The oratorical skills of Native Americans—their ability to speak in public about matters of concern to the community—were admired by European Americans. Reported speeches by Native Americans were often repeated or committed to memory. In an appendix to “Jefferson’s Notes, on the State of Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson described how a 1774 speech by Chief Logan became widely known, in the colonies and in Europe:
These [the circumstances surrounding the speech] were so affecting, and the speech itself so fine a morsel of eloquence, that it became the theme of every conversation, in Williamsburg particularly, and generally, indeed wheresoever any of the officers resided or resorted. I learned it in Williamsburg . . . The speech was published in the Virginia Gazette of that year . . . and though in a style by no means elegant, yet it was so admired, that it flew through all the public papers of the continent, and through the magazines and other periodical publications of Great Britain; and those who were boys at that day will now attest, that the speech of Logan used to be given them as a school exercise for repetition.
Chief Logan’s speech was in essence a lament to Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore about the murder of his family. The speech can be found in the “Appendix” cited above, pages 23-24. The elderly, blind Oneida Chief John Scanando is reported to have made a similar lament.
…Where are the chiefs of the rising Sun? White chiefs now kindle their ancient fires! There no Indian sleeps but those that sleep in their graves. My house will soon be like theirs; soon will a white chief here kindle his fire. Your Scanando will soon be no more and his village no more a village of Indians.
Read the speeches by Chief Logan and Chief Scanando.
- How are the reported speeches by Logan and Scanando similar? How are they different?
- Why do you think Jefferson described Logan’s speech as “a morsel of eloquence” and “by no means elegant”? What does Jefferson’s response to the speech tell you about early American views of elegance?
- Why do you think these speeches were so appealing to early Americans? Do you find them appealing? Why or why not?