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chusetts proper, and throughout all that territory which subsequently fell under the jurisdiction of the old Plymouth colony. They were a hardy, brave, and warlike people, amply supplied from flood, forest, and field, with all the necessaries of barbarous life and aboriginal warfare. Trade, directly and indirectly, with the Whites, had already armed their hands with scalping knives and tomahawks, and pointed their arrows with metal. We have no data by which we can accurately determine their numbers, but to say that such an association or confederacy, including all its tributaries, could muster ten thousand warriors, and could count more than fifty thousand men, women, and children, seems to me to be a moderate estimate of their probable numbers It was this body of aboriginal people, that in New England first came in abiding contact with the elements of civilized society—it was this vast mass of barbarism, that, in little more than half a century after the first touch of the white man, was made to dissolve and disappear, as before a consuming fire. And the tale which unfolds the causes, which terminated in this result, is no other than an account of a conflict between the antagonist principles of barbarous and civilized life, necessarily begun, in some form, at the moment of the first landing, and continued, without intermission, by every movement, whatever the motive, unto the final consummation, in the triumph of the white, and in the subjection and extermination of the aboriginal man. It is a state over which the philanthropist may weep, and from which the philosopher may draw the profoundest precepts—it is a state of contest between the civilized and the barbarous mind, in which all the resources of the first, uninfluenced by any predominant pacific principle, was put in requisition against all the resources of the last, and achieved a dreadful triumph. None of us will regret that the white man succeeded, but all will deplore the manner in which his success was accomplished.
It was in the year, some say 1612, others 1619 or 1620, that a terrible pestilence, which depopulated nearly half his dominions, scarcely leaving of the survivors enough to bury the dead, compelled Massasoit, the grand sachem of the Wampanoag confederacy, reluctantly to submit himself and his tribes to the overwhelming power of Canonicus, the Narraganset chief. Previous to this event, hostilities had been carried on between the two nations, time beyond memoryevery fresh aggression had increased their animosities, and the occasion which brought about the submission of the Wampanoag chief, neither assuaged those feelings, nor subdued his ambition to rule. He still anxiously desired to be head of an independent confederacy,
though the calamities of his people had bereft him of the means of gratifying that ambition. But an occasion was now to present itself, which at once was to give him the promise of all that he desired and to constitute a new epoch in the history of aboriginal New England,
It was in the winter of 1620, whilst residing at Pokanoket, that Massasoit received intelligence that the strange people, coat-men, (Watoronuoag) whose faces were pale, and whose warriors were armed with the thunder and lightning of the Great Spirit, had, with their women and children, come over the great waters in their winged canoes, and built wigwams, and kindled their council fire on the recently deserted strand of Patuxet. It may well be supposed that this strange intelligence at once formed a subject of grave and anxious deliberation at the council fire of the barbarous chief. The idea doubtless presented itself of filling up the vacancy in the population of his territory, occasioned by the wasting pestilence, the better to put himself in a condition to assert his former independence; and yet he feared to contract an alliance for that purpose
with a strange race of men, with whom his tribes had but lately been in a state of actual hostility. He knew just enough of the white men to feel for their power a superstitious dread, and for their treachery, the most anxious apprehensions. They were not such entire strangers, but that he had, unfortunately, witnessed specimens of both. In latter years his coast had been more frequently visited than formerlyGosnola had explored it in 1602, Prinne had examined it the following year, the French in 1604-6, the Dutch in 1609; and traders had, from time to time, visited his shores, and bartered knives, hatchets, arrow-heads, &c., for their furs. Among those of the latter class was the famous Hunt, who kidnapped twenty-seven of his subjects, and soll them as slaves. He had then learned something of the terrible effects of the white men's arms; and from that time to the present, his tribes had been in a state of warfare with all white men who visited their coast. Nothing but his stronger hatred, therefore, of the Narraganset domination, and his desire to restore the independence of his confederacy, could have induced him or liis people to consent to an alliance with the strangers.
But, whatever may have been his motives, on the 22d of March fol. lowing the landing, escorted by sixty men, he repaired to Patuxet, now Plymouth, for his first interview with his new neighbors.
The first meeting of these rude tribes with civilized society, then just commencing on these shores, was marked by all that distrust and jealousy which previous circumstances, acting on opposite natures, were calculated to inspire. It was the approach of antagonist forces, each questioning the character of the other. Hostages were exchanged for the security of each party before an interview was hazarded. These and other preliminary measures having been arranged, Massasoit was escorted by six musketeers to the house and apartment where the first treaty was concluded. There, elevated on a seat of cushions, with a green rug at his feet, and with nothing but a necklace of bone beads to distinguish him from his men, the sachem of the Wampanoags awaited the arrival of the chief of the Whites. All around him was new and strange; but presently, with the beat of drum and sound of trumpet, the governor entered, with a guard of several musketeers. Such
pomp and circumstance the sachem had never before witnessed. In the midst of so much that was new and imposing--the pale faces, their strange garments, the glittering of their arms, and, more than all, the sound of the drum and trumpet—the chief was awed and appalled; and when the governor, after salutation, had seated him by his side, he trembled as with a supernatural dread—as if one of his own manittos were honoring him with his presence. He was now liberally supplied with strong waters, of which he took copious draughts; and, under the influence of a combination of strange feelings, Massasoit could have little doubt that the white strangers would be allies too powerful for his Narraganset conquerors; and he immediately concluded with them a treaty, offensive and defensive, and gave them a portion of those lands which he had so recently subjected to Canonicus and Miantonomi. The Whites, however, supposed they were treating with an independent chief; yet they had now, unconsciously, made an important step toward the dissolution of that body of aborigines with which they first came in contact. That mass (the conquered Wampanoags and all their federate clans) was at one blow, or rather at the mere touch of the white hand, cleft off from the Narraganset empire, and Massasoit, as the ally of the Whites, reinstated at the head of the independent confederacy of the very tribes which had so recently been subdued.
But the Whites sought for some further assurance than a treaty with the grand sachem only. They exacted a promise from him that he would acquaint all his under-sachems with the treaty which he had made, that they might be included in its terms. And it seems to have been in pursuance of his recommendations that, in the September following, nine of his under-sachems came to Plymouth and subscribed a treaty as interpreted by Squanto, an Indian in the service of the Whites; by which treaty they appear to acknowledge them
selves to be the loyal subjects of the king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c. The subscribers doubtless understood this to be a mere treaty of alliance, such as their grand sachem had formed, but the Whites placed their own construction upon its terms, and considered these chiefs afterwards as independent sovereigns or as subjects, just as the interest of the moment might dictate.
It is not to be supposed that all these movements among the tribes in the neighborhood of Plymouth entirely escaped the attention of the Narragansets. The agitations at the extremes could not fail to vibrate to the centre. But what could they do? The Pequot, with his hatchet continually uplifted, was at their backs, whilst in their front was the strange white man, strong in power, yet unmeasuredarmed with the weapons of their own Great Spirit—holding (as the report went) disease and death in his hands, and still further strengthened by those bands of warriors who had seceded from their dominion. But the white man might be less powerful than he seemed—he might lack in courage—some of his race, they had heard, were deficient in fortitude, and would groan when tortured. Some of them, therefore, seem to have proposed to make one experiment upon his temper; and in making it, there seems to have been practiced something of political finesse. In December following the treaty, a challenge was sent, but from whom does not distinctly appear. A Narraganset Indian appeared at the plantation, with a bundle of arrows tied together with the skin of a rattlesnake. He inquired for Squanto, the interpreter. Squanto was absent, and the messenger departed without further explanation. Squanto was a cunning practicer upon the superstitious fears of his countrymen, and the jealousy of his white employers. He represented to the Indians that the Whites kept the plague among them, buried in the ground, which they could let loose upon their enemies when they pleased; and, he told them, that white war and peace were both in his hands, and he could give them either. The challenge, therefore, might have been designed for him ; but when he returned, he seems to have explained the mystic symbols to be a menace addressed to the Whites. The governor of Plymouth, thereupon, threw back the taunt, and, with a rude answer of defiance, sent the skin filled with bullets to Canonicus, the Narraganset chief. That sachem, however, either did not recognize the original message, or refused to understand the answer, and the unwelcome message was passed from hand to hand, finding no receiver, until it found its way back to Plymouth. But, whatever the origin or object of the message, the manner of its reception by the Whites must lave satisfied the Narragansets that the strangers were not destitute of courage, and that before they expelled them, or regained their lost dominion over the Wampanoags, they must quell the Pequots. But it may be well doubted whether Canonicus and Miantonomi had any part in this message. The abiding policy of Canonicus, toward the Whites, appears to have been constantly pacific. He valued himself, at the time Roger Williams became acquainted with him, upon never having suffered wrong to be done to the English-and Miantonomi, his nephew, seems only to have carried into effect the resolutions of the elder sachem.
But to return to the Wampanoag confederacy--for it was through their prostration that the Whites were brought in immediate contact with the Narraganset people. The message of the Narragansets had the effect of exciting no small alarm among the English. They immediately fortified their village with a strong pale or barricade, which was closed at night, and watched by sentinels. This was further strengthened by a fort, on which were mounted several pieces of artillery. Such a display of warlike strength could not fail to overawe the neighboring natives, and render them sensible of their own interiority in arms. It doubtless prepared the way for the success of the first warlike enterprise of Captain Standish on American ground.
A company of English, under a Mr. Weston, attempted a settlement at a place called Wessagussit, (now Weymouth.) They proved to be a lawless, profligate, and prodigal people. Their improvidence was such, that in a short time they were reduced to the last stages of famine. Some perished with hunger; others, without making any application to Plymouth for relief, begged their daily food of the Indians, who, for a time, supplied their daily wants with a liberal hospitality. But from begging they passed to robbing and stealing, day and night, from their benefactors. This was too much for even these pacific red men to bear. They made loud and frequent complaints to the English at Plymouth, and were told in answer, that Weston's company were a separate and distant people, or clan, over which the company at Plymouth had no control, and that they could extend to the injured no relief. These Indians, therefore, felt themselves under the necessity of redressing their own wrongs, and doubtless felt that they had a right to expel the bandits that threatened to reduce them to the same extremity with themselves. It appears that there were consultations among some of the tribes, for the purpose of forming a