offering violence to the guards, 
who surrounded him with fixed bayonets ; and 
the next day Feenou himself came forward, 
entreated for the release of the king, and as 
sured Cook that the birds should be returned 
to him before sunset. 

Thus the affair was happily terminated, 
leaving a much stronger proof of the firmness 
than of the prudence of the great navigator. 
The reconciliation was followed by magnifi 
cent presents of red feathers and provisions on 
the part of Feenou, and others equally valua 
ble from Cook. He gave Poulaho some of 
the domestic animals, which he had brought 
from England for the purpose of distributing 
them among the islands. All parties separated 
mutually satisfied with each other, and with as 
warm tokens of friendship from the natives as 
could be expected after the recent transactions. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 63 



CHAPTER IV. 

Society Islands. Otaheite. Language, Cus 
toms, Religion, Laws, and Government of the 
Natives. Sandwich Islands discovered. 
NootJca Sound. Cannibalism. Origin and 
Practice of Sacrifices. Bering s Strait. 
Cook sends Ledyard with two Indians in 
Search of a Russian Establishment. Returns 
to the Ships, and reports to Captain Cook. 
Sails to the Sandwich Islands. 

WE shall next join our navigators at the 
Society Islands, where they arrived on the 
14th of August. Many of the officers and 
seamen, who had been there on a former voy 
age, were recognized by the natives, and re 
ceived with great cordiality. The day of land 
ing at Otaheite was given up to festivity and 
mutual congratulations between old acquaint 
ances. 

The occurrences during their stay at these 
islands are related in a lively manner by Led 
yard. He describes the natural productions of 
the Society Islands ; the appearance and condi 
tion of the natives ; their food, clothing, and 
houses ; their language, customs, religion, laws, 
and government. From the minuteness with 



84 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which he speaks on most of these subjects, it 
is evident that the principal points in the es 
say mentioned by Mr. Burney were still fresh 
in his memory, and moreover that he was a 
close and inquisitive observer of everything, 
which came within his reach or knowledge. 

"The inhabitants," he remarks, "are of the 
largest size of Europeans ; the men are tall, 
strong, well limbed, and fairly shaped. The 
women of superior rank among them are also 
in general above our middle size, but those 
of the inferior rank are far below it ; some of 
them are quite small. Their complexion is a 
clear olive, or brunette, and the whole contour 
of the face quite handsome, except the nose, 
which is generally a little inclined to be flat. 
Their hair is black and coarse ; the men have 
beards, but pluck the greatest part of them 
out ; they are vigorous, easy, graceful, and lib 
eral in their deportment, and of a courteous, 
hospitable disposition, but shrewd and artful. 
The women cut their hair short, and the men 
wear theirs long. They have a custom of 
staining their bodies in a manner that is uni 
versal among all those islands, and is called 
by them tattooing. In doing this, they prick 
the skin with an instrument of small, sharp 
bones, which they dip, as occasion requires, into 
a black composition of coal dust and water, 



JOHNLEDYARD. 85 

which leaves an indelible stain. The opera 
tion is painful, and it is some days before the 
wound is well. 

" Their clothing consists of a cloth made 
of the inner rind of the bark of three differ 
ent kinds of trees, the Chinese paper mulberry, 
the bread-fruit tree, and a kind of wild fig 
tree, which, in the formation of different kinds 
of cloth, are differently disposed of by using 
one singly, or any two, or all of them together. 
The principal excellences of this cloth are its 
coolness and softness ; its defects are its being 
pervious to water and easily torn. They some 
times, especially if it is wet, wear fine mats, 
of which they have a great variety. 

" Their amusements are music, dancing, 
wrestling, and boxing, all which are like those 
of Tongataboo. 

"As to the religion, laws, and government 
of these people, much has been said about 
them by former voyagers ; and in truth too 
much, especially about their religion, which 
they are not fond of discovering, and there 
fore, when urged on the matter, they have 
often, rather than displease those who made 
the inquiry, told not only different accounts, 
but such as were utterly inconsistent with 
what we knew to be true from ocular demon 
stration. They assured us, for instance, that 



86 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

they never sacrificed human bodies, but an ac 
cident happened, that contradicted it, and gave 
us the full proof of it, the operation and 
design. 

" They believe in the immortality of the 
soul, at least its existence in a future state ; 
but how it exists, whether as a mere spiritual 
substance, or whether it is united again to a 
corporeal or material form, and what form, is 
uncertain. It is supposed they have notions 
of transmigration. Our conjectures originate 
from observing that universal, constant, and 
uniform regard, which they pay in a greater 
or less degree to every species of subordinate 
beings, even to the minutest insect, and the 
most insignificant reptile. This was never es 
teemed a philosophical sentiment, nor a mere 
dictate of nature, because the people who en 
tertain these notions are not led to embrace 
them by the unbiased impulses of nature, 
which would lead them to regard their own 
species more than any other. It must, there 
fore, be from other motives, and I know of 
none so probable as religion or superstition, 
which are indeed synonymous terms when ap 
plied to these people ; besides, it is well known 
to have been a religious sentiment among 
many other people, both ancient and modern, 
who have claimed the appellation of civilized. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 87 

It exists now among several Asiatic sects, both 
east and west of the Ganges, particularly 
among the Banians, who abstain from all ani 
mal food. It is well known, that some tribes 
in Asia have built hospitals for certain species 
of subordinate beings." 

The author s reasoning here about the doc* 
trine of transmigration is somewhat curious, 
but his inference that the natives believed in 
it, because they showed a regard for inferior 
animals, is at least questionable. He goes on 
to enforce his opinion, however, by remarking 
that they eat little animal food, and abstain 
from the flesh of some kinds of birds alto 
gether. In killing animals, also, they are care 
ful to inflict as little pain as possible ; they 
are extremely indulgent to rats, with which 
they are much infested, and rarely do them 
any harm ; when stung by flies or mosquitoes, 
they only frighten them away. This lenity 
towards animals, however commendable in 
those who practise it, will hardly prove their 
faith in the doctrine of transmigration, or that 
these savages refrained from crushing a fly or 
mosquito, because they apprehended a spirit, 
which had once animated a human form, had 
been doomed to an existence in one of these 
insects. 

It is a favorite theory of the author, at 



88 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which he hints on several occasions, that such 
habits and superstitions of a people, as are 
woven into their character and history, must 
have come down from some very remote time, 
and not have sprung out of casual or local 
circumstances, of which any knowledge exists. 
He says, " All the customs of mankind appear 
to be derivative and traditionary." How far 
he would carry back the tradition, he does 
not add ; but this doctrine of transmigration 
he traces to Asia, and supposes it to have 
found its way to the islands of the Pacific 
with the first settlers, who came from that 
quarter, and to have kept its place through all 
subsequent changes among the superstitions of 
their descendants. 

" Their notions of a Deity," he continues, 
" and the speculative parts of their religion, 
are involved, even among themselves, in mys 
tery, and perplexed with inconsistencies ; and 
their priests, who alone pretend to be informed 
of it, have, by their own industrious fabrica 
tions and the addition of its traditionary fables, 
shut themselves up in endless mazes of inex 
tricable labyrinths. None of them act alike in 
their ceremonies, and none of them narrate 
alike when inquired of concerning the matter; 
therefore, what they conceive respecting a God 
we cannot tell ; though we conclude, upon the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 89 

whole, that they worship one great Supreme, 
the Author and Governor of all things ; but 
there seems to be such a string of subordinate 
gods intervening between him and the least 
of those, and the characters of the whole so 
contrasting, whimsical, absurd, and ridiculous, 
that their mythology is very droll, and repre 
sents the best of the group no better than a 
harlequin. 

" The government of Otaheite resembles the 
early condition of every government, which, in 
an unimproved and unrefined state, is ever a 
kind of feudal system of subordination, secur 
ing licentious liberty to a few, and a depend 
ent servility to the rest." 

Having above spoken of Omai, the native 
of the Society Islands, whom Cook had taken 
with him to England on a former voyage, 
and who had received every possible advan 
tage for becoming acquainted with the habits, 
arts, and enjoyments of civilized life, the reader 
may be curious to know in what manner he 
demeaned himself when he returned to his 
native country, and what were the prospects 
of his being benefited by his acquisitions and 
experience. In this case, as in many others, 
it will be seen, that the attempt to enlighten 
the ignorance and change the character of the 
savage was unsuccessful. 



90 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

On landing at Otaheite, says Ledyard, " we 
had a number of visitors, among whom was a 
sister of Omai, who came to welcome her 
brother to his native country again ; but the 
behavior of Omai on that occasion was con 
sonant to his proud, empty, ambitious heart, 
and he refused at first to own her for his sis 
ter ; the reason of which was, her being a 
poor, obscure girl, and as he expected to be 
nothing but king, the connection would dis 
grace him." In a few days the vessels sailed 
over to Hueheine, the native island of Omai, 
at which he was finally to be left. Here a 
small house was built for him, in which his 
effects were deposited. About an acre of 
ground adjoining the house was purchased of 
the natives, surrounded with a ditch, and con 
verted into a garden, in which various Eu 
ropean seeds were planted. Several of the live 
animals, brought from England, were also put 
on shore, and left under his charge. 

" When ready to sail, Captain Cook made 
an entertainment on behalf of Omai at his 
little house, and in order to recommend him 
still further to the chiefs of the island, he in 
vited them also. Every body enjoyed him 
self but Omai, who became more dejected as 
the time of his taking leave of us for ever ap 
proached ; and when he came finally to bid 



JOHN LEDYARD. 91 

adieu, the scene was very affecting to the 
whole company. It is certainly to be regret 
ted, that Omai will never be of any service 
to his country by his travels, but perhaps will 
render his countrymen, and himself too, the 
more unhappy." 

The subsequent fate of Omai is not known ; 
but had his knowledge, his efforts, or his ex 
ample produced any valuable effects in his na 
tive island, the monuments of them would 
have been obvious to future voyagers. There 
has never been a more idle scheme of philan 
thropy, than that of converting a savage into 
a civilized man. No one attempt, it is be 
lieved, has ever been successful. Even Samp 
son Occum, before his death, relapsed into 
some of the worst habits of his tribe ; and no 
North American Indian of unmixed blood, 
whatever pains may have been taken with his 
education, has been known to adopt the man 
ners of civilized men, or to pass his life among 
them. 

The reason is sufficiently plain, without re 
sorting to natural instinct. In a civilized com 
munity, a man who has been a savage must 
always feel himself inferior to those around 
him ; this feeling will drive him to his native 
woods, where he can claim and maintain an 
equality with his associates. This is the uni- 



92 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

versal sentiment of nature, and none but a 
slave can be without it. When a man lives 
with savages, he will assume the habits of a 
savage, the light of education will be extin 
guished, and his mind and his moral sense 
will soon adapt themselves to his condition. 

The vessels at length departed from the 
Society Islands, and took a northerly course, 
with the intention of falling in with the coast 
of America, at about the fortieth degree of 
north latitude. After sailing six weeks, with 
out approaching any other land, than an unin 
habited island, consisting chiefly of a bed of 
coral rocks, and abounding in turtle of a fine 
quality, the mariners were greeted with a view 
of high land at a distance, which was not 
marked on the charts. It proved to be a new 
discovery, and was one of the group of islands, 
named afterwards by Cook the Sandwich 
Islands. A safe harbor was found and entered, 
in which the vessels were no sooner anchored, 
than they were surrounded by canoes filled 
with the natives, who regarded the new comers 
with inexpressible surprise, though not with 
apparent fear. 

A source of astonishment to the navigators 
was, that the people should speak a language 
differing but little from those of the Society 
Islands and New Zealand, which were distant, 



JOHNLEDYARD. 93 

the first nearly three thousand, and the other 
four thousand miles, with an ocean interven 
ing. The wide extent of the Polynesian dia 
lects was not then known. Although very 
shy at first, the natives were not long in sum 
moning courage to go on board. They looked 
with wonder upon the objects around them, 
examined the hands, faces, and clothes of the 
sailors, and inquired if they could eat. When 
satisfied on this head, by seeing them devour 
dry biscuit, the simple islanders were eager to 
show their hospitality, and presented them 
with pigs, yams, sweet potatoes, and plantains, 
thus verifying a declaration of Ledyard on 
another occasion, that "all uncivilized men 
are hospitable." A friendly intercourse was 
established, and provisions were given in bar 
ter for old iron, nails, and other articles of lit 
tle intrinsic value, but important to the natives. 
Cook remained ten days only at these islands, 
and then sailed for the American coast, in 
tending to visit them again on his return 
from the north in the following winter. It 
was now the 1st of February, and no time 
was to be lost in hastening his voyage to the 
northward, for his plan was to proceed along 
the American shore, and run through Bering s 
Strait, so as to explore the polar latitudes at 
the proper season. Without any remarkable 



94 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

accident or adventure he reached the conti 
nent, and anchored in Nootka Sound. This is 
an extraordinary bay, extending several leagues 
into the country, and completely land-locked. 
On the first night the ships were anchored in 
water nearly five hundred feet deep, and in 
other parts it was more than six hundred. A 
convenient harbor was found the next day. 
The bay is surrounded by lofty hills, and the 
shore is so bold, that the ships were secured 
by ropes fastened to trees. 

Our wanderer was now on his native con 
tinent, and although more than three thousand 
miles from the place of his birth, yet he could 
not resist the sensations kindled by the re 
membrance of home. All the deep emotions, 
says he, " incident to natural attachments and 
early prejudices, played around my heart, and 
I indulged them." The feeling was sponta 
neous and genuine. Ledyard saw in the in 
habitants, likewise, indications of an affinity 
between them and the Indians, whom he had 
visited in his native country. In all his trav 
els he manifests a remarkable acuteness in 
observing the human character in its vari 
ous gradations of improvement, and particularly 
in detecting resemblances between uncivilized 
people of different regions. Whether among 
the South Sea Islands, on the Northwest Coast 



JOHN LEDYARD. 95 

of America, in Kamtschatka, Siberia, or Egypt, 
remarks of this kind escape him continually. 
He seems to have had in his mind a scale 
upon which he graduated the nations of men, 
and which he studied so carefully, that he 
could assign to each its proper place. 

His observations were not restricted to one 
class of qualities or circumstances, but they 
extended to all that constitute individual and 
national peculiarities, to the intellect, physical 
characteristics, modes of living, dress, warlike 
implements, habitations, furniture, government, 
religion, social state, and domestic habits. Nor 
was he merely observing and inquisitive ; he 
was addicted to thought and reflection. His 
theories were raised on the basis of facts ; his 
results were sustained by reasons, satisfactory 
at least to himself. He was fond of pursuing 
analogies, especially in regard to the origin, 
customs, and characters of the various races 
of men and here the wide compass of his in 
quiries supplied him with so many materials 
not accessible to others, that he sometimes 
came to conclusions less obvious to those who 
follow him, than they were to his own mind. 
His description of the people of Nootka is 
here inserted. 

" I had no sooner beheld these Americans, 
than I set them down for the same kind of 



96 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

people, that inhabit the opposite side of the 
continent. They are rather above the middle 
stature, copper-colored, and of an athletic make. 
They have long black hair, which they gen 
erally wear in a club on the top of the head ; 
they fill it, when dressed, with oil, paint, and 
the down of birds. They also paint their faces 
with red, blue, and white colors, but from 
whence they had them, or how they were pre 
pared, they would not inform us, rior could we 
tell. Their clothing generally consists of skins, 
but they have two other sorts of garments ; the 
one is made of the inner rind of some sort of 
bark, twisted and united together like the woof 
of our coarse cloths ; the other very strongly 
resembles the New Zealand toga, and is also 
principally made with the hair of their dogs, 
which are mostly white and of the domestic 
kind. Upon this garment is displayed, very 
well executed, the manner of their catching 
the whale ; we saw nothing so well done by a 
savage in our travels. Their garments of all 
kinds are worn mantlewise, and the borders of 
them are fringed, or terminated with some par 
ticular kind of ornament. 

" Their richest skins, when converted to gar 
ments, are edged with a great curiosity. This is 
nothing less than the very species of wampum, 
so well known on the opposite side of the con- 



JOHNLEDYARD. 97 

tinent. It is identically the same ; and this 
wampum was not only found among all the 
aborigines we saw on this side of the conti 
nent, but even exists unmutilated on the op 
posite coasts of North Asia. We saw them 
make use of no coverings to their feet or legs, 
and it was seldom they covered their heads. 
When they did, it was with a kind of a bas 
ket covering, made after the manner and form 
of the Chinese and Chinese Tartars hats. 
Their language is very guttural, and if it were 
possible to reduce it to our orthography, it 
would very much abound with consonants. In 
their manners they resemble the other aborigi 
nes of North America. They are bold and fe 
rocious, sly and reserved, not easily provoked, 
but revengeful ; we saw no signs of religion 
or worship among them, and if they sacrifice, 
it is to the god of liberty." 

The fact here stated, respecting wampum, is 
curious, and confirms a remark of the author, 
that the diffusive power of commerce extended 
at that time throughout the whole continent 
of North America. " Nothing," says he, " can 
impede the progress of commerce among the 
uninformed part of mankind, but an interven 
tion of too remote a communication by water." 
Civilized nations may impose restrictions, or 
adopt regulations, under the name of protect- 

VOL. XIV. 7 



98 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ing laws, and thereby embarrass commerce ; but, 
when left free to move in its own channels, 
there is no obscure nook of human society, 
which it will not pervade. Ledyard discov 
ered, among the natives on the Northwest 
Coast, copper bracelets and knives, which could 
only have come to them across the continent 
from Hudson s Bay. Clapperton found articles 
of English manufacture in the heart of Africa; 
and the Russian embassy to Bukaria met with 
others from the same source in Central Asia. 
The wampum of the North American Indians 
has been an article of traffic, and probably 
passed as a kind of currency among all the 
tribes, from time immemorial. 

Ledyard s views of the commercial resources 
of Nootka Sound, and other parts of the North 
west Coast, must not be overlooked in this 
place, because they were the foundation of 
many important succeeding events of his life, 
in suggesting to him the benefits of a traffick 
ing voyage to that coast. It will be seen 
hereafter, that he was the first, whether in 
Europe or America, to propose such a voyage 
as a mercantile enterprise, and that he perse 
vered against numerous obstacles for several 
years, though with fruitless endeavors to ac 
complish his object. The furs, purchased of 
the natives for a mere trifle, were sold in 



JOHN LEDYARD. 99 

China at an enormous advance, which had not 
been anticipated, but which gave ample proof 
of the advantages of such a commerce, under 
taken upon a large scale. 

After enumerating some of the productions 
of the soil, he adds, " The light in which this 
country will appear most to advantage respects 
the variety of its animals, and the richness of 
their furs. They have foxes, sables, hares, mar 
mosets, ermines, weasels, bears, wolves, deer, 
rnoose, dogs, otters, beavers, and a species of 
weasel called the glutton. The skin of this 
animal was sold at Kamtschatka, a Russian 
factory on the Asiatic coast, for sixty rubles, 
which is near twelve guineas and had it been 
sold in China, it would have been worth thirty 
guineas. We purchased while here about fif 
teen hundred beaver, besides other skins, but 
took none but the best, having no thoughts at 
that time of using them to any other advan 
tage, than converting them to the purposes of 
clothing ; but it afterwards happened that skins, 
which did not cost the purchaser sixpence 
sterling, sold in China for one hundred dollars. 
Neither did we purchase a quarter part of the 
beaver and other fur skins we might have 
done, and most certainly should have done, had 
we known of meeting the opportunity of dis 
posing of them to such an astonishing profit." 



100 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

At Nootka Sound, and at the Sandwich 
Islands, Ledyard witnessed instances of canni 
balism. In both places he saw human flesh 
prepared for food, but on one occasion only at 
each ; for, he says, the sailors expressed such 
a horror at the sight, that the natives never 
ventured to repeat the act in their presence. 
In this part of his narrative he makes a di 
gression on sacrifices, which I shall quote, not 
so much for its originality, or the conclusive- 
ness of its reasoning, as to show his manner 
of considering the subject. His opinion is, that 
cannibalism, or the custom of eating human 
flesh, which has by no means been uncommon 
among savage tribes, had its origin in the cus 
tom of sacrificing human victims. There is 
good evidence, that other tribes of North Amer 
ican Indians, besides those at Nootka, have been 
cannibals, if they are not so even at the pres 
ent day. There was a time, when some phi 
lanthropists professed to doubt the existence of 
this habit, so shocking to humanity ; but the 
mass of testimony brought to light since Cook s 
first voyage is such, as to conquer the most 
obstinate reluctance to conviction. Let the 
skeptic look at New Zealand, and cease to 
doubt. 

" The custom of sacrificing is very ancient. 
The first instance we have of it is in the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 101 

lives of Cain and Abel. Their sacrifices con 
sisted in part of animal flesh, burnt upon an 
altar dedicated to God. This custom exists 
now among all the uncivilized and Jewish na 
tions, in the essential rites requisite to prove it 
analogous to the first institution. The only 
material change in the ceremony is, that the 
barbarous nations have added human flesh. 
Whether this additional ingredient in the obla 
tion took place at a remote subsequent period, 
by the antecedent intervention of any extraor 
dinary circumstance independent of the original 
form, does not appear, unless we place the sub 
sequent period below the time of Abraham, or 
perhaps below the time of Jephthah. 

" The circumstance of Abraham s intended 
sacrifice of Isaac, to which he was enjoined by 
the Deity, though he absolutely did not do it, 
yet was sufficient to introduce the idea that 
such a sacrifice was the most pleasing to God ; 
arid as it was an event very remarkable, it 
probably became an historical subject, and went 
abroad among other tribes, and was handed 
down among them by tradition, and liable to 
all the changes incident thereto ; and in time 
the story might have been, that Abraham not 
only offered, but really did sacrifice his own 
son. 

" But perhaps the story of Jephthah, judge of 



102 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Israel, is more to the point. It is. said, he sac 
rificed his daughter as a burnt-offering to the 
god who had been propitious to him in war ; 
which does appear to be an act independent 
of custom or tradition, as it was performed 
wholly from the obligations of a rash vow, 
made to the Deity in the fulness of a heart 
surcharged with hopes and fears. It is also a 
fact, that after this, particularly in the reign of 
the wicked Ahaz, it was a general custom, es 
pecially among the heathen, to make their chil 
dren * pass through the fire ; by which, I sup 
pose, it is understood that they were sacrificed 
with fire. 

" It seems, then, that the circumstance of 
adding human flesh in the ceremony of sacri 
ficing did take place in the years antecedent 
to Christ, and most probably from the example 
of Jephthah. After this we find it shifting 
places, attending the diffusive emigrations of the 
tribes, and commixing with mankind in general, 
but especially with those disunited from the 
chosen descendants of the great Abraham ; 
whose descendants, being constantly favored 
with civil and religious instructions from Heav 
en itself, were not only preserved from super 
stition and barbarity themselves, but were the 
means of furnishing the detached heathen with 
a variety of customs and ceremonies, that from 



JOHN LEDYARD. 103 

the mere light of nature they never could have 
thought of j nor could they preserve them pure 
and uncorrupt after they had adopted them. 

" Even the favored Israelites were perpetu 
ally deviating into schisms and cabals, and fre 
quently into downright idolatry, and all the van 
ity of superstition and unbridled nonsense, from 
the imbecility of human policy, when uninflu 
enced by heavenly wisdom and jurisprudence. 
No wonder, then, that the separate tribes from 
the house of Abraham, though they primarily 
received many of their principles of civil and 
religious government from a pure fountain, 
should debase and contaminate them by the 
spurious conjunction of things derived from 
their own imaginations. And this seems to 
have been the course of things to this day. 
There hath always been a part of mankind, 
conspicuous for knowledge, superior in wisdom, 
and favored by Heaven, from whom others are 
separated ; and these, like the moon, have only 
shone with borrowed light. 

" Some customs may be local and indigenous 
to particular times and circumstances, both in 
the civilized and uncivilized world, but far the 
greater part are derivative, and were originally 
bestowed on man by his supreme Governor ; 
those that we find among the civilized and 
wise, measured on a philosophic scale, are un- 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

corrupted, while those that we find existing in 
parts remote from civilization and knowledge, 
though they have a resemblance which plainly 
intimates from whence they came, are yet de 
based, mutilated, and by some hardly known. 
But who, that had seen a human body sacri 
ficed at Otaheite to their god of war, would 
not perceive an analogy to ancient custom on 
those occasions, and attribute it rather to such 
custom than to any other cause whatever ? 

" And the custom is not confined to Ota 
heite alone ; it pervades the islands throughout 
the Pacific Ocean. It was the case with the 
ancient Britons. The Mexicans depopulated 
society by this carnivorous species of sacrifice. 
This could not be the effect of accident, want, 
or caprice. It may be worthy of notice to re 
mark furthermore, that in the time of Ahaz, 
these sacrifices were made in high places. It 
was so in Mexico, and is so at Otaheite and 
other islands. The Mexicans flung their vic 
tims from the top of their temple, dedicated 
to their god of war. The Otaheitans and the 
other islanders prepare those oblations on their 
Morais." 

Captain Cook remained a few days only at 
Nootka Sound, and then sailed northward, coast 
ing along the American shore, and making va 
rious geographical discoveries, till he came to 



JOHN LEDYARD. 105 

Bering s Strait, which separates Asia from Amer 
ica. In passing through this strait, Ledyard 
says both continents were distinctly seen at the 
same time. Cook traversed the polar seas in 
the month of August, as far north as the ice 
would permit, in search of a northwest passage, 
but without success. As the season advanced, 
he returned to the south, intending to renew 
his attempts the next year. 

Few occurrences are recorded in the voyage 
back to the Sandwich Islands. There is one, 
however, which merits particular attention in 
this narrative, since our hero was the chief 
actor. The adventure is mentioned in Cook s 
Voyages, and by Captain Burney, as highly 
creditable to the enterprise and discretion of 
Ledyard. It happened at the Island of Ona- 
laska, on the Northwest Coast. Ledyard him 
self wrote a particular description of it, which 
hardly admits of abridgment, and which may 
best be given, therefore, in his own words. 

" I have before observed, that we had no 
ticed many appearances to the eastward of this, 
as far almost as Sandwich Sound, of a Eu 
ropean intercourse, and that we had at this 
island in particular met with circumstances, 
that did not only indicate such an intercourse, 
but seemed strongly to intimate, that some Eu 
ropeans were actually somewhere on the spot. 



106 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The appearances that led to these conjectures 
were such as these. We found among the in 
habitants of this island two different kinds of 
people ; the one we knew to be the aborigines 
of America, while we supposed the others to 
have come from the opposite coasts of Asia. 
There were two different dialects also observed, 
and we found them fond of tobacco, rum, and 
snuff. Tobacco we even found them possessed 
of, and we observed several blue linen shirts 
and drawers among them. 

" But the most remarkable circumstance was 
a cake of rye meal newly baked, with a piece 
of salmon in it, seasoned with pepper and salt, 
which was brought and presented to Cook by 
a comely young chief, attended by two of those 
Indians whom we supposed to be Asiatics. 
The chief seemed anxious to explain to Cook 
the meaning of the present, and the purport of 
his visit ; and he was so far successful as to 
persuade him, that there were some strangers 
in the country, who were white, and had come 
over the great waters in a vessel somewhat 
like ours, and though not so large, was yet 
much larger than theirs. 

" In consequence of this, Cook was deter 
mined to explore the island. It was difficult, 
however, to fix upon a plan, that would at 
once answer the purposes of safety and expe- 



JOHN LED YARD. 107 

dition. An armed body would proceed slowly, 
and if they should be cut off by the Indians, 
the loss in our present circumstances would be 
irreparable ; and a single person would entirely 
risk his life, though he would be much more 
expeditious if unmolested, and if he should be 
killed the loss would be only one. The latter 
seemed the best, but it was extremely hard to 
single out an individual, and command him to 
go upon such an expedition ; and it was there 
fore thought proper to send a volunteer, or 
none. 

" I was at this time, arid indeed ever after, 
an intimate friend of John Gore, first lieuten 
ant of the Resolution, a native of America as 
well as myself, and superior to me in com 
mand. He recommended me to Captain Cook 
to undertake the expedition, with which I im 
mediately acquiesced. Captain Cook assured 
me, that he was happy I had undertaken it, as 
he was convinced I should persevere ; and after 
giving me some instructions how to proceed, 
he wished me well, and desired I would not 
be longer absent than a week if possible, at 
the expiration of which he should expect me 
to return. If I did not return by that time, 
he should wait another week for me, and no 
longer. The young chief before mentioned, 
and his two attendants, were to be my guides. 



108 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

I took with me some presents adapted to the 
taste of the Indians, brandy in bottles, and 
bread, but no other provisions. I went entirely 
unarmed, by the advice of Captain Cook. 

" The first day we proceeded about fifteen 
miles into the interior part of the island, with 
out any remarkable occurrence, until we ap 
proached a village just before night. This 
village consisted of about thirty huts, some of 
them large and spacious, though not very high. 
The huts are composed of a kind of slight 
frame, erected over a square hole sunk about 
four feet into the ground ; the frame is covered 
at the bottom with turf, and upwards it is 
thatched with coarse grass ; the whole village 
was out to see us, and men, women, and chil 
dren crowded about me. I was conducted by 
the young chief, who was my guide, and 
seemed proud and assiduous to serve me, into 
one of the largest huts. 

" I was surprised at the behavior of the In 
dians, for though they were curious to see me, 
yet they did not express that extraordinary 
curiosity, that would be expected had they 
never seen a European before ; and I was glad 
to perceive it, as it was an evidence in favor 
of what I wished to find true, namely, that 
there were Europeans now among them. The 
women of the house, which were almost the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 109 

only ones I had seen at this island, were much 
more tolerable than I expected to find them ; 
one, in particular, seemed very busy to please 
me ; to her, therefore, I made several presents, 
with which she was extremely well pleased. 
As it was now dark, my young chief intimated 
to me, that we must tarry where we were that 
night, and proceed further the next day ; to 
which I very readily consented, being much 
fatigued. Our entertainment, the subsequent 
part of the evening, did not consist of delica 
cies or much variety j they had dried fish, and 
I had bread and spirits, of which we all par 
ticipated. Ceremony was not invited to the 
feast, and nature presided over the entertain 
ment. 

" At daylight Perpheela (which was the 
name of the young chief that was my guide) 
let me know, that he was ready to go on j 
upon which I flung oif the skins I had slept 
in, put on my shoes and outside vest, and arose 
to accompany him, repeating my presents to 
my friendly hosts. We had hitherto travelled 
in a northerly direction, but now went to the 
westward and southward. I was now so much 
relieved from the apprehension of any insult 
or injury from the Indians, that my journey 
would have been even agreeable, had I not 
been taken lame, with a swelling in the feet, 



110 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which rendered it extremely painful to walk ; 
the country was also rough and hilly, and the 
weather wet and cold. About three hours be 
fore dark we came to a large bay, which ap 
peared to be four leagues over. 

" Here my guide, Perpheela, took a canoe 
and all our baggage, and set off, seemingly to 
cross the bay. He appeared to leave me in 
an abrupt manner, and told me to follow the 
two attendants. This gave me some uneasi 
ness. I now followed Perpheela s two attend 
ants, keeping the bay in view ; but we had not 
gone above six miles before we saw a canoe 
approaching us from the opposite side of the 
bay, in which were two Indians. As soon as 
my guides saw the canoe, we ran to the shore 
from the hills and hailed them, and finding 
they did not hear us, we got some bushes and 
waved them in the air, which they saw, and 
stood directly for us. This canoe was sent 
by Perpheela to bring me across the bay, and 
shorten the distance of the journey. 

" It was beginning to be dark when the 
canoe came to us. It was a skin canoe, after 
the Esquimaux plan, with two holes to ac 
commodate two sitters. The Indians that came 
in the canoe talked a little with my two 
guides, and then came to me and desired I 
get into the canoe. This I did not 



JOHN LEDYARD. Ill 

very readily agree to, however, as there was 
no other place for me but to be thrust into 
the space between the holes, extended at 
length upon my back, and wholly excluded 
from seeing the way I went, or the power of 
extricating myself upon any emergency. But 
as there was no alternative, I submitted thus 
to be stowed away in bulk, and went head 
foremost very swift through the water about 
an hour, when I felt the canoe strike a 
beach, and afterwards lifted up and carried 
some distance, and then set down again ; after 
which I was drawn out by the shoulders by 
three or four men, for it was now so dark that 
I could not tell who they were, though I was 
conscious I heard a language that was new. 

" I was conducted by two of these persons, 
who appeared to be strangers, about forty rods, 
when I saw lights, and a number of huts like 
those I left in the morning. As we approached 
one of them, a door opened, and discovered a 
lamp, by which, to my joy and surprise, I dis 
covered that the two men, who held me by 
each arm, were Europeans, fair and comely, 
and concluded from their appearance they were 
Russians, which I soon after found to be true. 
As we entered the hut, which was particularly 
long, I saw, arranged on each side, on a plat 
form of plank, a number of Indians, who all 



112 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

bowed to me ; and as I advanced to the fur 
ther end of the hut, there were other Russians. 
When I reached the end of the room, I was 
seated on a bench covered with fur skins, and 
as I was much fatigued, wet, and cold, I had 
a change of garments brought me, consisting 
of a blue silk shirt and drawers, a fur cap, 
boots, and gown, all which I put on with the 
same cheerfulness they were presented with. 
Hospitality is a virtue peculiar to man, and 
the obligation is as great to receive as to 
confer. 

" As soon as I was rendered warm and com 
fortable, a table was set before me with a 
lamp upon it ; all the Russians in the house 
sat down round me, and the bottles of spirits, 
tobacco, snuff, and whatever Perpheela had, 
were brought and set upon it. These I pre 
sented to the company, intimating that they 
were presents from Commodore Cook, who 
was an Englishman. One of the company then 
gave me to understand, that all the white peo 
ple I saw there were subjects of the Empress 
Catharine of Russia, and rose and kissed my 
hand, the rest uncovering their heads. I then 
informed them, as well as I could, that Com 
modore Cook wanted to see some of them, 
and had sent me there to conduct them to 
our ships. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 113 

" These preliminaries over, we had supper, 
which consisted of boiled whale, halibut fried 
in oil, and broiled salmon. The latter I ate, 
and they gave me rye bread, but would eat 
none of it themselves. They were very fond 
of the rum, which they drank without any 
mixture or measure. I had a very comfortable 
bed composed of different fur skins, both under 
and over me, and being harassed the preceding 
day, I went soon to rest. After I had lain 
down, the Russians assembled the Indians in 
a very silent manner, and said prayers after 
the manner of the Greek Church, which is 
much like the Roman. 

" I could not but observe with what partic 
ular satisfaction the Indians performed their 
devoirs to God, through the medium of their 
little crucifixes, and with what pleasure they 
went through the multitude of ceremonies at 
tendant on that sort of worship. I think it a 
religion the best calculated in the world to 
gain proselytes, when the people are either un 
willing or unable to speculate, or when they 
cannot be made acquainted with the history 
and principles of Christianity without a formal 
education. 

" I had a very comfortable night s rest, and 
did not wake the next morning until late. As 
soon as I was up, I was conducted to a hut 
VOL. xiv. 8 



114 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

at a little distance from the one I had slept 
in, where I saw a number of platforms raised 
about three feet from the ground, and covered 
with dry coarse grass and some small green 
bushes. There were several of the Russians 
already here, besides those that conducted me, 
and several Indians, who were heating water 
in a large copper caldron over a furnace, the 
heat of which, and the steam which evapo 
rated from the hot water, rendered the hut, 
which was very tight, extremely hot and suf 
focating. 

" I soon understood this was a hot bath, of 
which I was asked to make use in a friendly 
manner. The apparatus being a little curious, 
I consented to it, but before I had finished 
undressing myself, I was overcome by the sud 
den change of the air, fainted away, and fell 
back on the platform I was sitting on. I was, 
however, soon relieved by having cold and 
lukewarm water administered to my face and 
different parts of my body. I finished undress 
ing, and proceeded as I saw the rest do, who 
were now all undressed. The Indians, who 
served us, brought us, as we sat or extended 
ourselves on the platforms, water of different 
temperatures, from that which was as hot as 
we could bear, to quite cold. The hot water 
was accompanied with some hard soap and a 



JOHN LEDYARD. 115 

flesh-brush ; it was not, however, thrown on 
the body from the dish, but sprinkled on with 
the green bushes. After this, the water made 
use of was less warm, and by several grada 
tions became at last quite cold, which con 
cluded the ceremony. 

" We again dressed and returned to our 
lodgings, where our breakfast was smoking on 
the table ; but the flavor of our feast, as well 
as its appearance, had nearly produced a re 
lapse in my spirits, and no doubt would, if I 
had not had recourse to some of the brandy 
I had brought, which happily saved me. I 
was a good deal uneasy, lest the cause of my 
discomposure should disoblige my friends, who 
meant to treat me in the best manner they 
could. I therefore attributed my illness to the 
bath, which might possibly have partly occa 
sioned it, for I am not very subject to faint 
ing. I could eat none of the breakfast, how 
ever, though far from wanting an appetite. It 
was mostly of whale, sea-horse, and bear, 
which, though smoked, dried, and boiled, pro 
duced a composition of smells very offensive 
at nine or ten in the morning. I therefore 
desired I might have a piece of smoked sal 
mon broiled dry, which I ate with some of 
my own biscuit. 

" After breakfast I intended to set off on 



116 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

my return to the ships, though there came on 
a disagreeable snow storm. But my new-found 
friends objected to it, and gave me to under 
stand, that I should go the next day, and. if 
I chose, three of them would accompany me. 
This I immediately agreed to, as it anticipated 
a favor I intended to ask them, thoueh I be- 

7 O 

fore much doubted whether they would com 
ply with it. I amused myself within doors, 
while it snowed without, by writing down a 
few words of the original languages of the 
American Indians, and of the Asiatics, who 
came over to this coast with these Russians 
from Kamtschatka. 

" In the afternoon the weather cleared up, 
and I went out to see how those Russian ad 
venturers were situated. I found the whole 
village to contain about thirty huts, all of 
which were built partly under ground, and 
covered with turf at the bottom, and coarse 
grass at the top. The only circumstance that 
can recommend them is their warmth, which 
is occasioned partly by their manner of con 
struction, and partly by a kind of oven, in 
which they constantly keep a fire night and 
day. They sleep on platforms built on each 
side of the hut, on which they have a num 
ber of bear and other skins, which render them 
comfortable ; and as they have been educated 



JOHN LEDYARD. 117 

in a hardy manner, they need little or no other 
support, than what they procure from the sea 
and from hunting. 

" The number of Russians were about thir 
ty, and they had with them about seventy 
Kamtschadales, or Indians from Kamtschatka. 
These, with some of the American Indians, 
whom they had entered into friendship with, 
occupied the village, enjoyed every benefit in 
common with the Russians, and were converts 
to their religion. Such other of the aborigi 
nes of the island, as had not become converts 
to their sentiments in religious and civil mat 
ters, were excluded from such privileges, and 
were prohibited from wearing certain arms. 

" I also found a small sloop of about thirty 
tons burden lying in a cove behind the vil 
lage, and a hut near her, containing her sails, 
cordage, and other sea equipage, and one old 
iron three pounder. It is natural to an ingen 
uous mind, when it enters a town, a house, or 
ship, that has been rendered famous by any 
particular event, to feel the full force of that 
pleasure, which results from gratifying a noble 
curiosity. I was no sooner informed, that this 
sloop was the same in which the famous Be 
ring had performed those discoveries, which 
did him so much honor, and his country such 
great service, than I was determined to go on 



118 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

board of her, arid indulge the generous feelings 
the occasion inspired. 

" I intimated my wishes to the man that 
accompanied me, who went back to the vil 
lage, and brought a canoe, in which we went 
on board, where I remained about an hour, 
and then returned. This little bark belonged 
to Kamtschatka, and came from thence with 
the Asiatics already mentioned to this island, 
which they call Onalaska, in order to estab 
lish a pelt and fur factory. They had been 
here about five years, and go over to Kamts 
chatka in her once a year to deliver their 
merchandise, and get a recruit of such supplies 
as they need from the chief factory there, of 
which I shall take further notice hereafter. 

" The next day I set off from this village. 
well satisfied with the happy issue of a tour, 
which was now as agreeable as it was at first 
undesirable. I was accompanied by three of 
the principal Russians, and some attendants. 
We embarked at the village in a large skin 
boat, much like our large whale-boats, rowing 
with twelve oars ; and as we struck directly 
across the bay, we shortened our distance sev 
eral miles, and the next day, passing the same 
village I had before been at, we arrived by 
sunset at the bay where the ships lay, and 
before dark I got on board with our new ac- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 119 

quaintances. The satisfaction this discovery 
gave Cook, and the honor that redounded to 
me, may be easily imagined, and the several 
conjectures respecting the appearance of a for 
eign intercourse were rectified and confirmed." 
Such other researches as could be pursued 
at that season having been made at Onalaska, 
and along the coast, Cook left the continent 
and shaped his course for the Sandwich Islands. 
Two months sailing brought him in view of 
one of the group, not discovered on his voy 
age to the north, called by the natives Owhy- 
hee, or Hawyhee, as Ledyard writes it, or Ha 
waii, according to the modern orthography of 
the missionaries. As our traveller is more mi 
nute in his description of the events that hap 
pened at this island, and particularly in his 
account of the death of Captain Cook, than 
most, narrators, and as he describes only what 
came within his own knowledge, it may be 
worth while to dwell a little upon these topics. 



120 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



CHAPTER Y. 

Cook arrives again at the Sandwich Islands. 
The Natives show Symptoms of Uneasiness. 
Cook departs, but is compelled by a Storm to 
return. Natives receive him coldly. Is at 
tacked and killed. Ledyard s Description of 
the Event. Expedition sails for Kamtschat- 
ka, and returns to England. Lcdyard s Opin 
ions respecting the first Peopling of the South 
Sea Islands. 

THE ships were several days among the 
islands, sailing in different directions, before a 
harbor was discovered in which they could 
anchor with safety, and where water and pro 
visions could be procured. At length they en 
tered a commodious bay on the south side of 
Owhyhee, extending inland about two miles 
and a half, having the town of Kearakekua 
on one side, and Kiverua on the other. These 
towns contained fourteen hundred houses. The 
crowds of people that flocked to the shore, as 
the vessels sailed in and came to anchor, were 
prodigious. They had assembled from the in 
terior and the coast. Three thousand canoes 
were counted in the bay, filled with men, 
women, and children, to the number of at 



JOHN LEDYARD. 121 

least fifteen thousand, besides others that were 
swimming and sustaining themselves on floats 
in the water. 

The scene was animated and grotesque in 
the extreme. "The beach, the surrounding 
rocks, the tops of houses, the branches of trees, 
and the adjacent hills were all covered ; and 
the shouts of joy and admiration, proceeding 
from the sonorous voices of the men, confused 
with the shriller exclamations of the women 
dancing and clapping their hands, the overset 
ting of canoes, cries of the children, goods 
afloat, and hogs that were brought to market 
squealing, formed one of the most curious pros 
pects that can be imagined/ But amidst this 
immense concourse, all was peace, harmony, 
hilarity, and good nature. Many of the natives 
were contented to gaze and wonder ; others, 
by their noise and actions, gave more imposing 
demonstrations of their joy and admiration ; 
while others were busy in bartering away 
hogs, sweet potatoes, and such provisions as 
they had, for articles that pleased their fancy. 

Cook s first visit to the shore was attended 
with a good deal of ceremony. Two chiefs, 
with long white poles as ensigns of their au 
thority, made a passage among the canoes for 
his pinnace, and the people, as he was rowed 
along, covered their faces with their hands. 



122 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

When he landed, they fell prostrate on the 
beach before him, and a new set of officers 
opened a way for him through the crowd. 
The same expressions of awe were manifested, 
as he proceeded from the water s edge. " The 
people upon the adjacent hills, upon the houses, 
on the stone walls, and in the tops of the 
trees, also hid their faces, while he passed 
along the opening ; but he had no sooner passed 
them, than they rose and followed him. But 
if Cook happened to turn his head, or look 
behind him, they were down again in an in 
stant, and up again as soon whenever his face 
was reverted to some other quarter. This 
punctilious performance of respect in so vast 
a throng, being regulated solely by the acci 
dental turn of one man s head, and the trans 
ition being sudden and short, rendered it very 
difficult even for an individual to be in proper 
attitude. If he lay prostrate but a second too 
long, he was pretty sure not to rise again 
until he had been trampled upon by all be 
hind him, and if he dared not to prostrate 
himself, he would stumble over those before 
him who did. This produced a great many 
laughable circumstances, and as Cook walked 
very fast, to get from the sand into the shades 
of the town, it rendered the matter still more 
difficult. At length, however, they adopted a 



JOHN LED YARD. 123 

medium, that much better answered a running 
compliment, and did not displease the chiefs ; 
this was to go upon all fours, which was truly 
ludicrous among at least ten thousand people/ 
This confusion ceased, however, before long, 
for Cook was conducted to the Moral, a sacred 
enclosure, which none but the chiefs and their 
attendants were allowed to enter. Here he 
was unmolested, and the presents were dis 
tributed. 

His first object was to procure a situation 
on shore to erect tents, and fit up the astro 
nomical instruments. A suitable spot was 
granted, on condition that none of the seamen 
should leave the place after sunset, and with 
a stipulation on the part of the chiefs, that 
none of their people should enter it by night. 
To make this effectual, the ground was marked 
out by white rods, and put under the restric 
tion of the tabu, which no native dared vio 
late, being restrained by the superstitious fear 
of offending the atuas, or invisible spirits of 
the island. This caution surprised Cook a lit 
tle, as he had not witnessed it among the na 
tives of the other South Sea Islands. It ap 
peared reasonable, and he consented to it, not 
foreseeing the mischiefs to which it would 
ultimately lead. Ledyard considers it the ori 
gin of all the disasters that followed. Restric- 



124 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tions were imposed, which could not be en 
forced ; they were violated secretly at first, 
then with less reserve, and at last openly. 

The men in the tents were the first to 
transgress, by going abroad contrary to the 
agreement. The native women were tempted 
by them to pass over the prescribed limits, 
although they shuddered at the apprehension 
of the consequences, which might follow such 
a disregard of the tabu. When they found, 
however, that no harm came upon them from 
the enraged atuas, their fears by degrees sub 
sided. This intercourse was not such as to 
raise the Europeans in the estimation of the 
islanders. It was begun by stealth, and pros 
ecuted in violation of the sacred injunction of 
the tabu; and as no measures were taken to 
prevent it, the chiefs naturally considered it an 
infraction of the agreement. Ledyard was him 
self stationed on shore with a guard of marines 
to protect the tents, and enjoyed the best op 
portunity for seeing and knowing what passed 
in that quarter. 

Harmony, and a good understanding among 
all parties, prevailed for several days. Cook 
went through the ceremony of being anointed 
with cocoanut oil by one of the chief priests, 
and of listening to a speech half an hour in 
length, on the occasion, from the same high 



JOHN LEDYARD. 125 

dignitary. When Teraiobu, the king, a feeble 
old man, returned from one of the other islands, 
where he had been on a visit, there was an 
other ceremony, conducted with great form, at 
his meeting with Cook. Entertainments suc 
ceeded, and good cheer and good humor were 
seen everywhere. Cook first invited Teraiobu 
and his chiefs on board to dinner. They 
were temperate, drinking water only, and eat 
ing but little. The old king satisfied him 
self entirely with bread-fruit and water, but 
the younger chiefs comprised in their repast 
the luxury of pork and fowls. They all went 
away well pleased, and the king invited Cook 
to dine with him the next day at his royal 
residence. The invitation was accepted; and 
when the hour came, the navigator and his 
officers were sumptuously feasted on baked 
hog and potatoes, neatly spread out on green 
plantain leaves, and for beverage they were 
supplied with cocoanut milk. The day was 
closed with gymnastic exercises, wrestling and 
boxing, ordered by the old king for the amuse 
ment of his guests. 

On the next evening, Cook in his turn ex 
hibited fireworks on shore, much to the amaze 
ment of the beholders, who had never before 
seen such a display. Many laughable inci 
dents occurred. When the first sky-rocket was 



126 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

discharged, the multitude was seized with the 
greatest consternation. Cook and his officers 
" could hardly hold the old feeble Teraiobu, 
and some elderly ladies of quality that sat 
among them ; and before they had recovered 
from this paroxysm, nearly the whole host, that 
a moment before surrounded them, had fled." 
Some were too much frightened to return any 
more, but others came back as their fears 
abated, and had the courage to keep their 
ground through the remainder of the exhibi 
tion. 

Thus all things were proceeding, as Ledyard 
expresses it, "in the old Otaheite style;" the 
visitors and the islanders were mutually pleased 
with each other, kind offices were reciprocated, 
abundant stores of provisions were carried on 
board, and prospects were favorable. 

While affairs were in this train, Ledyard 
formed the design of ascending the high peak, 
which rises from the centre of the island, and 
is called by the natives Mouna Roa. Although 
this mountain stands on an island only ninety 
miles in diameter, yet it is one of the highest 
in the world. Its elevation has been estimated 
to be about eighteen thousand feet, and its 
summit is usually covered with snow. From 
his station at the tents, Ledyard sent a note 
on board the Resolution to Captain Cook, ask- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 127 

ing permission to make this jaunt, for the 
double purpose of exploring the interior, and, 
if possible, climbing to the top of the moun 
tain. The request was granted. The botanist, 
and the gunner of the Resolution, were deputed 
by the commander to accompany him. Na 
tives were also engaged to carry the baggage, 
and serve as guides through the woods. A 
tropical sun was then pouring its rays on 
them at the Bay of Kearakekua, but the snows 
visible on the peak of Mouna Roa warned 
them to provide additional clothing, and guard 
against the effects of a sudden transition from 
heat to cold. The party at length set off. 
On first leaving the town, their route lay 
through enclosed plantations of sweet potatoes, 
with a soil of lava, tilled in some places with 
difficulty. Now and then a patch of sugar 
cane was seen in a moist place. Next came 
the open plantations, consisting chiefly of bread 
fruit trees, and the land began to ascend more 
abruptly. 

" We continued up the ascent," he writes, 
" to the distance of a mile and a half further, 
and found the land thick covered with wild 
fern, among which our botanist found a new 
species. It was now near sunset, and being 
upon the skirts of these woods, that so remark 
ably surrounded this island at a uniform dis- 



128 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tance of four or five miles from the shore, we 
concluded to halt, especially as there was a hut 
hard by, that would afford us a better retreat 
during the night, than what we might expect 
if we proceeded. When we reached the hut, 
we found it inhabited by an elderly man, his 
wife, and daughter, the emblem of innocent, 
uninstructed beauty. They were somewhat 
discomposed at our appearance and equipment, 
and would have left their house through fear, 
had not the Indians, who accompanied us, per 
suaded them otherwise, and at last reconciled 
them to us. We sat down together before the 
door, and from the height of the situation we 
had a complete retrospective view of our route, 
of the town, of part of the bay, and one of 
our ships, besides an extensive prospect on the 
ocean, and a distant view of three of the 
neighboring islands. 

u As we had proposed remaining at this hut 
through the night, and were willing to pre 
serve what provisions we had ready dressed, 
we purchased a little pig, and had him dressed 
by our host, who, finding his account in his 
visitants, bestirred himself and soon had it 
ready. After supper we had some of our bran 
dy diluted with the mountain water ; and we 
had so long been confined to the poor brack 
ish water at the bay below, that it was a kind 



JOHN LEDYARD. 129 

*i icctar to us. As soon as the sun was set, 
we found a considerable difference in the state 
of the air. At night a heavy dew fell, and we 
felt it very chilly, and had recourse to our 
blankets, notwithstanding we were in the hut. 
" The next morning, when we came to en 
ter the woods, we found there had been a 
heavy rain, though none of it had approached 
us, notwithstanding we were within two hun 
dred yards of the skirts of the forest. And it 
seemed to be a matter of fact, both from the 
information of the natives and our own obser 
vations, that neither the rains nor the dews 
descended lower than where the woods termi 
nated, unless at the equinoxes or some period 
ical conjuncture, by which means the space 
between the woods and the shore is rendered 
warm, and fit for the purposes of culture, and 
the vegetation of tropical productions. We 
traversed these woods by a compass, keeping 
a direct course for the peak, and were so happy 
the first day as to find a footpath that tended 
nearly our due course, by which means we 
travelled by estimation about fifteen miles; and 
though it would have been no extraordinary 
march, had circumstances been different, yet, 
as we found them, we thought it a very great 
one ; for it was not only excessively miry and 
rough, but the way was mostly an ascent, and 

VOL. XIV. 9 



130 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

we had been unused to walking, and especial 
ly to carrying such loads as we had. Our 
Indian companions were much more fatigued 
than we were, though they had nothing to 
carry, and, what displeased us very much, would 
not carry anything. 

" Our botanical researches delayed us some 
what. The sun had not set when we halted ; 
yet, meeting with a situation that pleased us, 
and not being limited as to time, we spent 
the remaining part of the day as humor dic 
tated, some in botanizing, and those who had 
fowling-pieces with them in shooting. For my 
part, I could not but think the present appear 
ance of our encampment claimed a part of our 
attention, and therefore set about some altera 
tions and amendments. It was the trunk of 
a tree, that had fallen by the side of the 
path, and lay with one end transversely over 
another tree, that had fallen before in an op 
posite direction, and as it measured twenty- 
two feet in circumference, and lay four feet 
from the ground, it afforded very good shelter 
except at the sides, which defect I supplied 
by large pieces of bark, and a good quantity 
of boughs, which rendered it very commodious. 
We slept through the night under it much 
better than we had done the preceding, not 
withstanding there was a heavy dew, and the 
air cold. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 131 

" The next morning we set otit in good 
spirits, hoping that day to reach the snowy 
peak ; but we had not gone a mile, before the 
path, that had hitherto so much facilitated our 
progress, began not only to take a direction 
southward of west, but had been so little fre 
quented as to be almost effaced. In this sit 
uation we consulted our Indian convoy, but to 
no purpose. We then advised among our 
selves, and at length concluded to proceed by 
the nearest route without any beaten track, 

and went in this manner about four miles fur- 

t 

ther, finding the way even more steep and 
rough than we had yet experienced, but, above 
all. impeded by such impenetrable thickets as 
rendered it impossible for us to proceed any 
further. We therefore abandoned our design, 
and returning in our own track, reached the 
retreat we had improved the last night, hav 
ing been the whole day in walking only about 
ten miles ; and we had been very assiduous 
too. 

11 We found the country here, as well as at 
the sea-shore, universally overspread with lava, 
and also saw several subterranean excavations, 
that had every appearance of past eruption 
and fire. Our botanist to-day met with great 
success, and we had also shot a number of fine 
birds of the liveliest and most variegated plu- 



132 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

mage that any of us had ever met with ; but 
we heard no melody among them. Except 
these, we saw no other kind of birds but the 
screech-owl ; neither did we see any kind of 
quadruped ; but we caught several curious in 
sects. The woods here are thick and luxu 
riant, the largest trees being nearly thirty feet 
in the girth, and these with the shrubbery un 
derneath, and the whole intersected with vines, 
render it very umbrageous. 

" The next day, about two in the afternoon, 
we cleared the woods by our old route, and 
by six o clock reached the tents, having pen 
etrated about twenty-four miles, and, we sup 
posed, within eleven of the peak. Our Indians 
were extremely fatigued, though they had no 
baggage."* 

Were we to follow the author closely in 
his narrative, we should here introduce his de 
scription of the Island of Hawaii, and of the 
various objects that attracted his notice. He 
speaks of the geological structure of the island, 
its soil, productions, climate, and animals ; the 

* This mountain was never ascended to the top, till re 
cently. Mr. Goodrich, one of* the American missionaries 
on the island, was the first person who persevered in reach 
ing the summit He ascended on a side of the moun 
tain nearly opposite to that where Ledyard made the 
attempt 



JOHN LEDYARD. 133 

customs of the natives, their superstitions, gov 
ernment, and criminal offences ; their way of 
living, and the remarkable differences between 
them and the other islanders of the South Sea. 
On some of these topics his remarks are ori 
ginal and striking ; but we must pass over them, 
and hasten to particulars of higher interest. 

Before two weeks had expired, the natives 
began to show symptoms of uneasiness at the 
presence of the foreigners, and to treat them 
with diminished respect. In truth, very little 
pains were taken to preserve their good opin 
ion, or to keep alive their kind feelings ; and 
one untoward event after another was perpet 
ually occurring, to lessen the admiration which 
novelty had excited, and to alienate them from 
their newly made friends. Ledyard mentions 
several incidents of this description, which are 
not alluded to in the authorized account of 
Cook s last voyage. Some of them, probably, 
were not known to the writer, and others were 
omitted from motives of policy, as being rather 
evidences of neglect or injudicious manage 
ment, than of cautious or discreet measures. 
The natives first began to practise slight in 
sults, which seemed to proceed rather from a 
mischievous, than a malignant temper. 

The master s mate was ordered to take on 
board the rudder of the Resolution, which had 



134 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

been sent ashore for repairs. It was too heavy 
for his men to remove, and he asked the na 
tives to assist them. Fifty or sixty immedi 
ately caught hold of the rope attached to the 
rudder, and began to pull. But whether in 
sport, or by design, they caused only embar 
rassment and disorder. u This exasperated the 
mate, and he struck two or three of them, 
which being observed by a chief that was 
present, he interposed. The mate haughtily 
told the chief to order his people to assist 
him, and the chief as well as the people, hav 
ing no intention but of showing their disregard 
and scorn, which had long been growing to 
wards us, laughed at him, hooted him, and 
threw stones at him and the crew, who, taking 
up some trunnels that were lying by, fell upon 
the Indians, beat many of them much, and 
drove the rest several rods back ; but the 
crowd, collecting at a little distance, formed, 
and began to use abusive language, challenge 
our people, and throw stones, some of which 
came into our encampment." Ledyard s guard 
of marines was ordered out, " at least to make 
a show of resentment," and the commanding 
officer at the tents went out himself to quell 
the disturbance ; but they were all pelted with 
stones, and retired, leaving the field to the na 
tives till night, when the rudder was taken 
on board 



JOHN LEDYARD. 135 

" Instances of this kind, though of less ap 
parent importance, had happened several times 
before this on shore ; but on board hardly a 
day passed, after the first week, that did not 
produce some petty disturbance in one or both 
of the ships, and they chiefly proceeded from 
thefts perpetrated by the natives in a manner 
little short of robbery. Cook and Teraiobu 
were fully employed in adjusting and com 
promising these differences ; and as there was 
really a reciprocal disinterested regard between 
him and this good old man, it tended much 
to facilitate these amicable negotiations. But 
in the midst of these measures, Cook was in 
sensible of the daily decline of his greatness 
and importance in the estimation of the na 
tives ; nay, so confident was he, and so secure 
in the opposite opinion, that on the 4th of 
February he came to Kearakekua, with his 
boats, to purchase and carry off the fence round 
the Morai, which he wanted to wood the ships 
with. When he landed, he sent for the priest 
Kikinny, and some other chiefs, and offered 
them two iron hatchets for the fence. The 
chiefs were astonished, not only at the inade 
quate price, but at the proposal, and refused 
him. 

" Cook was as much chagrined as they were 
surprised, and, not meeting with the easy ao 



136 AMERICAN BIOG11APHY. 

quiescence he expected to his requisitions, gave 
immediate orders to his people to ascend the 
Morai, break down the fence, and load the 
boats with it, leading the way himself to en 
force his orders. The poor, dismayed chiefs, 
dreading his displeasure, which they saw ap 
proaching, followed him upon the Morai to 
behold the fence that enclosed the mansions 
of their noble ancestors, and the images of 
their gods, torn to pieces by a handful of rude 
strangers, without the power, or at least with 
out the resolution, of opposing their sacrilegious 
depredations. 

" When Cook had ascended the Morai. he 
once more offered the hatchets to the chiefs. 
It was a very unequal price, if the honest 
chiefs would have accepted of the bribe ; and 
Cook offered it only to evade the imputation 
of taking their property without payment. 
The chiefs again refused it. Cook then added 
another hatchet, and, kindling into resentment, 
told them to take it or nothing. Kikinny, to 
whom the offer was made, turned pale, and 
trembled as he stood, but still refused. Cook 
thrust them into his garment, that was folded 
round him, and left him immediately, to hasten 
the execution of his orders. As for Kikinny, 
he turned to some of his menials, and made 
them take the hachets out of his garment, not 



JOHN LEDYARD. 137 

touching them himself. By this time a con 
siderable concourse of the natives had assem 
bled under the walls of the Morai, where we 
were throwing the wood down, and were very 
outrageous, and even threw the wood and im 
ages back as we threw them down ; and I 
cannot think what prevented them from pro 
ceeding to greater lengths. However, it so 
happened that we got the whole into the boats, 
and safely on board." 

This story is told differently by Captain 
King, who wrote that part of Cook s Third 
Voyage, which relates to the Sandwich Islands. 
As he represents it, no objection was made to 
the proposal for taking away the enclosure of 
wood, that surrounded the Morai, and even the 
images were tumbled down and carried off, 
under the eyes of the priests, without any re 
sistance or disapprobation on their part. This 
would seem improbable. The Morai was the 
depository of the dead, a place where the im 
ages of the gods were kept and solemn cere 
monies performed. It is not easy to reconcile 
the two accounts, but Ledyard was employed 
with others in removing the fence, and he 
manifestly describes what he saw. He may 
not have been so well acquainted with the 
manner and conditions of the purchase as Cap 
tain King, yet in the detail of occurrences in 



138 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which he was engaged, and their effects on 
the people around him, it is hardly possible 
that he should have been mistaken. Again, 
he writes, 

" On the evening of the 5th we struck our 
tents, and everything was taken on board, and 
it was manifestly much to the satisfaction of 
the natives. A little after dark, an old house, 
that stood on a corner of the Morai, took fire 
and burnt down ; this we supposed was occa 
sioned by our people s carelessly leaving their 
fire near it j but this was not the case. The 
natives burnt it themselves, to show us the 
resentment they entertained towards us, on ac 
count of our using it without their consent, 
and indeed manifestly against it. We had 
made a sail-loft of one part of it, and a hos 
pital for our sick of the other, though it evi 
dently was esteemed by the natives as holy as 
the rest of the Morai, and ought to have been 
considered so by us." 

They had now been nineteen days in Keara- 
kekua Bay ; the ships had been repaired, the 
seamen recruited after their long toils, provis 
ions for several months laid in, and nothing 
more was wanting, to enable them to go again 
to sea, but a supply of water. This was not 
to be had at Kearakekua, except of a brackish 
quality, and it was resolved to search for it 



JOHN LED YARD. 139 

on some of the other islands. For this object 
the vessels were unmoored, and sailed out of 
the harbor. No sooner had they got to sea, 
than a violent gale came on, which lasted three 
days, and injured so seriously the Resolution s 
foremast, that Cook was compelled to return 
speedily to his old anchorage ground and make 
repairs. Our voyager is so circumstantial in 
his account from this point, till the tragical 
death of Captain Cook that I shall not mar 
his narrative by curtailing it. The only thing 
necessary to be premised is, that he was one 
of the small party, who landed with the un 
fortunate navigator on the morning of his 
death, and was near him during the fatal con 
test, although this does not appear from his 
own statement. 

" Our return to this bay was as disagreeable 
to us, as it was to the inhabitants, for we 
were reciprocally tired of each other. They 
had been oppressed, and were weary of our 
prostituted alliance, and we were aggrieved by 
the consideration of wanting the provisions 
and refreshments of the country, which we 
had every reason to suppose, from their be 
havior antecedent to our departure, would now 
be withheld from us, or brought in such small 
quantities as to be worse than none. What 
we anticipated was true. When we entered 



140 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHT. 

the bay, where before we had the shouts of 
thousands to welcome our arrival, we had the 
mortification not to see a single canoe, and 
hardly any inhabitants in the towns. Cook 
was chagrined, and his people were soured. 

" Towards night, however, the canoes came 
in, but the provisions, both in quantity and 
quality, plainly informed us that times were 
altered ; and what was very remarkable was, 
the exorbitant price they asked, and the par 
ticular fancy they all at once took to iron dag 
gers or dirks, which were the only articles 
that were any ways current, with the chiefs 
at least. It was also equally evident from the 
looks of the natives, as well as every other 
appearance, that our former friendship was at 
an end, and that we had nothing to do but to 
hasten our departure to some different island, 
where our vices were not known, and where 
our extrinsic virtues might gain us another 
short space of being wondered at, and doing 
as we pleased, or, as our tars expressed it, of 
being happy by the month. 

" Nor was their passive appearance of dis 
gust all we had to fear, nor did it continue 
long. Before dark a canoe with a number of 
armed chiefs came alongside of us without 
provisions, and indeed without any perceptible 
design. After staying a short time only, they 



JOHN LEDYARD. 141 

went to the Discovery, where a part of them 
went on board. Here they affected great 
friendship, and unfortunately overacting it, 
Clerke was suspicious, and ordered two senti 
nels on the gangways. These men were pur 
posely sent by the chief, who had formerly 
been so very intimate with Clerke, and after 
wards so ill treated by him, with the charge 
of stealing his jolly-boat. They came with a 
determination of mischief, and effected it. 

" After they were all returned to the canoe 
but one, they got their paddles and everything 
ready for a start. Those in the canoes, ob 
serving the sentry to be watchful, took off his 
attention by some conversation, that they knew 
would be pleasing to him, and by this means 
favored the designs of the man on board, who, 
watching his opportunity, snatched two pairs of 
tongs, and other iron tools that then lay close 
by the armorers at work at the forge, and 
.mounting the gangway-rail, with one leap 
threw himself and his goods into the canoe, 
that was then upon the move, and, taking up 
his paddle, joined the others ; and standing di 
rectly for the shore, they were out of our reach 
almost instantaneously, even before a musket 
could be had from the arms-chest to fire at 
them. The sentries had only hangers. 

" This was the boldest exploit that had yet 



142 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

been attempted, and had a bad aspect. Clerke 
immediately sent to the Commodore, who ad 
vised him to send a boat on shore to endeavor 
at least to regain the goods, if they could not 
the men who took them ; but the errand was 
as ill executed as contrived, and the master of 
the Discovery was glad to return with a severe 
drubbing from the very chief, who had been 
so maltreated by Clerke. The crew were also 
pelted with stones, and had all their oars 
broken, and they had not a single weapon in 
the boat, not even a cutlass, to defend them 
selves. When Cook heard of this, he went 
armed himself in person to the guard on shore, 
took a file of marines, and went through the 
whole town demanding restitution, and threat 
ening the delinquents arid their abettors with 
the severest punishments ; but not being able 
to effect anything, he came off just at sunset, 
highly displeased, and not a little concerned at 
the bad appearance of things. But even this 
was nothing to what followed. 

" On the 13th, at night, the Discovery s large 
cutter, which was at her usual moorings at the 
bower buoy, was taken away. On the 14th, 
the captains met to consult what should be 
done on this alarming occasion ; and the issue 
of their opinions was, that one of the two cap 
tains should land with armed boats and a guard 



JOHN LEDYARD. 143 

of marines at Kiverua, and attempt to persuade 
Teraiobu, who was then at his house in that 
town, to come on board upon a visit, and that, 
when he was on board, he should be kept 
prisoner, until his subjects should release him 
by a restitution of the cutter ; and if it was 
afterwards thought proper, he, or some of the 
family who might accompany him, should be 
kept as perpetual hostages for the good be 
havior of the people, during the remaining part 
of our continuance at Kearakekua. 

" This plan was the more approved of by 
Cook, as he had so repeatedly, on former occa 
sions to the southward, employed it with suc 
cess. Clerke was then in a deep decline of 
his health, and too feeble to undertake the 
affair, though it naturally devolved upon him, 
as a point of duty not well transferable ; he 
therefore begged Cook to oblige him so much, 
as to take that part of the business of the 
day upon himself, in his stead. This Cook 
agreed to, but. previous to his landing, made 
some additional arrangements, respecting the 
possible event of things, though it is certain, 
from the appearance of the subsequent ar 
rangements, that he guarded more against the 
flight of Teraiobu, or those he could wish to 
see, than from an attack, or even much insult. 

" The disposition of our guards, when the 



144 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

movements began, was thus. Cook, in his pin 
nace, with six private marines, a corporal, ser 
geant, and two lieutenants of marines, went 
ahead, followed by the launch with other ma 
rines and seamen on one quarter, and the 
small cutter on the other, with only the crew 
on board. This part of the guard rowed for 
Kearakekua. Our large cutter and two boats 
from the Discovery had orders to proceed to 
the mouth of the bay, form at equal distances 
across, and prevent any communication by wa 
ter from any other part of the island to the 
towns within the bay, or from those without. 
Cook landed at Kiverua about nine o clock in 
the morning, with the marines in the pinnace, 
and went by a circuitous march to the house 
of Teraiobu, in order to evade the suspicion 
of any design. This route led through a con 
siderable part of the town, which discovered 
every symptom of mischief, though Cook, 
blinded by some fatal cause, could not per 
ceive it, or, too self-confident, would not re 
gard it. 

" The town was evacuated by the women 
and children, who had retired to the circum 
jacent hills, and appeared almost destitute of 
men ; but there were at that time two hun 
dred chiefs, and more than twice that number 
of other men, detached and secreted in differ- 



JOHNLEDYARD. 145 

ent parts of the houses nearest to Teraiobu, 
exclusive of unknown numbers without the 
skirts of the town ; and those that were seen 
were dressed, many of them, in black. When 
the guard reached Teraiobu s house, Cook or 
dered the lieutenant of marines to go in and 
see if he was at home, and if he was, to bring 
him out. The lieutenant went in, and found 
the old man sitting with two or three old 
women of distinction ; and, when he gave Te 
raiobu to understand that Cook was without, 
and wanted to see him, he discovered the 
greatest marks of uneasiness, but arose and ac 
companied the lieutenant out, holding his hand. 
When he came before Cook, he squatted down 
upon his hams as a mark of humiliation, and 
Cook took him by the hand from the lieuten 
ant, and conversed with him. 

" The appearance of our parade both by 
water and on shore, though conducted with 
the utmost silence, and with as little ostenta 
tion as possible, had alarmed the towns on 
both sides of the bay, but particularly Kive- 
rua, where the people were in complete order 
for an onset ; otherwise it would have been a 
matter of surprise, that though Cook did not 
see twenty men in passing through the town, 
yet, before he had conversed ten minutes 
with Teraiobu, he was surrounded by three or 
VOL. xiv. 10 



146 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

four hundred people, and above half of them 
chiefs. 

" Cook grew uneasy when he observed this, 
and was the more urgent in his persuasions 
with Teraiobu to go on board, and actually 
persuaded the old man to go at length, and 
led him within a rod or two of the shore ; 
but the just fears and conjectures of the chiefs 
at last interposed. They held the old man 
back, and one of the chiefs threatened Cook, 
when he attempted to make them quit Terai 
obu. Some of the crowd now cried out, that 
Cook was going to take their king from them 
and kill him, and there was one in particular 
that advanced towards Cook in an attitude 
that alarmed one of the guard, who presented 
his bayonet and opposed him, acquainting Cook 
in the mean time of the danger of his situa 
tion, and that the Indians in a few minutes 
would attack him; that he had overheard the 
man, whom he had just stopped from rushing 
in upon him, say that our boats which were 
out in the harbor had just killed his brother, 
and he would be revenged. 

" Cook attended to what this man said, and 
desired him to show him the Indian, that had 
dared to attempt a combat with him, and as 
soon as he was pointed out, Cook fired at him 
with a blank. The Indian, perceiving he re- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 147 

ceived no damage from the fire, rushed from 
without the crowd a second time, arid threat 
ened any one that should oppose him. Cook, 
perceiving this, fired a ball, which entering the 
Indian s groin, he fell and was drawn off by 
the rest. 

" Cook, perceiving the people determined to 
oppose his designs, and that he should not 
succeed without further bloodshed, ordered the 
lieutenant of marines, Mr. Phillips, to withdraw 
his men and get them into the boats, which 
were then lying ready to receive them. This 
was effected by the sergeant ; but the instant 
they began to retreat, Cook was hit with a 
stone, and perceiving the man who threw it, 
shot him dead. The officer in the boats, ob 
serving the guard retreat, and hearing this third 
discharge, ordered the boats to fire. This oc 
casioned the guard to face about and fire, and 
then the attack became general." 

" Cook and Mr. Phillips were together a few 
paces in the rear of the guard, and, perceiving 
a general fire without orders, quitted Teraiobu, 
and ran to the shore to put a stop to it ; but 
not being able to make themselves heard, and 
being close pressed upon by the chiefs, they 
joined the guard, who fired as they retreated. 
Cook, having at length reached the margin of 
the water, between the fire of the boats, waved 



148 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

with his hat for them to cease firing and 
come in ; and while he was doing this, a chief 
from behind stabbed him with one of our iron 
daggers, just under the shoulder-blade, and it 
passed quite through his body. Cook fell with 
his face in the water, and immediately expired. 
Mr. Phillips, not being able any longer to use 
his fusee, drew his sword, and engaging the 
chief whom he saw kill Cook, soon despatched 
him. His guard, in the mean time, were all 
killed but two, and they had plunged into the 
water, and were swimming to the boats. He 
stood thus for some time the butt of all their 
force ; and being as complete in the use of his 
sword as he was accomplished, his noble 
achievements struck the barbarians with awe ; 
but being wounded, and growing faint from 
loss of blood and excessive action, he plunged 
into the sea with his sword in his hand and 
swam to the boats ; where, however, he was 
scarcely taken on board, before somebody saw 
one of the marines, that had swum from the 
shore, lying flat upon the bottom. Phillips, 
hearing this, ran aft, threw himself in after 
him, and brought him up with him to the 
surface of the water, and both were taken in. 
" The boats had hitherto kept up a very 
hot fire, and, lying off without the reach of 
any weapon but stones, had received no dam- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 149 

age, and, being fully at leisure to keep up an 
unremitted and uniform action, made great 
havoc among the Indians, particularly among 
the chiefs, who stood foremost in the crowd 
and were most exposed ; but whether it was 
from their bravery, or ignorance of the real 
cause that deprived so many of them of life, 
that they made such a stand, may be ques 
tioned, since it is certain that they in general, 
if not universally, understood heretofore that 
it was the fire only of our arms that destroyed 
them. This opinion seems to be strengthened 
by the circumstance of the large, thick mats, 
they were observed to wear, which were also 
constantly kept wet ; and, furthermore, the In 
dian that Cook fired at with a blank discov 
ered no fear, when he found his mat unburnt, 
saying in their language, when he showed it 
to the by-standers, that no fire had touched 
it. This may be supposed at least to have 
had some influence. It is, however, certain, 
whether from one or both these causes, that 
the numbers that fell made no apparent im 
pression on those who survived ; they were 
immediately taken off. and had their places 
supplied in a constant succession. 

" Lieutenant Gore, who commanded as first 
lieutenant under Cook in the Resolution, which 
lay opposite the place where this attack was 



150 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

made, perceiving with his glass that the guard 
on shore was cut off, and that Cook had fallen, 
immediately passed a spring upon one of the 
cables, and, bringing the ship s starboard guns 
to bear, fired two round shot over the boats 
into the middle of the crowd ; and both the 
thunder of the cannon and the effects of the 
shot operated so powerfully, that it produced 
a most precipitate retreat from the shore to 
the town." 

" Our mast that was repairing at Kearake- 
kua, and our astronomical tents, were protected 
only by a corporal and six marines, exclusive 
of the carpenters at work upon it, and de 
manded immediate protection. As soon, there 
fore, as the people were refreshed with some 
grog and reenforced, they were ordered thither. 
In the mean time, the marine who had been 
taken up by Mr. Phillips discovered returning 
life, and seemed in a way to recover, and we 
found Mr. Phillips s wound not dangerous, 
though very bad. We also observed at Kive- 
rua, that our dead were drawn off by the 
Indians, which was a mortifying sight; but 
after the boats were gone, they did it in spite 
of our cannon, which were firing at them sev 
eral minutes. They had no sooner effected 
this matter, than they retired to the hills to 
avoid our shot. The expedition to Kiverua 



JOHN LEDYARD. 151 

had taken up about an hour and a half, and 
we lost, besides Cook, a corporal and three 
marines. 

" Notwithstanding the despatch that was 
used in sending a force to Kearakekua, the 
small party there were already attacked before 
their arrival ; but by an excellent manoeuvre of 
taking possession of the Morai, they defended 
themselves without any material damage, until 
the succors came. The natives did not at 
tempt to molest the boats in the debarkation 
of our people, which we much wondered at, 
and they soon joined the others upon the Mo 
rai, amounting in the whole to about sixty. 
Mr. Phillips, notwithstanding his wound, was 
present, and, in conjunction with Lieutenant 
King, carried the chief command. The plan 
was to act only defensively, until we could 
get our mast into the water, to tow off, and 
our tents into the boats j and as soon as that 
was effected, to return on board. This we 
did in about an hour s time, but not without 
killing a number of the natives, who resolutely 
attacked us, and endeavored to mount the walls 
of the Morai, where they were lowest ; but be 
ing opposed with our skill in such modes of 
attack, and the great superiority of our arms, 
they were ever repulsed with loss, and at 
length retreated among the houses adjacent to 



152 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the Moral, which affording a good opportunity 
to retreat to our boats, we embraced it, and 
got off all well. Our mast was taken on the 
booms, and repaired there, though to disad 
vantage." 

This account is the more valuable, as hav 
ing been drawn up by one, who had a per 
sonal knowledge of all that passed. Neither 
Captain King nor Captain Burney, each of 
whom has described the transactions, was on 
shore with Cook. Nor, indeed, as hinted above, 
can it be inferred with certainty from any 
thing Ledyard says, that he was in that part 
of the fray. But the confidence and particu 
larity with which he speaks would seem to 
indicate actual observation. We have Captain 
Burney s testimony, moreover, which may be 
deemed conclusive. He says, that " Cook land 
ed with Lieutenant Molesworth Phillips of the 
marines, Sergeant Gibson, Corporals Thomas 
and Ledyard, and six private marines, being in 
the whole eleven persons." * It follows, that 
Ledyard must have been near Cook from the 
time he left the ship till he was killed, and 
that he heard and saw distinctly all that hap 
pened. Four marines were killed, three wound 
ed, and three escaped unhurt, of which last 
number he was one. 

* Chronological History of Northeastern Voyages of Dis 
covery, p. 260. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 153 

After this melancholy catastrophe, the ships 
remained six days in the harbor, till the de 
fective mast was repaired, and a supply of 
water obtained. This latter was effected with 
difficulty, however, as the watering parties were 
repeatedly assailed by the natives, and skir 
mishes ensued. It may well be imagined, 
therefore, that the hour of departure was hailed 
with joy by all on board. They passed ten 
days more among the islands, and, the water 
on board being bad, a fresh supply was pro 
cured at the Island of Atui. The season be 
ing now advanced, and everything in readiness, 
they launched out again into the great ocean, 
pursuing a northerly course, with the design 
of making a second attempt to explore the 
polar regions, in search of a northwest passage. 

In six weeks they approached the shore of 
Kamtschatka, and anchored in the harbor of 
St. Peter and St. Paul. The result of the ex 
pedition is well known. They passed through 
Bering s Strait, and groped among islands of 
ice in a high latitude, but with no better suc 
cess than the year before. They touched 
again at Kamtschatka on their return ; and, 
proceeding by the way of China and the Cape 
of Good Hope, they reached England, after an 
absence of four years and three months. 

Many facts and speculations in our travel- 



154 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ler s journal, not a little curious in themselves, 
have been omitted in the preceding sketch, 
because they would occupy a space not con 
sistent with the nature or limits of the pres 
ent memoir. I am tempted, however, to 
quote his interesting remarks on the mode 
in which the South Sea Islands were proba 
bly first peopled. The subject has since been 
much discussed by philosophers and geogra 
phers, but no one before him had examined it 
with views so much enlarged by experience 
and observation ; and it is believed he was 
the first to advance the opinion, that the in 
habitants of those islands, scattered as they are 
through an ocean of vast exent, " were derived 
from one common origin." Of this he will 
not allow that there is any room for doubt, 
and the only question is, whether they came 
from Asia or America. 

Whichever way this question may be an 
swered, there will remain objections not easy 
to be removed, if we attempt to find out a re 
semblance in every peculiarity of character and 
manners, or to explain obvious differences. He 
does not pretend to solve the problem, but 
only to throw out such hints illustrative of 
the subject as occurred to him, and as tend to 
establish the possibility that an emigration 
from either of the continents might have reached 



JOHN LEDYARD. 155 

to all the islands, without any other means of 
transportation, than such as the people them 
selves possessed. 

" The New Zealanders say their ancestors 
came from an island called Hawyjee ; now. 
Owyhee, as we carelessly pronounce it, is pro 
nounced by its inhabitants Hawyhee. This is 
a curious circumstance, and admits of a pre 
sumption, that the Island of Owyhee, or Hawy 
hee, is the island from which the New Zea 
landers originally emigrated. It supersedes an 
alogical evidence. But Owyhee is in twenty 
north, and New Zealand is in forty south, and 
not above three hundred leagues distant from 
the southern parts of New Holland, and is 
besides situated in the latitudes of variable 
winds, which admit of emigrations from any 
quarter. 

" On the other hand, the languages of Owy 
hee and New Zealand were originally the 
same, and as much alike as that of Otaheite 
and New Zealand ; not to mention other cir 
cumstances of the like kind. Whereas the 
languages at New Zealand and New Holland 
have very little or no resemblance to each 
other. This difference, with many others, be 
tween New Zealand and New Holland, cannot 
be reconciled; but the difficulties that may 
arise from considering the distance between 



156 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

New Zealand and Owyhee may be, as there 
are clusters of islands that we know of, and 
there may be others unknown, that occupy, at 
no great distance from each other, the inter 
mediate ocean from Owyhee to New Zealand. 
The obvious reasonings, that would be used 
to conclude the New Zealanders emigrants 
from Owyhee, would b, first, to suppose them 
from the Friendly Isles, then the Society Isles, 
and then the Sandwich Isles ; and the grada 
tion thus formed is very rational and argu 
mentative, because all their manners and cus 
toms have the same cast. 

" Suppose, then, that the islands we have 
mentioned were peopled from Owyhee, and 
suppose it to be the first island settled, the 
second and ultimate question is, From which 
of the continents, America or Asia ? Its situa 
tion respecting America, and the trade winds, 
strongly intimate from that continent, for it is 
twice the distance from Asia that it is from 
America; and a ship, fitted for the purpose at 
China, which is in a parallel latitude, would 
be more than two months in reaching it, and 
we must suppose the emigrations that respect 
these people to have been merely fortuitous ; 
but a canoe, driven by stress of weather from 
the southern part of California, or the coast of 
New Galicia, the opposite parallel, would reach 



JOHN LEDYARD. 157 

Owyhee in a direct course in half the time, 
or less. The distance is about nine hundred 
leagues ; and we saw people at the Island Wat- 
teeoo, who had been driven from Otaheite 
there, which is five hundred leagues. 

" But if we suppose Owyhee peopled from 
South America, we shall be somewhat disap 
pointed in supporting the conjecture by argu 
ments, that respect their manners and customs, 
and those of the Californians, Mexicans, Peru 
vians, or Chilians. There is but a faint anal 
ogy, compared with that which we should 
find on the southeastern coasts of Asia in 
these respects. Let us, then, without attending 
to the few analogical customs, that subsist be 
tween the Owyheeans and the South Ameri 
cans, reverse our system of emigration. Sup 
pose the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands 
to have come from the Society Islands, and 
those from the Friendly Isles, and the New 
Zealanders from them ; the inhabitants of the 
Friendly Isles from New Caledonia, from the 
New Hebrides, New Guinea, Celebes, Borneo, 
Java, or Sumatra, and finally from the conti 
nent at Malacca. 

" Supposing the emigration we are now 
speaking of to have taken this course, the 
most apparent argument in its favor is, the 
proximity of the several islands to each other, 



158 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

from the Friendly Isles to the continent; but 
its sufficiency will abate, if we consider emi 
grations, as I think they are, oftener the effects 
of accident than previous intention ; especially 
when out of sight of land. Besides, it is 
evident from ocular proof, that, though New 
Guinea and New Holland are very near to 
each other, there has never been any inter 
course between them ; and yet, from many ap 
pearances, there seems to have been one be 
tween New Guinea, the New Hebrides, and 
the Friendly Isles, although farther distant from 
each other. There is, indeed, no remarkable 
similarity in the people, customs, and manners 
of New Guinea and the Friendly Isles, but an 
exact conformity between the domestic animals 
and vegetable productions of both countries. 

" Some fruits, that we call tropical, are pe 
culiar to all places within the tropics ; but 
bread-fruit is nowhere known, but among these 
islands and the islands further northward on 
the coast of Asia. It is not known at New 
Holland, but it is at New Guinea. Therefore, 
wherever I can find this bread-fruit in partic 
ular, I shall suppose an intercourse to have 
once subsisted, arid the more so, when I find 
a correspondent agreement between the ani 
mals of different places ; and it ought to be 
remembered, also, that there are no other ani- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 159 

mals throughout those islands, unless they are 
near the continent ; those remote islands have 
no other. It is the same with their vegeta 
bles. The remote islands have no water-mel 
ons, guavas, and such other fruits. 

" These observations will essentially apply 
to the circumstances of emigration. A canoe, 
in passing along its own coast, or visiting a 
neighboring island, would take on board a hog, 
a dog, a fowl, and bread-fruit for subsistence, 
in preference to a monkey, a snake, or a 
guava ; and if the canoe is driven accidentally 
on some foreign island, they turn to greater 
advantage." 

Since these remarks were written, there have 
been many opportunities for further discovery, 
but very little has been added to the stock 
of knowledge on the subject. The mission 
aries, during a residence of thirty years in the 
Society Islands, have found nothing among the 
traditions or customs of the people, from which 
their origin can be deduced. It was supposed 
for a time, that the languages of the islanders 
in the Pacific Ocean would afford a clew, that 
might lead to a solution of the difficulty ; but 
hitherto all inquiries in this quarter have failed, 
and contributed rather to confirm than dimin 
ish the uncertainty, which existed at first. It 
is proved, that in all the islands constituting 



160 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

that portion of the globe, denominated in re 
cent geography Polynesia, a multitude of dia 
lects prevail, which have so near an affinity to 
each other, as to make it demonstratively cer 
tain, that they all sprang from the same stock. 

It is moreover remarkable, that none of these 
dialects, which has as yet been examined, 
bears any analogy to other known languages, 
except those in use among the natives of these 
islands. It is true, that in the Friendly Islands, 
New Zealand, and some others bordering on 
the Asiatic Islands, a few Malayan words are 
intermixed with the Polynesian, but so sparing 
ly as to make a very small part only of the 
whole, and with characteristics plainly indicat 
ing their foreign origin. If we may judge 
from the grammars prepared by the mission 
aries, as well as from their own declarations, 
very few languages are more widely different 
in their principles, structure, and vocabulary, 
than the Malayan and Polynesian. No argu 
ment, therefore, drawn from the analogy of 
languages, any more than from striking traits 
of character in the people, can be urged to 
prove the Polynesians to have come originally 
from the islands on the south of Asia. 

The same may be said in regard to North 
ern Asia and South America. No resemblances 
in language have been discovered, and very 



JOHN LEDYARD. 161 

slight ones only in prevailing customs ; and 
these, after all, may be accidental. Malte-Brun 
is opposed to the theory of an emigration 
from South America, on the ground, that the 
islands nearest the coast are not inhabited. 
But this reason has very little weight. In the 
first place, these islands are small, and would 
thus be the less likely to be met by canoes 
floating at random over the ocean, which was 
undoubtedly the condition of the first emi 
grants ; and in the next place, they are sterile, 
and might not have afforded subsistence to 
people landing on them. 

Again, these islands are not in clusters, but 
scattered remotely from each other, and many 
casualties may be imagined by which settlers 
on them might have been cut off, even if ac 
cident had thrown them there. In short, lit 
tle can be said, as to the mode of the first 
peopling of the Polynesian Islands, with any 
approach to certainty. The study of the lan 
guage, which the missionaries are now prose 
cuting, will open a new channel of investiga 
tion, from which some favorable results may 
be hoped. Nothing will probably put the ques 
tion beyond controversy, but the discovery of 
a language among some of the tribes of Asia, 
or America, which bears a close resemblance 
to the Polynesian. 

VOL. XIV. 11 



162 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

As no written memorials of the languages 
of these tribes remain, if it should have hap 
pened, that the nation from which the island 
ers descended has become extinct, together 
with its language, which is most likely to be 
the case, the problem must go down to future 
ages, a theme only for ingenious conjecture 
and speculation. When the prevalence of the 
trade wind is considered, always setting to 
wards the west, the probability of a migration 
from America is much stronger, than of one 
from Asia. Ledyard considers the emigration 
to have been comparatively recent, because the 
islands are volcanic, having been formed by 
violent eruptions from the earth ; and many 
centuries must have elapsed after such an 
event, before they could be habitable. 

The journal, which has now passed under 
our notice, can in no respect be regarded as a 
complete narrative of Cook s Third Voyage. 
It was written, as heretofore stated, under many 
disadvantages, in haste, and without the aid of 
the author s original notes ; and to all appear 
ance the manuscript was printed without his 
correction and supervision. The part prepared 
by himself breaks off, indeed, more than a year 
before the end of the voyage, and was proba 
bly filled out by the publisher from the brief 
account before printed in England. Ledyard s 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



163 



descriptions agree in the main, however, with 
those contained in the large work, which after 
wards appeared under the authority of the Ad 
miralty. Occasional differences will, of course, 
naturally be expected, when we take into view 
the different circumstances under which the 
commanding officer, and a corporal of marines, 
would observe the objects and events they de 
scribed. The latter was often in situations to 
witness and contemplate occurrences, which 
could not come to the knowledge of the for 
mer, and which, to a mind acute and observ 
ing like his, would make impressions worthy 
to be recorded. 

Nor is it any disparagement of the other 
writers to say, that several of Ledyard s de 
scriptions of the manners and peculiarities of 
the natives are written with a vivacity, dis 
crimination, and force, which they have not 
equalled. He utters his own sentiments with 
a boldness, and expresses himself with a confi 
dence, that convince us of his sincerity, honest 
zeal, and mental vigor, even when we cannot 
assent to his opinions. He sometimes censures 
his superiors in office with a freedom not al 
together commendable, and imagines them to 
have been actuated by motives, which could 
scarcely exist. This may be perceived in the 
tone which pervades some of the extracts 



164 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

quoted above. His station was not one in 
which he could be acquainted with the views 
and plans of the commander, and yet his in 
quisitive temper, and high sense of his dignity 
as a man, prompted him to think for himself, 
and put much reliance in the conclusions of 
his own mind. When these were thwarted, 
as they often would be, it was natural that 
he should suppose his superiors in an error, 
especially if ill consequences resulted from 
their measures. 

He was accustomed to speak with high re 
spect of Captain Cook, although he thought 
his proceedings towards the natives sometimes 
rash, and even unjustifiable. But this was no 
more than has been thought by many others. 
Nobody has ever doubted the purity of Cook s 
intentions, or his humanity ; but he adopted a 
system of conduct towards the savages, espe 
cially in punishing slight offences, the policy 
and good effects of which were less obvious 
to others than to himself. 

Pilfering was so universal in all the South 
Sea Islands, that it was hardly recognized in 
the moral code of the natives as an offence, 
much less a crime ; yet he invariably punished 
transgressions of this kind with severity. A 
long course of experience had confirmed the 
navigator in this system, and he practised it 



JOHN LEDYARD. 165 

usually with success. We have seen how he 
applied it in the case of Feenou, who stole 
the peacocks at Tongataboo ; and many similar 
instances might be cited. It was his rigid 
adherence to this course, in fact, which at last 
caused his death ; for he landed at Kiverua 
with the express purpose of enticing the old 
king on board, that he might retain him there 
as a hostage, till the stolen boat should be 
given up. The opinions of Ledyard on this 
head, therefore, though sometimes expressed 
with earnestness, argue no disrespect or want 
of esteem for the commander, whom he hon 
ored for the high station to which his merits 
had raised him, and whom he admired for his 
many great and good qualities. 



166 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Ledyard returns to America. Interview with 
his Mother. Writes his Journal of CooWs 
Voyage. Visits New York, Philadelphia, 
and Boston. Plans a Voyage to the North 
west Coast. Failure of the Enterprise. 
Was the jirst to propose such a Voyage. 
Sails for Cadiz ; thence to Z/ Orient. Goes 
to Paris. 

DURING the two years succeeding our trav 
eller s arrival in England from Cook s last ex 
pedition, he continued in the navy ; but what 
rank he held, or on what stations he served, 
cannot now be ascertained. It is only known, 
that he refused to be attached to any of the 
squadrons, which came out to America, giving 
as a reason, that he would not appear in arms 
against his native country. Growing weary, 
however, of a mode of life little suited to his 
disposition, unless on some adventurous enter 
prise, like that from which he had lately re 
turned, his thoughts began to wander home 
ward, and to dwell on the scenes of his youth 
ful days. Apparently conquering the scruples, 
which he had hitherto urged as the motives 
of his reluctance, he sought the first opportu- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 167 

nity to be transferred to the American station ; 
and in December, 1782, we find him on board 
a British man-of-war in Huntington Bay, Long 
Island Sound. 

It was natural that his first impulse should 
be to visit his mother, who lived at Southold. 
Ostensibly for this purpose he obtained per 
mission of seven days absence from the ship, 
but evidently intending to return no more. 
Long Island was then in the possession of the 
British. He remained but a short time among 
his old acquaintances at Huntington, where, it 
will be recollected, in his theological tour ten 
years before, he had " feasted twelve days on 
Mr. Prime s great library." From this place 
he hastened to Southold, and the first inter 
view with his mother is represented as affect 
ing. She kept a boarding-house, which was 
at that time occupied chiefly by British offi 
cers. He rode up to the door, alighted, went 
in, and asked if he could be accommodated 
in her house as a lodger. She replied that 
he could, and showed him a room, into which 
his baggage was conveyed. 

After having adjusted his dress, he came 
out and took a seat by the fire, in company 
with several other officers, without making 
himself known to his mother, or entering into 
conversation with any person. She frequently 



168 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

passed and repassed through the room, and 
her eye was observed to be attracted towards 
him with more than usual attention. He still 
remained silent. At last, after looking at him 
steadily for some minutes, she deliberately put 
on her spectacles, approached nearer to him, 
begging his pardon for her rudeness, and tell 
ing him, that he so much resembled a son of 
hers, who had been absent eight years, that 
she could not resist her inclination to view 
him more closely. The scene that followed 
may be imagined, but not described ; for Led- 
yard had a tender heart, and affection for his 
mother was among its deepest and most con 
stant emotions. 

As he had already resolved to quit the Brit 
ish service, being persuaded that no principles 
of justice or honor could make it his duty to 
act with the enemies of his country, he thought 
it prudent, before the seven days had expired, 
to leave his mother s house, and go over to 
the continent. The recollections of his child 
hood detained him a short time at New Lon 
don and Groton, and he then proceeded to 
Hartford, where, after a ten years wandering 
in the remotest corners of the globe, he re 
ceived the cordial greetings of his early friends, 
and found a kind home under the roof of his 
uncle and former guardian. His feelings on 



JOHN LEDYARD. 169 

this occasion will be understood from his re 
marks in a letter, written shortly after he 
reached Hartford. 

" You will be surprised to hear of my be 
ing at Hartford ; I am surprised myself. I 
made my escape from the British at Hunting- 
ton Bay. I am now at Mr. Seymour s, and 
as happy as need be. I have a little cash, 
two coats, three waistcoats, six pair of stock 
ings, and half a dozen ruffled shirts. I am a 
violent Whig and a violent Tory. Many are 
my acquaintances. I eat arid drink when I 
am asked, and visit when I am invited in 
short, I generally do as I am bid. All I want 
of my friends is friendship j possessed of that, 
I am happy." 

In writing to other persons he expresses 
similar satisfaction j and although, in alluding 
to the toils and sufferings he had undergone, 
he declares himself to have been worn down 
by them to such a degree, as to make his per 
son so " perfect a contrast to beauty or ele 
gance, that Hogarth himself could not deform 
it," yet he writes with a gayety and playful 
ness, which show the sorrows of the past to 
have been forgotten in the felicity of the pres 
ent, and that no gloomy anticipations of the 
future were allowed to mingle their alloy. 

In Hartford he remained four months, that 



170 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

is, from the 1st of January till about the 1st 
of May, in which period he wrote the Journal 
of Cook s Voyage. In this occupation, and in 
visiting his friends, he passed the winter. His 
restless spirit could be tranquil no longer. He 
had great projects in view, which he was im 
patient to see executed. New adventures court 
ed his fancy, and flattering hopes, as usual, 
pressed him forward with an ardent, deter 
mined, and ceaseless zeal. Bidding adieu to 
his friends in Hartford, he repaired to New 
York, where he unfolded his plans to such 
persons, as he thought might be induced to 
patronize them j but not meeting with encour 
agement adequate to his sanguine expectations, 
he hastened onward to Philadelphia. He had 
but just arrived in that city, when he de 
scribed his condition to his cousin, Dr. Isaac 
Ledyard, in a manner so characteristic, that no 
apology will be necessary for quoting the letter 
in full. 

" The day after I parted with you, I took 
the Bordentown route, and the next morning 
landed at the Crooked Billet, where I break 
fasted, and sallied out to view the nakedness 
of things here. I first went to McClanagan ; 
he had no navigation ; next to two other 
houses, but to no purpose. I then went among 
the shipping, and examined them pretty thor- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 171 

oughly. I doubt that I should even be put 
to it to get to sea before the mast. The most 
of the shipping here are foreigners. Sixteen 
sail, of seven different maritime powers, arrived 
a few days ago. Fourteen sailors went out 
to the northward the morning I arrived, for 
want of employ, and numbers are strolling the 
docks on the same account. There is at pres 
ent little home navigation. 

" After a walk of about four hours, I re 
turned to my quarters, asked for a room to 
change my dress, and went up and counted 
my cash ; turned it over and looked at it ; 
shook it in my hand j recounted it, and found 
two French crowns, half a crown, one fourth 
of a dollar, one eighth of a dollar, and just 
twelve coppers. Shall I visit H. s? I looked 
at my stockings ; they will do ; my shoes ; if 
I look that way, my two crowns and I shall 
part. We did part ; I put my new pumps on, 
washed, shaved, and went to H. s, where I had 
determined not to go. Mr. H. is now wait 
ing for his horse ; he is going to Princeton. 
This will go by him. I am at a loss wheth 
er to say anything about money here, or de 
pend upon this letter meeting you at Prince 
ton, wait the return of Mr. H., the chance he 
has of seeing you, or I don t know what to 
do. I am determined. Send me, either by 



172 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Mr. H. or the first conveyance, some cash. 
Adieu." 

In this state of embarrassment he continued 
for several days, seeking employment without 
success, mortified at the defeat of all his pur 
poses, and chagrined that his schemes should 
be so coldly received by those, who, he had 
fondly hoped, would understand and promote 
them. By another letter, however, written two 
or three weeks after the above, it would ap 
pear that a gleam of light was breaking in 
upon him, and that his perseverance had not 
been wholly fruitless. He writes again to his 
cousin. 

"It is uncertain by what medium of con 
veyance this may reach you. I design it for 
the Amboy House, and thence to Middletown. 
A duplicate will be directed to Princeton. It 
is abundantly manifest that this argues anx 
iety, and of so intense a kind too, as to prompt 
a wish for the possibility of the annihilation 
of time and distance. I have been so often 
the sport of fortune, that I durst hardly credit 
the present dawn of bright prospects. But it 
is a fact, that the Honorable Robert Morris is 
disposed to give me a ship to go to the North 
Pacific Ocean. I have had two interviews 
with him at the Finance Office, and to-morrow 
I expect a conclusive one. What a noble hold 



JOHN LEDYARD. 173 

he instantly took of the enterprise ! I have 
been two days, at his request, drawing up a 
minute detail of a plan, and an estimate of 
the outfits, which I shall present him with to 
morrow ; and I am pleased to find, that it will 
be two thousand pounds less than one of his 
own. I take the lead of the greatest com 
mercial enterprise, that has ever been embarked 
on in this country ; and one of the first mo 
ment, as it respects the trade of America. If 
the affair is concluded on, as I expect it will 
be, it is probable I shall set off for New Eng 
land to procure seamen, or a ship, or both. 
Morris is wrapped up in the idea of Yankee 
sailors. 

" Necessity has overcome my delicacy. I 
have unbosomed myself to H., and laid my 
poverty open to him. He has relieved me 
for the present, which I have told him to 
draw on you for. Send me some money, for 
Heaven s sake, lest the laurel, now suspended 
over the brows of your friend, should fall irre 
coverably into the dust. Adieu." 

The enterprise to which he alludes in this 
letter, as having been concerted with Mr. Mor 
ris, and which had occupied his thoughts ever 
since his return from Cook s expedition, was a 
trading voyage to the Northwest Coast. At 
this time no such mercantile adventure had 



174 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

been attempted, either in this country or Eu 
rope, nor is it known that any thing of the 
kind had even been contemplated. Ledyard s 
knowledge of the resources of the Northwest 
Coast in furs, derived from his observations 
while there, particularly at Nootka Sound and 
the Russian establishment on the Island of 
Onalaska, together with the enormous advances, 
which he had seen paid in Canton on the 
original cost of this article, had convinced him 
that great profits might be realized by a voy 
age fitted out expressly for this trade. 

Hitherto no market had been opened to the 
natives, by which they could dispose of the 
superabundance of their furs, or receive such 
articles in exchange as might suit their fancy 
or convenience j hence the furs could be pur 
chased extremely low, and paid for in com 
modities of little intrinsic value, and at such 
prices as the vendor might choose to affix. It 
was clear, therefore, in his mind, that they 
who should first engage in this trade would 
reap immense profits by their earliest efforts, 
and, at the same time, gain such knowledge 
and experience, as would enable them to pur 
sue it for years, with advantages superior to 
any that could be commanded by the compet 
itors who might be drawn into the same chan 
nel of commerce. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 175 

So strong had grown his confidence in the 
accuracy of his opinions, by long reflection on 
the subject, and such was the eagerness of 
his desire to prove the truth of his theory by 
actual experiment, that he applied the whole 
energy of his mind and character to the task 
of creating an interest in his project among 
the merchants, who had the means of carry 
ing it into effect, and without whose patron 
age nothing could be done. In New York 
he was unsuccessful ; his scheme was called 
wild and visionary, and set down as bearing 
the marks rather of a warm imagination and 
sanguine temperament, than of a sober and 
mature judgment. No merchant was found 
willing to hazard his money, or his reputation, 
in an adventure so novel in its kind, and so 
questionable in its promise ; a scheme not only 
untried, but never before thought of. His first 
inquiries in Philadelphia met with no better 
favor, till Mr. Robert Morris, with an enlarge 
ment of mind and purpose, which character 
ized his undertakings, entered into his views, 
and made arrangements to furnish the outfits 
of a voyage, according to the plan he drew 
up. 

The first thing to be done was to procure 
a ship suitable for such a voyage. At that 
time there was none unemployed in Philadel- 



176 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

phia, and Ledyard was despatched to Boston, 
where it was thought a purchase might speed 
ily be effected, and where progress was actu 
ally made in the preparation of a vessel for 
this purpose ; but, for some cause not now 
known, it was taken for a voyage of a differ 
ent kind. He next proceeded to New Lon 
don, where the Continental frigate Trumbull 
was engaged for the voyage ; but this ship was 
afterwards diverted to another adventure, sug 
gested by this plan. The Count (VArtois, a 
large French ship then lying in the harbor of 
New London, was next thought of, but was 
finally otherwise destined. Again, a ship in 
New York, of about three hundred tons, was 
provided ; but, on examination, it proved to be 
so old and defective, that it was condemned 
as unsafe for a voyage of such length and 
hazard. 

The season was by this time too far ad 
vanced to think of prosecuting the voyage be 
fore the next spring. Meantime Mr. Daniel 
Parker was employed to purchase a ship in 
New York, and to have it in readiness as soon 
as the favorable season for its sailing should 
arrive. A ship was procured accordingly, but 
the outfits were delayed from time to time, 
till the winter passed by, and then the spring ; 
and, at last, it was sent on an adventure to 



JOHN LEDYARD. 177 

Canton. Thus a year was spent, in a vexa 
tious and fruitless struggle to overcome diffi 
culties, which thickened as he advanced, till 
his patience, and that of Mr. Morris also, would 
seem to have been exhausted, for the voyage 
was altogether abandoned. 

While he was in New London negotiating 
for the ship Trumbull, after his return from 
Boston, he wrote a letter to his mother, from 
which an extract here follows. 

" This is the first opportunity, in reality, 
which I have had of writing to you, since I 
have been in this country. My ambition to 
do everything, which my disposition as a man, 
and my relative character as a citizen, and 
more tenderly as the leading descendant of a 
broken and distressed family, should prompt 
me to do, has engaged me in every kind of 
speculation, which afforded the least probabil 
ity of advancing my interest, my happiness, or 
the happiness of my friends. These different 
engagements have led me into different con 
ditions ; sometimes I have been elated with 
hope, sometimes depressed with disappointment 
and distress. I postponed informing you of 
my circumstances, indulging the constant hope 
of their soon being better, until which time I 
was determined you should not know any 
thing particularly concerning me. If that time 
VOL. xiv. 12 



178 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

is now arrived, it has been more from the in 
fluence of a kind Providence, than my own 
merits. 

" My prospects, at present, are a voyage to 
the East Indies, and eventually round the 
world. It will be of two or three years du 
ration. If I am successful, I shall not have 
occasion to absent myself any more from my 
friends ; but, above all, I hope to have it in 
my power to minister to the wants of a be 
loved parent, and others who languish and 
fade in obscurity. My dear sisters engage my 
teriderest love, and solicitude for their future 
welfare. My best wish is, that they may be 
educated and disposed of suitably to the beauty 
of their persons, and their excellent hearts, and 
that I could be instrumental in conferring 
such a kindness. I beg my brotherly saluta 
tions to them. Tell them I long to strew 
roses in their laps, and branches of palm be 
neath their feet." 

It ought to be recorded in this place, that 
while Ledyard was in New York, anxiously 
waiting for a vessel, his embarrassments, occa 
sioned by the want of money, were often re 
lieved, in a spirit of great kindness, by Mr. 
Comfort Sands. This gentleman became ac 
quainted with him in Philadelphia, arid early 
approved and promoted the enterprise which 



JOHN LEDYARD. 179 

he had in contemplation j he proposed sending 
an adventure by the same voyage, and during 
the whole preparation rendered him essential 
services, for which it is believed he never re 
ceived any other returns, than such as always 
attend the consciousness of benevolent acts, 
and of having aided the advancement of large 
and useful designs. 

Not discouraged by the ill fortune which he 
had so signally experienced, Ledyard resolved 
not to relinquish his purpose, till he had made 
other trials to carry it forward. He repaired 
to New London, and suggested the same ad 
venture to persons of commercial pursuits in 
that port. He was particularly strenuous in 
persuading Captain Deshon, who owned a fine 
new ship then lying in the harbor, and well 
constructed for such a voyage, to embark with 
him in a trading expedition to the Northwest 
Coast. Captain Deshon was the nephew of 
the commander of the vessel in which Led 
yard sailed to Gibraltar ; and, although at that 
time a youth, he was himself on board in the 
service of his uncle. A friendship had ever 
afterwards subsisted between the two voyagers, 
and Captain Deshon was now willing to join 
with his friend in any mercantile adventure, 
which should seem to him practicable, safe, 
and affording a reasonable prospect of gain. 



180 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Bat Ledyard drew so glowing a .picture of the 
advantages to be derived from his projected 
voyage, the trifling value of the articles neces 
sary for an outward cargo, and the immense 
advances that would be received on the price 
of the articles purchased ; in short, his enthu 
siasm gave so bright a coloring to his repre 
sentations, and such amplitude to his hopes, 
that Captain Deshon could not so far resist 
the dictates of prudence, as to participate in 
feelings and views, which he deemed little 
short of romantic, and as more strongly tinged 
with the native warmth of his character, than 
with that trait of mind which weighs and 
deliberates cautiously before it resolves. 

It is needless to add, that, under these im 
pressions, he could not prevail on himself to 
second his friend s wishes ; yet he was after 
wards heard to say, that Ledyard s account, 
in its minutest details, was verified by the first 
voyages of that kind from the United States, 
and that he had often regretted his not hav 
ing listened to him, and prosecuted the voy 
age in compliance with his solicitation. As 
far as can be ascertained, Ledyard s views of 
the subject, both as unfolded in the transac 
tions with Mr. Morris and with Captain De 
shon, accorded exactly with those acted upon 
by the first adventurers, who were rewarded 



JOHN LEDYARD. 181 

with extraordinary success. It was a part of 
his plan to purchase lands of the natives, and 
establish a factory, or colony, for the purpose 
of a continued intercourse and trade. 

Weary of making fruitless applications in his 
own country, Ledyard determined to embark 
for Europe, where he might expect better pat 
ronage from larger capitalists, and in a wider 
field of commercial activity. Mr. Morris had 
made him some compensation for the time he 
had spent in his service, and favored him with 
several letters of recommendation to eminent 
merchants abroad, particularly in Prance. He 
took passage in a vessel from New London, 
bound to Cadiz. On the 1st of June, 1784, 
he wrote as follows to his mother. 

" Since I saw you last, I have passed through 
a great many difficulties and disappointments, 
which my most intimate friends are, and must 
be for the present, at least, unacquainted with, 
as it will answer no good purpose to break 
their repose, or add to my cares, by reflecting 
on what is past, and thence anticipating evil. 
You have no doubt heard of my very great 
disappointment at New York. For a moment, 
all the fortitude that ten years misfortune had 
taught me could hardly support me. I am 
now very well in health. This will probably 
be the last letter I shall write you from this 



182 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

country. I shall sail within tw-elve days for 
Spain, whence I expect to go to France, and 
there again to renew the business I was so 
unfortunate in at Ne\v York. If I succeed in 
my wishes, it may be two or three years be 
fore I return. In this interim, I pray you to 
give me your blessing and your prayers. My 
sisters I hope are well, and beg them to ac 
cept a brother s love. Please to present my 
kind love to my brothers. May that Being, 
who is infinitely great and infinitely good, be 
the friend of them, and of us all." 

He sailed for Spain, as here intimated, short 
ly after writing this letter, having been the 
first, whether in America or Europe, to suggest 
a scheme of trade with the Northwest Coast. 
which has since proved to be a very lucrative 
field of commerce to merchants in both hem 
ispheres. It was more than a year after his 
earliest application to the merchants in New 
York, before any expedition of the kind was 
fitted out from Europe. The first voyage from 
the United States to the Northwest Coast was 
in the ship Columbia, of three hundred tons, 
which sailed from Boston under the command 
of Captain John Kendrick, about three years 
after Ledyard s visit to that place in search of 
a ship for Mr. Morris. He may justly be con 
sidered, therefore, the first projector of this 
branch of commerce. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



183 



Captain Kendrick so far adopted his ulterior 
purpose, as to purchase lands of the natives, 
with a view of founding a colony there, when 
a proper occasion should offer. To this end, 
he took formal deeds of the land, confirmed 
by the signs manual of the chiefs, who claimed 
the territory.* To some of his friends Led- 
yard mentioned his intention of leaving the 
ship on the coast, when the cargo should be 
obtained, and exploring the country over land 
from Nootka Sound, or some point farther north, 
across to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, thus 
traversing the whole space between the Pa 
cific and Atlantic Oceans. Meantime the ves 
sel was to proceed to China, and thence to 
return and meet him in New York, ready for 
another voyage. 

But all the fine prospects, which he had 
dwelt upon in anticipation, are to be given up 
for the present, and we must follow him to 
Europe. The passage to Cadiz was favorable 
and expeditious. He does not seem to have 
had any special design in visiting Cadiz, in 
reference to the main object of his crossing 
the Atlantic. This destination probably await- 

* The original deeds are now in the office of the Sec 
retary of State in Washington. In company with the Co 
lumbia was the Washington, a vessel of one hundred tons 
burden, commanded by Captain Robert Gray. 



184 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ed him, in consequence of an opportunity pre 
senting itself of a more direct passage to that 
port, than to any other in the south of Europe. 
L Orient was the city which he intended to 
visit, and in which he had been encouraged 
to look for patrons of his projected enterprise. 
He had been furnished with letters to wealthy 
and enterprising merchants there, and he made 
all haste to be on the spot. 

Various causes of delay kept him in Cadiz 
more than a month. This time he filled up 
as well as he could, in gaining information of 
the place, of its resources and trade, and of 
the manners and character of the people. He 
also endeavored to drive away the melancholy 
thoughts, incident to the anxiety of his situa 
tion, by mingling in social circles, and contriv 
ing to be entertained by the public amuse 
ments, that were much frequented by all ranks 
of people. On the 16th of August he wrote 
thus to Dr. Ledyard from Cadiz. 

"Just as I was seated, and had dated my 
letter, the carriage of General O Reilly hove in 
view, a clumsy, Gothic vehicle, dragged by five 
jaded mules to the bull-fight. Who is Gen- 
eral O Reilly ? A poor, migrating, Irish cadet ; 
a soldier that was scalded at the storm of 
Gibraltar. O Reilly is to Cadiz, and all within 
his jurisdiction, which consists of two prov- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 185 

inces, what Czar Peter was to Russia. The 
reform he has made in the minutest parts of 
his government, as well as the most important, 
is looked upon as a phenomenon in this coun 
try. He has, with a boldness that character 
izes an enterprising commander and legislator, 
even struck at those old habits among a peo 
ple so dangerous to be meddled with. Envy 
is the natural concomitant of such merit, and 
O Reilly has probably greater friends and ene 
mies at the court of Madrid than any other 
character in the kingdom ; and both parties 
had a fair opportunity of contesting their as 
cendency, after the miscarriage of the late de 
scent against the Moors ; but his conquering 
his court enemies at home fully compensated 
that misfortune abroad, and confirmed his fame, 
nay, added to its lustre.* To execute all these 

* This alludes to an attack by the Spaniards on Algiers 
in the year 1775. A formidable armament of six ships of 
the line, twelve frigates, a large number of smaller vessels, 
and twenty-five thousand men, all under the command of 
the Conde de O Reilly, formed that expedition. A large 
part of the army was landed, and a partial battle ensued, 
in which the Spaniards met with a signal and most dis 
graceful defeat. Severe censures were passed on O Reilly, 
and a general spirit of indignation existed against him 
throughout Spain ; but the weight of his talents, and his 
influence at court, enabled him to triumph over his ene 
mies, and to sustain himself in the highest stations. 



186 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

great matters, O Reilly is not the man you 
would suppose. His education is contracted ; 
he is capricious, severe, and arrogant ; ordinary 
in his person, and forbidding in his address. 

" The exhibition of the bull-fights is in a 
spacious amphitheatre, that will accommodate 
twelve thousand spectators. The horsemen 
display more skill and courage than the foot 
men. But it is a barbarous amusement. There 
are many Irish inhabitants here, all of whom 
are particularly friendly to Americans. I am 
now writing at the house of Mr. Harrison, 
handsomely situated on the side of the Ala- 
meda. I take a family dinner with him to 
day, having already taken a formal one. The 
British Consul also receives me with great po 
liteness. But what I am doing among these 
gentry, with only half a dollar and four reals 
in my pocket, you must, with me, wait for 
time to develop. I shall soon leave this place 
for France, and my route will be either up the 
Mediterranean to Marseilles, and thence on the 
grand canal west to Bourdeaux, or along the 
coast of Spain and Portugal by sea. I yester 
day conversed with an Englishman, who is 
commissioned to treat privately with our States 
in behalf of the Emperor of Morocco ; but if 
I can persuade him. to send his Arabic com 
mission back, and join me with his cash and 



JOHN LEDYARD. 187 

importance at Bourdeaux, or Nantz . The 
preliminary step is accomplished, and he is now 
somewhere in the town, as busy in the affair 
as a dozen such heads as mine could be." 

Since no more is heard of this commissioner 
from the Emperor of Morocco, it is presumed 
the preliminary step was the only one taken 
in the business. Ledyard remained in Cadiz, 
apparently waiting for a passage either to Mar 
seilles, or to some port in the west of France, 
as chance might offer. He wrote to his friends, 
communicating his observations on what passed 
around him, but said little of his own circum 
stances or prospects. The remarks now about 
to be quoted, are contained in a letter written 
to his correspondent in America, after he had 
been two weeks at Cadiz, and are not more 
curious for their singularity, than for the his 
torical hints they convey, in regard to the state 
of knowledge and feeling, which then prevailed 
in the south of Europe, respecting the United 
States. 

" The people in this, as in other parts of 
Europe, are more systematic than you [Amer 
icans] are in everything. Here the routine of 
life, however varied, is still uniform, whether 
composed of virtue or vice, wisdom or folly. 
Before dinner, the merchant, mechanic, and or 
dinary laborer, are assiduously intent on their 



188 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

different employments. After dinner, they as 
regularly devote themselves to their several grat 
ifications, which consist either of conversation 
or sleep. The opulent and polite adopt the 
first. At a polite table, therefore, you hear the 
very best things they are capable of saying. 
Here, then, I am told you err in your politics ; 
I mean that kind of policy, which your inde 
pendence has given birth to. The general dis 
approbation of your present government on this 
score, is the sentiment of those who are sub 
jects of other nations, as well as of this ; but 
I am happy to say, that I have found no char 
acter, who any otherwise thinks ill of you. 

" This is not a negative regard, bestowed 
on a people they think cannot approximate 
their importance, and therefore deserve pity ; it 
is a positive one ; and you may please your 
selves with the assurance of its originating from 
your general conduct during the war. Another 
feather in your cap, and that not an obscure 
one, let me tell you, is the plain, affable, and 
honest deportment of your kinsfolk, who so 
journ hereabout. Brother Jonathan is an agree 
able singularity. These observations, which 
you are included in, did not come from the 
cabinet of Charles, or the Pope, who no doubt 
hate you very sincerely ; the one for your laws, 
which he fears ; and the other for your reli- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 189 

gion, which he is unwise enough to abom 
inate. 

" The great complaint, which people make 
against your government, is the obscure, unim 
portant, unenergetic investitures of Congress. 
So strongly are they impressed with the idea 
of the degree of power, which Congress ought 
to hold, compared with what they now con 
ceive it to be invested with, that they declare 
the resolve of a Boston committee commands 
more immediate attention in Cadiz, than a 
congressional one would do ; observing, that 
although Congress claims more respectability, 
it only demands what it ought to have, and 
not what it is possessed of. 

" They further add, that whatever embarrass- 
rnents may attend the progress of a young na 
tion, and however excusable some exigencies 
may have rendered some parts of your conduct, 
yet surely the leading preliminaries, the first 
strong outlines, that form the basis of a great 
republic, cannot be thus lost sight of without 
reflecting on your councils. Have you formed 
even a treaty of friendship with that pestilen 
tial meteor in power, Hamet, Emperor of Mo 
rocco? No. Have you in your own right a 
Mediterranean passport ? No. What security 
have you then for your Straits-men ? The 
savage Hamet knows no medium in such kind 



190 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



of friendship ; never dreamt of such a thing 
as an independent neutrality. What will you 
do then ? Eat all your flour, cod, spars, and 
potash, or ransom your captivated countrymen 
at fifteen hundred pounds a head, and lose your 
produce? Hamet wants your alliance. Give 
the snarling mastiff a bone, and while he is 
gnawing it you can do as you please. It is 
certain, that your unorganized system of gov 
ernment is here much talked of, and you know 
the consequence of these matters being much 
talked of. Your paltry state schisms are con* 
sidered to be such vulgar errors, as a people 
aiming at the most refined system of govern 
ment could riot commit, without the imputa 
tion of perfect insanity. But adieu, politics. 
Indeed, I know not what humor prompted me 
to offer my advice to you in this way. 

" If the incongruity of my letter bespeaks a 
perturbation of rnind, it will not deceive you. 
It is a cloudy day with me. However, my 
hobby tells me it will be fair weather to-mor 
row ; and I believe it, because I wish it. You 
will probably next hear from me in France. 
In the mean time, let me make sure of one 
circumstance, and if to-morrow bring its misfor 
tunes, they will be less severe, when I reflect 
on having said to those I know will believe 
me, that no evil, till that which is esteemed 



JOHN LED YARD. 191 

the last of evils, can ever obliterate, or even 
obscure, that lasting affection and esteem, which 
I have for you and your best of brothers. My 
other remembrances I commit to your care." 

He remained in Cadiz but a few days after 
this letter was written, when he somewhat 
unexpectedly procured a passage for Brest, on 
board the French ship Bourbon. It was rare 
for him to be out of health, but in Cadiz he 
was attacked with a fever, which had scarcely 
left him when he went to sea. While on 
board, he writes, " My fever was in conse 
quence of a slight cold originally, and height 
ened by a fit of uncommon melancholy ; but I 
am getting about again, and excepting a slight 
debility, and some of Cook s rheumatism in my 
bones, I am well." His spirits were not un- 
frequently oppressed, when the various turns 
in his affairs left him inactive, with precarious 
means of support, and uncertain as to the fu 
ture ; but he took great pains to conceal the 
symptoms of gloom from his friends. They 
are occasionally discovered in his letters, rather 
from his forced attempts to be cheerful and 
gay, when it is evident, by the general tenor 
of his thoughts, that his heart is sad, than from 
any formal complaints of his ill fortune, or re- 
pinings at the will of Providence. 

He was now visiting Europe in the prose- 



192 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

cution of what he deemed a noble and im 
portant enterprise ; but he was going among 
strangers, who could only be induced to listen 
to his proposals by motives of interest, and 
whom he must inspire with some portion of 
his own enthusiasm, before they could be ex 
pected to favor his schemes, or even compre 
hend his views. The task thus presented to 
him was disheartening. But however despond 
ency might sometimes give a hue to his 
thoughts, he never suffered it to weaken his 
resolution, or repress his ardor. The great ob 
ject of pursuit was never lost sight of, while 
his way to its accomplishment was lighted by 
a gleam of hope. The whole force of his 
mind was now bent upon a voyage of trade 
and discovery to the Northwest Coast. lie was 
powerfully impressed with the belief, that such 
an enterprise would redound to the honor of 
those engaged in it, and confer new benefits 
upon the commercial world ; and was not a 
little chagrined at the small encouragement, 
which his strenuous exertions had received in 
his own country. 

In this state of mind, it is no wonder that 
he should express himself in the following 
language on his voyage to Brest. " I saw an 
English gentleman at Cadiz, who assured me 
that, about six months past, a ship of seven 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



193 



hundred tons, commissioned by the Empress 
of Russia, was fitted out in the English Thames 
on a voyage to the back parts of America ; that 
she was armed, and commanded by a Russian, 
and that some of her officers were those who 
had been with Cook. You see the business 
deserves the attention I have endeavored, and 
am still striving, to give it; and had Morris 
not shrunk behind a trifling obstruction, I 
should have been happy, and America would 
this moment be triumphantly displaying her 
flag in the most remote and beneficial regions 
of commerce. I am tired of my vexations." 

He arrived, after a short passage, at Brest, 
and set off by land through Quimper to L Ori- 
ent. "I am now at Q,uimper," he writes, 
;< and to-morrow, if my horses please, I will be 
in L Orient. What will you do there ? The 
best I can. Brest is a naval arsenal, but not 
so respectable as I had imagined. Monsieur 
de Kerguelen, the great navigator, lives within 
nine miles of me ; but a Holland Consul has 
me by the button, arid I cannot see him. The 
dialect of Bretagne has some resemblance both 
to the Irish and Welsh. But good night ; I 
must sleep. Tired nature will have it so." 
Prom Quimper he proceeded to L Orient, where 
he immediately began to put his affairs in 
train. 

VOL. xiv. 13 



194 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The letters he brought with him from re 
spectable sources procured him a speedy ac 
quaintance with gentlemen of the first char 
acter in the place ; and his plan was received 
with so much approbation, that within twelve 
days he completed a negotiation with a com 
pany of merchants, and a ship was selected 
for the intended voyage. Mutual engagements 
were entered into by the parties, and every 
thing seemed to wear the most promising as 
pect. So unaccustomed had he been to such 
good fortune, that he could hardly realize at 
first the happy issue of events as they then 
stood. " I have been so much the sport of 
accident," said he, " that I am exceedingly 
suspicious. It is true that, in this L Orient 
negotiation, I have guarded every avenue to 
future disappointment with all possible cau 
tion ; yet this head I wear is so much a dupe 
to my heart, and at other times my heart is so 
bewildered by my head, that in matters of 
business I have not much confidence in either." 

He then speaks of the point to which the 
negotiation had been brought, and adds, " But 
here comes a but. Ah, these buts ! pray Heaven 
they may not but the modicum of brains out 
of my head, which Morris has left there. The 
but is this. I have arrived so late in the sea 
son, that the merchants have procrastinated the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 195 

equipment until next summer, and requested 
me to stay here till then, allowing me genteel 
ly for that purpose. And were I but certain 
that no cruel misfortune would eventually hap 
pen, I should be quite happy, for present ap 
pearances could not be better. Upon any con 
sideration, it is for my interest to wait the 
event ; and as I hourly perceive the folly of 
repining at a disappointed wish, or. indeed, of 
suffering what I may happen to call misfor 
tune, whether present or anticipated, to meet 
any other reception from me, than the most 
undaunted which my experience can enable 
me to meet it with, I am determined to sit 
down, not despondingly, dejectedly, or supine 
ly ; what a vile row of adverbs ! but contem 
platively, cheerily, and industriously. It seems 
decreed by somewhat, that I shall be driven 
about the world in a most untraversable way ; 
but in whatever clime I may alight, my ardent 
desire is, that the friendship of my friends may 
greet me well. This done, I have drunk my 
cordial, and there is not a richer in France ; 
and only in America one, which perfumed the 
air from M. to Amboy House." 

All things being thus arranged to his mind, 
and having nothing to regret but the procras 
tination of his voyage, which he perceived to 
be unavoidable, he resolved to spend the win- 



196 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ter in L Orient, and be in readiness to com 
mence preparations the moment that the season 
would admit. It was now October, and the 
opinion of the merchants was, that a suitable 
vessel could not be obtained and properly fitted 
out before the succeeding August. Ten months 
for such an object seemed a long period to 
Ledyard, as well indeed they might. But ex 
perience had taught him patience ; and the fair 
prospects held out by this negotiation, together 
with the consideration, that, by leaving France 
at the close of summer, he would pass round 
Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean at the most 
favorable season, reconciled him to the delay. 

In the mean time, being supplied with a 
liberal income by the mercantile company men 
tioned above, he frequented the best society in 
L Orient, to whom his extensive knowledge of 
the world, his general intelligence, unpretend 
ing manners, and frank and generous temper, 
always made him acceptable. Nothing occurred 
to interrupt his happiness, or darken his hopes, 
during the four months that followed, except 
occasional reflections on the time that had 
been lost in his fruitless endeavors, and the 
glory that others were reaping in the field of 
discovery, which he ought to have been the 
first to explore. 

" I wrote you last," says he, " that a Rus- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 197 

sian ship had been sent into that part of the 
vast Pacific Ocean. Four nights ago, I saw 
a Russian gentleman from Petersburg, who 
informed me of two ships having been sent 
thither. In our yesterday s paper, it is said 
that the ship Seahorse, belonging to the Eng 
lish Hudson s Bay Company, had made a voy 
age thither, and returned well. You see what 
honorable testimonies daily transpire to evince, 
that I am no otherwise the mad, romantic, 
dreaming Ledyard, than in the estimation of 
those who thought me so. The flame of en 
terprise, that I kindled in America, terminated 
in a flash, that bespoke little foresight or res 
olution in my patrons. Perseverance was an 
effort of understanding, which twelve rich mer 
chants were incapable of making ; and whether 
I now succeed or not, the obstacles I have sur 
mounted, to reach my present attainment, infer 
some small merit, which I do not blush to 
own among my private pleasures." 

The winter soon passed away, and near the 
end of February measures began to be taken 
for equipping the vessel for sea. It was in 
tended, that a commission from the King should 
be obtained to sail on a voyage of discovery. 
Some advantages, it was supposed, would thus 
be derived to the mercantile interests of the 
voyage, as the vessel would be clothed with a 



198 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

public character, and from this circumstance 
insure a greater respect from any foreigners 
she might fall in with, as well as enable the 
owners to claim, in the name of the King of 
France, any islands or unknown regions, that 
might be actually discovered. A memorial, and 
other suitable papers, were sent to the King s 
ministers, applying for such a privilege, and for 
letters of recommendation to the European 
public agents residing in those parts of the 
world, at which the vessel would probably 
touch. 

On the 23d of February, 1785, Ledyard 
wrote to his brothers from L Orient ; " My af 
fairs in France are likely to prove of the 
greatest honor and advantage to me. I have 
a fine ship of four hundred tons, and in Au 
gust next I expect to sail on another voyage 
round the world, at the end of which, if Heav 
en is propitious to me, I hope to see you. In 
the mean time, may the God of nature spread 
his mantle over you all. If I never see you 
more, it shall be well ; if I do, it shall be well ; 
so be happy and of good cheer." From this 
tone of his feelings, it is evident that his heart 
was light, and his hopes high. Up to this 
point all things had proceeded according to 
his expectations and wishes ; he had passed an 
agreeable winter in a social and refined circle 



JOHN LEDYARD. 199 

of friends, and he began now to enjoy in an 
ticipation the triumphs of his zeal and perse 
verance. 

But, unfortunately, this flattering vision was 
soon to be dissipated, like the many others, 
by which he had been elated and deceived ; 
again was he to be made, in his own phrase, 
"the sport of accident;" again was the bur 
den of a cruel disappointment to weigh on his 
spirits, and disturb his repose. After the date 
of the above letter, we hear no more of the 
I/Orient negotiation, except that it failed. 
Whether this result, so desolating to the hopes 
of our adventurer, was produced by the caprice 
of the merchants, who had united with him 
in the undertaking, or by any sudden change 
in their affairs, which took from them the 
ability of fulfilling their contract, or by the 
refusal of the government to grant such a com 
mission as was expected, or by all these com 
bined, is not known. It is enough that the 
voyage was entirely abandoned ; and Ledyard 
was left with no other recompense for this 
new vexation, than his own mortified feelings, 
and the prospects of a future too gloomy even 
for him to contemplate unmoved. 

The slender stock. of money, with which he 
landed in Europe, was completely exhausted ; 



200 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



he could expect no more from the L Orient 
merchants, nor from any other quarter ; and, 
what afflicted him more severely than all the 
rest, the last resort for carrying into effect his 
darling plan of northwestern discovery and 
trade, had been tried in vain. No consolation 
remained for his baffled purposes and wasted 
^eal. Yet fifteen years experience, in buffet 
ing the rough and sometimes perilous current 
of life, had taught him other lessons than those 
of despondency, and nerved him for other deeds 
than a tame submission to the control of un 
toward circumstances. His bewildering doubts, 
as to what course he should pursue, detained 
him a short time in L Orient. He looked to 
Paris as the theatre, on which he would be 
most likely to better his fortunes ; and after his 
concerns relative to the voyage were closed, 
he hastened to that capital. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 201 



CHAPTER VII. 

Meets with Mr. Jefferson at Paris. Project of 
a Voyage to the Northwest Coast ivith Paul 
Jones. Jefferson and Lafayette. Ledyard 
proposes a Journey through Russia and Sibe 
ria to Bering s Strait. Observations in Paris. 
Proceeds to London. Sir Joseph Banks 
and, other Gentlemen contribute Funds to aid 
him in his Travels. 

AT this time Mr. Jefferson was minister 
from the United States at the court of France. 
That patriot, equally ardent in the love of sci 
ence, and friendly to every enterprise which 
had for its object the improvement of his 
country, received Ledyard with great kindness, 
and approved most highly his design of an 
expedition to the Northwest Coast of America, 
He perceived at once the advantages that 
would flow from such a voyage, not merely 
in its immediate mercantile results, but in its 
bearing on the future commerce and political 
interests of the United States. No part of that 
wide region had then been explored, nor any 
formal possession taken of it, except the few 
points at which Cook s vessels had touched, 



202 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and others where the Russians possessed small 
establishments for the prosecution of the fur 
trade with the Indians. These latter were 
also probably confined to the islands. To a 
statesman like Mr. Jeiferson it was evident, 
that a large portion of that immense country, 
separated from the United States by no bar 
rier of nature, would eventually be embraced 
in their territory. He was convinced of the 
propriety, therefore, of its being explored by a 
citizen of the United States, and regretted the 
failure of Ledyard s attempts in his own coun 
try to engage in a voyage before the same 
thing had been meditated anywhere else. 
These views were deeply impressed on the 
mind of Mr. Jefferson, and in them originated 
the journey of Lewis and Clark over land to 
the Pacific Ocean, twenty years afterwards, 
which was projected by him, and prosecuted 
under his auspices. 

Ledyard had not been many days in Paris, 
before he became acquainted with Paul Jones, 
at that time acting under a commission from 
the Congress of the United States, to demand 
the amount of certain prizes, which he had 
taken during the war, and sent into French 
ports. This intrepid adventurer, being now un 
employed in any military or public service, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 203 

eagerly seized Ledyard s idea, and an arrange 
ment was closed, by which they agreed to 
unite in an expedition, on a scale somewhat 
larger than Ledyard had before contemplated. 
Two vessels were to be fitted out, and, if pos 
sible, commissioned by the King. Jones was 
to use his influence at court, to persuade the 
government to enlist in the enterprise, or at 
least to furnish the vessels and the requisite 
naval armament. If this could not be effected, 
it was resolved that the outfits should be re 
duced within the limits of Jones s private 
means, and the two partners would act wholly 
on their own responsibility and risk. 

If it should be found necessary to pursue 
the enterprise on their private account alone, 
the two vessels were to proceed in company 
to the Northwest Coast, and commence a fac 
tory there under the American flag. The first 
six months were to be spent in collecting furs, 
and looking out for a suitable spot to establish 
a post, either on the main land, or on an island. 
A small stockade was then to be built, in 
which Ledyard was to be left with a surgeon, 
an assistant, and twenty soldiers ; one of the 
vessels was to be despatched, with its cargo 
of furs, under the command of Paul Jones, to 
China, while the other was to remain in order 
to facilitate the collecting of another cargo 



204 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

during his absence. Jones was to return with 
both the vessels to China, sell their cargoes of 
furs, load them with silks and teas, and con 
tinue his voyage round the Cape of Good 
Hope to Europe, or the United States. He 
was then to replenish his vessels with suitable 
articles for traffic with the Indians, and pro 
ceed as expeditiously as possible round Cape 
Horn, to the point of his departure in the 
Northern Pacific. Meantime Ledyard and his 
party were to employ themselves in purchasing 
furs, cultivating a good understanding with the 
natives, and making such discoveries on the 
coast, as their situation would allow. Ledyard 
supposed he should be absent four or five 
years, and perhaps six or seven.* 

Here was a scheme, that might give full 
scope to the imagination of the two heroes by 
whom it had been conceived, presenting at 
once the prospect of hazard, adventure, fame, 

* A voyage from Canton to the Northwest Coast, and 
back to that port, for purposes similar to those meditated 
by Ledyard and Paul Jones, was performed fourteen years 
afterwards by Captain Richard J. Cleaveland. Whoever 
would understand the difficulties and dangers of such an 
enterprise, at that time, will find them explained in a brief 
account of Captain Cleaveland s voyage, contained in the 
North American Review for October, 1827 ; and also, 
more fully, in his very interesting " Narrative of Voyages 
and Commercial Enterprises," since published. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 205 

and profit. They dwelt upon it with com 
placency, and so much was Jones taken with 
it, that he advanced money to Ledyard, with 
which to purchase a part of the cargo for the 
outfit, even before he had applied to the gov 
ernment for aid, being determined to prosecute 
it at his own risk if he failed in that quarter. 

But at this moment, his affairs in regard to 
the prize-money assumed a crisis, which com 
pelled him to go from Paris to L Orient, 
where he was detained nearly three months ; 
and although he was ultimately successful, 
yet his zeal for this new scheme gradually 
cooled down, as he probably found that the 
government would do nothing in the matter, 
and that his private fortune was not adequate 
to so expensive an undertaking. At any rate, 
it fell through, and after four or five months 
of suspense, Ledyard had the renewed mortifi 
cation of another disappointment, and of seeing 
his ardent wishes no nearer their accomplish 
ment, than when he left L Orient. The only 
advantage he had derived from his intercourse 
with the Chevalier, was an allowance of money 
sufficient for his maintenance, which Jones had 
stipulated at the commencement of the nego 
tiation, and which he had promptly paid. 

Just at this time Mr. Lamb, the diplomatic 
agent appointed by the Congress of the United 



206 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

States to treat with the Dey of Algiers, ar 
rived in Paris. Ledyard met him occasionally 
at Mr. Jefferson s, took an interest in his mis 
sion, and had serious thoughts of joining him 
and going to Africa, but for what specific pur 
pose is not told. The lingering desire, how 
ever, of still being able to conquer the fatality 
of circumstances, which had hitherto impeded 
his progress to glory, in the course his fancy 
had pictured to him, continued to sustain him 
with the hope of a better turn of fortune, and 
to urge him forward to untried expedients. 

In Paris he associated with several Ameri 
cans, who approved and encouraged his ardor, 
and whose society afforded him consolation in 
the midst of his misfortunes, but who were 
not in a condition to promote his wishes, or 
remove his embarrassments. The question, 
what was to be done, which he had so often 
been compelled to ask himself, in cases of sim 
ilar extremity, now recurred anew, and with as 
small a prospect as ever of its being answered 
in such a manner, as to lull his apprehensions, 
or relieve his anxiety. He determined to ad 
venture one effort more, and submit the same 
proposition to a mercantile company in Paris, 
which he had done in L Orient. Some prog 
ress was made in an attempt to organize such 
a company, but it was never matured. It was 



JOHN LEDYARD. 207 

his intention, after he had visited the coast, 
and procured a full cargo of furs, to despatch 
the vessel to China under proper officers, and 
return himself across the continent to the Uni 
ted States, thus accomplishing the double ob 
ject of a lucrative voyage, and a tour of dis 
covery through an unexplored wilderness of 
four thousand miles in extent. Afterwards he 
would join the expedition in the company s 
service, either in France, or any other part of 
the world, as circumstances might dictate. 
Such was the compass of his desires ; yet he 
would have relinquished the idea of this ex 
ploratory tour, and rejoiced to engage in a voy 
age merely for commercial ends, if even that 
could have been effected. 

Several months were passed in unavailing 
efforts to conquer obstacles, which seemed to 
thicken as he advanced, and in vainly striving 
to enlighten ignorance and overcome prejudice, 
till his perseverance could hold out no longer, 
and he was forced to abandon the thought of 
a voyage by sea to the Northwest Coast, either 
for trade or discovery. He continued in Paris, 
but felt himself, as he really was, a wanderer 
without employment or motive. With Mr. 
Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Mr. Bar 
clay, the American Consul, and other gentle 
men of character and consequence, he was on 
terms of intimacy. 



208 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

In this society, and enjoying the amusements 
afforded in the capital of France, his time 
passed away agreeably enough, and in some of 
his letters he speaks of his happiness ; yet he 
was far from being satisfied ; he suffered under 
the pressure of want and a corroding sense of 
dependence ; and occasionally his finances were 
at so low an ebb, that he was compelled, how 
ever reluctantly, to be a pensioner on the boun 
ty of his friends. So disinterested were his 
aims, however, and so entirely did he sacrifice 
every selfish consideration in prosecuting them, 
so benevolent was his disposition, and so en 
larged his views of serving mankind, that no 
one considered favors of this sort in the light 
of obligations conferred, nor so much acts of 
charity, as a just tribute to the singleness of 
his heart, the generosity of his purposes, and 
the effective warmth of his zeal. 

A few miscellaneous extracts from his let 
ters, written during the first months of his res 
idence in Paris, may properly come in here. 
They will give some insight into his occupa 
tions, as well as his habit of observing events 
and objects in the great world around him. 

" Paris is situated in an extended plain, 
rising on all sides into gradual elevations, and 
some little hills happily interspersed in the bor 
ders of its horizon. Its extent, viewed from 



JOHN LEDYARD. 209 

the tower of Notre Dame, appeared to me less 
than London, though it must be larger. The 
public buildings are numerous, and some of 
them magnificent. Paris is the centre of 
France, and its centre is the Palais Royal, the 
resort of the greatest virtues and the greatest 
vices of such a kingdom. It is France in 
miniature, and no friend to France should ever 
see it. The Tuileries afford a consummate 
display of artificial elegance and grandeur ; the 
gardens of the Luxembourg are much inferior. 
The Boulevards were originally fortifications, 
and they now form a broad way that surrounds 
the city, separating it from the suburbs. It is 
well lined with fine umbrageous elms on each 
side, forming a beautiful course for coaches 
and horsemen; but the farmers-general, to pre 
vent illicit trade, are walling it in, at the ex 
pense of a thousand lamentations of the Paris 
ians, and several millions of livres. I have 
been once at the King s Library. Papa Frank 
lin, as the French here call him, is among a 
number of statues that I saw. The bust of 
Paul Jones is also there. Did you ever know, 
that Captain Jones was two or three nights 
successively crowned with laurels, at the great 
Opera House in Paris, after the action between 
the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis 1 
u I find at our minister s table between fif- 

VOL. XIV. 14 



210 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

teen and twenty Americans, inclusive of two 
or three ladies. It is very remarkable, that we 
are neither despised nor envied for our love 
of liberty, but very often caressed. I was yes 
terday at Versailles. It was the feast of St. 
Louis; but I never feasted so ill in my life as 
at the hotel where I dined, and never paid so 
dear for a dinner. I was too late to see the 
procession of the King and Queen, but I was 
little disappointed on that account, as I had 
already seen those bawbles. The King I saw 
a fortnight before to very great advantage, 
being near to him while he was shooting par 
tridges in the fields. He was dressed in com 
mon mosquito trousers, a short linen frock, 
and an old laced hat without a cockade. He 
had an easy, gentlemanly appearance ; and had 
it not been for his few attendants, I should 
have taken him for the captain of a merchant 
ship, amusing himself in the field. The Pal 
ace at Versailles, and its gardens, are an orna 
ment to the face of the globe. It was dirty 
weather. I wore boots, and consequently was 
prohibited from visiting the galleries. I was 
in company with our Mr. Barclay, Colonel 
Franks of the American army, a young Vir 
ginian, and an English sea officer. Franks was 
booted too ; but though honest Tom Barclay 
was not, he had no bag on, and they were 



JOHN LEDYARD. 211 

dismissed also ; so that boots on, and bags off, 
are sad recommendations at the Court of Ver 
sailles. 

" If the two Pitzhughs remain in town a 
week longer, you shall have a week s detail. 
They dine with me to-day in my chamber, 
together with our worthy Consul Barclay, and 
that lump of universality, Colonel Franks. But 
such a set of moneyless rascals have never 
appeared since the epoch of the happy villain 
Falstaff. I have but five French crowns in 
the world ; Franks has not a sol ; and the 
Fitzhtighs cannot get their tobacco money. 

" Mr. Jefferson is an able minister, and our 
country may repose a confidence in him equal 
to their best wishes. Whether in public or 
private, he is in every word and every action 
the representative of a young, vigorous, and 
determined state. His only competitors here, 
even in political fame, are Vergennes and La 
fayette. In other accomplishments he stands 
alone. The Marquis de Lafayette is one of 
the most growing characters in this kingdom. 
He has planted a tree in America, and sits 
under its shade at Versailles. He is now at 
the court of old Frederick. I am sure, that 
you could not yourself have manifested more 
alacrity to serve me, than he has done. The 
Marquis is a warm friend to America. It will 



212 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

be difficult for any subsequent plenipotentiary 
to have as much personal influence in France, 
as Dr. Franklin had; it will at least be so, till 
the causes, which created that venerable patri 
ot s ascendency, shall become less recent in the 
minds of the people. I had the pleasure of 
being but once at his house, before his depart 
ure, and although bent down with age and 
infirmities, the excellent old man exhibited all 
the good cheer of health, the gay philosopher, 
and the kindness of a friendly countryman." 

11 It has been a holiday to-day ; the nativ 
ity of the Virgin Mary. My friend, the Abbe 
d Aubrey, tells me that they have but eighty- 
two holidays in the year, which are publicly 
regarded ; but this is a mistake ; they have 
more. We both agree, that they have eighty- 
two less than they formerly had. There are 
certainly a hundred days in this city every 
year, whereon all the shops are shut, and there 
is a general suspension of business ; for the 
good policy of which, let them look to it. 
You will hear in your papers of an affair be 
tween a certain Cardinal and the Queen of 
France. It has been the topic of conversation 
here for thirty days ; and forty fools, that have 
expressed themselves too freely in the matter 
for the police, are already in the Bastile. We 
have news to-day, that the King will have 



JOHN LEDYARD. 213 

him tried by the Parliament, and has written 
to that dying meteor, the Pope, not to meddle 
in the business." 

" I was late home yesterday evening from 
the feast of St. Cloud, held at a little town of 
that name on the bank of the Seine. It is 
particularly remarkable for having the Queen s 
Gardens in it, and a house for the Queen, 
called a Palace. The chief circumstance, which 
renders the village a place of curiosity to stran 
gers, is the waterworks, which, after the labor 
of many years and vast expense, exhibit a sick 
ly cascade, and three jets d eau, or fountains, 
that cast water into the air. The largest of 
these throws out a column as big as a man s 
arm, which rises about thirty yards. In the 
evening I entered a part of the gardens, where 
some fireworks were played off. The tickets 
were twenty-four sols. The fireworks were 
very few, but good. This little rustic enter 
tainment of the Queen s was, with great pro 
priety, attended with very little parade about 
her person. It was a mere rural revel, and 
never before did I see majesty and tag-rag so 
philosophically blended ; a few country fiddlers 
scraping, and Kate of the mill tripping it with 
Dick of the vineyard. 

" Thus you see how some few of my days 
pass away. I see a great deal, and think a 



214 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

great deal, but derive little pleasure from either, 
because I am forced into both, and am alone 
in both." 

By these methods he endeavored to amuse 
himself, and forget his favorite scheme of trav 
ersing the Western Continent, and ascertain 
ing its physical character and commercial re 
sources. But this was not possible ; it had 
taken too strong a hold of him to admit of 
being driven altogether from his mind. As 
fate seemed to throw difficulties insurmounta 
ble in the way of a passage by sea, he be 
thought himself of the only remaining expedi 
ent, by which a part of his original design 
might be carried into execution ; and that was, 
to travel by land through the northern regions 
of Europe and Asia, cross over Bering s Strait 
to the American continent, and pursue his 
route thence down the coast, and to the inte 
rior, in such a manner as the exigencies of his 
condition might point out to him when on 
the spot. 

The first object requiring attention, was to 
gain permission of the Empress of Russia to 
pass through her immense territories to Kamts- 
chatka. Mr. Jeiferson, who heartily approved 
the project, interested himself in this prelimi 
nary measure, and applied to M. de Simoulin, 
minister plenipotentiary from Russia at the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 215 

court of France, and especially to the Baron 
de Grimm, minister from Saxe-Gotha at the 
same court. Grimm was a correspondent and 
private agent of the Empress, and would be 
likely to have as much influence with her in 
a matter of this sort, as her public minister. 
Both these gentlemen very readily acceded to 
Mr. Jefferson s request, and made in his name 
a direct application to the Empress, soliciting 
permission for Ledyard, in the character of an 
American citizen, to travel through her domin 
ions. As haste is not a characteristic of trans 
actions of this sort with crowned heads, the 
impatient traveller resolved to busy himself in 
the best manner he could, at least till a reason 
able time should elapse for a reply. In the 
interim he retired to St. Germain, where he 
afterwards commonly resided during his stay 
in France. The letter, which contains the fol 
lowing passages, is dated at St. Germain, on 
the 8th of April, 1786. 

" If Congress should yet be at New York, 
this will be delivered to you by my friend, 
and almost every body s friend, Colonel Hum 
phreys, whom you knew in days of yore. He 
is secretary to our legation at the court of 
France, has a good head and a good heart ; 
but his hobby is poetry, and as the English 
reviewers allow him merit therein, I may very 



216 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

safely venture to do it. He is a friendly, good 
soul, a sincere Yankee, and so affectionately 
fond of his country, that to be in his society 
here is at least as good to me as a dream of 
being at home. I imagine he takes despatches, 
but as we are republicans a little more pol 
ished than on your side of the water, we never 
presume to ask impertinent questions. 

" You have doubtless by this time received 
my letters by Mr. Barrett. Your hearing from 
me so often by those who intimately know 
my situation, and who are so much my friends, 
is a happy circumstance ; but I would freely 
have relinquished the pleasure, which I take 
in writing this letter, to have been where I 
supposed I should be when I wrote you last. 
But soon after the departure of Mr. Barrett, 
our minister, the Russian minister, and the 
Marquis de Lafayette, took it into their heads, 
that I should not go directly to Petersburg, 
but wait till I was sent for, which is the oc 
casion of my being here to write you at this 
time. You see that I have so many friends, 
that I cannot do just as I please. 

" I am very well in health. A gracious 
Providence, and the Indian corn diet of my 
childhood, added to the robust scenes I have 
since passed through, have left me, at the same 
age at which my father died, healthy, active, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 217 

vigorous, and strong. * I am for a few weeks 
at the little town where my letter is dated, 
and as I live upon the skirt of a royal forest, 
I am every day in it, and it is usual for me 
to run two miles an end and return. I am 
like one of Swift s Houyhnhnms. Ask Hum 
phreys if I did not walk into Paris last week, 
and return to dine with Madam Barclay the 
same morning, a distance equal, at least, to 
twenty-four of our miles. But this is not the 
work of Nature ; she made me a voluptuous, 
pensive animal, intended for the tranquil scenes 
of domestic life, for ease and contemplation, 
and a thousand other fine soft matters, that 
I have thought nothing about since I was in 
love with R. E. of Stonington. 

11 What fate intends further, I leave to fate ; 
but it is very certain, that there has ever been 
a great difference between the manner of life 
I have actually led, and that which I should 
have chosen ; and this is not to be attributed 
more, perhaps, to the irregular incidents that 
have alternately caressed and insulted me, than 
to the irregularity of my genius. Tom Bar 
clay, our Consul, who knows mankind and me 
very well, tells me that he never saw such a 
medley as in me. The Virginian gentlemen 

* A line from his father s tombstone; he died at the 
age of thirty-five. 



218 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



here call me Oliver Cromwell, .and say, that, 
like him, I shall be damned to fame; but I 
have never dared to prophesy, however, that it 
would be by a Virginian poet. 

" I every hour expect my summons to Pe 
tersburg from the Russian minister. I shall 
have a delightful season to pass through Ger 
many, though it does not suit my tour well. 
I shall lose a season by it. I am not certain 
about the result of this business, and shall not 
be perfectly at ease, till I have been introduced 
to the Empress." 

From a remark above, it may be inferred, 
that Ledyard wished to begin his journey to 
Petersburg before any intelligence had been 
received by the Russian minister in reply to 
his application. His principal motive doubtless 
was, that he might take advantage of the sea 
son, and reach Siberia so far in anticipation 
of the severest parts of the winter, as not to 
be blocked up for several months by the snows 
in that frigid region. His advisers considered 
such a step ill judged, inasmuch as a formal 
petition had been sent to the Empress, and it 
would evince a want of proper respect to set 
out on the journey before her answer had 
been returned, however strong might be the 
probability that her consent would be granted. 
These points of etiquette were overlooked by 



JOHN LEDYARD. 219 

the traveller, in his eagerness to be on the 
road ; and he moreover thought the business 
might as well be settled at the court of the 
Empress in Petersburg, as through her minis 
ter in Paris. The event proved his impres 
sions not to be ill founded. His forebodings 
were verified, for he was kept in daily expec 
tation for more than five months, without re 
ceiving an answer, or hearing anything on the 
subject either from M. de Simoulin, or the 
Baron de Grimm. His last letter from France 
is a very long one, dated at St. Germain, the 
8th of August, 1786. It touches on a great 
variety of topics, and was written at different 
times. 

" Since I wrote to you by Colonel Hum 
phreys," says he to his friend, "I have been 
at St. Germain, waiting the issue of my affair 
at Petersburg. You wonder by what means 
I exist, having brought with me to Paris, this 
time twelve months, only three louis d ors. 
Ask vice-consuls, consuls, ministers, and pleni 
potentiaries, all of whom have been tributary 
to me. You think I joke. No ; upon my 
honor, and however irreconcilable to my tem 
per, disposition, and education, it is nevertheless 
strictly true. Every day of my life, my dear 
cousin, is a day of expectation, and consequent 
ly a day of disappointment. Whether I shall 



220 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

have a morsel of bread to eat at the end of 
two months, is as much an uncertainty, as it 
was fourteen months ago, and not more so. 
The near approach, that I have so often made 
to each extreme of happiness and distress, 
without absolutely entering into either, has 
rendered me so hardy, that I can meet either 
with composure. 

" Permit me to relate to you an incident. 
About a fortnight ago, Sir James Hall, an Eng 
lish gentleman, on his way from Paris to Cher 
bourg, stopped his coach at our door, and came 
up to my chamber. I was in bed at six o clock 
in the morning ; but, having flung on my robe 
de chambre, I met him at the door of the an 
techamber. I was glad to see him, but sur 
prised. He observed, that he had endeavored 
to .make up his opinion of me, \vith as much 
exactness as possible, and concluded that no 
kind of visit whatever would surprise me. I 
could do no otherwise than remark, that his 
opinion surprised me at least, and the conver 
sation took another turn. In walking across 
the chamber, he laughingly put his hand on a 
six livre piece and a louis d or, that lay on 
my table, and, with a half stifled blush, asked 
me how I was in the money way. Blushes 
commonly beget blushes, and I blushed partly 
because he did, and partly on other accounts. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 221 

If fifteen guineas, said he, interrupting the 
answer he had demanded, will be of any 
service to you, there they are ; and he put 
them on the table. I am a traveller myself, 
and though I have some fortune to support 
my travels, yet I have been so situated as to 
want money, which you ought not to do. 
You have my address in London. He then 
wished me a good morning and left me. 

" This gentleman was a total stranger to the 
situation of my finances, and one that I had 
by mere accident met at an ordinary in Paris. 
We had conversed together several times, and 
he once sent his carriage for me to dine with 
him. I found him handsomely lodged in the 
best Fauxbourg in the city. Two members 
of the British House of Commons, two lords, 
Beaumarchais, and several members of the 
Royal Academy, were at his table. He had 
seen me two or three times after that, and al 
ways expressed the highest opinion of the tour 
I had determined to make, and said he would, 
as a citizen of the world, do anything in his 
power to promote it but I had no more idea 
of receiving money from him, than I have this 
moment of receiving it from Tippoo Saib. 
However, I took it without any hesitation, and 
told him I would be as complaisant to him, 
if ever occasion offered." 



222 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" I have once visited the Foundling Hospi 
tal, and the Hospital de Dieu, in Paris ; twice 
I never shall. Not all the morality from Con 
fucius to Addison could give me such feelings. 
Eighteen foundlings were brought the day of 
my visit. One was brought in while I was 
there. Dear little innocents ! But you are, 
happily, insensible of your situations. Where 
are your unfortunate mothers ? Perhaps, in the 
adjoining hospital, they have to feel for you 
and themselves too. But where is the wretch, 

the villain, the monster ? I was not six 

minutes in the house. It is customary to 
leave a few pence ; I flung down six livres 
and retired. 

" Determined to persevere, I continued my 
visit over the way to the Hospital de Dieu. 
I entered first the apartments of the women. 
1 Why will you, my dear sisters, I was going 
to say as I passed a4ong between the beds in 
ranks, why will you be but I was inter 
rupted by a melancholy figure, that appeared at 
its last gasp, or already dead. She s dead, said 
1 to a German gentleman, who was with me, 
and nobody knows or cares anything about 
it. We approached the bedside. I observed 
a slight undulatory motion in one of the jugu 
lar arteries. She s not dead, said I, and 
seized her hand to search for her pulse. I 



JOHN LEDYARD. 223 

hoped to find life, but it was gone. The word 
dead, being again pronounced, brought the nuns 
to the bed. < My God ! exclaimed the head 
nun, she s dead. Jesu, Maria! exclaimed 
the other nuns, in their defence, she s dead. 
The head nun scolded the others for their 
mal-attendance. My God ! continued she, 
she is dead without the form. Dieu ! said 
the others, she died so silently. Silence! 
said the elder ; perhaps she is not dead ; say 
the form. The form was said, and the sheet 
thrown over her face." 

" While in Normandy, I was at the seat of 
Conflans, the successor of him who was so 
unfortunate in a naval affair with Hawke of 
England. It is the lordship of the manor. 
The peasants live and die at the smiles or 
frowns of their lord, and, avaricious of the for 
mer, they fly to communicate to him any un 
common occurrence in the village ; and such 
they thought our arrival. , The place, to be 
sure, is very remote, and the gentleman I ac 
companied, who was an Englishman, rode in a 
superb manner. His coach and servants were 
in a very elegant style. M. Conflans was in 
formed of it. On that day it was my turn to 
cater, and the little country taverns in France 
are such, as oblige one to cook for himself, if 
he would eat. I was consequently very busy 



224 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in the kitchen. The Otaheite marks on my 
hands were discovered ; the mistress and the 
maids asked our servants the history of so 
strange a sight. They were answered that 1 
was a gentleman, who had been round the 
world. It was enough ; Conflans knew of it. 
and sent a billet, written in good English, to 
inquire if we would permit him the honor of 
seeing us at his mansion ; and, if he could be 
thus distinguished, he would come and wait 
on us thither himself. It was too late ; the 
Englishman and I had begun pell-mell upon 
a joint of roast. If Jove himself had sent a 
card by Blanchard inviting us, it would have 
been all one.* We would honor ourselves 
with waiting on the Marquis de Conflans in 
the evening. We did so, and we could not 
but be pleased with the reception we met 
with ; it was in the true character of a French 
nobleman." 

" I took a walk to Paris this morning, and 
saw the Marquis de Lafayette. He is a good 
man, this same Marquis. I esteem him, and 
even love him, and so we all do, except some 
few, who worship him. I make these trips to 



* Blanchard had recently crossed the Strait from Dover 
to Calais in a balloon, accompanied by Dr. Jeffries, of 
Boston. 



JOHN LED YARD,. 225 

Paris often ; sometimes to dine with this amia 
ble Frenchman, and sometimes with our min 
ister, who is a brother to me. I am too much 
alive to care and ambition to sit still. The 
unprofitable life I have led goads me ; I would 
willingly crowd as much merit as possible into 
the autumn and winter of it. Like Milton s 
hero in Paradise Lost, (who happens, by the 
way, to be the evil one himself,) it behoves 
me now to use both oar and sail to gain my 
port. 

" The Paris papers of to-day announce the 
discovery of some valuable gold mines in Mont 
gomery county, Virginia, which I rejoice to 
hear ; but I hope they will not yield too much 
of it, for, as Poor Richard says, too much of 
one thing is good for nothing. All that I 
can say is, that, if too much of it is as bad as 
too little, the Lord help you, as he has me, 
who, in spite of my poverty, am hearty and 
cheerful. I die with anxiety to be on the 
back of the American States, after having 
either come from or penetrated to the Pacific 
Ocean. There is an extensive field for the 
acquirement of honest fame. A blush of gen 
erous regret sits on my cheek, when I hear of 
any discovery there, which I have had no part 
in, and particularly at this auspicious period. 
The American revolution invites to a thorough 
VOL. xiv. 15 



226 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

discovery of the continent, and. the honor of 
doing it would become a foreigner, but a na 
tive only can feel the genuine pleasure of the 
achievement. It was necessary that a Eu 
ropean should discover the existence of that 
continent, but, in the name of Amor Patrice, 
let a native explore its resources and bounda 
ries. It is my wish to be the man. I will 
not yet resign thattwish, nor my pretensions 
to that distinction. Farewell for the present. 
I have just received intelligence, which hur 
ries me to London. What fate intends is al 
ways a secret ; fortitude is the word. I leave 
this letter with my brother and my father, our 
minister. He will send it by the first convey 
ance. Adieu." 

The intelligence here alluded to was from 
his eccentric friend, Sir James Hall, who had 
returned to London. In six days Ledyard was 
with him in the British capital. He there 
found an English ship in complete readiness 
to sail for the Pacific Ocean. Sir James Hall 
introduced him to the owners, who immedi 
ately offered him a free passage in the vessel, 
with the promise, that he should be set on 
shore at any place on the Northwest Coast, 
which he might choose. The merchants, no 
doubt, hoped to profit somewhat by his knowl 
edge and experience, and he could not object 



JOHN LEDYARD. 227 

to such an exchange, as these were his only 
possessions. One of Cook s officers was also 
going out in the same vessel. The day before 
he was to go on board, Ledyard wrote to Mr. 
Jefferson in the following animated strain. 

" Sir James Hall presented me with twenty 
guineas pro bono publico. I bought two great 
dogs, an Indian pipe, and a hatchet. My want 
of time, as well as of money, will prevent my 
going any otherwise than indifferently equipped 
for such an enterprise ; but it is certain, that 
I shall be more in want before I see Virginia. 
Why should I repine ? You know how much 
I owe the amiable Lafayette. Will you do 
me the honor to present my most grateful 
thanks to him? If I find in my travels a 
mountain, as much elevated above other moun 
tains, as he is above ordinary men, I will name 
it Lafayette. I beg the honor, also, of my 
compliments to Mr. Short, who has been my 
friend, and who, like the good widow in Scrip 
ture, cast in not only his mite, but more than 
he was able, for my assistance." 

The equipment of two dogs, an Indian pipe, 
and a hatchet, it must be confessed, was very 
scanty for a journey across a continent ; but 
they were selected with an eye to their uses. 
The dogs would be his companions, and assist 
him in taking wild animals for food ; the pipe 



228 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was an emblem of peace to the Indians ; and 
the hatchet would serve many purposes of 
convenience and utility. His choice could not 
have fallen, perhaps, upon three more essential 
requisites for a solitary traveller among savages 
and wild beasts ; they would enable him to 
provide for his defence, and procure a friendly 
reception, covering, and sustenance. All these 
were necessary, and must be the first objects 
of his care. 

His plan was fully arranged before entering 
the ship. He determined to land at Nootka 
Sound, where he had passed some time with 
Cook s expedition, and thence strike directly 
into the interior, and pursue his course as for 
tune should guide him to Virginia. By his 
calculation, the voyage and tour would take 
him about three years. He was much grati 
fied with the reception he met in London, and 
particularly from Sir Joseph Banks, and some 
other gentlemen of science, who entered warm 
ly into his designs. It was believed, that his 
discoveries would not fail to add valuable im 
provements to geography and natural history ; 
and there was a romantic daring in the enter 
prise itself, well suited to gain the applause of 
ardent and liberal minds. Thus encouraged, 
his enthusiasm rose higher than ever, and his 
impatience to embark increased every moment. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 229 

While in Paris the preceding year, he had 
become acquainted with Colonel Smith, sec 
retary of legation to Mr. Adams, at that time 
American minister in London. Colonel Smith 
befriended him after his arrival in England, 
and, conceiving the journey he was about to 
undertake as promising to be highly important 
to America, he wrote an account of it to Mr. 
Jay, then secretary of foreign affairs in the 
United States. After a few remarks relative 
to Ledyard s previous attempts and objects, 
Colonel Smith proceeds ; 

" In consequence of some allurements from 
an English nobleman at Paris, he came here 
with the intention of exploring the Northwest 
Coast and country ; and a vessel being on the 
point of sailing for that coast, after supplying 
himself with a few necessary articles for his 
voyage and march, he procured a passage, with 
a promise from the captain to land him on 
the western coast, from which he means to 
attempt a march through the Indian nations 
to the back parts of the Atlantic States, for 
the purpose of examining the country and its 
inhabitants : and he expects to be able to make 
his way through, possessed of such information 
of the country and people, as will be of great 
advantage to ours. This remains to be proved. 
It is a daring, wild attempt. Determined to 



230 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

pursue the object, he embarked the last week, 
free and independent of the world, pursuing 
his plan unembarrassed by contract or obliga 
tion. If he succeeds, and in the course of 
two or three years should visit our country by 
this amazing circuit, he may bring with him 
some interesting information. If he fails, and 
is never heard of more, which I think most 
probable, there is no harm done. He dies in 
an unknown country, and if he composes him 
self in his last moments with the reflection, 
that his project was great, and the undertaking 
what few men are capable of, it will to his 
mind soothe the passage. He is perfectly cal 
culated for the attempt, robust and healthy, 
and has an immense passion to make discov 
eries, which will benefit society, and insure 
him, agreeably to his own expression, l a small 
degree of honest fame. It may not be im 
proper for your Excellency to be acquainted 
with these circumstances, and you are the 
best judge of the propriety of extending them 
further." 

The vessel went down the Thames from 
Deptford. and in a few days put to sea. Led- 
yard thought it the happiest moment of his 
life. But alas ! how uncertain are human ex 
pectations ! Again was he doomed to suffer 
the agonies of a disappointment more severe 



JOHN LEDYARD. 231 

than any that had preceded, because never be 
fore were his wishes so near their consumma 
tion. He looked upon the great obstacles as 
overcome, and regarded himself as beyond the 
reach of fortune s caprice. This delusion soon 
vanished. The vessel was not out of sight 
of land, before it was brought back by an or 
der from the government, and the voyage was 
finally broken off. He went back to London, 
as may be supposed, with a heavy heart. A 
month afterwards he wrote to Dr. Ledyard ; 

"I am still the slave of fortune and the 
son of care. You will be surprised that I am 
yet in London, unless you will conclude with 
me, that, after what has happened, nothing can 
be surprising. I think my last letter informed 
you, that I was absolutely embarked on board 
a ship in the Thames, bound to the North 
west Coast of America. This will inform you, 
that I have disembarked from said ship, on 
account of her having been unfortunately 
seized by the custom-house, and eventually 
exchequered ; and that I am obliged in conse 
quence to alter my route ; and, in short, every 
thing, all my little baggage, shield, buckler, 
lance, dogs, squire, and all, gone. I only am 
left; left to what? To some riddle, I ll 
warrant you ; or, at all events, I will not war 
rant anything else. My heart is too much 



232 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

troubled at this moment to write you as I 
ought to do. I will only add, that I am going 
in a few days to make the tour of the globe 
from London east on foot. I dare not write 
you more, nor introduce you to the real state 
of my affairs. Farewell. Fortitude ! Adieu." 
By this it will be seen that his Siberian 
project was again revived ; and, in fact, a sub 
scription to aid him in this object had already 
been commenced in London, under the patron 
age of Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Hunter, Sir 
James Hall, and Colonel Smith. " I fear my 
subscription will be small," he says, in a letter 
to Mr. Jefferson ; " it adds to my anxiety to 
reach those dominions where I shall riot want 
money. I do not mean the dominions that 
may be beyond death. I shall never wish to 
die while you and the Marquis are alive. I 
am going across Siberia, as I before intended." 
The amount collected by his friends is not 
mentioned, but it was such as to induce him 
to set out upon the journey ; which, indeed, 
he probably would have done had he obtained 
no money at all. He had lived too long by 
expedients to be stopped in his career by an 
obstacle so trifling in his imagination as the 
want of money, and he was panting to get 
into a country where its use was unknown, 
and where, of course, the want of it would not 
be felt. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 233 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Ledyard proceeds to Hamburg ; thence to Copen 
hagen and Stockholm. Journey round the 
Gulf of Bothnia. Arrives at Petersburg. 
Procures a Passport from the Empress. Sets 
out for Siberia. Crosses the Uralian Moun 
tains. Descriptions of the Country and the 
Inhabitants. Arrives at Irkutsk. 

LEAVING London in December, Ledyard went 
over to Hamburg, whence he immediately 
wrote to Colonel Smith. From the account 
of his finances contained in that letter, it 
would not seem that he was encumbered, at 
his departure from England, with a heavy 
purse. He makes no complaint, however ; on 
the contrary, he expresses only joy, that the 
journey, which he had so long desired, was 
actually begun. 

"I am here," he says, " with ten guineas 
exactly, and in perfect health. One of my 
dogs is no more. I lost him on my passage 
up the River Elbe to Hamburg, in a snow 
storm. I was out in it forty hours in an open 
boat. My other faithful companion is under 
the table on which I write. I dined to-day 
with Madam Parish, lady of the gentleman I 



234 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

mentioned to you. It is a Scotch house of the 
first commercial distinction here. The Scotch 
have by nature a dignity of sentiment, that ren 
ders them accomplished. I could go to Heaven 
with Madam Parish, but she had some people 
at her table, that I could not go to heaven 
with. I cannot submit to a haughty eccen 
tricity of manners. My fate has sent me to 
the tavern where Major Langborn was three 
weeks. He is now at Copenhagen, having 
left his baggage here to be sent on to him. 
By some mistake he has not received it, and 
has written to the master of the hotel on the 
subject. I shall write to him, and give him 
my address at Petersburg. I should wish to 
see him at all events ; but to have him accom 
pany me on my voyage would be a pleasure 
indeed." 

This Major Langborn turns out to be an 
American officer, lately arrived in Hamburg 
from Newcastle, "a very good kind of a man, 
and an odd kind of a man," as the master of 
the hotel called him, one who had travelled 
much, and was fond of travelling in his own 
way. He had gone off to Copenhagen with 
out his baggage, taking with him only one 
spare shirt, and very few other articles of cloth 
ing. It does not appear, that Ledyard had 
ever been acquainted with Langborn, or even 



JOHN LEDYARD. 235 

seen him ; but he had heard such a descrip 
tion of him from Colonel Smith and others, 
that in fancy he had become enamored of the 
originality and romantic turn of his character, 
and particularly of his passion for travelling. 
Carried away with this whimsical preposses 
sion, he had got it into his head that Lang- 
born was the fittest man in the world to be 
the companion of his travels. An imaginary 
resemblance between their pursuits, condition, 
and the bent of their genius, created a sym 
pathy, that was not to be resisted. He more 
over suspected, from hints which he saw in 
Langborn s letter, inquiring about his trunk, 
that he was in want of money. Here was 
another appeal to his generosity, and one which 
he could never suffer to be made in vain, 
when he had ten guineas in his pocket. " I 
will fly to him with my little all, and some 
clothes, and lay them at his feet. At this 
moment I may be useful to him. He is my 
countryman, a gentleman, a traveller. He may 
go with me on my journey. If he does, I am 
blessed ; if not, I shall merit his attention, and 
shall not be much out of my way to Peters- 
burg." 

With this state of his feelings, it is not 
wonderful that we should next hear from him 
at Copenhagen. He hastened on to that city, 



236 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and arrived there about the 1st of January, 
1787, although it was taking him far aside 
from his direct course, and exposing him to all 
the fatigues and perils of a long, tedious win 
ter passage through Sweden and Finland. He 
found Langborn in a very awkward situation, 
without money or friends, and shut up in his 
room for the want of decent apparel to appear 
abroad in ; and, what was worse, incurring the 
suspicions of those around him, that he was 
some vagabond, or desperate character, whose 
conduct had rendered it expedient for him to 
keep out of sight. Imagination only can paint 
the joy, that glowed in our traveller s counte 
nance, when he saw the remains of his ten 
guineas slip from his fingers, to relieve the 
distresses of his new found friend. All that 
could now be said of them was, that their 
poverty was equalized ; the Major could walk 
abroad, and his benefactor had not means to 
carry him beyond the bounds of the city. The 
road to Petersburg was many hundred miles 
long, through snows, and over ice, and present 
ing obstacles enough at that season to appal 
the stoutest heart, even with all the facilities 
for travelling which gold could purchase. 
What, then, was the prospect for a moneyless 
pedestrian ? 

These reflections were not suffered to in- 



JOHN LED YARD. 237 

trade upon the pleasures of the moment. His 

money was gone, it was true ; but a worthy 
man, and a traveller, had been made happier 
by it. How he should advance further was a 
point to be thought of to-morrow ; yet the 
doubt never came into his mind, that anything 
could stop him when the time should arrive 
for him to move forward. Neither confidence 
nor fortitude ever forsook him. Two weeks 
were agreeably passed in the society of Lang- 
born ; but no inducements could prevail on him 
to undertake the Siberian tour, much less to 
hazard the dangerous experiment of intrusting 
himself among the wild barbarians of North 
America. His humor was not of this sort ; yet 
it was scarcely less peculiar than if it had 
been. " I see in him," says Ledyard to 
Colonel Smith, " the soldier, the countryman, 
and the generous friend ; but he would hang 
me if he knew I had written a word about 
him ; and so I will say no more, than just to 
inform you, that he means to wander this 
winter through Norway, Swedish Lapland, and 
Sweden; and in the spring to visit Petersburg. 
I asked to attend him through this route to 
Petersburg ; * No ; I esteem you, but I can 
travel in the way I do with no man on 
earth. After this avowal, the Major certain 
ly merits the praise of frankness, if not of com- 



238 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

pliance ; and Ledyard must have possessed a 
larger share of practical philosophy than falls 
to the lot of most men, to have been perfect 
ly reconciled to this abrupt declaration, after 
coming so far out of his way, and spending 
much time and all his money in search of a 
companion, who he fondly hoped would parti 
cipate in his adventures. 

When this visit of friendship was closed, 
and the hour of departure approached, the ne 
cessity was pressed upon him of looking about 
for money. He drew a small bill on Colonel 
Smith, and good fortune put in his way a 
merchant, who consented to accept it, and pay 
him the amount. " Thompson s goodness to 
me," he writes to Colonel Smith, " in accept 
ing the bill on you, relying on my honor, has 
saved me from perdition, and will enable me 
to reach Petersburg." A small sum, to meet 
such an exigency, had been left in Colonel 
Smith s hands, but not to the full amount of 
the draft. Ledyard apologizes for the addi 
tion, and tells his friend that he must put it 
to the account of charity, for his necessities 
only had compelled him to overdraw. The 
draft was kindly accepted by Colonel Smith, 
when it came to hand. Thus replenished, 
our traveller parted from the eccentric Major, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 239 

crossed over into Sweden, and arrived in Stock 
holm towards the end of January.* 

The common mode of travelling from Stock 
holm to Petersburg in the summer season, is 
to cross the Gulf of Bothnia to Abo in Fin 
land by water, touching at the Isles of Aland 
on the passage. In winter the same route is 

* Langborn pursued his route, as he had proposed, wan 
dering over Sweden, Norway, and Lapland. The summer 
following he arrived in Tornea, at the proper season for 
witnessing the sight which has drawn other travellers to 
that place. Tornea is but a few miles south of the Arc 
tic Circle, and at the time of the summer solstice the sun 
appears above the horizon, as observed by Maupertuis, " for 
several days together without setting." Travellers are then 
favored with what is called " a view of the sun at mid 
night." Acerbi was there in 1799, and he mentions Lang- 
born. In the church of Jukasjeroi, a town at some dis 
tance to the north of Tornea, and the Ultima Thule of 
travellers in that direction, there is a book in which are 
written the names of visitors, with such remarks as their 
humor prompted them to indite. These are copied into 
Acerbi s Travels, amounting to only seven in number. The 
first record was by Regnard, on the 18th of August, 1681. 
The following is a literal transcript of another; "Justice 
bids me record thy hospitable fame, and testify it by my 
name. W. Langborn, United States. July 23d, 1787." 
This was six months after Ledyard left him in Copenha 
gen. Acerbi says he was travelling on foot from Norway 
to Archangel. 

In a notice of the first edition of this work, in the 
"Southern Review," are the following remarks. 

"We chanced to know Major Langborn after he re- 



240 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



pursued, when the sea is frozen so hard as to 
admit of sledges being drawn from one island 
to another on the ice. The greatest distance 
to be passed over in this manner, without 
touching land, is about thirty miles. Under 
the most favorable circumstances this passage 
is troublesome and dangerous. It is well de 
scribed by Acerbi. " My astonishment was 
greatly increased," says he, " in proportion as 
we advanced from our starting post. The sea, 
at first smooth and even, became more and 

turned from his peregrinations, and have often been amused 
with his account of his adventures and odd modes of trav 
elling. He possessed a competent estate in Virginia, had 
been an officer of the revolution, and, soon after the peace, 
having conceived an ardent desire of seeing remote parts 
of the world, he determined to visit them in his own way. 
He commonly travelled on foot, and in the cheapest and 
obscurest style. When he arrived at any town at which 
he meant to stop, his appearance underwent an immediate 
metamorphosis, and he assumed his proper character. He 
was in Paris during the reign of terror, and was himself 
near falling a victim to the tyrannical proscriptions which 
then prevailed. 

"Major Langborn was certainly an eccentric man, but 
his oddity was not offensive, because it was not obtrusive, 
and was free from everything like affectation. It was not 
among the least remarkable circumstances of his life, that, 
on returning to his native state, after an absence of more 
than twenty years, he married the daughter of the lady 
whom he had addressed in his youth; and these, we are 
inclined to think, were the only attachments he ever formed." 



JOHN LEDYARD. 241 

more rough and unequal. It assumed, as we 
proceeded, an undulating appearance, resembling 
the waves by which it had been agitated. At 
length we met with masses of ice heaped one 
upon the other, and some of them seeming as 
if they were suspended in the air, while oth 
ers were raised in the form of pyramids. On 
the whole, they exhibited a picture of the 
wildest and most savage confusion, that sur 
prised the eye by the novelty of its appear 
ance. It was an immense chaos of icy ruins, 
presented to view under every possible form, 
and embellished by superb stalactites of a blue 
green color." Over this rough surface, and be 
tween the broken waves of ice, the passengers 
are drawn in sledges, muffled up in wolf-skins 
and other furs. The chief danger consists in 
the sledges being repeatedly upset, and the 
horses sometimes taking fright, and running 
away like wild deer. Acerbi had a serious ad 
venture of this sort, but he luckily escaped 
without harm, as he did from many other ad 
ventures, which awaited him in his travels to 
the North Cape. 

This is the method of crossing the Gulf of 
Bothnia in common seasons, but there is occa 
sionally an open winter, when it is impassable, 
either by water or on the ice ; for, if the pas 
sage does not freeze entirely over, the water 
VOL. xiv. 16 



242 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

contains so much floating ice, that no vessel 
can sail through it. When this happens, the 
only way of going to Petersburg is around the 
gulf, a distance of twelve hundred miles, over 
trackless snows, in regions thinly peopled, 
where the nights are long and the cold in 
tense, and all this to gain no more than fifty 
miles. 

Such was unfortunately the condition of the 
ice, when Ledyard arrived at the usual place 
of crossing. It had not been frozen solid from 
the beginning of the winter, and no traveller 
could pass. Of all his disappointments, none 
had afflicted him more severely than this. The 
only alternative was, either to stay in Stock 
holm till the spring should open, or to go 
around the gulf into Lapland, and seek his 
way from the Arctic Circle to Petersburg, 
through the whole extent of Finland ; and in 
either case he foresaw, that he should arrive 
so late in Russia, that another season would 
be wasted in Siberia, before he could cross 
to the American continent. The single cir 
cumstance, therefore, of the passage to Abo be 
ing thus obstructed, was likely to keep him 
back a full year from the attainment of his 
grand object. But he did not deliberate long. 
He could not endure inactivity, and new diffi 
culties nerved him with new strength to en- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 243 

counter and subdue them. He set out for 
Tornea in the heart of winter, afoot and alone, 
without money or friends, on a road almost 
unfrequented at that frightful season, and with 
the gloomy certainty resting on his mind, that 
he must travel northward six hundred miles, 
before he could turn his steps towards a milder 
climate, and then six or seven hundred more 
in descending to Petersburg, on the other side 
of the Gulf. 

When Maupertuis and his companions were 
about leaving Stockholm, on their journey to 
Tornea, for the purpose of measuring a degree 
of the meridian under the Polar Circle, the 
King of Sweden told them, that "it was not 
without sensible concern, that he saw them 
pursue so desperate an undertaking ; " yet they 
were prepared with every possible convenience 
for travelling, and protection against the rigors 
of a northern winter. A better idea of the de 
gree and effects of cold, at the head of the 
Gulf, cannot be formed, perhaps, than from 
Maupertuis description. 

" The town of Tornea, at our arrival on the 
30th of December, had really a most frightful 
aspect. Its little houses were buried to the 
tops in snow, which, if there had been any 
daylight, must have effectually shut it out. 
But the snows continually falling, or ready to 



244 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

fall, for the most part hid the sun the few 
moments, that he might have shown himself 
at midday. In the month of January the 
cold was increased to that extremity, that 
Reaumur s mercurial thermometers, which in 
Paris, in the great frost of 1709, it was thought 
strange to see fall to fourteen degrees below 
the freezing point, were now down to thirty- 
seven. The spirit of wine in the others was 
frozen. If we opened the door of a warm 
room, the external air instantly converted all 
the air in it into snow, whirling it round in 
white vortexes. If we went abroad, we felt 
as if the air were tearing our breasts in pieces. 
And the cracking of the wood whereof the 
houses are built, as if the violence of the cold 
split it, continually alarmed us with an ap 
proaching increase of cold. The solitude of 
the streets was no less than if the inhabitants 
had been all dead ; and in this country you 
may often see people that have been maimed, 
and had an arm or a leg frozen off. The 
cold, which is always very great, increases 
sometimes by such violent and sudden fits, as 
are almost infallibly fatal to those that happen 
to be exposed to it. Sometimes there arise 
sudden tempests of snow, that are still more 
dangerous. The winds seem to blow from ail 
quarters at once, and drive about the snow 



JOHN LEDYARD. 2*15 

with such fury, that in a moment all the roads 
are lost. Unhappy he, who is seized by such 
a storm in the fields ! His acquaintance with 
the country, or the marks he may have taken 
by the trees, cannot avail him. He is blinded 
by the snow, and lost if he stirs but a step."* 
These were the scenes, that awaited our 
pedestrian in his winter excursion to the Polar 
Circle. How far they were realized by him 
must be now left to conjecture. No part of 
his journal during this tour has been preserved, 
nor is it known what course he took from 
Tornea to Petersburg. The common route is 
along the border of the Gulf to Abo, but in 
winter the road is much obstructed by ice, 
and is extremely bad. Linnaeus passed it in 
September, when returning from his scientific 
tour to Lapland, and he estimates the distance 
from Tornea to Abo at upwards of six hun 
dred English miles. From a remark in Led- 
yard s letter to Mr. Jefferson, which will be 
quoted below, it would seem, that he took a 
different direction, and passed further into the 
interior of Russian Finland. This route, as 
he intimates, must have been wholly unfre 
quented by travellers, although the distance 
must be shorter, and at that season perhaps 

* See Maupertuis Discourse before tlie Royal Academy of 
Sciences in Paris. November 13th, 1737. 



246 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the difficulties to be encountered were not 
greater, than down the Gulf. 

Be this as it may, he reached Petersburg 
before the 20th of March, that is, within seven 
weeks of the time of leaving Stockholm, mak 
ing the average distance travelled about two 
hundred miles a week. It is evident, there 
fore, that he met with no obstacles, which his 
resolution did not speedily overcome. His let 
ter to Mr. Jefferson, dated Petersburg, March 
19th, 1787, will acquaint us with the state of 
his feelings, and his prospects, at this stage of 
his travels. 

"It will be one of the remaining pleasures 
of my life, to thank you for the many in 
stances of your friendship, and, wherever I am, 
to pursue you with the tale of my gratitude. 
If Mr. Barclay should be at Paris, let him rank 
with you as my next friend. I hardly know 
how to estimate the goodness of the Marquis 
de Lafayette to me, but I think a French 
nobleman, of the first character in his country, 
never did more to serve an obscure citizen of 
another, than he has done for me ; and I am 
sure that it is impossible, without some kind 
of soul made expressly for the purpose, that 
an obscure citizen in such a situation can be 
more grateful than I am. May he be told so, 
with my compliments to his lady. 



JOHN LEDYABD. 247 

u I cannot tell you by what means I came 
to Petersburg, and hardly know by what means 
I shall quit it, in the further prosecution of my 
tour round the world by land. If I have any 
merit in the affair, it is perseverance, for most 
severely have I been buffeted ; and yet still 
am even more obstinate than before ; and Fate, 
as obstinate, continues her assaults. How the 
matter will terminate I know not. The most 
probable conjecture is, that I shall succeed, and 
be buffeted around the world, as I have hith 
erto been from England through Denmark, 
through Sweden, Swedish Lapland, Swedish 
Finland, and the most unfrequented parts of 
Russian Finland, to this aurora borealis of a 
city. I cannot give you a history of myself 
since I saw you, or since I wrote you last ; 
however abridged, it would be too long. Upon 
the whole, mankind have used me well ; and 
though I have as yet reached only the first 
stage of my journey, I feel myself much 
indebted for that urbanity, which I always 
thought more general than many think it to 
be ; and were it not for the mischievous laws 
and bad examples of some governments I have 
passed through, I am persuaded I should be 
able to give you a still better account of our 
fellow-creatures. 

"But I am hastening to countries, where 



248 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

goodness, if natural to the human heart, will 
appear independent of example, and furnish an 
illustration of the character of man, not un 
worthy of him who wrote the Declaration of 
Independence. I did not hear of the death 
of M. de Yergennes until I arrived here. Per 
mit me to express my regret at the loss of so 
great and so good a man. Permit me, also, 
to congratulate you, as the minister of my 
country, on account of the additional commer 
cial privileges granted by France to America, 
and to express my ardent wishes, that the 
friendly spirit which dictated them may last 
forever. I was extremely pleased at reading 
the account ; and to heighten the satisfaction, 
I found the name of Lafayette there. 

" An equipment is now on foot here for the 
Sea of Kamtschatka, and it is first to visit the 
Northwest Coast of America. It is to consist 
of four ships. This, and the expedition that 
went from here twelve months since by land 
for Kamtschatka, are to cooperate in a design 
of some sort in the Northern Pacific Ocean ; 
the Lord knows what, nor does it matter what 
with me, nor indeed with you, nor any other 
minister, nor any potentate, south of fifty de 
grees of latitude. I can only say, that you are 
in no danger of having the luxurious repose 
of your charming climates disturbed by a sec- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 249 

ond incursion of either Goth, Vandal, Hun, or 
Scythian. 

11 1 dined to-day with Professor Pallas. He is 
an accomplished man, and my friend, and has 
travelled throughout European and Asiatic Rus 
sia. I find the little French I have of infinite 
service to me. I could not do without it. It 
is a most extraordinary language. I believe 
wolves, rocks, woods, arid snow understand it, 
for I have addressed them all in it, and they 
have all been very complaisant to me. We 
had a Scythian at table, who belongs to the 
Royal Society of Physicians here. The mo 
ment he knew me and my designs, he became 
my friend ; and it will be by his generous as 
sistance, joined with that of Professor Pallas, 
that I shall be able to procure a royal pass 
port, without which I cannot stir. This must 
be done through an application to the French 
minister, there being no American minister 
here ; and to his secretary I shall apply with 
Dr. Pallas to-morrow, and shall take the lib 
erty to make use of your name, and that of 
the Marquis de Lafayette, as to my character. 
As all my letters of recommendation were Eng 
lish, and as I have hitherto been used by the 
English with the greatest kindness and respect, 
I first applied to the British minister, but with 
out success. The apology was, that the pres- 



250 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ent political condition between Russia and 
England would make it disagreeable for the 
British minister to ask any favor. The secre 
tary of the French embassy will despatch my 
letter, and one of his accompanying it, to the 
Count Segur to-morrow morning. I will en 
deavor to write you again before I leave Pe 
tersburg, and give you some further accounts 
of myself. Meantime, I wish you health. I 
have written a short letter to the Marquis. 
Adieu." 

It will be remembered, that at this time the 
Empress was absent on her famous jaunt to Ker- 
son and the Krimea. She had left Petersburg 
in January, accompanied by Prince Potemkin, 
and many others of the courtiers, and of the 
Russian nobility. The Austrian and French 
ambassadors were also in her train. She passed 
through Smolensk, and was now at Kief, 
where she remained amidst a brilliant assem 
blage of nobles from Poland and her Russian 
territories, till the spring was so far advanced, 
that she could proceed by water down the 
Dnieper, in the magnificent galleys prepared 
for the purpose. 

While the Empress and her retinue were at 
Kief, a round of splendid entertainments, cere 
monies, and visits from eminent personages, 
occupied her time, and absorbed her thoughts, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 251 

in addition to the great political projects, 
which she is said to have been meditating in 
regard to the conquest of Turkey. Had the 
French ambassador found an opportunity, there 
fore, amidst these scenes of gayety and bustle, 
to present a petition to the Empress from an 
unknown individual, for a passport to travel 
through her dominions, it could not be thought 
strange, that she should have neglected to at 
tend to it with the promptness, which more 
important affairs might require. Weeks passed 
away, and no answer was returned. Ledyard s 
patience was severely tried by this delay, and 
he began to talk of going forward without any 
passport. On the 15th of May, after waiting 
nearly two months at Petersburg, he writes to 
Colonel Smith, " My heart is oppressed ; my 
designs are generous ; why is my fate other 
wise ? The Count Segur has not yet sent me 
my passport. But this shall not stop me ; I 
shall surmount all things, and at least deserve 
success." About this time he became acquaint 
ed with a Russian officer, who belonged to 
the family of the Grand Duke, and who took 
a lively interest in his concerns, and proffered 
his services. Ledyard says, he was not only 
" polite and friendly, but a thinking Russian." 
By the kind assistance of this gentleman he 
obtained his passport in fifteen days, and was 
prepared for his departure. 



252 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

It was fortunate, that just at this time Mr. 
William Brown, a Scotch physician, was going 
to the Province of Kolyvan, in the employ 
ment of the Empress. Ledyard joined him, 
and thus had a companion on his tour for 
more than three thousand miles. Prom this 
arrangement he enjoyed an important advan 
tage, for Brown travelled at the expense of the 
government, and as Ledyard went with him 
by permission of the proper authority, his trav 
elling charges were probably defrayed in part 
at least from the public funds. And, indeed, 
without this aid, it would have been impossi 
ble for him to move a step, for his own re 
sources were completely exhausted. On his 
arrival in Petersburg his necessities were ex 
treme, as his money was gone, and he was 
almost destitute of clothes. In this extremity 
he drew a bill for twenty guineas on Sir Jo 
seph Banks, which he found some friend will 
ing to accept, although he confessed that Sir 
Joseph had not authorized him to draw, and 
that the payment of the bill would depend on 
his generosity. It was immediately paid when 
presented in London, much to the honor of 
that munificent patron of science and enter 
prise. It is said that a quantity of stores was 
sent, under the care of Dr. Brown, to be for 
warded to Mr. Billings at Yakutsk, who was 



J OHN LEDYARD. 



253 



employed in exploring those remote regions of 
Siberia and Kamtschatka, in the service of the 
Empress. 

The party left Petersburg on the 1st of 
June, and in six days arrived at Moscow. 
During the last day s ride they overtook the 
Grand Duke and his retinue, who were going 
to Moscow to meet the Empress on her return 
from her pompous journey to the Krimea. 
The two travellers remained but one day in 
Moscow. They hired a person to go with 
them to Kazan, a distance of five hundred and 
fifty miles, and drive their TciUtlca with three 
horses. " Kibitka travelling," says Ledyard in 
his journal, " is the remains of caravan travel 
ling ; it is your only home ; it is like a ship 
at sea." In this vehicle they were hurried 
along with considerable speed towards Kazan, 
through Vladimir, Nishnei Novogorod, and other 
towns. Kazan stands on the right bank of 
the majestic Wolga, and is the capital of a 
province of the same name. It is ranked 
among the first cities in the empire, containing 
a university, churches, convents, and other pub 
lic buildings, some of which are magnificent, 
and finished with much architectural taste and 
elegance. Immense quantities of grain are pro 
duced in this province, and also flax and leath 
er for exportation. The soil is well cultivated, 



254 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

but low and unhealthy, and the inhabitants 
are a mixed population of Russians and Tar 
tars. 

They stayed a week at Kazan, and then 
commenced their journey to Tobolsk, where 
they arrived on the llth of July, having crossed 
the Ural Mountains, and passed the frontiers of 
Europe and Asia. The face of the country 
had hitherto been level, with hardly an emi 
nence springing from the great plain, which 
spreads over the vast territory from Moscow to 
Tobolsk. 

The ascent of the Ural Mountains was so 
gradual as scarcely to form an exception to 
this general remark, and nothing could be 
more monotonous and dreary than the inter 
minable wastes over which their route had led 
them since leaving Kazan, with here and there 
a miserable village, and unproductive culture 
of the soil. " The wretched appearance of the 
inhabitants," says our journalist, "is such as 
may generally be observed, in a greater or less 
degree, in those places which are so unhappy 
as to be the frontiers between nations ; like 
step-children are they." This is especially the 
condition of the people throughout the whole 
extent of the China frontiers, that border on 
Russia. It is the policy of the government to 
preserve this belt, of desolation, as a barrier 



JOHN LEDYARD. 255 

against the too easy access of foreigners, and 
as a means of preventing contraband trade. 

Tobolsk is a city of considerable interest, 
having been once the capital of all Siberia, 
and in early times the scene of a great battle 
between the renowned hero Yermak, and the 
Tartar prince Kontchum Khan, in which the 
former was victorious. The city stands at the 
junction of two large rivers, the Tobol and 
Irtish, which there unite and flow on together, 
till their waters are mingled with the Obe, 
and thence conveyed to the Northern Ocean. 
It consists of the upper and lower town, the 
latter situate on the margin of the river, and 
the former on a commanding eminence, which 
overlooks the lower town and much of the 
adjacent country. Captain Cochrane, who vis 
ited this place a few years ago, was greatly 
pleased with its natural advantages and scenery, 
and the condition and comforts of the people. 
The town is well laid out into streets, con 
tains handsome churches and other edifices, a 
well regulated market, and provisions of all 
kinds in abundance, and exceedingly cheap. 

He was not less charmed with the society, 
for although Tobolsk is the residence of ex 
iles, they are such as have been sent to Siberia 
for political reasons, and not malefactors, these 
latter being accommodated with a residence 



256 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and employment much farther in the interior 
towards Kamtschatka. These political exiles 
are commonly persons of some culture and in 
telligence, for, as this author justly remarks, no 
government banishes fools ; and the social cir 
cles of the better sort indicate a refinement 
and happiness, which might be envied in more 
civilized parts of the globe. So much was 
this traveller pleased with the wild and beau 
tiful scenery on the banks of the Irtish, that 
he followed up the stream to the borders of 
China, enraptured at every step ; nor was he 
satisfied, till he had contemplated by moon 
light the deep solitudes and lofty granite moun 
tains, that constitute the bulwark of this north 
ern boundary of the Celestial Empire. 

But Captain Cochrane was an amateur trav 
eller, wandering for amusement, and seeking 
odd adventures in the most promising theatre 
for them. Ledyard, on the contrary, was im 
pelled forward by a single motive, and he 
would gladly have annihilated space and time, 
if he could have set his foot the next moment 
on the American continent. He did not trav 
erse the wild wastes of Siberia to make dis 
coveries, gaze at mountains, trace rivers to their 
sources, nor even to examine the economy of 
society arid the condition of the people. He 
had a soul to admire whatever was grand or 



JOHN LEDYARD. 257 

beautiful in nature, and to be strongly affected 
with the various states of human existence, as 
his observations abundantly prove ; but he suf 
fered these to make an incidental claim only 
on his attention, keeping them subordinate to 
his great design and absorbing purpose. Hence 
he stopped no longer in any place than was 
necessary to prepare for a new departure. 

Three days he" and his companion stayed at 
Tobolsk, and then continued their journey to 
Barnaoul, the capital of the province of Koly- 
van. At this place he was to leave Dr, Brown 
and proceed alone. For this gentleman he had 
contracted a sincere esteem, and was prevailed 
upon to remain in Barnaoul a week, out of 
regard to the kindness and in compliance with 
the solicitation of his friend. 

In many respects Barnaoul is one of the 
most agreeable places of residence in Siberia. 
The province of which it is the capital is a 
rich mining district, and this brings together 
in the town persons of science and respecta 
bility, who are employed as public officers to 
superintend the working of the mines. The 
surrounding country, moreover, is well suited 
to agriculture, abounding in good lands for pas 
ture and grain, supporting vast herds of cattle, 
and producing vegetables in great profusion. 
VOL. xiv. 17 



258 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

In consequence of these bounties of nature, 
there is an overflowing and cheap market, an 
absence of want, and much positive happiness 
among the people. 

Ledyard was lodged, at Barnaoul, in the 
house of the treasurer, by whom he was treated 
with great hospitality. He dined twice with 
the Governor, and also with two old discharged 
officers of the army, who, at their own request, 
had quitted the service, and become judges and 
justices of the law. The armorial bearings of 
forty-two provinces in the empire were shown 
to him. The Governor told him, that the salt, 
produced by the salt lakes in the province of 
Kolyvan, yielded somewhat more to the reve 
nue than the mines, and also that the aggre 
gate amount of revenue from that province 
was greater than from any other. In respect 
to gold and silver, this is no doubt the case 
at the present day, but in regard to the salt 
it is uncertain. There are said to be salt 
lakes in Siberia, so much saturated with saline 
matter, that the salt crystallizes of its own ac 
cord, and adheres in this state to pieces of 
wood and other substances put into the water. 

Kolyvan is near the middle point between 
Petersburg and Okotsk, it being somewhat 
more than three thousand miles in opposite 



JOHN LEDYARD. 259 

directions to each of those places.* Barnaoul 
stands on the bank of the River Obe, which 
is a broad and noble stream where it passes 
the town. It is in the fifty-third degree of 
north latitude, and in the last week of July 
the mornings were exceedingly hot, the sky 
cloudless and serene, and the atmosphere per 
fectly calm. In the afternoon a gentle breeze 
would spring up, increase by degrees till even 
ing, and continue through the night. Rains 
are not frequent in Kolyvan. 

The following extract is from that part of 
the journal which was written at Barnaoul, 
and contains remarks on what came under the 
writer s notice during his journey to that 
place. 

" The face of the country from Petersburg 
to Kolyvan is one continued plain. The soil 

* In his Journal, Ledyard enters the following distances, 
which he says were taken from a Russian Almanac. In 
the second column I have reduced the versts to English 
miles. Three versts are equal to two miles. 

Versts. Miles 

From Petersburg to Barnaoul, 4539 . . . 3026 

Barnaoul to Irkutsk, 1732 . . . 1155 

Irkutsk to Yakutsk, 2266 . . . 1510 

Yakutsk to Okotsk, 952 ... 635 

" Okotsk to Awateka in Kamtschatka, . . 1065 . . . 710 
Whole distance from Petersburg to Kamt- ? in KKA 7Q36 
schatka, > 



260 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

before arriving at Kazan is very well culti 
vated ; afterwards cultivation gradually ceases. 
On the route to Kazan we saw large mounds 
of earth, often of twenty, thirty, and forty feet 
elevation, which I conjectured, and on inquiry 
found, to be ancient sepulchres. There is an 
analogy between these and our own graves. 
and the Egyptian pyramids; and an exact re 
semblance between them, arid those piles sup 
posed to be of monumental earth, which are 
found among some of the tribes of North Amer 
ica. We first saw Tartars before our arrival 
at Kazan ; and also a woman with her nails 
painted red, like the Cochin Chinese. 

" Notwithstanding the modern introduction 
of linen into Russia, the garments of the peas 
antry still retain not only the form, but the 
manner of ornamenting them, which was prac 
tised when they wore skins. This resembles 
the Tartar mode of ornamenting, and is but a 
modification of the wampum ornament, which 
is still discernible westward from Russia to 
Denmark, among the Finlanders, Laplanders, 
and Swedes. The nice gradation by which 
I pass from civilization to incivilization ap 
pears in everything; in manners, dress, lan 
guage ; and particularly in that remarkable and 
important circumstance, color, which I am now 
fully convinced originates from natural causes, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 261 

and is the effect of external and local circum 
stances. 1 think the same of feature. I see 
here the large mouth, the thick lip, the broad 
flat nose, as well as in Africa. I see also, in 
the same village, as great a difference of com 
plexion ; from the fair hair, fair skin, and white 
eyes, to the olive, the black jetty hair and 
eyes ; and these all of the same language, 
same dress, and, I suppose, same tribe. 

" I have frequently observed in Russian vil 
lages, obscure and dirty, mean and poor, that 
the women of the peasantry paint their faces, 
both red and white. I have had occasion 
from this and other circumstances to suppose, 
that the Russians are a people who have been 
early attached to luxury. They are everywhere 
fond of eclat. Sir, said a Russian officer to 
me in Petersburg, we pay no attention to 
anything but eclat. The contour of their 
manners is Asiatic, and not European. The 
Tartars are universally neater than the Rus 
sians, particularly in their houses. The Tar 
tar, however situated, is a voluptuary ; and it 
is an original and striking trait in their char 
acter, from the Grand Seignior to him who 
pitches his tent on the wild frontiers of Rus 
sia and China, that they are more addicted to 
real sensual pleasure than any other people. 
The Emperor of Germany, the Kings of Eng- 



262 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

land and France, have pursuits that give an 
entirely different turn to their enjoyments ; and 
so have their respective subjects. Would a 
Tartar live on Vive le Roil Would he spend 
ten years in constructing a watch, or twenty 
in forming a telescope ? 

"In the United States of America, as in 
Russia, we have made an effort to convert our 
Tartars to think and act like us ; but to what 
effect ? Among us, Sampson Occum was pushed 
the farthest within the pale of civilization ; but 
just as the sanguine divine who brought him 
there was forming the highest expectations, he 
fled, and sought his own elysium in the bosom 
of his native forests. In Russia they have 
had none so distinguished ; here they are com 
monly footmen, or lackeys of some other kind. 
The Marquis de Lafayette had a young Amer 
ican Tartar, of the Onandaga tribe, who came 
to see him ; and the Marquis, at much expense, 
equipped him in rich Indian dresses. After 
staying some time, he did as Occum did. 
When I was at school at Mount Ida, [Dart 
mouth College,] many Indians were there, most 
of whom gave some promise of being civilized, 
and some were sent forth to preach ; but as 
far as I observed myself, and have been since 
informed, they all returned to the home and 
customs of their fathers, and followed the in- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 263 

clinations which nature had so deeply en- 
stamped on their character." 

To these remarks is here added part of a 
letter, written to Mr. Jefferson from Barnaoul, 
dated on the 29th of July, 1787. 

" How I have come thus far, and how I am 
to go still further, is an enigma that I must 
disclose to you on some happier occasion. I 
shall never be able, without seeing you in per 
son, and perhaps not then, to inform you how 
universally and circumstantially the Tartars re 
semble the Aborigines of America. They are 
the same people ; the most ancient and the 
most numerous of any other ; and had not a 
small sea divided them, they would all have 
been still known by the same name. The 
cloak of civilization sets as ill upon them, as 
upon our American Tartars. They have been 
a long time Tartars, and it will be a long 
time before they will be any other kind of 
people. 

" I shall send this letter to Petersburg, to 
the care of Professor Pallas. He will transmit 
it to you, together with one for the Marquis, 
in the mail of the Count Segur. My health 
is perfectly good j but notwithstanding the 
vigor of my body, my mind keeps the start of 
me, and I anticipate my future fate with the 
most lively ardor. Pity it is, that in such a 



264 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

career one should be subjected, like a horse, 
to the beggarly impediments of sleep and 
hunger. 

" The banks of the large rivers in this coun 
try everywhere abound with something curious 
in the fossil world. I have found the leg-bone 
of a very large animal on the banks of the 
Obe, and have sent it to Dr. Pallas, requesting 
him to render me an account of it hereafter. 
It is either an elephant s or rhinoceros s bone. 
The latter animal has been in this country. 
There is a complete head of one in a state of 
high preservation at Petersburg. I am a curi 
osity here myself. Those who have heard of 
America flock round to see me. Unfortunate 
ly the marks on my hands* procure me and 
my countrymen the appellation of wild men. 
Among the better sort we are somewhat more 
known. The Governor and his family have 
got a peep at the history of our existence, 
through the medium of an antiquated pam 
phlet of some kind. We have, however, two 
stars, that shine even in the galaxy of Bar- 
naoul, and the healths of Dr. Franklin arid of 
General Washington have been drunk, in com 
pliment to me, at the Governor s table. I am 
treated with the greatest hospitality here. 

* The tattoo marks made on his hands at Otaheite. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 265 

Hitherto I have fared comfortably when I 
could make a port anywhere, but when totally 
in the country I have been a little incom 
moded. Hospitality, however, I have found as 
universal as the face of man. When you read 
this, perhaps two months before you do, if I 
do well, I shall be at Okotsk, where I will do 
myself the honor to trouble you again, and if 
possible will write more at large. My com 
pliments wait on all my Parisian friends." 

After spending a week very agreeably in 
Barnaoul, he made preparations for recommen 
cing his journey. From this place to Irkutsk, 
it was arranged that he should travel post, 
with the courier who had charge of the mail. 
All things being in readiness, he writes, " I 
waited on the Governor with my passport ; he 
was well pleased with it ; gave me a corporal 
to conduct the affairs of the mail ; said I had 
nothing to do but sit in the kabitka, and mus 
tered up French enough to say, Monsieur, je 
vous souhaite un bon voyage. I took an affec 
tionate farewell of the worthy Dr. Brown, and 
left Barnaoul." The next stopping place on 
the route was Tomsk, distant three hundred 
miles, which were passed over in two days 
and three nights. The River Tom, which 
flows near this town, is as large as the Irtish, 
where it is crossed by the main road above 



266 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Tobolsk, and was the first river met with by 
our traveller since leaving Petersburg, which 
had either a gravelly bottom or shore. On its 
banks were found little mounds of earth, which 
were ascertained to have been the habitations 
of the natives, who dwelt there before the 
conquest of the country by the Russians.* 
The nights, he remarked, were very cold, more 
so than he had known them in any country, 

* In Bell s Journey from Petersburg to Pekin, with the 
Russian embassy, in the year 1720, the author gives a cu 
rious account of the mounds in the regions about Tomsk. 
He considers them the tombs of ancient heroes, who fell 
in battle. "Many persons go from Tomsk," he observes, 
" and other parts, every summer, to these graves, which they 
dig up, and find among the ashes of the dead considera 
ble quantities of gold, silver, brass, and some precious 
stones; but particularly hilts of swords and armor. They 
find, also, ornaments of saddles and bridles, and other trap 
pings for horses ; and even the bones of horses, and some 
times those of elephants. Whence it appears that, when 
any general or person of distinction was interred, all his 
arms, his favorite horse, and servant were buried with him 
in the same grave. This custom prevails to this day 
among the Kalmuks and other Tartars, and seems to be 
of great antiquity. It appears from the number of graves, 
that many thousands must have fallen on these plains, for 
the people have continued to dig for such treasure many 
years, and still find it unexhausted. They are sometimes, 
indeed, interrupted and robbed of all their booty by par 
ties of the Kalmuks, who abhor the disturbing the ashes 
of the dead." Vol. I. p. 253. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 267 

where it was at the same time so hot by day. 
All the way from Barnaoul, and particularly in 
its neighborhood, were perceived the ruinous 
effects of the violent winds, that frequently 
produce great devastation in those parts of 
Siberia. Forest trees and fields of grain were 
indiscriminately blown down and destroyed. 
The hospitality of the inhabitants, however, 
was unabated. They could rarely be prevailed 
upon to take anything for provisions or accom 
modation. On one occasion, for as much bar 
ley soup, onions, quass* bread, and milk, as 
made a hearty meal for the traveller and his 
corporal, the good woman, who furnished them, 
consented to receive one kopeek, and nothing 
more.f 

They were detained two or three days at 
Tomsk, waiting for a mail, that was coming 
by another route from Tobolsk but the Com 
mandant was affable and generous, and did not 
allow the time to pass heavily. He was some 
what of a singularity, being a Frenchman, 
born in Paris, now seventy-three years old, 

* The German translator of this work defines quass to 
be a beverage prepared from rye bread, or fermented rye 
meal. 

f The value of the kopeek varies at different times. Led- 
yard states it to have been about one tenth of an Eng 
lish penny, when he was in Siberia. In Dr. Clarke s Trav 
els it is put down as equal to an English halfpenny. 



268 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

having resided twenty-five years in Siberia, 
and more than thirty in Russia. He spoke his 
native language imperfectly, and wrote it still 
worse. His favorite topic was the dignity of 
his birth, and the high rank of his family. 
But Ledyard wished to know more about Si 
beria at that moment, than of the genealogy 
or rank of the families in France, and he ven 
tured to ask the old man if the town, or its 
environs, afforded anything valuable or curious 
in natural history. His answer was, that there 
were thieves, rogues, liars, and villains of every 
description. The conversation was pushed no 
further in the way of philosophical inquiry, for 
it was evident the Frenchman s thoughts had 
run very little in that channel. 

There was truth in his remark, although 
uttered somewhat out of place. Tomsk had 
long been the rendezvous of the worst class 
of exiles, who had been banished for their 
crimes, and could not be expected to exercise 
a very salutary influence on society, or to be 
come pattern members of it themselves. Pov 
erty and wretchedness, the accompaniments of 
vice, formed here some of the prominent ob 
jects in the foreground of the picture, and beg 
gars daily thronged the streets, as in the most 
populous regions of the civilized world. 

The charity and kind feelings of the better 



JOHN LEDYARD. 269 

sort of inhabitants, however, afforded a pleas 
ing contrast to this debasement and suffering. 
Ledyard observes, that the family with whom 
he lodged, were accustomed every morning to 
lay aside in the window ten or twelve farthing 
pieces for the charitable purposes of the day. 
Considering the extraordinary cheapness of 
food, this would afford relief to many persons. 
The beggars began their rounds at an early 
hour, and went regularly from house to house, 
and were very rarely sent away without some 
thing. Those who did not give money gave 
bread. Some of the beggars were in irons. 
The people asked no questions, but appeared 
to give cheerfully and without grudging. The 
demand was uniformly made pour rumour de 
Dieu, " for which," says the journalist, "one 
may have more in this country, than in any 
other I have seen." 

In ten days from the time of leaving Tomsk, 
the traveller and his corporal were safely ar 
rived in Irkutsk, over a road of which he 
speaks in no terms of commendation. The 
River Yenissey was crossed at the town of 
Krasnojarsk, where the Commandant pressed 
him to stop long enough to dine, and cele 
brated the event of a stranger s arrival, with 
such free potations as to become intoxicated. 
From Tomsk to Yenissey the country exhib- 



270 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ited rather an agreeable aspect, and marks of 
cultivation. Ledyard observes that, in this re 
gion, he " first finds the real craggy, peaked 
hill, or mountain," and from Krasnojarsk to 
Irkutsk was the first stony road which he 
had passed over in the Russian dominions. 
The streets of Tobolsk, and some of the other 
towns on his route, were paved with wood. 

" Passing on east from the Yenissey to Ir 
kutsk, the country is thinly peopled. A very 
few, and those miserable houses are to be seen 
on the road, and none at all at a distance from 
it. The country is hilly, rough, mountainous, 
and covered with thick forests. The rivers 
here, also, have all rocky beds, and are rapid 
in the degree of three to five miles an hour. 
The autumnal rains are begun, and they have 
set in severely. I am now in Irkutsk, and 
have stayed in my quarters all day to take a 
little rest, after a very fatiguing journey, ren 
dered so by sundry very disagreeable circum 
stances; going with the courier, and driving 
with wild Tartar horses, at a most rapid rate, 
over a wild and ragged country ; breaking and 
upsetting kibitkas ; beswarmed with mosqui 
toes ; all the way hard rains ; and when I ar 
rived at Irkutsk I was, and had been for the 
last forty-eight hours, wet through and through, 
and covered with one complete mass of mud." 



JOHN LEDYARD. 271 



CHAPTER IX. 

Residence at Irkutsk. Account of the Tartars. 

Fur Trade on the American Coast. Lake 
Baikal. Leaves Irkutsk for the River Lena. 

Scenery around the Baikal Estimate of 
the Number of Rivers in Siberia. Pro 
ceeds down the Lena in a Bateau. Hospi 
tality of the Inhabitants. Ends his Voyage 
at Yakutsk. 

LEDYARD stayed in Irkutsk about ten days, 
and his observations and general reflections 
during that time may be best understood by 
extracts from his journal, as they were written 
on the spot. They are rather in the nature 
of hints and first thoughts, than of a regular 
narrative ; but they will show his inquisitive 
turn of mind, and his eagerness for acquiring 
such knowledge as accorded with the general 
objects of his travels. 

" August 16th. I have not been out this 
morning, but I shrewdly suspect by what I see 
from my poor talc window, that I shall even 
here find the fashionable follies, the ridiculous 
extravagance, and ruinous eclat of Petersburg. 
I have been out, and my suspicions were well 
founded. Dined with a brigadier, a colonel, 



272 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and a major, a little out of town; they are 
Germans. Had at the table a French exile, 
who had been an adjutant. Scarcely a day 
passes but an exile of some sort arrives. Most 
of the inhabitants of this remote part of Sibe 
ria are convicts. The country here was for 
merly inhabited by the Mongul or Kalmuk 
Tartars, who are, I conclude, the same people. 
Find no account of the Calumet* The French 
exile had been at Quebec, and thinks the 
Tartars here much inferior to the American 
Indians, both in their understanding and per 
sons. I observe the Tongusians have not the 
Mongul or Kalmuk faces, but moderately long, 
and considerably like the European face. These 
Tongusians form the second class of Tartars, 
so obviously distinguishable by their features 
from other Tartars, and from Europeans. What 
I call the third class are the light eyed and 
fair complexioned Tartars, which class, I be 
lieve, includes the Cossacs. The Tchuktchi 
are the only northern Tartars that remain un- 
subjected to the government. 

" The town of Irkutsk is the residence of 
the Governor-General, Jacobi, and of a military 
commander, and has in it two battalions of in- 



* A pipe adorned with feathers, and used as the symbol 
of peace by the Indians of North America. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 273 

fantry. It has two thousand poor log houses, 
and ten churches. Jacobi s authority extends 
from here to the Pacific Ocean, an immense 
territory. I waited this morning on the di 
rector of the bank, Mr. Karamyscheff, who was 
a pupil of Linnaeus. He is very assiduous to 
oblige me in everything, and sent for three 
Kalmuks in the dress of their country. Noth 
ing particularly curious about them, but their 
pipes, which are coarsely made of copper by 
themselves ; the form altogether Chinese. Ka 
ramyscheff informs me, that the Monguls and 
Kalmuks are the same people. From his house 
I went with the Conseiller d Etat, who intro 
duced me to Jacobi, the Governor. He is an 
old, venerable man, and although I believe, 
with Pallas, that he is un homme de bois, yet 
he received me standing and uncovered. Our 
conversation was merely respecting my going 
with the post, which he granted me, and, be 
sides, told me that I should be particularly 
well accommodated, wished me a successful 
voyage, and that my travels might be produc 
tive of information to mankind. I conversed 
with him in French, through the interpretation 
of the Conseiller. 

" This latter gentleman gave me the follow 
ing information. { The white Tartars you saw 
about Kazan are natives of that country, and 
VOL. xiv. 18 



274 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

we call them Kazan Tartars. Kazan was once 
a kingdom of theirs. From this place to Ya 
kutsk you pass among the Kalmuks. At Ya 
kutsk you will see the Yakuti, and also the 
Tongusians, who are more personable than the 
Kalmuks or Monguls, and more sensible ; but 
the Yakuti are more sensible than either. They 
are, indeed, a people of good natural parts and 
genius, and by experience are found capable 
of any kind of learning. From Yakutsk you 
pass through the Tongusians, all the way to 
Okotsk. In the time of Jenghis Khan, the 
Thibet Tartars, that is, the Kalmuks, or Mon 
guls, made incursions into this country. We 
have two hundred thousand Russians, and, as 
nearly as we can estimate, half that number 
of Indians of all descriptions in this province. 
Marriages in and near the villages take place 
between the Russians and Tartars, but they 
are not frequent. I believe the extreme cold, 
and want of snow here during the winter, and 
the sudden change of weather in the summer, 
to be the reason why we can have no fruit 
here. We have often, in the months of May 
and June, ice three and four inches thick. Be 
sides, this country, as you have observed, is 
subject to terrible gales of wind, which blow 
away both bud and blossom. We have never 
theless a few little apples, which we eat at 



JOHN LEDYARD. 275 

our tables, and they are not without flavor. 
Thus much the Conseiller. 

" The forest trees in this country are almost 
altogether birch ; they are generally rotten at 
the heart. Mr. Karamyscheff tells me, that 
there are many bones of the rhinoceros in 
these parts of Siberia, and also the same 
large bones that are found on the banks of 
the Ohio, in America. It seems, that the 
places in which to find those bones, and other 
curious fossils, are at the mouths of the great 
Rivers Yenissey, Lena, Kolyma, and others, 
among the islands that are formed where they 
flow into the sea. Here they are all lodged, 
after having been washed from under ground 
by the rivers, in the different countries which 
they traverse. 

" August 17th. To-day, it seems, the jubilee 
is observed, on account of the Empress hav 
ing reigned twenty-five years. In coming from 
KaramyschefFs, I met the Governor-General 
and his suite of officers, the brigadier I dined 
with yesterday, and other dignitaries, to the 
number of two hundred, all going to dine with 
the Governor, who keeps open house on the 
occasion. The Governor and other officers sa 
luted me as they passed ; those who did not 
know me wondering what could procure such 
attention to one so poorly and oddly attired. 



276 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

I was pressed by some of the company to go 
and dine. Had my clothes been good, I would 
have gone. But I dined with Karamyscheff. 
It is a Tartar name, and he is of Tartarian 
extraction. Saw an apple tree in his garden. 
The fruit, as he described it, would be as large 
as a full sized pea in France or England. It 
is the genuine apple tree, and their naturalists 
distinguish it by the name of the pyrus baccata. 
These are the only apples in Siberia. 

" Karamyscheff says the Yakuti Tartars are 
the veritables Tartars, by which I understand, 
that they are a less mixed race than the oth 
ers. Their language, he says, is the oldest lan 
guage, and that other tribes understand it. The 
Yakuti formerly possessed this country, but 
they were driven out by the Kalmuks, who 
made a succession of attacks upon them, and 
pursued them to the Lena, down which they 
fled, and settled at Yakutsk. Karamyscheff 
has in his house four children, descended from 
a Kalmuk father and Russian mother. The 
first resembles the father, and is entirely Kal 
muk ; the second the mother, with fair hair 
and eyes ; one of the others is Kalmuk, and 
the other Russian. They are all healthy and 
well looking children. I saw three of them. 
Karamyscheff knows not among what people 
to rank the Kamtschadales. He acknowledges, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 277 

with me, that their faces are entirely Kalmuk, 
but says they came from America. This con 
troverts the common opinion, that America was 
peopled after Asia. But he is carried away 
with the wild notions of the French natural 
ist Buffon. I find, universally, that the Tar 
tars wear their beards. The ears of Kalmuk 
or Mongul Tartars project universally further 
from the head, than those of Europeans. I 
measured the ears of the Kalmuks at Karamy- 
scheff s to-day, and on an average they pro 
jected one and a half inch ; and they were by 
no means extraordinary examples. The ears 
of the Chinese are similar. 

" We have French and Spanish wines here, 
but so adulterated, that I was told of it before 
I knew it to be wine. Karamyscheff is fully 
sensible of the luxury and vanity I complain 
of in this country, which is but beginning to 
begin, as I told him to-day. He laments it, 
and declared frankly to me, that patriotism 
and the true solid virtues of a citizen are 
hardly known. The geographical termination 
of Russia, and the commencement of Siberia, 
is at the city of Perm. The natural boundary 
is the River Yenissey. I observe that the 
face of the country is very different on this 
side of the Yenissey, and Karamyscheff, who 
is a botanist, says the vegetable productions 
differ as much. 



278 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

"August 18th. Went this morning to see 
some curiosities from different parts of Siberia. 
Saw also a piece of Sandwich Island cloth, 
which was obtained from Captain Cook s ship 
at Kamtschatka, when he was there. In the 
collection was the skin of a Chinese goat, the 
hair of which was the whitest, longest, and 
most delicate that I ever saw ; also some ex 
cellent sea-otter skins, the largest of which 
were valued at two hundred roubles ; likewise 
a bow, quiver, and all the military apparatus 
of a Kalmuk, which was very heavy. The 
Kalmuks and Monguls here receive the com 
mon name of the Buretti. 

" I went to the Archbishop s to see a young 
savage of the Tchuktchi. The good bishop 
had taken great pains to humanize him, (as Dr. 
Wheelock had done with Sampson Occum, 
whose story 1 related on this occasion ;) but 
he informed us that he had lately taken to 
drink, and died drunk ; or, in the bishop s own 
words, * somebody had one day given him 
half a rouble, and he went out with it, but 
never returned, and was found dead by the 
side of a Kabak. Dined with my friend Ka- 
ramyscheiT again to-day, who presented me, in 
lieu of a domestic, a young lieutenant to go 
with me and buy a few things. But, said 
he, don t put any money in his hands; lie 



JOHN LEDYARD. 279 

will not return it. We had at table the wife 
of a clerk to Mr. Karamyscheff, whose mother 
was a savage from the Tchuktchi regions, and 
her father a Russian. She is a fine creature, 
and her complexion a good middling color. It 
strengthens my opinion, that the difference of 
color in man is not the effect of any design 
in the Creator, but of causes simple in them 
selves, which will perhaps soon be well ascer 
tained. It is an extraordinary circumstance ; 
but I think I ought not on that account to 
conclude, that it is not the result of natural 
causes. 

" August 19th. For the second time I have 
observed, that in the wells, about twelve feet 
down, there is a great deal of ice adhering to 
the sides. I went this morning to see a mer 
chant, who was the owner of a vessel^ that 
had passed from Kamtschatka to different parts 
of the coast of America. He showed me some 
charts rudely descriptive of his voyages ; says 
there are, on different parts of the coast of 
America, two thousand Russians ; and that, as 
nearly as he can judge, the number of skins, 
procured by them in that country, amounts to 
twelve thousand. He has a vessel at Okotsk, 
which leaves that place for America next sum 
mer, and he offers me a passage in her. 

"Dined to-day with a German colonel, and 



280 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

after dinner set out for the Lake Baikal, which, 
in the Kalmuk language, signifies the North 
Sea. The Kalmuks, or Monguls, originally 
lived on the south of this lake, towards China 
and Thibet. After a good and cheerful dinner 
with the colonel, we mounted his drosky, with 
post horses, and took our departure for the 
lake. After seven hours ride over a miserable 
road, we arrived at the little hamlet of St. 
Nicholas, where formerly the Russian ambas 
sadors resided, before they embarked to cross 
the lake for China. This village has a church 
in it, dedicated to St. Nicholas, and all the 
sailors on the lake resort to it. We lodged 
here through the night, and early next morn 
ing resumed our journey, and reached the bor 
der of the lake. Here are six or seven houses, 
among which the largest was ordered to be 
built by the Empress for the accommodation 
of all strangers that pass this way ; and also 
a galiotj which plies as a packet in the sum 
mer across the lake. 

" We hailed the galiot, which was at anchor 
in the lake. The captain came ashore, and 
we went off with him in a small boat, with 
line and lead to take soundings ; but having 
only fifty fathoms of line, and it raining very 
hard, we could not make much progress. At 
the distance of one hundred feet from the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 281 

shore, my whole length of line was taken up. 
We retired to the house, breakfasted, and waited 
an hour for the rain to abate ; but, finding it 
to continue, we requested the captain to send 
us in his boat to Irkutsk. He complied with 
our request, and made us a canopy of hides to 
defend us from the rain. We sent our drosky 
back by the postboy, and embarked with two 
sailors to row us. We passed along the mar 
gin of the lake to the outlet, where the River 
Angara begins, and thence down the river to 
Irkutsk, a distance of about forty-five miles. 
This lake is seven hundred and sixty-nine 
versts (five hundred and thirteen miles) in its 
longest part, and sixty versts (forty miles) in 
its broadest. Its depth is said to be unfath 
omable. It has an annual ebb and flux; the 
one is caused by the autumnal rains, and the 
other by the dry season in spring. It has 
emptying into it one hundred and sixty-nine 
small streams, from twenty to eighty yards 
wide, and three larger ones from a quarter to 
half a mile wide. It has but one outlet, by 
which to dispose of the redundancy from all 
these influxes, and that is the River Angara, 
which is a Kalmuk name. It is no more 
than a quarter of a mile wide where it springs 
from the lake, is very shallow, and far from 
being rapid. 



282 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



"August 22d. The government of Irkutsk 
has four provinces, namely, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, 
Nartschintsk, and Okotsk. These are divided 
into several districts each. The governor sent 
me a surveyor, with the latest chart of the 
great territory embracing these provinces. By 
measurement I found its latitudinal extent, 
from its southern extremity to the Icy Ocean 
north, to be two thousand seven hundred 
versts. and its longitudinal extent, from its 
western boundary to Tchuktchi Nos, its east 
ern extremity at Bering s Strait, to be three 
thousand nine hundred versts. 

" I am informed by the Governor, that the 
post will not be ready for three days. 

"August 23d. The commerce of Irkutsk is 
very small with Europe, and consequently at 
present at a very low ebb, since there is no 
open trade with the Chinese, its nearest neigh 
bors of a commercial character. The frontiers, 
between this country and China, are principally 
defended by an army of Buretti, or Kalmuk 
Tartars. They are mostly horsemen, like the 
Cossacs in the western dominions, and amount 
to more than five thousand men. There are 
two convents near this town, one of men and 
the other of women, separated by a river. I 
observe in Siberia, that in all the cities there 
is one great burying place, and that wherever 



JOHN LEDYARD. 283 

this is (and it is commonly out of the town) 
there is likewise a church, and the best church 
of the place. This is but another kind of 
pyramid, a large mound, or a mound modified. 

" August 25th. This morning I leave town. 
The land is well cultivated on the borders of 
the river, and is good. Among the Buretti, or 
Kalmuks, I observe the American moccasin, the 
common moccasin, like the Finland moccasin. 
The houses of the Buretti have octagonal 
sides, covered with turf, with a fireplace in the 
centre, and an aperture for smoke j the true 
American wigivam, and like the first Tartar 
house I saw in this country, which was near 
Kazan. Mr. Karamyscheff says, they have the 
wild horse on their Chinese frontiers. The 
Buretti here ride and work the horned cattle ; 
they perforate the cartilage of the nose, and 
put a cord through it to guide them by. This 
is to be wondered at, as the country is level, 
and they have vast droves of horses. 

" August 26th. Hard white frost last night, 
and very cold. Run away with by these furi 
ous unbroke Tartar horses, and saved myself 
each time by jumping out of the kibitka. 
Thank Heaven, ninety versts more will proba 
bly put an end to my kibitka journeying for 
ever." 

Such are some of the brief notes entered in 



284 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

his journal, while he was at Irkutsk. He was 
detained on account of the delay of the post, 
and made the best use of his time in collect 
ing such information, as he supposed would be 
serviceable to him in his future travels. The 
inquiries, of which he was peculiarly fond, re 
specting the different races of men, their ori 
gin, classification, and distinctions, were here 
pursued with his customary diligence and dis 
crimination. But it should always be borne 
in mind, that he did not intend his journal for 
anything more than a repository of loose hints, 
which might assist his recollection when the 
occasion for using them should occur. They 
were never afterwards revised or altered, but 
have been preserved in the original form, in 
which he recorded them on his journey. This 
fact should claim for them all the indulgence, 
which their incoherency, or want of maturity, 
may seem to require. 

The Lake Baikal, in some respects, is one 
of the most remarkable bodies of water on the 
globe. Other travellers have given its dimen 
sions somewhat differently from Ledyard, va 
rying from three hundred to six hundred miles 
in length, and from forty-five to sixty miles in 
width where it is the broadest. Ledyard prob 
ably measured it on the chart just mentioned. 
All travellers agree, however, that the scenery 



JOHN LEDYARD. 285 

around this lake is the most picturesque, bold, 
and imposing imaginable. The Angara bursts 
out from the lake, between immense battle 
ments of perpendicular rocks, which, if we may 
judge from Bell s description of them, surpass 
in grandeur the famous passage of the Poto 
mac through the Blue Ridge at Harper s Fer 
ry. For about a mile after leaving the lake, 
there is a continued rapid, extending across the 
whole breadth of the stream, and admitting of 
no boat communication, except by a narrow 
channel on the east side, up which boats are 
towed, and propelled with poles, from the vil 
lage of St. Nicholas into the lake. Around the 
entire circumference of the lake, and particu 
larly on the north, lofty and craggy mountains 
are seen piled one above another, in the wild 
est confusion, and masses of rock rising like 
towers from the very margin of the water. 
Down the ravines and precipices thus formed, 
the numerous tributary streams pour themselves 
into this great reservoir. Pallas was inclined 
to believe, that the enormous gulf, which forms 
the basin of the Baikal, was caused by a vio 
lent disruption of the earth, at some very re 
mote period. 

The Selinga, a river which empties itself 
into this lake from the south, is larger at its 
mouth than the Angara where it issues from 



286 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the lake. It has its source in the Chinese 
dominions, and is navigable for many miles 
into the interior. Another river, called the 
Eastern Angara, and probably larger than the 
Selinga, comes in from the north. To these 
must be added the contributions of more than 
a hundred and sixty other streams of various 
sizes. It is difficult to imagine what becomes 
of the immense quantity of water thus poured 
into the lake, when it is considered that there 
is but a single outlet. The width of this out 
let Ledyard states at a quarter of a mile, but 
Bell says it appeared to him a mile. In either 
case the water discharged by it would be in 
no proportion to the quantity which falls into 
the lake. 

In a warmer region, as in that where the 
Lake Tsad is situate, in Africa, the surplus 
might be easily disposed of by evaporation ; 
but in so cold a climate as that of Irkutsk, 
this is hardly possible. The conjecture of an 
internal communication with the great ocean 
would seem to afford the only plausible solu 
tion of the difficulty. Lake Superior contains 
a larger body of water, has a small outlet, and 
is in a climate perhaps as cold ; but it receives 
comparatively slender contributions from rivers. 
A similar remark may be made as to the Cas 
pian Sea and the Sea of Aral. The water of 



JOHN LEDYARD. 287 

the Baikal is fresh. No bottom has ever yet 
been reached by the sounding line. When 
Bell crossed it, a hundred years ago, with the 
Russian ambassador, on his way to Pekin, a 
line of more than nine hundred feet in length 
was let down, without touching the bottom. 

The report of Professor Pallas on this point 
is not so explicit, as might have been expected 
from a scientific traveller. He says, that a ball 
of packthread, weighing more than an ounce, had 
been used as a sounding line, but no bottom 
was found.* What length he would assign to 
an ounce of packthread is not revealed to his 
readers. We have seen, that one hundred feet 
from the shore, Ledyard s line of three hun 
dred feet met with no obstruction. On all 
sides the shore is bold and dangerous, with 
hardly an anchoring place, except at the mouths 
of the large rivers. If the water could be re 
moved, there would probably be exposed a 
cavity, or fissure, equal to the present dimen 
sions of the lake, and extending to a great 
depth into the earth. Professor Pallas thinks 
the ordinary level of the lake was once higher, 
and that it flowed over the low country at 

* " Le Baikal a une si grande profondeur dans le milieu, 
et sur les cotes septentrionales, qu on a d6roule un peloton 
de ficelle pesant plus d une once, pour sender, sans trouver 
de fond." Voyages du Professeur Pallas, Tom. VI. p. 118. 



288 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the mouth of the Selinga, which is now in 
habited. No lava, or volcanic appearances, 
have been noticed in the regions about the 
lake. 

It is considered very remarkable, that the 
fish called chien de mer is found in the Baikal. 
This is mentioned by Pallas and Ledyard. 
The natural element of this fish is the ocean, 
and it is very rarely known, as the Professor 
says, to enter rivers even for a small distance. 
How it should get into the Baikal, a fresh 
water lake at least three thousand miles from 
the ocean, taking the windings of the river 
into the account, is deemed a problem of no 
easy solution, especially as this fish has never 
been known either in the Yenissey or Anga 
ra, by which the waters of the lake pass into 
the Northern Sea.* He is not satisfied with 
this course of migration, and would look for a 
more extraordinary cause, but does not venture 
an opinion on the subject. The Baikal con 
tains seals also, whose usual residence is in 
the salt water. Whether they came up the 
Yenissey and Angara, is another question to 
be settled. Bell thinks they did. Pallas is 
silent on the subject, and so is Ledyard. The 
skins of these seals are preferred to those of 

* The Angara falls into the Yenissey on its way to the 
ocean. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 289 

salt water seals. The inhabitants have a treach 
erous mode of taking these animals. In win 
ter the seals are obliged occasionally to come 
up through holes in the ice for respiration ; 
over these holes the seal-catcher spreads nets, 
in which the unwary animal is entangled, 
when he escapes from his nether element. 

In the part of the journal to which we have 
now come are contained some curious specu 
lations respecting the number of rivers in Si 
beria, and the quantity of water which is con 
tinually disembogued by them into the Northern 
Ocean. On his route from Moscow to Irkutsk, 
Ledyard had crossed twenty-five large naviga 
ble rivers, whose courses were north. The 
Yenissey, where he passed it, runs at the rate 
of about five miles an hour, and generally the 
rivers on the east of the Yenissey run two or 
three miles in an hour swifter than the west 
ern ones, between the Yenissey and Moscow. 
He thinks these twenty-five rivers, taken to 
gether, had an average width of half a mile 
where he crossed them. He also ascertained 
that there were twelve rivers of a similar de 
scription between Irkutsk and Kamtschatka, 
making in all thirty-seven. 

Allowing these rivers to be twice as wide 
at their mouths as at these interior points, 
which is evidently a moderate estimate, we 
VOL. xiv. 19 



290 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

shall have a column of water thirty-seven 
miles wide, and of the average depth of rivers 
a mile in width, constantly flowing into the 
Frozen Ocean, with a velocity of at least three 
or four miles an hour. 

His inference from the whole is, that such 
an immense body of fresh water incessantly 
discharged, at points so near each other and 
so near the pole, must have a sensible effect 
in creating and perpetuating the ice in those 
latitudes. Whatever may be thought of this 
theory, it is an unquestionable fact, that a much 
larger quantity of water is conveyed by rivers 
from Siberia into the Frozen Ocean, than runs 
into the sea in any other part of the globe, 
within the same compass. Whether these 
streams are mainly fed by native springs, or 
by the melting of snows, and whether the su 
perabundance of these snows is produced by 
vapors wafted from warmer climes, are topics 
of inquiry that must be left to those who are 
inclined to pursue them. Snow cannot be 
formed without moisture, but where the sur 
face of the earth is bound in frost six or eight 
months in a year, there can be little evapora 
tion or moisture. If snow still continues to 
fall and accumulate, whence is it that the at 
mosphere is surcharged with the vapors neces 
sary for this operation? 



JOHN LEDYARD. 291 

We left our traveller with his kibitka, on 
his first day s journey from Irkutsk northward. 
It was now the 26th of August, and the forest 
trees had begun to drop their foliage, and put 
on the garb of autumn. The country in the 
environs of Irkutsk was well cultivated, con 
taining fine fields of wheat, rye, barley, exten 
sive pasture lands, and a good breed of cattle. 
The sheep were of the large-tailed kind, such 
as are found at the Cape of Good Hope, but 
the mutton was not well flavored. 

In company with Lieutenant Laxman, a 
Swedish officer, Ledyard embarked on the 
River Lena, at a point one hundred and fifty 
miles distant from Irkutsk, with the intention 
of floating down its current to Yakutsk. This 
river navigation was fourteen hundred miles. 
Where they entered their boat, the stream was 
no more than twenty yards broad, with here 
and there gentle rapids, and high, rugged moun 
tains on each side. They were carried along 
from eighty to a hundred miles a day, the 
river gradually increasing in size, and the moun 
tain scenery putting on an infinite variety of 
forms, alternately sublime and picturesque, bold 
and fantastic, with craggy rocks and jutting 
headlands, bearing on their brows the verdure 
of pines, firs, larches, and other evergreens, and 
Alpine shrubs. 



292 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

All the way to Yakutsk, the river was stud 
ded with islands, recurring at short intervals, 
which added to the romantic effect of the 
scenery, and made a voyage down the Lena, 
notwithstanding its many privations, by no 
means an unpleasant trip to a true lover of 
nature, and a hardy, veteran traveller. The 
weather was growing cold, and heavy fogs 
hung about the river till a late hour in the 
morning. They daily passed small towns and 
villages, where they went ashore for provisions, 
or refreshment, as occasion required. 

" August 30th. We stopped at a village this 
morning to procure a few stores. They killed 
for us a sheep, gave us three quarts of milk, 
two loaves of bread, cakes with carrots and 
radishes baked in them, onions, one dozen of 
fresh and two dozen of salt fish, straw and 
bark to mend the covering of our boat ; and 
all for the value of about fourteen pence ster 
ling. The poor creatures brought us the straw, 
to show us how their grain was blasted by 
the cruel frost, although it had been reaped 
before the 21st of August. The peasants say 
the mountains here are full of bears and 
wolves. We have seen a plenty of wild fowl, 
which we shoot as we please. In the river 
is the salmon-trout. The people fish with 
seines, and also with spears by torchlight. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



293 



This latter custom is a very universal one ; 
they fish with a torch at Otaheite. The 
double headed or Esquimaux paddle is used 
here. 

" September 2d. My rascal of a soldier stole 
our brandy, and got drunk, and was imperti 
nent. I was obliged to handle him roughly to 
preserve order. Fixed a little sail to our boat. 

" September 4th. Arrived at the town of 
Keringa at daylight, and stayed with the Com 
mandant till noon, and was treated very hos 
pitably. Some merchants sent us stores. It 
is the custom here, if they hear of the arrival 
of a foreigner, to load him with their little 
services. It is almost impossible to pass a 
town of any kind, without being arrested by 
them. They have the earnestness of hospital 
ity; they crowd their tables with everything 
they have to eat and drink, and, not content 
with that, they fill your wallet. I wish I 
could think them as honest as they are hos 
pitable. The reason why the Commandant did 
not show his wife, was because he was jealous 
of her. I have observed this to be a prevail 
ing passion here. The river on each side as 
we pass is bounded by vast rocky cliffs, the 
highest mass of rocks I ever saw. 

" September 15th. Snow squalls with fresh 
gales ; up all night at the helm myself. 



294 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" September 17th. Ninety versts from Ya 
kutsk. Passed yesterday a very odd arrange 
ment of rocks, which line the margin of the 
river for sixty versts. They are of talc, and 
appear formerly to have been covered with 
earth, but are now entirely bare. They are 
all of a pyramidal form, and about one hun 
dred and fifty feet in height ; detached at their 
bases, and disposed with extraordinary regular 
ity. These rocky pyramids appear to termi 
nate the long mountainous south and east 
banks of the Lena, which have uniformly con 
tinued from Katchuga, where I first embarked 
on the river." 

On the 18th of September he arrived at 
Yakutsk, after a fatiguing voyage of twenty- 
two days, in a small bateau on the Lena. 
During this period, he had passed from a sum 
mer climate to one of rigorous cold. When 
he left Irkutsk, it was just in the midst of 
harvest time, and the reapers were in the fields ; 
but when he entered Yakutsk, the snow was 
six inches deep, and the boys were whipping 
their tops on the ice. He debarked from his 
bateau two miles above the town, and there 
mounted a sledge, drawn by an ox, with a Ya- 
kuti Indian on his back, and guided by a cord 
passing through the cartilage of his nose. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 295 



CHAPTER X. 

Interview with the Commandant of Yakutsk. 
Detained under false Pretences. The Yakuti 
Tartars. Influence of Religion upon them. 
Peculiarities of Features in the Tartar Coun 
tenance. Difficulty of taking Vocabularies of 
unknown Languages. Classification of the 
Tartars and North American Indians. Causes 
of the Difference of Color in the Human Race. 
Tartars and American Indians the same 
People. 

LEDYARD immediately waited on the Com 
mandant, delivered his letter from the Gov 
ernor-General, and made known his situation 
and designs. It was his wish to press forward 
with as much expedition as possible to Okotsk, 
lest the winter should shut in before he could 
reach that town, where he hoped to seize upon 
the first opportunity in the spring, to secure a 
passage to the American continent. The dis 
tance from Yakutsk was between six and sev 
en hundred miles. Lodgings were provided for 
him by order of the Commandant, with whom 
he had already dined, and who soon after came 
to see him. Imagine his dismay, when the 
Commandant assured him that the season was 



296 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

already so far advanced as to render a journey 
to Okotsk impossible. 

" What, alas ! shall I do ? " exclaims he in his 
journal ; " for I am miserably prepared for this 
unlooked-for delay. By remaining here through 
the winter, I cannot expect to resume my 
march until May, which will be eight months. 
My funds ! I have but two long frozen stages 
more, and I shall be beyond the want or aid 
of money, until, emerging from the deep des 
erts, I gain the American Atlantic States ; and 
then, thy glowing climates, Africa, explored. I 
will lay me down, and claim my little portion 
of the globe I have viewed ; may it not be 
before. How many of the noble minded have 
been subsidiary to me, or to my enterprises ! 
yet that meagre demon Poverty has travelled 
with me hand in hand over half the globe, 
and witnessed what the tale I will not 
unfold. 

"Ye children of wealth and idleness, what 
a profitable commerce might be made between 
us ! A little of my toil might better brace 
your bodies, give spring to mind and zest to 
enjoyment j and a very little of that wealth, 
which you scatter around you, would put it 
beyond the power of anything but death to 
oppose my kindred greetings with all on earth 
that bear the stamp of man. This is the third 



JOHN LEDTARD. 297 

time, that I have been overtaken and arrested 
by winter ; and both the others, by giving time 
for my evil genius to rally his hosts about me, 
have defeated the enterprise. Fortune, thou 
hast humbled me at last, for I am this mo 
ment the slave of cowardly solicitude, lest in 
the heart of this dread winter, there lurk the 
seeds of disappointment to my ardent desire 
of gaining the opposite continent. But I sub 
mit." 

These melancholy forebodings were but too 
literally verified, as the issue will prove. In a 
letter to Colonel Smith, from Yakutsk, he 
speaks again of this disappointment in the fol 
lowing manner. 

" The Commandant assured me that he had 
orders from the Governor-General to render me 
all possible kindness and service ; But, Sir, 
continued he, the first service I am bound 
to render you is, to beseech you not to at 
tempt to reach Okotsk this winter. He spoke 
to me in French. I almost rudely insisted on 
being permitted to depart immediately, and ex 
pressed surprise that a Yakuti Indian, and a 
Tartar horse, should be thought incapable of 
following a man, born and educated in the 
latitude of forty. He declared upon his honor, 
that the journey was impracticable. The con 
test lasted two or three days, in which inter- 



298 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

valj being still fixed in my opinion, I was pre 
paring for the journey. The Commandant at 
length waited on me, and brought with him 
a trader, a very good, respectable looking man 
of about fifty, as a witness to the truth and 
propriety of his advice to me. This trader, 
for ten or twelve years, had passed and re- 
passed often from Yakutsk to Okotsk. I was 
obliged, however severely I might lament the 
misfortune, to yield to two such advocates for 
my happiness. The trader held out to me all 
the horrors of the winter, and the severity of 
the journey at the best season ; and the Com 
mandant, the goodness of his house and the 
society here, all of which would be at my ser 
vice. The difficulty of the journey I was 
aware of; but when I assented to its imprac 
ticability, it was a compliment ; for I do not 
believe it is so, nor hardly anything else. 

" It is certainly bad in theory to suppose 
the seasons can triumph over the efforts of an 
honest man. The proffered hospitality of the 
Commandant I have no doubt was sincere, 
because in Russia generally, and particularly 
in Siberia, it is the fashion to be hospitable. 
It is probable, also, that it is a natural princi 
ple. I should, however, have said less to them 
about the matter, had I not been without 
clothes, and with only a guinea and one fourth 



JOHN LEDYARD. 29C 

in my purse, and in a place where the neces 
saries of life are dearer than in Europe, and 
clothing still dearer by the same comparison. 
And, besides, the people of all descriptions 
here, as far as they are able, live in all the 
excess of Asiatic luxury, joined with such Eu 
ropean excesses, as have migrated hither. 

" Add to all these, that they are universally 
and extremely ignorant, and adverse to every 
species of intellectual enjoyment, and I will 
declare to you, that I was never before so 
totally at a loss how to accommodate myself 
to my situation. The only consolation I have, 
of the argumentative kind, is to reflect, that 
he who travels for information must be sup 
posed to want it. By being here eight months, 
I shall be able to make my observations much 
more extensive, respecting the country and its 
inhabitants, than if I had passed directly through 
it ; and this also is a satisfaction." 

It being thus determined, against his opin 
ion and wishes, that he should not proceed, he 
resolved to reconcile himself to his fate, and 
to make the best use of his time, which cir 
cumstances would allow. He had entered the 
following memorandum in his journal, while 
coming down the Lena ; " Yakutsk is the last 
place where I shall be able to make any in 
quiries ; therefore, let them be extensive." He 



300 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

now set himself earnestly to the task of com 
plying with this injunction, and of collecting 
as much information as possible. The facts 
and reflections, which he thought worth pre 
serving, are recorded in his diary without meth 
od or connection. It was his manner, as we 
have already seen, to write down only hints, 
to state facts briefly, and throw out his own 
remarks upon them in language concise and 
unstudied. These particulars, as heretofore, 
must be remembered in reading the free ex 
tracts, which will be made from the part of 
his journal written at Yakutsk. 

There is some room for doubt, whether the 
Commandant was perfectly honest, in advising 
and persuading Ledyard to desist from his pur 
pose of proceeding immediately to Okotsk. In 
the first place, it was certainly not an uncom 
mon thing to perform that journey in the win 
ter, and the Commandant s tender concern for 
the sufferings of the traveller, who knew what 
was before him, and was eager to grapple with 
every hardship in the way, could scarcely be 
such as to induce him, from this motive alone, 
to urge his delay for eight months in Yakutsk. 
His bringing in the trader to strengthen his 
argument, on the same benevolent grounds, is 
moreover a suspicious circumstance. Ledyard 
yielded to their persuasions, against his will 



JOHN LEDYARD. 301 

and his judgment, and was only surprised that 
he should meet two men in Siberia, entire 
strangers to him, who should have his happi 
ness so much at heart. 

Again, the original letter of recommendation 
from Jacobi, the Governor-General of Irkutsk, 
to the Commandant of Yakutsk, has been pre 
served amongst Led yard s papers. It is writ 
ten in the Russian language and character.* 
After recommending the bearer in general 
terms, and stating that he wished to pass 
through to the American continent, with a 
view of acquiring a knowledge of that coun 
try, Jacobi adds, " His object seems to be, 
that of joining a certain secret naval expedi 
tion ; I earnestly request you, therefore, to re 
ceive Mr. Ledyard most kindly, and to assist 
him every possible way in all his wishes, and 
to forward him without the least delay to the 
above mentioned expedition." 

The passage in this letter demanding par 
ticular attention, is that in which the Governor- 
General enjoins it on the Commandant, with 
marked emphasis, to treat him kindly, and send 
him forward according to his wishes witnout 

* A translation of this letter was procured from the 
Russian Legation, through the politeness of Mr. Poletica, 
while he was minister from the court of Petersburg to the 
United States. 



302 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

delay. Now, if he had given this order seri 
ously, it would not have been done, unless it 
was intended to be obeyed, and Jacobi knew 
very well whether the journey was practicable 
at the season when the letter would arrive ; 
and if it was in fact a serious and positive 
order, it is not likely that the Commandant 
would have hesitated to carry it instantly into 
effect. My inference is, that there were secret 
instructions sent at the same time to detain 
Ledyard in Yakutsk, and that the Command 
ant for this purpose resorted to the artifice of 
a pretended concern for his health and com 
fort, that all suspicions of any designed inter 
ference might be lulled to sleep. It is remark 
able, too, that the letter of recommendation 
was sent open, and was returned to Ledyard 
after having been read by the Commandant. 
This manoeuvre was artfully contrived to quiet 
his apprehensions, and cause him to believe, 
that the Governor-General had taken a lively 
interest in his success, and was disposed to ren 
der him efficient aid. To this subject I shall 
hare occasion to recur. 

Meantime let us return to the occupations 
of the traveller, while he was thus uncon 
sciously a prisoner at Yakutsk. He pursued 
with diligence his inquiries, and lost no oppor 
tunity of seeking knowledge wherever he could 



JOHN LEDYARD. 303 

find it, particularly on those topics which he 
was fond of contemplating. In the letter to 
Colonel Smith, mentioned above, are contained 
some observations, besides those already quoted, 
which are in harmony with the writer s usual 
turn of mind and mode of expressing his 
thoughts. 

" I cannot say, that my voyage on the Lena 
has furnished me with anything new; and yet 
no traveller ever passed by scenes, that more 
constantly engage the heart and the imagina 
tion. I suppose no two philosophers would 
think alike about them. A painter and a poet 
would be much more likely to agree. There 
are some things, however, not unworthy of a 
philosophical inquiry. The Lena is very in 
different for navigation, from this place towards 
Irkutsk. In some mountains near the river 
are large salt mines, which afford a supply to 
all the adjacent country. It is pure, solid, 
transparent, mineral salt, and found in veins. 
The pieces that I have seen, with the Com 
mandant here, are six and nine inches square. 
When pulverized for the table, it is much the 
most delicate salt I ever saw, of a perfect 
white, and an agreeable taste, but I imagine 
not so strong by one third, as our West India 
salt. 

" There are also upon the banks of the 



304 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Lena, and indeed all over this country, great 
quantities of elephants bones. The Command 
ant possesses some of the teeth of that ani 
mal, larger than any I saw in the royal mu 
seum at Petersburg, and they are as sound as 
they ever were. The hafts of knives, spoons, 
and a variety of other things are here made 
of them, and they equal any ivory I have seen 
from Africa. If I can, I will send you a spe 
cimen of this fine bone, and of the salt like 
wise. Indeed, I want to send you many 
things, but it is an embarrassing circumstance, 
when one has correspondents in the antipodes. 
And though no man could show more kind 
ness, or render more service to a traveller, than 
Dr. Pallas has done to me, yet I am reserved 
in asking them upon all occasions. Brown 
and Porter, too ; I wonder their patience is 
not exhausted. It has been as thoroughly 
tried, as yours was while I was at Petersburg. 
" The fact is, I am a bankrupt to the world ; 
but I hope it will consider well the occasion 
of my being such. I believe it will. My Eng 
lish creditors are the most numerous, and I 
have great consolation on that account, because 
they think and act with such heavenly pro 
priety. In most parts of the world, and as 
much in Russia as anywhere, and in Siberia 
most of all, it is the custom not to think at 



JOHN LEDYARD. 305 

all. In this case it is difficult to liquidate, 
rationally, a receipt and expenditure of three 
dinners and a bow. For the same reason, 
when I left France my accounts were not 
closed, and from that day to this I know not 
whether I owe France, or France owes me. 
But here at Yakutsk it will be infinitely worse ; 
and without any violence to the metaphor, or 
pedantic affectation, I declare to you that, to 
leave Yakutsk with respectability and reach 
Okotsk alive, will be to pass a Scylla and 
Charybdis, which I have never yet encoun 
tered. Both you, myself, and my friends, had 
formed at London very erroneous opinions of 
the equipment necessary to pass through this 
country, arid particularly as to the manner of 
travelling. It has been the source of all my 
troubles. They have been many, and I have 
done wrong to feel them so severely. I owe 
the world some services, which I shall make 
great efforts to perform. Make my best com 
pliments to my friends, and tell them that I 
have a heart as big as St. Paul s Church in 
such service as theirs/ 

The mistake here alluded to, in regard to 
the mode of travelling, was the plan formed 
by himself and his friends in London, that he 
should walk, as being more economical. By 
experiment he proved this to have been an 
VOL. xiv. 20 



306 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ill advised scheme,- for walking not only con 
sumed a great deal more time, but the expenses 
in the aggregate were higher, than by the 
usual mode of travelling post through those 
countries. In a letter from Irkutsk he says, 
" It has been to this moment a source of mis 
fortune to me, that I did not begin to ride 
post from Hamburg. I have footed it at a 
great expense, besides the loss of my baggage, 
which I severely feel. Never did I adopt an 
idea so fatal to my happiness." The reason 
why he viewed this oversight in so serious an 
aspect was, that it would inevitably be the 
cause of keeping him back a full season from 
his passage across the sea to the American 
continent, and thus, in the end, a whole year 
would be lost. Add to this the innumerable 
accidents, that might intervene to defeat his 
purpose altogether. Whereas, had he proceeded 
by the shortest conveyance from Hamburg to 
the Russian capital, he might with great ease 
have reached Kamtschatka the same season. 
The origin of his disasters may chiefly be re 
ferred, however, to his fit of romantic benevo 
lence in seeking out Major Langborn ; wasting 
his precious time in Copenhagen, and sharing 
with his erratic countryman his scanty means, 
which, in their whole amount, were scarcely 
enough to keep himself alone from beggary. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 307 

I shall now bring together, in as connected 
a form as the nature of the particulars will 
admit, Ledyard s observations on various tribes 
of Tartars, with whom he became more or 
less acquainted in Siberia. His researches 
were desultory, but pursued with inquisitive- 
ness ; his statements are often curious, some 
times important ; they will afford amusement 
to the general reader, as well as information to 
the philosophical inquirer. 

" Of all the gradations of men, the savage 
is the most formal and ceremonious, notwith 
standing his wants and occupations are few, 
and he can with happy indifference endure 
privation. His heaven is peace and leisure. 
Ceremonials, like the uninterrupted tenor of 
his mind, may be supposed to be transmitted 
unchanged through many generations. Hence 
many things, which marked the earliest period 
of history, and which have left no vestige with 
civilized man, show themselves at this day 
among savages. Their luxuries, if such they 
may be called, are of that kind which nature 
suggests. Dress, which in hot climates is an 
inconvenience, does not become so much the 
object of attention and delight ; and here, there 
fore, the savage is more nice in the indulgence 
of his appetites. On the contrary, in cold cli 
mates, bodily covering being all important, in- 



308 AM GUI CAN BIOGRAPHY. 

genuity is directed to that point. A feeble 
kind of infant fancy grows out of the efforts 
of necessity, and displays its little arts in 
adorning the person with awkward and fantas 
tic decorations. But here the appetites are less 
lively and distinguishing. 

" With respect to food, the vilest, and that 
totally unprepared, does not come amiss, and 
the most delicate is not seized with eagerness. 
Give a cake to a Swedish Laplander, Finland- 
er, or northern Tartar, and he eats it leisurely ; 
do the same to an Otaheitan, Italian peasant, 
or Spanish fisherman, and he will put the 
whole cake into his mouth if he can. The 
Empress has caused houses to be built in the 
Russian manner, at the expense of government, 
and ordered them to be offered to the Yakut! , 
upon the single condition of their dwelling in 
them ; but they have universally refused, pre 
ferring their apparently more uncomfortable 
yourtes or wigwams. 

" The Tongusians are a wandering people, 
living solely by the chase. They rarely stop 
above two or three days in a place. They 
have tents or yourtes, made of bark, which 
they leave on the spot where they have en 
camped. When they march, they tell their 
women that they are going to such a moun 
tain, river, lake, or forest, and leave them to 



JOHN LEDYARD. 309 

bring the baggage. They are extremely active 
in the chase, and instances have occurred in 
which they were found dead, having pursued 
their game down some precipice. 

" The Kalrnuks, or Buretti, write their lan 
guage in columns, like the Chinese ; the Ka 
zan Tartars from right to left, like the He 
brews.* The reason why the Buretti have the 
art of writing is, that they last migrated from 
the borders of Thibet. There is not another 
Asiatic tribe in all Siberia, that write their lan 
guage, or have any remains of writing among 
them.f The sound of the Yakuti language 
very closely resembles that of the Chinese ; 
arid the same, indeed, may be said of the lan- 

* Dr. Clarke mentions having procured at Taganrog, on 
the Sea of Azof, a specimen of writing from the Kalmuk 
priests. The characters were arranged in columns on scar 
let linen, and read from the top to the bottom. After re 
turning to England, he was informed, that this writing was 
Sanscrit He adds, that the Kalmuks in that part of Asia 
had two modes of writing, one with the vulgar character, 
so called, and the other with the sacred. This latter is 
read from left to right, like the European languages ; the 
former in columns, and would seem to be Sanscrit. Clarke s 
Travels, Vol. I. Ch. 15. 

f It must be observed, that Ledyard everywhere speaks 
of the Buretti as the same people with the Kalmuks, and 
both as direct descendants of the Mongul Tartars. What 
he says of either, therefore, may commonly be applied to 
the other. 



310 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

guages of all the Asiatic Tartars. I have al 
ready observed, that the Yakut! is supposed to 
be the oldest language, and that other tribes 
have some knowledge of it. 

" The Kahnuks live mostly by their flocks, 
which consist of horses, sheep, goats, and cows. 
In summer they dwell in the plains, in winter 
retreat to the mountains, where their flocks 
feed on buds, twigs of trees, and moss. They 
have much milk, which serves them for food, 
and of which they also make a kind of bran 
dy.* They likewise hunt. When any of their 
flock are sick or lame, they kill and eat them. 

" I observe there is one continual flow of 
good nature and cheerfulness among the Tar 
tars. They never abuse each other by words, 
but, when provoked, look for revenge, either 
secret or open. The Tongusians fight duels 
with their boAvs, and with knives. They, and 
the other roving Tartars, have the limits of 

* The manner of extracting this spirituous liquor from 
milk is largely described by Pallas. The milk is first fer 
mented, in which state it contains a vinous acid. It is 
then subjected to the usual process of distillation, and the 
result is a species of liquor, which has intoxicating qual 
ities, and of which the Kalmuks are very fond. Marc s 
milk is considered the best for this purpose, and cow s 
milk the next. The milk of sheep is seldom distilled, as 
it contains but a small quantity of the spirituous principle. 
Voyages du Professtur Pallas, Tom. II. pp. 168-175. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 311 

their hunting grounds ascertained and marked, 
like the aborigines of North America. 

" The Yakuti here take their children out 
in the evening, arid teach them the names of 
the principal stars, how to direct their march 
by them, and how to judge of the weather. 
Astronomy must have been an early science. 
The Russ and Yakuti appear to live together 
here in harmony and peace, without any dis 
tinction as to national difference, or superiority 
and inferiority. I know of but one circum 
stance, (but, alas! it is an important one,) in 
which the Yakuti are not on an equal footing 
with the Russ. They hold no offices, civil or 
military. The Russians have been here two 
hundred and fifty years, and the Yakuti Tar 
tars have been under the Russian government 
ever since ; yet have they made no alteration 
in their dress or manners in general, but the 
Russians have conformed to the dress of the 
Yakuti. Very few of them have embraced the 
Christian religion, and those who have perform 
its duties with great indifference. 

" In this respect, also, the Tartar, whether 
in Asia or America, acts up to that sui generis 
character, which distinguishes him from other 
branches of the human family. Religion of 
any kind, professed by any other people, is 
usually a serious, contemplative, and important 



312 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

concern, and forms at least as remarkable a 
trait in their character, as any circumstance of 
fashion or habit ; but it forms no part of the 
character of a Tartar. I have not in my mind 
the Christian system particularly ; its doctrines 
are indeed mysterious to the greatest minds 
and best hearts. To a Tartar they must sure 
ly be so. The surprise is therefore the less, 
why they should so feebly affect the Tartar 
character. But the Mahometan system, which 
courts the senses and appeals to the passions, 
has operated no further on the Tartar, than to 
shave his head. There it stops ; it does not 
enter it, nor his heart. 

" The Tartar is a man of nature, not of art. 
His philosophy is therefore very simple, but 
sometimes sublime. Let us enumerate some 
of his virtues. He is a lover of peace. No 
lawyer here, perplexing natural rights of proper 
ty. No wanton Helen, displaying fatal charms. 
No priest with his outrageous zeal has ever 
disturbed the peace. Never, I believe, did a 
Tartar speak ill of the Deity, or envy his fel 
low-creatures. He is contented to be what he 
is. Hospitable and humane, he is uniformly 
tranquil and cheerful, laconic in thought, word, 
and action. This is one great reason, and I 
think the greatest, why they have been con 
stantly persecuted by nations of a different dis- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 313 

position, and why they have always fled be 
fore them, and been content to live anywhere, 
if they could only live in peace. Some have 
attributed this conduct to a love of liberty. 
True ; but their ideas, both of peace and lib 
erty, are different from ours. The Tartar holds 
in equal estimation his dear otium and his li- 
bertas. They talk much of liberty in England, 
for example but I think it would be less 
agreeable for a Tartar to live there than in 
Russian Siberia, where there is less liberty. 

" The Tartars, indeed, think differently from 
most people of Europe, and, I believe, of Afri 
ca. If the Virginia planters were to give their 
Negroes more commodious houses to inhabit, 
instead of their poor huts, and encourage them 
otherwise to live in them, I believe the Afri 
can would be of the same mind as the planter, 
and gladly accept the proposal. The same 
thing exactly has been offered here to the Ya- 
kuti by the crown ; they have much stronger 
inducements to accept the offer than the Afri 
can ; but they have not, and they will not, 
though no condition accompanies the offer. 
They will inhabit the yourte. 

"The yourte, or, as the American Tartars 
call it pretty generally, wigwam, is in this coun 
try a substitute for a tent. In milder climates 
it is made either of skins or bark of trees, of 



314 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sedge or some other kind of grass. It is al 
ways of a conical form, not divided into apart 
ments, having an aperture at the top, and the 
fire made on the ground under it. Around 
the sides of the yourte, if it is only temporary, 
are placed the baggage and furniture ; if it is 
not temporary, seats for sitting and sleeping 
upon are ranged around the sides. The yourtes 
in the neighborhood of Russian towns and set 
tlements are made a little differently ; they are 
sunk two or three feet in the ground, square, 
and divided into apartments, the frame of wood, 
the sides plastered with mud, and a flat roof 
covered with earth. The fire is in the centre, 
with a slight little chimney. They have two 
or three little windows ; in summer, of talc ; 
in winter, of ice. One apartment of the yourte 
is for the cow, ox, or horse, if the owner should 
possess any. These yourtes resemble not a 
tent; but remote from towns all the Tartars 
have tents, either of skins, bark, or grass. 

" The people in this country, that are born 
half Russ and half Tartar, are very different 
from the Tartars or Russ, and much superior 
to either of them. The European nations, that 
intermarry most with other nations, are the 
handsomest. How far may this cause be sup 
posed to have made the Negro, and the Tar 
tar, so different from the European ; or, which 



JOHN LEDYARD. 315 

is more probable, have made the European so 
different from the Tartar and Negro ? The 
Commandant showed me, recently, a man de 
scended from a Yakuti father and Russian 
mother, and the son of this man. The color 
of the first descendant is as fair as the second, 
and both as fair as the Russian mother and 
grandmother. After the first descent, intermar 
riage has a less perceptible effect on the color. 
This change of the color by intermarriage is 
generally from the darker to the lighter. The 
color of the hair and eyes also inclines to be 
light, but does not always accompany the 
change of color in the skin. 

" Upon the whole, as I hare said before, 
with respect to difference of color with the 
Indian and European, they appear to me to be 
the effect of natural causes. I have given 
much attention to the subject on this conti 
nent. Its vast extent, and the variety of its 
inhabitants, afford the best field in the world 
in which to examine it. By the same gentle 
gradation, by which I passed from the height 
of civilization at Petersburg to incivilization in 
Siberia, I also passed from the fair European 
to the copper colored Tartar. I say the copper 
colored Tartar; but there is the same variety 
of color among the Tartars in Siberia, as 
among the other nations of the earth. The 



316 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



journal of a Russian officer, which I have seen, 
informs me that the Samoiedes, among whom 
he lived two years, are fairer than the Yakuti, 
who are of a light olive, and fairer than the 
Tongusians, or the Buretti, who are copper col 
ored. Yet the three last mentioned tribes are 
all Mongul Tartars. The greater part of man 
kind, compared with European civilization, are 
uncivilized, and this part are all darker than 
the other. There are no white savages, and 
few barbarous people that are not brown or 
black. 

" The equally distinguishing characteristic of 
feature, in the Tartar face, invites me into a 
field of observation, which T am not able at 
present to give bounds to. I must therefore 
resign it to those who have leisure arid a taste 
for such inquiries, contenting myself with fur 
nishing a few facts, and describing this strange 
dissimilarity in the human face, according to 
the observations I have made. This I should 
be able to do anatomically ; but I am not. 
The Tartar face, in the first impression it 
gives, approaches nearer to the African than 
the European ; and this impression is strength 
ened, on a more deliberate examination of the 
individual features, and whole compages of the 
countenance. Yet it is very different from an 
African face. The nose forms a strong feature 



JOHN LEDYARD. 317 

in the human face. I have seen instances 
among the Kalmuks, where the nose between 
the eyes has been much flatter and broader, 
than I have ever witnessed in Negroes ; and 
some few instances where it has been as broad 
over the nostrils quite to the end ; but the 
nostrils in any case are much smaller than in 
Negroes. Where I have seen those noses, they 
were accompanied Avith a large mouth and thick 
lips ; and these people were genuine Kalmuk 
Tartars. The nose protuberates but little from 
the face, and is shorter than that of the Eu 
ropean. 

" The eyes universally are at a great dis 
tance from each other, and very small ; at each 
corner of the eye the skin projects over the 
ball ; the part appears swelled ; the eyelids go 
in nearly a straight line from corner to corner. 
When open, the eye appears as in a square 
frame. The mouth generally, however, is of 
a middling size, and the lips thin. The next 
remarkable features are the cheek bones. These, 
like the eyes, are very remote from each other, 
high, broad, and withal project a little forward. 
The face is flat, When I look at a Tartar en 
profile, I can hardly see the nose between the 
eyes, and if he blow a coal of fire, I cannot 
see the nose at all. The face is then like an 
inflated bladder. The forehead is narrow and 



318 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

low. The face has a fresh color, and on the 
cheek bones there is commonly a good ruddy 
hue. 

" The faces of Tartars have not a variety 
of expression. I think the predominating one 
is pride ; but whenever I have viewed them, 
they have seen a stranger. The intermixture 
by marriage does not operate so powerfully in 
producing a change of features, as of complex 
ion, in favor of Europeans. I have seen the 
third in descent, and the Tartar prevailed over 
the European features. The Tartars from time 
immemorial (I mean the Asiatic Tartars) have 
been a people of a wandering disposition. 
Their converse has been more among beasts 
of the forest than among men ; and when 
among men, it has only been those of their 
own nation. They have ever been savages, 
averse to civilization, and have never until 
very lately mingled with other nations, and 
now rarely. . Whatever cause may have origin 
ated their peculiarities of features, the reason 
why they still continue is their secluded way 
of life, which has preserved them from mixing 
with other people. I am ignorant how far a 
constant society with beasts may operate in 
changing the features, but I am persuaded that 
this circumstance, together with an uncultivated 
state of mind, if we consider a long and un- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 319 

interrupted succession of ages, must account in 
some degree for this remarkable singularity. 

" Mr. John Hunter, of London, has made, or 
is making, some anatomical examinations of 
the head of a Negro, which is said, externally 
at least, to resemble that of a monkey. If I 
could do it, I would send him the head of a 
Tartar, who lives by the chase, and is con 
stantly in the society of animals, which have 
high cheek bones ; and perhaps, on examining 
such a head, he would find an anatomical re 
semblance to the fox, the wolf, the bear, or 
the dog. I have thought that, even in Europe, 
mechanical employments, having been contin 
ued for a long time among the same people, 
have had a considerable influence in giving a 
uniform character to their features. 

" I know of no people, among whom there 
is such a uniformity of features (except the 
Chinese, the Jews, and the Negroes) as among 
the Asiatic Tartars. They are distinguished, 
indeed, by different tribes ; but this is only 
nominal. Nature has not acknowledged the 
distinction, but, on the contrary, marked them, 
wherever found, with the indisputable stamp 
of Tartars. Whether in Nova Zembla, Mon 
golia, Greenland, or on the banks of the Mis 
sissippi, they are the same people, forming the 
most numerous, and, if we must except the 



320 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Chinese, the most ancient nation of the globe. 
But I, for myself, do not except the Chinese, 
because I have no doubt of their being of the 
same family. 

" The Tongusians, the Tchuktchi, the Ku- 
riles, and the Nova Zembleans are tattooed. 
The Mohegan tribe of Indians in America 
practised tattooing. I find as yet nothing anal 
ogous to the American calumet, except in the 
use of it. The Tartars here, when they smoke 
the pipe, give it round to every one in the 
company. The form of the pipe is universal 
ly the identical form of the Chinese pipe. I 
expect to find it in America, since the form 
of the pipe on the tomahock resembles it. 
This form intimates economy, and that the 
original custom of smoking the pipe was a 
mere luxury. It holds but a very little. The 
manner, in which the Tartars and Chinese use 
it, corroborates that idea. They make but one 
or two draughts from the pipe, and those they 
swallow, or discharge through the nose, and 
then put the pipe by. They say that the 
smoke thus taken is exhilarating. As the 
Chinese pipe is found universally among the 
Siberian Tartars, I think it probable that the 
custom of smoking migrated with them to 
America, and thence by Sir Walter Raleigh 
made its way east to England. If so, the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 321 

custom has travelled in a singular manner. 
Why did it not come from the Tartars west 
to England ? 

" The Asiatic Tartars never change their 
dress ; it is the same on all occasions ; in the 
field, in the house, on a visit, on a holiday. 
They never have but one dress, and that is as 
fine as they can make it. Those that live 
with the Russians in their villages are above 
mediocrity as to riches, but discover the same 
indifference about accumulating more, and for 
the concerns of to-morrow, that a North Amer 
ican Indian does. They stroll about the vil 
lage, and, if they can, get drunk, smoke their 
pipe, or go to sleep. The gardens of the 
Russians are cultivated more or less ; but theirs 
lie undisturbed. The house of the Russian is 
a scene of busy occupation, filled with furni 
ture, provisions, women, children, dirt, and 
noise ; that of the Tartar is as silent and as 
clean as a mosque. If the season admits, the 
residents are all abroad, unless perhaps an old 
woman or man. There is very little furniture, 
and that rolled up and bound in parcels in a 
corner of the house, and no appearance of pro 
visions. If it happen that they profess the 
Russian religion, they treat it with strange in 
difference ; not thirikingly, but because they do 
not think at all about it. 

VOL. XIV. 21 



322 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" I have not as yet taken any vocabularies 
of the Tartar languages. If I take any, they 
will be very short ones. Nothing is more apt 
to deceive than vocabularies, when taken by 
an entire stranger. Men of scientific curiosity 
make use of them in investigating questions 
of philosophy as well as history, and I think 
often with too much confidence, since nothing 
is more difficult than to take a vocabulary, 
that shall answer any good ends for such a 
purpose. The different sounds of the same 
letters, and of the same combinations of letters, 
in the languages of Europe, present an insur 
mountable obstacle to making a vocabulary, 
which shall be of general use. The different 
manner, also, in which persons of the same 
language would write the words of a new lan 
guage, would be such, that a stranger might 
suppose them to be two languages. 

" Most uncultivated languages are very diffi 
cult to be orthographized in another language. 
They are generally guttural ; but when not so, 
the ear of a foreigner cannot accommodate 
itself to the inflection of the speaker s voice, 
soon enough to catch the true sound. This 
must be done instantaneously ; and even in a 
language with which we are acquainted, we 
are not able to do it for several years. I seize, 
for instance, the accidental moment, when a 



JOHN LEDYARD. 323 

savage is inclined to give me the names of 
things. The medium of this conversation is 
only signs. The savage may wish to give me 
the word for head, and lays his hand on the 
top of his head. I am not certain whether he 
means the head or the top of the head, or per 
haps the hair of the head. He may wish to 
say leg, and puts his hand to the calf. I can 
not tell whether he means the leg, or the calf, 
or flesh, or the flesh. There are other difficul 
ties. The Island of Onalaska is on the coast 
of America opposite to Asia. There are a few 
Russian traders on it. Being there with Cap 
tain Cook, I was walking one day on the shore 
in company with a native, who spoke the Rus 
sian language. I did not understand it. I was 
writing the names of several things, and point 
ed to the ship, supposing he would understand 
that I wanted the name of it. He answered 
me in a phrase, which in Russ meant. J know. 
I wrote down, a ship. I gave him some snuff, 
which he took, and held out his hand for 
more, making use of a word, which signified 
in Russ, a little. I wrote, more. 

11 The Asiatic Tartars have different meth 
ods of hunting the moose, and such kind of 
game, but the most prevalent is like that of 
American Indians, by stratagem. So they catch 
ducks at the mouth of the River Kolyma; so 



324 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the Otaheitans catch fish sometimes j and so 
the uncivilized parts of mankind war against 
each other. 

" I understand from Captain Billings s Jour 
nal, that the universal method among the 
Tchuktchi Indians, in the ceremony of mar 
riage, is for the man to purchase the woman, 
or make presents to her parents. It is also 
customary for the young man to serve a stip 
ulated time with the parents of the bride. In 
case of disunion afterwards, which happens 
without passion, the presents that have been 
made are returned. If either party dies, the 
other marries again as soon as convenient ; 
and the sooner the better, they say, because 
they ought not to lament what can be repaired. 
I suppose the love in this case below that 
which existed in the bosoms of Eloise and 
Abelard, and I suppose the philosophy as much 
above theirs as the love is below.* 

" All the Asiatic Tartars, like the aborigines 

* The following description from Dr. Clarke s Travels, 
is applied to the Kalmuks where he travelled on the bor 
ders of Persia, in the country of the Cossacs. " The cer 
emony of marriage," says he, " among the Kalmuks, is per 
formed on horseback. A girl is first mounted, who rides 
off in full speed. Her lover pursues ; if he overtakes her, 
she becomes his wife, and the marriage is consummated 
upon the spot. After this, she returns with him to his tent. 
But it sometimes happens, that the woman does not wish 



JOHN LEDYARD. 325 

of America, entertain the same general notions 
of theology, namely, that there is one great 
and good God, and that he is so good that 
they have no occasion to address him for the 
bestowment of any favors ; and, being good, he 
will certainly do them no injury. But they 
suffer many calamities : so they say there is 
another being, the source of evil ; and that he 
must be very powerful, because the evils in 
flicted on them are numerous. To this mis 
chievous deity, therefore, they sacrifice. From 
him they expect no favors, and do not ask 
any, but deprecate his wrath. Their Shamants, 
or priests, have therefore nothing to do with 
the good God ; their business is solely with 
the other, whom they make free to parcel out 
into a great variety of characters, assigning to 
each evil a presiding subordinate spirit. This 
affords the Shamant an opportunity of playing 
his tricks in an extraordinary manner. 

" Mr. Pennant observes, that the Scythians 

to marry the person by whom she is pursued ; in this case 
she will not suffer him to overtake her. We were assured, 
that no instance occurs of a Kalmuk girl being thus caught, 
unless she have a partiality for her pursuer. If she dis 
likes him, she rides, to use the language of English sports 
men, neck or nothing, until she has completely effected her 
escape, or until the pursuer s horse becomes exhausted, 
leaving her at liberty to return, and to be afterwards 
chased by some more favored admirer." Vol. I. Ch. 15. 



326 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

scalped their enemies. 1 have ever thought, 
since my voyage with Captain Cook, that the 
same custom under different forms exists 
throughout the islands in the Pacific Ocean. 
It is worthy of remark that though the In 
dians at Owhyhee brought a part of Captain 
Cook s head, yet they had cut all the hair off, 
which they did not return to us. I have also 
frequently observed the islanders to wear great 
quantities of false human hair. All savage na 
tions are fond of preserving some badge or 
testimonial of the victory over their enemies, 
of this kind. The ancient Scythians and North 
American Indians have preferred the scalp, and, 
among the South Sea Islanders, teeth and hair 
are in repute ; all of them giving preference to 
some part of the head. 

" The wampum, so universally in use among 
the Tartars apparently as an ornament, I can 
not but suspect is used as a substitute for let 
ters in representing their language, by a kind 
of hieroglyphic record. I intended to make 
this a subject of attention, and to have draw 
ings taken of the Asiatic and American wam 
pum, with the view of comparing them, but 
have not been able to do it. I have seen the 
initials of a Tartar s name worked in the wam 
pum, on the borders of his garment. A people 
having such great respect for their ancestors, 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



327 



as the Tartars have, would naturally endeavor 
to preserve some memorials of them." 

Such are the observations of our traveller, 
on the aboriginal inhabitants of Siberian Asia. 
In considering the Kalmuks, Buretti, Tongu- 
sians, and Yakuti, as descendants of the Mon- 
guls, he accords with other writers ; but he 
advances a bold and novel opinion in classify 
ing all these races with the North American 
Indians, Greenlanders, and the Chinese. 

It is true, the point seems never to have 
been established, how far the affinities between 
different tribes, or nations of men, must be car 
ried, in order to bring them within the same 
general class. Traditions, ceremonies, bodily 
form and features, habits, laws, religion, and 
resemblance of languages, must all be taken 
into the account. Where there is a similarity 
in many of these particulars, it may be safely 
inferred, that the people among whom they 
exist, although inhabiting regions remote from 
each other, have sprung from a common ori 
gin ; but it does not follow with equal prob 
ability, that where this similarity is least ob 
servable, or perhaps unperceived, they are to 
be set down as radically distinct races of men. 
So innumerable are the causes of change, in 
all these respects, that no rule of this sort can 
be assumed, as applicable to any individual 



328 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

case whatever. Customs, laws, pursuits, dress, 
modes of life, vary with the climate and the 
productions of the soil. People who live by 
the chase and by fishing will have few of the 
habits of agriculturists. Approaches to civili 
zation will gradually introduce a thousand new 
customs. 

Language has been thought the best crite 
rion, by which to judge of the affinity between 
different races ; and doubtless it is. That two 
nations should speak languages closely resem 
bling each other, is hardly possible, unless they 
originated from the same stock. Yet it can by 
no means be inferred with as much certainty, 
that, because there is a wide dissimilarity in 
their languages, the sources whence they sprang 
were as widely dissimilar. The same causes 
which change the habits of men, under new 
circumstances, will change their language. New 
words, and new combinations of words, will be 
required to express ideas not known before. 
The intermingling of migratory tribes, speaking 
different languages, must also introduce total 
confusion, out of which would most likely 
grow up a dialect, bearing little analogy to 
either of the primitive tongues. Let such a 
process be carried on for many generations, by 
a succession of intermixtures, and what clew 
would there be to guide the inquirer through 



JOHN LEDYARD. 329 

this labyrinth of mutations back to the first 
fountain ? 

When it is considered, moreover, that all 
these tongues are unwritten and without any 
recognized principles, the perplexity is increased 
a hundred fold. According to recent discov 
eries, the Tschukchi, the natives inhabiting the 
American side of Bering s Strait, the Eski- 
maux, and the Greenlanders, speak languages 
which have many marks of affinity. Their 
common origin is a very natural inference. 
Owing to a more recent separation, or fewer 
intermixtures, their language has been preserved 
with something of its primitive form. Had 
the same favorable circumstances attended the 
migrations of other tribes, we might perhaps 
now trace them to the same source, with as 
much appearance of probability. We might 
possibly detect similar resemblances between 
the Iroquois and the Yakuti, the Mohegans 
and the Kamtschadales, and even the Poly 
nesians and the Kalmuks. 

In short, the state of the question is simply 
this where obvious analogies exist, we may 
affirm a connection between the tribes in which 
they prevail, at some remote or proximate peri 
od; but where they do not exist, we can say 
nothing on the subject. In the latter case, we 
have no warrant for deciding one way or the 
other. 



330 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



Taken in this view, no well founded ob 
jection can be advanced against Ledyard s 
opinion, although it would not be easy to es 
tablish it by a consecutive series of proofs. It 
was the result of a long observation of general 
appearances, rather than of a minute and me 
thodical research. It was not with him an idle 
speculation, indulged for the moment, and then 
dismissed. After his return from Siberia, he 
reiterated the same sentiments. In connection 
with a short account of his travels, he writes 
to a friend in these emphatic words. 

" You will please to accept these two ob 
servations, as the result of extensive and assid 
uous inquiry. They are with me well ascer 
tained facts. The first is, that the difference 
of color in the human species (as the obser 
vation applies to all but the Negroes, whom I 
have not visited) originates from natural causes. 
The second is, that all the Asiatic Indians, 
called Tartars, and all the Tartars who formed 
the later armies of Genghis Khan, together 
with the Chinese, are the same people, and 
that the American Tartar is also of the same 
family ; the most ancient and numerous people 
on earth, and the most uniformly alike." 

In this place may be inserted, also, his re 
marks to Mr. Jefferson, in a letter written near 
ly at the same time with the above. After 



JOHN LEDYARD. 331 

reiterating his opinion, in regard to the causes 
of the difference of color in the human race, 
he continues; 

" I am certain, that all the people you call 
red people on the continent of America, and 
on the continents of Europe and Asia, as far 
south as the southern parts of China, are all 
one people, by whatever names distinguished, 
and that the best general name would be Tar 
tar. I suspect that all red people are of the 
same family. I am satisfied, that America was 
peopled from Asia, and had some, if not all, 
its animals from thence. 

11 1 am satisfied, that the great general anal 
ogy in the customs of men can only be ac 
counted for, by supposing them all to compose 
one family ; and, by extending the idea, and 
uniting customs, traditions, and history, I am 
satisfied, that this common origin was such, or 
nearly, as related by Moses, and commonly be 
lieved among the nations of the earth. There 
is, also, a transposition of things on the globe, 
that must have been produced by some cause 
equal to the- effect, which is vast and curious. 
Whether I repose on arguments drawn from 
facts observed by myself, or send imagination 
forth to find a cause, they both declare to me 
a general deluge." 

It will be perceived, that he uses the word 



332 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



Tartar in a broader sense than is commonly 
given to it, embracing not only all the north 
ern Asiatic races and the Chinese, but likewise 
the aborigines of North America. Pallas says, 
that even the Monguls and Kalmuks are not 
rightly called Tartars, and that these latter 
people are different from the former in their 
origin, customs, political establishments, and the 
lineaments of their features. They inhabit the 
northern regions of Thibet, and Western Sibe 
ria, never mingling with the Kalmuks. These 
facts in no degree affect Ledyard s use of the 
word. He employs it as a general term, and 
in a definite manner, without regard to its 
original meaning. 



CHAPTER XL 

Climate in Siberia. Particulars concerning that 
Country. Ledyard s celebrated Eulogy on 
Women. Captain Billings meets him at Ya 
kutsk. Bering s Discovery. Russian Voy 
ages. Russian Far Trade. Billings s Ex 
pedition. His Instructions. 

A FEW other selections on miscellaneous 
topics will now be made from that part of 
the journal which was written at Yakutsk. 



JOHN LED YARD. 333 

" At Kazan there is abundance of snow ; at 
Irkutsk, which is in about the same latitude, 
very little. Here at Yakutsk the atmosphere 
is constantly charged with snow ; it sometimes 
falls, but very sparingly, and that in the day 
time j rarely, if ever, at night. The air is 
much like that which we experienced with 
Captain Cook in mare glaciali, between the lat 
itudes of seventy and seventy-two ; seldom a 
serene sky, or detached clouds ; the upper re 
gion is a dark, still, expanded vapor, with few 
openings in it. The lower atmosphere con 
tains clouds floating overhead, resembling fog- 
banks. In general the motion of everything 
above and below is languid. The summers 
are said to be dry; the days very hot, nights 
cold, and the weather exceedingly changeable, 
subject to high winds, generally from the north, 
and sometimes heavy snows in August. I have 
seen but one aurora borealis, and that not an 
extraordinary one. 

- The people in Yakutsk have no wells. 
They have tried them to a very great depth, 
but they freeze even in summer : consequently 
they have all their water from the river. But 
in winter they cannot bring water in its fluid 
state ; it freezes on the way. It is then 
brought in large cakes of ice to their houses, 
and piled up in their yards. As water is 



334 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

wanted, they bring these pieces of ice into the 
warm rooms, where they thaw, and become fit 
for use. Milk is brought to market in the 
same way. A Yakuti came into our house 
to-day with a bag full of ice. < What, said I 
to Laxman, has the man brought ice to sell 
in Siberia ? It was milk. Clean mercury 
exposed to the air is now constantly frozen. 
By repeated observations I have found in De 
cember, that two ounces of quicksilver, openly 
exposed, have frozen hard in fifteen minutes. 
It may be cut with a knife, like lead. Strong 
cognac brandy coagulated. A thermometer, 
filled with rectified spirits of wine, indicated 
thirty-nine and a half degrees on Reaumur s 
scale. Captain Billings had, on the borders of 
the Frozen Ocean the winter before last, forty- 
three degrees and three fourths by the same 
thermometer. In these severe frosts the air is 
condensed, like a thick fog ; the atmosphere 
itself is frozen j respiration is fatiguing ; all ex 
ercise must be as moderate as possible ; one s 
confidence is in his fur dress. It is a happy 
provision of nature, that in such intense colds 
there is seldom any wind ; when there is, it is 
dangerous to be abroad. In these seasons, 
there is no chase ; the animals submit them 
selves to hunger and security, and so does 



JOHN LED YARD. 



335 



man. All nature groans beneath the rigorous 
winter.* 

" The first settlers here [Russians] came 
round by the North Sea, about two hundred 
and fifty years ago. A gentleman showed me 
to-day a copy of a marriage contract done at 
Moscow, two hundred and five years ago. It 
is a folio page, and there are only sixteen 
words intelligible to an ordinary reader, which 
correspond to the orthography of the present 
day. Many instances of longevity occur in this 
place. There is a man one hundred and ten 
years old, who is in perfect health, and labors 



* The following is the statement of Captain Cochrane, 
respecting the degree of cold at the River Kolyma, which 
he visited in the winter of 1820 -21. " The weather proved 
exceedingly cold in January and February, but never so 
severe as to prevent our walks, except during those times 
when the wind was high; it then became insupportable 
out of doors, and we were obliged to remain at home. 
Forty degrees of frost of Fahrenheit never appear to affect 
us in calm weather, so much as ten or fifteen during the 
time of a breeze. Forty-three of Reaumur, or seventy-seven 
of Fahrenheit, have been repeatedly known. I will, also, 
add my testimony from experiment to the extent of forty- 
two. I have also seen the minute book of a gentleman at 
Yakutsk, where forty-seven of Reaumur were registered, 
equal to eighty-four of Fahrenheit." 

By various experiments it has been proved, that mer 
cury congeals at thirty-two degrees below zero of Reau 
mur s scale, and forty of Fahrenheit s. 



336 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

daily. The images in the Russian houses, 
which I should take for a kind of household 
gods, are very expensive. The principal ones 
have a great deal of silver lavished on them. 
To furnish out a house properly with these 
Dii Minores, would cost a large sum. When 
burnt out, as I have witnessed several times, 
the people have appeared more anxious for 
these than for anything else. The images 
form almost the Avhole decoration of the 
churches, and those melted in one of them 
just burnt down, are estimated to have been 
worth at least thirty thousand roubles. The 
warm bath is used by the peasantry here early 
in life, from which it is common for them to 
plunge into the river, and if there happens to 
be new fallen snow, they come naked from 
the bath and wallow therein. Dances are ac 
companied, or rather performed, by the same 
odd twisting and writhing of the hips as at 
Otaheite. 

" Dogs are here esteemed nearly in the same 
degree that horses are in England ; for be 
sides answering the same purpose in travel 
ling, they aid the people in the chase, and, 
after toiling for them the whole day, become 
their safeguard at night. Indeed, they com 
mand the greatest attention. There are dog 
farriers to attend them, in sickness, who are 



JOHN LEDYARD. 337 

no despicable rivals in art, at least in preten 
sion, to the horse doctors of civilized Europe. 
Dogs also command a high price. What they 
call a leading dog of prime character will sell 
for three or four hundred roubles. 

" Every body in Yakutsk has two kinds of 
windows, the one for summer, and the other 
for winter. Those for the latter season are 
of many different forms and materials ; but all 
are so covered with ice on the inside, that 
they are not transparent, and are so far use 
less. You can see nothing without, not even 
the body of the sun at noon. Ice is most 
commonly used for windows in winter, and 
talc in summer. These afford a gloomy kind 
of light within, that serves for ordinary pur 
poses. --> 

" The Russ dress in this region is Asiatic ; 
long, loose, and of the mantle kind, covering 
almost every part of the body. It is a dress 
not originally calculated for the latitude they 
inhabit. Within doors the Russian is Asiatic ; 
without, European. The Empress gives three 
ranks to officers that come into Siberia, and 
serve six years ; two while out from Peters 
burg, and one on their return. It has two 
important effects, one to civilize Siberia, and 
the other to prostitute rank. I have before 
my eyes the most consummate scoundrels in 
VOL. xiv. 22 



338 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the universe, of a rank that in any civilized 
country would be a signal of the best virtues 
of the heart and the head, or at least of com 
mon honesty and common decency. The suc 
cession of these characters is every six years. 

" So strong is the propensity of the Rus 
sians to jealousy, that they are guilty of the 
lowest offences on that account. The obser 
vation may appear trivial, but an ordinary Rus 
sian will be displeased if one even endeavors 
to gain the good will of his dog. I affronted 
the Commandant of this town very highly, by 
permitting his dog to walk with me one af 
ternoon. He expostulated with me very seri 
ously about it. This is not the only instance. 
I live with a young Russian officer, with 
whom I came from Irkutsk. No circumstance 
has ever interrupted the harmony between us, 
but his dogs. They have done it twice. A 
pretty little puppy he has, came to me one 
day, and jumped upon my knee. I patted his 
head, and gave him some bread. The man 
flew at the dog in the utmost rage, and gave 
him a blow which broke his leg. The les 
son I gave him on the occasion has almost 
cured him, for I bid him beware how he dis 
turbed my peace a third time by this rascally 
passion. 

" I have observed from Petersburg to this 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



339 



place, that the Russians in general have few 
moral virtues. The bulk of the people are 
almost without any. The laws of the coun 
try are mostly penal laws ; but all laws of 
this kind are little else than negative instruc 
tors. They inform the people what they shall 
not do, and affix the penalty to the transgres 
sion ; but they do not inform people what they 
ought to do, and affix the reward to virtue. 
Untaught in the sublime of morality, the Rus 
sian has not that glorious basis on which to 
exalt his nature. This, in some countries, is 
made the business of religion ; and, in others, 
of the civil laws. In this unfortunate coun 
try, it is the business of neither civil nor ec 
clesiastical concernment. A citizen here fulfils 
his duty to the laws, if, like a base Asiatic, he 
licks the feet of his superior in rank ; and his 
duty to his God, if he fills his house with a 
set of ill looking brass and silver saints, and 
worships them. It is for these reasons, that 
the peasantry in particular are the most un 
principled in Christendom. I have looked for 
certain virtues of the heart, that are called 
natural. I find them not in the most obscure 
villages of the empire. On the contrary, I find 
the rankest vices to abound there, as much as 
in the capital itself." 

A few isolated facts will now be added, 



340 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which he collected chiefly from the informa 
tion of others, but which he deemed worthy 
of a place in his journal. 

" The Tongusians are tattooed. The Sa- 
moiedes have the double headed paddle. They 
fish with nets under the ice. The Buretti 
have the Mahometan lock of hair. The Ku- 
riles are tattooed. A journal of a Russian offi 
cer says they are very hairy. They traffic 
with the Japanese in feathers and fish. The 
islands have little vegetation. The people are 
reserved in conversation ; they are comely ; 
have their materials for boat and house build 
ing from the continent, or from the Japanese. 
They are very wild, and receive strangers with 
the most threatening and formal appearance, 
but afterwards they are kind and hospitable. 
The coast of the Frozen Ocean is full of 
trees and driftwood for five versts out. It is 
remarked by the Russians, that since their 
knoAvledge of those regions, the land has in 
creased towards the sea, and driven it north 
wards, a circumstance attributable, perhaps, to 
the large rivers that empty themselves there. 
Informed that the custom of staining the nails 
of the fingers of a scarlet color, is common 
near the Caspian and Black Seas. I saw one 
instance of it in the neighborhood of Kazan. 
It is likewise a custom among the Cochin 



JOHN LEDYARD. 341 

Chinese. I saw it at the Island of Perlo Con 
dor. The custom of calling John the son of 
John, Alexander the son of Alexander, prevails 
among the Russians." 

The preceding selections embrace nearly all 
that is contained in the journal, under the dates 
of his residence at Yakutsk, except the cele 
brated eulogy on women, which was likewise 
written at that place. This beautiful and 
touching tribute to the superiority of the fe 
male character, is the more to be valued, as 
coming from one whose sphere of observation 
and experience had been such as to enable 
him to speak with confidence, and whose sin 
cerity cannot be suspected. It is the simple 
effusion of a grateful heart, recorded in his 
private journal, not intended for the public eye, 
and obviously written, like the rest of the 
manuscript compositions left behind him, with 
out any other design than to quicken his own 
recollections, or perhaps amuse his intimate 
friends in a vacant hour. This eulogy was 
first printed, shortly after the author s death, in 
the " Transactions of the African Association," 
in which it was inserted by Mr. Beaufoy, secre 
tary to that body, who then had the Siberian 
journal in his possession. It has often been 
reprinted, and universally admired, not more for 
the sentiments it contains, and the genuine 



342 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

feeling that pervades it, than for its terse and 
appropriate language. The original has been 
altered in some of the transcripts. It is here 
introduced as found in the journal. 

"I have observed among all nations, that 
the women ornament themselves more than 
the men ; that, wherever found, they are the 
same kind, civil, obliging, humane, tender be 
ings ; that they are ever inclined to be gay 
and cheerful, timorous and modest. They do 
not hesitate, like man, to perform a hospitable 
or generous action ; not haughty, nor arrogant, 
nor supercilious, but full of courtesy and fond 
of society ; industrious, economical, ingenuous ; 
more liable in general to err than man, but 
in general, also, more virtuous, and performing 
more good actions than he. I never addressed 
myself in the language of decency and friend 
ship to a woman, whether civilized or savage, 
without receiving a decent and friendly answer. 
With man it has often been otherwise. In 
wandering over the barren plains of inhospita 
ble Denmark, through honest Sweden, frozen 
Lapland, rude and churlish Finland, unprinci 
pled Russia, and the wide spread regions of 
the wandering Tartar, if hungry, dry, cold, 
wet, or sick, woman has ever been friendly to 
me, and uniformly so ; and to add to this vir 
tue, so worthy of the appellation of benevo- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 343 

lence, these actions have been performed in so 
free and so kind a manner, that, if I was dry, 
I drank the sweet draught, and, if hungry, ate 
the coarse morsel, with a double relish." 

By these specimens of his journal, we may 
judge how the traveller employed himself at 
Yakutsk, during the weary days of his com 
pulsory residence there. He had not been 
quite two months in this town, when Captain 
Billings arrived from his expedition to the 
River Kolyma, and the Frozen Ocean. An 
intimate acquaintance had formerly subsisted 
between Led yard and Billings. The latter 
had been an assistant to the astronomer Bay 
ly, during the whole of Cook s last voyage. 
He was now employed under the orders of 
the Empress of Russia, on a mission for ex 
ploring the northeastern regions of her territo 
ries, and for prosecuting discoveries in geog 
raphy and natural science. Billings was much 
surprised at meeting his old acquaintance in 
the heart of Siberia, not having heard from 
him since their separation at the close of the 
voyage. Meantime he had entered the Rus 
sian service, and by a concurrence of favorable 
circumstances, not easy to be accounted for, 
had obtained the command of a very impor 
tant expedition. 

Led yard was no doubt glad to meet a per- 



314 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

son, m this rude quarter of the world, who 
could speak his own language, and who had 
some recollections in common with himself: 
but, in other respects, the companionship was 
not such as to promote his advantage, or his 
enjoyment. Billings gave no proof that he 
was competent to the high trust reposed in 
him by the Russian government, or that he 
possessed qualities suited to win the esteem of 
his associates. 

A few remarks, relating to the purposes of 
the expedition just alluded to, may very well 
be introduced in this place, as in some of its 
parts it was more or less in unison with the 
designs of the American traveller. Russian 
enterprise had by no means been backward in 
pushing discoveries to the east and north, even 
at a comparatively early period. About the 
middle of the seventeenth century, DeschnufF 
and his companions passed down the Kolyma, 
sailed along the coast of the Tchuktchi coun 
try, in the Icy Sea, and thence discovered a 
route by land from this coast to Anadir. 

Other adventures were undertaken, and dis 
coveries made, at successive periods, by Stad- 
uchin, Markoff, Willegin, and AmossorT, . But 
the journeys and voyages of these persons had 
extended only to the Tchuktchi territory, 
Anadir, Kamtschatka. the Kurile Islands, and 



JOHN LEDYARD. 345 

to the neighboring seas. Neither the strait 
which separates Asia from America, nor any 
part of the American coast on the northwest, 
nor the Aleutian Islands, had been visited be 
fore the year 1728, when Captain Bering 
made his voyage of discovery. This voyage 
was planned by Peter the Great, who wrote 
out with his own hand the instructions for the 
commander. He died before they were put in 
execution, but the Empress, who succeeded 
him, carried the original design into effect. 
Captain Bering was despatched to Kam- 
tschatka, with orders to construct two vessels 
there, and to sail in them for the purpose of 
examining the coast towards the east and 
north, and of ascertaining, if possible, whether 
Asia and America were separated by the ocean. 
In the year above mentioned he made this 
voyage, and discovered the strait, to which his 
name has been given. He kept so close to 
the Asiatic shore, that he did not see the Amer 
ican coast ; but he sailed northward, till, on 
doubling a cape, he saw an open sea before 
him, which presented a boundless horizon to 
the north and west, and convinced him that 
the two continents nowhere came in contact 
with each other. The season was far ad 
vanced, and he returned to the River of Kam- 
tschatka, where he wintered. 



3 46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The success of this voyage was such as to 
encourage the government to undertake others. 
A plan was formed for navigating the whole 
northern coast of Russia, from Archangel to 
Kamtschatka. Several expeditions were fitted 
out for this purpose from Archangel, the mouths 
of the Ob, Yenissey, Lena, and Kolyma; and 
after incredible sufferings by the officers and 
men engaged in them, and the loss of a great 
many lives in those terrific regions of cold and 
privation, all further attempts were abandoned. 
Some new portions of the coast were exam 
ined, but much remained unexplored, and has 
continued so to this day. No passage has 
been effected entirely round the north coast 
of Asia, any more than round that of America. 

Twelve years after his first discovery, Be 
ring made another voyage, fell in with the 
Aleutian Islands, explored the American coast 
for a considerable distance, and discovered and 
named Mount Saint Elias. In returning to 
Kamtschatka at the beginning of winter, he 
was driven in distress upon an island near the 
Asiatic coast, where he and several of his men 
died. The island has since borne his name. 
The remnant of his crew arrived in the spring 
at Kamtschatka. 

From this period the Russians kept up an 
active fur trade, from Okotsk and Kamtschatka 



JOHN LEDYARD. 347 

with the natives of the Aleutian Islands, but 
voyages of discovery ceased for a long time. 
A tribute in furs was collected for the Rus 
sian government from the natives, by the 
traders who went among them, and authentic 
accounts are related of barbarities practised by 
the latter against the former, in their exactions 
of labor in procuring furs, equalling in cruelty 
the servitude of the mitas, inflicted by the 
Spaniards in South America on the Indians, 
whom they compelled to work in the mines. 
The party of traders whom Ledyard visited 
at Onalaska, however, cannot be brought under 
this imputation in its full extept, for he de 
scribes them as kind to the natives whom he 
saw with them. It is to be considered, never 
theless, that the cruelties were principally suf 
fered by those who were sent abroad to hunt 
and trap, and made to endure cold, and hun 
ger, and all the severities of the climate. 
These sufferers would not come under the 
traveller s observation, in the short time that 
he remained with the traders at Onalaska. 

Such was the state of the Russian fur trade 
on the American coast, from the date of Be 
ring s last discoveries till that of Cook s voy 
age to the northern polar seas, a period of 
about forty years. During that space the gov 
ernment appears to have paid no attention to 



348 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the subject, except to take care that its agents 
at Okotsk and Kamtschatka gathered tribute 
from the islands. But when Cook s last voy 
age began to make a noise in Europe, and his 
discoveries on the Northwest Coast of Amer 
ica and in the adjoining seas to be known, 
the sagacious Catharine was quick to perceive 
that her interests were involved in the affair, 
and that it was time for her to look to these 
remote and hitherto neglected parts of her 
dominions. In short, an expedition was planned 
on a large and liberal scale, and it was re 
solved that, in preparing for it, nothing should 
be spared which was necessary to combine in 
it all possible facilities for prosecuting discov 
eries, both by land and by sea. 

Professor Pallas, who was a favorite with 
the Empress, and who had travelled in Sibe 
ria under her patronage, was particularly instru 
mental in suggesting and maturing this plan. 
The choice of a commander was an important 
consideration, and this was at last effected 
wholly through the interest of the professor. 
Mr. Billings, who had recently obtained a lieu 
tenancy in the Russian service, had found 
means to insinuate himself into the favor of 
Pallas, and to impress him with a high opin 
ion of his understanding and knowledge ; in 
which he discovered, however, after it was too 



JOHN LEDYARD. 349 

late, that he was unfortunately mistaken. The 
circumstance of this lieutenant having been 
with Cook, in the regions that were to be ex 
plored, filling a station which gave him some 
pretensions to a science, was thought to be a 
strong recommendation ; and so it would have 
been, if in more important respects he had 
possessed the qualities of a commander, and a 
man of enterprise. In these he was singularly 
deficient ; as was fully demonstrated in the se 
quel of the expedition. He was appointed to 
the command, and left Petersburg for Siberia, 
in October, 1785, about eighteen months be 
fore Led yard arrived in the Russian capital. 

The instructions to Billings were so well 
drawn up, that they deserve a passing notice. 
They were prepared on the basis of those 
which had been written by Peter the Great 
for Captain Bering. Every provision was 
made for the advancement of science and geo 
graphical knowledge, as well as for extending 
the influence of the Russian government in 
remote and unknown parts. The great specific 
objects were, to determine the latitude and lon 
gitude of the mouth of the River Kolyma, 
and the line of coast from that point to the 
East Cape in Bering s Strait ; the construction 
of an exact chart of the Eastern Ocean, and 
the islands between Asia and America; and 



350 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the attainment of all such knowledge of those 
regions as might serve to illustrate the reign 
of her Imperial Majesty, by improving the con 
dition arid promoting the happiness of the na 
tives inhabiting those distant lands, and by 
collecting and diffusing new truths of science, 
for the general benefit of mankind. 

The instructions for scientific researches were 
minute, perspicuous, and explicit. Professor 
Pallas was much consulted in preparing them. 
And, indeed, the separate articles for the nat 
uralist, drawn up with admirable precision and 
method, were entirely from his pen, and issued 
with his signature. Observations in geography 
and meteorology, exact delineations of charts, 
and notes of electrical phenomena, variations 
of the needle, and of barometrical and ther- 
mometrical changes, were expressly required. 
The various departments of the animal, vege 
table, and mineral kingdoms were also particu 
larized, and the utmost care enjoined in col 
lecting specimens, and forwarding them to 
Petersburg. Drawings were to be made of 
curious and extraordinary objects. The man 
ners, disposition, and occupations of the natives 
were to be described, and also their modes of 
living, government, religions, their dresses, arms, 
and manufactures. Moreover, vocabularies of 
their languages were ordered to be made, ac- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 351 

cording to a model previously furnished. The 
commander, the naturalist, and all the princi 
pal officers, were directed to keep journals for 
the future inspection of the Admiralty. 

Another feature in these instructions deserves 
to be mentioned. In case any savage tribes 
should be discovered, who had not been ac 
quainted with civilized people, it was positive 
ly ordered, that they should be treated with 
kindness, and that the best means should be 
used to conciliate their good opinion. They 
were never to be approached in a hostile way, 
unless such a step should appear absolutely 
necessary for self-defence. On this point the 
instructions are as full and definite as on oth 
ers, and breathe a spirit of humanity which, 
if it had been uniformly felt and acted upon 
by discoverers, would have prevented innumer 
able scenes of bloodshed and misery, which 
have marked the early intercourse between civ 
ilized and savage men. 

Captain Billings was allowed to select his 
own officers and privates, and, as an encour 
agement to all the persons engaged, much 
higher pay was granted than was usual in the 
regular service, with the promise of additional 
rewards. The officers were to be promoted as 
the enterprise advanced, and particularly at its 
conclusion. The Governor-General of Irkutsk 



352 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was ordered to render all needful assistance, 
and unite his best efforts with those of the 
commander to execute the designs of the Em 
press. No expedition was ever more liberally 
provided, and none ever commenced under bet 
ter auspices. 

When Ledyard met Billings at Yakutsk, he 
had been more than two years absent from 
Petersburg, and had spent the preceding season 
at the mouth of the River Kolyma, attempt 
ing to pass along the coast in boats construct 
ed for the purpose. The ice threatened him, 
and he accomplished nothing, though his lieu 
tenant was extremely desirous to push forward, 
at a time when, to all but the commander, 
there seemed a prospect of success. He had 
now returned, with the intention of going to 
Irkutsk, and there superintending the transpor 
tation of various articles to Okotsk, where they 
were wanted for preparing the vessels, in which 
he expected to make a voyage to the Ameri 
can coast in the following summer. This 
was the opportunity, which Ledyard hoped to 
embrace for securing his passage from one con 
tinent to the other. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 353 



CHAPTER XII. 

Ledyard returns to Irkutsk. Is seized by Order 
of the Empress, and hurried off in the Charge 
of two Guards. Returns through Siberia to 
Kazan. Further Observations on the Tartars. 

Passes Moscow, and arrives in Poland. 
Proceeds to Konigsberg, and thence to London. 

Inquiry into the Motives of the Empress. 
Her Declaration to Count Segur. Lafayette s 
Remark on her Conduct. 

THAT we may not anticipate events, we will 
again take up our traveller at Yakutsk, where 
we left him with Captain Billings, then just 
returned from the Kolyma, near the end of 
November. Here they lived together about 
five weeks. Meantime Billings was making 
preparation for his journey to Irkutsk, and in 
vited Ledyard to accompany him thither. 
This invitation he readily accepted, since it 
was impossible for him to proceed to Okotsk 
before spring ; nor indeed would any object be 
gained by such a journey, till Captain Billings 
himself should return to that place, and his 
vessels be got in readiness ; for no chance of a 
passage was likely to offer at an earlier date. 
Accordingly, he joined Captain Billings s party, 
VOL. xiv. 23 



354 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which left Yakutsk on the 29th of December, 
and travelled in sledges up the River Lena on 
the ice. With such speed did they move for 
ward by this mode of conveyance, that they 
reached Irkutsk in seventeen days, having 
passed over a distance of fifteen hundred miles. 
Ledyard s voyage down the river in a canoe 
had taken up twenty-two days. 

Nothing is found recorded in his journal, 
during this second visit to Irkutsk. In Sauer s 
account of Billings s expedition, the fate which 
overtook him there is made known to us, and 
the manner in which he submitted to it. 

" In the evening of the 24th of February," 
says Sauer, " while I was playing at cards 
with the brigadier and some company of his, 
a secretary belonging to one of the courts of 
justice came in, and told us, with great con 
cern, that the Governor-General had received 
positive orders from the Empress, immediately 
to send one of the expedition, an Englishman, 
under guard to the private Inquisition at Mos 
cow, but that he did not know the name of 
the person, and that Captain Billings was with 
a private party at the Governor-General s. 
Now, as Ledyard and I were the only Eng 
lishmen here, I could not help smiling at the 
news, when two hussars came into the room, 
and told me, that the Commandant wished to 
speak to me immediately. The consternation 



JOHN LEDYARD. 355 

into which the visitors were thrown is not to 
be described. I assured them that it must be 
a mistake, and went with the guards to the 
Commandant. 

" There I found Mr. Ledyard under arrest. 
He told me that he had sent to Captain Bil 
lings, but he would not come to him. He 
then began to explain his situation, and said 
he was taken up as a French spy, whereas 
Captain Billings could prove the contrary, but 
he supposed that he knew nothing of the mat 
ter, and requested that I would inform him. 
I did so, but the Captain assured me, that it 
was an absolute order from the Empress, and 
that he could not help him. He, however, 
sent him a few roubles, and gave him a pe 
lisse ; and I procured him his linen quite wet 
from the wash-tub. Ledyard took a friendly 
leave of me, desired his remembrance to his 
friends, and with astonishing composure leaped 
into the kibitka, and drove off, with two 
guards, one on each side. I wished to travel 
with him a little way, but was not permitted. 
I therefore returned to my company, and ex 
plained the matter to them ; but though this 
eased their minds with regard to my fate, it 
did not restore their harmony."* 

* See Sauer s Account of a Geographical and Astro 
nomical Expedition to the Northern Parts of Russia, &c. 
p. 100. 



356 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

One word more only needs be added respect 
ing Billings. He went to Okotsk in the sum 
mer, made a voyage to the Aleutian Islands, 
and thence to Bering s Strait. From the Bay 
of St. Lawrence he passed across the Tchuk- 
tchi country to the River Kolyma by land, 
whence he proceeded to Yakutsk, and at length 
returned to Petersburg, after an absence of 
seven or eight years. No evidence exists that 
his labors were of any service to Russia or to 
the world, either in the field of discovery or 
the departments of science. Sauer s book has 
made his incompetency notorious. The mis 
fortune was, that this should have been found 
out so late. Captain Burney, who was well 
acquainted with Billings while on Cook s voy 
age, observes, in alluding to Ledyard s arrest, 
" If the Empress had understood the charac 
ters of the two men, the commander of the 
expedition would probably have been ordered 
to Moscow, and Ledyard, instead of being de 
nied entertainment in her service, have been 
appointed to supply his place." * 

Being now a prisoner, Ledyard was under 
the entire control of his two guards, who 
conducted him, with all the speed with which 
horses and sledges could convey them, towards 

* Burney a Chronological History of tht Northeastern 
Voyages of Discovery, p. 279. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 357 

Moscow, exposed to the extreme rigors of a 
Siberian winter. In such a situation, it cannot 
be presumed, that he would have either the 
heart or leisure to write in his journal. A few 
particulars only are recorded, and to these a 
place will now be given. Dates are rarely 
noted. The following was apparently written 
soon after he left Irkutsk. 

" My ardent hopes are once more blasted, 
the almost half accomplished wish. What se 
cret machinations have been at work ? What 
motive? But so it suits her royal Majesty of 
all the Russias, and she has nothing but her 
pleasure to consult ; she has no nation s re 
sentment to apprehend, for I am the minister 
of no state, no monarch. I travel under the 
common flag of humanity, commissioned by 
myself to serve the world at large ; and so 
the poor, the unprotected wanderer must go 
where sovereign will ordains ; if to death, why 
then my journeying will be over sooner, and 
rather differently from what I contemplated ; 
if otherwise, why then the royal dame has 
taken me much out of my way. But I may 
pursue another route. The rest of the world 
lies uninterdicted. Though born in the freest 
of the civilized countries, yet, in the present 
state of privation, I have a more exquisite 
sense of the amiable, the immortal nature of 



358 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

liberty, than I ever had before. It would be 
excellently qualifying, if every man, who is 
called to preside over the liberties of a people, 
should once (it would be enough) actually be 
deprived of his liberty unjustly. He would 
be avaricious of it, more than of any other 
earthly possession. I could love a country and 
its inhabitants, if it were a country of freedom. 
There are two kinds of people I could anath 
ematize, with a better weapon than St. Peter s ; 
those who dare deprive others of their liberty, 
and those who suffer others to do it." 

Again he writes, some days after the above, 
having escaped from Siberia, 

" I am now at Kazan ; it is nine months 
since I left this place on my tour eastward, 
and I am nine times more fully satisfied, than 
I was before, of some circumstances mentioned 
in my diary in June last. As I was fond of 
the subjects I have been in pursuit of, I was 
apprehensive that I might have been rash and 
premature in some of my opinions ; but I cer 
tainly have not been. I am now fully con 
vinced, that the difference of color in man is 
solely the effect of natural causes, and that a 
mixture by intermarriage and habits would in 
time make the species in this respect uniform. 
I have never extended my opinion, and do not 
now, to the Negroes ; but should I live to visit 



JOHN LEDYARD. 359 

them, I shall expect to find the same data, 
leading to the same conclusion, namely, that 
they are like the other two classes of man, 
which I call by the general terms of white 
people and Indians. There are many reasons, 
that rise naturally from the observations on 
my present voyage, which induce me to think 
so, yet I still wish to have better. I expect, 
however, the result will be, that I shall find 
the same causes existing in Africa to render 
the Negro blacker than the Indian, as in Asia 
to render the Indian darker than the Eu 
ropean. 

" With respect to the national, or genealogi 
cal connection, which the remarkable affinity 
of person and manners bespeaks between the 
[ndians on this and on the American conti 
nent, I declare my opinion to be, without the 
least scruple, and with the most absolute con 
viction, that the Indians on the one and on 
the other are the same people. As to the 
origin and history of the great Tartar Nation, 
little has been essayed ; very little is known 
even of the extent of their country. Albu- 
gassi, himself a noble Tartar, has said much 
the most and best of their origin, and some 
thing of their extent ; but very unsatisfactorily 
as to this latter, for in truth he knew but lit 
tle about it. Like a soldier, he has written a 



360 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

kind of muster roll of his countrymen. I do 
not remember anything like philosophical re 
search in his history, though I read him with 
avidity. 

" Among the voyagers in this country, even 
the most modern, I have, instead of more, still 
less information. A few vocabularies to lead 
astray those who would wish to find real 
knowledge, and an account of a few customs, 
without any remarks on them, constitute near 
ly the amount of the whole. There is, indeed, 
very little of value said about this great peo 
ple by any writers. The late contest about 
the contiguity, or junction, of Asia and Amer 
ica, has accidentally struck out a few obser 
vations, and one now and then finds something 
philosophically said of them, but very unphilo- 
sophically placed among quadrupeds, fish, fowls, 
plants, minerals, and fossils. When the histo 
ry of Asia, and I add of America, because there 
is an intimate connection between them, shall 
be as well known as that of Europe, it will 
be found, that those who have written the 
history of man have begun at the wrong 
end." 

What passed at the private Inquisition of 
Moscow, when Ledyard and his guards arrived 
in that city, there is no record to explain. 
Since nothing is said of the matter, it is prob- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 361 

able, that, if he was taken at all before that 
body, no specific charges were established, or 
even preferred, as in truth none could exist. 
The idea of a French spy in Siberia was 
an absurdity too gross to be formally urged 
as a reason for his arrest, although this had 
been given out at Irkutsk. What was there 
in Siberia, either for a Frenchman or a native 
of any other country, to spy? Was the Em 
press afraid, that the French were plotting a 
crusade into those frozen and sterile regions, 
to rescue her miserable exiles, who were suf 
fering there the penalties of their crimes, or 
the effects of imperial indignation for their 
projects of ambition and aggrandizement in 
Petersburg ? It was not likely that France, or 
any other nation, would covet the control of 
such subjects, or of such a land. This pre 
tence of a French spy originated at Irkutsk, 
where it was convenient that some false re 
port should be circulated respecting the cause 
of his arrest, as will shortly be made manifest. 
Ledyard again writes, 

" I am now two hundred and twenty versts 
from Moscow, on the road to Poland. Thank 
Heaven, petticoats appear, and the glimmerings 
of other features. Women are the sure har 
bingers of an alteration in manners, in ap 
proaching a country where their influence is 



362 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

felt. But wampum, or, if you will, beads, tas 
sels, rings, fringes, and Eastern gewgaws, pre 
vail as much here as in Siberia. 

"I am at the city of Neeshna, in a vile, 
dark, dirty, gloomy, damp room ; it is called 
quarters, but it is a miserable prison. The 
soldiers who guard me are doubly watchful 
over rne when in a town, though at no time 
properly so, through their consummate indo 
lence and ignorance. Every day I have it in 
my power to escape them ; but, though treated 
like a felon, I will not appear like one by 
flight. I was very ill yesterday ; I am ema 
ciated. It is more than twenty days since I 
have eat anything that may be called food, 
and during that time have been dragged along, 
from day to day, in some wretched, open ki- 
bitka. Thus am I treated in all respects (ex 
cept that I am obliged to support myself with 
my own money) like a convict, and presented 
by my snuff-box of a sergeant as a raree-show, 
at every town through which we pass. 

" Were I charged, or chargeable, with any 
injury done or thought of, either to this or 
any other country, it might not make me con 
tented, indeed, yet, I suppose, it would make 
me resigned. But to be arrested in my trav 
els at the last stage but one, in those domin 
ions where the severe laws of the climate un- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 363 

happily detained me, which, however, I should 
have braved, had it not been for the restrain 
ing courtesy of the Commandant at Yakutsk ; 
to be seized, imprisoned, and transported in 
this dark and silent manner, without cause, or 
accusation, except what appears in the myste 
rious wisdom depicted in the face of my ser 
geant, and of course without even a guess as 
to my destination ; treated, in short, like a sub 
ject of this country; under such circum 
stances, resignation would be a crime against 
my dear native land." 

Here the Siberian journal abruptly comes to 
a close, and little is known of what befell him 
on his way to England, from the frontiers of 
Poland. In a letter to a friend, written after 
his arrival in London, he touches again upon 
the subject, and adds a few particulars, which 
may with propriety be inserted. 

" I had penetrated," he says, " through Eu 
rope and Asia, almost to the Pacific Ocean, 
but, in the midst of my career, was arrested a 
prisoner to the Empress of Russia, by an ex 
press sent after me for that purpose. I passed 
under a guard part of last winter and spring ; 
was banished the empire, and conveyed to the 
frontiers of Poland, six thousand versts from 
the place where I was arrested, and this jour 
ney was performed in six weeks. Cruelties 



364 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and hardships are tales I leave untold, I was 
disappointed in the pursuit of an object on 
which my future fortune entirely depended. I 
know not how I passed through the kingdoms 
of Poland and Prussia, or from thence to Lon 
don, where I arrived in the beginning of May, 
disappointed, ragged, penniless ; and yet so ac 
customed am I to such things, that I declare 
my heart was whole. My health, for the first 
time, had suffered from my confinement, and 
the amazing rapidity with which I had been 
carried through the illimitable wilds of Tar- 
tary and Russia. But my liberty regained, and 
a few days rest among the beautiful daughters 
of Israel in Poland, reestablished it, and I am 
now in as full bloom and vigor, as thirty-seven 
years will afford any man. Jarvis says I look 
much older than when he saw me three sum 
mers ago at Paris, which I can readily believe. 
An American face does not wear well, like an 
American heart." 

When the soldiers who were his guards 
had arrived with him in Poland, they gave 
him to understand that he might go where he 
pleased, but if he returned again to the do 
minions of the Empress, he would certainly 
be hanged. Having no longer any motive for 
making such an experiment, he took the short 
est route to Konigsberg. Here he was in a 



JOHN LEDYARD. 



365 



destitute situation, without friends or means, 
his hopes blasted, and his health enfeebled. In 
this state of despondency and suffering, he be 
thought himself again of the benevolence of 
Sir Joseph Banks, which had on more occa 
sions than one administered relief to him, arid 
served as a balm to his wounded spirit. He 
was lucky enough to dispose of a draft for five 
guineas on his old benefactor, and by this ex 
pedient was enabled to pursue his journey to 
London, where he arrived after an absence of 
one year and five months, and where he was 
received with much cordiality by Sir Joseph 
Banks and his other friends. 

It remains to inquire a little further into the 
reasons which induced the Empress to recall 
him by a mandate so positive, after she had 
given him a royal passport for proceeding un 
molested to Kamtschatka. Various conjectures 
as to her motives have existed, but the tale 
of the French spy has been the one most gen 
erally received, probably because it was credit 
ed by Sauer, who was on the spot at the time 
he was seized. On that topic enough has 
been said. 

The avowed pretence of the Empress has 
been ascertained from the authority of Count 
Segur, who was then, as heretofore stated, am 
bassador from France to the court of Peters- 



366 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

burg, and was instrumental in procuring Led- 
yard s passport. In August, 1823, he wrote 
the following note to Lafayette, in reply to an 
inquiry on the subject. 

"I have no longer any letters in my posses 
sion," says Count Segur, " relative to the cel 
ebrated traveller, Mr. Ledyard. I remember 
only, that, in compliance with your request, I 
furnished him with the best recommendations 
at the court of Russia. He was at first very 
well received, but the Empress, who spoke to 
me on the subject herself, observed that she 
would not render herself guilty of the death 
of this courageous American, by furthering a 
journey so fraught with danger, as that he pro 
posed to undertake alone, across the unknown 
and savage regions of Northwestern America. 
She consequently issued her prohibition. Pos 
sibly this pretext of humanity, advanced by 
Catharine, only disguised her unwillingness to 
have the new possessions of Russia, on the 
western coast of America, seen by an enlight 
ened citizen of the United States. The above, 
however, were the reasons she advanced to 
me." 

Few will doubt, probably, that the closing 
conjecture of Count Segur is much more plau 
sible than the alleged humanity of the Em 
press. It is clothing this virtue in the royal 



JOHN LEDYARD. 367 

breast with an air a little too romantic, to 
suppose that she was prompted by such a 
motive to send an express four thousand miles, 
with an order to arrest and preserve from his 
own temerity and self-devotedness an individ 
ual, in whose personal safety she could not 
possibly feel any other interest, than what the 
sovereign of all the Russias would naturally 
extend to the whole human family. And, 
moreover, this plea of humanity sounds strange 
ly enough, when contrasted with the barbarous 
manner in which Ledyard was transported 
across the frightful deserts of her Imperial 
Majesty s domains. Such evidences of tender 
heartedness he would very gladly have dis 
pensed with, and taken in exchange for them 
any treatment he might receive from the sav 
ages of Northwestern America. This pretence 
of humanity, therefore, has no better founda 
tion than the story of the French spy. 

Another explanation is afforded in Dr. Clarke s 
Travels in Russia, who had the account from 
Professor Pallas himself. After relating an an 
ecdote, respecting the manner in which Bil 
lings obtained his appointment, Dr. Clarke 
adds ; 

" That the expedition might have been con 
fided to better hands, the public have been 
since informed by the Secretary Sauer. This, 



368 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Professor Pallas lamented to have discovered, 
when it was too late. But the loss sustained 
by any incapacity in the persons employed to 
conduct that expedition, is not equal to that 
which the public suffered by the sudden recall 
of the unfortunate Ledyard. This, it is said, 
would never have happened, but through the 
jealousy of his own countrymen, whom he 
chanced to encounter as he was upon the 
point of quitting the eastern continent for 
America, and who caused the information to 
be sent to Petersburg, which occasioned the 
order for his arrest."* 

This account of the affair labors under one 
serious difficulty, which is, that Ledyard did 
not meet a single countryman of his own in 
Siberia. It could only be by a vague rumor, 
originally intended to deceive, that Professor 
Pallas was led into such a mistake. As Bil 
lings and Sauer were Englishmen, and spoke 
the same language as Ledyard, these persons 
may have been alluded to ; yet no proof exists 
of their hostility to him, or that they could 
have any reasons for thwarting his designs. 

Since all these explanations of the matter 
are fallacious, we must look for other causes ; 
and these, in my opinion, have been partly 

* Clarke s Travels in Russia, Ch. II. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 369 

anticipated in the remarks already made on the 
conduct of the Commandant at Yakutsk. Prom 
all the circumstances, which have come to my 
knowledge in the course of this investigation, 
I am convinced that a plan was concerted at 
Irkutsk to send him back, very soon after his 
arrival in that place. Irkutsk was the resi 
dence of the Governor-General of all the east 
ern parts of Siberia, and of the principal per 
sons engaged in the fur trade at the Aleutian 
Islands. Two years before this period, the 
Russian American Company had been formed, 
for the express purpose of establishing a regu 
lar commercial intercourse with the natives of 
the islands, and of the American coast. Oper 
ations were already commenced by occupying 
new posts, erecting factories, building fortifica 
tions to protect them, and making other need 
ful provisions to secure a complete monopoly 
of the trade. 

Now, the head-quarters of this company were 
at Irkutsk, and it could not have escaped the 
sagacity of its conductors, that a foreigner, vis 
iting their stations at the islands, would make 
discoveries, which might be published to their 
disadvantage, both in regard to the resources 
of traffic, and to the cruel manner in which 
the traders habitually treated the natives, in 
extorting from them the fruits of their severe 
VOL. xiv. 24 



370 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and incessant labors. To obviate such a con 
sequence, it was necessary to cut short the 
traveller s career, before he had penetrated to 
the eastern shores of Asia. In effecting this 
point, some management was necessary, as he 
had a passport from the Empress, with a pos 
itive order to the Governor-General to aid him 
on his way. This order could not be coun 
termanded, nor the passport of the Empress 
treated with disrespect, till intelligence could 
be sent to Petersburg, and influence there used 
with the Empress to procure the annulment 
of her grant of protection, and Ledyard s im 
mediate recall. Time was requisite to bring 
this scheme to an issue, and the first thing to 
be done, in the train of manoeuvres, was to 
throw obstacles in his path, and retard his 
progress. This was begun in good earnest at 
Irkutsk, where he was detained several days 
longer than he desired, waiting, as he was told, 
for the post. 

The manner in which he was received by 
the Commandant of Yakutsk has already been 
stated. The extraordinary concern which the 
Commandant professed to feel for his welfare, 
the arguments he used to dissuade him from 
going to Okotsk at that inclement season, and 
his returning Jacobi s letter open, are all rea 
sons for strong suspicions. And these reasons 



JOHN LEDYARD. 371 

are confirmed, when it is known that the 
journey to Okotsk was frequently undertaken 
in the winter. More than a month after Led- 
yard arrived in Yakutsk, Captain Billings re 
turned from the Kolyma, which was at least 
quite as difficult a journey ; and the next year, 
Billings passed from Okotsk to Yakutsk in 
October and November, precisely the same 
months in which Ledyard wished to perform 
the tour. These facts are enough to prove, 
that the Commandant s pretended concern for 
his health and comfort was only a cloak to 
cover other designs, arid to render it more than 
probable that he had secret instructions to 
cause this delay. This point was gained, and 
the plot further matured by inducing him to 
go back to Irkutsk with Billings. 

Six months elapsed between the date of his 
first leaving Irkutsk, on his voyage down the 
Lena, and that of his arrest. This afforded 
ample time to send to Petersburg, and receive 
returns, even through the common channel of 
the post, or mail, which then passed with tol 
erable regularity and expedition from the Rus 
sian capital to Irkutsk. 

Thus were all our traveller s hopes blasted, 
and all his noble designs for making new dis 
coveries and benefiting mankind frustrated, by 
the jealousy and pitiful intrigues of a few fur 



372 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

dealers at Irkutsk. The Empress was duped 
by their representations, and she deserted, on 
this occasion, the judicious policy by which 
she was usually guided, in whatever pertained 
to the advancement of science or the encour 
agement of enterprise. Well might Lafayette 
say, as he did, that " her conduct in this in 
stance was very illiberal and narrow minded, 
and that her measures were particularly ungen 
erous." The conclusion to which I have thus 
been led, in explaining an apparent enigma in 
Ledyard s Siberian adventures, is mainly found 
ed, it is true, on circumstantial evidence ; but 
this evidence is so strong, that I know not 
how it can be resisted. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Interview with Sir Joseph Banks in London. 
Engages to travel in Africa under the Aus 
pices of the African Association. Remark 
able Instance of Decision of Character. Let 
ter to his Mother. Visits Mr. Jefferson and 
Lafayette in Paris. Sails from Marseilles to 
Alexandria in Egypt. Arrives in Cairo. 

No sooner had he arrived in London, than 
he called on his worthy patron and friend, Sir 



JOHN LEDYARD. 373 

Joseph Banks, to express his gratitude for the 
many substantial favors received from him. 
Sir Joseph, after questioning him with a lively 
interest concerning his travels, and expressing 
sympathy for his past misfortunes, inquired 
what were his future intentions. Ledyard 
frankly confessed that he had nothing in pros 
pect ; that, after having struggled against a tide 
of difficulties to accomplish an object which 
he had much at heart, but in pursuing which 
he had been baffled in every attempt, he felt 
himself, at this moment, in a state of perfect 
uncertainty as to the step next to be taken ; 
time and circumstances would decide his for 
tune. What followed will be best related in 
the language of Mr. Beaufoy, then secretary of 
the African Association. 

"Sir Joseph Banks, who knew his temper, 
told him that he believed he could recommend 
him to an adventure almost as perilous as the 
one from which he had returned ; and then 
communicated to him the wishes of the Asso 
ciation for discovering the inland countries of 
Africa. Ledyard replied, that he had always 
determined to traverse the continent of Africa, 
as soon as he had explored the interior of 
North America ; and as Sir Joseph had offered 
him a letter of introduction, he came directly 
to the writer of these Memoirs. Before I had 



374 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

learned from the note the name and business 
of my visitor, I was struck with the manliness 
of his person, the breadth of his chest, the 
openness of his countenance, and the inqui 
etude of his eye. I spread the map of Africa 
before him, and tracing a line from Cairo to 
Sennaar, and from thence westward in the lat 
itude and supposed direction of the Niger, I 
told him, that was the route, by which I was 
anxious that Africa might, if possible, be ex 
plored. He said, he should think himself sin 
gularly fortunate to be trusted with the adven 
ture. I asked him when he would set out. 
1 To-morrow morning, was his answer. I told 
him I was afraid that we should not be able, 
in so short a time, to prepare his instructions, 
and to procure for him the letters that were 
requisite ; but that if the committee should 
approve of his proposal, all expedition should 
be used."* 

This interview affords one of the most ex 
traordinary instances of decision of character, 
which is to be found on record. When we 
consider his recent bitter experience of the 
past, his labors and sufferings, which had been 
so intense and so long continued, that a pain 
ful reality had more than checked the excesses 

* Proceedings of the African Association, Vol. I. p. 18. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 375 

of romantic enthusiasm, which might be kin 
dled in a less disciplined imagination j and 
when we witness the promptitude, with which 
he is ready to encounter new perils in the 
heart of Africa, where hardships of the severest 
kind must inevitably be endured, and where 
death would stare him in the face at every 
stage, we cannot but admire the superiority 
of mind over the accidents of human life, the 
rapidity of combination, quickness of decision, 
and fearlessness of consequences, which Led- 
yard s reply indicates. It was the spontaneous 
triumph of an elevated spirit over the whole 
catalogue of selfish considerations, wavering 
motives, and half subdued doubts, which would 
have contended for days in the breast of most 
men, before they would have adopted a firm 
resolution to jeopard their lives in an under 
taking so manifestly beset with dangers, and 
which, in its best aspect, threatened to be a 
scene of toils, privations, and endurance. 

It is needless to say, that the committee of 
the Association immediately closed an agree 
ment with a man, who presented himself with 
such a temper, and with numerous other qual 
ities, which fitted him in a peculiar manner 
for their service. Preparations for his depart 
ure were commenced without delay. 

While these movements were going on, he 



376 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

wrote a long letter to Dr. Ledyard. It was 
composed at different times, and is without 
date. A few extracts from it will give an in 
sight into his pursuits, and exhibit some traits 
of his character in a favorable light. 

" I was last evening in company with Mr. 
Jarvis of New York, whom I accidentally met 
in the city, and invited to my lodgings. When 
I was in Paris in distress, he behaved very 
generously to me ; and, as I do not want money 
at present, I had a double satisfaction in our 
meeting, being equally happy to see him, and 
to pay him one hundred livres, which I never 
expected to be able to do, and I suppose he 
did not think I should. If he goes to New 
York as soon as he mentioned, I shall trouble 
him with this letter to you, and with some 
others to your address for my other friends. 

" I wrote you last from this place, nearly 
two years ago, but I suppose you heard from 
me at Petersburg, by Mr. Franklin of New 
York. I promised to write you from the re 
mote parts of Siberia. I promise everything 
to those I love ; and so does Fortune to me 
sometimes, but we reciprocally prevent each 
other from fulfilling our engagements. She 
left me so poor in Siberia, that I could not 
write you, because I could not frank the let 
ter. You are already acquainted with the in- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 377 

tent of the voyage, which I have been two 
years engaged in. The history of it I cannot 
give you, nor indeed the world. Parts of it 
you would comprehend, approve, and, I believe, 
admire ; parts are incomprehensible, because not 
to be described. I have seen and suffered a 
great deal, but I now have my health and 
spirits in perfection. 

" By my acquaintances in London my arrival 
was announced to a society of noblemen and 
gentlemen, who had for some time been fruit 
lessly inquiring for some person to travel 
through the continent of Africa. I was asked, 
and consented to undertake the tour. The 
society have appropriated a sum of money to 
defray the expenses. I dine with them col 
lectively this day week, finish the affair, and 
within the month shall be on the move. My 
route will be from here to Paris, thence to 
Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Alexan 
dria in Egypt, and then to Grand Cairo. Be 
yond is unknown, and my discoveries begin. 
Where they will terminate, and how, you shall 
know, if I survive. As we have now no min 
ister from the United States in London, and 
as I know of no certain medium of convey 
ance, I cannot certainly promise you letters 
from Africa. I can only say, that I will write 
you from Grand Cairo, if I can find an oppor 
tunity. 



378 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" Before I leave town, I intend to send you 
some Tartar curiosities, and, if possible, also, a 
transcript of the few rude remarks I made on 
my last tour. The hints I have given respect 
ing the history of man, from circumstances and 
facts that have come within my personal 
knowledge, you will find new and interesting. 
They form data for investigation, but they are 
better in my hands than in any others, be 
cause no other person has seen so much of 
Asia and America. They might amuse you in 
the happy retirement, which Mr. Jarvis tells 
me you enjoy on Long Island. My seeing 
this gentleman has been almost as good as a 
visit to New York. Nothing in his account 
of our family and friends has affected me so 
much, as the mercantile misfortunes of your 
worthy brother. Surely the race is not to the 
swift, nor the battle to the strong. Did the 
pyramids of Egypt, which I shall soon see, 
cover hearts as worthy as his, I should no 
more style them monuments of human imbe 
cility ; I should worship before them. 

" Mr. Jarvis has not been able to give me 
an exact account of his situation. He only 
tells me, that he has failed in business and 
retired to Jersey, where I think he ought to 
stay, for the world is absolutely unworthy of 
him. I do not say this, because he is my 



JOHN LED YARD. 379 

cousin, and shared with you the earliest at 
tachment of my heart. These are things that 
I feel, and that the world has nothing to do 
with, any more than it ought to have with 
him. They are compliments which his ene 
mies would make him, if he had any. I never 
knew so much merit so unfortunate. I cannot 
reflect on his fate unimpassioned. He should 
retire ; if barely comfortable, it will be enough, 
for he cannot go from dignity. My heart is 
on your side of the Atlantic. I know the 
charms on Long Island, the additional ones of 
your residence there, and the sweet accordance 
of recubans sub tegmine fagi. Do not think, 
because I have seen much of the world, and 
must see more, that I have forgotten America. 
I could as soon forget you, myself, my God. 

My travels have brought upon me a nu 
merous correspondence, which, added to the 
employments of my new enterprise, leaves me 
little leisure. I am alone in everything, and 
in most things so, because nobody has been 
accustomed to think and act in travelling mat 
ters as I do. I am sorry Mr. Jarvis will go 
so soon. To-day is Saturday, and he will call 
on Tuesday, to receive the things for you, 
and take leave of me. My time is wholly 
occupied, and it happens that just at this mo 
ment I am the busiest with the African So 
ciety. 



380 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" Among other things, I wish to send you 
a copy of my Swedish portrait at Somerset 
House. I have one by me, but it is a stupid 
thing. It was taken by a boy, who is as dumb 
and deaf as the portrait itself. He is, however, 
under the patronage of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
the English Raphael. The boy was sent to 
me by a country squire, who accidentally got 
acquainted with me at an inn where I lodged 
in London, and who has taken a wonderful 
fancy to me, and begs to hang me up in his 
hall. This one is still unfinished, and so is 
the one for the squire. They are mere daub- 
ings. Jarvis says our Trumbull is clever, and 
advises me to get him to copy the Swedish 
drawing, which is not only a perfect likeness, 
but a good painting. If I do according to his 
advice, it cannot be soon ; and, indeed, I should 
not trouble you, or myself, about this shadow 
of your friend, were I sure of presenting him 
to you hereafter in substance.* I shall not 
have time to settle my affairs before Jarvis 
goes, if it is to-morrow, for to-morrow I must 
be with the African committee. 

" Jarvis is this moment going. Adieu. He 
will not take the one hundred livres." 



* Neither the portrait nor a copy was sent The ori 
ginal was taken to Sweden by the artist, where it has 
been lost 



JOHN LEDYARD. 381 

It may be well to add here, rather as a mat 
ter of curiosity, than for any other purpose, his 
description of the Siberian articles of clothing, 
which he sent to Dr. Ledyard by Mr. Jarvis. 
He was now going to a climate where he 
would have no occasion for a dress suited to 
the winters of Siberia. 

" The dresses I send you," he writes, " are 
such as I have worn through many a scene, 
and was glad to get them. The surtout coat 
is made of reindeer skin, and edged with the 
dewlap of the moose. Perhaps you will wear 
this yourself in winter. It was made for a 
riding coat, and I have rode both horses and 
deer with it. The first cap is of the Siberian 
red fox; it is a travelling cap, and the form 
is entirely Tartar. The second cap is Russian, 
consisting of white ermine, and bordered with 
blue fox skin ; it cost me at Yakutsk twenty- 
five roubles, which is four guineas and one 
rouble. The surtout coat cost seventy roubles ; 
the fox-skin cap six roubles. The gloves are 
made of the feet of the fox, and lined with 
the Tartar hare, and cost five roubles. The 
frock is in form and style truly Tartar. It 
was presented to me, and came from the bor 
ders of the Frozen Ocean, at the mouth of 
the River Kolyma. It is made of a spotted 
reindeer calf; the edging is the same as that 



382 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

on the surtout. You will see, on the inside 
of the skin, a number of spots ; these were 
occasioned by a small insect bred there from 
the eggs of a species of fly, which, together 
with the vast numbers of mosquitoes, obliges 
this charming animal to migrate annually north 
and south, as the seasons change. 

" The boots are made also of reindeer skin, 
and ornamented with European cloth ; the 
form is Tartar ; they cost eight roubles. The 
socks for the boots are made of the skin of 
an old reindeer. They are worn on the inside 
of the boots, with the hair to the feet, with 
or without stockings. These were presented 
to me, and came from the borders of the 
Frozen Ocean. The cloak which they are 
wrapped up in was made in London. I trav 
elled on foot with it in Denmark, Sweden, 
Lapland, Finland, and the Lord knows where. 
I have slept in it, eat in it, drank in it, fought 
in it, negotiated in it. Through every scene 
it has been my constant and hardy servant, 
from my departure till my return to London. 
And now, to give it an asylum, (for I have 
none,) I send it to you. Lay it up ; as soon 
as I can, I will call and lay myself up with 
it. I have mentioned the prices of the above 
articles, to give you a notion how dear fur 
dresses are, even in the remotest parts of the 



JOHN LEDYARD. 383 

vast dominions of Russia. These clothes were 
not ail that I wore last winter ; I wore many 
others, and froze my nose and ears after all. 
You have no idea of the excessive cold in 
those regions." 

The Society in whose service Ledyard was 
now engaged had its origin with a few indi 
viduals in London, but the number of its mem 
bers soon increased to about two hundred, 
among whom were some of the most eminent 
men in the kingdom. Their immediate ob 
ject was to promote discoveries in the interior 
of Africa, and a fund was raised by a subscrip 
tion from each member, for the purpose of 
effecting that object. The Society was de 
nominated the " African Association," and was 
patronized by the King. A committee was to 
be annually chosen by ballot, whose duty it 
was to transact the affairs of the Society, by 
taking charge of the funds, employing persons 
to travel, collecting intelligence, and keeping 
up a correspondence with various parts of 
Africa. 

The first committee appointed, and that with 
which Ledyard made his arrangements, con 
sisted of Lord Rawdon, the Bishop of Landaff, 
Sir Joseph Banks, Mr. Beaufoy, and Mr. Steu- 
art. Among the other members, who joined 
the Society at the beginning, were Mr. Ad- 



384 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

dington, the Earl of Bute, General Conway, 
the Duke of Grafton, Edward Gibbon, John 
Hunter, Dr. Lettsom, the Earl of Moira, the 
Duke of Northumberland, Lord Sheffield, Ben 
jamin Vaughan, and Mr. Wilberforce. An in 
stitution, supported by names of such weight 
and respectability, would naturally attract pub 
lic attention, and insure all the success of 
which the nature of its designs was suscep 
tible. 

For many ages the continent of Africa had 
been a neglected portion of the globe, of which 
the rest of the world had taken little account. 
The learning, and splendor, and prowess of 
Egypt were departed; Carthage, with all its 
glory, had sunk into the dust j the proud mon 
uments of Numidian greatness had been blotted 
from the face of the earth, and almost from 
the memory of man. The gloom of this scene 
was heightened, not more by the ravages of 
time in destroying what had been, than by the 
contrasts which succeeding changes had pro 
duced. A semibarbarous population, gathered 
from the wrecks of fallen nations, enemies to 
the arts and to the best social interests of 
man, had gradually spread themselves over the 
whole northern borders of Africa, and presented 
a barrier to the hazards of enterprise, no less 
than to the inroads of civilization. Whatever 



JOHN LEDYARD. 385 

might be the ardor for discovery and the dis 
regard of danger, nobody cared to penetrate 
into these regions, where all was uncertainty, 
and where the chance of success bore no pro 
portion to the perils that must be encountered. 
There is no question, that the northern half 
of Africa was better known to the Romans 
at the time of Julius Caesar, than to the Eu 
ropeans in the middle of the eighteenth cen 
tury. A few scattered names of rivers, towns, 
and nations, occupied the map of the interior, 
traced there by a hesitating hand, on the dubi 
ous authority of the Nubian geographer Edris- 
si, and the Spanish traveller Leo Africanus. 
The rhymes of Swift on this subject were not 
more witty than true. 

" Geographers, in Afric maps, 
With savage pictures fill their gaps, 
And o er unhabitable downs 
Place elephants, for want of towns." 

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Leo 
penetrated as far as Timbuctoo and the Niger ; 
but so imperfect were his descriptions even of 
what he saw, that very little geographical 
knowledge was communicated by them. He 
was on the banks of the Niger ; but it could 
not be ascertained from his account, whether 
this river ran to the east or west, nor, indeed, 
whether it existed as a separate stream. 
VOL. xiv. 25 



386 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



In short, down to the time when the Afri 
can Association was formed, almost the whole 
of this vast continent, its geography and phys 
ical resources, its inhabitants, governments, lan 
guages, were a desideratum in the history of 
nature arid of man. It could not be doubted, 
that many millions of human beings inhabited 
these hidden regions. Nor were the character 
and condition of these people, their institutions 
and social advancement, mere matters of curi 
osity ; they had a relation to the people of 
other parts of the globe, and, when discovered 
and understood, might be turned to the com 
mon advantage of the great human family. 
There are no nations that may not profit by 
an intercourse between each other, either by 
an exchange of products peculiar to each, or 
by a reciprocal moral influence, or by both. 

On these broad and benevolent principles 
the Society for promoting discoveries in Africa 
was instituted, and the scheme was worthy of 
the enlightened philanthropists by whom it was 
devised. Ledyard s instructions were few, sim 
ple, and direct. He was to repair first to 
Egypt, travel thence across the continent, 
make such observations as he could, and report 
the results to the Association. Everything was 
left to his discretion. His past experience, the 
extraordinary energy of his character, his disin- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 387 

terestedness, and the enthusiasm with which 
he engaged in the present undertaking, were 
all such as to insure the confidence of his 
employers, and inspire them with sanguine 
hopes. 

As for himself, at no period of his life had 
he reflected with so much satisfaction on his 
condition or his prospects. Heretofore he had 
always been alone, oppressed with poverty, and 
contending with an adverse fate. But now he 
was free from want, patronized by the first 
men in Great Britain, and engaged at their 
solicitation, and under their auspices, in an en 
terprise, fraught, it is true, with many dangers, 
but promising the glory of which he had ever 
been ambitious, and opening to him a field of 
adventure, which his imagination had pictured 
to him as the first to be chosen, after he had 
discharged what he deemed a paramount duty, 
in exploring the unknown parts of the conti 
nent to which he owed his birth. When he 
was departing from London for Egypt, he 
may be said to have been, for the first time 
in his life, at the summit of his wishes. All 
previous cares, defeats, and disasters appear to 
have been forgotten, or swallowed up in the 
deep interests of the present, and the cherished 
anticipations of the future. A letter written 
to his mother at this time indicates the tone 
of his spirits. 



388 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" Truly is it written, that the ways of God 
are past finding out, and his decrees unsearch 
able. Is the Lord thus great? So also is he 
good. I am an instance of it. I have tram 
pled the world under my feet, laughed at fear, 
and derided danger. Through millions of 
fierce savages, over parching deserts, the freez 
ing north, the everlasting ice, and stormy seas, 
have I passed without harm. How good is 
my God ! What rich subjects have I for praise, 
love, and adoration ! 

" I am but just returned to England from 
my travels of two years, and am going away 
into Africa to examine that continent. I ex 
pect to be absent three years. I shall be in 
Egypt as soon as I can get there, and after 
that go into unknown parts. I have full and 
perfect health. Remember me to my brothers 
and sisters. Desire them to remember me, 
for, if Heaven permits, I shall see them again. 
I pray God to bless and comfort you all. 
Farewell." 

At length the preparations for his departure 
were completed. He had become well ac 
quainted with the views of the committee ; 
and a sufficient amount of money had been 
raised, by the subscriptions, to provide for the 
expenses of his journey to Egypt, arid to pur 
chase such articles of merchandise as might 



JOHN LEDYARD. 389 

be found necessary to enable him to assume 
the character of a trader in a caravan to the 
interior, or for travelling in any other manner, 
which he should deem most expedient when 
on the spot. The last letter he wrote to 
America was a short one, dated at London, 
on the 29th of June. 

" I suppose that my letter and curiosities, 
sent by Mr. Jarvis, are now half way over the 
Atlantic. Here you have a little portrait, 
which I leave to the care of his brother in 
town. Enclosed with it is a poor portrait of 
me, taken by the dumb boy mentioned in my 
other letter. If it were anything like paint 
ing, I would desire you to keep it. As it is, 
I beg you will send it to my mother. She 
will be as fond of it, as if done by Guido. I 
would have sent it framed, if the opportunity 
would have permitted. To-morrow morning I 
set out for France. Adieu." 

Accordingly he left London on the 30th of 
June. Mr. Beaufoy speaks of the interview he 
had with him, just as he was setting off, and 
adds these affecting remarks, as given in Led- 
yard s own words. 

" I am accustomed, said he, in our last 
conversation, ( twas on the morning of his de 
parture for Africa,) I am accustomed to hard 
ships. I have known both hunger and naked- 



390 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ness to the utmost extremity of human suffer 
ing. I have known what it is to have food 
given me as charity to a madman ; and I have 
at times been obliged to shelter myself under 
the miseries of that character, to avoid a heav 
ier calamity. My distresses have been greater 
than I have ever owned, or ever will own to 
any man. Such evils are terrible to bear ; but 
they never yet had power to turn me from 
my purpose. If I live, I will faithfully per 
form, in its utmost extent, my engagement to 
the Society; and if I perish in the attempt, 
my honor will still be safe, for death cancels 
all bonds. " 

In Paris he met with Mr. Jefferson, Lafay 
ette, and several others of his old friends, 
whom he had left there three years before, 
and towards whom he entertained sentiments 
of the warmest gratitude. He continued at 
Paris seven or eight days, and then proceeded 
to Marseilles, where he took ship for Alexan 
dria. From this place he wrote to Mr. Jeffer 
son the following letter. 

"As I shall go to Cairo in a few days, 
from whence it may be difficult for me to 
write to you, I do it here, though unprepared. 
I am in good health and spirits, and the pros 
pects before me are flattering. This intelli 
gence, with my wishes for your happiness and 



JOHN LEDYARD. 391 

an eternal remembrance of your goodness to 
me, must form the only part of my letter of 
any consequence ; except that I desire to be 
remembered to the Marquis de Lafayette, his 
lady, Mr. Short, and other friends. Deducting 
the week I stayed at Paris, and two days at 
Marseilles, I was only thirty-four days from 
London to this place. 

" I am sorry to inform you, that I regret 
having visited the gentleman you mentioned, 
and of having made use of your name. I 
shall ever think, though he was extremely po 
lite, that he rather strove to prevent my em 
barking at Marseilles, than to facilitate it ; for, 
by bandying me about among the members 
of the Chamber of Commerce, he had nearly, 
and very nearly, lost me my passage ; and in 
the last ship from Marseilles for the season. 
He knew better ; he knew that the Chamber 
of Commerce had no business with me j and, 
besides, I only asked him if he could without 
trouble address me to the captain of a ship 
bound to Alexandria ; nothing more. 

" Alexandria at large presents a scene more 
wretched, than I have witnessed. Poverty, 
rapine, murder, tumult, blind bigotry, cruel per 
secution, pestilence ! A small town built on 
the ruins of antiquity, as remarkable for its 
miserable architecture as I suppose the place 



392 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

once was for its good and great works of that 
kind. Pompey s Pillar and Cleopatra s Obelisk 
are now almost the only remains of remote 
antiquity. They are both, and particularly the 
former, noble objects to contemplate, and are 
certainly more captivating from the contrast of 
the deserts and forlorn prospects around them. 
No man, of whatever turn of mind, can see the 
whole, without retiring from the scene with a 
Sic transit gloria mundi" 

Having passed ten days only at Alexandria, 
he pursued his journey up the Nile to Cairo, 
where he arrived on the 19th of August. 
Here again he wrote to Mr. Jefferson. 

" I sent you a short letter from Alexandria. 
I begin this without knowing where I shall 
close it, or when I shall send it, or. indeed, 
whether I shall ever send it. But I will have 
it ready, in case an opportunity shall offer. 
Having been in Cairo only four days, I have 
not seen much of particular interest for you ; 
and, indeed, you will riot expect much of this 
kind from me. My business is in another quar 
ter, and the information I seek totally new. 
Anything from this place would not be so. 

" At all events, I shall never want a subject 
when it is to you I write. I shall never 
think my letter an indifferent one, when it 
contains the declaration of my gratitude and 



JOHN LEDYARD. 393 

my affection for you ; and this, notwithstand 
ing you thought hard of me for being em 
ployed by an English Association, which hurt 
me much while I was at Paris. You know 
your own heart, and if my suspicions are 
groundless, forgive them, since they proceed 
from the jealousy I have, not to lose the re 
gard you have in times past been pleased to 
honor me with. You are not obliged to es 
teem me, but I am obliged to esteem you, or 
to take leave of my senses, and confront the 
opinions of the greatest and best characters I 
know. If I cannot, therefore, address myself 
to you as a man you regard, I must do it as 
one that regards you for your own sake, and 
for the sake of my country, which has set me 
the example. 

" I made my tour from Alexandria by water, 
and entered the Nile by the western branch 
of the mouths of the river. I was five days 
coming to Cairo ; but this passage is generally 
made in four, and sometimes in three days. 
You have heard and read much of the Nile, 
and so had I ; but when I saw it, I could not 
conceive it to be the same. What eyes do 
travellers see with ? Are they fools or rogues ? 
For Heaven s sake, hear the plain truth about 
it. First, in regard to its size. Obvious com 
parisons in such cases ire good. Do you 
know the River Connecticut? Of all the riv- 



394 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ers I have seen, it most resembles that in size. 
It is a little wider, and may on that account 
better compare with the Thames. This is the 
mighty, the sovereign of rivers, the vast Nile, 
that has been metamorphosed into one of the 
wonders of the world. Let me be careful ho\v 
I read, and above all how I read ancient his 
tory. You have heard and read, too, much 
of its inundations. If the thousands of large 
and small canals from it, and the thousands 
of men and machines employed to transfer by 
artificial means the water of the Nile to the 
meadows on its banks, if this be the inunda 
tion that is meant, it is true ; any other is 
false. It is not an inundating river. I came 
up the river from the 15th to the 20th of 
August, and about the 30th the water will be 
at the height of the freshet. When I left the 
river, its banks were four, five, and six feet, 
above the water, and here in town I am told 
they expect the Nile to be only one or two 
feet higher at the most. This is a proof, if 
any were wanted, that the river does not over 
flow its banks. 

" I saw the pyramids as I passed up the 
river, but they were four or five leagues off. 
It is warm weather here at present, and were 
it not for the north winds, that cool themselves 
in their passage over the Mediterranean, and 
blow upon us, we should be in a sad situation. 



JOHN LEDYARD. 395 

As it is, I think I have felt it hotter at Phil 
adelphia in the same month. The city of 
Cairo is about half as large in size as Paris, 
and is said to contain seven hundred thousand 
inhabitants. You will therefore anticipate the 
fact of its narrow streets and high houses. In 
this number are contained one hundred thou 
sand Copts, or descendants of the ancient 
Egyptians. There are likewise Christians, and 
those of different sects, from Jerusalem, Da 
mascus, Aleppo, and other parts of Syria. 

" With regard to my journey, I can only tell 
you with any certainty, that I shall be able to 
pass as far as the western boundaries of what 
is called Turkish Nubia to the town of Sen- 
naar. I expect to get there with some surety. 
Beyond that all is dark before me. My wishes 
and designs are to pass in that parallel across 
the continent. I will write from Sennaar if 
I can. 

" You know the disturbances in this un 
happy country, and the nature of them. The 
Beys, revolted from the Bashaw, have posses 
sion of Upper Egypt, and are now encamped 
with an army, pitiful enough indeed, about 
three miles south of Cairo. They say to the 
Bashaw, Come out of your city and fight 
us ; and the Bashaw says, l Come out of your 
intrenchments and fight me. You know this 
revolt is a stroke in Russian politics. Noth- 



396 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



ing merits more the whole force of burlesque, 
than both the poetic and prosaic legends of 
this country. Sweet are the songs of Egypt 
on paper. Who is not ravished with gums, 
balms, dates, figs, pomegranates, cassia, and 
sycamores, without recollecting that amidst 
these are dust, hot and fainting winds, bugs, 
mosquitos, spiders, flies, leprosy, fevers, and 
almost universal blindness ? I am in perfect 
health. Adieu for the present, and believe me 
to be, with all possible esteem and regard, 
your sincere friend." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Interview with the Aga. Observations on the 
Customs of the Arabs. Information respect 
ing the Interior of Africa. Visit to the 
Caravans and Slave Markets. Reflections on 
his Condition and Prospects. His last Let 
ter to Mr. Jefferson. Joins a Caravan and 
prepares to depart for Sennaar. Taken 
suddenly ill. His Death. His Person and 
Character. 

As he was furnished with letters of recom 
mendation to the British Consul at Cairo, he 
found little difficulty in p/ocuring such accom- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 397 

modations as he desired, and such information 
as enabled him to direct his attention imme 
diately to the great object of his mission. His 
intention was to join a caravan bound to the 
interior, and to continue with it to the end of 
its route. Beyond this he must be guided by 
circumstances, which could not be foreseen, 
and concerning which no calculation was to 
be made. He adopted a dress suited to the 
character he was to assume, and began in earn 
est to study the manners of the people around 
him, and particularly of the traders in the car 
avans, which were then at Cairo. Three 
months were passed in this occupation. He 
kept a journal of whatever he deemed most 
worthy of record, which was afterwards trans 
mitted to the African Association. Such parts 
of the journal, as are contained in the Pro 
ceedings of that body, will here be added. 
They bear the peculiar marks of the author s 
mind, his habits of observation, his boldness 
of thought and opinion, and his quick percep 
tion of resemblance and contrast in the vari 
ous races of men. 

11 August 14th. I left Alexandria at mid 
night, with a pleasant breeze north ; and was, 
at sunrise next morning, at the mouth of the 
Nile, which has a bar of sand across it, and 
soundings as irregular as the sea, which is 



398 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

raised upon it by the contentions of counter 
currents and winds. 

" The view in sailing up the Nile is very 
confined, unless from the top of the mast, or 
some other eminence, and then it is an un 
bounded plain of excellent land, miserably cul 
tivated, and yet interspersed with a great num 
ber of villages, both on its banks arid as far 
along the meadows as one can see in any di 
rection. The river is also filled with boats 
passing and repassing ; boats all of one kind, 
and navigated in one manner ; nearly also of 
one size, the largest carrying ten or fifteen 
tons. On board of these boats are seen onions, 
watermelons, dates, sometimes a horse, a camel, 
(which lies down in the boat,) sheep, goats, 
dogs, men, and women. Towards evening and 
morning they have music. 

" Whenever we stopped at a village, I used 
to walk into it with my conductor, who, being 
a Mussulman, and a descendant from Mahomet, 
wore a green turban, and was therefore respect 
ed, and I was sure of safety ; but, in truth, 
dressed as I was in a common Turkish habit, 
I believe I should have walked as safely with 
out him. I saw no propensity among the in 
habitants to incivility. The villages are most 
miserable assemblages of poor little mud huts, 
flung very close together without any kind of 



JOHN LEDYARD. 399 

order, full of dust, lice, fleas, bugs, flies, and all 
the curses of Moses ; people poorly clad, the 
youths naked ; in such respects, they rank in 
finitely below any savages I ever saw. 

" The common people wear nothing but a 
shirt and drawers, and they are always blue. 
Green is the royal, or holy color ; none but 
the descendants of Mahomet, if I am rightly 
informed, being permitted to wear it. 

"August 19th. From the little town where 
we landed, the distance to Cairo is about a 
mile and a half, which we rode on asses ; for 
the ass in this country is the Christian s horse, 
as he is allowed no other animal to ride upon. 
Indeed I find the situation of a Christian, or 
what they more commonly call here a Frank, 
to be very, very humiliating, ignominious, and 
distressing. No one, by a combination of any 
causes, can reason down to such effects as ex 
perience teaches us do exist here ; it being 
impossible to conceive, that the enmity I have 
alluded to could exist between men ; or, in 
fact, that the same species of beings, from any 
causes whatever, should ever think and act 
so differently as the Egyptians and the Eng 
lish do. 

" I arrived at Cairo early in the morning, 
on the 19th of August, and went to the house 
of the Venetian Consul, Mr. Rosetti, charge 



400 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

d affaires for the English Consul here. After 
dinner, not being able to find any other lodg 
ing, and receiving no very pressing invitation 
from Mr. Rosetti to lodge with him, I went to 
a convent. This convent consists of mission 
aries, sent by the Pope to propagate the Chris 
tian faith, or at least to give shelter to Chris 
tians. The Christians here are principally from 
Damascus ; the convent is governed by the 
order of Recollets j a number of English, as 
well as other European travellers, have lodged 
there. 

" August 26th. This day I was introduced 
by Rosetti to the Aga Mahommed, the confi 
dential minister of Ismael, the most powerful 
of the four ruling Beys. He gave me his hand 
to kiss, and with it the promise of letters, 
protection, and support, through Turkish Nubia, 
and also to some chiefs far inland. In a sub 
sequent conversation, he told me I should see 
in my travels a people who had power to 
transmute themselves into the forms of differ 
ent animals. He asked me what I thought 
of the affair. I did not like to render the 
ignorance, simplicity, and credulity of the Turk 
apparent. I told him, that it formed a part of 
the character of all savages to be great necro 
mancers ; but that I had never before heard 
of any so great as those which he had done 



JOHN LEDYARD. 401 

me the honor to describe ; that it had rendered 
me more anxious to be on my voyage, and, if 
I passed among them, I would, in the letter I 
promised to write to him, give him a more 
particular account of them than he had hith 
erto had. He asked me how I could travel 
without the language of the people where I 
should pass. I told him, with vocabularies. 
I might as well have read to him a page of 
Newton s Principia. He returned to his fables 
again. Is it not curious, that the Egyptians 
(for I speak of the natives of the country, as 
well as of him, when I make the observation,) 
are still such dupes to the arts of sorcery ? 
Was it the same people who built the pyra 
mids ? 

" I cannot understand that the Turks have 
a better opinion of our mental powers than 
we have of theirs ; but they say of us, that we 
are a people who carry our minds on our fingers 
ends ; meaning, that we put them in exercise 
constantly, and render them subservient to all 
manner of purposes, and with celerity, despatch, 
and ease, do what we do. 

" I suspect the Copts to have been the ori 
gin of the Negro race ; the nose and lips cor 
respond with those of the Negro. The hair, 
whenever I can see it among the people here, 
(the Copts,) is curled ; not close like the Ne- 
VOL. xiv. 26 



402 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

groes, but like the Mulattoes. I observe a 
greater variety of color among the human spe 
cies here, than in any other country ; and a 
greater variety of feature, than in any other 
country not possessing a greater degree of civ 
ilization. I have seen an Abyssinian woman, 
and a Bengal man j the color is the same in 
both ; so are their features and persons. 

" I have seen a small mummy ; it has what 
I call wampum-work on it. It appears as com 
mon here as among the Tartars. Tattooing 
is as prevalent among the Arabs of this place, 
as among the South Sea Islanders. It is a 
little curious, that the women here are more 
generally than in any other part of the world 
tattooed on the chin, with perpendicular lines 
descending from the under lip to the chin, 
like the women on the Northwest Coast of 
America. It is also a custom here to stain 
the nails red, like the Cochin Chinese, and the 
northern Tartars. The mask, or veil, that the 
women here wear, resembles exactly that worn 
by the priests at Otaheite, and those seen at 
the Sandwich Islands. 

" I have not yet seen the Arabs make use 
of a tool like our axe or hatchet ; but what 
they use for such purposes, as we do our 
hatchet and axe, is in the form of an adze, 
and is a form we found most agreeable to 



JOHN LED YARD. 403 

the South Sea islanders. I see no instance 
of a tool formed designedly for the use of the 
right or left hand particularly, as the cotogon is 
among the Yakuti Tartars. 

" There is certainly a very remarkable affin 
ity between the Russian and Greek dress. 
The fillet round the temples of the Greek 
and Russian women is a circumstance in dress, 
that perhaps would strike nobody as it does 
me ; and so of the wampum-work, too, which 
is also found among them both. They spin 
here with the distaff and spindle only, like the 
French peasantry, and others in Europe ; and 
the common Arab loom is upon our principle, 
though rude. I saw to-day an Arab woman, 
white, like the white Indians in the South 
Sea Islands, and at the Isthmus of Darien. 
These kind of people all look alike. Among 
the Greek women here, I find the identical 
Archangel headdress. 

" Their music is instrumental, consisting of 
a drum and pipe, both which resemble those 
two instruments in the South Seas. The 
drum is exactly like the Otaheite drum ; the 
pipe is made of cane, and consists of a long 
and short tube joined ; the music resembles 
very much the bagpipe, and is pleasant. All 
their music is concluded, if not accompanied, 
by the clapping of hands. I think it singular, 



404 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, 

that the women here make a noise with their 
mouths like frogs, and that this frog music is 
always made at weddings ; and I believe on 
all other occasions of merriment, where there 
are women. 

" It is remarkable, that the dogs here are 
of just the same species found among the 
Otaheitans. It is also remarkable, that in one 
village I saw exactly the same machines used 
for diversion as in Russia. I forget the Rus 
sian name for it. It is a large kind of wheel, 
on the extremities of which there are sus 
pended seats, in which people are whirled 
round over and under each other. 

" The women dress their hair behind, ex 
actly in the same manner in which the women 
of the Kalmuk Tartars dress theirs. 

" In the history of the kingdom of Benin, 
in Guinea, the chiefs are called Aree Roee, or 
street kings. Among the islands in the South 
Seas, Otaheite and others, they call the chiefs 
Arees, and the great chiefs Aree le Hoi. I 
think this curious ; and so I do, that it is a 
eustom of the Arabs to spread a blanket, when 
they would invite any one to eat or rest with 
them. The American Indians spread the bea 
ver skins on such occasions. The Arabs of 
the deserts, like the Tartars, have an invinci 
ble attachment to liberty ; no arts will recon- 



JOHN LEDYARD. 405 

cile them to any other life, or form of govern 
ment, however modified. This is a character 
given me here of the Arabs. It is singular, 
that the Arab language has no word for lib 
erty, although it has for slave. The Arabs, 
like the New Zealanders, engage with a long, 
strong spear. 

" I have made the best inquiries I have 
been able, since I have been here, of the na 
ture of the country before me ; of Sennaar, 
Darfoor, Wangara, of Nubia, Abyssinia, of those 
named, or unknown by name. I should have 
been happy to have sent you better informa 
tion of those places than I am yet able to do. 
It will appear very singular to you in England, 
that we in Egypt are so ignorant of countries 
which we annually visit. The Egyptians know 
as little of geography as the generality of the 
French ; and, like them, sing, dance, and traffic 
without it. 

" I have the best assurances of a certain 
and safe conduct, by the return of the caravan 
that is arrived from Sennaar ; and Mr. Rosetti 
tells me, that the letters I shall have from the 
Aga here will insure me of being conveyed, 
from hand to hand, to my journey s end. The 
Mahometans in Africa are what the Russians 
are in Siberia, a trading, enterprising, supersti 
tious, warlike set of vagabonds, and wherever 



406 MERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

they are set upon going, they will and do go ; 
but they neither can nor do make voyages 
merely commercial, or merely religious, across 
Africa ; and where we do not find them in 
commerce, we find them not at all. They 
cannot, however vehemently pushed on by re 
ligion, afford to cross the continent without 
trading by the way. 

" October 14th. I went to-day to the mar 
ket-place, where they vend the black slaves, 
that come from towards the interior parts of 
Africa. There were two hundred of them to 
gether, dressed and ornamented as in their 
country. The appearance of a savage in every 
region is almost the same. There were very 
few men among them ; this indicates that they 
are prisoners of war. They have a great many 
beads, and other ornaments about them, that 
are from the East. I was told by one of 
them, that they came from the west of Sen- 
naar, fifty-five days journey, which may be 
about four or five hundred miles. A Negro 
chief said the Nile had its source in his coun 
try. In general they had their hair plaited in 
a great number of small detached plaits, none 
exceeding in length six or eight inches ; the 
hair was filled with grease and dirt, purposely 
daubed on. 

" October 16th. I have renewed my visit 



JOHN LEDYARD. 407 

to-day, and passed it more agreeably than yes 
terday ; for yesterday I was rudely treated. 
The Franks are prohibited to purchase slaves, 
and therefore the Turks do not like to see 
them in the market. Mr. Rosetti favored me 
with one of his running charge d affaires to 
accompany me ; but having observed yesterday 
among the ornaments of the Negroes a variety 
of beads, and wanting to know from what 
country they came, I requested Mr. Rosetti, 
previously to my second visit, to show me from 
his store samples of Venetian beads. He 
showed me samples of fifteen hundred differ 
ent kinds ; after this I set out. 

" The name of the country these savages 
come from is Darfoor, and is well known on 
account of the slave trade, as well as of that 
in gum and elephants teeth. The appearance 
of these Negroes declares them to be a people 
in as savage a state as any people can be ; 
but not of so savage a temper, or of that spe 
cies of countenance that indicates savage in 
telligence. They appear a harmless wild peo 
ple but they are mostly young women. 

" The beads they are ornamented with are 
Venetian ; and they have some Venetian brass 
medals, which the Venetians make for trade. 
The beads are worked wampum-wise. I know 
not where they got the marine shells they 



408 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

worked among their beads, nor how they could 
have seen white men. I asked them if they 
would use me well in their country, if I 
should visit it ? They said, Yes ; and added, 
that they should make a king of me, and treat 
me with all the delicacies of their country. 
Like the Egyptian women, and like most other 
savages, they stick on ornaments wherever they 
can, and wear, like them, a great ring in the 
nose, either from the cartilage or from the side ; 
they also rub on some black kind of paint 
round the eyes, like the Egyptian women. 
They are a sizeable, well formed people, quite 
black, with what, I believe, we call the true 
Guinea face, and with curled short hair ; but 
not more curled or shorter than I have seen it 
among the Egyptians ; but, in general, these 
savages plait it in tassels plastered with clay 
or paint. Among some of them the hair is a 
foot long, and curled, resembling exactly one of 
our mops. The prevailing color, where it can 
be seen, is a black and red mixed. I think it 
would make any hair curl, even Uncle Toby s 
wig, to be plaited and plastered as this is. 
This caravan, which I call the Darfoor caravan, 
is not very rich. The Sennaar is the rich 
caravan. 

" October 19th. I went yesterday to see if 
more of the Darfoor caravan had arrived ; but 



JOHN LEDYARD. 409 

they were not. I wonder why travellers to 
Cairo have not visited these slave markets, and 
conversed with the Jelabs, or travelling mer 
chants of these caravans j both are certainly 
sources of great information. The eighth part 
of the money expended on other accounts 
might here answer some good, solid purpose. 
For my part, I have not expended a crown, 
and I have a better idea of the people of Af 
rica, of its trade, of the position of places, the 
nature of the country, and manner of travel 
ling, than ever I had by any other means ; 
and, I believe, better than any other means 
would afford me. 

" October 25th. I have been again to the 
slave market ; but neither the Jelabs (a name 
which in this country is given to all travel 
ling merchants) nor the slaves are yet arrived 
in town ; they will be here to-morrow. I met 
two or three in the street, and one with a 
shield and spear. I have understood to-day, 
that the King of Sennaar is himself a mer 
chant, and concerned in the Sennaar caravans. 
The merchant here, who contracts to convey 
me to Sennaar, is Procurer at Cairo to the 
King of Sennaar; this is a good circumstance, 
and one I knew not of till to-day. Mr. Ro- 
setti informed me of it. He informed me also, 
that this year the importation of Negro slaves 



410 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

into Egypt will amount to twenty thousand. 
The caravans from the interior countries of 
Africa do not. arrive here uniformly every year ; 
they are sometimes absent two or three years. 

" Among a dozen of Sennaar slaves, I saw 
three personable men, of a good bright olive 
color, of vivacious and intelligent countenances; 
but they had all three (which first attracted 
my notice) heads uncommonly formed ; the 
forehead was the narrowest, the longest, and 
most protuberant I ever saw. Many of these 
slaves speak a few words of the Arab lan 
guage ; but whether they learned them before 
or since their captivity I cannot tell. 

"A caravan goes from here to Fezzan, 
which they call a journey of fifty days ; and 
from Fezzan to Tombuctou, which they call a 
journey of ninety days. The caravans travel 
about twenty miles a day, which makes the 
distance on the road from here to Fezzan 
one thousand miles ; and from Fezzan to Tom 
buctou, one thousand eight hundred miles. 
From here to Sennaar is reckoned six hun 
dred miles. I have been waiting several days 
to have an interview with the Jelabs, who go 
from hence to Sennaar. I am told that they 
carry, in general, trinkets ; but among other 
things soap, antimony, red linen, razors, scis 
sors, mirrors, beads j and, as far as I can yet 



JOHN LEDYARD. 411 

learn, they bring from Sennaar elephants teeth, 
the gum called here gum Sennaar, camels, os 
trich feathers, and slaves. 

" Wangara is talked of here as a place pro 
ducing much gold, and as a kingdom; all ac 
counts, and there are many, agree in this. The 
King of Wangara (whom I hope to see in 
about three months after leaving this) is said 
to dispose of just what quantity he pleases 
of his gold ; sometimes a great deal, and some 
times little or none ; and this, it is said, he 
does to prevent strangers knowing how rich 
he is, and that he may live in peace." 

In a letter to the Association are expressed 
his undiminished zeal in their cause, the high 
motives which impelled him onward, and his 
utter indifference to everything but the success 
of his undertaking. 

lt Money ! it is a vile slave ! I have at pres 
ent an economy of a more exalted kind to 
observe. I have the eyes of some of the first 
men of the first kingdom on earth turned 
upon me. I am engaged, by those very men, 
in the most important object that any private 
individual can be engaged in. I have their 
approbation to acquire or to lose ; and their 
esteem, also, which I prize beyond everything, 
except the independent idea of serving man 
kind. Should rashness or desperation carry 



412 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

me through, whatever fame the vain and inju 
dicious might bestow, I should not accept of 
it ; it is the good and great I look to. Fame 
bestowed by them is altogether different, and 
is closely allied to a < Well done from God. 
But rashness will not be likely to carry me 
through, any more than timid caution. To 
find the necessary medium of conduct, to vary 
and apply it to contingencies, is the economy 
I allude to ; and if I succeed by such means, 
men of sense in any succeeding epoch will not 
blush to follow me, and perfect those discov 
eries which I have only abilities to trace out 
roughly, or a disposition to attempt. A Turk 
ish sopha has no charms for me ; if it had, I 
could soon obtain one here. Believe me, a 
single < Well done from your Association has 
more worth in it to me than all the trappings 
of the East ; and what is still more precious 
is, the pleasure I have in the justification of 
my own conduct at the tribunal of my own 
heart." 

On the 15th of November he again wrote 
to Mr. Jefferson, as follows. 

" This is my third letter to you from Egypt. 
I should certainly write to the Marquis de La 
fayette, if I knew where to find him. I speak 
of him often among the French at Cairo. But 
if our news here, with respect to the affairs 



JOHN LEDYARD. 413 

of France, be authentic, he would hardly find 
time to read my letter, if his active spirit is 
employed in the conflict in proportion to its 
powers. It is possible, however, that my com 
pliments may reach him, and I desire it may 
be through your means. Tell him that I love 
him, and that the French patriots in Cairo 
call on the name of Suffrein and Lafayette, 
the one for point-blank honesty, and the other 
as the soldier and the courtier. The old vet 
eran in finance and civil economy, Mr. Necker, 
is welcome to the helm. 

" I have now been in Cairo three months, 
and it is within a few days only that I have 
had any certainty of being able to proceed in 
the prosecution of my voyage. The difficul 
ties that have attended me have occupied me 
day and night. I should otherwise not only 
have written to you oftener, but should have 
given you some little history of what I have 
heard and seen. My excuse now is, that I am 
doing up my baggage for my journey, and 
most curious baggage it is. I shall leave 
Cairo in two or three days. 

11 Perhaps I should not have pleased you, if 
I had written much in detail. I think I know 
your taste for ancient history ; it does not 
comport with what experience teaches me. 
The enthusiastic avidity with which you 



414 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

search for treasures in Egypt, and I suppose 
all over the East, ought in justice to the world, 
and your own generous propensities, to be 
modified, corrected, and abated. I should have 
written you the truth. It is disagreeable to 
hear it, when habit has accustomed one to 
falsehood. You have the travels of Savary in 
this country. Burn them. Without entering 
into a discussion that would be too long for 
a letter, I cannot tell you why I think most 
historians have written more to satisfy them 
selves than to benefit others. I am certainly 
very angry with those, who have written of 
the countries where I have travelled, and of 
this particularly. They have all more or less 
deceived me. In some cases, perhaps, it is 
difficult to determine which does the most 
mischief, the self-love of the historian or the 
curiosity of the reader ; but both together have 
led us into errors, that it is now too late to 
rectify. You will think my head is turned, to 
write you such a letter from Egypt ; but the 
reason is. I do not intend it shall be turned. 
" I have passed my time disagreeably here. 
Religion does more mischief in Egypt than all 
other things, and here it has always done more 
than in most other places. The humiliating 
situation of a Prank would be insupportable 
to me, except for my voyage. It is a shame 



JOHN LEDYARD. 415 

to the sons of Europe, that they should suffer 
such arrogance at the hands of a banditti of 
ignorant fanatics. I assure myself, that even 
your curiosity and love of antiquity would not 
detain you in Egypt three months. 

: Prom Cairo I am to travel southwest about 
three hundred leagues to a black king. Then 
my present conductors will leave me to my 
fate. Beyond, I suppose I shall go alone. I 
expect to cut the continent across between the 
parallels of twelve and twenty degrees of north 
latitude. If possible, I shall write you from 
the kingdom of this black gentleman. If not, 
do not forget me in the interval of time 
which may pass during my voyage from thence 
to Europe, arid as likely to France as any 
where. I shall not forget you j indeed, it will 
be a consolation to think of you in my last 
moments. Be happy." 

This is the last letter which Ledyard is 
known to have written, either to Mr. Jefferson 
or to any other person. He wrote to the sec 
retary of the Association, probably by the same 
conveyance, stating that, after much vexatious 
delay, all things were at last ready for his de 
parture, and that his next communication might 
be expected from Sennaar. The Aga had 
given him letters of recommendation, his pas 
sage was engaged, the terms settled, and the 



416 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

day fixed, on which the caravan was to leave 
Cairo. He wrote in good spirits and apparent 
health, and the confidence of the Association 
had never been more firm, nor their hopes 
more sanguine, than at this juncture. Their 
extreme disappointment may well be imagined, 
therefore, when the next letters from Egypt 
brought the melancholy intelligence of his 
death. 

During his residence at Cairo, his pursuits 
had made it necessary for him to be much ex 
posed to the heat of the sun, and to other 
deleterious influences of the climate, at the 
most unfavorable season of the year. The 
consequence was an attack of a bilious com 
plaint, which he thought to remove by the 
common remedy of vitriolic acid. Whether 
this was administered by himself, or by some 
other person, is riot related ; but the quantity 
taken was so great as to produce violent and 
burning pains, that threatened to be fatal, un 
less immediate relief could be procured. This 
was attempted by a powerful dose of tartar 
emetic. But all was in vain. The best med 
ical skill in Cairo was called to his aid with 
out effect ; and he closed his life of vicissitude 
an.1 toil, at the moment when he imagined his 
severest cares were over, and the prospects be 
fore him were more Haltering than they had 



JOHN LEDYARD. 417 

been at any former period. He was decently 
interred, and all suitable respect was paid to 
his obsequies by such, friends as he had found 
among the European residents in the capital 
of Egypt. 

The precise day of his death is not known, 
but the event is supposed to have happened 
towards the end of November, 1788. He was 
then in the thirty-eighth year of his age. 

So much has been drawn from the travel 
ler s own writings in the preceding narrative, 
that nothing can be added to make the reader 
better acquainted with the constitution of his 
mind, the qualities of his heart, or the charac 
teristics of his genius. Mr. Beaufoy s descrip 
tion of him is short, but discriminating, and 
the more worthy of regard as having been 
founded on personal knowledge. 

" To those who have never seen Mr. Led- 
yard it may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to 
know, that his person, though scarcely exceed 
ing the middle size, was remarkably expressive 
of activity and strength ; and that his man 
ners, though unpolished, were neither uncivil 
nor unpleasing. Little attentive to difference 
of rank, he seemed to consider all men as his 
equals, and as such he respected them. His 
genius, though uncultivated and irregular, was 
original and comprehensive. Ardent in his 
VOL. xiv. 27 



418 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

wishes, yet calm in his deliberations ; daring 
in his purposes, but guarded in his measures ; 
impatient of control, yet capable of strong en 
durance ; adventurous beyond the conception 
of ordinary men, yet wary and considerate, and 
attentive to all precautions, he appeared to be 
formed by Nature for achievements of hardi 
hood and peril." 

Mr. Seymour, who knew him intimately 
for many years, has described his person as 
follows ; " He was above the middle stature ; 
not tall nor corpulent ; athletic, firm, and ro 
bust ; with light eyes and hair, aquiline nose, 
broad shoulders, and full chest." 

His letters afford convincing proofs of his 
kind and amiable disposition, gratitude to his 
benefactors, humanity, and disinterestedness. 
This last virtue, indeed, he practised to an ex 
cess. No man ever acted with less regard to 
self, or on a broader scale of philanthropy and 
general good. That he finally accomplished 
little, compared with the magnitude of his de 
signs, was his misfortune, but not his fault. 
Had he been less eccentric, however, in some 
of his peculiarities, more attentive to his im 
mediate interests, more regardful of the force 
of circumstances, it is possible that his efforts 
would have been rewarded with better success. 
The acts of his life demand notice less on 



JOHN LEDYARD. 419 

account of their results, than of the spirit with 
which they were performed, and the uncom 
mon traits of character which prompted to 
their execution. Such instances of decision, 
energy, perseverance, fortitude, and enterprise, 
have rarely been witnessed in the same indi 
vidual j and, in the exercise of these high at 
tributes of miad, his example cannot be too 
much admired or imitated. 



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