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Mayflower, Day by Day - Tuesday, 30 March [1620]/21

30 Mar 2021 3:01 AM | Soule (Administrator)

At anchorage

A fine day.  Digging and planting of gardens on shore.  Those crew members who were sick are now on the mend.

There was another dynamic working in the Indians’ plans: Squanto, the only surviving resident of the village which had, several years ago, occupied the place where the Pilgrims were now constructing their plantation, but of which nothing remained.  Kidnapped by Thomas Hunt and brought to Spain, he was almost sold into slavery before he was freed by Franciscan friars, who taught him the Catholic faith; he received baptism from them.  I will pause while you contemplate that the ferocious anti-Catholics, who hated with a perfect hatred anything that even had a slight whiff of the Church of Rome, were ultimately saved by … a Catholic!  He was now dwelling at Pokanoket with Massasoit.  The chief, however, did not trust Squanto, but his knowledge and connections were too valuable for Massasoit to ignore, and Squanto certainly made use of them all to get Massasoit’s attention and bring him around to Squanto’s way of thinking.  He insisted that the worst thing that they could do would be to attack the settlers: they had not only cannons and guns, but they were the bringers of the plague, as well.  Squanto began to insist that the Pilgrims could unleash the plague at will; this was by far the most fearsome weapon in their arsenal.  And if Massasoit allied himself with the Pilgrims, then he would have access to this weapon as well, and he could unleash it (or get the Pilgrims to unleash it) on the relatively unscathed tribes of the Narragansett and the Massachusett Indians.  Philbrick summarises: “It was a suggestion that played on Massasoit’s worst fears. … Reluctantly, Massasoit determined that he must ‘make friendship’ with the English.  To do so, he must have an interpreter, and Squanto -- the only one fluent in both English and Massachusett, the language of Pokanoket -- assumed that he was the man for the job.  Though he’d been swayed by Squanto’s advice, Massasoit was loath to place his faith in the former captive, whom he regarded as a conniving cultural mongrel with dubious motives.  So he first sent Samoset, a visiting sachem with only a rudimentary command of English, to the Pilgrim settlement.  But now it was time for Massasoit to visit the English himself.  He must turn to Squanto” (Mayflower, 96).

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