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The Tribes and the States

W. J. Sidis




        39. Federation on the Quinnitucket.  We have seen that there were Puritan settlements sent out from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Nipmuck shores of the Quinnitucket River, and some of these settlements were located on the west bank of the river, so as to be beyond Penacook interference. Similarly, the isolated fort of Windsor was set up at the end of the Puritan-Penacook war, but it never was actually controlled by the coast colonies. Just below it, the Dutch, who claimed east to the Quinnitucket, established an outpost just below Windsor, called Fort Goed Hoep (Good Hope), and some Dutch farms started in operation in the neighborhood.

         In 1636, a group of Puritan settlers, starting out to form a new Puritan colony on the east bank of the Quinnitucket, kept to the south of the lands claimed by Massachusetts under its charter, and headed for the neighborhood of the English and Dutch forts. A large emigration started from the Massachusetts Bay region towards the Quinnitucket River. A town was established around the Windsor fort; then the Dutch fort was swooped down on and captured by the Puritan pioneers, and formed into a Puritan town by the name of Hartford. The next wave of Puritan emigration settled just below Hartford, forming another town which they named Wethersfield.

         Each of these three towns was governed by a meeting of its residents, following the model that the Wampanoags had taught the Pilgrims. Though the colonists knew very little of the red men, their leader, Hooker, was certainly in contact with the Penacook tribes; besides which he also continued the old Mohican alliance arranged by the old Windsor garrison. On Hooker’s suggestion, the three towns formed a federation partly on the Penacook model, the first to be attempted outside the red tribes. This federation was called the Connecticut Compact (Connecticut being the Anglisized form of the name of the river, Quinnitucket). The Mohicans seem to have called the river Quonectucket, the Pine Tree River (probably the river’s original name, linking up with the Pine-Tree totem of the Penacooks), while the Penacook nations―probably out of respect to their emblem―changed the name to Quinnitucket, the Long River. This is evidently the reason why the name Connecticut is spelled one way and pronounced the other, there being a silent "c" in the name. And, by bearing that name, the new white federation of town meetings in a way put itself under the protection of the Penacook emblem of liberty, the Pine Tree.

"But still for their own freedom the whites kept up the fight, 
Preserved in old New England the spirit of the right.
And, plans of joining councils from red men taking o’er
First formed in fed’ral union on Quinnitucket’s shore."

        40. The Pequot War.  The new Puritan settlements on the Quinnitucket meant that supply ships coming up the river were now more frequent than ever. The seceded Pequot nation insisted on its privilege of examining the passing ships, and would let them pass as soon as they were satisfied the ship was on a peaceful errand. But belligerent traders were not lacking, and, in 1637, several were shot after they had opened fire on the Pequot inspectors. News of this reached the Connecticut colony, and Connecticut issued a declaration of war against the Pequot nation on Friday, May 1, 1637. The Pequots refused to return the declaration, but prepared for their own defense. Two of their towns, including their capital Poquonock, were surrounded with palisades in imitation of the type of defense used in the English fortified villages. And, thus heavily fortified according to the latest style they acquired from their enemies, they waited for the next move.

        An attempt was made to secure the aid of the Penacook Federation, and envoys were sent to the southern district meeting of the Federation at Pawcatuck for that purpose. Such an alliance might have saved both the Pequots and the Penacook Federation; but it was not to be. Roger Williams also came to the council at Pawcatuck, to persuade the Federation to take the Puritan side against the Pequots, which the Penacook tribes refused to do, even though the Pequots had seceded from the Federation. Passaconaway, the Bashaba of the Federation, sent his envoys also to Pawcatuck to plead for peace and neutrality. Passaconaway’s influence prevailed, and none of the Federation tribes interfered, although the Penacook nations managed to store up considerable resentment against the English intruders.

        On Saturday, May 23, an expedition started out from Hartford, led by a Captain Mason and a preacher named Stone. They went by water down the river, and eastward along the seacoast, looking for the Pequot fort of Poquonock, which they reached on the morning of the 25th. The alarm cry of "owanux!" (white men) was at once raised in Poquonock, and the loopholes of the palisades were quickly manned with Pequot archers who quite effectively kept the Connecticut raiding expedition at a distance. Then Mason brought into effect a new bit of strategy hitherto totally unknown in American warfare. The Connecticut army circled round Poquonock at a safe distance, out of bowshot range, and, as they marched round the fort, they kept hurling firebrands into it. The town of Poquonock was set on fire, driving all the inhabitants out into the open, where they were shot down as they came out. Thus Mason’s troops killed all the inhabitants of Poquonock, men, women, and children; only five survivors escaped from this town, and they, after somehow gaining the cover of the woods, reached the neighboring tribes, and quickly spread the story of the correct method of attacking such forts as the whites used.

        Mason and Stone’s expedition then left for the Pequot island of Manisees, called Block Eylandt by the Dutch, and there the Connecticut army massacred all the inhabitants without exception in cold blood. Then came the return to Hartford, where expeditions were organized to kill off all surviving Pequots. To enlist the aid of all individuals wandering in the woods, a reward was offered for bringing Pequot heads into Hartford. Both white and red men tried for the reward, including many Mohicans and even a few stray members of Penacook tribes who had by this time learned that white men’s money could get "fire-water." The red men, however, refused to be burdened with heads, and, understanding that the heads were wanted merely for evidence, brought in the scalps instead, and earned the reward of betrayal. Thus was introduced into the warfare of America, both on the part of reds and whites, the custom of scalping enemies, which, in later wars, was to spread over the continent, and which was always done mainly for pecuniary reward, a motive unknown to the red peoples of the northeast before that time.

        A few Pequots escaped to the Narragansetts, a few to the Mohicans, and some to other Penacook tribes, and were adopted into those nations, where they added to the resentment against the English. Connecticut took very few prisoners, preferring to massacre on sight; the few prisoners who were taken were sold into slavery in the Bahamas. By the end of June, 1637, the Pequot tribe as such had ceased to exist, and its territory was occupied by the Connecticut colony. The first Connecticut settlement in this region was Poquonock itself, rebuilt and renamed Stonington after Rev. Stone, one of the leaders of the expedition.

        Thus perished a people in a fight for freedom against a powerful enemy, leaving in their scattered survivors sparks which could keep the flame of resentment smoldering. The Okamakammessets particularly kept up this spirit of resentment against the Whites’ brutal and tyrannical methods. The anniversary of the declaration of the Pequot War, May 1, was used as a day of remembrance of White tyranny by this tribe, as well as by the Mohicans, who received their share of Pequot survivors.

         41. Puritan Re-Migration.  During the ten years 1628-1638, a veritable flood of incoming settlers overwhelmed the Penacook territory. During that time about 50,000 settlers came over across the ocean into that country, and, had it not been for the property institution, they might have found plenty of room in a few of the many available ports of the Penacook coast. But the white men’s property institutions made it difficult for both them and their neighbors. The first comers in any of the white towns immediately apportioned the lands among themselves, and that automatically made matters difficult for later arrivals. If the new arrival was rich enough, he might possibly buy portions of the land; but otherwise the new arrival was obliged to either become a servant, or move in beyond the established settlements. A few "indentured servants" (short-term slaves, working out the price of passage to America, or serving sentences pronounced in England) were sent over, though Virginia and Maryland received most of these; and, in the same way, these indentured servants when their terms were over, had to either continue in service or move inland. This unnecessarily forced expansion of the white colonies naturally caused greater pressure on the Penacook peoples, and made it harder than ever to keep peace. The Pequot War was one of the results of this situation.

         To ease this pressure, the Penacooks figured on ways and means of sending their inconvenient neighbors on some war-path that would take them to distant parts―preferably to send the undesirable immigrants back to the land from which they came. The Penacooks knew that the Puritans, Pilgrims, and Red Island colonists were all refugees from a distant country with whose government they had a quarrel, but to which they still claimed allegiance. And so, what better than to send these people back over the ocean to take possession of their own country, and give it the benefit of their American experience? It is difficult to see how this idea was passed on so successfully to the whites in the Penacook country, but doubtless the constant communication between the Penacooks and white settlers made it easy to pass along the idea, and, after the Pequot War, there began a serious exodus of Puritans from America back to England. Not that immigration of Puritans and others to the Penacook coast stopped; but far more crossed the ocean eastward than westward.

         Among the immigrants back to England was Roger Williams himself. He went back to England in 1638, presumably to secure for his colony a charter similar to that which the Massachusetts Bay colony had. He actually did get a charter containing the same religious tolerance provision imposed by the Penacook federation as a condition for his occupancy. This charter, however, also took in Anne Hutchinson’s colony, ousting her from all authority on the island ceded to her by the Narragansetts, so that ultimately political difficulties with Williams forced her out of the Narragansett region into the Dutch settlements. Roger Williams’ charter consolidated both Narragansett Bay colonies under the combined title of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (Rhode Island being Mrs. Hutchinson’s colony, and Providence Plantations being Williams’ colony); this is still the official title of the state more commonly known as Rhode Island. Both Providence and Newport were seats of government for the combined colony; and Rhode Island continued to have two capitals till 1900.

         42. Puritan Revolt in England.  But Roger Williams had another mission in England on that occasion. The Puritan re-migration constituted essentially a revolutionary army gradually infiltrating into England from America, and carrying on the work of bringing in the new and revolutionary ideas into England, not as ideas imported from America (for that would have been simply inducements to migrate to America, and might lead to the rational inquiry as to why these persons had returned if things were so ideal in America), but in the guise of ideas native to England, and based on English traditions. Since it required that there should be an English leader, not a returned American pioneer, Roger Williams impressed his cousin, Oliver Cromwell, into service for that purpose.

         Under Cromwell’s leadership, a revolt was organized against the British monarchy. Although the revolt was primarily instigated by the Puritans gradually pouring into England from the Penacook region, and bringing Penacook ideas back with them, the English Puritans who had stayed home were also taken into the army, so that a general revolt was gradually organized. In 1649, after a civil war of many years, King Charles was captured and beheaded by the rebels, and the monarchy was overthrown in favor of a new regime headed by Cromwell, and called Commonwealth.

         The revolt, in many ways, such as the ideas of religious tolerance, the red color of its banner (red, in the case of the Penacook Federation, standing for the red race of America), and in making some false starts towards overthrowing the feudal system in favor of the new economic order that was crystallizing in New England as the result of the mixture of English and Penacook institutions, indicated its American origin. Yet, though the connection is obviously there, though the ideas were brought back from America by the re-migration, and though Penacook ideas of civil liberties were brought out by this revolt in England, there was no attempt to present the ideas as American in origin. Rather there was an attempt to present all these new ideas living up to English traditions. Even civil liberties, unknown in England, were so interpreted by a judicious explanation of Magna Carta. For instance, the best known passage in Magna Carta at present is the passage which was translated at that time, for rebel propaganda purposes, as "Let no free man be taken or imprisoned, save by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers"; whereas the original Latin text would rather indicate that it was the judgment of "the peers" rather than "his peers" that was indicated.

         The revolt not merely brought back to England some American ideas and introduced them there; it also gave the new economic system of America, the capitalist system, a first foothold in England, from where it later spread to the rest of Europe. The Puritan revolution in England, for instance, broke down the old guild organizations whereby trade and manufacture were monopolized by hereditary groups in a class known under the feudal system as the burghers or the bourgeois, and left those fields open for anyone who had the necessary capital; but nevertheless, it was mainly through that old class of the feudal system that economic power was actually taken. Caste distinctions in Europe, taken over from the feudal system, have never broken down there; what resulted from this revolution giving power to the burghers, was actually an admixture of the American capitalist system, and the old feudal system, with a shifted balance of power, retaining feudal classes but breaking down to some extent their economic basis.

        This tactics of infiltration has been a characteristically American form of starting a revolution, quite consistent with the methods of secrecy used by the Reds in conducting their fights, and not at all consistent with European fighting methods which called for open encounters. This method of slowly sending in an army in disguise stamps the Puritan uprising in England as American in origin, and particularly as of Red inspiration.

        43. New Haven.  But not all the migration after the Pequot War was eastward. We have seen that Lord Say and Lord Brook were given a royal charter to possess themselves of the Mohican lands along the shore west of the Quinnitucket River. The charter was granted in 1630; but it was not until 1638, after the Pequot tribe had been massacred, that they had the courage to send over a group of Puritans to the mouth of the Quinnitucket. They landed just inside the river on the west shore (the east shore, presumably, being still tainted with Penacook influence―or maybe the charter lords were overscrupulous about staying within the charter boundaries), and the first settlement, at that point, was given the name joining the names of the two proprietors―Saybrook. But it was soon recognized that the colony would need a better harbor to maintain communications.

        This colony was different from the other Puritan colonies in many ways. In the first place, it was not in the least a refugee colony; and, in the second place, it was completely off Penacook territory, and not under Penacook influence. It was sponsored by a pair of English lords, and ruled very stringently by the church. Neither the Puritan-Penacook peace, nor Connecticut’s alliance with the Mohicans, was recognized in the new colony, which preferred to treat the Mohicans as trespassers on that land which King Charles, by divine right, had given to Lords Say and Brook.

        So, when the search for a harbor was conducted along the Mohican shore to the westward, no sooner was a good harbor found (harbors are plentiful along the North Atlantic coast) than the Mohican village of Quinnipiack, at the head of the harbor, was attacked, captured, and taken over by the invaders as headquarters for their colony. To make the appearance of an "Indian deed," a supply of junk that was worthless to both English and Mohicans was left with the red people who were driven out of Quinnipiack, as an ostensible purchase price. And, to commemorate the "discovery" of the harbor they had been looking for, the colonists named both the town and the colony New Haven.

        The system of federation of towns was copied from Connecticut, but the towns were under a strong church government, as might have been expected the original Puritan settlements would have become, had they developed under official English sanction and without the influence of the Penacook Federation. The rule of clergy, strong but yet strongly challenged in Massachusetts, weak in the Plymouth Colony, and abolished in Connecticut and Rhode Island, was supreme in the New Haven colony. Intolerance prevailed in the full form found in Europe, rather than in the milder form found in the Puritan colonies which came under Penacook influence.

        The New Haven coast being opposite the eastern part of the Great Paumonok Island, the northeastern portion of that island (now called Long Island) was also settled by the New Havenites, particularly those wishing to avoid the worst of clergy rule; thus that part of the North Shore of Long Island became a sort of refugee colony, but it was still an integral part of the New Haven colony, although some of those settlements joined the other federation of towns that was known as the Connecticut Colony, so that both New Haven and Connecticut colonies got a foothold on Long Island.

        Another feature of distinction between the New Haven colony and the other Puritan colonies was in the severity of laws and penalties found there. The only basis for New Haven laws was the Old Testament, and the many strict laws and penalties of stoning, etc., found in the Old Testament, were carried out to the letter in New Haven. Such severity was nothing unusual in England, where over a hundred sorts of crimes were punishable by death; or, for that matter, any other European [one line of words illegible] the laws of European countries; but the neighboring Puritan colonies considered the laws of New Haven as terrible examples of severity, as the other Puritan colonies were already used to the milder rules (which seem severe enough to us) that resulted from imperfect absorption of Penacook ideas. The New Haven colony, consisting largely of loyal and zealous Puritans sent out of England largely so they should not come in contact with the rebel element filtering in, had none of the rebel characteristics found in the remaining New England colonies, and so New Haven remained loyal to the Stuarts until the English Commonwealth became an accomplished fact, after which it supported the English Puritans with equally blind devotion. The New Haven laws, thus noted in New England for their unusual severity, were published in volumes colored blue (the Stuart colors), and came to be known throughout New England as the "Blue Laws." And, ever since, the phrase "Blue Laws" meant laws of unusual severity.


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