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Ohio Becomes English
by [?]

Neither the French nor the English had any right to the Ohio country which they both claimed. If it belonged to any people of right, it belonged to the savages, who held it in their way before the whites came, and who now had to choose which nation should call itself their master. They chose the French, and they chose wisely for themselves as savages; for, as I have said, if the French had prevailed in the war that was coming, the Indians could have kept their forests and lived their forest life as before. The French would have been satisfied in the West as they had been in the North, with their forts and trading stations, and the Indians could have hunted, and fished, and trapped, as they had always done. In fact, the French people would often have become like them. They understood the Indians and liked them; sometimes they mated with them, and their children grew up as wild as their mothers. The religion that the French priests taught the Indians, pleased while it awed them, and it scarcely changed their native customs.

Wherever the English came, the Indians’ woods were wasted, and the Indians were driven out of the land.

The English tried neither to save their souls nor to win their hearts; they both hated and despised the savages, and ruthlessly destroyed them. Now, when the smoldering strife between the French and English in the West burst into an open flame of war between the two nations, the Western tribes took the side of those whom reason and instinct taught them to know as their best friends.

But ten years after Celoron visited Ohio, Wolfe captured Quebec, and France gave up to England not only the whole of Canada, but the whole of the vast region between the lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, and kept for herself only the Province of Louisiana. The Indians were left to their fate, and they made what terms they could with the English. They promised peace, but they broke their promises, and constantly harassed the outlying English settlements. At one time they joined together under the great chief Pontiac, and tried to win back the West for themselves. The French forts had been ceded to Great Britain and garrisoned with British troops, and the allied Indians now took all of these but Detroit and Fort Pitt. In the end they failed, and then they made peace again, but still they kept up their forays along the English borders. They stole horses and cattle, they burned houses and barns, they killed men, women, and children, or carried them off into captivity. In the Ohio country alone their captives counted hundreds, though the right number could never be known, for they could easily be kept out of the way when the tribes were summoned to give them up.

It was the same story in the West that it had been in the East, and the North, and the South, wherever the savages fell upon the lonely farms or the scattered hamlets of the frontiers, and it was not ended until our own day, when the Indians were at last shut up in reservations.

It was their custom to carry off the women and children. If the children were hindered the march of their mothers, or if they cried and endangered or annoyed their captors, they were torn a hawked, or their brains were dashed out against the trees. But if they were well grown, and strong enough to keep up with the rest, they were hurried sometimes hundreds of miles into the wilderness. There the fate of all prisoners was decided in solemn council of the tribe. If any men had been taken, especially such as had made a hard fight for their freedom and had given proof of their courage, they were commonly tortured to death by fire in celebration of the victory won over them; though it sometimes happened that young men who had caught the fancy or affection of the Indians were adopted by the fathers of sons lately lost in battle. The older women became the slaves and drudges of the squaws and the boys and girls were parted from their mothers and scattered among the savage families. The boys grew up hunters and trappers, like the Indian boys, and the girls grew up like the Indian girls, and did the hard work which the warriors always left to the women. The captives became as fond of their wild, free life as the savages themselves, and they found wives and husbands among the youths and maidens of their tribe. If they were given up to their own people, as might happen in the brief intervals of peace, they pined for the wilderness, which called to their homesick hearts, and sometimes they stole back to it. They seem rarely to have been held for ransom, as the captives of the Indians of the Western plains were in our time. It was a tie of real love that bound them and their savage friends together, and it was sometimes stronger than the tie of blood. But this made their fate all the crueler to their kindred; for whether they lived or whether they died, they were lost to the fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters whom they had been torn from; and it was little consolation to these that they had found human mercy and tenderness in the breasts of savages who in all else were like ravening beasts. It was rather an agony added to what they had already suffered to know that somewhere in the trackless forests to the westward there was growing up a child who must forget them. The time came when something must be done to end all this and to put a stop to the Indian attacks on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The jealous colonies united with the jealous mother country, and a little army of British regulars and American recruits was sent into Ohio under the lead of Colonel Henry Bouquet to force the savages to give up their captives.