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  • 24 Sep 2021 3:19 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    What did the Indians think that they were doing?

    The initial treaty addressed Massasoit "friend" and "ally" of King James, not mentioning the word "subject" at all, a clear signal to the Indians that they would enjoy an alliance of equals with the English (see Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memoriall, in Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, 38).  The stipulations of the original treaty implied reciprocity, or equality, despite some noted exceptions, such as the clause that that Indians deliver any offender against the English to English justice, but that lacked a reciprocal clause delivering offenders against the Indians to Indian justice. Nevertheless, the historical record makes it clear that Massasoit assumed reciprocity applied to every aspect of the treaty, stated or not.  When Massasoit suspected Squanto of wrongdoing, he demanded the English turn him over to the Indians for judgment.  When Plymouth's governor resisted, Massasoit protested vehemently, "demanding him ... as being one of his subjects, whom, by our first Articles of Peace, we could not retain" (Winslow, Good Newes from New England, 13-14).  In addition, the English asked no tribute of the Indians, as superior sachems traditionally did of their subjects. Rather, they gave and received gifts to solidify what they repeatedly referred to as a friendship (see, for example, Winslow’s 1621 visit to Massasoit, in which he took “some gratuity to bind [Massasoit] the faster unto him” [Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, Morison ed., 87].)

  • 23 Sep 2021 3:03 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Allegiance to King James

    Nine Sachems subscribed an Instrument of Submission to King James I/VI: Oquamehud, Canacum (the sachem who had sent John Billington to the Nausets), Obbatinnua, Nattawahunt, Corbitant, Chikkatabak, Quadequina (Massasoit’s brother), Huttamoiden, and Epenow (Plymouth Colony Records 1:133, 4:24-26, 5:76; Morton, New England’s Memoriall, 44-45).  Morton's New England's Memoriall recorded, “Yea Masassoit in Writing under his Hand to Capt. Standish has owned the King of England to be his Master: Both He and many other Kings under Him, as of Pamet, Nawset, Cummaquid, Namasket, with diverse others who dwell about the Bays of Patuxet and Massachusett: and all this by friendly Usage, Love and Peace, just & honest Carriage, good Counsel.”  Tomorrow we will consider what the terms of this submission meant, and what the natives thought that they were doing in signing it.

  • 22 Sep 2021 2:53 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Founding a Colony

    What was perhaps most telling was that Sir William Alexander understood that there was scant desire among his countrymen to abandon their native lands for the wilds of an unknown New World. As he wrote: “The sending forth of Colonies (seeming a novelty) is esteemed now to be a strange thing, as not only being above the courage of common men, but altogether alienated from their knowledge, which is no wonder” (Alexander, Encouragement to Colonies, 1).  In actuality Alexander’s grant overlapped with that of Gorges, and the latter had to approve the new delineation for New Scotland.  This insight suggests that he had developed a reasonably clear sense of the challenges facing a would-be colonial planter within a few years of receiving his charter. He knew, or learned very quickly, that if he was going to found a colony, it would be a long- term enterprise. 

  • 21 Sep 2021 2:52 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Northern Neighbours (part two)

    By all appearances, Alexander had no personal experiences in the New World, and knew little about how make his new colony a reality. Neither could he point to active service in the remoter regions of the British Isles that had marked the careers of men like the third and fourth lords Ochiltree, Bishop Knox, Captain John Mason, Lord Falkland, or Lord Baltimore. However, he was not entirely unaware of the difculty of the task he had set for himself. He had discussed the general points relating to plantation schemes with no less an authority than John Mason, who in 1620 had returned from Newfoundland, and had penned his observations on that country. Alexander was further encouraged in his efforts by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, an ofcer of the (newly formed, as of last autumn) New England Company and someone involved with parallel efforts to plant settlements to the south of Alexander’s mainland patent: in the Pilgrim’s back yard.  See J.P. Baxter, ed., Sir Ferdinando Gorges and His Province of Maine, 55–6.

  • 20 Sep 2021 3:00 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Northern Neighbours

    Today King James gave Sir William Alexander, master of requests for Scotland, a Patent for New Scotland: “bounding the same from Cape Sables to the Bay of St. Mary, thence N. to the River St. Croix thence N. to Canada River, so down the River to Gachep, thence S. E. to Cape Briton Islands and Cape Briton, thence round to Cape Sables again; with all Seas and Islands within six Leagues of the Western, Northern and Eastern Parts, and within 40 Leagues to the Southward of Cape Briton, & Cape Sables; to be called NOVA SCOTIA,”  The intriguing part of this grant is that James made it as King of Scotland, and not as King of England, the title under which he had made almost all previous grants (or using the consolidated “King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland” or some combination of the above).  As Alexander later recorded, his ambitions turned to the founding of a mainland colony; his previously granted lands in Newfoundland never again received extensive attention. This 1621 charter included lands in the New World that covered nearly all of the present-day Maritime provinces of Canada and the State of Maine.  That this new endeavour was envisioned to be distinctly Scottish was later made clear and explicit: “My Countrimen would never adventure in such an Enterprize, unless it were as there was a New France, a New Spaine, and a New England, that they might likewise have a New Scotland, and that for that effect they might have bounds with a correspondencie in proportion (as others had) with the Countrey whereof it should beare the name, which might hold of their owne Crowne, and where they might bee gouerned by their owne Lawes.” William Alexander, Encouragement to Colonies, 32, in David Laing, ed., Royal Letters, Charters and Tracts Relating to the Colonization of New Scotland (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1867).

  • 19 Sep 2021 2:51 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    New neighbours

    Thomas Prince, in his Chronicles of the Annals of New England, records that on this day Sir William Alexander of Scotland, afterwards the Earl of Sterling, met with and prevailed on King James to assign Sir Ferdinando Gorges part of the New England Territory.  Sir Ferdinando was entrusted “with the affairs of this Country, advising with some of the Company, yields that Sir William should have a Patent of the North Eastern Part of New England, to be held of the Crown of Scotland and called NEW SCOTLAND.”  The grant will be issued tomorrow, when we will describe the provisions and the territory of the Plymouth Colony’s new northern neighbour.

  • 18 Sep 2021 3:22 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    The paper trail

    On board the Fortune, now about half way through its almost four month voyage across the Atlantic, was a very important document.  When news from Plymouth returned to England in May 1620 along with the Mayflower that the settlers had landed and established a home outside of the area in which they were authorised to do so, the Merchant Adventurers (i.e., the stockholders in the Plymouth Plantation) led by John Peirce went to the Council of New England to get the Pilgrims the rights to live and establish a government of their own at Plymouth.  The result was the 1621 Pierce Patent, which supersedes the Mayflower Compact and gives them a much surer legal claim to the land they are living on.  It is dated 1 June 1621; the Second Peirce Patent is thus the oldest existing state document of New England in the US.  The remarkable document, signed by five Englishmen, gave each settler 100 acres of ground and “all such liberties, privileges, profits and commodities” as the land and rivers “shall yield.”  “Liberty” here is used in a technical, legal sense, and not, as we now tend to, meaning personal freedoms.  It also references the “churches, schools, hospitals, townhouses, and bridges” the Mayflower passengers and subsequent English colonists would build in America.  The 400-year old parchment document with four brown wax seals has been restored by specialists at the Northeast Document Conservation Centre in Massachusetts, and is on display at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth.  The conservators locally humidified and flattened small, folded areas of damage and repaired tears in the parchment. The document was then tension mounted to create a secure display and housing system that would account for the dimensional changes of parchment, the weight of the document, and the suspended wax seals. A number of linen threads were adhered to the edges of the parchment, wrapped around the edge of the mounting board, and secured to the reverse of the board. These linen threads, held in even tension around the parchment, expand and contract in an opposite manner to the parchment with changes in relative humidity.  The threads were sewn through a layer of fine, lightweight linen to create the appearance that the object was floating within the mount. The full text is transcribed by Caleb Johnson, and a picture of the patent is shown, at http://mayflowerhistory.com/pierce-patent.

    Special thanks to Donna Curtin, executive director of Pilgrim Hall, for showing and describing this to me last Thursday at Pilgrim Hall!

  • 17 Sep 2021 2:39 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Numerically, the Pokanokets were at a decided disadvantage. Struggling to maintain their existence as a separate and identifiable people, they were beginning to ally with the Massachusetts to the north and the Nausets on Cape Cod, who were also opposed to the Narragansetts.  The Pilgrims had come along at a very opportune time: while it is often stated, to the point of cliché, that without the Pokanoket Indians, the Pilgrims would not have survived, it is also quite clear that without the Pilgrims, the Pokanoket Indians would not have survived.  The presence of the Pilgrims enabled Massasoit and his tribe to break free from the Narragansetts, and extend their own control over the neighbouring tribes.

  • 16 Sep 2021 3:08 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    About this time, Governor Bradford determined that an exploratory expedition should be sent north to the land of the Massachusetts.  Squanto had warned them that the Massachusetts, who lived in the vicinity of modern Boston, “had often threatened us.”  It was time to bring them into the fold, as well.  It is significant that in the modern maps of tribal lands in New England for the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower, the Massachusetts have been eliminated completely -- the ultimate in cancel culture -- and their land is currently identified as belonging to the Wampanoags, a name that is not found before King Philip’s War.  It appears that twenty-first century natives are not above continuing centuries old disputes (in this case, apparently, seizing another tribe’s land in order to build a casino).  The tiny, subordinate tribe is expanded to a “nation” in the 2020 banner of “Four Nations”; Massasoit’s people, known as the Pokanokets for the area they occupied at the head of Narragansett Bay, had been reduced to a few hundred warriors after the plague, and were considered the subjects of the Narragansetts, led by Canonicus. 

  • 15 Sep 2021 4:13 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    The Pilgrims noted a significant increase in visitation by Indians, and particularly by their leaders, in the month after the attack on Nemasket.  Even though the foray did not capture Corbitant, the purpose of the expedition, and descended into comedy or farce at times, the local tribes began to recognise how the Pilgrims could be useful in their own plans to work together.  This resulted not only in a treaty (to be discussed next week) but also in various tribes working together, which had not really been the case previously, and certainly not since the plague decimated the coastal tribes several years earlier.

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