Myths & Legends


The English in America

The man who finds an unknown country out,

By giving it a name, acquires, no doubt,

A gospel title, though the people there

The pious Christian thinks not worth his care.

Bar this pretence, and into air is hurled,

The claim of Europe to the Western World.
— Churchill

We shall now have to deal entirely with our own nation, or with those principally derived from it. We shall now have to observe the conduct entirely of Protestants towards the aborigines of their settlements: and the Catholic may ask with triumphant scorn, “Where is the mighty difference between the ancient professors of our faith, and the professors of that faith which you proudly style the reformed! You accuse the papal church of having corrupted and debased national morality in this respect,—in what does the morality of the Protestants differ?” I am sorry to say in nothing. The Protestants have only too well imitated the conduct and clung to the doctrine of the Catholics as it regards the rights of humanity. It is to the disgrace of the papal church that it did not inculcate a more Christian morality; it is to the far deeper disgrace of Protestants, that, pretending to abandon the corruptions and cruelties of the papists, they did not abandon their wretched pretences for seizing upon the possessions of the weak and the unsuspecting. So far, however, from the behaviour of, the Protestants forming a palliation for that of the Catholics, it becomes an aggravation of it; for it is but the ripened fruit of that tree of false and mischievous doctrine which they had planted. They had set the example, and boldly preached the right, and pleaded the divine sanction for invasion, oppression, and extermination—such example and exhortation are only too readily adopted—and the Protestant conduct was but the continuation of papal heresy. The New Presbyter was but old Priest writ large.

While we see, then, to the present hour the perpetuated consequences of the long inculcation of papal delusions, we must, however, confess that for the Protestants there was, and is, less excuse than for the Catholic laity. They had given up the Bible into the hands of their priests, and as a matter of propriety received the faith which they held from their dictation: the Protestants professed that “the Bible and the Bible alone, was the religion of the Protestants.” The Catholics having once persuaded themselves that the Pope was the infallible vicegerent of God on earth, might, in their blind zeal, honestly take all that he proclaimed to them as gospel truth; but the Protestants disavowed and renounced his authority and infallibility. They declared him to be the very anti-Christ, and his church the great sorceress that made drunk the nations with the cup of her enchantments. What business then had they with the papal doctrine, that the heathen were given to the believers as a possession? The Pope declared that, as the representative of the Deity on earth, he claimed the world, and disposed of it as he pleased. But the Protestants protested against any such assumption, and appealed to the Bible; and where did they find any such doctrine in the Bible? Yet Elizabeth of England, granted charters to her subjects to take possession of all countries not yet seized on by Christian nations, with as much implicit authority as the Pope himself. It is curious to hear her proclaiming her intimate acquaintance with the Scripture, and yet so blindly and unceremoniously setting at defiance all its most sacred precepts. “I am supposed,” said she, in her speech on proroguing parliament in 1585, “to have many studies, but most philosophical. I must yield this to be true, that I suppose few that are not professors, have read more; and I need not tell you that I am not so simple that I understand not, nor so forgetful that I remember not; and yet, amidst my many volumes, I hope God’s book hath not been my seldomest lectures, in which we find that which by reason all ought to believe.”

It had been well if she had made good her boasting by proving practically that she had understood, and had not forgotten the real doctrines of the Christian code. But Elizabeth, as well as her father, was, in every respect, except that of admitting the Pope’s supremacy, as thorough a Catholic as the best of them; and we see her granting to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, of Compton in Devonshire, in 1578, a charter as ample in its endowments as that which the king of Spain himself gave to Columbus, on the authority of the Pope’s bull, and securing to herself exactly the same ratio of benefit: the Spanish commission was, in fact, her model. She conferred on Sir Humphrey all lands and countries that he might discover, that were not already taken possession of by some Christian prince. He was to hold them of England, with full power of willing them to his heirs for ever, or disposing of them in sale, on the simple condition of reserving one-fifth of all the gold and silver found to the crown. She afterwards gave a similar charter to Sir Walter Raleigh: and her successor, James I., still further imitated the Pope by dividing the continent of North America, under the name of North and South Virginia, between two trading companies, as the Pope had divided the world between Spain and Portugal.

It is really lamentable to see how utterly empty was the pretence of reformation in the government of England at that time. How utterly ignorant or regardless Protestant England was of the most sacred and unmistakeable truths of the New Testament, while it professed to model itself upon them. The worst principles of the papal church were clung to, because they favoured the selfishness of despotism. The rights of nations were as infamously and recklessly violated; and from that time to this, Protestant England and Protestant America continue to spurn every great principle of Christian justice in their treatment of native tribes: they have substituted power for conscience, gunpowder and brandy for truth and mercy, and expulsion from their lands and houses for charity, “that suffereth long and is kind.”

The shameless impudence and hypocrisy by which nations calling themselves Christians have ever persisted, and still persist, in this sweeping and wholesale public robbery and violence, was happily ridiculed by Churchill.

Cast by a tempest on a savage coast,

Some roving buccaneer set up a post;

A beam, in proper form, transversely laid,

Of his Redeemer’s cross the figure made,—

Of that Redeemer, with whose laws his life,

From first to last, had been one scene of strife;

His royal master’s name thereon engraved,

Without more process the whole race enslaved;

Cut off that charter they from Nature drew,

And made them slaves to men they never knew!

Search ancient histories, consult records,

Under this title the most Christian Lords,

Hold,—thanks to conscience—more than half the ball;—

O’erthrow this title, they have none at all.

But the national cupidity that was proof to the caustic ridicule of Churchill, has been proof to the still more powerful assault of public execration, under the growth of Christian knowledge. The Bible is now in almost every man’s hand; its burning and shining light blazes full on the grand precept, “Do as thou would’st be done by;” and are the tribes of India, or Africa, or America, or Oceanica, the better for it? Are they not still our slaves and our Gibeonites, and driven before our arms like the wild beasts of the desert? We need not therefore stay to express our abhorrence of Spanish cruelty, or describe at great length the deeds of own countrymen in any quarter of the globe,—it is enough to say that English and American treatment of the aborigines of their colonies is but Spanish cruelty repeated. With one or two beautiful exceptions, which we shall have the greatest pleasure in pointing out, no more regard has been paid to the rights or the feelings of the North American Indians by the English and their descendants, than was paid to the South Americans by the Spanish and Portuguese.

Every reader of history is aware of the melancholy and disastrous commencement of most of our American colonies. The great cause was that they were founded in injustice. Adventurers, with charters from the English monarch in their pockets, as the Spaniards and Portuguese had the Pope’s bull in theirs, landed on the coast of America and claimed it for their own, reckoning the native inhabitants of no more account than the bears and fallow-deer of the woods. They had got a grant of the country from their own king; but whence had he got his grant? That is not quite so clear. The Pope’s claim is intelligible enough: he was, in his own opinion, God’s viceroy and steward, and disposed of his world in that character; but the Bible was the English monarch’s law, and where did the Bible appoint Elizabeth or James God’s steward? Where did it appoint either of them “a judge and a ruler over” the Indians? Truly Elizabeth, with all her vaunting, had read her Bible to little purpose, as we fear most monarchs and their ministers to the present hour have done. We must say of the greater part of North America, as Erskine said of India—“it is a country which God never gave us, and acquired by means that he will never justify.”

The misery attending the first planting of our colonies in America was equal to the badness of our principles. The very first thing which the colonists in the majority of cases seem to have done, was to insult and maltreat the natives, thus making them their mortal enemies, and thus cutting off all chance of the succours they needed from the land, and the security essential to their very existence. For about a century, nothing but wretchedness, failure, famine, massacres by the Indians, were the news from the American colonies. The more northern ones, as Nova Scotia, Canada, and New York, we took from the French and the Dutch; the more southern, as Florida and Louisiana, were obtained at a later day from the Spaniards. We shall here therefore confine our brief notice chiefly to the manner of settling the central eastern states, particularly Virginia, New England, and Pennsylvania.

For eighty-two years from the granting of the charter by Elizabeth to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, to the abandonment of the country by Sir Walter Raleigh for his El Dorado visions, the colony of Virginia suffered nothing but miseries, and was become, at that period, a total failure. The first settlers were, like the Spaniards, all on fire in quest of gold. They got into squabbles with the Indians, and the remnant of them was only saved by Sir Francis Drake happening to touch there on his way home from a cruise in the West Indies. A second set of adventurers were massacred by the Indians, not without sufficient provocation; and a third perished by the same means, or by famine induced by their unprincipled and impolitic treatment of the natives. The first successful settlement which was formed was that of James-Town, on James River, in Chesapeak Bay, in 1607. But even here scarcely had they located themselves, when their abuse of the Indians involved them in a savage warfare with them. They took possession of their hunting-grounds without ceremony; and they cheated them in every possible way in their transactions with them, especially in the purchases of their furs. That they might on the easiest terms have lived amicably with the Indians, the history of the celebrated Captain John Smith of that time sufficiently testifies. He had been put out of his rank, and treated with every contumely by his fellow colonists, till they found themselves on the verge of destruction from the enraged natives. They then meanly implored him to save them, and he soon effected their safety by that obvious policy which, if men were not blinded by their own wickedness, would universally best answer their purpose. He began to conciliate the offended tribes; to offer them presents and promises of kindness; and the consequence was, they soon flocked into the settlement again in the most friendly manner, and with plenty of provisions. But even Smith was not sufficiently aware of the power of friendship; he chose rather to attack some of the Indians than to treat with them, and the consequence was that he fell into their hands, and was condemned to die the death of torture.

But here again, the better nature of the Indians saved him: and that incident occurred which is one of the most romantic in American history. He was saved from execution at the last moment, by the Indian beauty Pocahontas, the daughter of the great Sachem Powhatan. This young Indian woman, who is celebrated by the colonists and writers of the time, as of a remarkably fine person, afterwards married a Mr. Rolfe, an English gentleman of the colony. She was brought over by him to see England, and presented at court, where she was received in a distinguished manner by James and his queen. This marriage, which makes a great figure in the early history of the colony, was a most auspicious event for it. It warmly disposed the Indians towards the English. They were anxious that the colonists should make other alliances with them of the same nature, and which might have been attended with the happiest consequences to both nations; but though some of the best families of Virginia now boast of their descent from this connexion, the rest of the colonists of the period held aloof from Indian marriages as beneath them. They looked on the Indians rather as creatures to be driven to the woods—for, unlike the negroes, they could not be compelled to become slaves—than to be raised and civilized; and therefore, spite of the better principles which the short government of that excellent man Lord Delaware had introduced, they were soon again involved in hostilities with them. The Indians felt deeply the insult of the refusal of alliance through marriage with them; they felt the daily irritation of attempts to overreach them in their bargains, and they saw the measures they were taking to seize on their whole country. They saw that there was to be no common bond of interest or sympathy between them; that there was to be a usurping and a suffering party only; and they resolved to cut off the grasping and haughty invaders at a blow. A wide conspiracy was set on foot; and had it not been in this case, as in many others, that the compassionate feelings of one of the Indians partially revealed the plot at the very moment of its execution, not an Englishman would have been left alive. As it was, a dreadful massacre ensued; and more than a fourth of the colonists perished. The English, in their turn, fell on the Indians, and a bloody war of extermination followed. When the colonists could no longer reach them in the depths of their woods, they offered them a deceitful peace. The Indians, accustomed in their own wars to enter sincerely into their treaties of peace when inclined to bury the tomahawk—were duped by the more artful Europeans. They came forth from their woods, planted their corn, and resumed their peaceful hunting. Just as the harvest was ripe, the English rushed suddenly upon them, trampled down their crops, set fire to their wigwams, and chased them again to the woods with such slaughter, that some of the tribes were totally exterminated!

Such was the mode of settling Virginia. What trust or cordiality could there afterwards be between such parties? Accordingly we find, from time to time, in the history of this colony, fresh plots of the natives to rid themselves of the whites, and fresh expeditions of the whites to clear the country of what they termed the wily and perfidious Indians. These dreadful transactions, which continued for the most part while the English government continued in that country, gave occasion to that memorable speech of Logan, the chief of the Shawanees, to Lord Dunmore the governor: a speech which will remain while the English language shall remain, to perpetuate the memory of English atrocity, and Indian pathos.—“I now ask of every white man, whether he hath ever entered the cottage of Logan when hungry, and been refused food? Whether coming naked, and perishing with cold, and Logan has not clothed him? During the last war, so long and so bloody, Logan has remained quietly upon his mat, wishing to be the advocate of peace. Yes, such is my attachment to white men, that even those of my nation, when they pass by me, pointed at me, saying—‘Logan is the friend of white men!’ I had even thought of living among you; but that was before the injury I received from one of you. Last summer, Colonel Cressup massacred in cold blood, and without any provocation, all the relations of Logan. He spared neither his wife nor his children. There is not now one drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature! This is what has excited my revenge. I have sought it. I have killed several of your people, and my hatred is appeased. For my country I rejoice at the beams of peace; but imagine not that my joy is instigated by my fear. Logan knows not what fear is. He will never turn his back in order to save his life. But alas! no one remains to mourn for Logan when he shall be no more!”

The conduct of the English towards the natives in the Carolinas may be summed up in a single passage of the Abbé Raynal: “Two wars were carried on against the natives of the most extravagant description. All the wandering or fixed nations between the ocean and Appalachian mountains, were attacked and massacred without any interest or motive. Those who escaped being put to the sword, either submitted or were dispersed.” The remnant of the tribe of the Tuscaroras fled into the state of New York.

Maryland, in its early history, also exhibits its quota of Indian bloodshed; but much of this is chargable to the account of the colonists of Virginia. Lord Baltimore, who first colonised this province in the reign of Charles I., was a Catholic, who sought an asylum for his persecuted brethren of the same faith. Since the change of religion in England, the Catholics had experienced the bitterness of that persecution of which they, while in power, had been so liberal. This seems to have had an excellent effect upon some of them. Lord Baltimore and the colonists who went out with him, being most of them of good Catholic families, determined to allow liberty of conscience, and admitted people of all sorts. This gave great offence to their royalist neighbours in Virginia, who, not permitting any liberty of religious sentiment, found those whom they drove away by their severities flocking into Maryland, and being there well received, strengthening it at their expense. They therefore circulated all kinds of calumnies amongst the Indians against the Maryland Catholics, especially telling them that they were Spaniards—a name of horror to Indian ears. Alarmed by this representation, they fell on the colonists whom they had at first received with their usual kindness, laid waste their fields, massacred without mercy all that they could meet; and were not undeceived till after a long course of patient endurance and friendly representation.

The settlement of New England presents some new features. It was not merely a settlement of English Protestants, but of the Protestants of Protestants—the Puritans. A class of persons having thus made two removes from Popery; having not only protested against the errors of Rome, but against those of the very church which had seceded from Rome, and professed to purify itself from its corruptions; having, moreover, suffered severely for their religious faith, might be supposed to have acquired far clearer views of the rights of humanity from their better acquaintance with the Bible, and might be expected to respect the persons and the property of the natives in whose lands they went to settle, more than any that went before them. They went as men who had been driven out of their own country, and from amongst their own kindred, for the maintenance of the dearest privileges and the most sacred claims of men; and they might be supposed to address the natives as they reached their coast in terms like these: “Ancient possessors of a free country, give us a place of refuge amongst you. You are termed savages, but you cannot be more savage than the people of our own land, who have inflicted dreadful cruelties and mutilations on us and our friends for the faith we have in God. We fly from savages who pretend to be civilized, but have learned no one principle of civilization, to savages who pretend to no civilization, but yet have, on a thousand occasions, received white men to their shores with benevolence and tears of joy. What the savages of Europe are, a hundred regions drenched in the blood of their native children can tell; that we deem you less savage than them, the very act of our coming to you testifies. Give us space amongst you, and let us live as brethren.”

For a time, indeed, they acted as men who might be supposed thus to speak. The going out and landing in this new country of this band of religious adventurers, have been and continue to be celebrated as the setting forth and landing of “The Pilgrim Fathers.” It is in itself an interesting event: the pilgrimage of a little host of voluntary exiles, for the sake of their religion, from their native country, to establish a new country in the wilderness of the New World. It is more interesting from the fact, that their associates and descendants have grown into one of the most intelligent and powerful portions of the freest, and, perhaps, happiest nation on the globe. Their landing on the coast of Massachusets was effected under circumstances of peculiar hardship. It took place at a spot to which they gave the name of New Plymouth, on the 11th of November, 1620. The weather was extremely severe; and they were but badly prepared to contend with it. During the winter one half of their number perished through famine, and diseases brought on by their hardships. The natives, too, came down to oppose their settlement,31 and it is difficult now to imagine how such religious people could reconcile to their consciences an entrance by force on the territories of a race on whom they had no claim. They had, indeed, purchased a tract of land of one of the chartered companies in England; but one is at a loss to conceive how any English company could sell a country in another hemisphere already inhabited, and to which they had not the slightest title to show, except “the Bucanier’s Post.” As well might a company of Indians sell some of their countrymen a slice of territory on the coast of Kent; and just as good a title would the Indians have to land, if they could, in spite of our Kentish yeomen, and establish themselves on the spot. Moreover, these Pilgrim Fathers had wandered from their original destination, and had not purchased this land at all of anybody at that time. No doubt the Fathers thought that they had a right to settle in a wild country; and simply fell in with the customs and doctrines of the times. We might, however, have expected clearer notions of natural right from their acquaintance with the Bible; for we shall presently see that there were men of their own country, and in their own circumstances, that would not have been easy to have taken such possession in such a manner. We may safely believe that the Fathers did according to their knowledge; but the precedent is dangerous, and could not in these times be admitted: the Fathers did not, in fact, obtain any grant from the English till four years afterwards (1624). When they had once got a firm footing, Massasoit, the father of the famous Philip of Pokanoket, whom these same settlers pursued to the death with all his tribe, except such as they sold for slaves to Bermudas, granted them a certain extent of lands. Subsequently purchases from the Indians began to be considered more necessary to a good title.

Eight years afterwards another company of the same people, under John Endicott, formed a settlement in Massachusets Bay, and founded the town of Salem. In the following year a third company, of not less than three hundred in number, joined them. These in the course of time seeking fresh settlements, founded at different periods, Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxborough, and other towns; great numbers now, allured by the flourishing state of the colony, flocked over, and amongst them Harry Vane, the celebrated Sir Harry Vane of the revolutionary parliament, and Hugh Peters, the chaplain of Oliver Cromwell. Some difference of opinion amongst them occasioned a considerable body of them to settle in Providence and Rhode Island. These were under the guidance of their venerable pastor Roger Williams, a man who deserves to be remembered while Christianity continues to shed its blessings on mankind. Mr. Williams had penetrated through the mists of his age, to the light of divine truth, and had risen superior to the selfishness of his countrymen. He maintained the freedom of conscience, the right of private judgment, the freedom of religious opinion from the touch of the magistrate. The spirit of true Christianity had imbued his own spirit with its love. Above all—for it was the most novel doctrine, and as we have seen by the practice of the whole Christian world, the hardest to adopt—he maintained the sacred right of the natives to their own soil; and refused to settle upon it without their consent. He and his followers purchased of the Indians the whole territory which they took possession of! This is a fact which we cannot record without a feeling of intense delight, for it is the first instance of such a triumph of Christian knowledge and principle, over the corrupt morality of Europe. We nowhere read till now, through all this bloody and revolting history of European aggressions, of any single man treating with the savage natives as with men who had the same inalienable rights as themselves. It is the first bright dawn of Christian day from the darkness of ages; the first boundary mark put down between the possessions of the unlettered savage, and the lawless desires of the schooled but uncivilized European; the first recognition of that law of property in the possessors of the soil of every country of the earth, until the complete establishment of which, blood must flow, the weak must be trodden down by the strong, and civilization and Christianity must pause in their course. Honour to Roger Williams and his flock in Narraganset Bay! The Puritan settlements still continued to spread. Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and Maine were planted by different bodies from Massachusets Bay; and the Indians, who found that the whites diffused themselves farther and farther over their territories, and soon ceased to purchase as Roger Williams had done, or even to ask permission; began to remonstrate. Remonstrances however produced little effect. The Indians saw that if they did not make a stand against these encroachments they must soon be driven out of their ancestral lands, and exterminated by those tribes on which they must be forced. They resolved therefore to exterminate the invaders that would hear no reason. The Pequods, who lay near the colony of Connecticut, called upon the Narragansets in 1637, to join them in their scheme. The Narragansets revealed it to the English, and both parties were speedily in arms against each other. The different colonies of New England had entered into an association for common defence. The people of Connecticut called on those of Massachusets Bay for help, which was accorded; but before its arrival the soldiers of Connecticut, who seemed on all occasions eager to shed Indian blood, had attacked the Pequods where they had posted themselves, in a sort of rude camp in a swamp, defended with stakes and boughs of trees. The Pequods were supposed to be a thousand strong, besides having all their women and children with them; but their simple fortification was soon forced, and set fire to; and men, women, children perished in the flames, or were cut down on rushing out, or seized and bound. The Massachusets forces soon after joined them, and then the Indians were hunted from place to place with unrelenting fury. They determined to treat them, not as brave men fighting for their invaded territories, for their families and posterity, but as wild beasts. They massacred some in cold blood, others they handed over to the Narragansets to be tortured to death; and great numbers were sold into Bermudas as slaves. In less than three months, the great and ancient tribe of the Pequods had ceased to exist. What did Roger Williams say to this butchery by a Christian people? But the spirit of resentment against the Indians grew to such a pitch in those states that nothing but the language of Cotton Mather, (the historian of New England,) can express it. He calls them devils incarnate, and declares that unless he had “a pen made of a porcupine’s quill and dipped in aquafortis he could not describe all their cruelties.” Could they be possibly greater than those of the Puritan settlers, who were at once the aggressors, and bore the name of Christian? So deadly, indeed, became the vengeance of these colonists, that they granted a public reward to any one who should kill an Indian. The Assembly, says Douglass, in 1703, voted 40l. premium for each Indian scalp or captive. In the former war the premium was 12l. In 1706, he says, “about this time premiums for Indian scalps and captives were advanced by act of Assembly; viz.: per piece to impressed men 10l., to volunteers in pay 20l., to volunteers serving without pay 50l., with the benefit of the captives and plunder. Col. Hilton, with 220 men, ranges the eastern frontiers, and kills many Indians. In 1722 the premium for scalps was 100l. In 1744 it had risen to 400l. old tenor; for the years 1745, 6, and 7, it stood at the enormous sum of 1000l. per head to volunteers, scalp or captive (!) and 400l. per head to impressed men, wages and subsistence money to be deducted. In 1744 the Cape-Sables, and St. John’s Indians being at war with the colonies, Massachusets-Bay declared them rebels; forbad the Pasamaquody, Penobscot, Noridgwoag, Pigwocket, and all other Indians west of St. John’s to hold any communication with them, and offered for their scalps,—males 12 years old, and upwards, 100l. new tenor; for such, as captives, 105l. For women and children 50l., scalps!—55l., captives! The Assembly soon after, hearing that the Penobscot and Noridgwoag Indians had joined the French, extended premiums for scalps and captives to all places west of Nova Scotia, and advanced them to 250l. new tenor, to volunteers; and 100l. new tenor to troops in pay.”

In 1722, a Captain Harman, with 200 men, surprised the Indians at Noridgwoag, and brought off twenty-six scalps, and that of Father Ralle, a French Jesuit.35 The savage atrocities here committed by the New Englanders were frightful. They massacred men, women, and children; pillaged the village, robbed and set fire to the church, and mangled the corpse of Father Ralle most brutally. For these twenty-six scalps, at the then premium, the good people of Massachusets paid 2600l. A Captain Lovel, also, seems to have been an active scalper. “He collected,” says Raynal, “a band of settlers as ferocious as himself, and set out to hunt savages. One day he discovered ten of them quietly sleeping round a large fire. He murdered them, carried their scalps to Boston, and secured the promised reward, of course 1000l.! Who could suppose that the land of the Pilgrim Fathers, the land of the noble Roger Williams, could have become polluted with horrors like these!”

And why were the Indians now so sharply pursued—why such sums given as tempted these Harmans and Lovels? Why the scalp of Father Ralle to be stripped away from him?—Because Father Ralle had proclaimed a very certain, but very disagreeable truth. He preached to the Indians, “That their lands were given to them and their children unalienably and for ever, according to the Christian sacred oracles.” What is so inconvenient as to preach Bible truth in countries flagrant with injustice? The Indians began to murmur; gave the English formal warning to leave the lands within a set time, and as they did not move, began to drive off their cattle. This was declared rebellion, the soldiery were set on them, and 100l. a head proclaimed for their scalps.

This is called Governor Dummer’s war; but the most celebrated war was that of Philip of Pokanoket, which occurred between this war and that of the destruction of the Pequods. The cause of Philip’s war, which broke out in 1675, and lasted upwards of a year, was exactly that of this subsequent one, and indeed of every war of New England with the Indians—the dissatisfaction of the Indians with the usurpation of the whites. The New England people, religious people though they were, seem to have been more irritable, more jealous, more regardless of the rights of the Indians, and more quick and deadly in their vengeance on any shew of spirit in the natives, than any other of the North American colonies. The monstrous, and were it not for the testimony of unimpeachable history, incredible sums offered for scalps by these states, testify to the malignant spirit of revenge which animated them. Even towards the Narragansets, their firmest and most constant friends, who lived amongst them, they shewed an irritability and a savage relentlessness that are to us amazing. On the faintest murmur of any dissatisfaction of this tribe on account of their lands, or of any other tribe making overtures of alliance to it, they were up in arms, and ready to exterminate it. So early as 1642, they charged Miantinomo, the great sachem of the Narragansets, with conspiring to raise the Indians against them. The people of Connecticut immediately proposed, without further proof or examination, to fall on the Indians and kill them. This bloody haste was, however, withstood by Massachusets. They summoned Miantinomo before the court. He came, and it is impossible not to admire his sedate and dignified bearing there. He demanded that his accusers should be brought face to face, and that if they could prove him guilty of conspiracy against the colony, he was ready to suffer death; but if they could not, they should suffer the same punishment. “His behaviour,” says Hutchinson, “was grave, and he gave his answers with great deliberation and seeming ingenuity. He would never speak but in the presence of two of his counsellors, that they might be witnesses of everything which passed. (No doubt he had seen enough of ‘that pen and ink work,’ of which the Indians so often complained). Two days were spent in treaty. He denied all that he was charged with, and pretended that the reports to his disadvantage were raised by Uncas, the sachem of the Mohegins, or some of his people. He was willing to renew his former engagements; that if any of the Indians, even the Niantics, who, he said, were as his own flesh and blood, should do any wrong to the English, so as neither he nor they could satisfy without blood, he would deliver them up, and leave them to mercy. The people of Connecticut put little confidence in him, and could hardly be kept from falling upon him, but were at last prevailed upon by the Massachusets to desist for the present.”

Poor Miantinomo did not long escape. Two years afterwards, in a war with his enemy, Uncas, he was taken prisoner, and the colonists were only too glad to have an opportunity of getting rid of a man of mind and influence, who felt their aggressions and feared for his race—they outdid the savage captor in their resentment against him. Instead of interceding on his behalf and recommending mercy, by which they might, at once, have set a Christian example, and have made a fast friend, they procured his death. Uncas, with a generosity worthy of the highest character, instead of killing his captive, as he was entitled by the rules of Indian war, delivered him into the hands of the New-Englanders, and the New-Englanders again returned him to Uncas, desiring him to kill him, but without the usual tortures. It is wonderful that they did not purchase his scalp, or that they excused the torture; but a number of the English inhabitants went out and gratified themselves with witnessing his death.

It was not to be marvelled at that such general treatment, and such a crowning deed exasperated the Narragansets to a dangerous degree. They nourished a rooted revenge, which shewed itself on the breaking out of Philip of Pokanoket’s war. They engaged to bring to his aid 4000 Indians.

Philip was one of the noblest specimens of the North American Indian. He was of a fine and active person; accomplished in all exercises of his nation, in war and hunting. He had that quick sense of injuries, and that sense of the honour and rights of his people which characterise the patriot; qualities which, though in the most cultivated and enlightened mind they may hurry their possessor on occasionally to sharp and vindictive acts, are the very essentials of that lofty and noble disposition without which no great deed is ever done. Had Philip contended for his country against its invaders on anything like equal terms, he would have been its saviour,—the naked Indians against the powers and resources of the English! It was hopeless,—he could only become the Caractacus, or the Cassibelaunus of his nation.

Philip has been painted by his enemies as a dreadful, perfidious, and cruel wretch;—but had Philip been the survivor how would he have painted them? With their shameless encroachments, their destruction of Indians, their blood-money, and their scalps, purchased at 1000l. each! Philip had the deepest causes of resentment. His father, Massasoit, had received the strangers and sold them land. They speedily compelled him to sign a deed, in which by “that pen and ink work” which the Indians did not understand, but which they soon learned to know worked them the most cruel wrongs, they had made him to acknowledge himself and his subjects the subjects of King James. Philip denied that his father had any idea of the meaning of such a treaty,—any idea of surrendering to the English more than the land he sold them; or if he had done so, that he had any right to give away the liberties of his nation and posterity; the government amongst the Indians not being hereditary, but elective. Philip, however, was compelled to retract and renounce such doctrines in another public document. But the moment he became at liberty, he held himself, and very justly, free from the stipulations of a compulsory deed.

But these were not all Philip’s grievances. His only and elder brother, Wamsutta, or Alexander, for the entertainment of similar patriotic sentiments, had been seized in his own house by ten armed men sent by Governor Winslow, and carried before him as a caitiff, though he was at that time the powerful sachem of the Narragansets, his father being dead. The outrage and insult had such an effect upon the high-spirited youth, that they threw him into a fever, which speedily proved fatal.

They were these and the like injuries that drove Philip to concert that union of the Indians which, in 1675, alarmed New England. We need not follow the particulars of the war. It was hastened by a premature disclosure; and Philip has been always taxed as a murderer for putting to death John Sausaman, a renegade Indian who betrayed the plot to the English. The man was a confessed and undoubted traitor, and his death was exactly what the English would have inflicted, and was justified, not merely by the summary proceeding in such cases of the Indians, but by the laws of civilized war, if such an odd contradiction of terms may pass. Philip, after a stout resistance, and after performing prodigies of valour, was chased from swamp to swamp, and at length shot by another traitor Indian, who cut off his hand and head, and brought them to the English. His head was exposed on a gibbet at Plymouth for twenty years; his hand, known by a particular scar, was exhibited in savage triumph, and his mangled body refused burial. His only son, a mere boy, was sold into slavery.

It was during this war that the settlers lived in such a state of continual alarm from the Indians, and such adventures and passages of thrilling interest took place, as will for ever furnish topics of conversation in that country. It was then that the congregation was alarmed while in church at Hadley, in Massachusets, on a fast-day by the Indians, and were compelled to leave their devotions to defend themselves, when they were surprised by seeing a grave and commanding personage, whom they had not before noticed, assume the command, lead them to victory, and as suddenly again disappear. This person was afterwards found to be Goffe, one of the English regicide judges, then hiding in that neighbourhood. These facts Mr. Cooper has made good use of in his story of “The Borderers.”

But the facts of more importance to our history are, that in this war 3000 Indians were said to be destroyed. The Narragansets alone, were reduced from 2000 to about 100 men. After the peace was restored 400 Indians were ordered to assemble at Major Walker’s, at Catchecho, 200 of whom were culled as most notorious, some of them put to death, and the rest sent abroad and sold as slaves. Yet all these severities and disasters to the Indians did not extinguish their desire to resist the aggressions of the whites. On all sides, the Tarrateens, the Penobscots, the Five Nations, and various other tribes, continued to harass them; filling them with perpetual fears, and inflicting awful cruelties and devastations on the solitary borderers. These were the necessary fruits of that rancorous spirit with which the harshness and injustice of the settlers had inspired them. Randolph, writing to William Penn from New England in 1688, says—“This barbarous people, the Indians, were now evilly treated by this government, who made it their business to encroach upon their lands, and by degrees to drive them out of all. That was the grounds and the beginning of the last war.” And that was the ground of all the wars waged in the country against this unhappy people.

Source:  William Howitt, Colonization and Christianity: A popular history of the treatment of the natives by the Europeans in all their colonies.


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