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HISTORY OF THE SUBJECTION AND EXTERMINATION OF THE
The subject of Indian history,* considered in its broadest sense, is a theme far too comprehensive to be even glanced at in the brief discourse called for by the present occasion. The history of the aboriginal race of the western world, has already drawn largely upon the learned and laborious researches of modern times—volumes upon volumes have been written, and still the subject remains unexhausted, and is probably inexhaustible. A race which, marked by nearly the general outline of character, once peopled the long and broad extent of the two Americas—a race, divided into a great number of nations, speaking a variety of languages, or dialects of the same language, and these still subdivided into a multitude of petty tribes or clans, with each its peculiar traditions, manners, customs, habits, and state of society, presents a subject which opens indeed a vast field for the speculations of the philosopher and the researches of the antiquary; but the
very circumstance of its vastness imposes upon the author of an occasional discourse the necessity of selecting some very limited portion of its almost boundless variety.
I shall select that portion of aboriginal history which belongs to that tribe or nation which constituted the centre of Indian power in New England at the landing of the Whites at Plymouth. Nay, having determined where that centre was, I shall limit this discourse to a mere history of the subjection and final extermination of the people which formed it. They have had no historian, and we will endeavor to impart something of novelty to our design, by viewing the events which brought about this result from aboriginal ground, with an aboriginal eye, and with something of the feelings which such a view is calculated to inspire.
* Aboriginal history was the subjcct assigned to the author.
to call together the grand council of the nation; and at such times nothing was concluded to which the people could not be brought by gentle persuasion. They had not merely an order of sachems at the head of which was the grand sachem, but they had an order of priests and prophets, by whom the superstitious feelings of the people were brought into alliance with their natural love of country. cannot however, now dwell at any length on these subjects, and I only here point at them for the purpose of indicating the ties which gave this people their unity, and increased their capacity for endurance and resistence.
I will now proceed to point out the relations in which the neighboring tribos stood to the Narragansets. The Pequots, who occupied the territory which now constitutes the townships of Groton and New London, were the only tribes which, previous to the arrival of the Whites, were not overawed or controled by the Narragansets' power. The Pequots are said to have been originally an inland tribe. About thirty or forty years before the landing at Plymouth, from one of those causes which sometimes suddenly infuses unwonted cuergy into barbarous nations, they poured down from their western solitudes, making progress eastward by exterminating or vanquishing one tribe after another--passing from conquest to conquest, until the Narraganset nation opposed a barrier to their course. They then paused in their career of victory, and sate themselves down on the banks of the river, which took their name, and from their rude fortifications, carried on an implacable war with the people that had given the first check to their arms. A part of the Nipmuck, and nearly all the Connecticut tribes, had yielded to their violence, and become their tributaries; but the Narragansets repelled their insolence, and firmly maintained their independence. But here, for the present, we must leave them, merely adding that they continued their hostilities unto the time they were exterminated by the Whites.
The relations of the Narragansets to the tribes on the northern border seem to have been entirely pacific. The Nipmucks were a vanquished people—2 part of them were the tributaries of the Wampanoags, a part of the Pequots, and the residue were either the allies or subjects of the Narragansets themselves.
The partiality of early historians for Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanongs, seems to have rendered the relation in which the Narregansets stood to the castern Indians something equivocal. They have chosen to represent Massisoit as at the head of a confederacy of all those tribes, and as the great enemy and rival of Canonicus himself. But on this point we are bound to take the confessions of Massasoit himself, as attested by Roger Williams: "After I had obtained this place," says Williams, in a deposition quoted by Backus," now called Providence, of Canonicus and Miantonomi, (the chief of the Narraganset sachems.) Ousamequin (the other name of Massasoit) laid his claim to this place also. This forced me to repair to the Narraganset sachems aforesaid, who declared that Ousamequin was their subject, and had solemnly, himself in person and ten more, (doubtless his under-sachems) subjected himself and his lands unto them at Narraganset, only now he seemed to revolt from his loyalty under shelter of the English at Plymouth. This I declared from the Narraganset sachems to Ousamequin, who, without any stick, acknowledged to be true that he had so submitted, as the Narraganset sachems had affirmed; that he was not subdued by war, which himself and his father had maintained against the Narragansets; but God, said he, subdued us by a plague, which swept away my people, and forced me to yield.”
This tells the whole story. The plague, to which Massasoit alludes, is that which immediately preceded the landing at Plymouth. Massasoit, previous to this, might be, and doubtless was, at the head of an independent confederacy of ten or more tribes, represented by the ten men who accompanied him; but the Narragansets, who were untouched by the prevailing pestilence, had seized the favorable moment, and extended their conquests over their eastern enemies, and they now held them as their subjects or tributaries.
With regard to the Massachusetts tribes—I mean those immediately beyond the old Plymouth colony—they also were subject or tributary to the Narragansets. Both Sagamore John, and Chickatabot (the sachem of the Neponset tribe) obeyed the summons of Canonicus, and followed Miantonomi to wage battle with the Pequots. Nor can it be supposed that the tribes about Cape Cod, and those of the neighboring islands, were not in some degree subject to them. They had been the allies or tributaries of Massasoit, and his submission to Canonicus must have left them more or less subject to the dominant power. They were a numerous people. They had been but slightly touched by the great pestilence, which had depopulated Patuxet and the country adjacent to it.
If this view of the relations of these tribes be correct, it follows, that before the landing, the Narragansets constituted the nucleusthe centre or basis of a great association of clans, more or less dependent upon them, extending through nearly the whole of Massa