(The FRENCH, DUTCH and ENGLISH to AMERICA – continued)
Indians against Puritans in New England
The Dutch had more difficulty in recruiting colonists than the English, the United Netherlands not having as many people looking for refuge or for a new chance in life as did the English. By 1640 almost 60,000 Englishmen had migrated to the New World, many times that of the Dutch and the French. England sent one hundred settlers to establish a colony at Guiana. Then came the civil war in England, the execution of Charles I and the coming to power of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. Migration to the Americas slowed, except for the sending of captured Scots there following Cromwell's war against them. Parliament gave the colonists of Virginia a year to adhere to its religious and political dictates, and those who did not were threatened with expulsion, but the attempt to turn Virginia into a Puritan colony failed. Instead, Virginia still had royalists who had supported Charles I, and joining them, beginning in 1647, were wealthy royalist refugees from England, fleeing from the Puritans.
In early 1650, competition with Dutch traders inspired the English to make war. Cromwell ended this war in 1655, and that year he began military action against Catholic Spain, a war that took place in the Caribbean region. The English seized Jamaica in 1655, with its 1500 Spanish settlers and their black slaves. The English began expelling the Spaniards and managing the sugar plantations there, using slave labor. Jamaica became a base for the English "privateers," among them the notorious Henry Morgan, and the activities of English privateers (or pirates) was to last to 1670, when England would sign a treaty with Spain ending their war.
Meanwhile in 1652, the Catholic colony of Rhode Island made slavery illegal, and the colony of Virginia had fewer than 500 slaves – only three percent of its almost 17,000 colonists. The tobacco planters of Virginia were still dependent primarily on indentured servants for labor, the indentured servants not requiring an initial investment as did the buying of slaves.
Quakers and Baptists had begun arriving in the colonies. The Puritans of Massachusetts detested Quaker pacifism, and they interpreted the Quaker belief in an inner light and divine spark as pride. To the Puritans, a lack of authoritarian leadership among the Quakers seemed anarchistic. Then rumor spread among the Puritans that the Quakers were burning Holy Bibles. To maintain order in their colony and their uniformity in religion, the Massachusetts colony, by 1660, had imprisoned 3000 Quakers and had hanged four, and Quakers were finding refuge in the more tolerant colony at Providence.
Two Quaker women expelled from the Massachusetts colony made the mistake of going to the Dutch colony in New Amsterdam and preaching in the streets there. They were expelled. And other Quakers who wandered into New Amsterdam were imprisoned and flogged, the Dutch at New Amsterdam wanting to discourage "all sorts of riff raff" from coming to their colony. Also the Dutch expelled a Baptist cobbler, William Wickendam, who had wandered into New Amsterdam from Rhode Island. Wickendam had been seen "dipping" converts into river water.
In 1660, after eighteen years of Puritan rule in England, and after Cromwell's death, the Puritans lost power in England, the monarchy was restored, and a second wave of English migration to the Americas began. Meanwhile, merchants in England remained concerned with competition, from the Dutch and from English craftsmen in the colonies. In 1663, England's Charles II approved the Navigation Act, which required that all trade with England's colonies be done with English ships and that the colonies export only certain products – among them tobacco and sugar.
Moving against Dutch trading in the Americas, England in 1664 put a naval blockade around New Amsterdam, adding to Dutch troubles in the Americas. The Dutch had been fighting local Indians in what is known as the "Peach War", and they were facing a revolt by Portuguese colonists in Brazil. The Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English. The second war between the English and Dutch began, the war ending in 1667 with the Dutch recognizing New Amsterdam as belonging to England, the Dutch taking England's fledging colony in Guiana in exchange, and the English changing the name of New Amsterdam to New York.
Indian crops were sometimes ravaged by insects that the colonists unwittingly brought with them from Europe, and Indians had increased their hunting – in part to obtain furs to exchange for European hardware: rifles, cooking pots, hatchets, knives, needles and other iron wares. Indians had been moving from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. Their traditional crafts, such as pottery and basketry, were in decline, as was their use of the bow and arrow. Around some of their villages were now chickens, pigs, cattle or sheep. The Indians were becoming more experienced and shrewd in trade, and more covetous. They were becoming linked economically with Europeans, and along the coast from around Plymouth northward into what is now Maine, Indians rapidly depleted the beaver population, leaving them without a commodity for exchange.
The Indians had been unfamiliar with alcoholic drink and at first rejected it, thinking it tasted foul. And they had no tradition of social drinking. But eventually some of them took to it, fitting it into their own tradition by associating it with spirituality – their traditional dream state. Drink became their paradise. They and their fellow Indians not given to drink were dismayed by the failure of their traditional medicine and spirituality against the new diseases that plagued their people. Their sweat lodge had been one of these failures. The sweat lodge had been a place of spiritual purification but disastrous for small pox. Amid their dismay, some Indians accepted modifications to their traditions in the form of Christianity, which exposed them to ridicule from other Indians.
Drink deteriorated commitments and tore apart communities. Drinkers might trade away their property or their wives and children. Resentments might escalate into murder. And murder by drunkards was often pardoned, a drunken man considered sacred in his dream state.
Colonists thought that the Indians who did not farm as they did were lazy, and Puritans viewed the Indians as "pernicious creatures" or as naked and "dirty beasts." Where they could they tried to put the Indians under their laws. Indians – at least those who had not converted to Christianity – continued to resent the encroachments of Europeans, whom they thought of as hairy, ugly, unintelligent and strange in their ways.
In the Massachusetts area, encroachments by the Puritans led to war, with the English drawing the first blood, shooting several Indians they discovered taking items from an abandoned house. The Indians retaliated and the war escalated. The Indians were led by Meacomet, also called Philip, the son of Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief who had sat with the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day. Philip had come to realize that if the Indians did not resist, the colonists would push against the Indians until they had no land of their own. He allied his people with neighboring Indians and launched an all-out war against the colonists – a conflict called King Philip's War. But it was too late to overcome the policies of those who had allowed the first settlements around Plymouth. The English had superior fire power. In the war, around 3,000 Indians were killed, and 600 Europeans. Like the Romans after their defeat at Cannae, the Puritans saw their losses as punishment for their transgressions. The Puritans believed they were being punished for having been too lenient toward the Quakers, also because men had been wearing periwigs and because women had been immodest in doing and displaying their hair.
The war came to an end in 1676 with Philip being hunted down and killed in a swamp. The Colonists won. They executed defeated Indian leaders, sold captured Indians into servitude or as slaves for the West Indies area, and they put curfews on local Indians and restricted their travel and assemblies.
Copyright © 2001-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.