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The Tribes and the States

W. J. Sidis

 

CHAPTER VII

PISCATAQUA AND MASADCHU

        29. Invasion of the Piscataqua.  Almost immediately after the formation of the Penacook Federation came a new invasion from over the ocean, this time a distinctly hostile one. This came from the New England Company, a corporation chartered in England, claiming title to the coast north of the Merrimac River, irrespective of existing inhabitants, and which was determined to oust existing occupants as intruders. In other words, it was deliberately going to the Piscataqua region to make war on the inhabitants. The Pilgrims were refugees, and England never recognized their government, so they were more disposed towards peace, and more amenable to Red instruction. But Gorges and Mason, the two chief directors of the Plymouth Company, claimed to hold title from the English crown, which claimed to own the Penacook country through "discovery." This company had organized in England a complete organization, in feudal style, of overlords and vassals, ready to transplant as a whole to the shores of the Piscataqua. It was, in fact, an attempt to duplicate in the north the same project of colonization which had been tried with successfully oppressive results in the south twelve years before.

        The first attempt at colonization was not on the Piscataqua, but further east at Pemaquid, in the Wabanake country. Finally, in 1621, just after the formation of the Penacook Federation, a landing was made at the mouth of the Piscataqua, where possession was taken of the land on both sides of the river, from the ocean to a line of marshes a few miles back; this line of marshes, including a fair-sized body of water which they called Great Bay, served the invaders as a defense against the Penacook tribes, who immediately reciprocated the warlike attitude of the invaders, although they kept at peace with the Pilgrims.

        In accordance with the feudal character of the colony, Gorges and Mason proceeded to portion out the land among their agents, claiming title to and even apportioning land not in their actual possession, and making serfs out of those they brought over to work the land; chartered cities on the old English style; and generally tried to reproduce British monarchy in the land of the Penacook. The directors themselves became overlords, Mason taking the west side of the Piscataqua, and Gorges the east side. Mason called his manor New Hampshire, since he came from Hampshire County in England; while Gorges used the title Gorgeana, covering paper claims which overlapped the equally hazy claims of the French Province of Maine, the latter name now being used for that region. It was the Gorges side that had the first settlement, which was, however, on the river, so that it would be accessible to Mason's people. This, the second English settlement in the land of the Penacook, and the first officially recognized by England, received the name of Piscataqua. Shortly after this, further eastward, the Abenake town of Ogonquit was occupied and similarly chartered as an English city. Mason's vassals, who had to cross the river frequently to get to the town of Piscataqua, soon grouped themselves on their own shore, the "strawberry bank" of the river, opposite the main city, and named their town Strawberry bank. Those three settlements still exist, though none has reached any importance. And, strange to say, not one retains its original name. Strawberry Bank is now called Portsmouth, Piscataqua is now Kittery, and Ogonquit now bears the name York.

        30. The Paumonok Islands.  South of the Penacook country is a chain of islands some two hundred-odd miles long. One of them, the island of the Manisees, a small island opposite Narrangansett Bay, was settled by a branch of the Pequots, and these came actually under the Penacook Federation. This formed a convenient division of the archipelago into two sections, the East Paumonoks, largely under Penacook influence, and the West Paumanoks, mostly under Lenape influence. The East Paumonoks are all small islands, while the West Paumonoks consist of a large island, Paumonok Island, with very small islands grouped around it. A few of these islands at the western end of the archipelago come very close to North America proper; but the fact of their having a mainland of their own off the continent has tended to isolate them more than if they had been much further from North America, like the East Paumonoks. The East Paumonoks, accordingly, have tended to go their own way in somewhat different channels from North America itself, although they claimed connection with America, and actually influenced neighboring parts of the mainland, especially the lower Shatemuck valley and the Keskeskeck peninsula, which are close to the island of Manhattan, at the western end of the archipelago. The insular character of developments in this region, and their tendency to keep separate from North America, have been as noticeable under white domination as before; the West Paumonoks actually being in closer contact with Europe than America.

        It may be recalled that the Island of Manhattan, at the west end of this archipelago, was the place where liquor was first introduced to the people of this part of the world; and it was on this island that the Dutch West India Company established a small trading post in 1614.

        It was the Paumonok Islands, particularly the West Paumonoks, that were invaded in 1626 by a Dutch colony, which first took possession of the Lenape town of Communipaw on the mainland west of the islands, the main part of the colony moving over to Manhattan and settling there, under the control and influence of the West India Company's trading post. The Manhattan tribe freely gave the Dutch permission to live at the lower end of the island, receiving in exchange a small amount of rum and other miscellaneous articles; which transaction the Dutch interpreted as purchase of the island, or (according to one version) as much of the island as could be covered by a bull's hide, the area being magnified by cutting the hide into strips. This town settled by the Dutch in Manhattan was named Nieuw Amsterdam. The Dutch were not content with the town space, though, but insisted on taking possession of the whole Shatemuck valley and all the Paumonok islands, and even claimed locations on the Connecticut River and the Delaware River. The Paumonok Islands were explored, and some of them actually invaded, and new names were given to them; thus, Aquehonga, at the southwesterly end of the chain of islands, was named after the Staten-General (States General, or Parliament) of Holland, and called Staten Eylandt; the island of Paumonok itself was called Longe Eylandt (Long Island); while Captain Block, who explored the East Paumonoks, named the island of Manisees, the Pequot island, for himself, while he took possession of part of an island to the east, which he named Martin Wyngaards Eylandt; he also sighted the island of Aquidneck, at the south of Narragansett Bay, and named it Roode Eylandt (Red Island).

        In taking possession of the Shatemuck River (now named after Henry Hudson, whose alleged "discovery" was the basis on which the Dutch claimed their right to the valley), it was attempted to organize on the basis of European feudal institutions, by giving large grants of lands to "patroons" who could provide for themselves tenants in feudal-manor style, with a purchase from the red men. The latter requirement, though, was usually evaded by any sort of document purporting to be an "Indian deed," and which the Reds themselves considered an offering of hospitality rather than a sale of landindeed, they were totally unable to understand sales. Thus the Hudson River was lined with manors,all the way up to Nieuw Rotterdam (formerly the Iroquois town of Skanetade, now Albany). The power of the "patroons" had to be modified, though, in view of its inconsistency with the institutions of the surrounding Ganowanian nations.

        The red people from Manhattan Island crossed to the mainland, where a treaty was made with the Dutch, and the place was therefore called the Pipe of Peacein their language, Hoboken. But soon after that, the Dutch governor, Kieft, sent his men out there one night and massacred the entire population. Few of them escaped, but they spread the story of what had been done, and this did much to antagonize all the remaining tribes against all the white settlers. Shortly after, Nieuw Amsterdam erected a double palisade for defense against its now enraged red neighbors, and this remained for some time the northern limit of the Dutch city. The space between the former walls is now called Wall Street, and its spirit is still that of a bulwark against the people. 

        31. Growth of the Pilgrim Colony.  In the fall of 1621, shortly after the formation of the Penacook Federation, the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth celebrated the anniversary of their sighting American land, by a three-day festival of thanks for the favorable turn of affairsbut the thanks was not given to the Wampanoags, who were really resonsible. However, many of the Wampanoags were invited to Plymouth to share in its festival, and the Pilgrim celebration was merged with the old Wampanoag harvest festival.

        In the meantime the Mayflower, the ship which had brought the Pilgrims over, had returned to England, and it brought over more colonists in the various voyages it made in the next few years. These were mostly religious refugees of the same persuasion as the Pilgrims. Thus more towns were founded in Wampanoag territory, and the Pilgrim civil government, which now began to fashion itself much after the Penacook pattern, though retaining its church connection, extended over a wider territory than before. But, as it was an outlaw government of and by refugees, England persistently refused to recognize it.

        Yet English authorities did see a value in letting their heretics go to Penacook shores, and, after a few years, a few criminals were put on the ship with the religious refugees. When they landed at Plymouth, these were unable to get along peacefully with the Pilgrims, and formed their own town far to the north of the colony, capturing the Masadchu town of Wessauguscus and settling there. (This settlement is now the town of Weymouth, and that part of the town is now known as Wessagusset.) Their quarrels with the tribes, including many cases of cheating, robbery, and murder, strained relations considerably between Plymouth and Penacook, although all disputes were ultimately settled. In this case, Passaconaway himself used his influence for peace with the Pilgrims, though the Federation was at the same time conducting a war against New Hampshire and Georgeana.

        32. The Puritan Invasion.  In 1638 there came another group of what we may call semi-refugees, in a somewhat different spirit from the Pilgrims. They were from a dissenting sect within the Church of England, considered in England as undesirable, and who also suffered persecution, though not as much as the Pilgrims. And, though they were substantially refugees, they were still sent under a chartered company of their own formation, called the Massachusetts Bay Company, with a grant of land similar to that of Gorges and Mason, covering the north shore of Massachusetts Bay and extending westward indefinitely. Thus they were religious refugees, but differed from the Pilgrims in that the Puritans came claiming rights to the land from the English crown like their neighbors to the north. Thus the Penacook Federation could only treat them as part and parcel of the Piscataqua colonies which had been the Federation's enemies since 1621.

        The Puritans, with their charter, brought over the proprietary institutions of the Eastern Hemisphere, as well as the prejudices and intolerance common to Europe of that day. There is one impression current that the Puritans came over to Massachusetts Bay in search of religious tolerance; and another, more widespread impression, contradicting the first, that the Puritans were the embodiment of the worst possible intolerance. Neither of these impressions is correct; the Puritans left England for a chance to develop their own sect, and, like all Europeans of that time, they had not the slightest conception of the idea that religious beliefs other than their own could or should be tolerated. Therefore, on the shores of Massachusetts Bay, they followed the regular English tradition by persecuting dissenters in much the same way as they themselves had been persecuted in England. But we shall see that the new country, and their contacts with the Penacook Federation, had much to do with lightening persecution of dissenters in New England, as compared to England itself, or as compared to other English colonies such as Virginia.

        Massachusetts Bay, the Bay of Masadchu (the Great Hill, now the Blue Hill), was picked for settlement as being located conveniently between the two sets of English colonies already established on the Penacook eastern coastthe Pilgrim towns to the south, and the Piscataqua settlements to the north. The first Puritan vanguard did not go in to the head of the bay, but found a harbor on the north shore, in Saugus territory, not far from the mouth of the bay, and about halfway between New Hampshire and Pilgrim outposts. There they landed, at the Saugus town of Naumkeag. The little army of invaders took possession of the town and drove out its inhabitants; having thus "pacified" the place, they settled there, and gave the town the biblical name of Salem, meaning peace! The town of Salem thus continued for some years, constantly on the watch against attack by the united nations of the Penacook country, while the Puritans started other outposts in Saugus country.

        33. The Puritans and their Neighbors.  As the Puritan settlement had been on the coast between the feudal manor of New Hampshire on one side and the outlaw refugee colony of Plymouth on the other, so the situation of the Puritan people was also between these twothe chartered and proprietary system of the Piscataqua valley on one hand, and the refugee dissenters on the other. The tie of religious dissension bound them to the Pilgrims, while the more tangible one of hostility to the native nations of the country linked them to the Mason-Gorges estates on the north. The Puritans needed communication with both neighbors, and, strange to say, Penacook couriers generally handled this function. The Penacook nations were enemies of both Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire colonies, but the neutrality of the couriers enabled them to keep up intercommunication, even after the courier road between Salem and Strawberry Bank was captured by the Puritans in 1630. Communication by water was also established, which had the advantage of not depending on the Penacook Federation.

        The Puritans had just as much difficulty as the Pilgrims in establishing a new society in a strange land, since they too had no share in government back in England; therefore could not know how to conduct the administration of a community. And the Puritans did not have the advantage that the Pilgrims had, in receiving direct instructions from the red men. This was partly solved by the establishment of communications with the Pilgrim colony. Delegations were sent by the Puritans to Plymouth to observe how things were organized there. And the result was an almost complete adoption of the system of organization that the Pilgrims had worked out as their adaptation of what the Wampanoags had taught them of American institutions. Thus the Massachusetts Puritans democratized their church and government; cut loose from the Church of England, to which they had formerly claimed allegiance; and in general they reorganized as close to the red men's model as their traditions of religion and property would permit. As with the Pilgrims, the democratized church government was made the basis of civil government, the towns being ruled by congregation meetings, which were an adaptation of the local assemblies of the Penacook nations, and which grew into the modern New England town meetings. The colony had a "General Court" of representatives of these meetings, which corresponded largely to the national council of the member nations of the Penacook Federation.

        After the Bay Colony captured the northward Saugus courier route (renamed the Bay Road), settlement spread to the northward. Religious dissenters from the Puritan colony, who had to put up with considerable persecution from the authorities, crossed the Merrimac and settled in Mason's territory of New Hampshire, and established locally their own governments on the Puritan model there. Such towns as Dover, Hampton, and Exeter, were founded in this way, and even old Strawberry Bank, Mason's own settlement, was flooded with Puritan refugees, hence acquiring a town meeting on the Puritan model. Although they were in Mason's territory, they had their own government, and ignored Mason's overlordship as established from England; they set up a rival government, based on rule by town meetings, and an established church, which was actually a dissenting offshoot of the main Puritan church. The key to the history of colonial New Hampshire is found in the existence of these two rival political organizations.

        34. The Head of Massachusetts Bay.  We have seen that the head of Massachusetts Bay was a center of population for the Penacook nations. This made it really the enemy capital for the Puritans.

        At that point a number of peninsulas meet, jutting out from different directions towards a common harbor; behind these peninsulas is a wide region of rolling ground which formerly was the head of the bay when sea level was higher than at present. This forms a valley broken by many hills, and enclosed on three sides by much higher ground at a radius of from ten to fifteen miles, the fourth side being the bay itself. This made an excellent junction for both land and water courier and communication routes, coming down the various peninsulas and rivers to the harbor; it was also an excellent junction point for the various tribes coming down from these different peninsulas and meeting at the head of the bay. It was also just such a port as both whites and reds would desire to possess. The entire valley could, if requisite, hold about eight million people—about as many as North America contained at that time, and possibly at least as many as there were then in the whole of Europe.

        At the head of the bay there were three promontories, each occupied by a different tribe of the Penacook Federation. The northern one of these promontories was an eminence with a Saugus outpost called Winnisimmet. The central promontory had a hill with two peaks—or two hills connected by a ridge—on the southern slope of which was an Okamakammesset town named Mishawum. On the southern promontory, there was a triple hill among whose slopes nestled the Massachuset settlement of Shawmut, the headquarters of the eastern district of the Federation, and a convenient point for the gathering of the tribes.

        This region, then, both as representing the inner harbor at the head of the bay and as being the enemy's local headquarters, was the objective of the Puritan drive. In 1630 they advanced on Winnisimmet and destroying it, crossing over to the next promontory and capturing Mishawum. This was taken over and settled by the Puritans, who named it, after King Charles, Charlestown; they also gave the name Charles to the river separating this settlement from the Shawmut peninsula, which was their final objective; and Charlestown served as a temporary attacking headquarters.

        Towards the end of 1630, the Massachuset forces holding the Shawmut peninsula for the Penacook Federation, retired to Nonantum, some six miles westward, leaving the ground open for the attackers to come in. A Puritan named William Blaxton (sometimes called Blackstone), who had previously been allowed to farm the council grounds, welcomed the attackers to Shawmut, but insisted that his farm was really public property, and ultimately donated it for that purpose, thus continuing the use of the old Penacook council ground for some of the Penacook spirit of liberty.

        The town on the triple hill was thus occupied by the Puritans. After the occupation of the headquarters of the eastern section of the Federation, it put the invaders in control of the terminals and junctions of the Penacook peoples' most important communication lines, after which the Penacook Federation fought a long losing fight. At this time the directors of the Massachusetts Bay Company moved from England over to the Massachusetts Bay Colony; an elective system for the chartered proprietors completed the democratic framework for Puritan government, and removed the last trace of feudal proprietorship as such in Massachusetts. The government of the Puritans was then moved to Shawmut, which the Puritans called Tremont (actually copied from a Cornish name, but interpreted as Trimountain, referring to the triple peak on the peninsula).

        35. The Iroquois Alliance.  The League of the Hodenosaunee (the Iroquois), the original federation, who, as we have seen, were forced back from the Quinnitucket in 1621, soon got news of the defeat of their former victors, and made overtures to the Puritans for an alliance. Strangely enough, the messages were carried through Penacook territory by Penacook couriers, showing how far the red men carried the neutrality of the courier system. The Puritans establishing a capital at the former eastern district headquarters of the Penacooks was a decisive factor; this was now too useful an alliance for the Iroquois to miss, and in 1634 a treaty of alliance was concluded between the Hodenosaunee and the officials of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as representatives of the British crown. The Iroquois have remained allies of England to the present time, and it is partly this alliance that placed Great Britain in its present position of importance in the world.

        Following the Puritan occupation of the Shawmut peninsula, and co-ordinate with negotiations for Iroquois alliance, new fortifications were established around Tremont, as the Shawmut peninsula was now called; thus the Puritans started towns like Roxbury, guarding the land approach to the Shawmut peninsula, and Newton, the terminus of the federal courier route which continued to the Iroquois main route. Other towns were established around the head of the bay by the Puritans, including Pequonsette, originally recognized by the Penacooks as neutral because it was a relay station on the courier route, but later turned into a military station of the Puritans. The governor and directors of the colony, just come over from England, apparently objected to the Penacook names of some of the Puritan towns (the name Shawmut still being used largely instead of the newer name Tremont), and these newcomers from England preferred to use purely English names of towns, so it was ordered that the names should be changed from Shawmut to Boston, from Pequonsette to Watertown, and from Metapan to Dorchester. When the alliance was concluded with the Iroquois, it was the treaty of Boston, or of "Waston," as the Iroquois called it.

        After this, the Penacook Federation considered the war impossible to continue further. Passaconaway, who had been among the most enthusiastic leaders of the war, was now urging peace, though many of the council members objected, seeing the real nature of English settlement as deliberate invasion of Penacook country. But peace was arranged, although some tribes of the Federation, such as the Okamakammessets, Piscataquas, and Pequots, denounced the peace as a betrayal of the people of the Federation and their liberties; and subsequent events showed that they were right.

 

See also:   Communipaw     Continuity News #2, #7     Lessons on Social Continuity

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