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Mayflower, Day by Day - Sunday, 26 September 1621

26 Sep 2021 2:47 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Plymouth Colony treaties v. Massachusetts Bay Colony treaties

The shift from alliance to subjection became more pronounced with the arrival of English settlers in Massachusetts Bay in 1630. As they, too, began making formal treaties with the Indians, the new settlers introduced a very different style of subjection. Under the first treaty between the English and five Massachusetts sachems, the sachems agreed to "put ourselves, our subjects, lands, and estates under the government and jurisdiction of the Massachusets [Bay Colony]" and to "bee true and faithfull to the said government" (Submission of the Massachusetts sub-tribes to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 8 March 1644, in Alden T. Vaughan, New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians, 1620-1675, 3d ed. [Norman, 1995], 342).  This treaty omitted any reference to the king, as did, by 1643, all other oaths and treaties used by the Massachusetts Bay colony. (As an aside: Connecticut, founded by settlers from Massachusetts, followed the same pattern. In contrast to its neighbour colonies, Rhode Island, whose settlers were religious and political dissidents from Massachusetts, openly proclaimed its loyalty to the king throughout this period.)  The colony's choice to downplay its connection with royal authority reflected years of conflict between king and Parliament, which led in 1642 to the English Civil War. Massachusetts Bay, which saw Parliament's struggle as its own, justified striking the king's name from its official oaths because Charles I had "violated the privileges of parliament, and made war upon them, and thereby had lost much of his kingdom and many of his subjects” (J. Hammond Trumbull, ed., Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut [Hartford, 1852], 1:25; Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649 [Cambridge, Mass., 1996], 432). Thus, Massachusetts Bay’s support for Parliament's war with the crown justified them in asserting direct rule over the Indians and making the Indians' inferior status explicit in their treaties, something that Plymouth had been attempting in practice, but not in its written agreements.

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