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C A R I B E. 315

[ of the captives as he thought fit, and his country
men presented to his choice the most beautiful of
their daughters in reward of his valour. It was
probably this last-mentioned testimony of public
esteem and gratitude that gave rise in these islands
to the institution of polygamy, which, as hath
been already observed, prevailed universally among
them, and still prevails among the Caribes of S.
America ; an institution the more excusable, as
their women, from religious motives, carefully
avoided the nuptial intercourse after pregnancy.
Though frequently bestowed as the prize of suc
cessful courage, the wife, thus honourably obtain
ed, was soon considered of as little value as the
captive. Deficient in those qualities which alone
were estimable among the Caribes, the females
were treated rather as slaves than companions:
they sustained every species of drudgery ; they
ground the maize, prepared the cassavi, gathered
in the cotton, and wove the hammoc; nor were
they allowed even the privilege of eating in pre
sence of their husbands. Under these circum
stances, it is not wonderful that they were less pro
lific than the women of Europe. Father Joseph
Gumilla, in his account of the nations bordering
on the Orinoco, relates (tom. i. p. 207. Fr. trans
lation), that the Caribes of the continent punish
their women caught in adultery like the ancient
Israelites, “ by stoning them to death before an
assembly of the people ;" a fact not recorded by any
other writer. We know but little concerning their
domestic economy, their arts, manufactures, and
agriculture ; their sense of filial and paternal ob
ligations, their religious rights and funeral cere
monies. Such further information, however, in
these and other respects, as authorities the least
disputable afford, we have abridged in the follow
ing detached observations. Besides the ornaments
which we have noticed to have been worn by both
sexes, the women, on arriving at the age of pu
berty, were distinguished also by a sort of buskin
or half boot made of cotton, which surrounded the
small part of the leg. The same sort of brodequin
or buskin is worn by the female Hottentots and
other nations of Africa; a distinction, however, to
which such of their females as had been taken in
the chance of war dared not aspire. In other
respects, both male and female appeared as naked
as our first parents before the fall. Like them, as
they knew no guilt, they knew no shame ; nor was
clothing thought necessary to personal comfort,
where the chill blast of winter is never lelt. Their
hair was uniformly of a shining black, straight, and
coarse ; but they dressed it with daily care, and
adorned it with great art, the men, in particular,

decorating their heads with feathers of various co
lours. As their hair thus constituted their chief
pride, it was an unequivocal proof of the sincerity
of their sorrow, when, on the death of a relation
or friend, they cut it short like their slaves and
captives, to whom the privilege of wearing long
hair was rigorously denied. Like most other na
tions of the new hemisphere, they eradicated, with
great nicety, the incipient beard, and all super
fluous hairs on their bodies ; a circumstance which
has given rise to the false notion that all the Abo
rigines of America were naturally beardless. On
the birth of a child, its tender and flexible skull
was confined between two small pieces of wood,
which, applied before and behind, and firmly
bound together on each side, elevated the fore
head, and occasioned it and the back part of the
skull to resemble two sides of a square ; a custom
still observed by the miserable remnant of Red Ca
ribes in the island of St. Vincent. It has been
said by anatomists, that the coronal suture of new
born children in the West Indies is commonly
more open than that of infants born in colder cli
mates, and the brain more liable to external in
jury. Perhaps, therefore, the Indian custom of
depressing the os frontis and the occiput, was ori
ginally meant to assist the operation of nature in
closing the skull. They resided in villages which
resembled an European encampment, for their ca
bins were built of poles fixed circularly in the
ground, and drawn to a point at the top ; they
were then covered w ith leaves of the palm tree. In
the centre of each village was a building of supe
rior magnitude to the rest: it was formed with
great labour, and served as a public hall or state
house, wherein we are assured that the men (ex
cluding the women) had their meals in common.
These halls were also the theatres where their youth
were animated to emulation, and trained to mar
tial enterprise by the renown of their warriors and
the harangues of their orators. Their arts and ma
nufactures, though few, displayed a degreeof inge
nuity which one would have scarcely expected to
find amongst a people so little removed from a
state of mere animal nature as to reject all dress as
superfluous. Columbus observed an abundance of
substantial cotton cloth in all the islands which he
visited ; and the natives possessed the art of stain
ing it with various colours, though the Caribes de
lighted chiefly in red. Of this cloth they made
hammocs, or hanging beds, such as are now used
at sea ; for Europe has not only copied the pat
tern, but preserved also the original name. All
the early Spanish and French writers expressly as
sert, that the original Indian name for their swing-

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