William Robertson

William Robertson

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William Robertson, the son of Thomas Charles Robertson and his wife, Ann Dexter Beet, was born on 29th January 1860 at Welbourn, Lincolnshire. His father was village postmaster and it was a difficult struggle bringing up seven children.

Robertson left school at thirteen and worked as a domestic servant for Adeline, Countess of Cardigan, the wife of James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, at Deene Park, Northamptonshire. In November 1877 he enlisted in the British Army at Aldershot. His mother was furious when she heard and wrote to him claiming that "I would rather bury you than see you in a red coat".

His biographer, David R. Woodward, has pointed out: "Robertson's choice of an army career seemed an especially unfortunate one for someone without the advantages of birth, wealth, or education. The Victorian army was dominated by middle- and upper-class officers, and a ranker had little opportunity for self-improvement and advancement. But Robertson was not typical of his fellow troopers who devoted their free time to women and excessive drinking. Strong and athletic, he dominated troop competitions. But it was his intellect rather than his physical fitness that largely explains his extraordinary rise through the ranks."

At Aldershot, Robertson's progress was steady but not remarkable: lance-corporal (February 1879); corporal (April 1879); lance-sergeant (May 1881); sergeant (January 1882); and troop sergeant-major (March 1885). In 1888 he became second lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. Robertson was always uncomfortable about taking his meals in the officers' mess and he told his mother that he did not want them to know about "my previous life".

Robertson was sent to India and was attached to the intelligence branch at army headquarters at Shimla. Especially good at languages, he qualified in six Indian ones: Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Pashto, Punjabi, and Gurkhali. He also mastered German and French. In 1895 he was assigned to the intelligence staff of the Chitral Expedition. He was mentioned in dispatches and made DSO after he was attacked and wounded by native guides who were accompanying him on intelligence work.

While in India he married Mildred Adelaide, the second daughter of Lieutenant-General Charles Thomas Palin of the Indian Army. Over the next few years they had four children, Brian, Hugh, Rosamund and Helen. Robertson, unlike other officers, drank water instead of alcohol and did not smoke.

In December 1896 Captain Robertson returned to England. Having passed the entrance exam for the Camberley Staff College, he joined Britain's emerging military élite. Robertson was the first person to have enlisted as a private to be accepted by Camberley. Other junior officers at the college at this time included Douglas Haig, Edmund Allenby, Archibald Murray and George Milne. David R. Woodward has argued: "Robertson's intellectual mentor, the military theorist George F. R. Henderson, emphasized the concentration of forces in the primary theatre of the enemy in order to overwhelm his main force in a decisive battle. These principles served as a bond between Robertson and Haig when the two men dominated British military policy."

In 1900 Robertson joined the intelligence branch of the War Office, joined the intelligence branch of the headquarters staff of Lord Frederick Roberts in South Africa. After only nine months he returned to the War Office as head of the foreign military intelligence section. Over the next six years he followed a policy where Germany was considered the greatest strategic threat to Britain and promoted the idea of an alliance with France was essential to the security of the empire.

In December 1907 he replaced Archibald Murray as chief of general staff to General Horace Smith-Dorrien at Aldershot. In June 1910 he was appointed as commandant of the Camberley Staff College, and in December he was promoted to the rank of major-general. According to his biographer: "Taking a common-sense approach to the art of war, Robertson trained officers at Camberley to conduct retreats as well as advances. Application took precedence over theory." During this period he became very close to Frederick Maurice, a staff instructor at Camberley.

Robertson became director of military training in the War Office in October, 1913. He was disappointed by this appointment because he had a strong desire to command troops. As a result, the chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) promised him his own command in 1914. However, the outbreak of the First World War changed this arrangement as it was felt that at 55 he was too old to lead troops in fighting situations. Instead, he was appointed quartermaster-general of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and organised their supply during its thirteen-day retreat from Mons to the Marne.

On 25th January, 1915 General Robertson became chief of staff to General John French, commander of the BEF. Soon afterwards Robertson selected Frederick Maurice to take charge of the operations section at general headquarters. According to Maurice's biographer, Trevor Wilson: "They worked well together and Maurice was further promoted. Then in December Robertson was transferred to London to become chief of the Imperial General Staff and principal military adviser to the government. Maurice went with him, to become director of military operations at the War Office with the rank of major-general. At the War Office, Robertson and Maurice worked in agreement. They endorsed a strategy of concentrating Britain's military resources and operations on the western front against the armed might of Germany, and they resisted policies which would have directed Britain's endeavours towards lesser adversaries in more extraneous theatres."

Robertson became convinced that the war would be won on the Western Front. Robertson wrote on 8th February, 1915: "If the Germans are to be defeated they must be beaten by a process of slow attrition, by a slow and gradual advance on our part, each step being prepared by a predominant artillery fire and great expenditure of ammunition". His long-term friend, General Douglas Haig, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, agreed with this strategy. He wrote in his autobiography, From Private to Field-Marshall (1926): "There was never, so far as I know, any material difference of opinion between us in regard to the main principles to be observed in order to win the war."

The military historian, Llewellyn Woodward, has argued that Haig and Robertson should never have followed this policy: "His (Haig) knowledge of his profession was sound and solid; he was a man of strong nerve, resolute, patient, somewhat cold and reserved in temper, unlikely to be thrown off his balance either by calamity or success. He reached opinions slowly, and held to them. He made up his mind in 1915 that the war could be won on the Western Front, and only on the Western Front. He acted on this view, and, at the last, he was right, though it is open to argument not only that victory could have been won sooner elsewhere but that Haig's method of winning it was clumsy, tragically expensive of life, and based for too long on a misreading of the facts." Woodward has also questioned the morality of the policy of attrition. He described it as the "killing Germans until the German army was worn down and exhausted". Woodward argued that it "was not only wasteful and, intellectually, a confession of impotence; it was also extremely dangerous. The Germans might counter Haig's plan by allowing him to wear down his own army in a series of unsuccessful attacks against a skilful defence."

David R. Woodward has argued: "Assisted by his handpicked director of military operations, Sir Frederick B. Maurice, Robertson in his new role as chief of general staff attempted to solve the riddle of static trench warfare which had replaced the war of movement of the first months of the war. The ever-expanding system of earthworks had the property of an elastic band. They bent rather than broke. Robertson concluded that a decisive battle was unlikely so long as Germany had reserves to bring forward. To prevent the Germans from gradually giving ground while inflicting heavy losses on the attacker, Robertson and Maurice hoped to nail the defenders to their trenches by choosing an objective which the enemy considered strategically vital."

Distressed by the heavy casualties on the Western Front, some politicians began to question Robertson's military strategy. This resulted in the unwillingness of the government to introduce conscription in 1915 and increasing the number of soldiers serving in France. David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, sought theatres where both political and military gains might be made without engaging the main body of the German Army. However, their views were undermined by failed Gallipoli and Dardanelles ventures.

Herbert Henry Asquith, the prime minister, lost faith in Lord Kitchener, and instead began to trust Robertson. His position as the sole military adviser to the government was subsequently given constitutional authority in January 1916 by an order of council issued by George V. Robertson was now based in the War Office. Other changes included Douglas Haig replacing John French as commander-in-chief.

Robertson eventually got approval for a major offensive on the Western Front in the summer of 1916. The Battle of the Somme was planned as a joint French and British operation. The idea originally came from the French Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Joffre and was accepted by General Douglas Haig, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commander, despite his preference for a large attack in Flanders. Although Joffre was concerned with territorial gain, it was also an attempt to destroy German manpower.

At first Joffre intended for to use mainly French soldiers but the German attack on Verdun in February 1916 turned the Somme offensive into a large-scale British diversionary attack. General Haig now took over responsibility for the operation and with the help of General Henry Rawlinson, came up with his own plan of attack. Haig's strategy was for a eight-day preliminary bombardment that he believed would completely destroy the German forward defences.

General Rawlinson was was in charge of the main attack and his Fourth Army were expected to advance towards Bapaume. To the north of Rawlinson, General Edmund Allenby and the British Third Army were ordered to make a breakthrough with cavalry standing by to exploit the gap that was expected to appear in the German front-line. Further south, General Fayolle was to advance with the French Sixth Army towards Combles.

General Douglas Haig used 750,000 men (27 divisions) against the German front-line (16 divisions). However, the bombardment failed to destroy either the barbed-wire or the concrete bunkers protecting the German soldiers. This meant that the Germans were able to exploit their good defensive positions on higher ground when the British and French troops attacked at 7.30 on the morning of the 1st July. The BEF suffered 58,000 casualties (a third of them killed), therefore making it the worse day in the history of the British Army.

Haig was not disheartened by these heavy losses on the first day and ordered General Henry Rawlinson to continue making attacks on the German front-line. A night attack on 13th July did achieve a temporary breakthrough but German reinforcements arrived in time to close the gap. Haig believed that the Germans were close to the point of exhaustion and continued to order further attacks expected each one to achieve the necessary breakthrough. Although small victories were achieved, for example, the capture of Pozieres on 23rd July, these gains could not be successfully followed up.

Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985), has argued that Brigadier-General John Charteris, the Chief Intelligence Officer at GHQ. was partly responsible for this disaster: "Charteris's intelligence reports throughout the five-month battle were designed to maintain Haig's morale. Though one of the intelligence officer's duties may be to help maintain his commander's morale, Charteris crossed the frontier between optimism and delusion." As late as September 1916, Charteris was telling Haig: "It is possible that the Germans may collapse before the end of the year."

Robertson's biographer, David R. Woodward, has pointed out: "British losses on the first day of the Somme offensive - almost 60,000 casualties - shocked Robertson. Haig's one-step breakthrough attempt was the antithesis of Robertson's cautious approach of exhausting the enemy with artillery and limited advances. Although he secretly discussed more prudent tactics with Haig's subordinates he defended the BEF's operations in London. The British offensive, despite its limited results, was having a positive effect in conjunction with the other allied attacks under way against the central powers. The continuation of Haig's offensive into the autumn, however, was not so easy to justify."

With the winter weather deteriorating General Douglas Haig now brought an end to the Somme Offensive. Since the 1st July, the British has suffered 420,000 casualties. The French lost nearly 200,000 and it is estimated that German casualties were in the region of 500,000. Allied forces gained some land but it reached only 12km at its deepest points. Haig wrote at the time: "The results of the Somme fully justify confidence in our ability to master the enemy's power of resistance."

The consequences of the Battle of the Somme put further pressure on the government. Colin Matthew has commented: "The huge casualties of the Somme implied a further drain on manpower and further problems for an economy now struggling to meet the demands made of it... Shipping losses from the U-boats had begun to be significant... Early in November 1916 he (Asquith) called for all departments to write memoranda on how they saw the pattern of 1917, the prologue to a general reconsideration of the allies' position."

It has been suggested that Herbert Asquith and the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) was never able to get total control of the war effort. It has been argued by John F. Naylor: "Neither this flawed body - partly advisory, partly executive - nor its two successors, the Dardanelles committee (June - October 1915), and the war committee (November 1915 - November 1916) enabled the Asquith coalition to prevail over the military authorities in planning what remained an ineffective war effort."

Robertson, like most senior members of the military he believed Asquith was incapable of providing the dynamic and purposeful leadership required to see the war through to victory. He gave an interview to the journalist, Robert Donald, who reported: "He (Robertson) liked Mr. Asquith, but he was indecisive. Sir William said that the only man who could decide quickly, say Yes or No without hesitation, was Lloyd George. He might say the wrong Yes or the wrong No sometimes, but he much preferred that to no decision at all. He was in favour of some arrangement which gave Mr. Lloyd George greater power. He did not mean greater power to interfere with military operations, but greater power in the direction of war policy."

At a meeting in Paris on 4th November, 1916, David Lloyd George came to the conclusion that the present structure of command and direction of policy could not win the war and might well lose it. Lloyd George agreed with Maurice Hankey, secretary of the Imperial War Cabinet, that he should talk to Andrew Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative Party, about the situation. Bonar Law remained loyal to Asquith and so Lloyd George contacted Max Aitken instead and told him about his suggested reforms.

On 18th November, Aitken lunched with Bonar Law and put Lloyd George's case for reform. He also put forward the arguments for Lloyd George becoming the leader of the coalition. Aitken later recalled in his book, Politicians and the War (1928): "Once he had taken up war as his metier he seemed to breathe its true spirit; all other thoughts and schemes were abandoned, and he lived for, thought of and talked of nothing but the war. Ruthless to inefficiency and muddle-headedness in his conduct, sometimes devious, if you like, in the means employed when indirect methods would serve him in his aim, he yet exhibited in his country's death-grapple a kind of splendid sincerity."

Together, David Lloyd George, Max Aitken, Andrew Bonar Law and Edward Carson, drafted a statement addressed to Asquith, proposing a war council triumvirate and the Prime Minister as overlord. On 25th November, Bonar Law took the proposal to Asquith, who agreed to think it over. The next day he rejected it. Further negotiations took place and on 2nd December Asquith agreed to the setting up of "a small War Committee to handle the day to day conduct of the war, with full powers", independent of the cabinet. This information was leaked to the press by Carson. On 4th December The Times used these details of the War Committee to make a strong attack on Asquith. The following day he resigned from office.

On 7th December George V asked Lloyd George to form a second coalition government. Max Aitken later recalled that it was the most important thing that he had done in politics: "The destruction of the Asquith Government which was brought about by an honest intrigue. If the Asquith government had gone on, the country would have gone down."

Lloyd George was now in overall charge of the war effort. However, Lloyd George found it difficult to control the tactics used by his generals on the Western Front but he had more success with the navy when he persuaded them to use the convoy system to ensure adequate imports of food and military supplies. At various stages advocated a campaign on the Italian front and sought to divert military resources to the Turkish theatre.

The failure to breakthrough the German front-lines at Passchendaele, undermined the power of Robertson. At a meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) on 30th January, 1918, General Henry Wilson, representing the views of the prime minister, proposed a major spring campaign in Palestine. Robertson, convinced that Germany would try to win the war on the Western Front before the United States became a factor, angered David Lloyd George when he spoke in the presence of other allied political leaders against gambling scarce military resources in the outside theatres. Lloyd George wrote that a "formidable conspiracy was under way. Robertson and his friends meant this time to fight to the finish."

According to the historian, Michael Kettle, Robertson became involved in a plot to overthrow David Lloyd George. Others involved in the conspiracy included Maurice Hankey, the secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID), General Frederick Maurice, director of military operations at the War Office and Colonel Charles Repington, the military correspondent of the Morning Post. Kettle argues that: "What Maurice had in mind was a small War Cabinet, dominated by Robertson, assisted by a brilliant British Ludendorff, and with a subservient Prime Minister. It is unclear who Maurice had in mind for this Ludendorff figure; but it is very clear that the intention was to get rid of Lloyd George - and quickly."

On 24th January, 1918, Repington wrote an article where he described what he called "the procrastination and cowardice of the Cabinet". Later that day Repington heard on good authority that Lloyd George had strongly urged the War Cabinet to imprison both him and his editor, Howell Arthur Gwynne. That evening Repington was invited to have dinner with Lord Chief Justice Charles Darling, where he received a polite judicial rebuke.

Robertson disagreed with Lloyd George's proposal to create an executive war board, chaired by Ferdinand Foch, with broad powers over allied reserves. Robertson expressed his opposition to General Herbert Plumer in a letter on 4th February, 1918: "It is impossible to have Chiefs of the General Staffs dealing with operations in all respects except reserves and to have people with no other responsibilities dealing with reserves and nothing else. In fact the decision is unsound, and neither do I see how it is to be worked either legally or constitutionally."

On 11th February, Colonel Charles Repington, revealed in the Morning Post details of the coming offensive on the Western Front. Lloyd George later recorded: "The conspirators decided to publish the war plans of the Allies for the coming German offensive. Repington's betrayal might and ought to have decided the war." Repington and his editor, Howell Arthur Gwynne, were fined £100 each, plus costs, for disobeying the Censor.

Robertson wrote to Repington suggesting that he had been the one who had leaked him the information: "Like yourself, I did what I thought was best in the general interests of the country. I feel that your sacrifice has been great and that you have a difficult time in front of you. But the great thing is to keep on a straight course". General Frederick Maurice also sent a letter to Repington: "I have the greatest admiration for your courage and determination and am quite clear that you have been the victim of political persecution such as I did not think was possible in England."

Robertson put up a fight in the war cabinet against the proposed executive war board, but when it was clear that Lloyd George was unwilling to back down, he resigned his post. General Douglas Haig rejected the idea that Robertson should become one of his commanders in France and he was given the eastern command instead. However, when the German offensive, launched on 21st March, destroyed the British Fifth Army, critics of Lloyd George's war leadership demanded that Robertson be returned to the War Office.

On 9th April, 1918, Lloyd George, told the House of Commons that despite heavy casualties in 1917, the British Army in France was considerably stronger than it had been on January 1917. He also gave details of the number of British troops in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine. Frederick Maurice, whose job it was to keep accurate statistics of British military strength, knew that Lloyd George had been guilty of misleading Parliament about the number of men in the British Army. Maurice believed that Lloyd George was deliberately holding back men from the Western Front in an attempt to undermine the position of Haig.

On 6th May, 1918, Frederick Maurice wrote a letter to the press stating that ministerial statements were false. The letter appeared on the following morning in the The Morning Post, The Times, The Daily Chronicle and The Daily News. The letter accused David Lloyd George of giving the House of Commons inaccurate information. The letter created a sensation. Maurice was immediately suspended from duty and supporters of Herbert Henry Asquith called for a debate on the issue.

Maurice's biographer, Trevor Wilson: "Despite containing some errors of detail, the charges contained in Maurice's letter were well founded. Haig had certainly been obliged against his wishes to take over from the French the area of front where his army suffered setback on 21 March. The numbers of infantrymen available to Haig were fewer, not greater, than a year before. And there were several more ‘white’ divisions stationed in Egypt and Palestine at the time of the German offensive than the government had claimed."

The debate took place on 9th May and the motion put forward amounted to a vote of censure. If the government lost the vote, the prime minister would have been forced to resign. As A.J.P. Taylor has pointed out: "Lloyd George developed an unexpectedly good case. With miraculous sleight of hand, he showed that the figures of manpower which Maurice impugned, had been supplied from the war office by Maurice's department." Although many MPs suspected that Lloyd George had mislead Parliament, there was no desire to lose his dynamic leadership during this crucial stage of the war. The government won the vote with a clear majority and demand for Robertson's reinstatement came to and end.

Following the armistice Robertson took command of the British Army of the Rhine. In October 1919, Robertson received a grant of £10,000 for the role he played during the First World War (Haig got £100,000, French and Allenby £50,000 each) and a baronetcy. In 1920 Robertson was promoted to field marshall. He therefore became the first person in history to rise from lowest to the highest rank in the British Army. His autobiography, From Private to Field-Marshall, was published in 1921. Soldiers and Statesmen, 1914–1918 appeared in 1926.

Robertson became a business executive, serving as chairman of the Brewers' Trustees and as a director on numerous boards, including British Dyestuffs, the Palestine Corporation, and the London General Omnibus Company. In 1932 he served as president of the Royal British Legion.

Sir William Robertson died of a thrombosis on 12th February, 1933. At his death he had amassed a considerable estate with a probate value of £50,000.

Execution of Wm Robertson

ore sinned against – William of Struan, executed 1516.

Not all historical sources are equal. Many are written or preserved by history’s winners who suppress or destroy those that fail to put the desired spin on events. The shining story of King Robert Bruce is one obvious example. He is the great hero of the struggle for Scottish independence and the rival Comyn dynasty is considered sunk into villainous obscurity. But the Red Comyn had a better claim to the throne than Bruce and a better record in fighting against Edward I. And for the good of Scotland he agreed to form an alliance with Bruce which the latter broke in an act of breathtaking treachery when he killed his rival in front of the altar at Dumfries Abbey.

Perhaps something similar was going on in the early sixteenth century with the history of Clan Donnachaidh. The ostensible villain in this case was the chief, William of Struan. The records are murky, identities confused, and clan historians have been working to restore William’s reputation for centuries - and often getting it wrong. But in Atholl we have a priceless historical source. Within the Book of the Dean of Lismore, the oldest collection of Gaelic poetry extant, is the Chronicle of Fortingall. Kept by the Macgregor vicars of Fortingall, its first entry is ‘1390, April 19th Death of John, son of Gregor of Glenorquay.’ It ends in April 1579 with the death of John, 5th Earl of Atholl. It was his granddaughter who married the Earl of Tullibardine and carried the title of Earl of Atholl into the Murray family.

Its value lies in the entries being written down at the time they happened by a native of the area and this makes them accurate none of it has been shown to be incorrect. Sometimes the record is a bare fact sometimes it comments on the events and characters. When Robert Robertson of Struan died in 1566, the Chronicle states that ‘He was good to those under him, did nothing unjustly, wronged no one, he was a blessing to all his own, and was held in great esteem among his neighbours.’ But the death of a fellow Macgregor a year earlier elicited the comment ‘He was a most wicked man, and an oppressor of the poor whence it is said – “Thou shalt wilt not suffer evildoers to live upon the earth”.

So when it comes to the death of William of Struan, one should take the Chronicle seriously. His end has been variously recorded. In the ‘Chronicles of Atholl and Tullibardine’, the mighty work put together from the archives at Blair Castle by the 7th Duke of Atholl and published in 1908, it states that ’The Earl of Atholl had some difference with his cousin, William Robertson of Struan, regarding the marches between their respective estates. This occasioned a feud between the two families, and eventually resulted in Struan being captured and executed at Tulliemet in 1530.’

Noel Paton, author of the ‘Descendants of Conan of Glenerochie’, published in 1873 and a mine of clan information, although some of it has been superseded by more recent research, says that William of Struan died in 1532. Paton further records that the chief’s cousin, William, was beheaded at Tulliemet along with John Crichton of Strathurd in 1516 for the murder of Cunnison of Edradour at the order of the Regent Duke of Albany. But that cannot be correct. Crichton was still alive in 1535.

The Chronicle of Fortingall records, in 1509, that ‘John Cunnison of Edradour by Moulin was slain by William Robertson of Strowan’ and for 1516 it says ‘Death of William Strowane Robertsone who was beheaded at Tulymat on the 7th day of April’. And this is surely definitive. The Vicar of Fortingall would not confuse the chief of Clan Donnachaidh with his cousin.

But why was he executed? Just because he killed Cunnison does not make him a villain. Justice was very rough and very ready at this period and Cunnison may well have deserved his end. Or it may have been a fair fight. The Chronicle does not pass judgement upon William, as it did on MacGregor’s death in 1565. Perhaps it is worth looking at Struan’s circumstances and trying to tease out reasons for his fate.

Sir John Stewart of Balvenie was the son of Joan Beaufort, the widow of James I. His father was Sir James Stewart, the Black Knight of Lorn. Sir John was created Earl of Atholl around 1457. He had the castle of Blair, but most of the surrounding lands were held by the Robertsons of Struan, and this did not suit him.

William’s predecessor as chief was Alexander who died in 1505. He was William’s grandfather and son of Grizzled Robert who captured the assassins of James I. Alexander married twice, first to a daughter of Patrick, Lord Glamis, by whom he had a five sons and a daughter. His second marriage was to Elizabeth, daughter of John, Earl of Atholl, by whom he had two more sons and a daughter. Robert, his eldest surviving son, married a second daughter of the Earl of Atholl, Isabel, which made his step mother his sister-in-law. Robert died before his father, leaving William as the heir to the chief.

Less than two months before his death, Alexander conveyed a huge chunk of his estate to his sixth son, his eldest by Elizabeth of Atholl. This was by a Crown charter which meant that the property passed from the control of the Struan family for ever. These lands consisted of ‘Faskally, Dysart, Calvine, Pitagowan, Kindrochit, Pituldonich and Calziebruar’ from which further cadet families in Lettoch, Dunavourd, Tennandrie, Ledgrein and Balliegullane, Balnacraig, Cultalony etc had emerged by the early 1600s, all of which had the Faskally family as their superiors rather than Struan.

This son, Alexander like his father, was a minor these lands had a liferent on them for his mother, the earl’s daughter. Almost certainly Alexander was the ward of his grandfather, the Earl of Atholl, and thus the latter had control of this great swath of what had been part of the barony of Struan. The earl was also William’s grandfather and very likely his guardian as well since William was a royal ward.

On May 31st 1507, the Atholl Chronicles states that ‘A letter of bailery was granted to John, Master of Atholl, [the earl’s son and heir] making him bailie of all and sundry the rents, and possessions, with their pertinents, pertaining to the late Alexander Robertson of Struan (died 1505), and now to the King, through reason of ward, &c.' The Master was William’s uncle and, since his father the earl was well into his sixties, was likely running his affairs. This gave the Atholl family control of all the Clan Donnachaidh lands with William’s step grandmother, Elizabeth, having the liferent of the Faskally lands, and the Master of Atholl, soon to inherit the earldom, ruling the rest of the barony. In 1508 Isabel was granted Letters of Exemption under the Privy Seal of James IV. allowing the tenants of her lands of Struan to remain at home from all service, confirming that these lands were outwith the chief’s control.

1506 may have been the year in which William attained his majority since this is when he gets a tack on his father’s lands. A tack only gave him restricted ownership. A charter would not be granted until arrangements were made to settle any debts for which the lands were security, and these debts were likely incurred by Alexander of Struan. William’s creditor was his other grandfather, the Earl of Atholl, and without control of the estate the young chief would not receive the rents that would have enabled him to pay off the debt.

The Master of Atholl became the earl in 1512. On ‘July 27, 1515 – The Earl had a precept [An authorized direction or order] of saisine [To put in possession of] from King James V, infefting [Acquiring ownership] him in the lands and barony of Struan forest and lands of Glengarry: Kirktown of Struan, called the clachan Blairfetty: Trinafour: the lands of the two Bohespics: Innerhadden Grenich Port Tressait Blantuim Isle of Loch Tummel, with the house thereof Carrick Drumnacarf Balnavert and Balnaguard – which lands were apprised by decreett [Final judgment of the Court of Session] of the lords of Council from William Robertson of Struan for defaults of payment of £1592 Scots, due by him to the Earl, with the reservation of the thirds, liferent, and conjunct fee pertaining to the ladies thereof for their lifetimes.’

William had lost the eastern part of the estate to his cousin Alexander of Faskally now he had lost the central portion to his uncle. The 1545 Charter to William’s son shows what was left, the whiskery western remnants - Finnart, Murelaggan, Kinloch, Boyoquhen, Auchinroy, Kinaldy, Cultoloskin, and Killironzie. They run along the south side of Glen Errochty, into Rannoch, Dunalastair and the south shore of the loch. By the summer of 1515, the Clan Donnachaidh chief had lost the great bulk of the original Struan estate.

Stories written down in the 19th century were not kind to William. It is said that he led an army of his own followers and Rannoch MacGregors which gave him ‘a band of upwards of 800 warlike and unscrupulous freebooters’ which held together for three years before William was caught and executed. But what choices did he have? The Battle of Flodden in 1513 cost the lives of the King and most of the ruling class and reduced the country to little better than anarchy. William had been deprived of his inheritance and there can have been little else he could do save to wage war upon his oppressor. And he lost the war.

The Earl was judge and executioner in Atholl – and he controlled the jury. Even without a charter William would have retained the loyalty of the clansfolk on the old Clan Donnachaidh lands and, by removing his head, his uncle also removed any threat from his clansmen to dominance of the cream of the Struan estate. For William’s successor was Robert, another minor, and thus in no position to campaign for his lost inheritance. He was confirmed in the rump of the Struan lands in 1539.

The estate owned by William’s grandfather had been dismembered. Perhaps a third ended up in the control of the Earls of Atholl, another third with the Faskally family and the remainder, the wilder parts of Rannoch, with the chief. John, the 2nd Earl of Atholl, died in 1521. His successor, another John, seemed to have cordial relations with the Clan. The Chronicle of Fortingall says, for 1531 ‘Ranoch was hareyd the morne eftir Sant Tennennis day in harist, be John Earlle of Awthoell, and be Clan Donoqhuy.’

But it seems there was an understandable froideur between Struan and Faskally for more than a century afterwards. There are very few of the normal exchanges and transactions that one might expect in two such closely related and powerful families. In 1645, when Montrose raised Atholl, the Faskally contingent put itself under the leadership of Fleming of Moness rather than the Tutor of Struan. Again in the ’15, Faskally was with the Atholl Brigade rather than Struan’s men. And in the ’45 George Robertson of Faskally was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd battalion of the Atholl Brigade and not part of Struan’s men, commanded by Woodsheal.

A final footnote came in 1725 when King James VII created two baronets in Atholl and Rannoch. One was the Poet Chief, but one wonders whether he would have been pleased that the other was Alexander Robertson of Faskally.

William Robertson - History

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In fulfilling the engagement which I have come under to the public with respect to tlie History of America, it was my intention not to have published any part of the work until the whole was completed. The present state of the British Colonies has induced me to alter that resolution. While they are engaged in civil war with Great Britain, inquiries and speculations concerning their ancient forms of policy and laws, which exist no longer, cannot he interesting. The attention and expectation of mankind are now turned towards their future condition. In whatever manner this unhappy contest may terminate, a new order of things must arise in North America, and its affairs will assume another aspect. I wait, with the solicitude of a good citizen, until the ferment subsides, and regular government be reestablished, and then I shall return to this part of my work, in which I had made some progress. That together with the history of Portuguese America, and of the settlements made by the several nations of Europe in the West India islands, will complete my plan.

The three volumes which I now publish, contain an account of the discovery of the New World, and of the progress of the Spanish arms and colonies there. This is not only the most splendid portion of the American story but so much detached, as, by itself, to form a

perfect whole, remarkable for the unity of the subject. As the principles and maxims of the Spaniards in planting colonies, which have been adopted in some measure by every nation, are unfolded in this part of my work, it will serve as a proper introduction to the history of all the European establishments in America, and convey such information concerning this important article of policy, as may be deemed no less interesting than curious.

In describing the achievements and institutions of the Spaniards in the New World, I have departed, in many instances, from the accounts of preceding historians, and have often related facts which seem to have been unknown to them. It is a duty I owe the public to mention the sources from which I have derived such intelligence as justifies me either in placing transactions in a new light, or in forming any new opinion with respect to their causes and effects. This duty I perform with greater satisfaction, as it will afford an opportunity of expressing my gratitude to those benefactors who have honoured me with their countenance and aid in my researches. As it was from Spain that I had to expect the most important information, witli regard to this part of my work, I considered it as a very fortunate circumstance for me, when lord Grantham, to whom I had the honour of being personally known, and with whose liberality of sentiment, and disposition to oblige, I was well acquainted, was appointed ambassador to the court of Madrid. Upon applying to him, I met with such a reception as satisfied me that his endeavours would be employed in the most proper manner, in order to obtain the gratification of my wishes and I am perfectly sensible, that

What progress I have made in my inquiries among the Spaniards, ought to be ascribed chiefly to their knowing how much his Lordship interested himself in my success.

But did I owe nothing more to Lord Grantham, than the advantages which I have derived from his attention in engaging Mr. Waddilove, the chaplain of his embassy, to take the conduct of my literary inquiries in Spain, the obligations I lie under to him would be very great. During five years, that gentleman has carried on researches for my behoof, with such activity, perseverance and knowledge of the subject, to which his attention was turned, as have filled me with no less astonishment than satisfaction. He procured for me the greater part of the Spanish books, which I have consulted and as many of them were printed early in the sixteenth century, and are become extremely rare, the collecting of these was such an occupation as alone required much time and assiduity. To his friendly attention I am indebted for copies of several valuable manuscripts, containing facts and details which I might have searched for in vain, in works that have been made public. Encouraged by the inviting good will with which Mr. Waddilove conferred his favours, I transmitted to him a set of queries with respect both to the customs and policy of the native Americans and the nature of several institutions in the Spanish settlements, framed in such a manner, that a Spaniard might answer them, without disclosing any thing that was improper to be communicated to a foreigner. He translated these into Spanish, and obtained from various persons who had resided in

most of the Spanish colonies, such replies as have afforded me much instruction.

Notwithstanding those peculiar advantages with which my inquiries were carried on in Spain, it is with regret I am obliged to add, that their success must be ascribed to the beneficence of individuals, not to any communication by public authority. By a single arrangement of Philip II. the records of the Spanish monarchy are deposited in the Archivo of Simancas, near Valladolid, at the distance of a hundred and twenty miles from the seat of government, and the supreme courts of justice. The papers relative to America, and chiefly to that early period of its history, towards which my attention was directed, are so numerous, that they alone according to one account, fill the largest apartment in the Archive and, according to another they compose eight hundred and seventy-three large bundles. Conscious of possessing, in some degree, the industry which belongs to a historian, the prospect of such a treasure excited my most ardent curiosity. But the prospect of it is all that I have enjoyed. Spain with an excess of caution, has uniformly thrown a veil over her transactions in America. From strangers they are concealed with peculiar solicitude. Even to her own subjects the Archivo of Simancas is not opened without a particular order from the crown and after obtaining that, papers cannot be copied with out paying fees of office so exorbitant, that the expense exceeds what it would be proper to bestow, when the gratification of literary curiosity is the only object. It is to be hoped, that the Spaniards will at last discover this system of concealment to be no less impolitic than illiberal. From what I have experienced in the course

of my inquiries, I am satisfied, that upon a more minute scrutiny into their early operations in the New World, however reprehensible the actions of individuals may appear, the conduct of the nation will he placed in a more favourable light.

In other parts of Europe very different sentiments prevail. Having searched, without success, in Spain, for a letter of Cortes to Charles V, written soon after he landed in the Mexican empire, which has not hither to been published it occurred to me, that as the emperor was setting out for Germany at the time when the messengers from Cortes arrived in Europe, the letter with which they were entrusted might possibly be preserved in the Imperial library of Vienna. I communicated this idea to Sir Robert Murray Keith, with whom I have long had the honour to live in friendship, and I had soon the pleasure to learn, that upon his application, her Imperial Majesty had been graciously pleased to issue an order, that not only a copy of that letter (if it were found,) but of any other papers in the library, which could throw light upon the History of America, should be transmitted to me. The letter from Cortes is not in the Imperial library, but an authentic copy attested by a notary, of the letter written by the magistrates of the colony planted by him at Vera Cruz, which I have mentioned, Vol. i. p. 411, having been found, it was transcribed and sent to me. As this letter is no less curious, and as little known as that which was the object of my inquiries, I have given some account in its proper place, of what is most worthy of notice in it. Together with it, I received a copy of a letter from Cortes, containing a long account of his expedition to Honduras, with respect to which I did not

think it necessary to enter into any particular detail and likewise those curious Mexican paintings, which I have described, Vol ii. p. 190.

My inquiries at St. Petersburgh were carried on with equal facility and success. In examining into the nearest communication between our continent and that of America, it became of consequence to obtain authentic information concerning the discoveries of the Russians in their navigation from Kamchatka towards the coast of America. Accurate relations of their first voyage, in 1741, have been published by Muller and Gmellin. Several foreign authors have entertained an opinion, that the court of Russia studiously conceals the progress which has been made by more recent navigators, and suffers the public to be amused with false accounts of their route. Such conduct appeared to me unsuitable to those liberal sentiments, and that patronage of science, for Which the present sovereign of Russia is eminent nor could I discern any political reason, that might render it improper to apply for information concerning the late attempts of the Russians to open a communication between Asia and America. My ingenious countryman, Dr. Rogerson, first physician to the empress, presented my request to her Imperial Majesty, who not only disclaimed any idea of concealment, but instantly ordered the journal of Captain Krenitzin, who conducted the only voyage of discovery made by public authority since the year 1741, to be translated, and his original chart to be copied for my use. By consulting them, I have been enabled to give a more accurate view of the progress and extent of the Russian discoveries, than has hitherto been communicated to the public.

From other quarters I have received information of great utility and importance. Mr. le Chevalier de Pinto, the minister from Portugal to the court of Great Britain, who commanded for several years at Matagrosso, a settlement of the Portuguese in the interior part of Brazil, where the Indians are numerous, and their original manners little altered by intercourse with Europeans, was pleased to send me very full answers to some queries concerning the character and institutions of the natives of America, which his polite reception of an application made to him in my name encouraged me to propose. These satisfied me, that he had contemplated, with a discerning attention, the curious objects which his situation presented to his view, and I have often followed him as one of my best instructed guides.

M. Suard, to whose elegant translation of the History of the Reign of Charles V. I owe the favourable reception of that work on the continent, procured me answers to the same queries from M. de Bougainville, who had opportunities of observing the Indians both of North and South America, and from M. Godin le jeune, who resided fifteen years among the Indians in Quito, and twenty years in Cayenne. The latter are more valuable from having been examined by M. de la Condamine, who, a few weeks before his death, made some short additions to them, which may be considered as the last effort of that attention to science which occupied a long life.

My inquiries were not confined to one region in America. Governor Hutchinson took the trouble of recommending the consideration of my queries to Mr. Hawley and Mr. Brainerd, two protestant missionaries, employed

among the Indians of the Five Nations, who favoured me with answers, which discover a considerable knowledge of the people whose customs they describe. From William Smith, Esq. the ingenious historian of New York, I received some useful information. When I enter upon the History of our colonies in North America, I shall have occasion to acknowledge how much I have been indebted to many other gentlemen of that country.

From the Valuable Collection of Voyages made by Alexander Dairymple, Esq. with whose attention to the History of navigation and discovery the public is well acquainted, I have received some very rare books, particularly two very large volumes of Memorials, partly Manuscript and partly in print, which were presented to the court of Spain during the reigns of Philip III. and Philip IV. From these I have learned many curious particulars with respect to the interior state of the Spanish colonies, and the various schemes formed for their improvement. As this collection of Memorials formerly belonged to the Colbert Library, I have quoted them by that title.

All those books and manuscripts I have consulted with that attention which the respect due from an author to the public required and by minute references to them, I have endeavoured to authenticate whatever I relate. The longer I reflect on the nature of historical composition, the more I am convinced that this scrupulous accuracy is necessary. The historian who records the events of his own time, is credited in proportion to the opinion which the public entertains with respect to his means of information and his veracity. He who delineates

the transactions of a remote period, has no title to claim assent, unless he produces evidence in proof of his assertions. Without this, he may write an amusing tale, but cannot he said to have composed an authentic history. In those sentiments I have been confirmed by the opinion of an author, * whom his industry, erudition, and discernment, have deservedly placed in a high rank among the most eminent historians of the age.

My readers will observe, that in mentioning sums of money, I have uniformly followed the Spanish method of computing by pesos. In America, the peso fuerte, or duro, is the only one known, and that is always meant when any sum imported from America is mentioned. The peso fuerte, as well as other coins, has varied in its numerary value but I have been advised, without attending to such minute variations, to consider it as equal to four shillings and sixpense of our money. It is to be remembered, however, that in the sixteenth century, the effective value of a peso, i. e. the quantity of labour which it represented, or of goods which it would purchase, was five or six times as much as at present.

N. B. Since this edition was put into the press, a History of Mexico, in two volumes in quarto, translated from the Italian of the Abbe D. Francesco Savario Clavigero, has been published. From a person, who is a native of New Spain, who has resided forty years in that country and who is acquainted with the Mexican language, it was natural to expect much new information,

Upon perusing his work, however, I find that it contains hardly any addition to the ancient History of the Mexican empire, as related by Accosta and Herrera, but what is derived from the improbable narratives and fanciful conjectures of Torquemada and Boturini. Having copied their splendid descriptions of the high state of civilization in the Mexican empire, M. Clavigero, in the abundance of his zeal for the honour of his native country, charges me with having mistaken some points, and with having misrepresented others, in the history of it. When an author is conscious of having exerted industry in research, and impartiality in decision, he may, without presumption, claim what praise is due to these qualities, and he cannot be insensible to any accusation that tends to weaken the force of his claim. A feeling of this kind has induced me to examine such strictures of M. Clavigero on my History of America as merited any attention, especially as these are made by one, who seemed to possess the means of obtaining accurate information and to show that the greater part of them is destitute of any just foundation. This I have done in notes upon the passages in my History, which gave rise to his criticisms.

of heat to counterbalance the natural frigidity of the soil and climate. * At the Cape of Good Hope, several of the plants and fruits peculiar to the countries within the tropics, are cultivated with success whereas, at St. Augustine, in Florida, and Charleston, in South-Carolina, though considerably nearer the line, they cannot be brought to thrive with equal certainty. † But, if allowance be made for this diversity in the degree of heat, the soil of America is naturally as rich and fertile as in any part of the earth. As the country was thinly inhabited, and by a people of little industry, who had none of the domestic animals, which civilized nations rear in such vast numbers, the earth was not exhausted by their consumption. The vegetable productions, to which the fertility of the soil gave birth, often remained untouched, and being suffered to corrupt on its surface, returned with increase into its bosom. ‡ As trees and plants derive a great part of their nourishment from air and water, if they were not destroyed by man and other animals, they would render to the earth more, perhaps, than they take from it, and feed rather than impoverish it. Thus the unoccupied soil of America may have gone on enriching for many ages. The vast number as well as enormous size of the trees in America, indicate the extraordinary vigour of the soil in its native state. When the Europeans first began to cultivate the New World, they were astonished at the luxuriant power of vegetation in its virgin mould and in several places the ingenuity of the planter is still employed in diminishing and wasting its superfluous fertility, in order to bring it down to a state fit for profitable culture. §

§ XV. Having thus surveyed the state of the New World at the time of its discovery, and considered the peculiar features and qualities which distinguish and

* See Note XXXVIII.

‡ Buffon Hist. Nat. i. 242. Kalm, i. 151.

§ Charlevoix, Hist de Nouv. Fran. iii. 405. Voyage du Des Marchais, iii. 229. Lery ap de Bry, part iii. p. 174. See Note XL.

characterise it, the next inquiry that merits attention is, How was America peopled ? By what course did mankind migrate from the one continent to the other? And in what quarter is it most probable that a communication was opened between them?

§ XVI. We know, with infallible certainty, that ali the human race spring from the same source, and that the descendants of one man, under the protection as well as in obedience to the command of Heaven, multi plied and replenished the earth. But neither the an nals nor the traditions of nations reach back to those re mote ages, in which they took possession of the differ ent countries, where they are now settled. We cannot trace the branches of his first family, or point out with certainty the time and manner in which they divided and spread over the face of the globe. JEven among the most enlightened people, the period of authentic histo ry is extremely short, and every thing prior to that Is fabulous or obscure. It is not surprising, then, that the unlettered inhabitants of America, who have no soli citude about futurity, and little curiosity concerning what is past, should be altogether unacquainted with their own original. The people on the two opposite coasts of America, who occupy those countries in Amer ica which approach nearest to the ancient continent, are so remarkably rude, that it is altogether vain to search among them for such information as might discover the place from whence they came, or the ancestors of whom they are descended.* Whatever light has been thrown on this subject, is derived, not from the natives of Amer ica, but from the inquisitive genius of their conquerors. XVII. When the people of Europe unexpectedly dis covered a New World, removed at a vast distance from every part of the ancient continent which was then known, and filled with inhabitants whose appearance and Manners differed remarkably from the rest of the hu- * Vanega's Hist, of California, i, 60, 24S HISTORY 01? AMERICA* man species, the question concerning their original be* came naturally an object of curiosity and attention. The theories and speculations of ingenious men with respect to this subject, would fill many volumes $ but are often so wild and chimerical, that I should offer an insult to the understanding of my readers, if I attempted either minutely to enumerate or to refute them. Some have presumptuously imagined, that the people of America were not the offspring of the same common parent with the rest of mankind, but that they formed a separate race of Hien, distinguishable by peculiar features in the constitu tion of their bodie% as well as in the characteristic qual ities of tkeir minds. Others contend, that they are de scended from some remnant of the antediluvian inhab^ itants of the earth, who survived the deluge, which swept away the greatest part of the human species in the days of Noah and preposterously suppose rude un civilized tribes, scattered over an uncultivated continent^ to be the most ancient race of ^people on the earth. There is hardly any nation from the north to the south pole, to which some antiquary, in the extravagance of conjecture, has not ascribed the honour of peopling America. The Jews, the Canaanites, the Phosnicians, the Carthagenians, the Greeks, the Scythians in ancient times, are supposed to have settled in this western world. The Chinese, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the "Welsh, the Spaniards, are said to have 'sent colonies thither in later ages, at different periods, and on va rious occasions. Zealous advocates stand forth to sup* port the respective claims of those people and though they rest upon no better foundation than the casual re- semblance of some customs, or the supposed affinity be tween a few words in their different languages, much erudition and more zeal have been employed, to little purpose, in defence of the opposite systems. Those re* gions of conjecture and controversy belong not to the Historian. His is a more limited province, confined to what is established by certain, or highly probable evi- HISTORY OF AMERICA* 249 rfence. Beyond this I shall not venture, in offering a few observations, which may contribute to throw some light upon this curious and much agitated question. XVIII. 1. There are authors Avho have endeavour ed, by mere eo-p'^iires to account for the peopling of America. Some have supposed that it was originally united to the ancient continent, and disjointed from it by the shock of an earthquake, or the irruption of a deluge. Others have imagined, that some vessel being forced from its course by the violence of a westerly wind, might be driven by accident towards the Amer ican coast, and have given a beginning to population in that desolate continent.* But with respect to all those systems, it is vain either to reason or inquire, be cause it is impossible to come to any decision. Such events as they suppose are barely possible, and may have happened. That they ever did happen, we have no evi dence, either from the clear testimony of history, or from the obscure intimations of tradition. XIX. 2. Nothing can be more frivolous or uncer tain than the attempts to discover the original of the Americans, merely by tracing the resemblance between their manners and those of any particular people in the ancient continent. If we suppose two tribes, though placed in the most remote regions of the globe, to live in a climate nearly of the same temperature, to be in the same state of society, and to resemble each other in the degree of their improvement, they must feel the same wants, and exert the same endeavours to supply them. The same objects will allure, the same passions will annimate them, and the same ideas and sentiments will arise in their minds. The character and occupations of the hunter in America must be little different from those of an Asiatic, who depends for subsistence on the chase. A tribe of savages on the banks of the Danube must * Parson's Remains of Japhet, p. 240. Ancient Univers. Hist, vol. xx. p. 164. P, Feyjoo Teatro Critico, torn, v. p. 304, etc. Acosta Hist. Moral. Novi Orbis, lib. i. c. 16, L9. VOL, T. 32 250 HISTORY OP AMERICA. nearly resemble one upon the plain washed by the Mis sissippi. Instead then of presuming from this similari ty, that there is any affinity between them, we should only conclude, that the disposition and manners of men are formed by their situation, and arise from the state of society in which they live. The moment that begins to vary, the character of a people must change. In pro portion as it advances in improvement, their manners refine, their powers and talents are called forth. In every part of the earth the progress of man hath been nearly the same, and we can trace him in his career from the rude simplicity of savage life, until he attains the industry, the arts, and the elegance of polished so ciety. There is nothing wonderful then in the simili tude between the Americans and the barbarous nations of our continent. Had Lafitau, Garcia, and many other authors, attended to this, they would not have perplex ed a subject which they pretend to illustrate, by their fruitless endeavours to establish an affinity between va> rious races of people in the old and new continents, up on no other evidence than such a resemblance in their manners as necessarily arises from the similarity of their condition. There are, it is true, among every people, some customs which, as they do not flow from any natural want or desire peculiar to their situation, may be denominated usages of arbitrary institution. If between two nations settled in remote parts of the earth, a perfect agreement with respect to any of these should be discovered, one might be led to suspect that they were connected by some affinity. If, for example, a na tion were found in America that consecrated the seventh day to religious worship and rest, we might justly sup pose that it had derived its knowledge of this usage, which is of arbitrary institution, from the Jews. But, if it were discovered that another nation celebrated the first appearance of every new moon with extraordinary demonstrations of joy, we should not be entitled to con clude that the observation, of this monthly festival was HISTORY OF AMERICA. 251 borrowed from the Jews, but ought to consider it mere ly as the expression of that joy which is natural to man on the return of the planet which guides and cheers him in the night. The instances of customs, merely arbi trary, common to the inhabitants of both hemispheres, are, indeed, so few and so equivocal, that no theory concerning the population of the New World ought to be founded upon them. XX. 3. The theories which have been formed with re spect to the orignal of the Americans, from observation of their religious rites and practices, are no less fanci ful, and destitute of solid foundation. When the reli gious opinions of any people are neither the result of rational inquiry, ner derived from the instructions of revelation, they must needs be wild and extravagant. Barbarous nations are incapable of the former, and have not been blessed with the advantages arising from the latter. Still, however, the human mind, even where its operations appear most wild and capricious, holds a course so regular, that in every age and country the do minion of particular passions will be attended with sim ilar effects. The savage of Europe or America, when filled with superstitious dread of invisible beings, or with inquisitive solicitude to penetrate into the events of futurity, trembles alike with fear, or glows with impa tience. He has recourse to rites and practices of the same kind, in order to avert the vengeance which he supposes to be impending over him, or to divine the se cret which is the object of his curiosity. Accordingly, the ritual of superstition, in one continent, seems, in many particulars, to be a transcript of that established in the other, and both authorize similar institutions, sometimes so frivolous as to excite pity* sometimes so bloody and barbarous as to create horrour. But with out supposing any consanguinity between such distant nations, or imagining that their religious ceremonies were conveyed by tradition from the one to the other, we may ascribe this uniformity, which in many instances 252 HISTORY OF AMERICA* seems very amazing, to the natural operation of super stition and enthusiasm upon the weakness of the human mind. XXI. 4. We may lay it down as a certain principle in this inquiry, that America was not peopled by any nation of the ancient continent, which had made con siderable progress in civilization. The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude, as to be unacquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity in its advance to wards improvement. Even the most cultivated nations of America were strangers to many of those simple in ventions, which were almost coeval with society in other parts of the world, and were known in the earliest pe riod of civil life, with which we have any acquaintance. From this it is manifest, that the tribes which original ly migrated to America, came off from nations which must have been no less barbarous than their posterity, at the time when they were first discovered by the Eu ropeans. For, although the elegant and refined arts may decline or perish, amidst the violent shocks of those revolutions and disasters to which nations are exposed, the necessary arts of life, when once they have been in troduced among any people, are never lost. None of the vicissitudes in human affairs affect these, and they continue to be practised as long as the race of men ex ists. If ever the use of iron had been known to the sa vages of America, or to their progenitors, if ever they had employed a plough, a loom, or a forge, the utility of those inventions would have preserved them* and it is impossible that they should have been abandoned or for gotten. We may conclude then, that the Americans sprung from some people, who were themselves in such an early and unimproved stage of society, as to be un acquainted with all those necessary arts, which continu ed to be unknown among their posterity, when first vis ited by the Spaniards*, HISTORY OP AMERICA. XXII. 5. It appears no less evident that America was not peopled by any colony from the more southern na tions of the ancient continent. None of the rude tribes settled in that part of our hemisphere can be supposed to have visited a country so remote. They possessed neither enterprise, ingenuity, nor power, that could prompt them to undertake, or enable them to perform, such a distant voyage. That the more civilized nations in Asia or Africa are not the progenitors of the Ameri cans is manifest, not only from the observations which I have already made concerning their ignorance of the most simple and necessary arts, but from an additional circumstance. Whenever any people have experienced the advantages which men enjoy, by their dominion over the inferiour animals, they can neither subsist without the nourishment which these aftbrd, nor carry on any considerable operation independent of their ministry and labour. Accordingly, the first care of the Spaniards* when they settled in America? was to stock it with all the domestic animals of Europe $ and if, prior to them? the Tyrians, the Carthaginians, the Chinese, or any other polished people, had taken possession of that con tinent, we should have found there the animals peculiar to those regions of the globe where they were originally seated. In all America, however, there is not one ani* mal, tame or wild, which properly belongs to the warm, r even to the more temperate, countries of the ancient continent. The camel, the dromedary, the horse, the cow, were as much unknown in America as the elephant or the lion. From which it is obvious, that the people who first settled in the western world did not issue from the countries where those animals abound, and where men, from having long been accustomed to their aid, would naturally consider it, not only as beneficial, but, as indispensably necessary to the improvement, and even the preservation, of civil society. $ XXIII. 6. From considering the animals with which America is stored, we may conclude that the nearest 254 HISTORY or AMERICA point of contact, between the old and new continents, is towards the northern extremity of both, and that there the communication was opened, and the intercourse car ried on, between them. All the extensive countries in America, which lie within the tropics, or approach near to them, are filled with indigenous animals of various kinds, entirely different from those in the corresponding regions of the ancient continent. But the northern pro- vinces of the New Wrld abound with many of the wild animals which are common in such parts of our hemis phere as lie in a similar sHuation. The bear, the wolf, the fox, the hare, the deer, the roebuck, the elk, and several x>ther species frequent the forests of North America, no less than those in the north of Europe and Asia.* It seems to be evident, then, that the two con tinents approach each other in this qnarter, and are either united, or so nearly adjacent, that these animals might pass fro^ t!te one to the other, XXIV. 7. The actual vicinity of the two continents is so clearly established by mordern discoveries, that the chief difficulty with respect to the peopling of Amer ica is removed. While those immense regions, which stretch eastward from the river Oby to the sea of Kam chatka were unknown, or imperfectly explored, the north-east extremities of our hemisphere were supposed to be so far distant from any part of the New World, that it was not easy to conceive how any communication should have been carried on between them. But, the Russians having subjected the western part of Siberia to their empire, gradually extended their knowledge of that vast country, by advancing towards the east into un known provinces. These were discovered by hunters in their excursions after game, or by soldiers employed in levying the taxes, and the court of Moscow estimated the importance of those countries only by the small ad dition which they made to its revenue. At length Peter * Buffon Hist. Nat- ix. p. 97, etc. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 255 Oie Great ascended the Russian throne. His enlightened, comprehensive mind, intent upon every circumstance that could aggrandize his empire, or render his reign il lustrious, discerned consequences of those discoveries, which had escaped the observation of his ignorant pre decessors. He perceived, that in proportion as the re gions of Asia extended towards the east, they must ap proach nearer to America that the communication be* tween the two continents, which had long been searched for in vain, would probably be found in this quarter, and that by opening it some part of the wealth and com merce of the western world might be made to flow into his dominions by a new channel. Such an object suited a genius that delighted in grand schemes. Peter drew up instructions with his own hand for prosecuting this design, and gave orders for carrying it into execution.* His successors adopted his ideas, and pursued his plan. The officers whom the Russian court employed in this service, had to struggle with so many difficulties, that their progress was extremely slow. Encouraged by sonis faint traditions among the people of Siberia, concerning a successful voyage in the year one thousand six hundred and forty-eight, round the north-east pro montory of Asia, they attempted to follow the same course. Vessels were fitted out, with this view at dif ferent times, from the rivers Leaa and Kolyma but in a frozen ocean, which nature seems not to have destin ed for navigation, they were exposed to many disasters, without being able to accomplish their purpose. No ves sel fitted out by the Russian court ever doubled this for midable Cape $| we are indebted for what is known of those extreme regions of Asia, to the discoveries made in excursions by land. In ail those provinces an opinion prevails, that there are countries of great extent and fertility, which lie at no considerable distance from * Muller Voyages et Decouvertes par les Russes, ton*, i. p. 4, 5, 141. t See Note XLI, 255 HISTORY OF AMERICA. their own coasts. These the Russians imagined to btf part of America and several circumstances concurred not only in confirming them in their belief* but in per suading them that some portion of that continent could not be very remote. Trees of various kinds, unknown in those naked regions of Asia, are driven upon the coast by an easterly wind. By the same wind, float ing ice is brought thither in a few days 5 flights of birds arrive annually from the same quarter and a tradition obtains among the inhabitants, of an intercourse for merly carried on with some countries situated to the east. After weighing all these particulars, and comparing tihe position of the countries in Asia which had been dis covered, with such parts in the north-west of America as were already known, the Russian court formed a plan* which would have hardly occurred to a nation less ae* eustomed to engage in arduous undertakings, and to con tend with great difficulties. Orders were issued to build two vessels at the small village of Ochotz, situated on the sea of Kamchatka, to sail on a voyage of discovery. Though that dreary uncultivated region furnished noth ing that could be of use in constructing them, but some larch trees $ though not only the iron, the cordage, the sails, and all the numerous articles requisite for their equipment, but the provisions for victualling them were to be carried through the immense deserts of Siberia, down rivers of difficult navigation, and along roads al most impassable, the mandate of the sovereign, and the perseverance of the people, at last surmounted every obstacle. Two vessels were finished, and, under the command of the captains Behring and Tschirikow, sail ed from Kamchatka, a quest of the New World, in a quarter where it had never been approached.-* They shaped their course towards the east and though a storm soon separated the vessels,, which never rejoined, and many disasters befel them, the expectations from * June 4, A. D. 1741. HISTORY OF AMERICA. tlie voyage were not altogether frustrated. Each of the commanders discovered land, which to them appeared to be part of the American continent 5 and according to their observations, it seems to he situated within a few degrees of the north-west coast of California. Each set some of his people ashore | but in one place the inhabit ants fled as the Russians approached | in another, they carried off those who landed, and destroyed their boats* The violence of the weather, and the distress of their crews, obliged both captains to quit this inhospitable coast. In their return they touched at several islands, which stretched in a chain from east to west between the country which they had discovered and the coast of Asia. They had sonic intercourse with the natives, who seemed to them to resemble the North Americans. They presented to the Russians the calumet, or pipe of peace* which is a symbol of friendship universal among the people of North America, and an usage of arbitrary in stitution, peculiar to them. Though the islands of this New Archipelago have been frequented since that time by the Russian hunters, the court of St. Petersburg. during a period of more than forty years, seems td have relinquished every thought of prosecuting discoveries in that quarter. But in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight, it was unexpectedly resumed. The Sovereign* who had been lately seated on the throne of Peter the Great* possessed the genius and talents of her illustrious pre decessor. During the operations of the most arduous and extensive Avar in which the Russian empire was ever engaged, she formed schemes and executed undertak ings, to which more limited abilities would have been incapable of attending but amidst the leisure of pacific times. A new Voyage of discovery from the eastern extremity of Asia was planned, and captain Krenitzin and lieutenant Levasheff were appointed to command the two vessels fitted out for that purpose. In their voyage outward they lield nearly the same course with the for- vox, i, 33 HISTORY OF AMERICA. mer navigators, they touched at the same islands, ob served their situation and productions more carefully, and discovered several new islands, with which Behring and Tschirikow had not fallen in. Though they did not proceed so far to the east as to revisit the country which Behring and Tschirikow supposed to he part of the American continent, yet, by returning in a course con siderably to the north of theirs, they corrected some capital mistakes into which their predecessors had fallen, and have contributed to facilitate the progress of future navigators in those seas.^ Thus the possibility of a communication between the continents in this quarter rests no longer upon mere con jecture, but is established by undoubted evidence.! Some tribe, or some families of wandering Tartars, from the restless spirit peculiar to their race, might migrate to the nearest islands, and, rude as their knowledge of na vigation was, might, by passing from one to the other, reach at length the coast of America, and give a begin ning to population in that continent. The distance be tween the Marian or Ladrone islands and the nearest land in Asia, is greater than that between the part of America which the Russians discovered and the coast of Kamchatka and yet the inhabitants of those islands are manifestly of Asiatic extract. If, notwithstanding their remote situation, we admit that the Marian islands were peopled from our continent, distance alone is no reason why we should hesitate about admitting that the Americans may derive their original from the same source. It is probable that future navigators in those seas, by steering farther to the north, may find that the continent of America approaches still nearer to Asia. According to the information of the barbarous people vho inhabit the country about the north-east promonto ry of Asia, there lies, off the coast, a small island, to * See Note XLII. t Muller's Voyages, torn. i. 248, etc. 267, 276. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 259 which they sail in less than a day. From that, they can descry a large continent, which, according to their de scription, is covered with forests, and possessed hy peo ple whose language they do not understand.* By them they are supplied with the skins of martens, an animal unknown in the northern parts of Siberia, and which is never found but in countries abounding with trees. If we could rely on this account, we might conclude, that the American continent is separated from ours only by a narrow strait, and all the difficulties with respect to the communication between them would vanish. What could be offered only as a conjecture when this History was first published is now known to be certain. The near approach of the two continents to each other has been discovered and traced in a voyage, undertaken upon princi ples so pure and so liberal, and conducted with so much professional skill, as reflect lustre upon the reign of the Sovereign by whom it was planned, and do honour to the officers entrusted with the execution of it.f XXV. It is likewise evident from recent discoveries, that an intercourse between our continent and America might be carried on with no less facility from the north west extremities of Europe. As early as the ninth cen tury, the Norwegians discovered Greenland,^ and plant ed colonies there. The communication with that coun try, after a long interruption, was renewed in the last century. Some Lutheran and Moravian missionaries, prompted by zeal for propagating the Christian faith, have ventured to settle in this frozen and uncultivated region.^ To them we are indebted for much curious in formation with respect to its nature and inhabitants. We learn, that the north-west coast of Greenland is se parated from America by a very narrow strait that, at the bottom of the bay into which this strait conducts, it * Muller's voyages et Decouv. i. 166. f See Note XLIII. $ A. D. 830. Crantz' Hist, of Greenl. i. 242, 244, Prevot Hist. Gen. des Voyages, torn. xv. 152, not. (96.) HISTORY OF AMERICA. is highly probable that they are united 5* that the inha bitants of the two countries have some intercourse with one another that the Esquimaux of America perfectly resemble the Greenlanders in their aspect, dress, and mode of living that some sailors, who had acquired the knowledge of a few words in the Greenland! sh lan guage, reported that these were understood by the Es quimaux ,f that, at length, a Moravian missionary, well acquainted with the language of Greenland, having vis ited the country of Esquimaux, found, to his aston ishment, that they spoke the same language with the Greenlanders, that they were in every respect the same people, and he was accordingly received and entertained by them as a friend and a brother.:): By these decisive facts, not on]y the consanguinity of the Esquimaux and Greenlanders is established, but the possibility of peopling America from the north of Eu rope is demonstrated, If the Norwegians, in a barbar ous age, when science had not begun to dawn in the nopth of Europe, possessed such naval skill as to open a communication with Greenland, their ancestors, as much addicted to roving by sea, as the Tartars are to wander ing by land, might at some Jijore remote period accom plish the same voyage, and settle a colony there, whose descendants might, in progress of time, migrate into America. But if, instead of venturing to sail directly from their own coast to Greenland, we suppose that the Norwegians held a more cautions course, and advanced from Shetland to the Feroe Islands, and from them to Iceland, in all which they had planted colonies, their progress may have been so gradual, that this navigation cannot be considered as either longer or more hazardous than those voyages which that hardy and enterprising race of men is known to have performed in every age. XXYI. 8. Though it be possible that America may have received its first inhabitants from our continent, * Eggede, p, 2. 3. f A. D. 1T64. Crantz' Hist of Greenl. p. 261, 262, HISTORY OF AMERICA. 261 either by the north-west of Europe or the north-east of Asia, there seems to he good reasons for supposing that the progenitors of all the American nations, from Cape Horn to the southern confines of Labrador, migrated from the latter rather than the former. The Esquimaux are the only people in America who, in their aspect or char acter, bear any resemblance to the northern Europeans. They are manifestly a race of men, distinct from all the nations of the American continent, in language, in disposition, and in habits of life. Their original, then* may warrantably be traced up to that source which I have pointed out. But, among all the other inhabitants of America, there is such a striking similitude in the form of their bodies, and the qualities of their minds, that, notwithstanding the diversities occasioned by the influence of climate, or unequal progress in improve- i ent, we must pronounce them to be descended from pne source. There may be a variety in the shades, but we can every where trace the same original colour. Each tribe has something peculiar which distinguishes it, but in all of them we discern certain features com mon to the whole race. It is remarkable, that in every peculiarity, whether in their persons or dispositions, which characterise the Americans, they have some re semblance to the rude tribes scattered over the north east of Asia, but almost none to the nations settled in the northern extremities of Europe. We may, there fore, refer them to the former origin, and conclude that their Asiatic progenitors, having settled in those parts of America, where the Russians have discovered the proximity of the two continents, spread gradully over its various regions. This account of the progress of population in America, coincides with the traditions of the Mexicans concerning their own origin, which, im perfect as they are, were preserved with more accuracy, and merit greater credit, than those of any people in the New World. According to them, their ancestors came from a remote country, situated to the north -west 262 HISTORY O* AMEUICl. of Mexico. The Mexicans point out their various stations as they advanced from this, into the interiour provinces, and it is precisely the same route which they must have held, if they had heen emigrants from Asia. The Mexi cans, in deseribisig the appearance of their progenitors,, their manners and habits of life, at that period, exactly delineate those of the rude Tartars, from v/hoin I sup pose them to have sprung.* Thus have I finished a disquisition which has been deemed of so much importance, that it would have been improper to omit it in writing the history of Amer ica. I have ventured to inquire, hut without presuming to decide. Satisfied with offering conjectures, I pretend not to establish any system. When an investigation is, from its nature, so intricate and obscure, that it is im possible to arrive at conclusions which are certain, there may be some merit in pointing out such as are probable. f XXVII. The condition and character of the Ameri can nations, at the time when they became known to the Europeans, deserve more attentive consideration than the inquiry concerning their original. The latter is merely an object of curiosity the former is one of the most important as well as instructive researches which can occupy the philosopher or historian. In order to complete the history of the human mind, and attain to a perfect knowledge of its nature and operations, we must contemplate man in all those various situations wherein he has been placed. We must follow him in his progress through the different stages of society, as he gradually advances from the infant state of civil life to wards its maturity and decline. We must observe, at each period, how the faculties of his understanding un fold, we must attend to the efforts of his active powers, * Acosta Hist. Nat. et. Mor. lib. vii. c. 2, etc. Garcia Origen de los Indies, lib. v. c. 3. Torquemada Monar. Ind. lib. i. c. 2, etc. Boturini Benaduci Idea de tma Hist, de la Amer. Septentr, xvii. p. 127. t Memoires sur la Louisiana, par Dumont, torn, i p. 1 19. HISTORY OF AMERICA, the various movements of desire and affection, as they rise in his breast, and mark whither they tend, anl vith what ardour they are exerted. The philosophers and historians of ancient Greece and Rome, our guides in this as well as every other disquisition, had only a limited view of this subject, as they had hardly any op portunity of surveying man in his rudest and most early state. In all those regions of the earth with which they were well acquainted, civil society had made con siderable advances, and nations had finished a good part of their career before they began to observe them. The Scythians and Germans, the rudest people of whom any ancient author has transmitted to us an au thentic account, possessed flocks and herbs, had acquir ed property of various kinds, and, when compared with mankind in their primitive state, may be reckoned to have attained a great degree of civilization. XXVIII. But the discovery of the New World en larged the sphere of contemplation, and presented na tions to our view, in stages of their progress, much less advanced than those wherein they have been observed in our continent. In America, man appears under the rud est form in which we can conceive him to subsist. We behold communities just beginning to unite, and may ex amine the sentiments and actions of human beings in the infancy of social life, while they feel but imperfect ly the force of its ties, and have scarcely relinquished their native liberty. That state of primaeval simplicity, which was known in our continent only by the fanciful description of poets, really existed in the other. The greater part of its inhabitants were strangers to indus try and labour, ignorant of arts, imperfectly acquaint ed with the nature of property, and enjoying, almost without restriction or eoutroul, the blessings which flow ed spontaneously from the bounty of nature. There were only two nations in this vast continent which had emerged from this rude state, and had made any con siderable progress in acquiring the ideas, and adopting HISTORY 0* AMERICA, 7 the institutions, which belong to polished societies Their government and manners will fall naturally under our review in relating the discovery and conquest of the Mexican and Peruvian empires and we shall have there an opportunity of contemplating the Americans in the state of highest improvement to which they ever attain ed. XXIX. At present, our attention and researches shall be turned to the small independent tribes which occupied every other part of America. Among these, though with some diversity in their character, their manners, and institutions, the state of society was near ly similar, and so extremely rude, that the denomina tion of Savage may be applied to them all. In a gene ral history of America, it would be highly improper to describe the condition of each petty community, or to investigate every minute circumstance which contributes to form the character of its members. Such an inquiry would lead to details of immeasurable and tiresome ex tent. The qualities belonging to the people of all the different tribes have such a near resemblance, that they may be painted with the same features. Where any cir cumstances seem to constitute a diversity in their char* acter and manners worthy of attention, it will be suf ficient to point these out as they occur, and to inquire into the cause of such peculiarities. XXX. It is extremely difficult to procure satisfying and authentic information concerning nations while they remain uncivilized* To discover their true character under this rude form, and to select the features by which they are distiaguished, requires an observer possessed of no less impartiality than discernment. For, in every stage of society, the faculties, the sentiments and desires of men are so accommodated to their own state, that they become standards of excellence to themselves, they affix the idea of perfection and happiness to those at tainments which resemble their own, and wherever the objects and enjoyments to which they have been accus- HISTORY OF AMERICA), tomed are wanting, confidently pronounce a people to be barbarous and miserable. Hence the mutual contempt with which the members of communities, unequal in their degrees of improvement, regard each other. Pol ished nations, conscious of the advantages which they derive from their knowledge and arts, are apt to view rude nations with peculiar seorn ? and, in the pride of superiority, will hardly allow either their occupations^ their feelings, or tLeir pleasures? to be worthy of men. It has seldom been the lot of communities, in their ear ly and unpolished state, to fall under the observation of persons endowed with force of mind superiour to vulgar prejudices, and capable of contemplating man, under whatever aspect lie appears, with a candid and discern ing' eye. $XXXI The Spaniards* who first visited America* and who had opportunity of beholding its various tribes while entire and unsubdued, and before any change had been made in their ideas or manners by intercourse with a race of men much advanced beyond them in improve ment, were far from possessing the qualities requi site for observing the striking spectacle presented to their view. Neither the age in which they lived, nor the nation to which they belonged, had made such pro gress in true science, as inspires enlarged and liberal sentiments The conquerors of the New World were mostly illiterate adventurers^ destitute of all the ideas which should have directed them in contemplating ob jects so extremely diflerent from those with which they were acquainted. Surrounded continually with danger, OP struggling with hardships, they had little leisure, and less capacity, for any speculative inquiry. Eager to take possession cf a country of such extent and opulence, and happy in finding it occupied by inhabitants so inca pable to defend it, they hastily pronounced them to be a wretched order of men, formed merely for servitude.! and were more employed in computing the profits of their labour, than in inquiring i&to the operations of voi,. i. 3* HISTORY or AMERICA! their minds, or the reasons of their customs and insii- tutions. The persons who penetrated at subsequent pe- riods into the interiour provinces, to which the know ledge and devastations of the first conquerors did not reach, were generally of a similar character brave and enterprising in a high degree* hut so uninformed as to he little qualified either for observing or describing what they beheld* XXXII. Not only the incapacity, but the prejudices of the Spaniards, render their accounts of the people of America extremely defective. Soon after they planted colonies in their new conquests, a difference in opinion arose with respect to the treatment of the natives. One party, solicitous to render their servitude perpetual, re presented them as a brutish, obstinate race, incapable either of acquiring religious knowledge, or of being trained to the functions of social life. The other, full of pious concern for their conversion, contended that, though rude and ignorant, they were gentle, affection ate, docile, and by proper instructions and regulations, might be formed gradually into good Christians and use ful citizens. This controversy * as I have already relat ed, was carried on with all the warmth which is natural, when attention to interest on the one hand, and religious zeal on the other, animate the disputant?. Most of the laity espoused the former opinion j nil the ecclesiastics were advocates for the latter and we shall uniformly find that* accordingly as an author belonged to either of these parties, he is apt to magnify the virtues or aggra vate the defects of the Americans far beyond truth. Those repugnant accounts increase the difficulty of at taining a perfect knowledge of their character, and ren der it necessary to peruse all the descriptions of them by Spanish writers with distrust, and to receive their information with some grains of allowance. XXXIII. Almost two centuries elapsed after the discovery of America, before the manners of its inha bitants attracted, in, any considerable degree, the atten- > * HISTORY OF AMERICA, don of philosophers. At length, they discovered that the contemplation of the condition and character of the Americans in their original state, tended to complete our knowledge of the human species, might enable ug to fill up a considerable chasm in tke history of its pro gress, and lead to spec illations no less curious than im portant. They entered upon this new field of study with great ardour but, instead of throwing light upon tk$ subject, they have contributed, in some degree, to in* volve it in additional obscurity. Too impatient to in quire, they hastened to decide and began to erect sys tems, when they should have been searching for facts on which to establish their foundations, Struck with the appearance of degeneracy in the human species through out the New World, and astonished at beholding a vast continent occupied by a naked, feeble, and ignorant race of 'men, some authors of great name have maintained, that this part of the globe had but lately emerged from the sea, and become lit for the residence of man that every thing in it bore marks of a recent original j and that its inhabitants, lately called into existence, and still at the beginning of their career, were unworthy to be compared with the people of a more ancient and improv ed continent. 3 ^ Others have imagined, that, under the influence of an unkindly climate, which checks and ener vates the principle of life, man never attained in Ameri ca, the perfection which belongs to his nature, but re* mained an animal of an inferiour order, defective in the vigour of his bodily frame, and destitute of sensibility, as well as of force, in the operations of his mind.f In op position to both these, other philosophers have supposed that man arrives at his highest dignity and excellence long before he reaches a state of refinement and, in the rude simplicity of savage life, displays an elevation of sentiment, an independence of mind, and a warmth of * M. de Buffon Hist. Nat. iii. 484, etc. ix. 103, 114, t M, de P. Recherches Philos. sur les Americ. passing HISTOBY 0* AMERICA. attachment, for which it is vain to search among -the members of polished societies.* They seem to consider that as the most perfect state of man which is the least civilized. They describe the manners of the rude Ameri cans with such rapture^ as if they proposed them for models to the rest of the species. These contradictory theories have been proposed with equal confidence, and uncommon powers of genius and eloquence have been exerted, in order to clothe them with an appearance of truth. As all those circumstances concur in rendering an in quiry into the state of the rude nations in America in tricate and obscure, it is necessary to carry it on with caution. When guided in our researches by the intelli gent 'observations of the few philosophers who have vis ited this part of the globe we may venture to decide. When obliged to have recourse to the superficial re- marks of vulgar travellers, of sailors, traders, bucan- iers, and missionaries, we must often pause, and com paring detached facts, endeavour to discover what they wanted sagacity to observe. Without indulging conjec ture, or betraying a propensity to either system, we must study with equal care to avoid the extremes of ex travagant admiration, or of supercilious contempt for those manners which we describe. XXXIV. In order to conduct this inquiry with great er accuracy, it should be rendered as simple as possible. Man existed as an individual before he became the mem ber of a community and the qualities which belong to him under his former capacity should be known, before "we proceed to examine those which arise from the lat ter relation. This is peculiarly necessary in investigat ing the manners of rude nations. Their political union is so incomplete, their civil institutions and regulations so few, so simple, and of such slender authority, that men in this state ought to be viewed rather as Jnde- * M. Rousseau. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 269 pendent agents, than as members of a regular society* The character of a savage results almost entirely from his sentiments or feelings as an individual, .and is but lit tle influenced by his imperfect subjection to government and order, I shall conduct my researches concerning tho manners of the Americans in this natural order, proceed^ ing gradually from what is simple to vhat is more com plicated. I shall consider, 1, The bodily consitution of the Americans in those regions now under review. 2. The qualities of their minds, 3. Their domestic state. 4? Their political state and institutions. 5. Their system of war, and public security. 6, The arts with which they were acquainted, 7. Their religious ideas and in stitutions, 8, Such singular detached customs as are not reducible to any of the former heads, 9. I shall con clude with a general review and estimate of their virtues and defects. XXXV, 1. The bodily constitution of the Ameri cans. The human body is less affected by climate than that of any other animal. Some animals are confin ed to a particular region of the globe, and cannot exist be yond it others, though they may be brought to bear the injuries of a climate foreign to them, cease to multiply when carried out of that district which Nature destined to be their mansion. Even such as seem capable of be ing naturalized in various climates, feel the effect of eve ry remove from their proper station, and gradually dwin dle and degenerate from the vigour and perfection pecu liar to their species. Man is the only living creature whose frame is at once so hardy and so flexible, that he can spread over the whole earth, become the inhabit ant of every region, and thrive and multiply under eve ry climate. Subject, however, to the general law of Nature, the human body is not entirely exempt from the operation of climate and when exposed to the ex tremes either of heat or cold, its size or vigour dimin- 270 HISTORY OF AMERICA, XXXVI. The first appearance of the inhabitants of the New World, filled the discoverers with such aston ishment, that they were apt to imagine them a race of men different from those of the other hemisphere. Their complexion is of a reddish brown* nearly resembling the colour of copper.* The hair of their heads is always black, long, coarse, and uncurled, They have no beard, and every part of their body is perfectly smooth. Their persons are of a full size, extremely straight, and well proportioned.! Their features are regular, though of ten distorted by absurd endeavours to improve the beau ty of their natural form, or to render their aspect more dreadful to their enemies. In the islands, where four-- footed animals were both few and small, and the earth yielded her productions almost spontaneously, the con ititution of the natives, neither braced by the active ex ercises of the chase, nor invigorated by the labour of cultivation, was extremly feeble and languid. On the continent, where the forests abound with game of va rious kinds, and the chief occupation of many tribes was to pursue it, the human frame acquired greater firmness. Still, however, the Americans were more re markable for agility than strength. They resembled beasts of prey, rather than animals formed for labour.! They were not only averse to toil, but incapable of it and when roused by force from their native indolence, and compelled to work, they sunk under tasks which the people of the other continent would have performed with ease. This feebleness of constitution was univer sal among the inhabitants of those regions in America which we are surveying, and may be considered as char acteristic of the species there.fl * Oviedo Somario, p. 46, D. Life of Columbus, c. 24. f See Note XLIV. j See Note XLV. Oviedo Som. p. 51, C. Voy. de Correal, ii. 138. Wafer's Description, p. 131. 1 B. Las Casas Brev. Relac. p. 4. Torquem. Monnar. 1. 580. Oviedo Sommario, p. 41. Histor. lib. iil c 6. Herrera dec. L lib. ix. c. 5. Simon, p. 41. HISTORY OF AMERICA. 271 The beardless countenance and smooth skin of the American seems to indicate a defect of vigour, occasion ed by some vice in his frame. He is destitute of one sign of manhood and of strength, This peculiarity, by which the inhabitants of the New World are distinguish ed from the people of all other nations, cannot be at tributed, as some travellers have supposed, to their mode of subsistence.^ For though the food of many Ameri cans be extremely insipid, as they are altogether unac quainted with the use of salt, rude tribes in other parts of the earth have subsisted on aliments equally simple? without this mark of degradation, or any apparent symp tom of a diminution in their vigour. XXXVII. As the external form of the American? leads us to suspect that there is some natural debility in their frame, the smallness of their appetite for food has been mentioned by many authors as a confirmation of this suspicion. The quantity of food which men con sume varies according to the temperature of the cliniat* in which they live, the degree of activity which they ex ert, and the natural vigour of their constitutions, Un

William Robertson (1721-1793)


(London: For W. Strahan T. Cadell and J. Balfour, 1777).

A SUPERB SET, IN OUTSTANDING FULLY ORIGINAL CONDITION AND WITH THREE GENERATIONS OF FINE PROVENANCE. Robertson's history is considered "the first sustained attempt to describe the discovery, conquest and settlement of Spanish America since Herrera's Décadas" - David Branding Robertson's "vivid descriptions and philosophical disquisition on aboriginal society captivated the literary world, while the outbreak of the American war lent the book pertinent public interest" (DNB).
Robertson covers in detail the discovery of the Americas and the conquest of Peru and Mexico. The actions of Columbus and Cortez are especially well researched. The work remained for decades one of the principle English works on Latin America. Item #30436

Robertson, William. THE HISTORY OF AMERICA (London: For W. Strahan T. Cadell and J. Balfour, 1777).

William Robertson (1721-1793)

Robertson was born in Borthwick in 1721 to William Robertson (1686-1745) and Eleanor Pitcairne of Dreghorn (d. 1745), educated at the Grammar School in Dalkeith and studied Humanity, Greek, Logic and Rhetoric, and possibly Moral Philosophy, followed by study at the University of Edinburgh under Sir John Pringle (1707-1782), Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746) and John Stevenson (1695-1775). The influence of his father and his education at Edinburgh allowed him to develop interests in philosophy and history and it has been said that Robertson was first a scholar, then a clergyman.

He gained his license to preach at the presbytery of Dalkeith in 1742 before moving, after the death of his cousin in 1743, to the Parish of Gladsmuir in Haddington, assisted with help from his father's patron Robert Dundas or Lord Arniston. With the Jacobite uprising he became a volunteer in the militia forces by joining the 1st or College Company under command of George Drummond. He did not see any combat but was involved in intelligence gathering prior to the Battle of Prestonpans. With the defeat of the Hanoverian forces and the occupation of Edinburgh by the Jacobites, Robertson returned to his ministry at Gladsmuir, only to suffer, a few months later, from the death of both parents. From then on he undertook the education and support of his sisters and young brother, and delayed his marriage by eight years.

In 1751 he at last married his cousin Mary Nisbet (1723-1802), to which he had six children. Also at that this time he become more drawn into church politics and was involved with several others in the dispute over patronage leading the way for Moderate Party's influence on the Church of Scotland. His first attempt at influencing the Assembly failed, but Robertson's speech brought attention to himself. When the dispute arose again several months later, Robertson, with others, issued a pamphlet Reasons of Dissent from the Sentence and Resolution of the Commission of the General Assembly (1752) which this time carried through the moderates' wishes.

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Drummond (1688-1766), assisted in the appointment of Robertson in becoming Principal of the Edinburgh University. Robertson began his career in office by establishing a Library Fund and developed a scheme of increasing the number of buildings to the University, to be designed and built by his cousin Robert Adam (1728-1792) and was in progress when Robertson passed away. In his position of Principal, he elevated the academic standing of the University throughout Britain and Europe the roll call of important and influential people under his Principalship included Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), John Playfair (1748-1819), Andrew Dalzel (1742-1806), Hugh Blair (1718-1800), John Bruce (1745-1826), John Robison (1739-1805), Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813), John Hope (1725-1786), Daniel Rutherford (1749-1819), William Cullen (1710-1790), James Gregory (1753-1821) and John Gregory (1724-1773), Alexander Monro "secundus" (1733-1817), Joseph Black (1728-1799), and Francis Home (1719-1813) among others, establishing the Enlightenment credentials of Edinburgh and Scotland. Outside the University, he was one of founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1782.

Robertson is more probably known for his historical writings. He one of the first members of the exclusive literary debating society, The Poker Club (1762-1784), established by Allan Ramsay which also had Hume, Smith, Kames, Home, Blair, and Carlyle as members. Robertson presented several papers to the society. He took a great interest in the development of 'proper' English and had formed a club, while at University, to study elocution in preparation for various debates. His clear literary style lead him to begin translating the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and he reached Book 8 before putting it aside to concentrate on the ministry. He returned to literary pursuits by writing the History of Scotland (1759). This was a work that brought him to the notice of the writers of the day, and set the standard of historical works for the next hundred years. This was followed by equally important works covering America and India in fact he was the first to attempt a systematic world history.

Robertson's modern approach to history led to one his greatest accolades, that of the office of Historiographer Royal for Scotland. This was re-established, by Lord Bute, especially for Robertson who brought to it such an acclaim that the post remains to this day. The equivalent office in England was abolished in the late 1830s. His accolades were not just confined to Scotland or Britain, he was named Fellow of the Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid, in 1777, Fellow of the Accademia di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti di Padova in 1781 and Fellow of St Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1783.

Robertson continued to be involved with University business until he succumbed to jaundice in 1793. He was buried in the Robertson family plot, in Old Greyfriars Churchyard.


Robertson, John Parish. Solomon Seesaw. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Letters on Paraguay, Comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in That Republic. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1838, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Francia's Reign of Terror, Being the Continuation of Letters on Paraguay. Vol. III. London: John Murray, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Letters on South America, Comprising Travels on the Banks of the Parana and the Rio de la Plata. London: John Murray, 1843.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas del Paraguay (1838–1839). Translated by Carlos A. Aldao. Buenos Aires: La Cultura Argentina, 1920.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sud-América: Andanzas por el litoral argentino. Translated by José Luis Busaniche. Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova, 1946.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sud-América. 3 vols. Translated by José Luis Busaniche. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1950.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sudamérica. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 2000.

Robertson, William Parish. Visit to Mexico, 2 vols. London: Simpkin Marshall, 1853.

Robertson, Joseph William (1809&ndash1870)

Joseph William Robertson, physician, public official, and Texas Ranger, was born in South Carolina on February 9, 1809, and attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He then practiced medicine for a year in Alabama, where he married Ann Philips they had two children. He moved to Texas alone in 1836 and settled in Bastrop County before returning for his family the following year. He is said to have been the first physician in Bastrop County. From February 1 until May 10, 1838, he served in the Texas Rangers. In 1839–40 he represented Bastrop County in the House of Representatives of the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas. At the end of his term Robertson moved to Austin, where he established a medical practice and a pharmaceutical business on Congress Avenue. He supplied the Texan Santa Fe expedition with its medical supplies. His wife died in June 1841, followed shortly thereafter by her daughter. On September 7, 1842, Robertson married Lydia Lee, who was born in Cincinnati in 1820. She and her sister and two brothers had moved to Austin in 1840, and she is said to have provided inspiration for of one of Mirabeau B. Lamar's poems. She and Robertson had ten children. During the military build-up after the invasions of Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll in 1842, Robertson volunteered as a surgeon in Col. Henry Jones's regiment. He was elected the fifth mayor of Austin in 1843 and served for one year. On September 27, 1846, during the Mexican War, he was appointed acting assistant surgeon for Capt. John J. Grumbles's company of Maj. Thomas I. Smith's battalion, Texas Mounted Volunteers. In 1848 Robertson purchased the old French Legation building, the former home of Dubois de Saligny, and that area of Austin has since been known as Robertson Hill. Robertson died on August 15, 1870, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Kenneth Hafertepe, A History of the French Legation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989). Pat Ireland Nixon, The Medical Story of Early Texas, 1528–1853 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Lupe Memorial Fund, 1946). Joseph W. Robertson Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robertson of Muirton Family

Many Virginia Robertsons try to connect with the distinguished Scottish Robertson of Muirton family. Members of this family immigrated to Virginia. Descendants married into the family of Thomas Jefferson and other prominent Virginia families.

The following genealogy is the current working outline of this family. It is subject to correction as new evidence is discovered.

  1. WILLIAM ROBERTSON OF MUIRTON, b. 1530, d. 1599, Edinburgh, Sct. mar. ca 1565?, in Sct., ISABELL PETRIE, b. ca1530, d. unknown. William was 4th Laird of Muirton. Issue:
    1. WILLIAM ROBERTSON (William), b. abt 1571, Gladney, Sct., d. 1629 mar. abt 1592, in Scotland, ANNA MARIA MITCHELL, b. abt 1595, Sct. Issue:
      1. WILLIAM ROBERTSON (William William) b. ca.1680, Edinburgh, Sct., occupation Minister, died 16 Nov. 1746, Edinburgh, Sct. mar. 20 Oct 1720, Edinburgh, Sct., ELEANOR PITCAIRN, b. ca 1690, Dreghorn, Sct., (dau. of David Pitcairn) 22 Nov 1746, Edinburgh, Sct. William was licensed by the presbytery of Kirkcaldy on 14 June 1711, and for a time was minister of the church of London Wall in London. After service in other churches, he transferred on 28 July 1736 to Old Greyfriars in Edinburgh. See: Dictionary of National Biography, Vol KVI, Pacock-Robins. Issue:
        1. William Robertson b. ca 1725, d. 1793, Edinburgh, Sct mar. 21 Aug 1751, Edinburgh, Sctl., Mary Nesbit, b. ca 1730, Sct., (dau.of James Nesbit and Mary Pitcairn), d. unknown. He was Royal Histographer.
        2. Robert Robertson.
        3. Mary Robertson.
        4. Margaret Robertson.
        5. David Robertson.
        6. Elizabeth Robertson.
        7. Patrick Robertson.
        8. Helen Robertson.
        1. WILLIAM ROBERTSON (Thomas William), b. ca 1621-23, Edinburgh, Sct., Minister, d. unknown. Issue:
          1. Jean Robertson b. abt 1656-60.
          1. JEFFREY ROBERTSON (John Thomas William) b. ca 1654, Edinburgh, Scotland, occupation Planter, mar. ELIZABETH BOWMAN, b. Scotland, (daughter of John Bowman and Elizabeth Elam) d. Chesterfield Co., VA. Jeffrey died 1734, Henrico Co., VA. Issue:
            1. William Robertson b. abt 1700, d. June 1764, Chesterfield Co., VA.
            2. Richard Robertson b. abt 1703, Henrico Co., VA. He may be the same Richard Robertson vho died in Mecklenburg Co., VA about 1775.
            3. Anne Robertson b. abt 1704, d. bef 1786, Chesterfield Co., VA?. Married John Hudson who died abt 1786. (Chesterfield Co. Will Bk 4, pg 14)
            4. Thomas Robertson b. abt 1706, Chesterfield Co., VA.
            5. Jeffrey Robertson, Jr. b. 1709, Henrico Co., VA, mar. 1734, in Henrico Co., VA, Judith (Tanner) Mills, b. 1710, (daughter of Edward Tanner) d. 1785. Jeffrey d. 1784, Chesterfield Co., VA. Year of birth is established in the autobiography of Rev. Norvill Robertson, his grandson.

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            William Robertson (abt. 1656 - 1739)

            William, Clerk of the Council, died in 1739 leaving an only daughter, Elizabeth, who became the wife of John Lidderdale [1] , a merchant of Williamsburg.

            WILLIAM ROBERTSON, b. ca. l650 Merchant, receiver of York River, Naval officer for the District of York River, Secretary of the Council of Virginia under Governor Spottswood's letters , June 20th, 1716 March 6th, 1710-11 February 7th 1715December 20th, 1720 [2]

            William Robertson was Clerk of the Virginia Council and Clerk of William and Mary College in 1702. Citing the "Manual of the Senate, General Assembly of Virginia, 2002-2003", Compiled by the Clerk's Office of the Senate of Virginia, Susan Clarke Schaar: William Robertson was Clerk of the Colonial Council of State from 1702-1727 and 1727-1738. He resided in Williamsburg, Virginia

            "Knights of the Horseshoe"

            The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition took place in 1716 in the British Colony of Virginia. According to existing records on September 5, 1716, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and his party of government officials is believed to have reached a point near the top ridge of the Blue Ridge mountains at Swift Run Gap to have their first look of the Shenandoah Valley.

            The company of men included Virginia gentry, Native Americans, soldiers, and servants who crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Their adventure into Virginia's western lands began at Germanna in late August and ended when they returned to Germanna on September 10. [3]

            "William Robertson (d. 1739), clerk of the Council and General Assembly, 1702-38. A lawyer, he served as clerk and later trustee of the College of William and Mary, receiver of quitrents, clerk of James City County, and naval officer and then collector of York River. He lived at Williamsburg, and was a vestryman of Brutan Parish, an early director in laying out Williamsburg, and an alderman under the charter of 1722. He was a heavy plunger in western lands and in 1720 with Cole Diggs and Peter Beverly patented 12,000 acres on the Rapidan beginning at the mouth of the Robinson River. He might have been with Spotswood and Fontaine on the journey to Germanna but does not seem to have returned with them. [Va. Coun. Exec. Jls. Abst. VA. Pat. Bks. Cal. Va. State Paps. VMHB William and Mary Quarterly VA. Hist. Reg.]" [4]

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