AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS. Lecture by Bishop Lynch, oh Charleston, South Carolina.
Ladies and gentlemen : The subject to which I call your attention is one that has excited interest in every man. What was the history of America before its discovery by Columbus? Who inhabited it, who worked its mines, who reared its mounds and its ancient cities? To us in America this is a subject of deeper interest, and to you more especially, citizens of St. Louis, in whose vicinity is one of those curious problems of a forgotten race—an Indian mound. At the time when Columbus anchored his giant vessels in the lovely harbor of St. Domingo, the inhabitants in one part were mere fishers and hunters, in others they had worked copper mines on Lake Superior, and down in Alabama, and in Mexico they had reared gorgeous cities whose architecture presented features so similar to others of world-wide reputation in the old world that I shall allude to it at great length in another part of my lecture. All through the valley of the Mississippi, mounds of different construction had been reared, and an unequal but high civilization was spread over the continent. Whence came this civilization ? Whence, indeed came these inhabitants ? Whence came the men who reared those mounds and caused those terraces, and built these ancient cities, and worked these mines? These are the questions to which I propose to draw your attention. Some writers have suggested that the aborigines came from the islands of the Polynesian archipelago ; that bands of wandering and adventurous spirits strayed from island to island, until their confidence increasing with their experience, they set sail in the confident expectation of meeting an island in two or three days’ sail from the point of their departure. But day after day passed on, the sun arose, climbed up the empyrean and buried himself beneath the still waters again and again, and yet no land came and no blue speck gave promise of rest and food. Till at length when hope had almost become despair, and they sailed on because the wind blew in that direction, when expectation no longer directed their eyes to the eastward, in the fullness of time the bold seacoast of California challenged their admiration and renewed their hopes. That from this point they spread themselves over the two continents, and that the strongest proof of this theory will be found in the strong resemblanco which exists between our Indians and the Polynesian islanders. Others again, arguing that the vessels or rather canoes of those of whom we have spoken were too frail for such a voyage, have determined that America was peopled from the East of Asia, and that the inhabitants came by way of Kamchatka across Behring’s Straits where some unusually severe winter had frozen the channel and afforded a natural bridge for the adventurers ; that they had then spread themselves in a downward direction from the North pole down to the Atlantic and the snows of Patagonia. Others again are of the opinion that America had its own Adam and Eve, but this I merely mention as an instance of the wildness of conjecture on this particular subject. It is an acknowledged fact, and one proved by tha utmost philosophic inquiry, that we are all the children of one parent. My own opinion is that the inhabitants of this country came from the East and by water across tbe Atlantic. In holy writ we read that the sons of Japhet spread themselves over their territories by water, and Tacitus, in speaking of the early emigrations of nations, inclines also to the belief that this was by water rather than by land, and be instances the people bordering on the Mediterranean. But this may be laid down as an established fact, that whenever classes of men have migrated of their own free will, not influenced by peculiar conditions, they have set their faces westward. I might appeal to the similarity of type, but I think it so unnecessary that I shall take it as an established fact that America was peopled by the sons of Japhet. The questions than occurs. At what time? When did they come? Although we cannot prove this, we can at least reason on it with some probability. About the time when the sons of Japhet commenced to spread themselves, the age of man had already begun to be shorter. Immediately after the deluge it had been nine hundred years, but as time progressed it dwindled down to the present average length of threescore years and ten. At the time the human race was in a transition-stage, its condition was eminently plastic, influences surrounding it impressed it, left their mark upon it, and at men went to and fro, and human nature was exposed to vastly dissimilar influences of climate, food, associations of scenery and so on, modifications were produced varying in intensity according to tho influences brought to bear upon it. So long as the human race continued in this plastic stage these modifications went on, but when it arrived at its normal stage, or at maturity, the period of transition passed away and the modifications became fixed types. In this manner and by these imitations we account in the philosophical spirit for those extraordinary differences we find in the human family. Now applying this law to the people of America, I would infer that the emigration took place a little before the close of this transition period. Before, because, though the American more closely resembles the old Phoenician than either the Malay or the Tartar, yet there was a decided modification. Only a little before, because in America itself we And uo modification of the American type, and had time permitted there would doubtless have been.
They spread from the North to the South, from the Arctic to the Antarctic zone, yet everywhere we find the evidences that the population was of one family. Therefore, we logically infer that after the first modification from the Japhetic type, the transition stage closed, and there was no subsequent change. This, however, is purely ethnological. East of Asia, we find neither among the Malays, nor the Chinese, nor Japanese, any record, mention, or hint or glance at any America, but this is not the case with regard to Europe. There we see obscure but unmistakable traces of a knowledge of America. The Phoenicians were a maritime people; intelligent and curious; daring and prosperous; great in commerce; insatiable in luxury. Three thousand years have passed away since their nationality was in its prime and its height of glory; yet the traveler who visits the eastern shores of the Mediterranean is thunderstruck at the imperishable evidence of their skill and their genius. He sees their acqueducts of mossy blocks of stone, as it were the parts of some giant city. He treads with hushed footstep through avenues of pillars; through fallen frieze and arcbitrave; through rained temple and abandoned palace. Everywhere around him are the evidence! of a mechanical knowledge, which will leave small room to boast to us, even, who possess steam, hydraulic presses, and a long array of formidable engines. Who, to-day, would undertake to build Solomon’s temple, to carve the stone, to saw the wood with such exactness that, as it rose in solemn, mystic beauty, the ear heard no sound of hammer, nor grating of saw, nor striking of iron tool? Who shall tell the limits of the capacity of men who, in Tyre and Sidon, and in later days in Carthage, built the long ships that sailed to Spain and Portugal, to Ireland and to England. There is a story of a merchant named Hanno, who, sailing past the Lymphegades, past the Sicilian Promontory, past the pillars of Hercules, went south down the coast of Africa, and breasted the great billows of the ceaselessly heaving Atlantic. Days grew to months, months, to years, but the adventurer kept ever onward, till having doubled the Cape of Good Hope, he arrived, after three years and ten months, in an Egyptian port in the Red Sea. Are we to believe that this adventurous race, who turned their high-curved prows to the north and to the South, to the Cassiterides, and to Ophir and Havilah, never looked toward the westward?
We have no Phoenician records to prove that they did; they were chary of the secrets of their commerce and of their arts, and he who revealed the latter committed a sin against the State, whole penalty was death. Yet in Egyptian annals and Greek story we have a faint trace, a twilight revelation of a knowledge of America. Diodorus Siculus tells of a vast purple land opposite Africa, which was watered by great navigable rivers and he called it Atlantis. I need not quote from Proculus Severus, from Origen, from Porphyry, from Plato, in support of this. Yet Plato affirms that an Egyptian priest gave Solon a long account of Atlantis, and indeed at the same time made no allusion to the deluge, though his idea was strangely distorted from Biblical truth. It would be interesting, but perhaps it might be thought a little out of place to-night, to quote more largely from ancient authors, but I have done so to sufficiently to convey the idea that a vague, ill-defined knowledge of America was pretty general amongst the ancients. But ft it be presumed that the Phoenicians visited this country, it is natural to inquire, Where are their traces? And it is really hard to say what future investigation may not bring to light on this very branch of the subject. It must be remembered that commerce is not of a nature to leave enduring trace; the sailor is the last person who would rear to heaven some lofty memorial of his having visited a foreign shore. Yet there are traces. The mines of the country were worked, the mine* of Iake Superior indeed very largely. Shafts were there, and galleries, marks of tools upon the ore, and masses of ore detached from the rock and ready for removal. Nor were the gold mines of North Carolina and Georgia overlooked. They also, were worked, and crucibles and masses of ancient furman (furnaces ? T.’O C.) found in their neighborhood. Indeed, I saw lately in a newspaper an account of an old lead mine, in which a vein bad been opened and ore extracted, where the band of Time through hundreds of years bad closed it up with earth. But this I do not vouch for as a fact, since newspapers cannot be considered good authority for scientific facts. Now, who worked those mines? The Indians? Not much. Who then? Why, this was the special, the particular element of Phoenician industry—the unfailing incentive to Phoenician enterprise. They went to the Cassiterides for tin; they ransacked Spain for silver; they sailed far down the coasts of Africa for gold. Was not the auri sacra fames as strong in them as in the Anglo Saxon of to-day, and does it not drive him to California, or to Australia, or to the territories, or wherever the glittering metal must abounds? So with the Phoenician of those days. The young and (be adventurous set sail in search of new countries to explore, new mines to work. The Phoenicians must have been the workers of these mine.
The right reverend gentleman then passed from tbo land of oonjeotur. to the region of facts, and dwelt with evident pleasure upon the discovery of Greenland by the lcelanders, and the religious character of the people and their taste for literature. He traced the history of the colony in Greenland from its discovery in 878, until the moment when communication ceased shortly before the brilliant discoveries of Columbus. His lecture, though a subject difficult of comprehension to the masses, was a treat to the historian, and was handled well and scholarly.