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We said by arbitration. They said that all English
agreed against them, and so by arbitration they had
much wrong; many miles square of land was taken
from them, for the English would have English
arbitrators; and unless they were persuaded to
give in their arms, that thereby jealousy might be
removed; and the English, having their arms,
would not deliver them as they had promised un-
til they consented to pay one hundred pounds; and
now they had not so much sum or money; they


were as good be killed as leave all their livelihood.
We said they might choose a Indian king, and the
English might choose the Governor of New York,
that neither had case to say either were parties in
the difference. They said they had not heard of
that way and said we honestly spoke; so that we
were persuaded, if that way had been tendered, they
would have accepted. We did endeavor not to hear
their complaints, said it was not convenient for us
now to consider of, but to endeavor to prevent
war. . . . We knew what their complaints would
be; and, in our colony, had removed some of them
in sending for Indian rulers in what the crime con-
cerned Indians lives, which they very lovingly ac-
cepted, and agreed to their execution, and said so
they were able to satisfy their subjects when they
knew an Indian suffered duly; but said in what
was only between their Indians, and not any town-
ships that we purchased, they would not have us
prosecute, and that they had a great fear to have
any of their Indians should be called or forced to
be Christian Indians. They said that such were in
everything more mischievous, only dissemblers, and
then the English made them insubject to their kings
and by their lying wronged their king. We knew it
to be true. . . . But Philip judged it to be dis-
honesty in us to put off the hearing any just com-
plaint; therefore we consented to hear them. They
said they had been the first in doing good to the
English and the English the first in doing wrong;
said when the English first came, their king's father
was as a great man and the English as a little child;


he constrained other Indians from wronging the
Enghsh, gave them corn and showed them how to
plant; and was free to do them any good, and had
let them have a hundred times more land then now
the king had for his own people. But their king's
brother, when he was king, came miserably to die,
being forced to court, as they judged, poisoned.
And another grievance was, if twenty of their
honest Indians testified that an Englishman had
done them wrong, it was as nothing; but if but one
of their worst Indians testified against any Indian
or their king, when it pleased the English, it was

"Another grievance was when their kings sold
land, the English would say it was more than they
agreed to. And a writing must be proved against
all them, and some of their kings had done wrong
to sell so much. He loved his people not; and some
being given to drunkenness, the English made them
drunk and then cheated them in bargains; but no
doubt their kings were forewarned not to part with
their land for nothing, in comparison to the value
thereof. Now, whom the English have owned for
king or queen, they were disinherited, and make
another king that would give or sell them these
lands; that now they had no hopes left to keep any

" Another grievance, the English cattle and horses
still increased; that when they removed thirty
miles from where the English had anything to do,
they could not keep their corn from being spoiled,
they never being used to fence; and that when


the English bought land of them, they would have
kept their cattle upon their own land.

" Another grievance, the English were so eager to
sell the Indians liquors that most of the Indians
spent in drunkenness and reneved [probably reneged,
in the sense of shifting the responsibihty] upon the
sober Indians, and they did believe even did hurt
the English cattle; but their king could not prevent

" We knew that these were their grand complaints,
but we only endeavored to persuade that all com-
plaints be righted without war; but come for no
other answer but that they had not heard of that
way, for the governor of York and an Indian king
to have a hearing of it. We had case to think, if it
had been tendered, it would have been accepted.
We endeavored that, however, they should lay
down the war, for the English were too strong for
them; they said then the EngUsh should do to
them as they did when they were too strong for the
EngHsh. So we departed without any discourteous-
ness, and suddenly had letter from Plymouth Gov-
ernor, they intended in arms to conform Philip, but
no information what it was they required or what
terms he refused to have their quarrel decided at,
and in a week's time after we had been with the
Indians, thus begun." He then proceeds to give
an account of the first acts of hostihties, as related
by all the historians of that date.

The unreliability of Reverend Increase Mather's
account of the war may perhaps be fairly judged
by his reflection upon this simple statement of facts


made by a man who had no occasion or incentive to
tell anything but the truth, and who related only
his own experiences; as well as by Mather's attempt
to discredit another narrative of the war written as
he says "by a merchant of Boston/' and published
in London, of which the reverend writer says,
''abounding mistakes therein caused me to think it
necessary that a true history of this affair should
be published." Continuing he says, "Whilst I was
doing this, there came to my hands another narra-
tive of this war written by a Quaker in Road Island,
who pretends to know the truth of things, but that
narrative being fraught with worst things than meer
mistakes, I was thereby quickened to expedite what
I had in hand." This undoubtedly refers to Eas-
ton's history, as no other narrative written by a
Quaker in Rhode Island is known to exist.

Disregarding Church's apparent egotism, which
really is not sufficient cause for doubting the truth-
fulness of his narrative, except perhaps, those por-
tions of it which refer to his own exploits, writers
of later date have drawn largely upon his record of
events for their facts concerning the occurrences of
the war, and, in a large measure, for information
about the Indian Chiefs who participated in it; and
for the purposes of this work, I will follow their
example, first calling attention to the fact that I do
not propose to give even a resume of the history of
the war; but rather to confine myself to a brief
consideration of the causes which led up to it, and
to references to some of the men who joined with
Philip in an attempt to shake off the shackles which


the English had been systematically fastening upon
them almost from the moment of the first interview
between Massasoit and Governor Carver at Plym-

I have said that Major Winslow's forcible arrest
of Wamsutta at Munponset Pond was the beginning
of King Phihp's war, and in a sense this is true, for,
while the grievances wliich he and his counsellors
enumerated to Governor Easton, and the acts of the
Enghsh of which they then complained, had ex-
tended over a long period, this was the first open
act of hostihty.

Wamsutta had never subjected himself or his
people to the authority of the colonists, and was not
under their jurisdiction. He was an independent
ruler, bound, it is true, by the obligations of what-
ever treaties he had entered into with the whites, as
well as those entered into by his predecessor in behalf
of his people, and answerable for violations of those
obligations, as one people or nation is answerable
to another under similar circumstances; but the
Plymouth authorities had no more right, either
legal or moral, to send an armed force into his terri-
tory to arrest him at the point of a pistol, than the
duly constituted authorities of the United States
would have to send an army into Mexico to arrest
its president and bring him to Washington to ren-
der an account of alleged acts in violation of some
agreement between the two countries. Such an act
would be an act of war in the latter case, and it
was an act of war in Wamsutta's case.
If the Enghsh chose to look upon his alleged con-


duct as a cause of war, and took this course of
commencing hostilities ''without denouncing any-
war," as Bradford complains that Miantonomo had
done in his invasion of the Mohican territory
eighteen years before, they have no reason to criti-
cize the Indians for treating it as an act of open
hostility. They had no definite evidence of any
wrongdoing on the part of Wamsutta. Suspicions
there were, and suspicions there had been from the
very beginning; but they had usually turned out
to be the product of the imagination or the out-
growth of the machinations of some wily chief to
cast suspicion upon some rival whom he feared, and
for whose overthrow he wished to enlist the assist-
ance of the whites.

There were rumors that Wamsutta was trying to
stir up trouble, to organize a general uprising.
Where the rumors came from no one knows, but
Wamsutta is said to have attributed it to some of
the Narragansetts when Captain Willett went to
Mount Hope to investigate; yet when the day
arrived on which he was to attend Court at
Plymouth, he was visiting in the Narragansett
Country. If any of the chiefs of that tribe were
endeavoring to injure him in the eyes of the whites,
he evidently still retained the friendship of some of
them. The expression ''stir up trouble and organize
a general uprising" is capable of so many construc-
tions, that we are left in the dark as to what he was
suspected of doing. It is a sort of blanket indict-
ment calculated to cover almost anything that the
EngHsh might consider inimical to their interests.


If he went over to the Narragansett country to
confer with the sachems of that federation concern-
ing the encroachments of the Enghsh, to talk about
his grievances, to discuss, in a perfectly proper man-
ner, some method of securing concerted action in
peaceably resisting further encroachments, it would
be a stirring up of trouble, the organizing of a
general uprising, even though there was no thought
of war, because it might cause some trouble to the
English in their land grabbing schemes. Besides,
there is not a scrap of evidence produced to show
that Wamsutta did even any of these things.

The whole story was probably without founda-
tion; for had any such attempt been made, his
counsellors would have known of it; and, being
privy to it, and in close touch with his negotiations
and arrangements, his arrest and death under such
circumstances as surrounded them, circumstances
that led his people to believe that he had been
poisoned, as they claimed thirteen years later, was
all that was needed to kindle the spark he is charged
with having laid, into flame.

Notwithstanding this attack upon the person of
his brother and upon the sovereignty of his people,
Pometacom, or King Philip, seems at first to have
been desirous of continuing the friendly relations
with the whites that had marked the forty years of
his father's reign after the signing of the treaty
with Governor Carver. Within a very few months
of his succession to the great chieftaincy, he re-
newed the covenant which Massasoit had made
with the colonists; and in the winter of 1663-64


he sent to John EHot for ''books to learn to read
and to pray unto God." What an opportunity was
thus presented to the Enghsh to perpetuate the
bonds of friendship that had existed between them
and the Wampanoags from the beginning! 0, for
the hand of a Roger WilHams or the Quaker Gov-
ernor of Rhode Island at the helm for an hour at
that time! The history of King Phihp's war would
never have been written, if the Massachusetts
colonies had adopted the Rhode Island and Provi-
dence method of dealing with the natives.

Many causes have been assigned for the outbreak
that finally came, of which the one most frequently
mentioned is the land question; and while it is un-
doubtedly true that the natives saw with alarm
their forests cut down, their hunting grounds given
over to the plow and to the pasturage of roving
herds of cattle, and themselves constantly restricted
to narrower and narrower limits, this was only one
of the many causes as fully appears from the com-
plaint which Philip presented to Governor Easton.
The colonists say they never took an acre of the
Indians' land except by purchase, and if taking
advantage of the Indian's simplicity and lack of ap-
preciation of the effect of their acts to secure a
township for a red coat, a county for thirty-five
pounds, can be dignified with the name of purchase,
their claim is well founded. At the prices they
paid, the five hundred and forty pounds received
by Hunt for the twenty-seven natives carried away
from Plymouth in 1614 would have purchased the
whole of Massachusetts. The Indians had been


crowded to the limit. Their sachems had improvi-
dently parted with the land which was a necessity
to the continued existence of their people, and
there had resulted disputes as to what was sold,
and *'a writing must be proved against all them,'* a
paper prepared by whom? and understood by
whom? Not satisfied with thus driving sharp and
unscrupulous bargains until only a small portion of
the land they had formerly roamed and hunted at
will remained to the Indians, the whites, still covet-
ing a few acres that were left to them, continued
their acts of depredation until, goaded to despera-
tion, with justice denied him, with his sovereign
rights invaded, with no alternative left to him but
to die a death of slow starvation, or the glorious
death of a warrior fighting for his home and patri-
mony, the red man chose the latter.

The land difficulties undoubtedly first arose over
the difference between the English and the Indian
tenures. Individual allotments and individual
ownership was an established principle of the
English law, and while the colonists, after a while,
forbade the purchase of land by individual whites
from the Indians, except with the consent of the
authorities, this did not stop the abuses that had
arisen, for it does not appear that they ever vetoed
a sharp bargain driven by one of their people with
an Indian chief. Opposed to this idea of private
ownership was the Indian tenure by which the title
to the land was in the tribe, and the right to its use
was a common right, as indeed the fruits of the soil
and the spoils of the hunt were the common property


of all, except that the hunter was allowed the skins
of the animals killed by himself so far as the same
were necessary to the embelHshment and comfort of
his wigwam and the clothing of himself and his family.

With this communistic idea thoroughly estab-
Hshed in the Indian customs and laws, it is not sur-
prising that they should have thought that their
deeds were simply grants of rights to occupy in
common with themselves; and they discovered the
full import of their act only when the purchasers
took steps to dispossess them entirely; and it was
thus that the natives said the English claimed more
than they had granted and "there must be a writ-
ing," and when disputes arose "the English would
have an English arbitrator," and the decision was,
of course, always against the Indian.

The course pursued by the English in their deal-
ings with the natives, coupled with the lack of skill
in driving bargains on the part of the latter, who
were induced in some way to put their marks to
papers the true import of which they no more
understood than they did the mystery of their
existence and the wonders of nature, for a bauble
which was soon gone, was gradually reducing them
to a virtual state of vassalage to the men whom
they had welcomed, and with whom they were
willing to share their possessions, but who were not
satisfied to share, and seized upon every oppor-
tunity to grasp the whole. In fact, their treatment
of Wamsutta is evidence that the English had al-
ready assumed the authority to look upon them as


When a proud and independent people awake to
the fact that this is their fate, but two courses are
open to them, either complete submission by active
consent or by silent acquiescence; or armed resist-
ence. The Mohicans, Pequots and Niantics chose
submission by active consent, the other Connecti-
cut Indians, except the Podunks and a few Nip-
mucks, submission by tacit non-resistance; and the
Wampanoags, the Narragansetts, the Podunks and
most of the Nipmucks in Massachusetts and the
few mentioned in Connecticut, chose armed resist-
ance; and all met the same fate. The resisting
warriors merely hastened theirs, preferring the death
of warriors amid the shouts of battle in the deadly
breach, to the death by slow starvation with their
livelihood gone, or the living death of vassalage.
Annihilation was the doom that was written for
them in every scrap of paper to which they put
their marks. Native simplicity, relying upon the
native code of honor and native customs, could not
stand before European greed. What seemed to
Massasoit and to others following in his footsteps
to be the path of wisdom, viewed in the light he
possessed, turned out to be the path of destruction
for his people. The burning embers from the
peace pipe he extended to the first settlers kindled
into a flame that enveloped and wiped out his race.

So while the act of Major Winslow was the first
overt act in the great war, the causes that led up
to it had existed for a long time, reaching back at
least to the unjustified murder of Miantonomo in
1643, an act which was undoubtedly an important


factor in deciding the course of the Narragansetts ;
but while the acts of which the Indians complained
had continued over a long period, it apparently
took the simple natives a long time to grasp their
full import, and still Philip was willing to continue
the chain of friendship until he became convinced,
by fresh encroachments and continued acts of ag-
gression and abuse, that the two races with their
different customs of living and different codes of
honor could not coexist on the same soil. Then
resulted the war of extermination for one or the

That this war was not necessary we now know;
that all that was required to prevent it was fair play
and simple justice on the part of the whites, no one
who reads the history of those times without pas-
sion or prejudice will attempt to gainsay. The
issue of the war resulted in the establishment of the
ideals of government and the freedom we cherish,
but the same results might have been secured with-
out the stain upon the white man's escutcheon that
time can never efface.

In justice to the colonial authorities it ought to
be said that not all the acts complained of should
be laid directly at their doors; but while un-
doubtedly many of them were committed without
authority, and not in pursuit of any general policy,
the commissioners and magistrates cannot fully es-
cape the responsibility for them, because when
offences against the Indians were called to their
attention they did nothing to correct the abuses.
That they had no confidence in some of their own


people in their dealings with the natives is clearly-
shown by a letter written to Governor Bradford by-
Robert Cushman as early as 1623, in which the
writer says: ''In the mean space know these things,
and I pray you be advised a little. Mr. Weston
hath quite broken off from our company through
some discontents that arose betwixt him and some
of our adventurers, and hath sould all his adven-
tures, and hath now sent three smale ships for his
particular plantation. The greatest whereof being
100 tun. Mr. Reynolds goeth and he with the rest
purposeth to come himselfe, for what end I know

''The people which they cary are no men for us,
wherefore I pray you entertaine them not, neither
exchange man for man with them excepte it be some
of your worst. He hath taken a patent for himselfe.
If they offer to buy anything of you let it be such
as you can spare, and let them give the worth of it.
If they borrow anything leave a good pawne. . . .
I fear these people will not deal so well with the
savages as they should. I pray you therefore sig-
nifie to Squanto, that they are a distinct body from
us, and we have nothing to doe with them, neither
can we be blamed for their faults, much less can
we warrante their fideUty."

This was the same Weston who in 1622 had estab-
lished a small colony at Wessagusset, where he had
dealt so unfairly with the Indians of the Massa-
chusetts federation that they had planned the up-
rising of which Massasoit apprised Winslow in
March, 1623, and in which they had secured the


cooperation of several tribes of the Wampanoag
federation, and interested some one of Massasoit's
sub-sachems to the extent that he had endeavored
to secure his Great Sachem's consent to active par-
ticipation in the uprising. It was Weston's conduct
on this occasion which was responsible for the con-
templated attack upon both Wessagusset and
Plymouth, the natives not discriminating between
them, but, aroused by Weston's outrages, resolved
to wipe out the entire white race in New England;
and it is characteristic of the methods employed by
the colonists to settle such difficulties that they sent
Captain Standish to punish the Indians who were
concerned in the revolt, which he did; but did noth-
ing to prevent a repetition of the depredations of
Weston who had precipitated the trouble.

It was unquestionably the unscrupulous dealings
of men Hke these, covering nearly half a century,
that led to many of the complaints; but if the au-
thorities had shown half the zeal in preventing
their acts and punishing the offenders that they did
in correcting abuses on the part of the Indians, the
grievances could easily have been adjusted.

While Philip was under suspicion immediately
after Wamsutta's death, it is doubtful whether the
authorities had any foundation for the suspicion
outside of their own knowledge of wrongdoing on
their part and a belief that Philip might avenge the
the wrongs to his brother and his people. It looks
like a case of troubled conscience, resembling that
of the small boy who has been guilty of some infrac-
tion of parental discipline, and, being out alone


after dark, sees lurking in every shadow some fear-
ful agency for the punishment of his misdeeds.

Morton tells us ''Metacom made his appearance
at the court held at Plymouth, August 6th (1662),
did earnestly desire the continuance of that amity
and friendship that hath formerly been between the
governor of Plymouth and his deceased father and
brother.'' The court thereupon presented articles
of agreement which he and his uncle Vucumpowet
(Akkompoin) signed.

From that time until 1671, Philip made many
concessions by way of land grants that are inex-
plicable on any other theory than that he was
willing to pay any price for peace. He sold parts
of Swansea in 1668 and 1669, and all this time he
and his people were complaining of their restricted
areas. Enough is known of his character to lead to
the conclusion that these sales were virtually forced
by fear of further acts of vindictive depredation and
injustice which he had learned to appreciate as the
Englishman's method of securing what he desired,
or in the beUef that the insatiable greed of the
English for land might be finally appeased with-
out crowding his own people completely off the

In 1671 there were further misunderstandings
which were adjusted, but from that time on, Philip
was constantly under a cloud of suspicion. About
this same time, there were rumors of dissatisfaction
among the Narragansetts, the young sachems being
said to favor war, but the older ones counseling
peace, though the commissioners seemed to think


that the latter were dissembhng, and really favored
the resort to arms. If Philip was actually engaged
in an attempt to arouse the Indians to open revolt
at that time, he so adroitly baffled their efforts to
secure evidence against him that some historians

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Online LibraryAlvin Gardner WeeksMassasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 18)