Page images

with no retaliation, but that Mr. Williams and his colony steadily employed their influence to appease the ire of the savages, and to protect their countrymen.

A war soon commenced between Miantinomo and Uncas, the Mohegan sachem. In 1637, Miantinomo made an agreement with the government of Massachusetts, not to fight, without their consent, with any of the Indians, and particularly not to invade Uncas. In the next year, there was a tripartite agreement made at Hartford, between Miantinomo, Uncas and the English, in which it was stipulated, that those sachems should not make war on each other, for any alleged injuries, without an appeal to the English. In the spring of the year 1643, an attempt, it was said, was made to assassinate Uncas, by a Pequod Indian, one of his subjects, and it was suspected that he was incited to this act by Miantinomo. Other attempts, it is alleged, were made to take the life of Uncas, and in the same year, the two sachems came to open war. Miantinomo, with one thousand Narraganset warriors, attacked Uncas, in August, 1643, but was defeated and taken prisoner, though the force of Uncas was only three or four hundred. Miantinomo had a coat of mail, or corslet, with which, it has been said, without sufficient proof, he was furnished by Mr. Gorton. Uncas carried his prisoners to Hartford, at the suggestion of Mr. Gorton,* who wished to save his friend, and therefore wrote to Uncas, threatening him with the resentment of the English, if he did not surrender the captive.

At Hartford, Miantinomo was imprisoned, and application was made to the Commissioners of the United Colonies, at their session at Boston, September, 1643, to determine his fate. The Commissioners thought, that they could neither release him with safety, nor justly put him to death. But they called in to their aid “five of the most judicious elders,”+ and these ministers of the Gospel soon agreed, that the unhappy chief ought to die. This answer was accordingly returned, and Miantinomo was delivered to Uncás, who carried him within his own territories, and

* Mr. Williams was absent, having sailed for England in June or July preceding. Had he been in the country, he would certainly have used his influence in favor of Miantinomo.

+ Winthrop, vol. ii. p. 131.

there butchered him. The government at Hartford sent twelve or fourteen soldiers with Uncas, as a guard to protect him from the rage of the Narragansets.

This transaction has been defended, on the grounds, that Miantinomo was at the head of a general conspiracy against the English, that he had violated the agreement made at Hartford, and that he was of a turbulent spirit. Other charges were alleged against him; but it is not easy to convince a reader of the present day, that the death of the sachem was either deserved or necessary. That the ministers of the Gospel doomed him to death, while the civilians could hesitate, is remarkable. It is another proof of the danger of permitting the clerical and civil functions to interfere with each other. The clergymen probably treated the case of Miantinomo as a religious question. These good men, we may fear, were misled by that propensity, to which we have before alluded, to regard the events of Jewish history as authoritative precedents. They, perhaps, viewed Miantinomo as a heathen conspirator against the people of God, and deemed him worthy of the fate of Agag. But we turn away, with a sigh, from this melancholy subject, by quoting the words of a distinguished citizen of Providence.* 6. This was the end of Miantinomo, the most potent Indian prince the people of NewEngland had ever any concern with; and this was the reward he received for assisting them, seven years before, in their war with the Pequods. Surely a Rhode Island man may be permitted to mourn his unhappy fate, and drop a tear on the ashes of Miantinomo, who, with his uncle Canonicus, were the best friends and greatest benefactors the colony ever had. They kindly received, fed and protected the first settlers of it, when they were in distress, and were strangers and exiles, and all mankind else were their enemies; and, by this kindness to them, drew



6. With pro

* Gov. Hopkins' History of Providence, 2 His. Col. ix. 202. See note to Winthrop, vol. ii. 133, where Mr. Savage says: found regret, I am compelled to express a suspicion, that means of sufficient influence would easily have been found for the security of themselves, the pacifying of Uncas, and the preservation of Miantinomo, had he not encouraged the 'sale of Shawomet and Pawtuxet to Gorton and his heterodox associates."

the resentment of the neighboring colonies, and hastened the untimely death of the young king."

But let us remember, that it is not easy to judge fairly of the conduct of our fathers. We cannot feel, as they did, the exigencies of their situation. They were weak, and surrounded with powerful tribes, to whom rumor and fear constantly attributed the design to unite in a general conspiracy for the destruction of the English. Miantinomo was suspected, probably without sufficient evidence, of an ambitious purpose to be the head of such a league. The colonists, perhaps, thought themselves justified, by the right of self-preservation, in putting to death the aspiring chief, before he could mature his plans, and execute his purpose.

We must now return to Mr. Williams. The settlements at Providence and on Rhode Island had continued to increase, for several years. They had hitherto been distinct, but their principles and interests were so similar, that an alliance as one colony became manifestly expedient. The necessity of a charter, from the government of England, was apparent, to protect them from the encroachments of the other colonies, and to give a sanction and authority to their government. A committee was appointed, at an assembly in Newport, September 19, 1642, with instructions to procure a charter. This committee intrusted the agency to Mr. Williams, who, on behalf of that colony and his own, agreed to visit England on this important errand.*

He accordingly left his family, and proceeded to Manhattoes, (New-York) to embark for England. It would have been more convenient and agreeable to sail from Boston, but Mr. Williams was not permitted to enter the territories of Massachusetts, notwithstanding the good service which he had performed for them in their hour of need. But at Manhattoes, he had an opportunity to use his influ

* In his letter to Major Mason, Mr. Williams says: “Upon frequent exceptions against Providence men, that we had no authority for civil government, I went purposely to England, and, upon my report and petition, the Parliament granted us a charter of govern. ment for these parts, so judged vacant on all hands. And upon this, the country about was more friendly, and wrote to us, and treated us as an authorized colony, only the differences of our consciences much obstructed."

ence with the savages, and to display his pacific principles. A war had been provoked, by the wanton cruelty of the Dutch, and the Indians assailed them with great fury. They burnt several houses in the neighborhood of Manhattoes, and killed several persons, among whom was Mrs. Hutchinson, with all but one of her family. The Indians on Long-Island engaged in the war, and burnt several of the Dutchmen's houses. They assaulted the dwelling of Lady Moody, who not long before had left Salem, in consequence of her Baptist principles.* Mr. Williams immediately interceded, and, by his mediation, the Indians were pacified, and peace was restored between them and the Dutch. This event, according to Winthrop, occurred in June, 1643, and we thus learn the date of Mr. Williams' first embarkation for England, which must have taken place soon after.

Backus, vol. i. p. 148. Winthrop places Lady Moody's removal from Salem after Mr. Williams' mediation with the Long Island Indians. He speaks respectfully of her character before her lapse into the heresy of denying infant baptism : “ The Lady Moody, a wise and anciently religious woman, being taken with the error of deny: ing baptism to infants, was dealt withal by many of the elders and others, and admonished by the church of Salem, (whereof she was a member) but persisting still, and to avoid further trouble, she removed to the Dutch, against the advice of all her friends. Many others, infected with anabaptism, removed thither also. She was after excommunicated.” Winthrop, vol. ii. pp. 123–4.


Mr. Williams' first visit to England-Key to the Indian languages

charter_birth of Mr. Williams' youngest child-Bloody Tenethe returns to America-reception at Boston and Providenceagain aids in preventing an Indian war.

[ocr errors]

SOME time during the summer of 1643, Mr. Williams embarked at New-York for his native land. A Dutch ship furnished him with a conveyance, which his own countrymen had denied him. Of the length and incidents of the voyage, we know nothing. The vessel, we may be sure, did not afford the sumptuous accommodations, nor pursue her course over the Atlantic with the celerity, of the packet ships of the present day.

Mr. Williams was not of a mood' to be idle, either on the land or on the ocean. He acted on the principle, so beautifully expressed in one of his books, “ one grain of time's inestimable sand is worth a golden mountain.” He has told us, that he employed his leisure, during this voyage, in preparing the materials of his Key to the Indian languages : “ I drew

the materials, in a rude lump, at sea, as a private help to my own memory, that I might not, by my present absence, lightly lose what I had so dearly bought in some few years' hardship and charges among the barbarians."*

This book, which is an honorable specimen of his talents as a writer, his industry and acuteness in collecting the words and phrases of an unwritten language, and his benevolent zeal for the welfare of the Indians, must have been nearly finished for the press during the voyage.

It was printed before the close of the year 1643, and we may suppose, that after his arrival in England, his endeavors to procure the charter, and other engagements, would leave him little leisure for writing. Of this book we shall have occasion to speak again, in a subsequent chapter, in which we shall briefly review his literary character and writings.

Mr. Williams arrived in England at a most critical period. A civil war then convulsed the nation. The misguided

* Key, p. 17.

« PreviousContinue »