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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Religious Dialogue

Editor's Note:

More of this conversation, as well as note on a later one held at dinner the same day, is available in the original manuscript (click the underlined link at left).

When the chief continued to raise objections to Rev. Marsh's claims, Marsh wrote that "I cut short the conversation by reminding him that his end was approaching and soon he would see and feel all that I had told him."

Marsh later was surrounded by another drunken scene during which some Indians tied up and threatened the white clerks, whom they wanted to kill in compensation for friends lost in the Black Hawk War. The situation was defused without loss of life, but Marsh reflected "Thus I was compelled to pass the holy Sbb. surrounded a part of it disturbed by scenes of drunkenness which the avarice of the whites occasion, as tho paganism itself did not plunge them deep enough in degradation and wretchedness."

August 10th 1834 Sabbath

Weather as usual very pleasant and warm. At breakfast we invited Appenooc. It had before been intimated to me that he was skeptical in his belief of his own religion, although in him it did not appear so. Possessing naturally a quick, penetrating mind, and disposed to understand the reason of things as well as reality, he has been led to see the emptiness and inconsistency of their Meshaum, and having had [?] previously with good white people where he could receive any instruction or have any Christian ex[ample] set before him, and besides has doubtless from the white people received instruction of a deistical kind, he doubts the reality of all religion and even disbelieves a future state of existence.

Soon after we commenced eating he began of his own accord to relate to the interpreter his belief. Out of civility he said, and respect to his people, he followed their Meshaum, but he did [not] believe it nor that there was any truth in the traditions handed down by it from their ancestors.

But he believes his body was a substance animated in some way by the air and when he should [die] the breath would go out of it and there would be the end of him, and he should be the same as before he was created.

As it would have been considered civil by him to tell him that he was mistaken, I took the opportunity immediately after breakfast to speak of Jesus Christ and the resurrection and explain it by a picture representing the rising of the deer at the last day. He listened attentively and explained the picture very particularly, and after I got through he inquired "if there was any body now living who had seen this God who came down from heaven and heard him speak these wonders." I replied that those who did see and hear him speak these things wrote them down just as he spoke them.

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