A Stated Meeting of the Society was held in the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, on Thursday, 25 January, 1917, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Fred Norris Robinson, Ph.D., in the chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. Edmund Burke Delabarre and Mr. William MacDonald, accepting Corresponding Membership.
Mr. E. B. Delabarre read the following paper:
During the earliest period of interest in Dighton Rock and its strange writing,86 there seem to have been some, as Professor Greenwood implied in 1730, who suspected that possibly its characters were Oriental. This belief was doubtless closely connected with the many current theories as to the origin of the American Indians, — a problem which aroused interested discussion from almost the very earliest days of the colonies.87 On the one hand, northwestern Europe was looked upon by some as the home-land of some at least of the Indian tribes. But even more widely accepted as parents of the aborigines were Orientals, either from the eastern parts of Asia, such as the Siberian Tartars, the Chinese, or the Japanese, or from its western borders, such as the Lost Tribes of Israel, the sea-faring Phœnicians, or even the exiled Trojans.88 It was natural that, when this rock became known, some of the advocates of one theory or another should find in its curious characters evidence in favor of their views. But up to this time no very definite theory concerning the origin of the inscription had taken shape. During the next following one hundred years after Greenwood, it became generally held that some ancient people of Oriental origin carved this monument, and several theories ascribing it to different Oriental sources were announced. Some of them went so far as to discover a definite meaning for nearly every line upon the rock. Yet there continued an undercurrent of opposition to such speculations, and a belief that either the American Indians, or even the action of natural forces alone, were responsible for the markings.
Drawing by John Winthrop, 1744; Opinions of William Douglass, 1747
Indeed, it was a theory of the latter sort that was the first one expressed. Greenwood’s contribution remained buried, as we have seen, for over fifty years, and Mather’s continued to be the only one in print. In 1744 or earlier John Winthrop, Greenwood’s successor in the Hollisian chair at Harvard, made a rough and incomplete sketch from the rock, as we learn from a letter which he wrote many years later. But he did not preserve this copy. So it was left for William Douglass to make the next contribution in print. Except historically, it is quite as unimportant as was Cotton Mather’s own. The one distorts and misrepresents the appearance of the inscription, the other tells us that there is no inscription there; and neither of these men, apparently, had made a personal inspection of the rock. Yet until 1781 their accounts remained all that there was in print on this subject, with the exception of Neal’s brief quotation from Mather.
The occasion of Douglass’s utterance seems to have been a desire to continue a quarrel begun with Cotton Mather years before,89 and to make further ridicule of his opinions. They had been at first on friendly terms. But in 1721 Mather warmly advocated the cause of inoculation for small-pox. “On September 25th Dr. William Douglass, the vociferous and determined opponent of Mather and Boylston [who performed the first inoculation in Boston], wrote from Boston to Alexander Stuart, M.D., F.R.S., in London, inquiring what English physicians thought of ‘this rash practice,’ expressing his own opposition to it, and describing Mather as’ a certain credulous Preacher of this place.’”90 Douglass continued the attack further, challenging Mather’s right to call himself a Fellow of the Royal Society, ridiculing his communications to that body, and speaking of him as “a Man of Whim and Credulity.” a “certain Gentleman, (who you know in times past has been troublesome to the R.S. with his trivial credulous Stories),” a “credulous vain preacher,” and the like. This rancor was long enduring, for in a passage first published in 1747 the same sneering depreciation of Mather is still evident, this time applied to the latter’s views concerning Dighton Rock. The passage is as follows:
They [the Indians] had no Characters, that is, Hieroglyphics, or letters; they had a few Symbols or Signatures, as if in a Heraldry way to distinguish Tribes, the principal were the Tortoise, the Bear, the Wolf. There was not the least Vestige of Letters in America; some Years since a certain credulous Person, and voluminous Author, imposed upon himself and others; he observed in a tiding River, a Rock, which, as it was not of an uniform Substance, the ebbing and flowing of the Tide made a Sort of vermoulure, Honey-combing or etching on its face; here he imagined, that he had discovered the American Indian Characters, and overjoy’d, remits some Lines of his imaginary Characters to the Royal Society in London: See Philosophical Transactions, No. 339. [Here Mather is quoted.] This may be supposed wrote Anno 1714: At present Anno 1747 by the continued ebbing and flowing the Honey-combing is so altered as not in the least to resemble his Draught of the Characters.91
It is true that the lower part of Mather’s drawing does not in the least resemble the characters on the rock.92 But the inference is not justified that this was due to a growing alteration effected by the tides. It seems probable that Douglass obtained his knowledge of the present state of the rock in 1747 from some one else. I know of no one who has actually seen the rock itself and afterward written about it, who believed that its markings were entirely due to natural processes alone; though this view is expressed from time to time by persons who were not themselves first-hand observers of it.
Ezra Stiles, 1767
The fact that Ezra Stiles expressed certain opinions concerning Dighton Rock in his Election Sermon of 1783 is well known. This, and the passages in his Diary in which he refers to the rock, will be discussed in their appropriate order later. But that he made three separate drawings of it in 1767, and another in 1788, is never mentioned in the literature of the subject. In surveying the earlier history of this interesting rock, we met with many curious examples of persistent error and with many strange omissions of discoverable fact, yet none of them was more surprising than is this almost complete ignoring of the important and repeated investigations by Dr. Stiles. The facts were known to many at the time; the drawings and the opinions that accompany them are fully as worthy of mention and preservation as are any of the others; they have always been readily accessible; and their author was an intelligent observer, a man of high position and a recognized authority at the time on this very subject of inscribed rocks.93 In 1767 he was minister at Newport. His Itinerary,94 preserved in the Library of Yale University, describes these visits to Dighton Rock, and contains some of the drawings that he made. With the courteous assistance of Professor Franklin B. Dexter I have examined the scattered passages which refer to this subject. I reproduce them not in the irregular order in which the field-notes were jotted down, but rearranged and to some degree condensed.
Attention has already been called to the fact that Dr. Stiles’s interest in the Rock was first excited when Mr. Checkley showed him a copy of the Mather Broadside in the fall of 1766.95 On May 27, 1767, he learned from Mr. Edward Shove of Assonet Neck that the “cyphered Stone” was situated half a mile from the latter’s house. On June 5th he rode from Taunton to Shove’s house, and they went together to the Writing Rock. “I began to take off some of the Characters, but without Chalking first. Next day I chalked the marks and took them more distinctly. . . . Spent the forenoon in Decyphering about Two Thirds the Inscription, which I take to be in phoenician Letters & 3000 years old.”
STILES’S DRAWING, JUNE 6, 1767
engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts from the original in the yale university libary
The Rock is a rusty Iron Coloured hard flinty Stone. The Letters or Lines are half to three Quarters of an Inch wide; & not a Tenth of an Inch deep — being picked in a hard reddish or tawny Crust of the Rock a quarter Inch thick. The Range of the face of the Rock is one pt nearer East than NE — ie NE by E. Tide generally covers half its Height.96
On the north end (not the face) of the rock Dr. Stiles detected some further faint marks, “said to be done 30 years ago, some said 12.” He draws them as dotted lines, to indicate their faintness and uncertainty, making them look much like the letters “I HOWOO,” with three U-like curves underneath. These characters I have seen referred to by only one other observer of the rock.97 Yet they are still there, very faint, observable only in an exceptionally favorable light, marked rather by a slight difference in color than by indentation, but nevertheless as surely artificial as are the markings on the face. I saw them myself in the summer of 1915 without knowing that they had been discovered before, and copied them in a manner which closely resembles Stiles’s depiction, including all his lines and some additional ones. They seem to me, for reasons that I stated in my earlier paper,98 to supply the most decisive evidence we have in support of the belief that no great antiquity needs to be assumed for the characters on the face of the rock.
“No other stones within rods except a flat one on the shore within a few feet” of the Writing Rock. It has two marks in one corner, which Stiles shows as somewhat resembling an X and an R. This slab seems to have given rise to various tales of another elaborately carved rock near the Dighton Rock, which we shall find discussed and disposed of by Kendall, in 1807.99
A map of the road from Taunton,100 a few drawings of some separate figures on the rock, and a mention of the previously made drawings by Mather, Greenwood, and Berkeley,101 complete Stiles’s notes on this occasion. On the 15th of June he wrote a letter from Newport to Professor John Winthrop of Harvard, telling of this visit; asking for a copy of the Greenwood drawing; and expressing the following opinion: “It is not a Vermiculation or Lusus Naturae, but a Work of Art, and I believe of Great Antiquity, perhaps up to the Phoenician Ages: but I believe it never will be interpreted.”
On July 13 and 14, 1767, Dr. Stiles made another journey of 26 miles to the Writing Rock. On the 14th he arrived at Edward Shove’s, and visited the rock at 5.30 p. m. On July 15, —
at VIh Morng I was at the Rock — Flood & 1 ft. high. So only washed & skrubbed the Rock with a Broom, & took off a few Characters. . . . From IIh to IVh I chalked the Characters, & took off some in full Dimensions.102 Then struck the foot partition Lines — & tryg my cartridge paper was discouraged with my first Scheme. And perceivg the Tide return, I applyd myself & took the Copy on the other side [of the sheet on which he was writing, — the drawing of July 15 reproduced in Plate XX], which I did in about two Hours or before sunset. Next Morning I went & took another Copy on a larger Scale, but without Comparisons, or alteration upon Comparison. At X set out from Mr. Shoves for Home.
Besides one of the two drawings of the inscription, Stiles’s notes on this occasion include another map of the road from Taunton, a drawing showing the location of the cracks on the rock, and a chart of the shore and rocks in the vicinity of the Writing Rock.
It is worthy of note that on both of these visits Stiles followed the usual practice of first chalking the characters on the rock before making his drawing. In our later discussion of Kendall we shall find this practice condemned as a means of securing a truthful copy.103 In addition to the three drawings that he completed, he apparently was the first person who attempted to secure the characters “in full Dimensions,” using cartridge paper in some manner not specified, perhaps to obtain a direct impression. It is possible that his failure in this was what led him to induce Elisha Paddack to secure a copy in this manner a month later. Before describing that incident, however, we must first examine Stiles’s own drawings.
There are three of these, as his notes imply, besides some detached fragments. That of June 6th occupies four pages of the Itinerary, each measuring about 6⅛ by 7⅝ inches. Placed together, therefore, as Plate XIX shows it, the whole drawing measures about 7⅝ by 2½ The right and left halves are drawn on somewhat differing scales, and are evidently not designed to fit onto one another perfectly. They have lain folded against one another so long in the Itinerary that a few of the marks on each are merely blots derived from heavily inked portions of the other side. On them Stiles wrote a number of indications of dimensions, and a few descriptive remarks. Some of these are so faint in the reproduction that I transscribe them all in a footnote.104
The drawing of July 15 (Plate XX) is also in the Itinerary, where it covers two pages, and therefore measures about 7⅝ by 12¼ inches. It attempts to indicate the relative breadth of the lines; shows the position of a few of the natural cracks in the rock by dotted lines; and gives marginal indications of the dimensions in feet.
The drawing of July 16th (Plate XXI), being made on a larger scale, is not in the Itinerary. It is on two sheets of paper pasted together, measuring together 12⅞ by 31¼ inches, the drawing itself being about 9 by 23 inches. On the back is a carefully executed separate drawing (Plate XXI) of one of the groups of figures, 4 by 6½ inches in size. The main drawing, like that of the day before, indicates the breadth of the lines on the rock, but contains no marks of dimension. The separate figure, however, is divided by dotted lines into squares corresponding in numbering to the indications of dimensions in feet as given on the drawing of the 15th. In one corner of the face is written: “Characters on the Writing Rock, whose Incisions were obvious & unquestionable decyphered July 16, 1767. Given to Yale College Museum / Ezra Stiles / 1788;” and on the back: “Dighton Writing Rock said to consist of Punic or Carthaginian Characters.” The drawing is now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The three drawings are in some respects so unlike as to show little indication of having been made by the same hand. Other features, however, especially the representations of human beings and the triangular figures, which are presented in an essentially like manner by nearly every one who has ever copied the inscription, are naturally nearly alike in these. The figure usually drawn as a quadruped bears no resemblance to its usual manner of depiction on the first drawing, but slight resemblance on the second, and is lacking on the third. In view of later importance attached to them, it is particularly interesting to compare together the two lines of characters near the centre of the inscription which contain some resemblance to letters of the alphabet. Besides irregular marks possessing no such resemblance, the upper line includes shapes somewhat like XXXIM on June 6, XXX only on July 15, XXXIN on July 16, and cXXXIM in the drawing on the back of the latter. Calling the diamond-shaped character an O, and neglecting irregular curves, the lower line can be best likened to O . . OX on June 6, y7X on July 15, and On∩X on July 16. As a whole, the June drawing is very dissimilar to the two of July; yet a distinct individuality of style is perceptible in them all. That of July 16 is very similar to the one of the day before, being based on the same chalking; but it contains fewer figures, the omissions being mainly, but not wholly, in the lower part. It appears more carefully and accurately drawn than the others, and impresses me as the best one that Stiles made, though not the most complete.
One significance of these drawings is that they are the earliest that show the entire sculptured surface of the rock in a serious manner. Danforth’s gave less than half. Mather’s “second line” was published upside-down, and hence has hitherto been valueless; and even in its correct position it is seen to be ill-drawn and badly distorted. Greenwood’s drawing went only a little beyond Danforth’s. These of 1767 show, as Stiles says, about two-thirds of the face of the rock; but this is, nevertheless, the whole surface so far as any artificial characters can be discovered on it. No one has ever given more than these drawings include, except perhaps for a few single figures that some have claimed to discover where others have seen little or nothing.
Elisha Paddack, 1767; Further concerning Dr. Stiles
That Stiles was not content with his drawings and still wished, after his own unsuccessful attempt, to secure a full-size direct impression of the characters themselves, is shown by a letter written to him on August 15, 1767, by Elisha Paddack of Swansey. The letter is preserved with the Stiles papers in the Yale Library, and has never before been mentioned in the literature of Dighton Rock. The letter describes the use of a new method, similar to the one adopted twenty-one years later by James Winthrop in making his well-known copy of the inscription.105 Paddack writes:
According to your desire I have been to the Phœnitian rock and taken off some of the figures as big as the life, I was obliged to go twice before I could finish it, when I first went there I attempted to take off one with a pencil, but I found the task so difficult to perform with any exactness that I was forced to give it over.
The next day I went again in company with one of the neighbours, Mr John Hudson, we took some Ink and flour, and stirred it together into a sort of past, with which we filled up all the marks we could discover belonging to a figure, we then laid on the paper and squeesed it till it had receiv’d the colure of the past [paste], by this means they are taken off in their full dimentions, but their situations being opposite to what they were on the rock, I prick’d them off again upon new paper which I have sent you. . . .106
One small figure from this copy, 3½ by 5½ inches, somewhat resembling a figure 8, is stitched into Stiles’s manuscript Itinerary. What appears to be the main drawing, about 26 by 42 inches, is in possession of the American Academy at Boston.107 On the 7th of January, 1768, Paddack wrote again to Stiles, and suggested that one of the figures at the south end of the rock (shown at the right end in all the drawings) was meant to represent the “Phenitian God Dagon that we read of in the old Testament,” whom the Rev. Mr. West had described to him as customarily drawn in the form of a half-man and half-fish.
When Du Simitière visited Dr. Stiles in Newport in 1768, the latter showed him one or more of the drawings made by himself and Paddack. In the unpublished manuscript that I quoted in my earlier discussions of Berkeley and of Smibert,108 Du Simitière remarks, of the characters on the rock as Mather depicted them: “They are also totally different from the copy taken by Dr. Stiles of New Port;” and he says further:
When I was in New Port, Rhode Island in June 1768,109 the rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles shewed me a copy of the above inscription taken with exactness of the same size of the original on several sheets of paper pasted together,110 as also the drawings of some more rocks which the Dr said, he had discovered in several parts of this Island, having unknown characters engraven on them, but not so many as on the rock at Taunton, this gentleman has been indefatigable in his enquiries, on those supposed inscriptions, which are by him thought to be of great antiquity, and to be composed of non alphabetical Characters mixed with hieroglyphics.111
This is the only mention, so far as I know, of these drawings by Stiles, except that occurring in his Diary (published in 1901) and in the notes by its editor; and the following by his son-in-law, Abiel Holmes,112 in a reference to the year 1766:113 “This year he copied, for the first time, the curious Inscription on a rock in Dighton, which has baffled the attempts of the Antiquarians of America, and of Europe, to decypher to entire satisfaction. It was his opinion, that the character is Punic.”114
It is interesting also to note that Du Simitière speaks of drawings of other inscribed rocks made by Stiles. It is well known that Dr. Stiles was greatly interested in all such inscriptions, and made drawings of several, in Rhode Island and elsewhere. His Itinerary records a number of such visits. Of a rock in Kent “on Housatunnuk River near Scattikuk,” he remarks: “The manner of Inscription is like that of the Dighton Rock” (October 8, 1789). He visited and copied “marked Rocks” in Tiverton and in Portsmouth, on Narragansett Bay, on June 17 and October 6, 1767, June 7, 1768, September 29 and October 6, 1788. The drawings of 1767 and 1768 are preserved in the Itinerary. The Portsmouth and Tiverton rocks were again pictured in 1835 by John R. Bartlett, aided by Thomas H. Webb, and their drawings were published in 1837 in the Antiquitates Americanæ. They differ considerably from the ones made by Stiles, as we would naturally expect after discovering how very unlike are the different drawings of Dighton Rock.
Stephen Sewall, 1768
We leave Dr. Stiles for the present, to consider other events that occurred before he again appears in our history. Stephen Sewall (or Sewell as he is known in all Dighton Rock literature, though not in the Harvard University official lists), Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental languages at Harvard College, appointed to that position in 1764, made a life-size drawing of the rock on September 13, 1768. The interest of members of the Royal Society seems to have been thoroughly aroused by Mather’s communication of 1712 and by Greenwood’s of 1730, although fully satisfied by neither. It was probably the same Mr. John Eames, F.R.S.,115 who had induced Greenwood to make the drawing of 1730, who was indirectly responsible for this new one by Sewall. These circumstances are most fully related by Lort,116 who found a brief abstract of them in the Minutes of the Royal Society for the year 1775, and then was “favored with a sight of the whole paper by Timothy Hollis, Esq.” Lort tells us that “some years since the late Mr. Eames applied to Mr. Timothy Hollis, to write to Mr. Winthrope . . . at the desire of a gentleman at Berlin . . . to procure a more accurate copy.” No answer was received at that time, but the matter was reopened in the summer of 1774, when “Mr. Winthrope” wrote to Mr. Hollis, and enclosed a copy of the drawing by Sewall.
He says that the original drawing is of the same size as the inscription itself, and “is now deposited in our Museum;” and that the copy sent was reduced from Sewall’s original. He believes that it is the “most exact copy” of the rock that was ever taken. This “Mr. Winthrope” was Professor John Winthrop, Greenwood’s successor at Harvard College. His own opinions of the rock, as further disclosed in this letter, will be reserved for later consideration.
Of the further details of the making of this drawing and of Sewall’s opinions concerning the inscription, we know through Professor Sewall himself. In 1781 he sent a copy to M. Court de Gebelin of Paris, accompanied by a letter which Gebelin reproduces in part in the eighth volume of his Monde Primitif, issued in 1781. I translate the letter from this source.
STILES’S DRAWING, JULY 15, 1767
engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts from the original in the yale university libary
On the 13th of September, 1768, Stephen Sewall and Thomas Danforth, assisted by William Baylies, Seth Williams, and David Cobb,117 made a copy of the Dighton Rock inscription. The rock is situated on the easterly bank of Taunton118 River, forty or fifty miles south of Boston. It is partly covered at high tide. It is eleven feet long, and four feet in height above the level of the water. The level of the beach seems to have risen and to have covered a considerable part of it. It is of a reddish color. Its plane face which contains the inscription is somewhat inclined toward the shore.119 The inscription has attracted the attention of the curious for half a century. The convenience of the roadstead and the facility of navigating the river up to this point encourage the belief that it is the work of Phœnicians who were driven hither from the shores of Europe. Others judge that the inscription is hieroglyphic rather than in alphabetical characters, and that thus it may have been due to Chinese or Japanese navigators. . . . The greater part of the inscription is effaced to such a degree that it is no longer possible to distinguish any characters in these portions of it.
The opinion that the Phœnicians were the carvers of the inscription we have found already recorded by Stiles in 1767. But Sewall’s mention of it seems to be the first that found its way into print. The two facts that he cites as arguments in its support are too completely trivial for such service; but we must assume that the adherents of the view were confident also that there were Phoenician characters among the markings on the rock. This opinion was a welcome support to Gebelin’s own speculations, and he adopted and elaborated it with minute detail. Sewall also seems to have been the first to speak of the existence of a theory that Chinese or Japanese were the authors of the writings. He does not say that he himself accepts either of the views that he mentions.
But besides this rather non-committal opinion written to Gebelin about 1781, we have two positive statements by Sewall which show that he was strongly inclined to attribute the inscription to the Indians. On the drawing itself, as we are about to see, he, or some one else using his words, wrote: “I imagine it to be the work of the Indians of North America, done rather for amusement than (for any serious purpose).” And in a letter of January 13th, 1769, now among the Stiles papers in the Yale Library, he wrote to Stiles as follows:
For my part, I confess I have no faith in the significancy of the characters. There is indeed in some of the figures an appearance of design: — I mean that some of the figures seem to be representations of some things that the engraver previously had in his mind; for instance, of human faces, & bodies, &c. But the strokes in general appear to me to be drawn at random: So that I cannot but think the whole to be a mere lusus Indorum.
Sewall’s was the first complete drawing of the characters which was published, and, with the possible exception of the unpreserved attempts by Stiles and by Paddack, the first one of the full size of the face of the rock. His original drawing is preserved in the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, and is here for the first time accurately reproduced.120 A label on the outside reads: “Transferred by a vote of the Corporation to the Peabody Museum. Delivered Ap. 23. 80. Justin Winsor.” To the face of the drawing is attached a paper containing the following remarks:
Inscription on Dighton Rock.
This copy of the inscription on Dighton Rock was made about the year 1768 by the learned Stephen Sewell, Librarian and Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages. It was put on cloth and framed, and was in the Mineral Room of Harvard Hall. It was a long time before I knew what became of it. My suspicions being excited at last, I took a lantern and with the college janitor went into the garret of Harvard Hall, where, after much searching among bottles, boxes, mineral cases, and trumpery, I found it mutilated, and with the frame broken, jammed away under the eaves. I sent it to Mr. Flattich, a German in Boston, who according to my instructions, put it into its present shape for four dollars and returned it 21 January 1860. This copy of the inscription is noticed in volume second, part second, p. 127, of the Memoirs of the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
John Langdon Sibley, Librarian.
Either in this restoration or in the earlier mounting, the drawing was cut into uniform rectangles measuring 12 by 18 inches, and mounted on cloth with narrow spaces between the sections. The original paper, now very old and fragile, was evidently approaching this condition in 1860, for in several places small pieces of paper were pasted over the original, to hold it together. One of these, in the upper right-hand corner, about half covers a rectangular space of about 6 by 7 inches, now stained a uniform black that shows no indication that there was ever any writing there. Yet this space once contained Professor Sewall’s own description, probably in the exact words already quoted as having been sent to Gebelin in 1781. From unpublished evidence it is possible to restore it practically in its entirety. In 1834 Dr. Thomas H. Webb wrote to Christopher Dunkin, instructor in Greek at Harvard College, as follows: “In the Hall of your University occupied by the Cabinet of Minerals, there is fastened over the entrance door a drawing of the Dighton Writing Rock taken some years since by the late Prof. Sewall. Of this I wish a copy on a reduced scale. . . . On one corner of Prof. S. drawing were written some remarks which are now illegible.” After some further correspondence, Mr. Dunkin sent the desired copy on November 17th, remarking that he had entrusted the commission to “one of our students a Mr. Hale.”121 The copy is carefully executed, and is accompanied by the following note:
. . . September 13th 1768 . . . assisted by . . . David Cobb . . .
The Rock is situated on the eastern side of Taunton river, . . . The river covers it at high water. It is [six?] feet [deep?] & four feet high above the —. . . . It is of a scarlet hue, & has a plane face, . . . inclines a little from the perpendicular.
The inscription on this rock hath engaged the attention . . . for nearly a century past. . . . some imagine it to be . . . from Europe; others judge it to be rather hieroglyphical than literal [derived from] China or Japan! . . . [I] imagine it to be [the work of] the Indians of North America, done rather for amusement than . . . willing to be disabused of this opinion, if . . .122
Except for the last sentence, these statements are clearly exactly the same as those which were sent to Gebelin, and the passages which Hale found illegible in 1834 can be supplied from that source.
The first published reproduction of a copy of Sewall’s drawing was made in 1781 by Gebelin, who “caused it to be engraved with the greatest exactitude.”123 The copy sent over by Winthrop and preserved by the Royal Society was reproduced by Lort in 1787 in Archaeologia. From these two sources, probably, all later reproductions have been derived. Our plates reproduce, not only the original, but the two copies just mentioned, another made after Gebelin by Dammartin in 1838, the one by Rafn in Antiquitates Americanse, 1837, probably derived from Lort’s, and the more recent one by Mallery, derived from that by Rafn.124 These six presentations resemble one another closely, of course; but they also differ, each one from the others, in many individual particulars. The especial interest in exhibiting so many different forms of the same drawing lies partly in the fact that some of them were made the basis of particular theories whose aptness depended to some degree on the particular copy used; but even more in illustrating, as do also the variants of the Danforth, the Mather, and the Greenwood drawings, that no free-hand drawing can be made exactly like its original, that it diverges more in proportion to the lack of artistic skill, the want of a feeling for scientific accuracy, or the degree to which a theory of interpretation may exert a bias in the mind of the copyist. Doubtless other conclusions as to the psychology of copying will result from further study, just as many inferences as to the psychology of the different ways in which the same object is seen by different persons may be based on a comparison of the many differing original drawings. But these matters do not find an appropriate place, except as passing suggestions, in this historical survey.
There seems at first sight some disparity of statement as to where Sewall’s drawing was kept. Winthrop in 1774 speaks of it as in the “Museum;” Webb in 1834 as hanging over the entrance door in the “Hall occupied by the Cabinet of Minerals;” Sibley in 1860 as in the “Mineral Room of Harvard Hall.” Some, I think, have spoken of Sewall’s as well as of James Winthrop’s as being in the “Library;” and in 1880 it was transferred from the charge of the Librarian to the Peabody Museum. These apparently various localities, however, were doubtless actually one and the same, and identical with the “Musæum” established by vote of the Corporation on August 1, 1769:
6. Voted that the Apartment125 on the North side of the entrance to the Philosophy Chamber be a Musæum for the reception of Curiosities belonging to the College, to be in the care of the Librarian, who shall take a catalogue of them in a book and keep the Key; and no person shall be admitted there, but by the Librarian or his Substitute.126
A Room set apart for a Museum.
The Philosophy Chamber was in the present Harvard Hall, which stands on the site of the second Harvard College, burned in January, 1764. The catalogue referred to in the vote cannot now be discovered.
I surmise that it is this fact, that the drawing was kept “in the Mineral Room of Harvard Hall,” together with some later misstatements, which has led to the legend that there was a cast of the rock at Harvard. There is a “plaster contact facsimile” in the Gilbert Museum at Amherst College, made by Professor Lucien I. Blake in 1876. There are statements that one or two other casts were in existence. The first one that I have seen occurs in an unsigned review, written by J. Elliot Cabot in 1849: “There is a facsimile cast in the Geological collection at Cambridge.”127 In 1862 Daniel Wilson claimed128 that “at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held at Albany in 1856,” he “had an opportunity of inspecting a cast of the Dighton Rock;” and in his best humorous (or shall we rather say, flippant) manner proceeded to ridicule it. But apparently Wilson’s prejudiced eyes deceived him as much as he thought that the prejudiced eyes of the copyists of Dighton Rock had deceived them. What he saw was “some casts in plaster of a supposed Runic inscription, which appears upon a ledge of hornblende on the island of Monhegan, off the coast of Maine;” for these were exhibited at the meeting in question, and there is no evidence that any other casts were shown.129 It is doubtless from this mistaken source that was derived the statement, with an error in date, made by Justin Winsor in 1889,130 to the effect that a cast was shown at the Albany meeting of the A.A.A.S. in 1836. Cabot, therefore, remains sole authority for the existence of another cast than that at Amherst.131 Instead of a cast “in the geological collection,” it may well be that what was meant was either this drawing by Sewall “in the Mineral Hall” or “Museum,” or perhaps the paper-and-paint direct impression from the rock, made by James Winthrop in 1788, shortly to be described.
The probability that there was no actual cast there is strongly supported by the results of an inquiry kindly made for me by Professor Kittredge, who writes (on April 1, 1915): “The Geologists know nothing of any cast of the rock. They tell me that our Professor Webster had a lot of miscellaneous stuff which his successor (J. P. Cooke) dumped into the rubbish heap — and they fear this was among it. At all events, they have never seen any such cast.” There seems little question that Cabot’s remark, as well as Daniel Wilson’s bit of apparently supporting evidence, must take their place among the misstatements of fact of which we find so numerous examples in the literature of Dighton Rock.
Besides the opinion of John Winthrop, in 1774, that Sewall’s was the “most exact copy” ever taken, we find it characterized in 1807 by Edward A. Kendall, himself an artist of no mean ability and a close student of the rock itself, as “the most faithful, though not the best executed,”132 of all the copies known to him.
John Winthrop’s Letter, 1774
Reference has already been made to a letter by Professor John Winthrop written November 14, 1774, to Mr. Timothy Hollis, preserved in part in the Minutes of the Royal Society of 1775, but more fully quoted by Lort from the original. Besides speaking of Sewall’s drawing, Winthrop also expresses some observations and opinions of his own. He says that “above thirty years ago” he visited the rock and made “an imperfect copy;” mentions Mather’s account in the Philosophical Transactions; and describes the rock. “When I saw it last [in spring of 1774] the tide covered all but the upper part of it. According to the best of my remembrance, the characters do not appear so plain now as they did about thirty years ago.”133 Of the characters on the rock, he speaks only of the “four human figures, very rudely executed,” and “some semblance of a quadruped with horns.” He concludes: “Whether this was designed by the Indians as a memorial of any remarkable event, or was a mere lusus at their leisure hours, of which they have a great number, I cannot pretend to say. Tis certain it was done before the English settled in this country.”134
John Winthrop has not infrequently been confused with his son James Winthrop by writers on Dighton Rock; and the letters, drawing, and title of the one have been attributed to the other. John was a professor, James was Librarian, at Harvard. The former made the “imperfect copy” of about 1744, and wrote the letter of 1774 which was printed in Archaeologia in 1787. James made a paper-and-paint impression of the rock in 1788, and in the same year wrote a letter which was published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1804 — facts that will later receive fuller discussion.135
Phœnician Theory of Gebelin, 1781
The next event in our history was an important one, which had a far-reaching influence on subsequent opinion and discussion. In this respect it is comparable only to the announcement nearly sixty years later of the Norse theory by Professor Rafn. I refer to the publication in 1781 of a detailed Phoenician interpretation of the whole inscription by M. Court de Gebelin.136 We have seen that Professor Sewall wrote to Gebelin at about this time, suggesting (though contrary to his own opinion) that the inscription may have been Phœnician, and enclosing a copy of his drawing. Gebelin was already engaged in the publication of his elaborate treatise on the Monde Primitif, and he eagerly included in his eighth volume137 this new evidence in support of his belief that Phœnician navigators had sailed “boldly and gloriously” throughout the ancient world, even to America. He advanced many proofs of this view, which are of no particular interest in this discussion. But Dighton Rock supplied the most convincing one of them all.
STILES’S DRAWING, JULY 16, 1767
STILES’S DRAWING, JULY 16, 1767, DORSE
engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts from the original in the possesion of the massachusetts historical society
His account is a long one, but many of his reflections and digressions can be omitted without detriment to an endeavor to follow in. detail the interpretation that he gives to each of the figures. His reproduction of Sewall’s drawing is given in Plate XXIII, and some of its figures are numbered, which will help in the identification of the parts under discussion. The following translation is not literal, since it condenses the original wherever feasible:
If we compare this remarkable monument with the inscriptions of Mount Horeb and of Mount Sinai, described by Kircher and by Pococke respectively, and with recently discovered Phœnician alphabets, we discover an astonishing resemblance which, added to other evidence at hand that the Natives in the vicinity of Boston at least are of Oriental race, makes it certain that the monument . . . was inscribed in very ancient times by Phœnicians, perhaps even by those of whom Diodorus speaks.
1. This monument is not the work of an American nation. The savants who sent us a copy believe that it was executed by a foreign nation, perhaps Chinese, Japanese, or even Phœnician.138 It follows that America offers nothing analogous in the pictures that the Indians make on trees and rocks. Moreover, the known Indian pictures include nothing that approaches these alphabetical characters, and the Indians possessed no such characters. Finally and decisively, the monument depicts objects unknown in America.
2. The monument is divided into three unmistakable scenes, one representing a past, another a present, and the third a future event.
First Scene. — At the right are four figures which turn their backs on the scene representing the present. They clearly relate to a past event. Their nature indicates that those who engraved them were Phœnician navigators, either from Tyre or from Carthage. The figure to the right of 15 is Priapus, god of fecundity, father of fruits. He cannot be mistaken. He indicates the country whence come these bold navigators, — a country of prosperity and abundance. The second figure (to the left of 15) is an owl, symbol of Minerva, Isis or Astarte, goddess of wisdom and of the arts. It indicates the superiority in the arts and the skill in navigation of the nation of these newly landed sailors. The next figure, a little to the left and lower down, is the head of a sparrow-hawk, with a kind of mantle over its shoulders. It symbolizes persons who have come by sea. Among the Egyptians and Phœnicians, the sparrow-hawk was an emblem of the winds, especially of the north wind, which is necessary in order to pass from Europe to America. Figure 14, which terminates this group, is unmistakably the little Telesphore, divinity of a happy outcome. He is wrapped in a sleeveless mantle, and covered with his hood. He shows that the voyage has met with the greatest success.
Second Scene. — This represents the present, and for this reason is placed in the middle of the picture. Its essential objects are two animals that face one another, armed with banners and streamers that float in the wind. One represents the foreign nation, the other the American. The former is a horse, at rest in a kneeling position; the other a beaver, recognizable by its long flat tail.139 Their good accord proves the intelligence of the two nations, and the favorable reception given to the strangers.
The horse, and particularly the head of this proud animal, was the symbol of Carthage, as a maritime city, situated in a fertile and fruitful land. The horse was also a symbol of Neptune, of navigation, and of ships. This horse moreover has the air of a sovereign, while the beaver has almost that of a suppliant, — vivid picture of the difference between the noble pride of science and of the arts, and the timid weakness of ignorance.
The upper part of this scene shows a large space enclosed on all sides, with three re-entrant gates facing north, east and south. It ends toward the west in a triangle within which is a cross. This is evidently a habitation divided into two parts, of which the larger was the dwelling of the natives, the smaller one that of the strangers, who placed a cross therein. It is known that the cross was in use in most remote antiquity among the Egyptians; and the Carthaginians were acquainted with it also, and used it as an instrument of punishment. Behind their dwelling is no. 8, their bark or ship, with stern, prow, mast, and rudder. From no. 11 to no. 9 is a band of alphabetical characters, reading from right to left. No. 11 may be an H or an A; no. 12, a B or an R. The next following characters cannot be deciphered. The band ends in three characters (no. 9), which may be three T’s, or more likely three X’s, indicating the number of the foreigners. No. 7 resembles a Phœnician Caph.
Third Scene. — This relatively empty scene represents the solitude of the future. No. 3 is a colossal bust, the Oracle who has just been consulted; his veil, no. 2, is already drawn. The question put to him was concerning the time of departure homeward; and the answer has been favorable. On the right arm of the Oracle is a butterfly (the right-hand figure within the bust), symbol of return, of resurrection. On the breast of the god is a character which, if hieroglyphical, is the trident of Neptune; if alphabetical, is the Phœnician M, initial of the Phœnician name for water, and thus again symbol of Neptune. No. 4 is a small statue or personage; no. 6 a person advancing hastily.140 Above no. 5 is the Q of the Syracusans, Corinthians and Carthaginians. It is the initial letter of the name Carthage, — another evidence that Carthaginian sailors, perhaps while on a voyage to or from England, were driven by some northerly tempest to the shores of America.
At the left extremity of this scene are three monograms, formed of characters that are incontestably Phœnician. No. 1 is formed of the two letters, Sh and N, and is the word Sh-Na, year. The lower ones indicate probably the month and the day of the month. These letters are drawn with more taste and skill than the other figures, which are very crude. This is natural, for the writer on the ship would be more skilful than the painter. Nevertheless, the distribution of the picture is made with much intelligence and unity of design.
It is a happy circumstance for us that this unique monument has been sent to us at the very moment when the fitting accomplishment of our work compelled us to develop our ideas on this subject.
It seems hardly necessary to say that the interest of Gebelin’s theory lies not in any possibility that it may be correct, but in its historical and psychological importance as an influence in shaping opinion and as a stage in the gradual development of scientifically sound views. From this point of view every fact, however trivial, every drawing, however distorted, and every theory, however mistaken, is an interesting exhibit, an indispensable factor in the dramatic sequence of events that make up, all taken together, the entire absorbing story. Considered simply as a rude scrawl of unknown meaning made by uncultured Indians, Dighton Rock would be worthy of but scanty notice. As the centre of interest around which has raged a storm of controversy; as the leading motif in a developing symphony that passes through many movements to a final clarity and harmony of many subordinate motifs; as the plot which has involved in an unfolding story a multitude of strange and varied actors; as a mystery which has led through crude and errant stages at last to a sound scientific understanding — Dighton Rock is unsurpassed in its appeal. Its history illustrates almost every variety of scientific error, almost every type of psychological process. As a study in the correct method and common errors in science, and as a subject for illustrating the natural psychology of perception and belief, there is nothing more instructive. My own art is inadequate to present the material in a manner that will exhibit all these features as they might be presented. But it may furnish the raw materials of actual fact, and some part of the machinery of fruitful suggestion, wherewith the reader may weave his own perfect fabric. Whoever will take each drawing and, giving free rein to his selective imagination, find it fully justified in the Burgess photograph, as can be done with practically every one of the originals; or, if a copy, find in it an illustration of definite and comprehensible laws of the copying process; and will further think himself sympathetically into the frame of mind and limitations of knowledge of each exponent of a theory, will derive from this study all of its possibilities of instruction and entertainment.
Gebelin, Harris, Hill, Magnusen, Rafn, Dammartin — devisers of detailed theories concerning this inscription — were of the type in whom the possession of a theory, the imagining of the presence of a particular figure, creates a blindness to all other possibilities. The type is common in early stages of scientific advance, and helpful to its development; and it is very common wherever the true lesson and method of science has not been grasped. Gebelin saw a Priapus, a horse, a habitation, a Phœnician letter, — and lo! the figures were indubitably designed by their authors to be just these and nothing else. He believed in the far-extended voyages of the Phœnicians; they might have landed at Dighton Rock, — a possibility which no one to-day would think of denying; and to him it followed that they unquestionably did land here and carve the rock. It is much more profitable and interesting sympathetically to appreciate the type, to welcome the example of a fitting stage in the unfolding drama of opinion, — to regard each new theory offered and each new figure seen as a precious find — than coldly to criticize the interpretation offered and dismiss it as false and unworthy of serious attention.
At least one other feature of psychological interest is present in Gebelin’s case. I refer to the occurrence at apt moments of fortunate coincidences. Examples of this have occurred more than once in the history of Dighton Rock. We have seen how Gebelin himself remarked on the happy coincidence of the arrival of a copy of this inscription in his hands just when it was most serviceable to him in the exposition of his theories. He did not himself know fully how remarkable the coincidence was. Not only was Sewall’s drawing helpful to him, but, if he really reproduced it as faithfully as he says he did, the particular copy of the drawing that was sent to him was, of all the copies of which we have knowledge, the best adapted for his purposes. On all of them he could have found most of his figures, but on no other could he have seen the horse which was most convincing proof of Carthaginian origin; and this seems to be true also of some other figures, such as the sparrow-hawk and the owl. The very copy providentially came to him which he most needed for his purposes. There is no chapter in the history of science that is more curious than that of coincidence. It is laden with suggestions of a beneficent Providence, and of all sorts of strange mental and spiritual forces. It is an elusive light, enticing men much more often into pathways of error than of truth. Yet it has played its part sometimes as an important and even indispensable element in the discovery of the latter.
Gebelin’s views naturally aroused much subsequent discussion. Many, like President Stiles, accepted them favorably. Others opposed them. Alexander von Humboldt,141 for instance, speaks of the “enthusiasm which is natural to him, but which is highly mischievous in discussions of this kind.” Lort142 remarked: “It would scarce be supposed he could be serious, by anyone that did not consider how far a man may be carried by attachment to a system.” Vallancey143 seems to have made an unwarranted statement which, since it has been quoted,144 needs correction. He calls Gebelin’s an “explanation repugnant to all history. Many letters passed between me ana Gebelin on this subject; at length he acknowledged his doubts; in short, tacitly gave up the point.” This “tacitly” is misleading, and does not justify its conclusion. Vallancey had quite as indefensible a theory of his own to advocate; and that he was naturally a prejudiced and unreliable theorizer we are shortly to discover. Sounder criticisms of Gebelin, however, were fully justified. While his theory was still a serious possibility, the attitude of critical discussion, advocacy or opposition, was the only one possible, instead of that which I have just been defending as desirable now. The question is no longer a genuine issue. Yet it is interesting to notice, in filially taking leave of Gebelin, that I have found — in sources, of course, that have no scientific importance whatever — two revivals of this old Phœnician theory as recently as 1890 and 1915.
Du Simitière; Stiles’s Election Sermon, 1783; Lort and Vallancey
In earlier discussions, I have quoted several times from an unpublished manuscript by Du Simitière. Everything of importance in it has been given, except its conclusion, which gives evidence that part of it, at least, was written shortly after the publication of Gebelin’s eighth volume in 1781.
It seems that the opinion of the learned of this day in New England, is, that, the above mentioned inscription or some other, in that part of the continent is really of the highest antiquity and it is like to make more noise now in the world than ever it did before; as will appear from the following paragraph, translated from the Journal politique ou Gazette des Gazettes [Bouillon, May 22, 1781, p. 65. The quoted passage mentions Gebelin’s theory and his forthcoming “memoir”]. N.B. the above mentioned intended memoir has been actually published at Paris in June 81. in the work entitled [here follows the unabridged title, in about seventy-five words, of the Monde Primitif], for an account of this work see Mercure de France No 28 for July 14, 1781 page 76.
Dr. Ezra Stiles, whose drawings of 1767 we have already discussed, continued his interest in Dighton Rock throughout his life. His only public reference to it that I can find occurs in his Election Sermon of 1783; but he mentions it several times in his Diary, both before and after that event. The Diary145 references are as follows:
May 1, 1782. — I wrote a Letter to Professor Williams of Harv. Coll. answerg his upon M. Gibelins Opinion that the Inscription upon the Rock at Taunton is Punic or Phœnician. I doubt it, havg compared it with all the oriental Paleography. (III. 19–20.)
May 16, 1783.146 — Visited Dighton Rock charged with Inscriptions & Character which M. Gebelin of the Acady of Paris says is Phœnecian or Carthaginian. (III. 72.)
Oct. 3, 1788.147 — At Assonet employed in taking off the Inscription on Dighton Rock, which I formerly copied in 1766. (III. 330.) [The 1766 should have been 1767. His biographer, Abiel Holmes, follows the error.]
Sept. 16, 1790. Writg a Letter to Dr. Barton148 of Philada with Copies of Dighton Rock Inscriptions &c. upon his publica of American Antiquities. (III. 402.)
The doubts that he expressed in 1782 concerning Gebelin’s theory seem to have wholly disappeared at the time of his Election Sermon in 1783. The occasion of this sermon is sufficiently indicated in its title.149 It was only a year and a half since Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, and peace had not yet been formally ratified with England. Indian wars had ceased in New England; but to the country as a whole they yet presented a serious problem.
The future destiny of the new United States was uncertain, but Stiles saw for it an “elevation to glory and honor.” He based his certainty of this fortunate outcome on the prophecy in the ninth chapter of Genesis: “Cursed be Canaan; . . . God shall enlarge Japhet, and Canaan shall be his servant.” “We are to consider all the european settlements of America collectively,” he says, “as springing from, and transfused with the blood of Japhet. . . . I rather consider the American Indians as Canaanites of the expulsion of Joshua.” In proof of the latter contention, he cites the observations of Smibert, who saw in the Indians a resemblance to Siberian Tartars.150 From this and other unspecified data, “we may perceive, that all the Americans [i. e. Indians] are one people — that they came hither certainly from the north-east of Asia; probably also from the mediterranean; and if so that they are canaanites, tho’ arriving hither by different routs.” He concludes, therefore, from the Biblical prophecy, that the Indians “will eventually be, as the most of them have already become, servants unto Japhet” (“at least unto tribute,” as he says in another place); and that “the population of this land will probably become very great.”
SEWALL’S DRAWING, 1768
from the original in the peabody museum, harvard university
LORT’S REPRODUCTION OF SEWALL’S DRAWING, 1768
from archaeologia 1787, viii, plate xix. engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts
In the course of this argument he makes mention of Dighton Rock, which he regards, apparently, as the work not of the Indians but of Phœnicians. Providence brought the Indians here, he says, long before the Europeans, and before Madoc in 1170,151 and before men from Norway in 1001, —
not to mention the visit of still greater antiquity by the Phœnicians, who charged the Dighton rock and other rocks in Narragansett-bay with Punic inscriptions, remaining to this day. Which last I myself have repeatedly seen and taken off at large, as did Professor Sewall. He has lately transmitted a copy of this inscription to M. Gebelin of the Parisian academy of sciences, who comparing them with the Punic paleography, judges them punic, and has interpreted them as denoting, that the ancient Carthaginians once visited these distant regions.
This sermon has been misrepresented as being a plea for rebellion, or as advocating the deliberate extermination of the Indians. Thus the reviewer of Lort, who had given a very fair and full abstract of Stiles in Archaeologia,152 says in the English Review for 1790153 that Stiles tortured the characters on the rock “into another system in favour of triumphant rebellion.” Daniel Wilson represents him as saying that the Indians were to be “displaced and rooted out by the European descendants of Japhet.”154 Gravier says that Stiles accepted Gebelin’s theory, “and made it the basis of an argument that the white men, sons of Japhet, should exterminate the Indians, sons of Ham.”155 I have seen other instances, but do not find them in my notes. It is clear that Stiles did not speak of, much less advocate, extermination; but simply predicted, on scriptural authority, that the Indians would become servants of the whites, “at least unto tribute.”
It was the sermon by Stiles, together with Gebelin’s discussion, that led the Rev. Michael Lort to search in 1786 for previous references to the rock. Most of the contents of the paper that he read before the Society of Antiquaries of London,156 the source of nearly all reports as to the earlier history of the case until now, have been presented in earlier connections. As to his own opinions, he was really non-committal at this time. “When I first saw it,” he says, “in M. Gebelin’s book, I own I could conceive of it as nothing more than the rude scrawls of some of the Indian tribes, commemorating their engagements, their marches, or their hunting parties, such as are to be seen in different accounts of these nations.” But he does not tell us whether he still holds to this opinion. After his paper and Vallancey’s, which follows it, had been criticized in the English Review,157 however, and the reviewer had told the story of Dean Berkeley’s visit to the rock and resulting belief that the marks were due to natural forces of erosion only, Lort wrote to Bishop Percy on April 16, 1790,158 saying: “I have reduced it to the lowest standard of human art, by supposing it the scrawl of Indian hunters;” but now, after learning of Berkeley’s view, “I am very much disposed to be of this [i.e. Berkeley’s] hypothesis.”
The next following paper in the same number of Archaeologia (page 302) was entitled: “Observations on the American Inscription. By Colonel Charles Vallancey, F.A.S. Read Febr. 9, 1786.” Supporting his views on the similarity existing between Danforth’s drawing and an inscription found on a rock in Siberia, described and figured by Strahlenburg, he concludes that Dighton Rock was certainly inscribed by Siberian Tartars. His imperfect sense of strict accuracy is exhibited at the very beginning of his paper, where he says that “the drawing of the inscription sent to M. Gebelin was taken by Dr. Greenwood in the year 1730,” instead of by Professor Sewall in 1768. Attention has been called also to his unwarranted distortion of facts concerning a change in Gebelin’s belief in consequence of a correspondence between the two. That some, at least, of Vallancey’s contemporaries had no high regard for him as a scientific observer is indicated in the following passages quoted from letters by the Rev. Edward Ledwich, who is described by Nichols159 as a “learned and industrious antiquary and typographer:”
Ledwich to Richard Gough, Esq., June 24, 1787. — I must take the liberty, entre nous, of cautioning you about Colonel Vallancey’s drawings. On reflection, I believe you will not adopt his whimsical, and, indeed, absurd explanations of the most common things. [Vallancey had tried to prove that an officer’s gorget of 100 to 150 years ago was exactly the same as the Urim and Thummim.] . . . All his other profound investigations are equally ridiculous, and at some future time will be ridiculed.
Ledwich to Bishop Percy, August 28, 1802. — [Speaks of] Vallancey’s ungentlemanlike treatment of every writer dissenting from him, and his monstrous absurdities.
James Winthrop, 1788
Every one who tries to make a free-hand drawing of the inscribed rock quickly realizes that, whatever his skill, his copy differs to some extent from the original. There was constant dissatisfaction with the copies already made, and a desire to obtain something more accurate. Before the introduction of photography, the most promising method of guaranteeing complete fidelity seemed to be to cover over the artificial characters with something like ink or paint, and then press paper firmly against the rock and thus take off the characters in exact form and size. Perhaps Stiles had attempted this in July, 1767; and certainly Paddack did in the following month. But these copies never became widely known, and Stiles’s has not been preserved. In 1788, however, James Winthrop160 made use of a similar method, and the life-sized impression which he obtained was long preserved in the Library of Harvard College,161 but seems now to have disappeared. Fortunately, however, an engraving162 of it, from a copy reduced by an accurate method, accompanied by a letter dated November 10, 1788, in which Winthrop describes his method and observations, was published in 1804.163 He says:
“At the lowest tides the water retires from the foot of it, but at high water it is commonly covered.” The face is natural, not smoothed by art; measures ten feet six by four feet two. “Tradition informs us, that in the last century it stood as much as four rods from the river, but the inhabitants by digging round it, upon the foolish expectation of finding money, gave a passage to the tide.” Speaks of Sewall’s copy, in the Museum of the University at Cambridge. “The lower part of the rock has been for a long time coated with moss and dirt, which concealed a considerable part of the inscription.” The shortness of its uncovering by the tides “will abundantly account for any deficiency or imperfection in the copy taken by Professor Sewell, whose habitual accuracy and attention are well known.”
“In the course of last August,164 upon the invitation of Judge Baylies,165 of Dighton, I went to view the rock, and take a copy of it. We were assisted by Rev. Mr. Samuel West and Col. Edward Pope, both of New Bedford, and Rev. Mr. Smith, of Dighton.166 We spent one day in clearing the face of the rock, tracing the character, and painting167 it black. . . . The next day [August 14, 1788], . . . after retracing the character with paint, . . . we applied the paper to the face of the rock, two of us managing the ends of the sheet, and the remainder, with towels, which we dipt into the river, pressing the paper upon the rock. . . . As soon as the paper was dry enough to be removed, we laid it upon the shore and completed the character with ink.” Afterward, at home, he traced the inscription with ink upon the other side of the paper. Having thus obtained a “positive,” he had a large “pentagraph” made, which would expand thirteen feet; and therewith made the reduced copy which was reproduced in the engraving.
“The inscription comes within eight inches of the bottom of the rock, and runs off at the top and ends, which makes it highly probable, that it has suffered considerably since it was first wrought. The character is generally about half an inch wide and very shallow, appearing as if it was made by some pointed instrument.” As to his method of copying it, it “appears in practice to be simple and exact.”
The fallacy of Winthrop’s confidence in the accuracy of his method lies in the facts, first, that it does not insure a reliable distinction between natural and artificial markings; and secondly, that he and his party painted only what they personally believed to be inscription. We can have no confidence that their selection of characters as artificial was any more to be relied on than that of any one else who attempts to depict them. As I have previously suggested,168 any one who seeks to improve upon the actual vagueness and uncertainty of the inscription by showing it in a definite and detailed form, must infallibly be in error; and this is true whether he draws the characters as they appear to him, or makes a cast of them and then renders it legible by painting in his interpretation,169 or chalks the supposed characters on the rock itself and then either draws or photographs the result. It is, of course, true that the method is well calculated to present the size, proportions, and relative positions of the figures in an exact manner. But as to what artificial figures are actually there, comparison of this paint-and-paper impression with the Burgess photograph, the most trustworthy reproduction in existence, and with the many differing other original copies that have been made, from which it differs vastly more than they from one another, seems to justify the conviction that Winthrop’s result is the least trustworthy of any. It has rarely met with approval by any expert judge, and has often been justly criticized. Thus Kendall says: “Of all others the method of procuring a copy, described by Mr. Winthrop, is the one most infallibly adapted for producing a deceitful issue. . . . No such expedient can succeed. The greater part of the inscription is so much worn out, that the forms, of which it is composed, are wholly subject to the fancy; and in several places, where the figures are plain, they are made out, rather by difference of colour, than by difference of surface. Figures of the latter class can yield no impression; and those of the former will take any shape, into which the printers’ ink may be spread.”170 Elsewhere he says further: “It must be evident, that the accuracy of the impression eminently depended upon the accuracy with which the ink was applied. Now, the sculptures being in general very obscure, nothing could be more easy than to apply the ink erroneously.”171 Thomas H. Webb172 disapproves of Winthrop’s method, and of chalking the characters and then photographing them, “so that we have not a daguerreotype of the original, but of the part supposed to have been traced.” C. R. Hale173 is another critic who finds Winthrop’s copy defective. Both Kendall and Hale approve only of a drawing by a skilled artist, with the characters left purposely vague as on the original, such as were made by Kendall himself and by Seager; and, with the exception of a clear photograph made without any chalking or other selective brightening of the lines, I believe that they are right.
Washington, 1789; the Belknap Papers
It is said to have been this copy by James Winthrop that attracted the attention of George Washington in the autumn of 1789. The circumstances are related most fully and authoritatively by the Rev. Dr. John Lathrop, in a letter of August 10, 1809, to Judge John Davis.174 Dr. Lathrop, who was with Washington at the time of the latter’s visit to the Museum of Harvard College, told the latter of the belief that there were Oriental characters on the Rock, and that Phœnician navigators, “who as early as the days of Moses are said to have extended their navigation beyond the Pillars of Hercules.” had made the inscribed record.
After I had given the above account, the President smiled, and said he believed the learned Gentlemen whom I had mentioned were mistaken: and added, that in the younger part of his life, his business called him to be very much in the wilderness of Virginia, which gave him an opportunity to become acquainted with many of the customs and practices of the Indians. The Indians he said had a way of writing and recording their transactions, either in war or hunting. When they wished to make any such record, or leave an account of their exploits to any who might come after them, they scraped off the outer bark of a tree, and with a vegetable ink, or a little paint which they carried with them, on the smooth surface, they wrote, in a way that was generally understood by the people of their respective tribes. As he had so often examined the rude way of writing practised by the Indians of Virginia, and observed many of the characters on the inscription then before him, so nearly resembled the characters used by the Indians, he had no doubt the inscription was made, long ago, by some natives of America.
There are numerous references to both Stiles and Winthrop, and their dealings with Dighton Rock, in the correspondence between Dr. Jeremy Belknap and Ebenezer Hazard175 at about this time. Most of them are unimportant, but they infuse a gleam of humor into our subject, and add a little information. Hazard speaks of the rock in 1784 as a puzzle to Dr. Stiles. Belknap replies: “There is no end of conjectures when one’s imagination is warmed, as the Doctor’s apparently is with his system.” In 1788, Belknap writes: “Jemmy Winthrop has visited Dighton Rock, and taken off the inscription more perfectly than it was ever done before. But, how to translate it? Ay, there’s the rub. And perhaps, if it was translated, it might prove an unmeaning scrawl. But we are in the dark in that.” In reply, Hazard remarks prophetically: “Many a man may run his head against Dighton Rock before the meaning of the inscription on it will be known;” and Belknap, in return, criticizes Winthrop’s copy.
Before citing Belknap’s next letter to Hazard in which this subject is mentioned, brief notice may be given to the fact that John Pintard, writing to Belknap on August 26, 1789, speaks of James Winthrop, and says: “I wish to contribute my aid towards his decyphering the Dighton Rock, but I apprehend it impossible.”176
GEBELIN’S REPRODUCTION OF SEWALL’S DRAWING, 1768
from gebelin’s monde primtif, 1781, viii, planche i
DAMMARTIN’S REPRODUCTION OF GEBELIN’S REPRODUCTION OF SEWALL’S DRAWING 1768
from dammartin explication de la pierre de taunston 1838 planche i engarved for the colonial society of massachusetts
In the final letter by Belknap referring to this matter, a new event is recorded. On the 20th of August, 1789, he writes to Hazard as follows:
We had nothing of any great consequence at the Academy. . . . We had, also, a third copy of the inscription on Dighton Rock. There is a bird added to the discoveries, which is said to bear some resemblance to the cassowary of the East Indies; and there are figures which resemble our Arabic numerals 18881. There is, also, a figure which seems to be compounded of two Roman capitals, thus, ɅA. What they will finally make of it, I know not. This communication was from Dr. Baylies, of Dighton, who lives in sight of the Rock.
The reference here is to a drawing which has been known wrongly as “Dr. Baylies and Mr. Goodwin’s Copy, 1790,” through errors in both name and date that were made early, and were continued in the name attached to its reproduction in the Antiquitates Americanse of 1837, the only published and well known version of it. But there are two drawings which are clearly variants of the same, in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. One of them, 7½ by 19 inches in size, bears the description: “Dighton Inscription copied in 1789 by Rev. Mr. Smith. Presented to the Society July 1, 1889, by W. P. U[pham].” On the other, 12 by 22 inches, is written: “Dighton Inscription Sent to Presidt Stiles By Revd Mr Smith 1789.” To these I can add another original, measuring 7¼ by 20¾ inches, that was drawn by Joseph Gooding of Dighton. I have found in print no authoritative account of the authors and circumstances of this historically important version of the inscription. From various unpublished sources, however, that have never been brought together, we discover that it was made shortly before July 25, 1789; that several copies were drawn at the same time directly from the rock; that Joseph Gooding177 and another person, probably either Samuel Baylies or William Baylies, Jr., were the actual draughtsmen; that the rock, in preparation for the draught, had first been carefully studied and its artificial lines selected and chalked by the Rev. John Smith178 and the Hon. William Baylies of Dighton, the Rev. Samuel West179 of New Bedford, and “an engraver;” and that the Rev. Dr. Stiles, President of Yale College, not yet satisfied with the several copies he had made or of which he knew, was probably responsible for its making, having applied to the Rev. John Smith to secure a new drawing.
The fullest and earliest account of the affair is contained in a letter from the Rev. John Smith of Dighton to Dr. Stiles, preserved among the Stiles papers in the Yale Library; and it adds much to what has previously been known from other sources.
Honorable much respected & Dr Sir,
My long delay in sending you a delineation of the characters of the Dighton Rock, be assured, is not to be imputed to my neglect or want of attention to your application. but to the very great difficulty of describing them with precision. You are sensible, Sir, that no two descriptions by any two Gentlemen, or any two taken by any one person, at different times, do agree with each other. And I am fully of the opinion there were originally more characters on the rock than we have been wont to imagine. Some characters are always evident; others are sometimes very distinguishable, & some others are commonly unobserved being by time almost obliterated. And the characters, in general less evident, on some days or rather hours in the day, are obvious, but are commonly almost imperceptible. Hence the reason of the dissimilitude of the several copies which have been heretofore taken. In the solution of those different appearances of the characters on the rock at different times you will, Sir, permit me to observe That the situation of the Sun with respect to the rock & the station of the observer or draughtman are both to be considered. When the Sun begins to incline to the west of the Rock, having passed his meridian so far as to cast his rays obliquely on the Rock which looks about N.W. leaving the ingraved characters in a partial shade, is, I think, the time to discover the most if not all the characters. The station and distance of the observer or delineator is also a very material circumstance; in one position and distance some characters are discernable but in another invisible. We find that a distant and oblique view in which the sight is the least injured by the refraction of the light, is the most favorable to the discovery of those character which in general are the least evident. It is a fact that some characters not discoverable in one station become evident by another; the station for some reasons, at the time, may be too near or too remote, too oblique or too direct with respect to the object to be discovered. To take off those characters, even tolerably, we have found to be a work of long observation and repeated labour.
With all drafts before us formerly taken & obtainable our own (Professor Sewalls and Mr Winthrop’s, the latter taken the last summer in the manner I formerly mentioned) the Revd Samll West of Dartmouth & Honourable Wm Baylies A. A Socii180 assisting both of whom had formerly and the latter repeatedly of late attended us in compleating this business (with the assistance also of an engraver in the leading draft before this) and two draftmen181 who draw to the life attending from eight o,clock a.m. until 2. p.m., & examining minutely every character, wishing to visit the rock no more, and determining to do everything perfectly, was this copy of the Dighton Rock which we have presented you, drafted. It is the opinion of the gentlemen who attended, that this draft has never been equalled; nor do they conjecture that it can hereafter be much exceeded. It is indeed possible that a very curious hand who had no other object of attention might by visiting the rock daily, a number of weeks, amend that draft; but no man, can, I apprehend, by a few visits determine that the draft we have sent you is much defective. We are: however so diffident of its perfection that should it be ever made publick, it is our opinion, that ye other draughts should be published with it; for though it may in general be more complete it may in a few strokes be less accurate than some of the other descriptions; and a general view of the whole, it is probable will manifest the more evident traits of the original.
We discovered a few strokes below the animal, but not sufficiently evident for delineation. The bird is supposed to be the Casuary peculiar to Asia; & it is conjectured that the animal is asiatic.
Was N. America once inhabited by a people from Asia who were skilled in hierogliphicks, who used the shield and helmet, who worshiped on high places & who gradually receeding before the more nothern tribes from Siberia settled themselves in the southern continent?
The Hon. Wm Baylies has applied to Mr Winthrop of Cambridge to present Dr Stiles with a copy of his delineation of the characters of the Dighton Rock — which he has probably already received.
To the Revd Dr Stiles President of Yale College, this description of the Dighton Rock is most humbly presented, in testimony of unfeigned respect and great esteem, by his most obedient and very humble servant
P. S. . . . The preceeding account of the Dighton has been read & approved by those gentlemen whose names are herein mentioned, desiring yt I would add that the description being taken with a pen it is conjectured . . .182 is not exactly proportioned.
The proportion of one figure with another, must I conceive from the mode in which he made his draught, be more exactly impressed by Mr Wintworth, than could be made on sight by a draughtman tho very expert.
The copies I have sent you, Sir, were taken at the same time; which ye most nearly resembles the original we can hardly determine. The delineations I have sent you are also somewhat defective in the relative distances of some of the characters.
Capt Walter Haley who has resided seven years in China, not knowing our conjectures, declared the bird to be the Casur or Casuar of China; one of which he saith he owned several years, & the figure answers well to the description which he gives of that bird.
In view of later conflicting statements as to who was the person chiefly responsible for this version in its several somewhat differing copies, and by whose name it should therefore be known, we could wish that the Rev. John Smith had been more explicit in regard to the several functions of the associates whose names he mentions. He himself, in all the literature of the subject, has never been given credit for it, although according to his own statement he was the leading figure in the enterprise. Another important feature that he fails to mention is that, as a preliminary to the actual drawing, the characters that were so carefully studied out were rendered clear and definite by means of chalk. This was a common practice as a preparation for drawing, resorted to earlier by both Greenwood and Stiles; as it is still the almost universal practice as a preliminary to photography. That it was resorted to in this case we learn from Kendall, who tells us that one of the drawings that he saw in 1807 “is in the possession of the Honourable Judge Baylies, of Dighton, under whose inspection it was made. In this instance, the supposed sculptures were chalked, and the chalked lines were copied. But this expedient . . . is deceitful in its promise of accuracy: I tried it myself, and found that I falsified the figures at every touch.”183
The drawing that was sent by Smith to President Stiles is no longer preserved with the letter, having wandered somehow to Boston, where I found it unexpectedly after I had become acquainted with the letter itself. It is clearly a version of the same drawing as that spoken of by Belknap as having been sent to the American Academy by Dr. Baylies. That the latter person disputed Smith’s claim to the honor of having superintended its making is revealed in the above passage from Kendall, and confirmed by Dr. Baylies himself. In the first volume of manuscript Papers of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston is an “Extract of a letter from William Baylies Esq, dated Dighton 27 July 1789, to James Winthrop Esq, with a copy of the Dighton inscription. Communicated by Mr Winthrop.” It is endorsed as “Read Aug. 19. 1789.” The drawing itself cannot be found, but it is naturally the same as that above mentioned as referred to by Belknap, and its essential identity with the others here discussed is evident. Dr. Baylies’ account, though much less circumstantial than Smith’s, nevertheless contains some further details, and is as follows:
I have within a few days, made another visit to the Rock. The Reverend Mess’rs West & Smith accompanied me. We endeavoured to be very exact. We viewed it at different distances, in different directions in the full blaze of light, & when shaded. I chalk’d most of the lines myself & I herewith send you a Copy of the Inscriptions as they were chalk’d, done in my Opinion tollerably well; I will not be answerable for the exactness of their magnitude & situation with respect to each other. You will observe that several caracters in this Copy differ from those which have been taken before. I was aware of this, & therefore examined them with the most scrupulous attention. The first Character on the right hand is certainly open at the bottom, and the three Xs are united by curv’d lines at top & bottom. The stroke running from the figure which is on the right of the left Hieroglyphick & seems to form the basis of it, is very plain on the rock. The Bird is entirely new: the head, crest, neck, legs the curv’d stroke behind them & the line of the Belly as far as the legs are all very evident & it is rather surprizing that we should hitherto have overlook’d it. The back is not so easily seen, more especially a little behind the O it is not to be distinguish’d from a number of straight oblique lines terminating in a bushy tail, wider I think, than the Copy gives it. I had no sooner chalk’d it, than it convey’d to me the Idea of a Cassaware, a representation of which I had somewhere seen a number of Years since. Mr West upon seeing it on paper join’d in Opinion with me. I shew’d it to Mr Healy, the Gentleman on whom you call’d when in Dighton to see some Eastern Curiosities, he at once pronounced it a Cassaware without any intimation of my Opinion. He told me that in the East Indies he was well acquainted with the Cassaware, having one in his possession for the space of six months, & he thought this to be a good likeness; the greatest difference was in the Crest; that of the Cassaware being solid, horny, & shap’d like the Comb of a Cock. I observ’d to him that I could not tell what to make of the bending stroke behind the legs. His reply was that the Cassaware, when tir’d of standing, eas’d himself down on his belly by resting his Wings on the ground, which being made as he express’d it of unfeather’d sticks, some being much longer than others, bent into that figure upon the Bird’s beginning to settle. Should this & the Quadrupede prove to be the Cassaware & Leopard, of which I am not in much doubt, we must go to Asia for the Engravers; & shall find perhaps simular figures in the Pagodas of the East, & finally trace its Origin to the Symbolic Worship of the Scythians. To the left & right of the Bird are several characters which are omitted: as they could not be traced with Accuracy, I thought it best to pass them by entirely. As I despair of obtaining a better, you may lay this Copy before the Academy, if you think it of any Utility.
We are not yet done with claimants to the honor of having produced this drawing. We find a new one in Joseph Gooding of Dighton, about whom we know most fully from an unpublished letter written by Miss Sophia F. Brown of Dighton to the Rev. Edward Everett Hale:184
Dighton Oct. 19th 1864. . . . It was made by Joseph Gooding of Dighton, the date as nearly as we can ascertain is 1790. Mr. Gooding who has been dead many years was an old man when he gave it to my mother, and he told her that he made it when he was a boy of fourteen at the same time that he made another copy for a party of gentlemen from Harvard. He said they appeared to be satisfied with the drawing and gave him a silver half dollar which was the largest sum of money he had ever owned. He had to scrape away the moss, he said, then, to obtain the figure of the bird in the lower part of the inscription.
The date given here is approximate only, and should be 1789, for no drawings so much alike as this and the one by the Rev. John Smith could have been made except from the same chalking. Gooding’s age should have been given as sixteen; and it is hardly correct to say that the drawing was made for “a party of gentlemen from Harvard.” The narrative as it comes to us, moreover, assigns to Gooding sole credit as maker of the drawing; but it is clear from Smith’s statement that he could have taken no other part in the enterprise than that of one of the two draughtsmen, though he may well have assisted also in the menial task of scraping away the moss and perhaps thus was even the discoverer of the “bird.” But the really critical feature, the selective chalking, must have been attended to for the most part, as Dr. Baylies says it was, by the older members of the party.
Some further facts appear in the following passage from the Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot for May 18, 1819,185 quoted from the Newburyport Herald of May 4:
The writer of this article recollects about the year 1791 or 2, of seeing two copies of the writing on the Rock, taken by two gentlemen of Dighton, one by Dr. H. Baylies, the other by Mr. William Goodwin. Copies of the Doctor’s transcript were sent to several of the Universities in this country, and a copy of Mr. Goodwin’s was sent by the Rev. John Smith, the minister at Dighton, to the University of Edinburg; but it is not known that, at that period, any satisfactory result was returned as to the origin or meaning of these hieroglyphics. We are led to these observations at this time by observing the following paragraph in a late New Bedford Mercury:
“We are requested to mention that the Rev. Timothy Alden, President of Allegheny College, has lately received information from a gentleman in France, that the Hieroglyphics on Dighton Rock have been decyphered; and that it appears they were inscribed by an Asiatic in the year of the world 1902. We are promised a further account of them.”
The theory here referred to is that of Mathieu, which will receive attention later. The “William Goodwin” of this writer is doubtless Joseph Gooding, and the initial of Dr. Baylies is given wrongly. The Rev. Mr. Smith now becomes apparently a mere copyist from Gooding, while Gooding and Baylies are represented as makers of independent drawings. They both undoubtedly had copies of the drawing in their possession, as proved by the statements of Kendall and of Miss Brown; and each very likely regarded it as “his own” drawing.
Still another person seems to be introduced into this elusive group by the Rev. Dr. William Bentley of Salem, who, in his Diary on October 13, 1807, speaks of “figures from the two Baylies, who have been attentive to the Dighton rock & live not far from the spot on which it stands.”186 The second Baylies would naturally have been one of the Doctor’s three sons, Samuel, William, or Francis. Possibly one of them served as the second draughtsman.187 There is no other reference anywhere to either of them as having made or helped to make a drawing.
WINTHROP’S FULL SIZE IMPRESSION FROM DIGHTON ROCK, 1788
from memoirs of the academy of arts and sciences. 1804, ii, part ii, engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts
When Dr. Thomas H. Webb in 1830 was collecting materials for Professor Rafn’s great work on the Norsemen, he visited Dighton and there or elsewhere secured a copy of this drawing. If he obtained it from Joseph Gooding, who was still alive, and through him or others learned of Dr. Baylies’s connection with it, this would explain, except for the error in the name, why, on its publication in the Antiquitates Americanæ, it was called “Dr. Baylies and Mr. Goodwin’s 1790.”
The Rev. Charles Reuben Hale, Chaplain of the Naval Academy at Newport, who assisted in making the Seager drawings of 1864, tells us that this drawing was made “under the superintendence of Dr. Baylies.”188 This may be merely a repetition from Kendall. The Doctor’s son Francis, speaking to Yates and Moulton in 1824 about the bird and circle, told them that “he had formerly discovered them: they had also been seen by Dr. Baylies, and delineated by him on his map of the inscription.”189 This ends our list of the most important authorities who give evidence that Dr. Baylies claimed or was reputed to have made a drawing of his own. But Dr. Baylies had assisted in the making of Sewall’s drawing in 1768; Dr. Baylies, the Rev. John Smith, and the Rev. Samuel West all assisted James Winthrop in 1788; and these three together selected the lines, while Gooding and perhaps a younger Baylies executed the drawings, for this version of 1789. There is no evidence that any one of them ever had a part in the making of any other drawing. Each one of the five, with the exception of West, has been named as the maker, or co-maker with another, of this drawing; and until I had discovered all of these quoted sources, some of the most important of which have come to my notice last of all and very recently, the actual facts seemed very obscure and contradictory. This is not the only instance where I have met a similar confusion of statement as to authorship of a single reproduction. One of the best known photographs of the rock, taken in 1875, has been mentioned so often under different persons’ names, whether as maker, assistant, reproducer, or merely sender of it to some one else, that I had attributed either this or some other unknown photograph to nearly a dozen distinct persons before I succeeded in identifying it as one photograph only, and in being sure as to who it was that made it, and when it was done.
The drawing that accompanied the letter of the Rev. John Smith to President Stiles, the one which Dr. Baylies sent to the Academy and which cannot now be found, the Upham “Rev. Mr. Smith” of, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the “Baylies and Goodwin” of the Antiquitates Americanæ, and the “Gooding” of Miss Brown, all turn out to be variants from one original chalking of the rock, as indeed is evident on the face of it. Four of them are submitted here for comparison,190 as well as a later copy published by Mallery, derived from the one in Antiquitates.191 The comparison is instructive as illustrating again a fact which was appreciated by Mr. Smith, how markedly and inevitably free-hand copies by the same person, or by others from his original, differ from one another. They bear clear indications of having had a common source, of the same sort as that which compelled us to conclude that Cotton Mather copied from Danforth, and would have convinced us that Gebelin copied from Sewall even if we had not assurance of it from other sources. Yet with all their unmistakable resemblance, these five variants present differences that are worthy of attention. The Upham “Smith” is most markedly different from the others, particularly in the tail of the bird and the general proportions of the figures, which in it are flat and thin and somewhat differently shaped. It is clearly a poor drawing from the same original source. In the others the lines are firm and well drawn, and the differences between the four, though existent, are very slight. It is noticeable that a curved line below the body of the bird exists in the two “Smith” drawings only, though in other respects the Stiles “Smith” more closely resembles the Antiquitates “Baylies” and the “Gooding.” The Academy “Baylies,” we have seen, had the curve and the bushy tail in the bird, like the Upham “Smith.” The blot that appears on the “Gooding” is a discoloration of the paper due to age; and on the Upham “Smith” the rear part of the “quadruped” in front of the bird is defective, owing to the fact that a small bit of the paper has broken out on account of the corrosive action of the ink.
C. R. Hale, whose unpublished manuscript has been quoted, regarded this as “one of the best, and, in some respects, the most valuable of all the copies of the stone published.” One feature of its importance lies in the fact that it was the one used by Magnusen192 as the basis for his translation of the inscription as a record made by the Norsemen; and that it was the one on which was based the only detailed Indian reading of the writing that we have.193 Another interesting thing about it is that, whereas earlier drawings had introduced figures like I, X, M, W, O, which might be letters or might not, this one introduces in addition an unmistakable A joined into an apparent monogram with an M, and also an R preceded by a diamond shape. Both of these, supplemented by additions of later artists, were made of definite use in support of the Norse Theory. Finally, of all drawings, early or late, this is the only one showing the “bird.” Some have attributed its later absence to the wearing away of that part of the rock. Apart from the probability that there has been no appreciable erosion of the face of the rock in the last two hundred years, unless on this lowest part of it,194 this opinion is disposed of by the fact that some of the makers’ own contemporaries were unable to discover it, and the further fact that it is my belief that, with a liberal use of selective imagination, I saw most of it in 1915 as plainly, perhaps, as these men did in 1789, and that I can easily trace its faintly suggested lines in the Burgess photograph.195 As to the first of these two facts, we have the authority of Kendall:
Among the variations, observable in this [Kendall’s] drawing, from the drawings made before it, the most remarkable is the omission of the figure of a bird, apparently of the crane species, which is very conspicuous in the drawing made under the inspection of Judge Baylies. But, though I had the advantage of conversing with this gentleman on the subject, and though I visited the rock on six or seven days successively, I was never able to discover this figure. Gentlemen, also, by whom I was more than once accompanied; were equally unable with myself to make the discovery.196
Kendall was trying, and successfully, to produce a drawing that for the first time should be a faithful and reliable one; I, with no such responsibility to deter me, in the interest of psychological understanding rather than of archaeological accuracy, was willingly giving free rein to my picture-constructing fancy.
Ezra Stiles’s Memoir, 1790; Abiel Holmes, 1798
By far the most detailed and exhaustive treatment of this subject by Dr. Stiles was contained in a paper which he wrote on June 8, 1790, for presentation to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.197 It has never been published, although some of the non-speculative portions of it have been quoted.198 The manuscript is preserved among miscellaneous papers in the library of the Academy. It was first sent to Professor Stephen Sewall, together with a letter from which, in transmitting the memoir to the Academy on July 12, 1790, Sewall gives the following extract:199
I have prepared, & now forward to your care, the Memoir accompanying this, which I must ask you, in my name to present to the President of the Academy of Arts & Sciences. . . . I know I expose myself to be considered as carryed away into imagination and conjecture. But I am willing to risque this imputation, if I could stir up a general Inquiry & examination on Rocks & Stones &c. &c. illustrative of the Antiquities of America.
One of the two rocks described by Stiles in this memoir bore a Hebrew inscription, in connection with whose origin he discusses, among other possibilities, the theory as to the Indians being descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes.200 But most of the paper is devoted to a discussion of the rock at Scaticook in Connecticut, and its relation to the one at Dighton. After a minute description,201 in the course of which he says that the characters were made “most certainly with an Iron Tool, and that by Pecks or picking after the manner of the Dighton Rock,” he then continues:
One end of the Dighton Rock has prickt upon it I HOWOO;202 yet no one who ever saw it, believes that the rest of that very antique Inscription or Character was wrought by an Englishman. [It is of very remote antiquity.] There was a period previous to the Age of Atlas, when the maritime shores of Europe, on this side the pillars of Hercules, around up to the Baltic, were colonized by all the various languages of Scythia & Japhet, & some Phœnician Navigators of the Derivation of Shem. It was in this period I conjecture those navigated over to America who made these Inscriptions. Of these original Nations there might be some besides the Chinese & Egyptians, who, in their monumental writings for ages, made no use of Alphabetical letters. Of this description might be a ships crew from the Mediterranean or Europe, shipwreckt in Narraganset Bay; whose mode of writing might be characters for sentiment, but not for words — or possibly a mixture of both, as in the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. There seems to be a mixture of Phaznidan or antient Punic letters, with symbol, & perhaps ideal character, in the inscriptions at Narraganset. ATLAS, after the first discovery of his great insular Continent, sent over four ships of settlers to colonize upon it; which on their return, carried back the report, that the island was overwhelmed & submersa ponto. One of these Vessels of Atlas might have been shipwreckt at Narragansett.
The Dighton Rock & this at Scaticook may have been the reliquiae of some National character, whether Alphabetical or Ideal, in current & perhaps extensive usage on the other side of the Atlantic, ages before the punic settlement of Carthage, & yet of the period of the Phœnician Ages & of the memorable Atlantic war mentioned by Plato & Solon & Ælian & others, antecedent to the glory of Greece, of Carthage & of Rome, & probably antecedent to the Trojan war, 1300 Years before the Christian Æra. And tho’ this species of National Character should have lasted several centuries after, it might have grown into Desuetude, & have totally vanished from the whole world 2000 years ago. I have made great inquiry these 20 years past for similar inscriptions to those of the Dighton rock; but could never find accounts of any on the Litoral Tract, or Seacoast from Newfoundland to Florida; nor indeed in the interior parts of the Continent.
[He has heard of one at Lake Erie,203 and suspects it may be similar to those at Scaticook and Dighton.] In which case I should consider it a third specimen of the Dighton Rock Sculpture. All which would shew, that there once was a people, or the detachment of a People, which traveld on 40th deg. of Latt. from Narragansett thro’ Scaticook to Lake Erie at least, if not beyond; & in their way charged a few rocks with a Character, antiently familiar to some Nation in Europe or Scythia, altho now lost for probably 3000 Years. [He mentions other reported rocks, Indian markings on trees, stone idols, etc.; and says the inscriptions should be collected.] Perhaps, tho’ never to be read, they may lead to Deductions of considerable moment, in tracing out the Dispersions and Originations of Nations.
It is very evident that Dr. Stiles was indeed liberally “carryed away into imagination and conjecture.” Like almost every one else at the time, he was convinced of the great age of the inscription, and was appealed to by the more speculative rather than the more conservative possibilities. This being true, there is nothing very extraordinary in his conjectures. They offer rather an illuminating exhibit of the limitations of knowledge and the kind of evidence widely accepted as valid in his day. Since then, the “general Inquiry” that he desired to stir up has taken place, in part perhaps as a result of his influence.
Abiel Holmes, in his Life of Ezra Stiles, published in 1798, gave a brief summary of opinions about the rock that were then held. After mentioning the copies by Stiles and Sewall, and the Carthaginian theory of Gebelin, accepted by Stiles, he continues:
Others suppose it rather an hieroglyphic inscription, than an alphabetical character, and that, therefore, it may be the work of the Chinese, or Japanese; while some seem inclined to conceive of it as nothing more than the rude scrawls of some of the Indian tribes, commemorating their military atchievements, or hunting parties.204
Samuel Harris’s Hebrew Theory, about 1807
Before the close of the eighteenth century a number of Oriental scholars had made a study of Dighton Rock, and it is probable that they sought eagerly and diligently to discover Oriental characters among the marks represented as engraven upon it. Of the Mr. La Croze from whom Greenwood expected so much, we hear nothing further. Gebelin was the only one thus far who seemed to have succeeded. It remained, apparently, a continued puzzle to Dr. Stiles, although he “compared it with all the oriental Paleography;” Kendall assures us, on the authority of Dr. Bentley, that “professor Sewell had seen nothing on the rock, which reminded him of any ancient alphabet;” and Sewall himself, as we have seen, regarded it as the work of Indians, although he later mentioned the Phœnician theory non-committally to Gebelin. The latter mentions in this connection the well-known story of Diodorus, to the effect that venturesome Phœnician sailors were driven by a tempest and came to an island many days’ sail westward, where they found navigable rivers, fertile soil, and many houses. Early in the nineteenth century a new and apparenly fruitful attempt was made to compare the old alphabets with the Dighton characters, and to wrest from the latter their hidden meaning. This was done by Samuel Harris, Jr., of Boston, who, if we may believe the enthusiastic praises of his contemporaries, must have been the most incredibly profound linguist of all times. He examined Winthrop’s copy of the inscription, probably about 1807, and found on it a number of Hebrew words written in the old Phœnician characters. Whether he believed that the rock was a confirmation of the theory concerning the Phœnician sailors, or of that connecting the Indians with the Ten Lost Tribes, we cannot be sure.
The first mention of Samuel Harris in this connection seems to occur in the Diary of William Bentley, under the date of October 13, 1807:
I had the company of Mr. Kendall, an English Gentleman visiting our country. He gave me the best view I had ever had of the Dighton Rock. . . . I shewed him Mr. Harris’ letter & the authority of the Palmyrine Characters to which the Marks were compared. Mr. Kendall saw no resemblance of the letters. I maintained that it always stood at the edge of the water from his account of the river near it, & the Ohio rocks with marks are in the same position & these rocks he intends to visit.205
Samuel Harris was born in Boston, May 12, 1783. He had a short career of great brilliance and promise; but was drowned while still a student at Harvard, on July 7, 1810. Dr. Bentley first makes mention of him in his Diary on September 18, 1805. Thereafter he speaks of him a number of times in the Diary.206 When he first knew of him, Harris was “a self taught young man,” an engraver “who has displayed taste in his profession.” “From his extraordinary attainments” he was “assisted in a public education.” “I expected in him the Greatest Orientalist our Country has ever produced. He was a modest, inquisitive, indefatigable man.” He also tells us that Mr. Harris furnished him with “many curious letters” (alphabetic characters); and this fact seems to make it finally clear that, in spite of the allusion to the Ohio rocks, Samuel was the Harris he spoke of in the passage quoted. This is of importance only in that it is the only indication as to the approximate date of Samuel Harris’s interest in Dighton Rock.
BAYLIES-SMITH-WEST-GOODING-BAYLIES DRAWING, 1789, SMITH-STILES COPY
DRAWING OF 1789 SMITH-UPHAM COPY
engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts from the original in the possesion of the massachusetts historical society
We learn more concerning him in the laudatory notices which appeared on the occasion of his untimely death. Accounts of it are given in the Columbian Centinel of Boston,207 and in the Harvard Lyceum.208 It appears that he entered college at the age of twenty-five as a Junior Sophister in 1808, after only thirteen months of preparation.209 “His attachment to oriental literature began beyond his own remembrance. . . . He made notes of all curious facts. At the age of 16, he had amassed an incredible number of manuscripts.” He had read everything accessible in ten Asiatic languages, and had a moderate acquaintance with others; was perfect in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and could read other European languages. He was “a philosophical linguist, an accurate philologist, a complete historian, a profound antiquary, a perfect mythologist.” As an antiquary, his “researches were almost unbounded and inconceivable.” He left behind an “immense mass of manuscripts. . . . Among his papers, there are some facts respecting American antiquities, which are peculiarly valuable, and whose loss would probably be irretrievable.”
It was this extraordinary being, too learned for full credence in his inconceivable attainments, who was to make luminous the long veiled mystery of the Dighton message. I am sorry to say that the result will disappoint us. All that has been reported of his actual views is given in the following passage from Kendall:
A Hebrew scholar, in Boston, has made a drawing from Mr. Winthrop’s drawing, (for the rock he has not seen,) in which he shows that one of the figures is a king; another, his throne and canopy; a third a priest; a fourth an idol, a fifth a foreign ambassador, &c. and, in the intervening parts, he points out Hebrew characters, composing words, which words explain the figures; as the king — the priest — the idol. . . . A single glance at the rock would have robbed him of all disposition to support the hypothesis.210
To this we can add only the statement made by Edward Everett, while Governor of Massachusetts, in a review of the Antiquitates Americanæ, to the effect that “the late Mr. Samuel Harris, of this city, a very learned Orientalist, thought he found the Hebrew word melek (king) in those characters, which the editor of the work before us regards as numerals signifying CXXXI.”211
In the Library of Harvard University are preserved all that are known of the manuscripts left by Harris. The papers on American antiquities, considered as so precious by the writer in the Lyceum, are not among them. There can be found only one sheet which offers any clue at all that might aid in the attempt to view the inscription through Harris’s eyes.212 We need not entertain any thought of a possibility that Harris’s theory is correct; and yet we cannot be content to leave it without doing our best sympathetically to understand it and to see what he thought he saw. Consequently I have studied this sheet with much care. It contains a column of characters that are labelled “American,” and that have been copied from such parts of Winthrop’s reproduction as might be thought to have an alphabetical value. It is evident that Harris regarded them as ancient Phœnician forms of Hebrew letters. At first sight the list does not give much promise of being serviceable to us; and I could make nothing of it until it occurred to me that it might be arranged in alphabetical order. In this case, the first character, resembling an x, would be Aleph; the last, presented in the two forms N and T, would be Tau. With this as a starting point, and assuming that wherever two or three forms are given together they are to be taken as variants of one letter, I assigned a plausible value to each of the characters in Harris’s list, by comparing it with tables of ancient forms of Hebrew letters given in a book nearly contemporary with Harris,213 and with such lists of Phœnician characters as Harris himself had compiled,214 two of which are “Palmyrine” and may possibly be the ones to which Bentley referred. Five letters of the Hebrew alphabet were of course left out, as the list is that much short of completeness. Then I looked into a Hebrew lexicon215 for equivalents of the words that Harris was reported to have found. Among: them, the following were given: for ambassador, ʽBD or ShLCh (to be sent); for idol, TzYR; for priest, KHN; for king, MLK. In my table of equivalents, the Y or yod is omitted, hence TzYR would become TzR; the B is like a figure 9; D like 4 and the other character with it on the list; H like the inverted F; K like 6; L like L or V (and also like inverted forms of these, in some of the variants given by Kopp); M like M; N like the next following character, an O with a vertical line above it, or a lower case d; ʽ(Ayin) has three forms, one an outline cross; Tz is somewhat like Y; R like the third character from the bottom, an O with a vertical line running downward from it; Sh like the trident; and Ch probably like the eighth character from the top, immediately above the 6.
If now we examine the Winthrop drawing, we shall find at its extreme left the cross form of Ayin; a little below and rightward, two curved lines that might be regarded as imperfectly formed 9’s, and thus two B’s; and to the right of them the two forms of the: letter D. If we assume that the ancient artists might write their words indifferently either right to left or left to right, this may be read. ʽBD, ʽBD, “ambassadors;” and the two human figures at the extreme right will doubtless be their portraits. The other name for ambassador may also be found, if one is good-natured enough to overlook its inexplicable dismemberment, in the trident (Sh) near the right-hand upper end, the L to the left of the head of the seated figure, and the character for Ch just below the L. The large human figure at’the left represents the idol; and leftward near its head we find unmistakably the letters TzR, “idol.” The small human figure at its feet is the priest. To the right of him is an O with a short vertical line considerably above it, which together may be an N; the inverted F is an H; and a 6 or K with triangular body can be separated out of the complex figure next to the right. Thus we may possibly have here a very poorly formed KHN, “the priest.” Near the centre of the drawing is a clear M; to its left, a sort of inverted V or L; and next leftwards, with its lines running on unnecessarily into other figures, a 6 with square body, or K. This is probably the word that Harris interpreted as meaning “Melek,” king. The human figure rightward from it is doubtless the king himself. Above his head is a combination of triangular figures, easily taken as representing the canopy; and lines running downward from it, terminating in a sort of seat, form the throne. The king appears to stand in front of the throne, under the canopy. If wide separation of letters counts for nothing, a much more satisfactory MLK can be found in the same M, an L below it, and a perfectly formed 6 much below that.
I find no other plausible combinations that might be taken as Hebrew words. What I have given are rudely drawn, and their interpretation far fetched. It may well be that, having no knowledge whatever on this subject except such as an unskilled amateur may readily glean from a very superficial examination of a Hebrew lexicon and a few lists of ancient characters, I may have failed to reproduce the vision of Samuel Harris. Nevertheless, I can find nothing else whatever on Winthrop’s representation that I can twist into any resemblance to Harris’s ideas; and I have found in a fairly plausible manner all the words that he is reported to have seen and all the symbolic figures that he is reported to have interpreted. I offer this, therefore, for what it may be worth, as a serious and detailed reconstruction of what Harris is said to have seen. With knowledge of so many other highly fanciful readings of the stone’s mysterious message that have been seriously advanced both before and after this one, I do not hesitate to believe that Harris would have been capable of advocating such a one as I have given. But we must agree, of course, with Kendall’s judgment that there is no soundness in it. It is merely a psychological curiosity, and as such deserves our best attempt at restoration. It is regrettable that Harris’s own exposition of it cannot be found, for that would be interesting reading.
Edward A. Kendall, 1807
In 1807 and the following year there travelled through the northern part of the United States an Englishman, Edward Augustus Kendall, whose intelligent observations on what he saw were embodied in a three-volume description of his travels. He was particularly interested in sculptured rocks, several of which he personally inspected; and to Dighton Rock he made several successive visits. His conclusions concerning them are given in a published letter that he wrote in 1807,216 and in the record of his Travels.217 In all the history of observation, depiction, and speculation concerning this subject, no one has surpassed and few have equalled this English traveller in freedom from ill-supported imaginings, in accuracy and detail of observation, in saneness of judgment and soundness of argument, in fulness of treatment and in correctness of feeling for what constitutes scientifically warranted hypothesis. Except that there is a much larger accumulation of pertinent facts at our service now, though these have not yet been brought together comprehensively and exhaustively, we might almost appeal to Kendall as a final authority to-day. Moreover, he was the first person to portray the lines of the rock with the faintness and uncertainty that characterize the originals; and consequently, in truthfulness and absence of unreliable personal interpretation and distortion, his picture is surpassed only by the Burgess photograph, secured by a method which was not available to him.
Nearly all of his discussion is still of importance; but the two accounts can be combined into one, and I will further condense it as much as I can. The rock, he says, is an insulated mass of finegrained gray granite or grunstein.218 Its foot, in front, is ten or twelve feet from low water mark, and its top is covered at extreme high water, to a depth of two or three feet or more. The face measures eleven feet seven inches at the base, five feet one inch in extreme height, and is inclined at an angle of about 60° to the horizon. The thickness increases from one inch at the top to about six feet at the base. The weight, he conjectures, is five to six tons.219 The base is sunk to a small depth, in some parts perhaps two feet, below the surface of the soil.220 The color externally varies from dark purple red above to lighter gray or green below, according to the duration of its exposure to the air; internally, it is light gray. The smooth face is due to nature, not to artificial smoothing and fashioning. The lines are pecked in by a pointed tool, harder and less brittle than the very hard and brittle rock (M 165–169, 189).221 In all probability, the tool was of no better material than stone222 (T iii 211). The depth of the lines never exceeds ⅓ inch, their breadth varies, from ½ to one inch. They are cut en creux, that is, hollowed not in triangular form as by a chisel, but in the form of a segment of a cylinder (M 170). They are “sufficiently conspicuous to attract notice, from the deck of a vessel sailing in the channel of the river” (T ii 223).223 The sculptures at the base, if such there were, are now entirely worn away. A little above, they discover themselves but faintly; while those at the summit are very perfect (T ii 222).
He does not believe that the level of the soil immediately surrounding the rock has materially altered, and shows the absurdity of James Winthrop’s claim that the people, by digging around it, had let in the tide upon the rock. “The rock obviously stands as it originally stood.” As a reason for its intermittently submerged position, he suggests that preference may have been given “deliberately to such, as were actually liable to be overflowed. . . . A river was the only highway; and a rock, placed out of the reach of the tide, would have been speedily overgrown” (M 178).224 As to the surface of the rock and the clearness of the inscription, he is convinced that “no material alteration, within the preceding century, has really taken place. The decay no doubt is continual; but it is very slow” (M 187).225 He believes, therefore, “that this is a monument of an antiquity antecedent to the settlement of Europeans on this continent; and I am of opinion, that it is of an antiquity considerably higher” (M 173; T ii 229).
DRAWING OF 1789 GOODING COPY
from the original in the possession of miss sophia f. brown
DRAWING OF 1789 WEBB COPY
from antiquitates americanae, 1837, tab. xii, no. viii. engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts
In discussing the artistic merit of the work, Kendall draws some conclusions that do not fully convince me, since I lack sufficient technical knowledge, and must leave the question to expert opinion. “The execution,” he says, “is nothing extraordinary; but it is not entirely unworkmanlike” (M 169). “The figures are less ill drawn, than they are uncouth and unaccountable. . . . The want of will is more certain, than the want of capacity. The curved lines have a freedom not to be equalled by every hand among ourselves.” But the existence of curved lines in sculpture, he believes, proceeds “from imitation of the other graphic arts, in which the material and the instrument used are of a nature to give less check to the suggestions of the fancy.” Hence he concludes that the design of this rock “has proceeded from an artist not unacquainted with pen or pencil; or at least from one, whose taste has been influenced . . . by the use of those instruments, in other hands than his.” The presence of pedestals for each of the three figures bearing human heads also argues for acquaintance with more perfect forms of art (M 171 f). “This artist was not the most accomplished workman of his tribe. I could even believe, that he was without the usual and convenient tools and instruments. I think that he was not unacquainted with works of art, of a better and higher character” (M 180 f).226
Of the particular figures in the inscription, Kendall discusses only one at length. This is the quadruped near the centre, which Gebelin called a beaver, and which has since then been variously interpreted as a deer, a bull, a lynx, a leopard, a map of the Atlantic coast of Europe, and the constellation Pegasus. Kendall’s opinion of it is interesting. “Its body is crossed, in nearly equal divisions, with bars or stripes. It is spotted. Its head is long and delicate. It wears horns. Its feet are paws. Already we see reason to suspect, that this is a creature of fancy, made up of members of different animals; and this must assuredly be the case, if the line above its back, and which is wanting in all the previous draughts, forms, as it strikes the eye, the wing of an insect” (M 183).
A number of legends having some bearing on the origin of the inscription were collected by Kendall, and are worthy of preservation. The first seems to be a variant of Danforth’s story of the “wooden house;” the others make their first appearance here. “As to traditions, there is, though but in a few mouths, an Indian tradition, which purports, that some ages past, a number of white men arrived in the river, in a bird; that the white men took Indians into the bird, as hostages; that they took fresh water for their consumption at a neighbouring spring; that the Indians fell upon and slaughtered the white men at the spring; that, during the affray, thunder and lightning issued from the bird; that the hostages escaped from the bird; and that a spring, now called White Spring, and from which there runs a brook, called White Man’s Brook, has its name from this event” (T ii 230; M 182). Kendall found the spring, about a quarter of a mile to the northeast of the rock, and the brook entering Taunton River a little above the rock.227 One neighbor told him that it was a hot spring; another, that it was intensely cold; while he found it of ordinary temperature. No one in the vicinity was acquainted with the legend of the bird, but another story was given him to account for the name, to the effect that a white hunter, being overheated, drank from the spring and died in consequence (T ii 230).
Respecting Asonet neck, on which the rock is seated, the tradition is, that it was a place of banishment among the Indians;228 but whether’ the practice of banishment was known to the subjects of King Philip, I leave to those, who are more conversant in Indian polity. . . . The tradition of the bird may have some foundation in the adventures of an early exploring voyage; with another relation, that a ship’s anchor, nearly eaten away by rust, was many years since discovered near this place; and with the still more obscure account of a ship’s ribs, which lay and rotted there (M 181 f).
According to some, one of the first English vessels that navigated these seas passed a winter at the anchorage near this spot; and the sculptures, as they say, are of the workmanship of the crew: or an English vessel (as the story is changed) was stranded here; and the rock was sculptured in memory of the disaster (T ii 224).
In our survey thus far, we have met with a number of more or less definite theories as to how the inscription originated. Douglass believed, Berkeley, according to the English Review, was told, Lort inclined to accept, and Greenwood denied, that it was the work of nature only. Samuel Harris seems to have believed, and Samuel Sewall may have entertained the thought, that it was due to the Indians as descendants of the Lost Tribes. Smibert, Stiles, and T. M. Harris held that some at least of the Indians were of Tartar origin; and Vallancey argued that as such they made the writing. Apart from views as to their origin, the Indians were held responsible for it by Cotton Mather, according to Douglass, by Lort at first, by Professor Sewall, and by George Washington; though none of them gave any detail to this view. Others who mentioned or denied this theory will be discussed below. Some view of Oriental origin was apparently held by Greenwood, and was doubtless entertained by many others; it was given definite form in the Carthaginian-Phœnician theory of Gebelin, suggested by Professor Sewall and accepted by Stiles. I have found no one who advocated the Chinese or Japanese as the artists, but the theory is mentioned by Professor Sewall, by Gebelin, and by Holmes. Prince Madoc is mentioned by Stiles, and must have been suggested by some as the author, because Kendall expressly rejects him. Early European sailors appear as possible claimants in the traditions enumerated by Kendall.
Several motives were assigned to the Indians for the sculpture, — though not every one who mentions them himself accepts the theory: that they did it in idle sport (Greenwood; Sewall; John Winthrop); in sharpening their arrows (Greenwood; Berkeley according to Du Simitière); as a memorial of some solemn occasion (Greenwood); as a record of hunting (Holmes) or of battle (John Winthrop; Holmes). Definite denials of the possibility that the Indians could have done it were based by Greenwood and by Gebelin on the arguments: that they were too lazy; that they left no other similar monuments; that they possessed no adequate tools; that it was beyond their skill; that they had no knowledge of its existence or nature; that it depicts objects unknown or unfamiliar to them.
To these many theories Kendall adds two that are new, though the first was vaguely suggested by James Winthrop’s tale of the search for treasure. “The unlearned believe that the rock was sculptured by the order of a pirate,229 either Captain Kyd or Captain Blackbeard, in order to mark the site of buried treasure; and the shore, for more than a hundred fathom on a side, has been dug, in the hope of a discovery” (T ii 223). “It is, I believe, acknowledged, that forty years ago much labour was expended in digging about the rock with the view described” (M 179). The second theory is this: “Some Mohawk Indians, having been shown, as it is said, a draught of the inscription, declared its meaning to be, that a dangerous animal, represented by the animal on the rock, had been killed at the place immortalized; that the human figures represent the persons, whom the animal killed; and that the others denote other parts of the affair.230 An objection to this interpretation will be perceived . . . in the trivial appearance and humble situation of the animal, which it is attempted to make the hero of the piece” (M 182).
Here is an extraordinary collection of theories clustering about the old rock like barnacles. Kendall proceeds to clear them all away as worthless, except the one acknowledging the Indians as the responsible parties. This view he develops and defends in much detail. “There is not, in reality, the smallest reason to doubt, that these sculptures are of Indian work” (T ii 224). “I am decidedly of opinion, that this monument is in no respect derivable from the opposite side of the Atlantic. I discern in it nothing of the alphabets, or the drawing, or the taste of Europe, or Asia, or Africa” (M 174). Moreover, the existence of other similar rocks in the interior of the country is fatal to this theory. If we look to a “nation more ancient and more cultivated, than the Indians, inhabitants of this country, . . . they have left nothing behind to give a tongue to their works” (M 180). “I am of opinion, that it was wrought on some solemn occasion, or for some solemn purpose, either civil, military, or religious. It may be a memorial, a monition, or an offering of piety” (M 173). “I confess myself but little sanguine, as to the prospect of interpreting, in any minute manner, this inscription” (M 190). This elaborate monument of an unknown transaction is unreadable, as are all historical representations or sculptures, without first knowing the story it is intended to portray. Any sculpture, representing, for example, the Death of Hercules, or the Judgment of Paris, “would be unintelligible, as to its historical part, if we were not previously acquainted with the action which it is intended to describe” (T iii 214). As the main support to his belief, he describes some simple sculptures on rocks at Bellows Falls. “It is to these sculptures that I appeal, as to conclusive evidence of the Indian origin of the Writing Rock. They are too rude, too insignificant, and too evidently without depth of meaning, to be attributed to Phœnicians or Carthaginians. No person will . . . contend, that there is anything, here, above the level of the Indian genius. But, if Indians were the authors of these sculptures, then Indians were the authors of the Writing Rock also. The style of drawing is the same; the style of sculpture is the same. . . . From these sculptures it appears, that . . . the ancient Indians had instruments with which they were able to cut even granite. . . . These sculptures, so obviously the work of idle hours, and for the accomplishment of which the rudest artist, once provided with a tool, must be allowed to be competent, supply us with the fact, that the Indians were able to sculpture rocks, and that when they did sculpture them, the sculpture resembled the sculpture of the Writing Rock” (T iii 205 f). Confirmatory evidence is found in the existence of a sculptured tree of known Indian origin, and in a list of thirteen Indian sculptures in America (T iii 207, 221).
There were rumors of another sculptured rock close by the one under discussion. Several persons had heard that a little to the south and further out in the stream was a more fully inscribed rock. All persons agreed in naming as the author of this account a Mr. Perry, who for fifty years had visited all the rocks in the stream in search of oysters. But Mr. Perry had never seen such a rock, and on the score of his experience, he denied that any such rock was to be found. “It turned out, that no sculptured rock had been discovered; if we except a slab, which lies to the southeast of the former, within the distance of twenty feet. On the upper corner of this is a figure, resembling a cross, or the letter X, and one or two others” (M 183); the others being 00 (T ii 231).231
Kendall sharply and justly criticizes the earlier drawings of the inscription. “All the copies differ, in extraordinary particulars, from each other and from the original. . . . It must be inconceivable to those, who have never seen the rock, that these differences can appear in the draughts, without impeaching the veracity of the gentlemen, by whom they have been severally made. Nothing however is more possible. Some of the errors indeed are such, as can have proceeded only from haste and inattention; but a great majority are consistent with the most elaborate but ill directed endeavours.” When the supposed lines of the inscription are marked with printers’ ink, as James Winthrop did it, or with chalk, as was done for so many of the earlier drawings, and these lines are then copied, “it does not follow, that the figures are the same with those, engraved upon the rock. The chalker is in the situation of a restorer of ancient readings; he undertakes to connect and to supply; but the real antiquarian will prefer the original, with all its obscurities and chasms. An attempt at restoration is one thing, and may be valuable; but a true copy is another. I attempted the use of chalk myself; but I found that I completely confused the sculpture,232 and that the first thing necessary was to wash all the chalk away.233 The inscription is to be copied only with the pencil” (M 185 f). “The diversities of the copies . . . are not always to be attributed to the fault of the copyists, but often to the obscurity of the sculpture, in which every man will see something different from every other. Under these circumstances no perfect copy can ever be made” (M 189). “Another occasion of diversity in the drawings is the style of execution. Professor Sewall’s drawing . . . is performed with a feeble and hesitating hand, and therefore greatly injures the original, in which the lines are bold and determined. Mr. Winthrop’s impression . . . shows only a congeries of disjointed members; whereas, in the original, the whole is connected and complete. Judge Baylies’s drawing, on the other hand, is finished with all the graces of penmanship, and hence enhances the flow and freedom of the design, as well as the neatness of the execution” (T ii 227). The divergences in the copies cannot be due to the wearing away of some of the figures, for the decay of the rock is too slow, and, moreover, some figures are shown only in the later drawings, others are presented with greater distinctness in them, and still others are wanting in the intermediate drawings only (M 187).
He adopted an entirely new method in producing his own sketch, done in oil. It presents fewer and dissimilar figures, as compared with earlier draughts. This appearance is due in part to the fact that figures drawn in black upon a white ground appear fuller than in a finished picture; partly to his inability to discover all, that some gentlemen have seen. But it arises especially —
from my willingness to leave in indistinctness, obscurity, and invisibility, what is indistinct, obscure, and almost wholly invisible, on the rock. The figures, which are distinct in my transcript are distinct in the original. To these I have given definite forms; while in the other instances my chief care has been to depict the obscurity of the original. If you find yourself obliged to approach close to some of my figures, and can at last arrive at no certainty as to their outlines, I must beg you to remember, that this will always be your situation, when examining the rock itself. If, on the other hand, I have sometimes made definite that, which in the original is undefined; if I have rendered incapable of being seen in more than one form that, which on the rock may be seen in twenty, my excuse must be found in the extreme difficulty of the attempt to make a representation of any object, without giving it a shape. . . . My sketch contains many inaccuracies; some in the colouring; some in the outlines and fissures of the rock; and some in the figures themselves; but notwithstanding, I believe it to be free from important errors, such as might frustrate my design of conveying a faithful idea of the contents, style, execution, and, condition of the inscription (M 184 f).
Kendall was firmly convinced of the value of this monument and that it ought to be preserved. He strongly recommends its removal, or at least that of its sculptured face, into the care of some public establishment in Boston. Not many years later, both Yates and Moulton and the reviewer in the North American Review, who will receive attention shortly, also urged that steps be taken toward its securer preservation.
The engraving which accompanies the letter in the Memoirs, made “from Mr. Kendall’s painting, or representation in oil colours” (M 189), is bound in at the back of the volume, and measures 9½ by 23 inches. Like the painting as he describes it, it carries out his intention of leaving indistinct and obscure what is indistinct and obscure on the rock, and thus possesses a merit and reliability lacking in nearly all other reproductions. The possibilities of the photographic art, and the fortunate production of one photograph among them all without chalking of the rock, alone made it possible to improve upon his result. What appears to be the original painting, to which the engraving, probably, is very faithful, is preserved in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University.234 It conforms in every way to Kendall’s description, including the following feature: “The lower corner, on the left, being fractured, I have made use of the space, to introduce a reduced figure of the whole rock.”
HARRIS’S COPY, ABOUT 1807, OF THE ALPHABETIC CHARACTERS SHOWN ON WINTHROP’S DRAWING OF 1788
engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts from the original in the harvard college library
Both painting and engraving, reproduced by photogravure, are shown in Plates XXVIII and XXIX. With these should be compared the reproduction made by Rafn in the Antiquitates Americanæ in 1837, which unfortunately has been used instead of the engraving in the Memoirs as the basis of later reproductions. This one I do not show, but it is closely followed in the cut that appears as one of the nine in Mallery’s plate shown in Plate II of my earlier paper. Comparison of the latter with Plates XXVIII and XXIX will show how badly Kendall has been misrepresented to all modern readers. It is not Kendall, but Kendall interpreted and made clear, and therefore falsified. It will be noticed that it lacks the “insect’s wing” on the quadruped, which is one of the features that he particularly mentions; and is wholly untrue to the original in that it neglects his chief care, to leave the portrayal faithful to its original even in its indistinctness and ambiguity. Aside from his success in this, what is worthy of chief notice in Kendall’s version is the introduction of a fuller set of alphabetical characters in the middle portion, where later observers thought that they discovered the name of the Norse explorer, Thorfinn. Kendall renders it simply “ORINX.” Of thirty attempts known to me to depict this portion of the inscription, about 85 per cent agree with Kendall as to the diamond shape that I transcribe as an O; only 2 show an R, 3 others something similar, all the rest nothing like it; in the next position, no one has anything like an F, 14 have an I, 4 others some other character, and 6 have nothing; Kendall presents a misshapen N, and all the rest nothing like that letter; in the final place, all but one give an X. Opinion is almost unanimous that there is nothing there that resembles (Th)ORFINS, ORINX, or any other definite alphabetic characters.
John Davis, 1809
In the same volume with Kendall’s letter, Judge Davis,235 to whom the letter was written, attempts an even more definite and elaborate explanation of the rock as an Indian memorial. He believes it to be the representation of a hunting scene. From the uniform correspondence of the copies, there are some figures or characters, he says, which we may conclude to be exact. “Of this description are the large triangular figures, which appear on every copy of the inscription.” They are conspicuous and strongly marked. Moreover there are several human figures, and one representation of a quadruped, in which all the modern copies agree. Davis found a clue to the meaning of the triangles in a description of a gigantic trap used by Indians in hunting deer on a large scale, given in Champlain’s Voyages. “They inclose a part of a forest with stakes, interwoven with branches of trees, and leave but one narrow opening, where they lay snares.” This space is triangular; and beyond its angle they enclose another triangle. Then, with great noise and shouting, they drive the deer before them into this trap, where some are snared, and others shot at ease. Roger Williams, also, speaks236 of from twenty to three hundred Indians hunting deer in company, driving the woods before them. Hutchinson describes a similar practice: “Besides their bows, they had other devices to take their game; sometimes by double hedges a mile or two in length, and a mile wide at one end, and made narrow by degrees, until they came to a gap of about six feet, against which they lay hid to shoot the deer, as they came through, in the day time; and at night they set deer traps, being springs, made of young trees.”237 La Hontan describes such enclosures, made on an isthmus, between two lakes.
Across Assonet Neck a trap of this sort might be framed with the same advantages as in that delineated by La Hontan; and no portion of our country perhaps was more favorable for the amusement and exploits of the hunter. Deer were, and still are, abundant.
The river, neighbouring ponds, and forests abounding in game, would render this vicinity a desirable and favorite residence for the Indians. To such places, it appears from Roger Williams, they were in the habit of resorting in large companies for hunting, fishing, and fowling, at particular seasons of the year. During the intervals of leisure, incident to such occupations, as the art of designing was not unknown and not un-frequent among the Indians of this country,238 it seems altogether natural and probable, that some one or more among the companies, successively resorting to this spot, should be disposed to make a delineation, commemorative or indicative of their favorite employment. . . . I am induced to believe, that the very apparatus, described and sketched by Champlain, was designed to be expressed by those resembling figures on the rock. . . . If this be admitted, it gives a key to the whole. The quadruped (probably representing a deer), the bird,239 which many observers find there, and the arrow heads,240 all become consistent appendages. The human figures represent the hunters: and, without any extravagance of the imagination, I think we may trace a river, with wears across it, for the taking of fish.241 . . . I think I can see the sort of noose242 . . . and the log-trap243 [described in writings which he designates. He also mentions, as probably a spring-trap made of young trees, the large figure on the left of Mr. Winthrop’s copy, with interior appendages.244 The many small circles in Winthrop may possibly represent holes in the ground, which the Indians often made near pathways in order to attract attention and serve as reminders of important events.] Other marks of more irregular form I conceive to be merely the marks or signatures, appertaining to particular tribes, families, or distinguished individuals. . . . After the arrival of our ancestors and an intercourse with them, many of the Indians were fond of taking English names. Massasoit named his two sons Alexander and Philip. Those, who were able, would be proud to employ their English name, or at least the initial, when called upon to affix their signature. I have a deed given by Wanasittas, alias Alexander, in which he signs by affixing the letter A to the seal. This may help us to account for the Roman capitals, that appear on the rock, particularly in Mr. Kendal’s copy.245 On the whole, I cannot but think it highly probable that general Washington’s opinion246 of this inscription, given when he saw a copy of it in the college museum, is correct, and that it was the work of the native Indians of our country. It appears to me to have been designed to represent and commemorate exploits of hunting; and that the characteristic signatures of some of the principal actors were added.
This interpretation by Judge Davis is worthy of more than mere passing notice. Sewall, Washington, and Kendall were the only ones thus far who had adopted the unpopular view that the cuttings on the rock were made by Indians. In spite of the poetic appeal of theories that plausibly ascribe them to some people or other of long ago and far away, we have had to recognize repeatedly that accumulating evidence is removing more and more completely all objections urged against the Indian hypothesis, and that all competent archaeological authorities now agree that there are no sound reasons for rejecting it. We need not regret this loss of any special poetic appeal, for there is infinitely more poetry in the developing symphony of the total truth than in any little melody of a particular enticing but unfounded theory. But if the Indians were the sculptors, we are naturally eager to know what meaning, if any, they desired to convey. If we do not like to believe that the rock presents nothing more than idle and meaningless scribblings of various dates, then probably we must agree that Kendall was right in saying that without knowing the exact story in advance there is no possibility that the intended meaning can be restored. His Mohawk tale is too trivial and unappealing for acceptance. Chingwauk’s expert reading, already referred to but yet to be presented in full, interprets the inscription as a record of Indian battles. It is plausible enough, but in that respect it stands exactly on a par with nearly a score of rival readings; and it depends, moreover, for its acceptability on the false assumption that one particular drawing can be relied upon in all of its details. Davis’s references to the triangular traps and to Indian signatures depend only on features common to all of the drawings, and of all suggested interpretations are at least as ingenious and plausible as any. Yet again we must say, with Kendall, that if there is any meaning there we must first know the story before we can read it.
Von Humboldt, 1810; Job Gardner, 1812
Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt makes mention of Dighton Rock in his Vues des Cordilleres,247 published in 1810. The original not being easily accessible to me, I take my account of his remarks from an English translation.248 “In the immense extent of the new continent,” he says, “we see nations which have reached a certain degree of civilization; . . . but amid these marks of civilization, and this progressive perfection of language, it is remarkable, that no native people of America had attained that analysis of sounds, which leads to the most admirable, we might say the most miraculous of all inventions, an alphabet.”
In support of this statement he appeals, among other things, to Dighton Rock, which, though he does not expressly say so, he seems to regard as a work of the natives. His knowledge of it is drawn solely from the paper by Lort.249 He says he has carefully examined the four drawings exhibited by the latter, “so dissimilar, that it is difficult to recognize them as copies of the same original.” He speaks of Gebelin’s theory, promulgated “with that enthusiasm which is natural to him, but which is highly injurious in discussions of this kind;” and of its acceptance by “the learned Dr. Stiles.”
Far from recognizing a symmetrical arrangement of simple letters and syllabic characters, I discover a drawing scarcely traced, like those that have been found on the rocks of Norway, and in almost all the countries inhabited by the Scandinavian nations. . . . From the whole of these facts it results, that there exists no certain proof of the knowledge of an alphabet among the Americans. In researches of this kind we cannot be too careful not to confound what may be the effect of chance, or idle amusement, with letters or syllabic characters.
In 1812 a new drawing was made, by Job Gardner, a resident of Dighton.250 I have found no description of the circumstances of its production. It appears to have been first mentioned by Thomas H. Webb in a letter of 1830 to Professor Rafn, printed in Antiquitates Americanæ;251 and the drawing itself was reproduced in the same work. It appears, however, to have been previously lithographed.252 It is distinctly inferior to some of the drawings that had already been made; yet I find it chosen, without mention of its author, as the basis of the illustration of Dighton Rock used by Ira Hill253 in 1831, by Benson J. Lossing254 in 1859, and by Samuel Adams Drake255 in 1875.
“Prince of Atlantis” Theory of Mathieu, 1817
Our history is enlivened now with a weird new theory, advanced “with that enthusiasm which is so highly injurious in discussions of this kind,” and supported by no other evidence than the fact that “it might have been.” In 1817 or thereabout, Charles Leopold Mathieu published in Nancy a translation of a Chinese poem,256 and included with it a disquisition concerning the inhabitants of Atlantis, whom he regarded as the carvers of Dighton Rock and the founders of a dynasty in China. I have been unable as yet to discover a copy of the book itself. But it was reviewed in the American Monthly Magazine,257 where the passages concerning Dighton Rock seem to have been transcribed in full and in the original French. The reviewer says of it: “There are some fanciful speculations, on a point concerning our own country, contained in a note, that have a boldness that commends them to consideration, and are supported by a corresponding confidence of assertion. If they fail to convince, they will serve to amuse.” Mathieu’s story is somewhat as follows.
The characters used in Chinese numeration are the same as those on Dighton Rock, which was inscribed in the year of the world 1902 (B.C. 2102), “according to the translation which I have been enabled to make by means of the art of reading hieroglyphics which I discovered.” This numeration is the same as that of the Romans, who derived it from the Pelasgians, a people who came originally from Atlantis, where they inhabited the western coast of the island. It appears to have been carried to China by that In, son of Indios, King of Atlantis, mentioned in the American hieroglyphs as chief of the expedition which had come there to make a treaty of alliance and of commerce with the Americans. Another In was chief of the eighth of the hundred first families of China in the time of Yao, in the year 2296, forty-eight years after the Ogygian deluge during which Atlantis was submerged. The Chinese, who used these numerals in their most ancient books, could not have derived them from the Romans, who were never in China. History names no people from whom they could have received them. “The fact would have remained inexplicable, had it not been for my translation of this Atlantic hieroglyph of Dighton. . . . The two persons named In were of the same family, as I will shortly prove in a book that I am about to publish.” At the time of the first mentioned In, who inscribed the Rock, Atlantis was still in existence, and its inhabitants carried on an extensive intercourse with the four quarters of the globe, thus spreading everywhere a knowledge of their language and their numeration.
Although a detailed translation is here hinted at, yet it is not given in the review. It is very likely that Mathieu’s knowledge of the appearance of the inscription was derived from Gebelin’s reproduction, and that he found his numerals and his words in the line beginning with the three X’s, and in the short line immediately underneath that. Indeed, if we disregard some connected characters, it is easy to discover the name IN in either of these two lines. But this is as far as we can go in attempting to correlate Mathieu’s tale with the characters on the Rock, unless we can find it given with greater exactness in his book.
Rémusat, Yates and Moulton, Warden, Assall, 1823–1827
Edward Everett, in the North American Review for 1820258, made an unimportant reference to Dighton Rock, and said that “if some means be not speedily taken by the friends of American Antiquity to secure it from its present exposed situation, [it] will, before long, be quite worn away by the river.” For the year 1823, we find a hitherto unpublished letter in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society, written on February 4th by M. J. P. Abel Rémusat, Secretary of the Société Asiatique of Paris, to Dr. Benjamin B. Carter of New York. The writer regards the Dighton inscription, a copy of which Dr. Carter had sent him, as one of the greatest curiosities of the kind in his collection. But he entertains no expectation that it can be deciphered.
Those who have tried to discover in such figures either Phœnician letters or vestiges of Chinese writing, are really acquainted with neither. In my opinion it is very doubtful if any letters or regular symbolic signs occur there. I know nothing that resembles these American inscriptions so much as some sculptures similarly graven on rocks along the large rivers of Siberia and of northern Tartary. Some of them have recently been published in Russia, but no one pretends to read them. It would require an Œdipus to accomplish it.
In the following year, 1824, Yates and Moulton published their History of the State of New York259 in the first volume of which, on pages 84 to 86, they discuss the Dighton Rock, accepting it as Phœnician. They refer first to a number of previous discussions,260 and quote Mathieu’s account at some length, making the curious error of identifying as one person the two Ins to whom Mathieu refers as living nearly four hundred years apart. They continue:261
Kendall’s Painting in Oil, 1807
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from the original in the possession of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University
From a personal examination of this rock in October, 1824, and a comparison of its characters, with those delineated by judge Winthrop and by Dr. Baylies, and from the positive resemblance of some of these characters to those described by Dr. Clark as having been found in Cyprus (see his Travels, ii. 130–131), we are inclined to believe that the Dighton inscription is of Phœnician origin. It is a connected chain of hieroglyphics and rude letters of the ancient alphabet. Of the figures given by Clark, those which resemble very much the letters and figures P. W. X. 7. 9. and those of the triangle and trident (the synonymy of Neptune), are quite apparent. There are also letters like A. M. O. and several figured images. The bird, the ancient symbol of navigation, its head directed upwards, and the circle (the emblem of eternity, or it may indicate here the full period of a voyage), we did not observe, because of slime and mud covering this part of the inscription.
The copy taken by Mr. Kendall seems to have been imperfect; and the opinion which some visiters have expressed, that the inscription was the work of the native indians, if at least of any known race, seems to be very questionable. If it had been so, is it not probable that similar inscriptions would have been found throughout the country? The present one stands alone. The natives could not render any account of its origin, when the Europeans discovered the country.262 It is probably the most remarkable relick of antiquity in North America, and it ought to be secured, so that it may be perpetuated. [Here follow references to the story of Diodorus and to certain Phœnician inscriptions which had been enumerated by Dr. Bellerman.] At present, it stands like other vestiges of a remote people, covered with mystery and hieroglyphics.
David Bailie Warden wrote a paper on American antiquities in 1825, and devoted a page or two to Dighton Rock.263 He describes it; reproduces Winthrop’s copy and mentions Kendall’s oil-painting; quotes the opinions of Mathieu and of Yates and Moulton; and concludes: “It is difficult to discover, in these strange triangular figures, either human heads, Phœnician characters, or proofs of the origin of the American peoples.”
The first mention of our Rock in the German language of which I am aware was made in 1827 by F. W. Assall.264 He says:
What Winthrop wrote concerning the curious characters on Dighton Rock, over which so much fuss has been made among the would-be wise men of America and France, deserves no further notice. I have seen many of these so-called “Written Rocks” in the western part of America, and the lines scratched upon them have everywhere been taken by the ignorant for hieroglyphics. Their overhanging cliffs served in unfavorable weather as shelter for the aboriginal hunters, who whiled away the time by scratching on their roofs and walls, with arrows or other implements, the outlines of all sorts of living creatures, as well as they knew how. These figures faded to faint traces, others were made near them and over them. White hunters, French, German and English, added distorted writings, and these in turn were gradually obliterated, until the whole took on the appearance of “curious hieroglyphics.” There were tricksters, too, who played their part, and fooled the half-educated American hunters after hieroglyphics and antiquities.
Beginnings of the Norse Theory, 1829; the Rhode Island Historical Society
On June 15th, 1829, Professor Rafn, in behalf of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries of Denmark, addressed to various learned societies in the United States a request to inform him whether any vestiges of the Norse voyages to America could be discovered. The response of the Rhode Island Historical Society was especially complete and important. A committee appointed by it, headed by its secretary, Dr. Thomas H. Webb, made two new drawings of the Dighton Rock in 1834,265 and sent long and careful descriptions. These were published in 1837 in a sumptuous volume called Antiquitates Americanae. The inscription was given a detailed interpretation, and was used as a strong support to the belief that the Vinland of the Northmen was on the shores of Narragansett Bay. Our present account demands a mention of these incidents; but their further consideration will be a lengthy one, and must be reserved for a new chapter in our history.
Our next authority is one of whom we may say, with the reviewer of Mathieu, that if his speculations fail to convince, they will at least serve to amuse. He adds a picturesque touch to the variety of theory that serves to keep this Dighton narrative alive and kaleidoscopic. Gebelin and Mathieu had been bold and positive enough in making their “translations,” and the latter had even fixed the date of the inscription to the exact year. But our new translator surpasses this feat, by determining it to the very month, and equals Gebelin in assigning a definite meaning to almost every mark on the rock.
Ira Hill was one of those whose waking dreams are taken as realities. The type was characterized in our study of Gebelin. Such people see pictures in jumbles of lines, and instead of then proceeding to dismiss these and see others in their place, as they easily might, the very formation of the first, whether purely fortuitous or suggested by a theory that appeals to them, at once inhibits the alternatives from arising. So they develop a more or less consistent story, and are convinced that it alone is the story that the maker of the lines intended to relate. Though put forward as a serious scientific discovery, such an interpretation contributes nothing to genuine scientific understanding of the subject it pretends to elucidate. Yet it is itself not only deserving of scientific study as a theory, but is also a work of art, and as such sometimes entitled to a due appreciation. It is thus that our Dighton Rock attains so deeply rooted and widely varied interest. It invites our attention now as a subject of archaeological investigation, again through its historical development, then as an object lesson in psychology, and frequently as demanding, not scientific seriousness and criticism, but aesthetic enjoyment.
In 1831 Ira Hill gave a fine example of one of these word-pictures.266 The colors that he mingled on his canvas were drawn from “the Word of God,” from current speculations about the Indians, their origin, and their monuments, and from his own vivid imagination. The result he hung, as so many of his kind blunderingly do, in the Halls of Science instead of in the Galleries of Art. If we simply correct this unfortunate mistake in classification, which tempts us to criticize rather than to enjoy his creation, we can contemplate the result with as unqualified an admiration as we accord to a tale by H. G. Wells or to a detective story based on the very latest psychoanalytical investigations. Like a true impressionist, he seems never to revise his lines; hence his sentences are not always grammatical, and he is not always consistent with himself. Even the drawings accompanying his text were made with an artistic impatience that prevented him from pausing to compare them with the originals and with what he had written, and thus need revision. He copied his drawings, though he does not say so, from the Job Gardner version of the Dighton inscription. Since he omitted in a few cases some of the lines that are essential in order to follow his text understandingly, I have taken the liberty of replacing the omitted portions by dotted lines in my reproduction of the four cuts that accompany his chapter on Dighton Rock.267
We need to survey nearly the whole book, in order to appreciate the setting of his discussion of the inscription. It begins with a description of the world before the general deluge and an attempt to explain the causes of longevity, of the flood, and the like. After a brief discussion of the situation of mankind after the deluge, he devotes a chapter to the first settlement of America. Here he concludes that in days as ancient as those of the reign of Solomon, Phœnicians — a mixture of Tyrians and Jews — were driven to these shores and became the ancestors of Indians. Next he describes the Indians, and then the remains of antiquity in our country. These are all “but Fac Similes of what have been discovered in the central and northern parts of Asia.” But the conclusion is not that the Tartars or the Chinese crossed the Pacific and made these monuments; but that “all the nations of the earth migrated from the Western parts of Asia, where Noah and his family first cultivated the soil near where the Ark rested when the waters subsided. All then spoke the same language, and if any modes of writing were known, we must conclude all had the same characters.” The unprogressive Chinese retained the primitive characters. So also did the Phœnicians or Tyrians, the parent stock. Hence the resemblance. As a proof that the Indians of America are descendants of ancient Jews and Tyrians “we will give a simple explanation of the characters found, when our country was first discovered by Europeans, engraved on a rock” in Dighton. “Some have pretended that they are similar to those hieroglyphics used by the ancient Pelasgians. Some have traced them back to the early periods of the ancient Trogans. Others make them out of Carthaginian origin. Some have found them of ancient Egyptian descent, while others have made them nearly allied to the old Persian characters.”268
In the first book of Kings269 it is related that the Tyrians were skilled navigators, with knowledge of the seas, and that in company with Jews they made distant voyages in the service of king Solomon. It was a company of these who made on Dighton Rock a detailed record of their experiences. The characters must be read from right to left. The two figures on the right of the first engraving, or page of the record, are designed to represent the Jews and the Tyrians. The latter are the stouter, both in body and in skill in navigation. The Jews were under their leadership or guidance, as shown by the marks at the bottom and from the shoulder of the first figure, which are as trails indicating following after. The Tyrians were soldiers or officers, as well as mariners, as appears by the weapon affixed to the breast of the figure representing them. That they were in the service or pay of the Jews appears from the character extending from the head of the latter, and passing over the head of the former. The dots and cross mark at its end represent the time of service on which they had agreed, “which according to our interpretation was twelve years.” The long, crooked and crossing lines extending from the figure representing the Tyrians, were designed to show the long and intricate voyage which the same Tyrian crew had already performed, occupying two months or moons (two dots), begun at full moon (the upper circle), during the ninth year of the reign of Solomon (the 8 followed by the curved line).
The second engraving shows the wandering of the fleet after the new voyage began. Its upper end is the east end of the Mediterranean. Some of the party left the ship here at the point indicated by a short mark. The two long descending lines are the north and south coasts of the Mediterranean, and their meeting point below represents the Straits of Gibraltar.270 At the right of the upper end of the figure is a much branching line and a short detached line, and these represent the graves or green fields of Egypt, the last land they beheld in that part of the world. The curved line joining them to the main figure is the river Nile. At the left of the upper end of the figure is a small triangle representing a battle-axe; and the detached curve to the left of it is a serpent with head directed toward the axe, — showing that the crew met a hostile nation here. The two lines which cross the Mediterranean at this upper end show that they crossed the sea from north to south, and then returned to the north; the meeting point of the two lines representing one of the ancient cities, perhaps Carthage, which then adorned the southern coast. At the lower end of the figure, outside the Straits of Gibraltar, are many leaves, vines, or branches, indicative of a fertile and pleasant country. Those to the right represent the coast of Africa, where they tarried for one moon (one dot). To the left of the Straits is the coast of Europe, along which they sailed for two moons (two dots). The first detached line here represents the Canary Isles, which they visited. The curved lines to its right and above it are the coasts of Portugal, Spain, and France. The last detached line at the left is England. The cross just above shows their intention of crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and the circle is a sign that they set forth at full moon.
The third engraving shows their wanderings on the ocean in every direction, without a compass and with much suffering for five moons (the five dots scattered within). At the extreme left is the indication of their discovering land — a branch erect over characters which denote bonds of union and of joy; and they remained four moons where they first landed (four dots at the extreme left). Some of the characters here may possibly be Masonic.
In the fourth engraving, the detached figure to the right of the head (a branch with two leaves and a cross stroke) shows that after their toils and wanderings the two peoples, Jew and Tyrian, united into one nation. The time is indicated by the lower detached figure to the right — an 8 with two marks attached above, denoting ten, and two dots within — the second month of the tenth year of the reign of king Solomon. The human figure is their king. On his breast are three dots, which may represent his heart. A line representing a serpent is in his breast, and its head is inclined to and near the heart, which clearly shows that he was a wicked man. He reigned for three moons (the three dots above his head). Then, at the date indicated,271 this first American tyrant was slain for his cruelty by means of an arrow (shown entering his head from a bow at the left). “May the example of those who first set foot upon American soil, more than three thousand years ago, be remembered by every American, and that they will not suffer a tyrant to rule over them even till three moons have finished their courses.”
Hill’s book is rare now, and its theory, so far as I have discovered, has received but the barest mention, and by one or two writers only. This fact, as well as my desire to present fully every theory and interpretation of this strange and fertile rock that can be discovered, must be the excuse for devoting to it a space so disproportionate to its importance. We are not finished yet with such purely imaginative and thinly supported speculations, but must immediately consider another one, and will meet with further examples in later chapters. Rightly taken, they serve the double purpose of entertaining us as poetic fancies, and, as “horrid examples” of scientific intoxication, driving home forcefully the lesson so hard to learn of what to avoid in scientific method.
In the year 1836, there is mention in the American Monthly Magazine272 of a stone found in Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 1833, with characters thought to resemble those on Dighton Rock. The reviewer says, however, that this turned out to be the work of an insane man, who had been allowed to ramble about in the woods, and who cut meaningless figures upon rocks. In the same volume273 is a short paper entitled Antiquities of North America, signed by the initials J. S. The same paper appears again in 1837 in another magazine,274 signed this time in full by “John Stark, Esquire, of Galena, Illinois.” He believes in the view that America was peopled from Central Asia before the separation of the continents; and that later other hordes came by way of Behring’s Straits, drove the earlier inhabitants southwards before them, and gradually took possession of the country. He describes at length the skeleton found at Fall River about three years before, later made famous by Longfellow as the “Skeleton in Armor.” “That the body was not one of the Indians,” he says, “we think needs no argument.” It may have been of the Asiatic race. “But we rather incline to the belief that the remains belonged to one of the crew of a Phœnician vessel.” He then concludes:
The spot where they were found is on the sea-coast, and in the immediate neighborhood of “Dighton Rock,” famed for its hieroglyphic inscription, of which no sufficient explanation has yet been given; and near which rock brazen vessels have been found.275 If this latter [Phœnician] hypothesis be adopted, a part of it is, that these mariners — the unwilling and unfortunate discoverers of a new world — lived some time after they landed; and having written their names, perhaps their epitaphs, upon the rock at Dighton, died, and were buried by the natives
Kendalls Engraving From his painting in Oil 1807
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from memories of the American Academy of Arts and Science
1809 III Fig.13
There remains yet one more person whose interpretation may best be examined in this connection. His exposition appeared a year after the publication of the Antiquitates Americana?, with which event we propose to begin the next chapter in this history. But for many reasons it seems better to present it in connection with these earlier theories, which it resembles in principle, than in its exact chronological order. The reader may be already wearied with these detailed but groundless translations and think them sufficiently illustrated by the cases of Gebelin and of Hill. But mankind is prone to error, and error of this particular type is very prevalent in the world still. The only way in which such worthless reasonings can be deprived of their appeal is to exhibit them in repeated instances, to balance them against one another, to show that against each one that appeals can be brought up numberless others founded on the same essential grounds that are fully as plausible as it, and that therefore each is worthless except as an interesting imaginative exercise — as an exhibit in the Halls of Art instead of in the legitimate field of Science. We cannot escape the need, therefore, of a detailed presentation of this new theory; and we may hope that it may prove to the reader as well fitted to interest and to instruct as have the theories already dealt with.
We are now about to be informed with elaborate detail that the ancient stone was carved by Egyptians, that its puzzling characters have a sacred significance, and that they represent the position of the heavenly constellations as calculated for the time of the winter solstice, in celebration of the advent of a New Year. This view was advanced in 1838, by Moreau de Dammartin, who published it, though without the plates necessary for its comprehension, in the Journal de l’Institut Historique; and again separately, with the plates, as an undated “autotype Lithograph” — a fac-simile of his hand-written manuscript — probably at about the same time.276 Dammartin is apparently ignorant of all versions of the inscription except Sewall’s, and this he reproduces from Gebelin, with a new numbering of the figures designed to facilitate reference to them. In a second plate he gives illustrations explanatory of some of his interpretations. Both of these plates are reproduced herewith.277 In order to follow his exposition clearly and to judge of its value, we need the aid of some star-atlas; and probably that of Flamsteed will serve the purpose best, since we may assume that it was accessible to him.278 It will be well, in proceeding with his own narrative, to point out in footnotes any cases in which we find him seriously in error in claiming that a particular figure on the rock can be found in the constellation named if we join its stars together by means of appropriate imaginary lines. In all cases where this is not done, it may be assumed that he is at least approximately correct in claiming a correspondence. Unfortunately, on account of its minute descriptive details, it is impossible to condense his account as much as we might wish. The following is, however, a condensation and not a literal quotation. I have wished to give enough to make it possible to follow all of his details; but the reader who does not care to do this can gain a good general idea by reading the introductory paragraph and the first sentence under each of the six numbered groups.
The explanation that we shall give of this curious monument will show that it is the work of a nation foreign to America; and consequently that this land was visited long before Columbus by inhabitants of the Old World. The monument appears to us to be a fragment of the oriental celestial sphere, or an astronomical theme for a given moment, i. e., for December 25th at midnight, epoch of the winter solstice. We are persuaded that, even if we are mistaken in some details, on account of the probable imperfection of the copy, which perhaps offers but a feeble and imperfect idea of this monument, which is in part destroyed or effaced, yet these errors will in no way affect the general truth of our explanation. We divide the figures of the inscription into six groups.
First Group: The central and highest portion of the monument, containing the constellations and parts of constellations near the pole of the ecliptic. — The most remarkable feature of this group is the two lines crossing at right angles (1, 2, 4, 5), whose common section forms the pole of the ecliptic, as this is indicated on the planispheres projected on the plane of the equator. One of them (1, 2) is the meridian that passes from the beginning of the tail of the Great Bear and by the nose of Pegasus, a fact which led us to recognize the Great Bear in the seven stars joined by a dotted line (3). The other line (4, 5) corresponds to the meridian which goes from the Club of Hercules to Taurus. It passes by the head of the Dragon (6), separating it from the body, whereas the first separates the part which forms a loop and which is called the second vertebra (7). The curve (8) near the head of the Dragon is formed of stars constituting the left thigh, arm and side of Hercules. We have indicated by dotted lines the disposition of the Dragon about the pole. The straight line (9) opposite the curve of the Dragon appears to be a part of the Milky Way, in which is found Cygnus, whose stars form a cross (10). Beyond this line is a rude square (11) which Gebelin took to be a Phœnician letter Kaph, and which, in our opinion, represents the Chair of Cassiopea, a constellation which, according to our explanation of the origin of alphabets, has been the origin of all the alphabetic and hieroglyphic Kaphs, ancient and modern. The point outside the figure appears to designate the star of the back of the chair, situated exactly on the upper western colure. The point or small circle accompanied by a short line, higher up (12) — the line being on the projection of a straight line leading from behind the ship Argo through the two superior stars, and directed toward the star near the equator, called the thirteenth of the Ship by Flamsteed, and toward the Polar Star — can represent nothing else than the star Castor, one of the Twins, tutelary deity of mariners. Ursa Minor also is figured on the monument near the pole star, by a kind of Kaph which recalls its quadrilateral portion (13).279 To the right of the Great Bear is seen a space enclosed by three lines (14), which we suppose to be a diagram of the stars of the left arm of Bootes, including that of the shoulder. The star 16 would then be that of the extremity of the hand, which is situated on the meridian passing through the eastern node; 17, the star of the head of Boötes; 18, his staff, whose end is divided into two parts because of the stars of his right hand; 19, the star of his right shoulder placed upon a meridian.280 The line which joins this point to the other figures is a portion of this meridian, i. e., the part between the star of the shoulder and the one a little higher up on the same meridian at the level of the star of the head. The long curved line (20) is a tracing which, starting from the star of the left shoulder of Hercules (Ingeniculus, Kneeler), nearest the tropic of Cancer, passes through his neck, then through his right hand, near which it ceases, interrupted by the circular group of stars of the head of the Serpent of Ophiucus (21); begins again on the opposite side, goes round the lower stars of Corona Borealis, and rises to the star of the neck of Bootes, passing through the upper star of the meridian of the right shoulder, of which we have spoken.281
We notice here that the figure in the form of a cross, outlined by figures 6, 7, 8, 14, greatly resembles an ancient monument in Sweden. It represents a serpent doubly folded back on itself (Planche 2, fig. 1), at the centre of which is found the outlined cross of the American monument. The serpent, symbol of the Dragon of the pole, as is proved by comparison with other runic funereal monuments (Pl. 2, figs. 2–6), commemorates the death of the sun and the birth of the new sun, and thus also death in general, and the passage to a new life.
Second Group: The lower portion at the left of the monument, containing the constellations whose rising on December 25th announces the birth of the new sun: Argo, Virgo, Hydra, Bootes. At midnight of this date the sun is in Capricorn, and at the lower meridian. Aries and Pegasus are setting in the west; and the star Janus, the Genius who opens the new year, announces it by rising. This star is at the feet of Virgo, of which it forms a part.
The most remarkable figure here is the bust of a woman (22), representing Virgo. On her breast is a sort of ancient men, or trident, formed by the tracing of the nineteen stars of fifth and sixth magnitudes which command the star called Vindemiatrix, and whose arrangement is shown (Pl. 2, fig. 7). The figure resembling a little bird, below this men, is likewise formed by stars in the vicinity of Vindemiatrix (Pl. 2, fig. 8). Two free stars are indicated by the two points above the bird. The head of Virgo is covered by a long curved line (23, 24, 25), corresponding to Hydra. The circles described by this curve (24, 25) are the Cup and the head of Hydra.282 The point terminating the line recalls the star near the equator; for the head and neck of Hydra, including the three stars separated from the head by the equator, form the Arabic figure 2, exactly recalled in the monument. Near the bust of the Virgin is the figure of the little Horus, her son. A point, recalling probably the star Janus,283 which would be on the horizon and would form part of the constellation called Mons Menalus, would be indicated by figure 26, formed of five stars arranged in a circle and with a tail whose motive is given by the stars nearest to Janus and serving to identify it. Figure 27 represents a rude outline of Boötes,284 who is called the father and the foster-father of Horus. At the top of the drawing (28) is the ship Argo, three stars of which are indicated: (1) that of the rudder, or Canopus; (2) that of the top of the mast, Procyon, the thirteenth of the Ship, touching the equator; (3) in front, Sirius, similarly represented between the horns of the Cow in a boat in the circular Zodiac of Dendera.285
If one traces the stars of the head of Virgo in imitation of the Virgin of the monument, it leaves in the centre of the figure three stars, arranged in the form of eyes and mouth, and also three other stars forming the brow, of which one touches the meridian passing through Coma Berenices. We believe we see in these stars the origin of the fillet with which the heads of some Egyptian representations of Isis are ornamented (PI. 2, fig. 9).
Third Group: The lower centre, containing the constellations on the western horizon at the birth of the sun. — The first animal is Aries (28),286 characterized in a very singular manner, as is seen in Planche 2, figure 10. The little circle terminating this figure recalls the double star of the head, which is on the meridian separating Aries from Pisces. It is certainly a poor drawing, yet the tail is a faithful representation of the stars disposed in the form of an elongated V.287 The second animal (29) is Pegasus, easily recognizable by the four points alluding to the stars of the quadrilateral. The curved line rising from its withers appears to represent the wings that are usually given to it. It corresponds also through its horns to the horned horse of the Hebrews: it is thus that they depicted Pegasus. The lines going out from between the horns are the continuation of stars included in the river of Aquarius. In figure 30 it will be easy to recognize the foot of Aquarius, separated from his body by a portion of the ecliptic (31). The curved figure 32 is the outline of stars in the lower part of Capricorn, separated from the head, here invisible, by a portion of the equator. Figure 33 is Ephaptus;288 34, the Vase of Aquarius; 35, terminating the right hand upper part of the group, is a part of the bow of Sagittarius, of his arrow, and of the meridian which separates the latter from the bow, and on which are joined both the circle of the ecliptic and the tropic of Capricorn. The point where the lines cross at 36 being the western node of the sphere, the drawing below this can be nothing else than a crudely represented part of the Whale. Figure 37, detached from all the others, recalls the Fishes and the bands that bind them together.
Fourth Group: The three figures at the right lower end, not included among the constellations, but forming the three personified decans of the sign of Capricornus.—This part of the picture is of the greatest interest, supporting the above explanations, and serving to enlighten us as to the origin of the constellations, the first elements of astronomy, the personification of the spirits placed in the celestial sphere, the causes of their various attributes, and the numberless traditions to which they have given rise.
The first figure highest up (38) is very significant. It is the god Priapus, the Faun, the great Pan, etc., and, above all, Orion. It is the latter, because this constellation is represented in the Egyptian Zodiac of Kircher by a satyr or faun with goat’s feet, with a shepherd’s crook, and with a syrinx or flute of four tubes, represented with seven on certain monuments. If one draws lines joining together properly the stars of this constellation, including also the stars of the Hare, the result will be a figure exactly like that of the American monument (Pl. 2, fig. II).289
Behind the lower part of Orion there are eleven stars, which, joined two and two by perpendicular lines nearly parallel, form the flute of Pan, or the four-tubed syrinx, ending at the tail of the Hare. If now one joins by similar lines the stars of the body of the Hare (Pl. 2, fig. 12), one will obtain an instrument with seven tubes almost as regular as the first.290 Orion was represented in this decan, the third of the month of December, because the rising of his belt announces the beginning of the year.
The second decan (Pl. 1, fig. 39; Pl. 2, fig. 13) presents a diagram of the stars of the constellation Antinous, emblem of the new sun which he precedes in rising in the morning. The eagle placed above Antinous seems to bear him in its claws. Here it is the Dolphin, which is found indicated above the head of Antinous, as can be recognized by the disposition of its principal stars in the form of the letter N. The two characters joined to the head of this decan by a horizontal line (40) should be considered as designating the attributes of the personage. We see in them a type of Bootes reversed, and of the head of the serpent of Ophiucus (21); but here this type is considered as the symbol of writing, and pronounced em chai by the Egyptians. The little mark detached from one of these figures is the expression of a little group of stars situated in the Tropic of Cancer between Corona Borealis and the head of the serpent of Ophiucus, and related in direction to two stars of the right leg of Bootes. It served as type for the sacred nail of the Romans, which they attached each year to the walls of the temple of Minerva; and may be compared to the keys of Janus and of Cybele, indicating the opening of a new era.
RAFN’S REPRODUCTION OF LITHOGRAPH BY JOB GARDNER, 1812
from antiquitates americanae, 1837, tab. xi. no. vii
HILL’S PRESENTATION OF THE JOB GARDNER DRAWING OF 1812, WITH DOTTED LINES ADDED BY E. B. DELABARRE
from ira hill’s antiquities of america explained, 1831. engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts
The last two figures (41, 42) grouped together as emblems of the first, decan of December are the tracings of the stars of Canis Major and of Canis Minor. These two dogs were called the Barkers or Warners. They owe their use in this decan to their position opposite that of Capricorn; for their passage across the upper meridian indicates that of Capricorn and the sun across the lower meridian. These types, so original in form, appear at first sight to have little correspondence with the celestial Dogs. However, if we put on paper in their respective places (Pl 2, fig. 14) the stars of Canis Major, except those beyond the meridian passing through the head of Procyon, whose stars should occupy this place; add to them the three lower stars of the fore feet of the Unicorn, the star of the head of the Dove and those of the Olive Branch that it holds in its beak, and then the four stars of Argo nearest the Olive Branch; and then join them together properly, we will obtain a figure exactly like figure 41, without leaving any star unused. It will be the same with the stars of Procyon or of Canis Minor (Pl. 2, fig. 15), to which should be joined the six stars of the breast of the Unicorn, and the two small stars above the head of the Little Dog. The star at the extreme right in this figure is the thirteenth of the Ship, as in figure 12. The summit of the lower triangle recalls the stars alongside the equator, and the prolongation of its hypothenuse serves to discover a small star in front of the fore feet of Sirius and placed exactly on the first meridian, as is also the star of the eye of Columba in the picture of Canis Major.
Fifth Group: the hieroglyphic zone (43) in the centre of the monument, representing the Egyptian formula EM-CHAI-EN-NE-NOUTE, which may be rendered: Here are the portraits of the gods, the divine (sacred, celestial) writings. — The derivation of this meaning is expounded at some length on the second Plate (fig. 16). All of the letters of the alphabet were derived from the constellations, and the ones that are here used owe their forms and significations to this source.291
Sixth Group: the left end, containing three monograms which appear to indicate a date. — Figure 44 (Pl. 2, fig. 18) is the hieratic-hieroglyphic group rompe, the year; 45 (fig. 19) is the number ment, ten; 46 (fig. 20) is son, day of the month; and 47 (fig. 21) indicates the number of the month — possibly the fourth, whose thirtieth day corresponds to the solstice. Figure 17 of the second Plate is another Egyptian formula for a date, placed here for comparison.
What I have tried to do, and what I wish the reader to try to do, in examining the argument of each new advocate of a theory, is to consider it sympathetically, and to see that from his point of view the interpretation is justified. Only we must afterwards realize that numberless conflicting views are justified in exactly the same manner. Considered uncritically, it is no doubt true that, without too discouraging distortion, every identity claimed by Dammartin can be verified if each figure, or in many cases each small part of a figure, be taken independently, without regard to its relation to the rest. Sympathetically and not critically regarded, every feature of Dammartin’s interpretation can find a plausible excuse for its adoption. But the secret of such success as he actually attains is evidently due to the fact that any desired figure can be found in any constellation, especially if, in difficult cases, neighboring stars are brought in to make the task easier; and that symbolism is so elastic as to make it possible to assign almost any meaning to any figure. The outlines of figure 22 can be found readily in Virgo; but the trident and bird must be considered independently, for the picture does not give them in their true relation to Virgo as a whole. The upper triangular figure is the worst in this respect.292 If we start with 8, we find it represents well the portions of Hercules claimed for it, if we hold Flamsteed’s chart 8 with its left side down. The line that goes from 8 up to the right and curves around to 21 must now be found independently of 8. Letting it start at the lower end of 8, instead of the summit of its curve, where it belongs, and turning the book a little clock-wise, we rise from the shoulder of Hercules through neck and hand (but not through arm) around to the head of Serpens, in conformity with the drawing. Now we must turn our book to its regularly correct position, at right angles to the first, in order to curve from 21 around through Corona in correspondence with the curve of 20. When we reach the extreme right of 20, we turn the book again to its second position, in order to rise to the staff of Boötes (18), which is then correctly shown. Now we turn to chart 7 and hold it upside-down (which is upside-down for chart 8 also) in order to get the rest of Boötes (16 and 17) as the drawing, according to Dammartin, shows it. By such means we could find in the monument everything that Dammartin tells us is there. But by such means we could find any desired figure in any portion of the heavens chosen at random.
In order to illustrate the truth of this assertion, I decided that I would find his figure 39 on any chart in Flamsteed to which I might chance to open the book. By pure chance it opened at chart 20, and easily gave the figure desired.293 We have only to smooth it out now
a little, even less perhaps than our author did with his corresponding figure, to obtain a faithful duplicate of the drawing in the inscription. As to giving it appropriate symbolical meaning, we should find no difficulty in doing that, as we shall realize shortly. If one example of this sort is not enough, a convincing plentifulness of others will soon be given.
Dammartin’s theory has such magnificent possibilities of novelty and charm as an addition to our collection, that it is a real disappointment to find in him so much purely fanciful speculation, so naïvely arbitrary an assumption that the particular figures found by his active imagination are surely the ones intended by the inscriber without any alternative, such a careless, high-handed, slap-dash application of his theory without regard to accuracy and consistency, so complete an adoption of the methods of his delightful but unconvincing predecessors Gebelin and Hill. It would have been a satisfaction to discover that, however freely he used his vigorous imagination in discovering desired lines among the stars, he yet refrained from violently wrenching them from their places. Had he been a true magician, and his account of the rock a Word of Power that could compel the motions of the starry worlds in their distant orbs, the resulting disjunction of their harmomous relations would have led to an utter wreck of the universe and a tumbling of all the worlds into a tangled chaos. But luckily the heavenly bodies still hold their appointed places, and his incantations were but the idle fancies of a truth-distorting dream. His account must be taken piecemeal to give it any plausibility, and we must be prepared to accept any change in the relative directions and distances of the stars in order to force them into position in our figures, to draw numerous imaginary lines marked by no real stars, to disregard entirely the relative positions of constellations.
Worst of all, after we have the theory presented we find that its meaning is too trivial to be attractive. So elaborate a depiction of the constellations should commemorate something more important than the advent of a new year. It does not take much ingenuity to devise a much better theory than that of Dammartin, along similar lines of interpretation. I have entertained myself with an attempt to accomplish this, and it may not be uninstructive to record the result and demonstrate that it can be done. If worth doing at all, then we should select a theory that will be attractive in itself and will involve a wealth, consistency and appealingness of symbolically expressible meanings that may fit all the details of the inscription; and in applying it to the latter, keep each figure consistent with itself at least.
There is nothing in the world so rich in symbolism as is the expression of a religious faith, especially if it be of a mystical order; and the deeper mysticisms or esoteric forms of all religions are, for certain profound psychological reasons, everywhere and in all times essentially alike. We can assign to our rock no more important function than to serve either as a record of some remarkable historical event, or as a chart designed by the enlightened missionaries of some superior faith to aid them in teaching the difficult mysteries of their doctrine to a barbaric tribe. Let us assume that it was for the latter purpose that the rock was carved; that it was done by Egyptians nearly 5000 years ago; and that the esoteric teachings of their faith are correctly described in any convenient source that we may select. There are two small books, one by W. K. Adams and the other by S. G. P. Coryn,294 that will serve admirably for this purpose, and we need not concern ourselves as to whether they are in any respect right or wrong in the beliefs that they express. Let us allow the Egyptian formula of Dammartin to stand as correct, for it is probably as ingenious and defensible as any that we could devise. But the rest of the inscription will represent the Celestial Sphere, not for its own bare sake, but as an aid to teaching through symbols the deep mysteries of a religion. It will symbolize the Pathway of Initiation into the Divine Mysteries, and will have three scenes: (1) The ordinary worldly life of the Unregenerate, the Dweller in Darkness, the Soul not yet awakened to aspiration toward the Spiritual Light. This will be symbolized by the constellations grouped about the northern pole of the equator. (2) The Way of Initiation, whose successive stages will be represented by the twelve signs of the Zodiac. (3) The Scene of Judgment, and the attainment of the ultimate Union with the Divine Light. Our books tell us that this was the essence of the teaching of the Egyptian religion; and something of the sort is the teaching of all Mysticism. In what follows, we will condense from the books a sufficient account of the Egyptian belief, and of the stages of Initiation, to serve our purpose; and will combine it with our other assumptions.
Scene 1: The Worldly Life. — The visible creation is the counterpart of the unseen world. It traces out the path whereby the Just passes through Initiation, Illumination, and Perfection, necessary to fit him for endless union with Light, the Great Creator. The axis of the earth is for man the prime measure of space and the standard rule of the Depths. Hence the North Star is the simplest symbol of the Universe. But about 2700 B.C., Alpha Draconis, sometimes called the Life or Judge of Heaven, was less than 10′ from the exact northern pole.295 This star could be seen, by day as by night, from the bottom of the central passage of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Ghizeh, in 30° of north latitude, as well as from the corresponding points in five other like structures. The central point of the double triangle on the rock will therefore symbolize this star, and thus fix the date of the inscription. The lines that pass through it will represent the meridians that pass through the four points of Solstice and of Equinox, and will thus symbolize the entire Heavens, the Universe, the Great Pyramid, the whole Life of the Soul, the Light of All. About it will be grouped the northern constellations in proper array; and we can actually fit them there without very great distortion.296 Our arrangement is certainly far more consistent than that of Dammartin. We obtain it for the most part from Flamsteed’s Chart 1, filling in some details from later charts. We follow Dammartin’s copy of the inscription, except in a few details. Our figure possesses a unity of composition and meaning, which his lacks: — it is the World, in truth a World of Light, but not yet so known to the as yet Unilluminated Soul. The deviations of the figure in the inscription from this faithful representation of the northern constellations, we may assume, are no greater than would have resulted naturally from any attempt to depict them on stone so long ago.
Scene 2: The Way of Initiation and Purification. — This will be represented on the monument by the signs of the Zodiac in orderly sequence from Scorpio to Capricornus, leaving Sagittarius for later use. It will take no long examination of the pages of Flamsteed to convince us that all the desired figures of the inscription can be found readily in the constellations assigned to them, and no drawings are necessary, therefore, to prove this.297 A properly trained (or, we may better say, unrestrained) imagination, as we have already recognized, can discover any desired figure in any sufficiently complex collection of stars; and our figures are there, with sufficient closeness, if we wish to find them. We may have to remark in a few cases, as did Dammartin: “It is certainly a poor drawing, yet it faithfully characterizes the constellation;” we can plausibly attribute all deficiencies to the unskilled makers of the rock-cuttings; and our results will be far more unified and consistent and full of meaning than those of Dammartin. As to the meanings of these eleven stages (the twelfth comes into the next scene) in the Path of Initiation, of Struggling toward the Light, the following features, gleaned from our chosen authorities, will suffice. Our choice of constellations to represent the stages is not derived from them. We must bear in mind that the true Mystic can find any desired symbolism in almost anything; and so we are at full liberty to select any Zodiacal sign we please to represent any mystical stage or meaning. Yet the choice is not wholly arbitrary, but conforms fairly well to meanings usually assigned to these signs in Universal Symbolism.
The Aspirant to Initiation must first earnestly feel the need of it, through catching a faint gleam of the Light that creates, sustains and illuminates the World; and this is implied as occurring at the end of his experience with the previous scene, where Light and Orderliness are symbolized, but not yet comprehended. He must then, as a first step on the Path, pass through preliminary exercises of meditation, self-mastery, and spiritual discipline, and become “dead to the flesh,” as he has been always thus far “dead to the Light.” This is rightly portrayed by Scorpio (46), always a symbol of Death, but also of coming Regeneration. Then he is buried for a time (the mystical period of Quiet, of Silence, of “watchful waiting”), as symbol of his death and nothingness; and thus prepared for the reception of Truth. This stage is well represented by Libra (45, 44), which symbolizes Justice, but also Equilibrium, Light, and Truth. In the third stage he is permitted a vision of the end of his pilgrimage, — of Isis, the Divine Love, the Perfection that is his far-off goal. Virgo (22) is the natural symbol here. He is now a new-born Soul, who (as the infant Horus, son of the Virgin Light and Love), with Divine Strength to sustain him (for which reason the inscription gives two separated figures here [26, 25], both represented by Leo), sets out on the adventures of his new life. The seven following constellations (27: Cancer; 28: Gemini; 29: Taurus, with parts of Orion; 36: Aries; 37: Pisces; 34, 30, 31: Aquarius; 33, 32: Capricornus) will represent the Wanderings of the Soul in the Underworld, the Path to Perfection, until he reaches the Judgment of Osiris. The reconstruction of the Inner Man must be effected, and this can be accomplished only through real and bitter conflict with all of his spiritual enemies. Only by arduous preparation and conflict of light and darkness does the soul become born at last into the Eternal Light. The enemies of spiritual progress are many and strong and persistent, are often disguised as Angels of Light; and each must be overcome in turn. Their number is not restricted to seven; but for the purpose of symbolization, this number may well be selected.
Scene 3: The Judgment of Osiris. — At last the end of the Wanderings is attained. The Wanderer has overcome his foes. He reaches the gates that lead into the fields of Aanru, the Heavenly Abode, the Union with Light. We see him standing at the portal (42). Here he meets Anubis (41), the jackal-headed Opener of the Ways, he who guards the heavenly secrets. The challenge of the latter being met, he enters the Judgment Hall, where sits Osiris on his Throne (39), and Thoth, the Recorder, the Eternal Wisdom, the Mind and Will of God (38). Before them he makes his eloquent plea of being worthy. But first his heart must be weighed in the balance against the feather of the Law; and this is portrayed in figure 40, which pictures well the heart, the balance, and the feather. It also, together with figure 35, represents Sagittarius, the final constellation of the Zodiac, — symbol of the Bowman who shoots straight to his goal; and symbol also of Temperance, Balance, Equilibrium attained. This ordeal passed, and his heart being declared of full weight, he is admitted into Aanru, and receives the Crown of Illumination (symbolized by of the inscription), and is permitted to know the secret Law of the Starry Orbs and of Human Lives, developing through all their trials and changes in harmonious progression according to the Divine Purpose. Thus he comprehends at last the true Meaning, Purpose and Justification of the Universe, from which he set out in darkness in Scene 1, as is implied by the direction of the arrow placed above these figures at the right end of the inscription. His conscious Union with the Eternal Light, which is The All, is complete.
There is, of course, no truth in this attractive and consistent interpretation, as an actual translation of the characters on Dighton Rock. But if it is not true, then certainly its many rivals, whether of earlier date and already considered, or yet to be advanced by Magnusen and Rafn and later translators, have no stronger claim to acceptance. A full score of more or less definite translations of the rock’s message have been offered; but not one of them is founded on arguments more sound than have been advanced for this one. They will be interesting to examine, as they come along. But we shall be prepared to realize that they are all based upon the same methods of interpretation which we have in this instance arbitrarily adopted, and thus have no better right to be accepted than this one has. In fact, no acceptable meaning has ever been assigned to any of the characters on the rock; and it is very possible that they never had any very definite or important meanings. If they were not mere idle scribblings, then probably they were made at various times, very likely, though not necessarily, after Europeans had supplied iron tools, and had meanings, if any at all, that were individual, trivial, and unregrettably impossible to translate. Except to satisfy a craving for insignificant detail, there would be then no need to ask for an explanation of the exact meaning, or idle meaningless origin, of any figure.
DAMMARTIN’S “SECOND PLATE,” EXPLANATORY OF HIS INTERPRETATION
from dammatin’s explication de le pierre de taunston, 1838, planche 2
RAFN’S REPRODUCTION OF SEWALL’S DRAWING, 1768
from antiouitates americanae, 1837, Tab. xi, no. iv. engraved for the colonial society of massachusetts
In considering Kendall, I summed up the theories which had been advanced up to his time to account for the inscription.298 Our further survey has added to them, besides his own and the two additional ones mentioned by him, only a few more. That it was unreadable, however originating, was claimed by Stiles, by Kendall, by Yates and Moulton, by Rémusat, and apparently by Warden. That there were believers in Trojans, Persians, and Egyptians as its originators, we are informed by Hill. The Pelasgian inhabitants of Atlantis are made responsible by Mathieu. The Phœnician theory is advocated in a changed form, making the sculptors not Carthaginians, but Tyrians and Jews, as Hill’s own view. Yates and Moulton also are inclined to attribute the inscription to Phœnicians, and argue that the Indians left no similar inscriptions and knew nothing as to the origin of this one.299 Dammartin assigns to it an Egyptian origin, and holds that it was a picture of the constellations, celebrating the advent of a new year. Davis believes that it portrays the Indian sport of hunting by wholesale, and contains also their marks or signatures. Von Humboldt calls attention to its resemblance to markings on rock made by Scandinavian peoples, and a Committee of the Rhode Island Historical Society opens the way by a new drawing to the promulgation of the celebrated theory that was destined to appear next in order, namely, that Thorfinn the Norseman made the record in the year 1008.
Besides this last named opinion, we have yet to meet the contention by Jomard in 1840 that the inscription was made by the ancient Libyans; another advocated in 1863 that it was the work of a Roman Catholic missionary at some time about 1520; still others by Onffroy de Thoron that it had a Phœnician origin, and by Lundy that it was due to Chinese travellers; and the development of a better comprehension of what the Indians themselves actually accomplished. These later periods of discussion will not be lacking in interest. They witness the hottest and most prolific controversies that the hoary rock has occasioned; the announcement by Rafn that aroused so tremendous an interest and so protracted a dispute, influencing belief strongly even down to the present day; and the making of numerous new reproductions, including the introduction of photography. These and other features will render the continuation of our narrative at least not less absorbing and instructive than it has been thus far.
List of Plates accompanying this Paper
- XIX Stiles’s Drawing, June 6, 1767, from the original in the Yale University Library
- XX Stiles’s Drawing, July 15, 1767, from the original in the Yale University Library
- XXI Stiles’s Drawing, July 16, 1767, from the original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society
- XXI Stiles’s Drawing, July 16, 1767, dorse, from the original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society
- XXII Sewall’s Drawing, 1768, from the original in the Peabody Museum, Harvard University
- XXII Lort’s Reproduction of Sewall’s Drawing, 1768, from Archaeologia, 1787, VIII, Plate XIX
- XXIII Gebelin’s Reproduction of Sewall’s Drawing, 1768, from Gebelin’s Monde Primitif, 1781, VIII, Planche I
- XXIII Dammartin’s Reproduction of Gebelin’s Reproduction of Sewall’s Drawing, 1768, from Dammartin’s Explication de la Pierre de Taunston, 1838, Planche 1
- XXIV Winthrop’s Full Size Impression from Dighton Rock, 1788, as pantographically reduced by him, from Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1804, II, Part II
- XXV Baylies-Smith-West-Gooding-Baylies Drawing, 1789, the Smith-Stiles copy, from the original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society
- XXV Drawing of 1789, the Smith-Upham copy, from the original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society
- XXVI Drawing of 1789, the Gooding copy, from the original in the possession of Miss Sophia F. Brown
- XXVI Drawing of 1789, the Webb copy, from Antiquitates Americanæ, 1837, Tab. xii, No. viii
- XXVII Harris’s Copy, about 1807, of the Alphabetic Characters shown on Winthrop’s Drawing of 1788, from the original in the Harvard College Library
- XXVIII Kendall’s Painting in Oil, 1807, from the original in the Peabody Museum, Harvard University
- XXIX Kendall’s Engraving from his Painting in Oil, 1807, from Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1809, III, Fig. 13
- XXX Rafn’s Reproduction of Lithograph by Job Gardner, 1812, from Antiquitates Americanæ, 1837, Tab. xi, No. vii
- XXX Hill’s presentation of the Job Gardner Drawing of 1812, with dotted lines added by E. B. Delabarre in places where some of Gardner’s lines were omitted by Hill, from Ira Hill’s Antiquities of America Explained, 1831
- XXXI Dammartin’s “Second Plate,” explanatory of his Interpretation, from Dammartin’s Explication de la Pierre de Taunston, 1838, Planche 2
- XXXI Rafn’s Reproduction of Sewall’s Drawing, 1768, from Antiquitates Americanæ, 1837, Tab. XI, No. IV
Mr. Julius H. Tuttle communicated several documents, speaking as follows:
In his efforts to secure a new charter for Harvard College, Increase Mather had to meet many difficulties. The tendency during the later years of his presidency to deviate from the leadership of both Increase and Cotton Mather in religious ways led to much opposition to them, which they were determined to resist. The following letter of Increase Mather’s shows his purpose to follow closely and guide the consideration of the “Law for Incorporating Harvard-College:”
I do again Return you my humble Thanks for yours of Feb. 6. 1696, which was the Last from you that I have been favoured with. I know you have your Hands full of weighty Occasions; and therefore I would not take up any of your Time with Impertinences. But you will give me Leave to beg your Favour in an Affair, wherein the Welfare of all the Countrey is concerned. It is with Respect to ye College. I suppose I had been with you before this; but that it is necessary, that the Governour should arrive before my Going to England, that so I may have his Countenance and Concurrence in what I am to sollicit for. Wee are the Last week assured of his being at Barbados, the Winter Norewest Winds have forced him from these Coasts.300
I leave only to entreat, that you would please to Improve your Interest at Court, that the Law for Incorporating Harvard-College, which was sent over this Winter, may not come under Consideration until such Time, as I can be with you, which I hope may be in July or August next. In ye meane Time, if I can any way serve His Majesties Interest here, you may Command,
Yor Humble Servt.
Boston March 28. 1698
Massachusetts Bay L’re from Mr Increase Mather to Mr Blathwayt, desiring yt the Act abt Harvard Colledge may not be considered till his arrival.
28th March 1
30th of May
28 March 1698
From Mr Mather.301
Two other letters relating to the history of New England shed further interesting light on the efforts of the Mathers to displace Joseph Dudley as Governor of Massachusetts Bay, and to procure a new charter for Harvard College. Their discontent with the management of affairs of state and of the College went back to the former unsatisfactory administration of Dudley, and to a falling out on a choice of two Fellows to the corporation at Cambridge which had much displeased the Mathers. Joseph Dudley found himself in the party opposed to them, and desirous at the same time to promote the best interests of the College. Yet Cotton Mather, when Dudley became Governor in June, 1702, expressed a friendly interest in his administration; and it was thought that Mather’s letter in favor of Dudley’s appointment may have had some influence. Notwithstanding this Dudley was frank in his opposition to the wishes of the Mathers, and especially stirred Cotton to relentless, but unsuccessful, efforts during the whole of Dudley’s governorship from 1702 to 1715 to secure the appointment of Sir Charles Hobby in his place as Governor.
Various published letters from the Winthrop papers, the Mather papers, and other collections bear out these statements, and show at the same time the prominent part which Sir Henry Ashurst took in the affair. Dudley wrote to Wait Winthrop on February 11, 1707–8, “every body is sensible how I am persued by Mr Mather,”302 and a view of his own methods is given in a letter from Ashurst to Increase Mather on February 17, 1709–10: “You cannot imagine, nor I dare write, ye wayes yt D— takes to keepe in ye Governmt. I have done with yr Sr Ch— .”303 Meantime the old charter for the College had been revived.
Sir Charles Hobby, whose love for gay social life and for military distinction is known, was a Boston boy, the son of William Hobby,304 a merchant here, and Ann his wife, and was born about 1665. Nothing is known of his early days; and he was knighted, according to Hutchinson, “as some said for fortitude and resolution at the time of the earthquake in Jamaica, others for the further consideration of £800 sterling.”305 The official reason is given in the London Gazette of July 9–12, 1705:
Windsor, July 9. This Day Her Majesty was pleased to confer the Honour of Knighthood upon Charles Hobby of New-England, Esq; in Consideration of his faithful Services to Her Majesty in the Plantations.306
Sewall, under date of October 9, 1701, records the marriage of Peter Sergeant to Lady Phips, and on October 10 first mentions Hobby: “Mr. Sergeant dwells at my Ladies house and Major Hobbie comes into his”307 — that is, into Sergeant’s house, which was afterwards the Province House. In October, 1702, Major Hobby bought a house and land at the corner of Marlboro Street, now Washington Street, and Rawson’s Lane, now Bromfield Street, on the northeast side as far as Province Street. Sewall records several interesting incidents connected with Sir Charles. He was close to the Governor on many occasions, and prominent as a Colonel of the Boston Regiment, and in the Artillery Company. In the inventory of his estate taken February 7, 1715, there is given the valuation of seven slaves, “Negro James,” “Cuffy, a boy,” “Morrat,” “Mushoon a Molatto,” “Jane a Woman,” “Lucy a Girle,” and “Nancy a Girle,” amounting in all to £300. He left also, besides many items of household goods, “eight small pictures” and the following “Library:”308
4 Vol: of Baxters Works in folio
2 Daltons Justice
Cooks Institutes 2 pt old
Townsends Histor Collect
Burnetts History Reformat
2 Vol My Lord Clarendons History
Echards Roman History
Abridgemt: of the Statutes 4 Vol
A plaine Leidger
20 small books
One interest connected with the letters here given is the entry in Cotton Mather’s Diary following the date of November 21, 1703, where he tells of the preparation of his own letter: “About this time I endeavoured several Services to my Countrey, by writing Letters, to the Lord-president of the Queen’s Council, and the Earl of Nottingham, the Queen’s Principal Secretary of State, and some other Persons of Quality.”309 Hutchinson says that “some of the most pious ministers strongly urged, in their letters, that he [Hobby] might be appointed governor instead of Dudley;” and Savage comments: “Hutchinson does not say, that his connexions the two Mathers, were writers of those letters, of which there can be no doubt.” That Savage’s surmise was correct, the following two letters prove:
Boston New England
Nov. 26. 1703.
May it please Your Lordship
My Relation to a person who has been sometimes admitted unto the Honour of Waiting on Your Lordship and who perpetually celebrates the Goodness and Candour wherewith you alwayes received him emboldens me to a presumption, which I durst not have Committed, if I had not been so Related and Informed.
And the Consideration which my Countrey is pleased, on many occasions to express for me, Obliges me, and almost commissions me, to Address Your Lordship, with some Representation of my Countreyes Interests:
Indeed, the Generous Temper of Your Lp, towards the people of those Dispositions in Religion at home in England, which are professed by a small Nation in those parts of America, and the service you did unto England, Yea, the Justice you did unto Mankind, in the Influence, You had upon that Act of Parliament310 upon which they enjoy so much of Liberty as they do, invites all persons of my character to speak of Your Lordship with a profound Veneration: And Your Lordship will not wonder at it, if they who are not writing of other Business, yett count it Business enough to burden you with Letters of Thanks, and even stiffle you with the number of Roses which they cast upon you.
But it is another matter that procures unto Your Lordship the trouble of these Letters.
The Gentleman who leaves them, is Colonel Charles Hobby, a Gentleman whose Capacity and Affection for Her Majesties Service, are not of the smallest elevation.
If there be now in London, as doubtless there are, persons who knew any thing of Jamaica, at the Time of his Residing on that Island, They will Report unto Your Lordship, how zealously he there served the Crown, in several posts, for many years together: and they will mention some Instances of his peculiar Courage and Conduct, wherein he did that, for which a knighthood might have been thought but a small Reward.311
Tho’ he has within a few months, by certain disasters Lost an estate of Ten Thousand pounds value, he has a Considerable Estate yett left; And the putting of That into an agreeable Condition, was the whole and sole Intention, of the Voyage he has now undertaken.
But the best Friends of New England, upon the discourse of his Voyage applied themselves unto him, with their earnest sollicitations, That he would Wait upon Your Lordship, to see, whether the Government of this province, might not be obtained for him: Inasmuch as tis understood, That the Gentleman who is or present Governour has rendered himself so universally unacceptable, that there is a likelihood of his Removal.
It is by persons of the most consummate prudence among us beleeved, That Colonel Hobby will not by an Imprudent and Improper Management, cause a fatal prejudice to Her Majesties Affayres in the province.
Colonel Hobby is One who worships God in the way of the Church of Engand; and tho’ they who do so in this Countrey, are One very Little Congregation yett he is of that Congregation.
But he has propounded unto himself Your Lordships Excellent exemple for his Imitation, and he is for treating the Non-Cong with the Respects which are due to conscientious Christians.
His Carriage has been such (and particularly in the Command of no Little part of the Militia in this province,) that he is Beloved and esteemed by all parties among us, and he has a general Reputation throughout the Countrey; Even such an One, that Your Lordship will pardon me, if I freely offer my Thoughts, That it would be sensibly for the Queens Interest, to be served by a person of such a Reputation.
He will not irritate either the Councillors or the Representatives of or General Assemblies, by so disobliging a way of Trampling on them, as to render them Intractable. And yett he will, with an Inviolate Integrity pursue Her Majesties Gracious Intentions.
But I have given Your Lordship too tedious a Diversion. May the God of Heaven continue Your Lordship, as a Great Instrument of Good unto more than Three Kingdomes And may he multiply the Blessings of Heaven and Earth, on Your Noble Family.
Tis the Hearty Wish of,
Most Humble & Obedient
My Lord Nottingham312
The kindness wch Yor Lordship was pleased to show to me (& to New England) when I was concerned in an Agency for this Province, has left indelible impressions in me, of gratitude. It was a sensible Joy to me when I understood that Your Lordship was returned to that high Station in the Court of England wherein you did wth great Prudence and Integrity serve his Late Majesty & the Nation.
It may be Yor Lordship will Expect that I should acquaint you with the state of Affairs wth us. I am sorry that I can give no better an account of them. The Generality of People throughout the Province have not the Love for the present Governr Mr Dudly that were to be desired. The old prejudices occasioned by his former mismanagements are revived. And his Conduct since his being Governr, has in divers Instances been very dissatisfactory to those that have been his best friends.
Prudent men with us cannot but think that it would conduce much for the Interest of her Majesties affairs in this Province, as well as be for the happiness of her Subjects here, might they have a Governr that should have the Love of the People, the Consideration whereof I humbly Leave with Yor Lordships wisdom.
My Lord. The Bearer hereof Coƚƚ. Charles Hobby is a person of real merit whom I can freely recomend to Yor Lordships favour. Hee is as to his principles in Religion a Protestant of the Church of England as by Law established, but of great moderation, having a respect for dissenters who are Good men & Loyal Subjects, as I know Yor Lordship also has.
If in any matter, I may serve her Majestyes Interest here, or Yor Lordships, please to Lay Yor Comands on,
Yor Lordships humble Servant
Boston. December 8. 1703.
If Yor Lordship shall be instrumental in procuring a charter for or Colledge you will bring this whole province under the greatest obligations with Gratitude.313
Mr. Henry H. Edes exhibited a cut of a satirical coat of arms of the Porcellian Club of Harvard College, speaking as follows:
At the meeting of the Society in February, 1906,314 1 communicated a letter written in 1799 by Amos Kent (H. C. 1795) to his brother, Moody Kent (H. C. 1801), which contained some interesting information concerning the early history of the Porcellian Club, of which both were among the early members.
Our associate, Dr. Franklin Bowditch Dexter, has recently edited for the Corporation of Yale University a volume called Itineraries and Correspondence of Ezra Stiles. On page 419 is a cut which reproduces a drawing found in the Itinerary for May, 1794. This drawing was made in 1793 by the Rev. Dr. William Jenks of the Class of 1797, while a Freshman, and was a satire on the Porcellian Club, then in the third year of its existence. The drawing fell into the hands of Miss Betsey Stiles while on a visit to her sister Mary, the first wife of the Rev. Dr. Abiel Holmes of Cambridge, and was sent by her to her father, President Stiles. Dr. Dexter very kindly permits me to communicate these facts to the Society for publication in our Transactions, together with a cut of the drawing. The ribbon bears the legend “The Arms of the Bloods of Harvd College.” The arms are drawn in heraldic fashion, but with some inaccuracies, the bird, which forms the crest, for instance, facing the wrong way.
The three open books on the chevron were doubtless supposed to bear the word “Veritas” upon their pages, after the manner of one of the College seals. The College bell is probably the one depicted below the chevron, which is surmounted by a beehive and bees, and by two wine casks. The supporters of the shield appear to be Indians; and the motto above the crest, Dum vivimus vivamus, is the same as that found below the coat of arms of the Club in use to-day.
The Porcellian Club elected to its fellowship eleven men from the Harvard Class of 1797; but we do not find the name of William Jenks among them. Perhaps his satire may have spoiled his chance of preferment.
Mr. John W. Farwell exhibited a copy of La Nouvelle Testament, published at The Hague and Amsterdam in 1730, which bears on the title-page the autograph of Benjamin Franklin and on a fly-leaf the statement that it was bought at the sale of Franklin’s library in Philadelphia in 1805.