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Landing of the Pilgrim fathers at Plymouth

 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                    

The importance of that twenty-first day of December, 1620, and of the landing of the Pilgrim fathers at Plymouth as an event in the history of the country, aye of humanity, cannot be overestimated; nor can too high a valuation be put upon all the agencies that contributed to the success of the venture which drove them across the water. Foremost among those agencies was the attitude of the natives towards these invaders of their domain. Had they, in resentment of their treatment at the hands of white adventurers, explorers and traders, assumed a hostile attitude, with the limited means of making the long and dangerous voyage across the sea at that time, they could undoubtedly have wiped out the colonies as fast as they could have been planted, and thus set back the history of our country for at least a hundred years; the early history of New England would have been written in characters of blood on every hillside and plain instead of characters of living light for the illumination of the world; and without the history of New England, the history of the United States, aye, even of humanity, would be a different tale from that we teach our children and read in the record of current events.
     The present moment, with the statesmen of the free nations of the world assembled at Versailles for the discussion of a means for securing the peace of the world, seems a peculiarly appropriate time for calling attention to the first peace conference ever held on American soil, in which the white race participated on equal terms with the aborigines, of which we have any record; and its coming, as it does, on the eve of the three hundredth anniversary of that original conference, adds to the significance of the treaty growing out of that conference.
     It is not my purpose to write a history of the early colonial days. Events as they occurred were recorded by men who participated in them; and later writers, whose name is legion, drawing their information from these early historians, have dwelt upon the facts they set down, with all the embellishments capable of being given to them by the thoughtful mind and the facile pen. He who attempts to write history three hundred years after the happening of the events he records, with no new facts, disclosed by research at sources hitherto unexplored, must needs possess the skill to paint his
narrative in colors never before essayed, or content himself with being a mere compiler of facts gathered and recorded by others. Unless his is the faculty of saying things in a more pleasing manner or of arraying his facts in such a way that they will present a more attractive picture than has been before portrayed by them, his excuse for writing is indeed small.
     No new facts will be presented by the narrative I am undertaking, nor do I lay claim to any magic in the wielding of the pen that will make the old appear new. All that I shall attempt is to rescue from a mass of other matter in which they are so buried as to be almost inaccessible to the reader who has not the time or the inclination for wide research, certain historic facts, with a view to calling attention to some of the errors that have sprung up concerning the aborigines whom our fathers found in possession of this fair land when they first set foot upon its shores; to array those facts, gleaned from the writings of the men who participated in the stirring events of which they write, in such form that the array will assist in a better understanding and higher appreciation of the true relations between the original possessors of the land and the invading settlers from the old world, than the average reader is likely to gather from a limited reading of early history in which the subjects to which I desire to call attention are passed over with a word.
     Many of the most important features of that early history are almost entirely lost to the majority of readers for the reasons that I have suggested. True, every reader of American history knows of the struggles of the early settlers with hostile bands of natives, and of their privations and hardships in every form; he knows of the visit of Samoset to the Pilgrims a few months after they landed at Plymouth and of his greeting, "Welcome, Englishmen"; he has heard something of Squanto and of Hobamock; but how much does he really know about them? And yet, the part played by them and others of their kind in the early struggles of the infant colony, their faithfulness to their treaty obligations and their loyalty and devotion to those to whom they had thereby bound themselves, form the brightest pages in the annals of Colonial New England.
     The story of Canonicus of the Narragansett, and his haughty challenge to the colonists at Plymouth, sent in the form of a bundle of arrows bound in a rattlesnake's skin, and of Governor Bradford's defiant reply, is familiar to every American schoolboy; but how many know that, following and probably in consequence of this incident, the Narragansett were firm friends of the whites for more than twenty years, until the death of their beloved sachem Miantonomo, the nephew of Canonicus, at the hands of the fierce Uncas of the Mohicans? Probably every reader of American history remembers the story of that unjustifiable death, and of Uncas' cutting a slice of flesh from the shoulder of his still quivering victim and eating it, declaring it to be the sweetest meat he ever ate; but how many know that eight commissioners of the colonies in Massachusetts and Connecticut authorized this cold-blooded murder of one of the most faithful friends the whites had among the red men, and thereby aroused the hostility of the Narragansett, the most powerful confederation in Drew England, to such an extent that it was never allayed until the extermination of that federation in King Philip's war?

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags

 

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