Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/July 1897/Sketch of Horatio Hale

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GREAT advances have been made by ethnologists of the present generation in the study of the languages of the American aborigines and in the investigation of primitive linguistics. The pioneer in these researches, one whose efforts have been among the most fruitful, the one who perhaps has so far gone deepest into the investigation, was Horatio Hale, who died at Clinton, Ontario, December 29, 1896. "By his death," says his fellow-student in this subject. Dr. Franz Boas, in The Critic, "ethnology has lost a man who contributed more to our knowledge of the human races than perhaps any other single student." The sketch that follows was carefully prepared nearly two years before Mr. Hale's death. Although a few changes of form might have been proper to adapt it to the present date, we prefer to publish it as it was left, only inserting a few words respecting Mr. Hale's distinguished mother.

Hale, Horatio, M. A., ethnologist and lawyer, was born on May 3, 1817, at Newport, N. H. His father, David Hale, was a leading lawyer of that town, and his mother, Sarah Josepha, after her husband's death in 1822, became well known in American literature as a highly esteemed author and editor. [Her nursery poem, Mary had a Little Lamb, has endeared her to children's hearts, and other fugitive productions of hers have become widely familiar. She was for one year less than a half century editor of the Ladies' Magazine, Boston, and, after its merger in that periodical, of Godey's Ladies' Book, Philadelphia, which had an immense circulation for its day and was a living force in shaping the tastes and aims of American women. She was one of the earliest advocates of the advancement and higher education of women, and was the virtual founder of the engagement of women in foreign missionary service and of the Woman's Union Missionary Society for heathen lands. Through her urgency the women of New England contributed fifty thousand dollars toward the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument; and mainly through her urgency and correspondence with Governors of States and Presidents of the United States Thanksgiving Day was made a national festival.] Their son showed an early inclination for the study of languages, and particularly of the Oriental and aboriginal American tongues. At the age of sixteen he entered Harvard College. In the following year, when a party of Indians from Maine came to Massachusetts and encamped for a time on the college grounds, he took the opportunity of collecting a vocabulary of their dialect. This, with some accompanying remarks, was printed in 1834 in a small pamphlet, which was distributed among scholars interested in linguistic science. As a result of this and other like evidences of qualification he was appointed in 1837, the year of his graduation from the university, to the office of philologist and ethnographer in the United States Exploring Expedition to the Pacific, under Captain (afterward Admiral) Charles Wilkes. The expedition occupied the years from 1838 to 1842. Mr. Hale's report on Ethnography and Philology, composing the seventh volume of the expedition series, and filling nearly seven thousand quarto pages, appeared in 1846. It is devoted to the physical and mental characteristics, the customs, and the languages of the natives of the Pacific islands (including Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia), and of Australia, northwest America, Patagonia, and southern Africa. The eminent ethnologist. Dr. R. G. Latham, in the preface to his work on The Natural History of the Varieties of Man (1890), describes the contents of Mr. Hale's volume as "the greatest mass of philological data ever accumulated by a single inquirer." He quoted from it freely, as does also Prof. Max Müller in his Lectures on the Science of Language (second series), where he refers particularly to the "excellent Polynesian grammar."

The two portions of this volume which attracted most attention at the time of its publication, and have since most materially influenced the sciences to which it related, are the section which treats of the migrations of the oceanic islanders and that which is devoted to the tribes of northwestern America. The first of these sections, by a large accumulation of traditional and linguistic evidence, determined the origin of the Polynesians from a single island of the Malaisian Archipelago, and fixed not only the probable time and place of their first appearance as emigrants in the Pacific Ocean, but also the period of their settlement in each of the principal groups, showing that both the original migration and the subsequent dispersion were events of comparatively recent occurrence, probably beginning but little before the Christian era, and that the dispersion was, in fact, still going on in our century. The other portion made known for the first time the extraordinary number and variety of languages in northwestern America. The "ethnographical map" prepared by the author showed in what was then the Oregon Territory, comprising the present States of Oregon and Washington, no less than thirty languages and dialects, belonging to twelve distinct stocks, differing totally from one another in both vocabulary and grammar. This is more than twice the number of stocks that are found in the whole of Europe. These and other similar facts led to a theory afterward proposed by Mr. Hale to explain them, as will presently be recorded.

After the publication of this report Mr. Hale spent a few years in foreign travel and in the study of law, and in 1855 was admitted to the bar of Illinois at Chicago. In the following year he removed with his family to Canada West, taking up his abode in the then newly formed town of Clinton, on an estate which had descended to his wife, a lady of Anglo-Canadian birth. Here he has since devoted his time partly to professional pursuits and to local undertakings of public utility, and partly to scientific researches. For the latter, an ample field was found among the Indians inhabiting the many "reserves" which the considerate legislation of the various provinces has set apart for them. One of the most important of these is the "Six Nations' Reserve," near Brantford, occupied by about three thousand Indians, mostly Iroquois, but with several groups belonging to other stocks. Here he had the good fortune of discovering two native manuscripts in different Iroquoian dialects—Canienga (or Mohawk) and Onondaga—one of them dating from about the middle of the last century (soon after the language was reduced to writing by the missionaries), which proved to be of much historical and ethnological interest. They gave an account of the renowned confederation of the Five (afterward Six) Nations, or Iroquois tribes, which was formed about four hundred years ago, under the celebrated Onondaga chief Hiawatha. This great chief and lawgiver, whom Longfellow, following Schoolcraft's lead (though well aware of the absurd misapplication of the name), has transported to the shores of Lake Superior and converted into an Ojibway hero of romance, was a genuine historical personage, as authentic as Alfred or Washington. At the request of the. distinguished ethnologist. Dr. D. G. Brinton, Mr. Hale prepared a translation of these manuscripts, which was published in 1883 in Dr. Brinton's well-known Library of American Aboriginal Literature, with several introductory chapters on the history, customs, and character of the Iroquois people, the whole forming an octavo volume of about 220 pages. Of this work, which is entitled The Iroquois Book of Rites, the eminent historian and philologist. Dr. J. G. Shea, has said: "It is a philosophical and masterly treatise on the Iroquois league and the cognate tribes, their relations, language, mental characteristics, and policy, such as we have never before had of any nation of this continent." The American Journal of Philology adds: "Mr. Hale's book is likely to make an epoch in North American Indian history, giving as it does a clearer insight than we have had before into the political constitution and fortunes and the personal character of the famous 'Six Nations,' who played so prominent a part in the land before and during the. Revolutionary War."

On the same reserve Mr. Hale made another notable discovery. He had heard that there was living on the reserve an Indian of great age—reputed, indeed, to be over a century old—who was believed to be the last full-blooded survivor of the once numerous Tutelo tribe. This tribe formerly inhabited Virginia and North Carolina, and migrated thence in the last century to Pennsylvania and New York, where they united with the Iroquois "nations," and finally removed with them to Canada. Mr. Hale visited this old man, and obtained from him and some intelligent half-castes (of Tutelo-Iroquois origin) an extensive vocabulary of their language, with many historical facts, which showed them to be beyond question members of the great Dakota (or Siouan) stock of the far West. It also appeared that other tribes near them spoke the same language. The fact that septs of their widespread family anciently dwelt east of the Alleghanies, and in all probability occupied this North Atlantic portion of the continent before its invasion by the Iroquois and Algonkin tribes, was an important and unexpected addition to aboriginal history. The particulars of this discovery were given in a paper of considerable length, entitled The Tutelo Tribe and Language, which appeared in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, and was thence reprinted in pamphlet form. It naturally aroused much interest among American ethnologists.

In 1882 Mr. Hale, as a member of a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which met in that year in Montreal, took part in organizing the first meeting of the Section of Anthropology in that association; and, somewhat remarkably, two years later in the same city he was one of the committee of the British Association which organized the first meeting of the like section in that world-renowned society. These facts afford evidence both of the recent rise and progress of this branch of science and of the position held by Mr. Hale among its cultivators. At this meeting of the British Association a proposal of the first president of the new section, the distinguished anthropologist. Dr. E. B. Tylor, resulted in the appointment of a committee "to investigate the physical character, languages, and industrial and social condition of the Northwestern tribes of the Dominion of Canada." Of this committee Mr. Hale was a member, having among his colleagues the late eminent President of Toronto University, Sir Daniel Wilson, and Dr. G. M. Dawson, of the Geological Survey of Canada. In compliance with the unanimous request of his colleagues, Mr. Hale undertook the office of director of the investigations and editor of the reports—an office which, under the rules of the association, involved his temporary withdrawal from the committee. Of these reports eight have already appeared, and another, designed to be the final report, is now (January, 1895) in course of preparation. The first report, which was on the Tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy (who, though belonging to the Algonkin family, may from their character and achievements be styled the Iroquois of the Northwest), was prepared by Mr. Hale, partly from his own minutes, gathered in Oregon in former years, and partly from materials supplied by his correspondence with two highly esteemed missionaries, Catholic and Methodist—the Rev. Father Albert Lacombe and the Rev. Dr. John McLean. This report was presented in 1885, and proved of so much interest that before it appeared in the association's volume it was published in the English periodical Nature, and was thence reprinted in the American Popular Science Monthly. In this report, as well as in his annotations on the third report, prepared partly by his experienced collaborator, the Rev. E. F. Wilson (well known as the founder of the Shingwauk Home at the Sault Ste. Marie), Mr. Hale sought to show that the remarkable superiority of the Blackfoot Indians to the other Algonkins is due to an admixture of blood with the Kootenays of British Columbia, whose singular mental endowments are set forth in two of the subsequent reports, the sixth and eighth. All the reports after the third, with the exception of the eighth, which is by Dr. A. F. Chamberlain, formerly of Toronto University and now of Clark University, Worcester, Mass., have been prepared by Dr. Franz Boas, formerly editor of Science, who, like Mr. Wilson and Dr. Chamberlain, was invited by Mr. Hale to carry on the investigations. The reports, usually prefaced by introductory remarks of the editor, have been of considerable length, some of them comprising many pictorial illustrations, and have proved a conspicuous feature of the recent volumes of the British Association. They have been considered of so much importance that the Canadian Parliament has twice supplemented by considerable money grants the sums liberally appropriated for the committee's work by the British Association. The fifth report contained a colored "linguistic map" of British Columbia, prepared at Mr. Hale's suggestion, and supplementing his ethnographical map of Oregon, already noticed. This British Columbian map showed five linguistic stocks, additional to the twelve stocks comprised in the Oregon map, thus evidencing the existence of no less than seventeen language families in an area not larger than the British Islands. This remarkable fact, with some similar instances in other parts of the world, offered one of the most perplexing enigmas of philological science.

This enigma Mr. Hale undertook to solve in an address delivered in 1886 before the Section of Anthropology in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which association he had been elected one of the vice-presidents and chairman of that section. The address was on The Origin of Languages and the Antiquity of Speaking Man. In this essay he maintained that the human race, when first endowed with articulate language, was necessarily of one community and one speech, and that the origin of the various linguistic stocks is due to a force which is in constant activity, and which may be styled "the language-making instinct of very young children." Many instances of languages thus spontaneously created by children were given; and in a later paper on the Development of Language, read before the Canadian Institute of Toronto, in 1888, as a sequel to the address, and published in the Journal of the Institute and afterward separately, further evidence was produced to show that the words and grammar of such languages might, and in many cases probably would, be totally different from those of the parental speech. In the original address the fact was pointed out that in the first peopling of every country, when, from various causes, families must often be scattered at wide distances from one another, many cases must have occurred where two or more young children of different sexes, left by the death of their parents to grow up secluded from all other society, were thus compelled to frame a language of their own, which would become the mother-tongue of a new linguistic stock. It is evident that, along with their new language, these children and their descendants would have to devise a new religion, a new social policy, and in general new modes of life, except in so far as reminiscences of the parental example and teachings might direct or modify the workings of their minds. All these conclusions, it is affirmed by Mr. Hale, in his Introduction to the Committee's Sixth Report to the British Association, "accord precisely with the results of ethnographical investigations in America."

He further maintained that while, according to the evidence adduced by geologists, we must believe that a being who had the form and some of the faculties of man (including probably some partly developed power of speech) existed in the Quaternary era, many thousands and perhaps many ten thousands of years ago, all the evidence points to the conclusion that social man, of the existing species, fully endowed with the human faculties, including that of articulate speech, appeared only some seven or eight thousand years back; and, further, that when "speaking man" thus appeared, his mental like his physical capacity—though, of course, not his knowledge—was fully equal to the capacity of any of his descendants.

The solution thus offered of the linguistic problem was received with more prompt and general favor than is usually accorded to novel theories. Prof. Abel Hovelacque, well known as one of the most eminent philologists and ethnologists of Europe, and now the official director of the School of Anthropology in Paris, reviewed the address of 1886 at length in the periodical L'Homme for September of that year, and, while dissenting from some of its physiological suggestions recommended the philological conclusion very strongly to the attention of scholars. Prof. Sayce, in his presidential address of 1887 to the Section of Anthropology in the British Association, spoke in equally commendatory terms, merely asking for some additional evidence, which the author of the theory endeavored to supply in his Canadian Institute paper already referred to. Prof. G. J. Romanes, in his Mental Evolution of Man, quotes largely from Mr. Hale's address to the extent of nearly a fourth part of the whole essay accepting the author's conclusions and fortifying them by other evidence. Prof. Henry Drummond, in his recent work, The Ascent of Man, takes a similar view. Lastly, Dr. Brinton, in his important work on Races and Peoples (which he dedicates to Mr. Hale), has given his opinion on the subject in clear and decided terms. "Those convolutions of the brain" (he writes) "which preside over speech being once developed, man did not have to repeat his long and toilsome task of acquiring linguistic faculty. Children are always originating new words and expressions, and if two or three infants are left together, they will soon have a tongue of their own, unlike anything they hear around them. Numerous examples of this character have been collected by Mr. Hale, and upon them he has based an entirely satisfactory theory of the source of that multiplicity of language which we find in various parts of the globe."

In 1889 Mr. Hale was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. To their translations he contributed, in 1891, a paper entitled Language as a Test of Mental Capacity. This essay was also separately reprinted, with the additional title of An Attempt to demonstrate the Tone Basis of Anthropology, and attracted hardly less attention from ethnologists than his address of 1886. It received from the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland the unusual compliment of being republished in full in their quarterly journal—despite its length of thirty-six quarto pages. It was also reprinted in four sections in successive numbers of The American Antiquarian for the following year, under the title of Man and Language. A review of this paper in Nature (June 30, 1892)—anonymous, but bearing clear evidence of the style of Prof. Max Müller—speaks of Mr. Hale as "the Nestor of American philologists, and, at the same time, the Ulysses of comparative philology in that country," and of his paper as "an important essay." The eminent reviewer adds: "All his contributions to American ethnology and philology have been distinguished by their originality, accuracy, and trustworthiness. Every one of them makes a substantial addition to our knowledge, and, in spite of the hackneyed disapproval with which reviewers receive reprints of essays published in periodicals, it is much to be regretted that his essays have never been published in a collected form." In the North American Review for July, 1892, the distinguished President of McGill University, Sir J. William Dawson, refers to this "remarkable paper of Mr. Hale's" as "one which should commend itself to the study of every biblical scholar and archæologist." He adds: "In this paper Mr. Hale maintains the importance of language as a ground of ethnological classification, and there was his wide knowledge of the languages of American aborigines and other rude races to show that the grammatical complexity and logical perfection of those languages imply a high intellectual capacity in their original framers. . . . On similar grounds he shows us that it is not in the outlying barbarous races that we are to look for truly primitive man, since here we have merely degraded types, and that the primitive centers of man and language must have been in the old historic lands of western Asia and northern Africa."

In 1893 Mr. Hale was elected President of the American Folklore Society. He had previously contributed to the society's quarterly journal a series of articles on Huron Folklore from materials gathered in his visit to the "Underdon Reserve," on the Detroit River opposite to southern Michigan—the reserve appropriated to the small band of Wyandot Indians, less than a hundred, who alone in Canada retained the language, and with it the traditions, of the once numerous and powerful Huron people. In the same year he was invited to attend the International Congress of Anthropology, which was convened for the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago. To this congress he contributed a paper entitled The Fall of Hochelaga, a Study of Popular Tradition, which appeared in the volume of Memoirs of the congress, and also in the Journal of the American Folklore Society for March, 1894. In this paper he was enabled, by employing the same methods of research and analysis by which he had in early life traced out the Polynesian migrations of two millenniums, to elucidate, by the aid of traditions which had been preserved for more than four centuries among the Canadian Hurons, a singular historical mystery, which had long perplexed the writers of North American annals. When the explorer Jacques Cartier, in 1535, discovered and ascended the St. Lawrence River, he found its shores, from what is now the site of Quebec to what is now the site of Montreal, occupied by what he styled the "kingdom of Hochelaga." Its "great king and lord," from his capital at the last-named place, ruled over several communities of partly civilized Indians, who spoke a language of the Huron-Iroquois stock.

They lived in commodious bark-covered houses, cultivated extensive maize fields, and had encircled their chief town with a triple row of tree trunks, planted as palisades, and thus making it a fortress of great strength. When Champlain, nearly sixty years later, ascended the river for the purpose of founding near it a French colony, this "kingdom," with all its subject towns, had disappeared. "A few wandering Algonkins occupied, but hardly pretended to possess, the country which had been the seat of this lost empire." Its destruction has been generally ascribed to the attacks of these Algonkins. Mr. Hale's inquiries proved conclusively that this supposition was an error. The Huron traditions showed that in times long prior to Cartier's visit the Huron and Iroquois nations, speaking similar dialects, or perhaps the same dialect, had dwelt in unity near together along the St. Lawrence; that at length a rupture, of which the occasion and circumstances are minutely remembered, took place, followed by a desperate conflict; that this conflict caused at first the retreat of the Iroquois people to the region which is now northern New York; and, finally, after along-protracted warfare, resulted in the defeat of the Hurons and their expulsion from their former seats. The Algonkins, instead of being their enemies, were their friends and allies, and still remained, when Champlain arrived, the bitter enemies of the Iroquois.

This outline of Mr. Hale's scientific work may be properly concluded by an extract from a brief sketch of his life, which appeared in the Cyclopædia of Canadian Biography: "He contributed to periodicals in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, on scientific and literary topics, and has taken particular interest in educational matters. Through his efforts the Clinton High School and the Clinton Mechanics' Institute and Library Association were established, and he was for many years chairman of the High School Board and President of the Institute. While holding these positions he gave much time to correspondence and interviews with the Ontario authorities, and to the circulation of petitions to the Legislature, which resulted in largely increased public grants to the high schools and mechanics' institutes throughout the province, and in legislation which greatly enhanced their efficiency. One important result of the legislation thus promoted by Mr. Hale, it may be mentioned, was to secure the admission of female pupils into the high schools, on the same terms and with the same advantages which were allowed to male pupils—a privilege which had previously been denied to them. Mr. Hale has also taken part in various public enterprises, and, in especial, was chairman of the committee which secured the means for the construction of the London, Huron, and Bruce Railway—a successful work, which has added largely to the prosperity of the fertile and rapidly improving district through which it passes." Mr. Hale was an honorary or corresponding member of many learned societies, including, besides those mentioned in the foregoing sketch, the Anthropological Societies of Washington and Vienna, the Polynesian Society of Wellington, New Zealand, the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, the New England Historico-Genealogical Society, and several others.

A few days before his death Mr. Hale was notified by the Secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science that the Council of that body desired him to act as vice-president of the Section of Anthropology at the next meeting, at Toronto in 1897. The letter declining to accept this position, on account of failing health, was one of the last from his pen.

[Mr. Hale's first scientific publication was the first systematic contribution to the study of the Malaisian and Polynesian languages, and cast a flood of light on the subject at the outset. His last published contribution presented evidences that the native tribes of America possessed at the time of the discovery a higher degree of civilization than any one had before ascribed to them, evincing "intellectual and moral faculties of no mean order"; that they had established forms of government, a real money, "the elements of a written language, widely diffused, and employed especially in preserving, with happy effect, the memory of treaties of peace and alliance"; and a very high degree of generally diffused comfort. In preparing this paper for publication in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, for February, 1897, Mr. E. B, Tylor mentions having received, while writing, the intelligence of Mr. Hale's death with regret, but hardly with surprise, and adds: "The tone of his letters for months past had been that of a man looking toward the end of his work in life, and anxious to settle finally all matters he had much at heart. Among these were his investigations into the history of his friends the Iroquois and Hurons, to which he had given so much labor, and of which his last studies, undertaken to elucidate their native records, form a fit completion." At the conclusion of his tribute to Mr. Hale in The Critic, Dr. Franz Boas says: "His wise counsel, his amiable guidance, his kindly friendship, insure a grateful memory to him whose works students of ethnology and of linguistics will admire for all time to come. Science has lost a worker to whose enthusiasm and faithful labor we owe much; mankind has lost a man whose wisdom, kindness, and steadfastness it is hard to lack."]