Philology—Structure of the Indian languages—Letter from Mr. Duponceau—Question of the philosophy of the Chippewa syntax—Letter from a Russian officer on his travels in the West—Queries on the physical history of the North—Leslie Duncan, a maniac—Arwin on the force of dissipation—Missionary life on the sources of the Mississippi—Letter from Mr. Boutwell—Theological Review—The Territory of Michigan, tired of a long delay, determines to organize a State Government.
1834. Oct. 11th. Mr. Peter S. Duponceau, of Philadelphia, addresses me on the structure of the Indian languages, in terms which are very complimentary, coming, as they do, as a voluntary tribute from a person whom I never saw, and who has taken the lead in investigations on this abtruse topic in America. “I have read,” he remarks, “with very great pleasure, your interesting narrative of the expedition to the sources of the Mississippi, and particularly your lectures on the Chippewa language, and the vocabulary which follows it. It is one of the most philosophical works on the Indian languages I have ever read; it gives a true view of their structure, without exaggeration or censure, and must satisfy the mind of every rational man. It is a matter of sincere regret that you have proceeded in your lectures no farther than the noun, and your vocabulary no farther than the letter B. It is much to be hoped that the work will be completed. I should hope that our government could have no objection to printing it at its expense, as a national work, indispensably necessary for the instruction of our agents and interpreters, and even the military officers employed among the Indians.”
[Footnote 75: This was begun thirteen years afterwards, when a general investigation into the subject of the Indians generally, was directed by Congress, and placed in my hands. Vide Information respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. Part I. Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1851.]
“The Chippewa, like the Algonquin of old, is the common language of business among the Indians, and is as necessary among them as the French is in the courts of Europe. The object of this letter, sir, is to be informed whether the remainder of the work is to be published. If government will not do it, some of our learned societies might. At any rate, sir, if my services can be of use to you for this object, I shall be happy to do everything in my power to aid it.”
[Footnote 76: The languages are, in fact, identical in structure; the word Chippewa being a comparatively modern term, which was not used by the old French writers of the missionary era.]