The Disunited Colonies

The arrival of the royal commissioners inaugurate a brief new era in New England. Although they were but four persons without any of the paraphernalia of power except the royal seal on their commissions, they spoke and acted with the confidence of men who can summon power at need. The voices were those of Colonel Richard Nicolls, Colonel George Cartwright, Sir Robert Carr, and Samuel Maverick, but the words were those of the king of England. These were not men to shiver at a frown from Boston's magistrates or despair at the trainbands' advance. They strode into the presence of the colonial great and made demands and gave orders. They stopped the Puritan juggernaut in its tracks.

But the limit of their authority was precisely marked at the point where power ceased to be available. While New England contemplated how quickly an English fleet had conquered New Netherland, the royal commissioners were deferred to as men who might be able to summon another fleet to chastise rebellious English colonies. Stubborn Puritans dragged their heels, equivocated, evaded, quibbled, misinformed, debated, and appealed, but they pretended to be loyal, obedient subjects acting only within their rights. Others saw new opportunity opening up and hastened to ingratiate themselves with the commissioners. But when soundings indicated that the crown was indecisive and not at all willing to act forcefully—that, in short, it was bluffing—resistance firmed up, and the commissioners were recalled with their tasks unfinished.

Nevertheless they had made a difference. The "church fellowship" of the United Colonies shattered under their impact, and every colony struggled frantically on its own to stabilize its boundaries against the claims of all the others. Effects on the Indians varied. Under the crown's protection the Narragansetts got a decade of reprieve from Puritan conquest, but the Wampanoags and the inland Nipmucks, whose band and lands straddled disputed frontiers, came under intense pressure from many sides. The Wampanoags came under severe harassment from Plymouth as the leaders of that charterless colony desperately sought to extract from their client's "natural rights" every possible bit of validation for the colony's territorial claims. Ironically it was Plymouth, the weakest and least aggressive member of the Puritan confederation, whose thrashing struggles for political survival precipitated the Second Puritan Conquest.

Almost from the instant of the Restoration of Charles II, complaints had been lodged with his Privy Council against the conduct of Puritan New England. Two themes ran through these charges: that Massachusetts was denying its proper subordination to the crown and that the Puritan governments were trampling upon the rights and liberties of non-Puritans in other colonies as well as in their own. In the eyes of the crown both sorts of accusation evidenced that the Puritans had acquired too much independent power, and the crown's commissioners were instructed to whittle away at that power as much as possible without precipitating outright rebellion. In the nature of the case the royal commissioners became champions not only of royal authority but also of the rights of the multitudes, both English and Indian, whom the Puritan oligarchy had attacked and repressed. Royal concern for popular right need not be interpreted as a sudden accession of democratic humanism in the Stuart dynasty; its motivation, quite clearly, was to achieve enough popular support for the sovereign to break the power of the colonial lords with a minimum of financial and political cost. Regardless of motives, however, the immediate aims of the royal commissioners—and, to some degree, their achievements—including strengthening the "rights of Englishmen" in the colonies because, by so doing, they would strengthen the crown.

New England's historians have tended, by and large, to invert the reality. The commissioners, they have charged, were sent to destroy self-government; indeed, some have been so foolish as to equate the independent Puritan oligarchies with democracy. Especial animosity has been visited upon one commissioner, Samuel Maverick, who is portrayed as a man filled with venom against New England and eager to revenge himself upon it. It is true that Maverick had a score to pay off, for the Massachusetts oligarchy had made him one of their many victims and had driven him away in spite of his status as an Old Planter who had been established before the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay Company. But Maverick's venom is not easy to see in the actual policies he recommended when he got the attention of the crown. Here is his program as he presented it to Lord Chancellor Clarendon at the minister's request:

That all freeholders may have voats in Election of officers civill and Military.
That all persons inoffencive in life and conversation may be admitted to the sacrament of the Lords supper, and theire childeren to Baptism.
That such lawes as are now in force there, derrogatinge from the lawes of England, may be repealed.
That the oath of Allegance [to the crown] may be administered in steade of that which they tearme the oath of fidelitie [to the colonial government].
That they goe not beyond their just bounds, even those which for neare twentie years they were content withall.
That they admitt of Appeales [to the crown] on just and reasonable grounds.
That they permitt such as desire it, to use the Common prayer [of the Church of England].
That all writts etc. may be issewed out in his Majesties name.

When Massachusetts later refused to concede a single one of these measures, Maverick proposed coercive pressures directed against the more obstreperous members of the oligarchy, but the acts he suggested do not begin to compare in severity with the sentences inflicted by the oligarchy upon its own opponents.

The crown officially instructed its commissioners to establish royal authority to the extent possible, to secure liberty of conscience in all colonies as had already been guaranteed in Rhode Island, to hear appeals to the king's justice insofar as the issues involved abuse or exceeding of chartered powers, and to treat with Indian "princes." The commissioners were also emphatically instructed to disturb existing institutions and arrangements as little as possible.

Boston met the royal commissioners with adamant refusal in substance, fully visible behind a halfhearted disguise of shuffling evasion in form. As Commissioner Cartwright reported, the magistrates took the position "that they are not obliged to the King, but by civilitie," adding, "they hope to tyre the king, the lord chancelor, and the Secretary too with writing. They can esily spinne 7 yeares out with writing at that distance and before that a change may come." The other colonies distinguished themselves from Massachusett's intransigence by making haste to submit in due public form, however many reservations they kept in private. Winthrop, Jr., in Connecticut was all smiles, indirection, and amiable pleasantness. Wholly charterless Plymouth humbled itself grudgingly. But Rhode Island jubilated its subjection, and it was there among heretics, democrats, and royalists that the royal commissioners achieved solid accomplishments through unfeigned local cooperation—enough to use as a basis for pregnant constitutional propositions.

At the heart of the issues before the royal commissioners were the powers and status of the United Colonies of New England, and the hearings of inquiry opened to the king's agents a picture much different from the stories that John Winthrop, Jr., had told in London. Winthrop had there cozened the crown into recognizing the Atherton title, even to entrusting the United Colonies with authority to protect Atherton (and his silent partner Winthrop) against "certaine unreasonable and turbulent speritts of Providence Collonie." After an investigation of the whole situation in Rhode Island, the commissioners ordered otherwise. When they called sachem Pessicus to testify, he confirmed the Narragansett's deed of submission to King Charles I, which had been preserved so long by Samuel Gorton, whereupon the commissioners, as instructed, erected the Narragansett country into "The King's Province" and put it under the administration of the government of Rhode Island.

They discovered the fraud of the Atherton mortgage so incontrovertibly that John Winthrop, Jr., did not even attempt to defend it. As the commissioners reported, "Mr. Winthrop governor of Conecticot, Major Wenslo [Winslow] of New Plymoth colony were joyned together with these of the Massachusets" in "a combination (as it was afterwards confesst to be) that the Commissioners of the United Colonies, being always the cheife men of those 3 colonies, and Newhaven (for Rode island was excluded) might alwayes make orders in favour of the purchasers against Rode-island, and so they did." Winthrop, standing by, was so confounded that he could think of nothing but to pretend that his name had been used by the Atherton Company without his consent. This excuse had been disproved by a modern student who concluded that the royal commissioners were "perfectly justified" in their finding.

The commissioners struck down without equivocation the assumed authority of the Puritan confederation to warrant and conduct conquest. "No colony hath any just right to dispose of any lands conquered from the natives, unles both the cause of the conquest be just and the land lye within the bounds which the king by his charter hath given it, nor yet to exercise any authority beyond those bounds." They declared void all grants made by "the usurped authority called the United Colonyes." and Commissioner Cartwright explained to the ministry in London that by means of the confederation the Puritan colonies "took more power then was ever given, or entended them."

This was the authentic voice of the national state suppressing all powers save such as derived from itself. The royal commissioners even stepped so far out of their era as to lay down the principle of equality of right among subjects. They tackled Massachusett's Indian tenure law, with its theological distinctions of superior right for Christians justified by biblical verses. Psalms 115:16 was cited therein: "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men." For a brief moment the royal commissioners' comment sounded like a Leveler's. "'Children of men' comprehends Indians as well as English; and no doubt the country is theirs till they give it or sell it, though it be not improoved." (Suddenly the town of Hingham remembered to purchase from its Indian landlord.)

Although the benefit to the Indians was short-lived, New England began to emerge, kicking and screaming, from the politics of feudalism to the modern age. Massachusetts found ways of prolonging the transition and of thwarting the work of Charles's commissioners, and Mr. Winthrop in Connecticut obeyed royal directives by interpreting them to mean what he wanted to do; but the process of implanting royal authority had begun, and its growth was nourished in Rhode Island and in the New York that had been made from New Netherland.

The United Colonies ceased attempts at overt conquest, but it apparently launched an effort at covert conquest with some of the money that it continued to receive from England for distribution to the missions. Arms and ammunition were bought and entrusted to "the care and prudence of Mr. Eliot" for the praying Indians "upon any occasion." An occasion arose in 1669 when a large force of Indians marched from Massachusetts to attack the Mohawks, by whom they were badly beaten. John Eliot and Daniel Gookin disclaimed responsibility for the march, but the evidence is strong that they must have shared some sort of complicity, possibly under protest. The Indians were led by Josias Wompatuck, "chief ruler" of the mission town of Pakeunit, and they were not chastised upon their return. Besides all this, two governors of New York had been attempting for years to make peace between the Mohawks and all of New England's Indians, and the frustration of their efforts had not been caused by Mohawk intractability. Each time that Governor Richard Nicolls or his successor Francis Lovelace approached John Winthrop, Jr., to arrange a treaty, Winthrop evaded. At one point he came as close to outright refusal as his equivocal temperament permitted, declaring that New England's Indians actually dreaded a peace more than war. Winthrop was, without doubt, the most influential of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, and it is unlikely that he bothered to consult the Indians before he spoke for them. His conduct and language signify that the initiative for the war against the Mohawks came from the Puritan oligarchy, whose motive was to expand into the Hudson Valley by the same conquest-of-Indians techniques they were using openly in Rhode Island. (Both Massachusetts and Connecticut laid claim to territory within New York's jurisdiction.) There is some possibility that Eliot and Gookin may have dissented from a secret decision to launch their praying Indians on a particular campaign against the Mohawks, but they continued to be faithful servants of the agency from which they drew their funds.

But the Puritan confederation had become a shadow of its former self, and intermural quarrels tore at the fragile fabric of Puritan unity. The charter coup by which Connecticut had seized New Haven aroused so much wrath in the swallowed colony that a contingent of its people sailed off to New Jersey rather than submit. More immediately pertinent to our interests, Plymouth Colony became nervous about its own survival. Plymouth was willing to help the United Colonies spend the "Indian stocke" and attend to "Corporation business"—i.e., the funds and affairs of the missionary society that had made the United Colonies its agent in New England—but Plymouth had been shocked by the New Haven affair. Governor Thomas Prence wrote: "Wee find not our reason seated in sufficient Light to Continew Confeaderation with three Collonies as wee did with foure; because it is against an expresse article that noe two of the said Collonies shall become one (and wee apprehend Grounded upon good reason) except with consent of the rest; which wee doe not nor youer selves for ought wee know nor New haven except Constrained."

The rift was patched up, and the confederation rewrote its articles; but Plymouth's apprehension persisted. The only New England colony still without a royal charter, it was surrounded by border disputes on every side but the ocean. Rhode Island had won royal consent to expand to the east shore of Narragansett Bay, much against Plymouth's protests, and Massachusetts reopened the worrisome issue of its southern line. Plymouth men saw their colony being nibbled away. Who could know certainly that the rest of it might not go down in a gulp?

Somehow Plymouth never did manage to get a valid charter, and it continued to rely heavily for legality upon its protectorate over the Wampanoag Indians. So long as the Wampanoags dealt in land affairs exclusively with Plymouth, the protectorate served to convert Indian rights into colony rights, but the device required constant controls over Indian cessions. Since the Wampanoags were a free tribe, never having subjected themselves in the manner of the Massachuset tribe, and since Plymouth lacked the size and strength of her northern neighbor, controls presented difficulties. Even old sachem Massassoit, subservient though he was, occasionally plucked up courage to sell his own land at his own whim. Indeed Providence Plantations had begun when Massassoit sold off his claim (overlapping the Narragansett claim to the same land) to Roger Williams. When Massassoit died, his successor, Wamsutta, showed considerably more independence than the old chief. Fearful Plymouth learned that Wamsutta was selling territory to outsiders. Plymouth's General Court directed an emissary "to speak to Wamsitta about his estranged land, and not selling it to our collonie."

Wamsutta again asserted independence by selling to Providence after having been "spoken to," upon which defiance Plymouth resorted to more persuasive measures. Major Josiah Winslow, a worthy scion of his sire, Edward, took a small party of armed men to surprise Wamsutta at one of the Indians' hunting stations. Pointing a pistol at the sachem's breast, Winslow told him (as reported by William Hubbard) "that if he stirred or refused to go he was a dead man." It happened that Wamsutta was sick. Hubbard says he became sick on the way to Plymouth town, because of hot weather and choleric pride, but that alibi—so neatly tailored to the myth of the ferocious and irrational savage—fits badly into the circumstances. Wamsutta had lived in the open all his life and was certainly as accustomed as any of Winslow's Englishmen to traveling in hot weather, but he was so badly incapacitated that Winslow became worried and soon turned him loose. Wamsutta died "before he got half way home." Notably, not a word of all this found its way into the official records, although there was considerable indignation even the official records, although there was considerable indignation even among Englishmen over Winslow's brutality. Years later Hubbard felt obliged to denounce "false reports as if the English had compelled [Wamsutta] to go further or faster than he was able." The proof of falsity? It was not to be imagined "that a person of so noble a disposition" as Winslow's could be "uncivil to a person allied to them, by his own, as well as his father's league." It would seem that Hubbard included in his definition of admirable civility the threat to shoot Wamsutta on the spot for noncompliance with an ultimatum.

Wamsutta's brother Metacom succeeded to the sachemship. We know him more familiarly as Philip, the name he asked for as a compliment to the English. (But that request was made before the death of his brother, who had also requested an English name and had been dubbed Alexander) Plymouth lost little time in bringing Philip to terms. Wamsutta's death had occurred sometime after June 8, 1664. Philip was haled to Plymouth town on August 6, on the pretext of "danger of the rising of the Indians against the English." A harried Philip remembered his brother and groveled. He "absolutely" denied conspiring and proffered another brother as hostage "untill the Court could have more sertainty of the truth of his defence." For once Plymouth was totally uninterested in hostages—a fact that implies much about the truth of its charges. What Plymouth did want was a contract that Philip would never again convey lands to any person, by gift, sale, or otherwise, "without our privity, consent, or appointment." Having gained that end, the General Court sent Philip back home.

There is reason to believe that Philip was deceived about what he signed. The document pledged him without limit of time, which was surely not what he understood it to say. Within six months after signing he dictated a letter that reviewed his understanding, and no one at Plymouth corrected him. In his letter he remarked, "Philip would in treat that favor of you, and aney of the majestrats, if aney English or Engians speak about aney land, he preay you to give them no ansewer at all. This last sumer he maid that promis with you, that he would not sell no land in 7 years time, for that he would have no English trouble him before that time, he has not forgot that you promis him."

It must be stressed that Philip was still a "free" sachem in 1662. His treaty pledged subjection to the king of England, but not to Plymouth. That distinction acquired peculiar force when Rhode Island gained its royal charter in 1663, for the charter put Philip's home village within Rhode Island's boundaries. Called variously Sowams, Pokanoket, and Mount Hope (now Bristol, Rhode Island), this small "neck" of land became the tinder that set all New England in flames. By the accepted rules Indian tribes came under the protectorate of the colony whose charter embraced their territory, and Rhode Island claimed that "the native Indians" wanted to be "within this jurisdiction," but Plymouth refused to let go of Philip. Instead Plymouth challenged Rhode Island's charter, and a struggle set in that was only intensified when Charles II wrote, in 1666, to say that the bounds set by his commissioners were to stand until his final royal determination—particularly "the present temporary bound sett by the Commissioners between the Collonies of New Plymouth and Rhode Island, until his Majestie shall find cause to alter the same." Instead of quieting Plymouth, the letter merely aroused hope and desire to provide the indicated cause.

As to what then happened, it is regrettably necessary to omit much detail. In brief, all the New England colonies reopened all their boundary claims, and the competition in the deed game became fiercer than ever. The Narragansett country continued to be a cockpit of struggle as Connecticut attempted to enforce its jurisdiction there. And a new area became the scene of active conflict: a three-way struggle commenced in 1668 between Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Plymouth for the region where their claimed boundaries overlapped. This was the edge of the Nipmuck Indian territory, and Massachusetts and Connecticut became attentive to the Nipmucks because of still another boundary brawl. The Nipmucks were horribly caught as the client Indians of four colonies claimed tribute from them and fought to enforce it. Eliot's mission Indians heard the voice of God and threw themselves into the same fray, with their governing magistrate and minister in the lead. The sound of the battles reached England in 1671, where the Council for Plantations took alarm. Failure to compromise New England's boundary disputes would lead to civil war, the Council thought, and the crown resolved in 1672 to send a new set of commissioners. But there were delays, and no royal agent was sent until the forseen war broke out, though not in the foreseen way.

In 1667 Plymouth's General court established the town of Swansea. Situated at the western edge of Plymouth's claims and straddling the counterclaims of Rhode Island, it also encroached upon sachem Philip's homeland of Sowams. Disregarding Philip's former plea (and Plymouth's promise) to prevent any Englishman from soliciting lands, the Court authorized Indian purchases "within the township of Swansey" early in 1668, providing they would not "too much straiten the Indians." A year later the General court authorized expansion of Swansea, ordering "for the accomodateing of more inhabitants in the said township, that all such lands as the Indians can well spare shalbe purchased." The means of determining which lands the Indians could "well spare" do not appear in the records. Certain it is, however, that the Indians were not permitted to make that decision. In 1670 Plymouth mended political fences by resubscribing to the articles of the United Colonies, then turned its attention once more to Philip.

The Wampanoag Indians began to talk angrily and menacingly. Early in 1671 they made a display of armed force before Swansea's settlers, for which Plymouth haled Philip to Taunton on April 10, 1671, for discipline. Ordering him to turn in all his people's arms (which was the same as depriving them of essential tools for their livelihood), Plymouth also levied a fine. But the most serious clause in this April treaty demanded that Philip give submission to Plymouth as well as to the English crown. Moreover, the submission was retroactive to bind Philip's dead predecessors as well as himself: "My Father, my Brother, and my self, have formerly submitted our selves and our People unto the Kings Majesty of England, and to the Colony of New-Plimouth." Something more than exuberant imagination was behind this, as Plymouth's colonial neighbors instantly recognized. When Philip ran off to Boston to complain of his treatment, the magistrates there "doubted whether the covenants and engagements that Phillip and his predecessors had plighted" meant anything more than "a naighborly and frindly correspondency" to Plymouth. One need not leap to the conclusion that Massachusetts had suddenly become tender towards Indians. A matter of the validity of land titles can be discerned in the background. If Philip and his father and brother were all acknowledged as having been subject to Plymouth, the titles of lands bought by colonists of other jurisdictions would suddenly become vulnerable to Plymouth's challenge. So would the jurisdiction over those lands. Perhaps Plymouth was aiming the retroactive clause primarily at Rhode Island, but Massachusetts men of the town of Hingham had also bought land from the Wampanoag sachems, and Massachusetts would never recognize a treaty that might carve chunks out of its borders.

Consultation ensued between the Commissioners of the United Colonies, and on September 29, 1671, they helped Plymouth bludgeon Philip into signing a substitute for the tacitly rescinded Taunton treaty. As far as Philip was concerned, the new treaty was not an improvement. Its abandonment of the retroactive clause helped him not at all, because the first clause of the new treaty made him and his people subject to New Plymouth from that time forward. The treaty once more denied him power to sell his lands except with Plymouth's permission, and, as usual, it levied a large fine.

A modern scholar, usually strongly favorable to Plymouth, has remarked: "This treaty he [Philip] was supposed to have been 'left to accept or reject, as hee should see cause'; that a free choice in fact was his hardly seems possible. The treaty dictated harsh terms, unacceptably harsh for Philip to have signed freely. Such coercion as may have been used to secure his consent, the Secretary of the General Court, Nathaniel Morton, did not choose to record." A year after Philip's capitulation, the General Court put him in charge of all sales of Indian lands within the colony and made him personally responsible to the Court.

On paper Plymouth's triumph was complete. Philip avoided open defiance, and Swansea continued to grow. But rumor traced Philip in conspiratorical journeys to and fro among the tribes, and in January 1675 a praying Indian named John Sassamon traveled to Governor Winslow's house at Marshfield to say that Philip was preparing for war. Whatever the truth of his information, Sassamon's visit guaranteed war, in a manner he would never know, because Sassamon never got home alive. Someone murdered him as he returned from Marshfield and stuffed his body under pond ice.

That became the official version of Sassamon's death, and it was used as a means to put Philip under suspicion of having contrived the murder. There are reasons for doubt, although John Sassamon was indeed an unlovely character in pagan Indian eyes, and one can well imagine him having become the object of someone's lethal hate. A Massachuset Indian in origin, he had joined the English forces in the Pequot conquest. He became an early assistant to John Eliot at the chief mission town of Natick and was sent to Harvard College for at least one term in 1653 to be prepared for teaching at that town. Eliot soon found a more important use for him with Wampanoag sachem Philip. In Eliot's ineffable prose this was accomplished "upon solicitations and means used." The theory was that Sassamon would teach Philip and his men to read, but later history strongly suggests that the function of teacher took second place to those of political agent and spy. Certainly Philip came to think so. After several years as amanuensis to Philip, Sassamon left—in a great hurry. As John Easton heard the story in Rhode Island, Sassamon had written Philip's will at the sachem's request but had included a provision that was not Philip's intent: this was a stipulation that much of Philip's land was to become Sassamon's. Apparently Sassamon counted on Philip's illiteracy to keep the provision secret, but Philip learned of it and Sassamon departed. He returned to John Eliot and once more became a Sunday School teacher.

Sassamon's death in 1675 was at first accounted an accident. Months later Plymouth became suspicious, exhumed Sassamon's body, and became convinced of foul play. Thereupon a praying Indian named Patuckson came forward to announce that he had seen the murder. There is, however, a certain difficulty about his testimony. He name three pagan Indians under Philip's government as the killers, and the interference was immediately drawn in Plymouth that Philip had ordered Sassamon's assassination. Few Indians accepted this theory because, as some of them pointed out, in such a case Philip would have had no reason to conceal his role; it was his right as sachem to order an execution. Instead Philip had rushed to Plymouth to disclaim any responsibility. However that may be, Patuckson seems also to have had a personal motive for naming the particular three Indians that he had denounced; he owed them a gambling debt. As John Easton wrote, "The Indians report that the informer had played away his Coate, and these men sent him that coate, and after demanded pay and he not to pay so accused them, and knoing it wold pleas the English so to think him a better Christian."

The three accused were tried in a precedent-shattering court. As Puritan eulogists never fail to point out, Indians were among the jury. But this is not quite right. It is true that the jury foreman made much of the Indians when the trial concluded: "Wee of the jury," he announced, "one and all, both English and Indians doe joyntly and with one consent agree upon verdict." The statement is misleading, however, in its implication that the Indians were voting members of the jury. There were only four Indians, who had been added to the full complement of twelve Englishmen, and their function was not to make a decision, but rather "to healp to consult and advice with, of, and concerning the premises." The Indians' agreement with the verdict was precisely defined and delimited: "These [Indians] fully concured with the jury in their verdict." It is clear that the Indians sat with the jury, but not of it. Why, then, were they there? What had made them worthy to be consulted had little to do with their being "indifferentist, gravest and sage"; nor did it signify softening sentiments among Plymouth's hardheaded leadership. It was because these were praying Indians, and the defendants were not. Although the praying Indians' participation was only advisory, their association with the jury seemed to make them as responsible as the colonials for the jury's finding of guilt, and this praying Indian responsibility was strengthened by the testimony of convert Patuckson, who provided the evidence needed to convict. The whole trial procedure was carefully designed to drive a wedge between Philip's pagans and Plymouth's converts, to make reconciliation between them impossible under any circumstances. This was a show trial staged for political purposes from beginning to end.

At the hanging one of the ropes broke (on purpose?), and the reprieved, horribly scared Indian began to babble. Wampapaquan confessed to everything his executioners desired—or almost everything; in return he got a carefully worded stay of execution that seemed to give him a month more of life. Desperately, however, he maintained that he had been only a bystander as the (already hanged) Tobias and Mattashunnamo had killed Sassamon. And he gratified Plymouth by implicating Philip, or so we are told at secondhand. For some reason, Wampapaquan's precise statements, interesting as they must have been, were not preserved, and he was quickly (and this time efficiently) executed before he could confirm or deny what his tormentors attributed to him.

The malicious informing of Sassamon, the self-serving testimony of Patuckson, the tortured outcries of Wampapaquan—none of these would carry much weight under modern due process, but they were quite enough for Plymouth. Whatever may have been Philip's intentions earlier, preparations for war were now clearly in order.

A party of Rhode Island Quakers tried to mediate. Headed by Deputy Governor John Easton, they interviewed Philip and apparently departed with some hope of success. But shortly after their conference they "sudingly had leter from Plimoth Governor thay intended in arms to Conforem [conform, subdue] Philip, but no information what that was thay required or what termes. [The governor] refused to have ther quarrell desided [by arbitration]; and in a weekes time after we had bine with the Indians the war thus begun."

No modern account has improved on Easton's, and a good many have only smothered his information. Let him tell the rest of the story in his own words.

Plimoth soldiers were Cum to have ther head quarters within 10 miles of Philip; then most of the English therabout left ther houses and we had leter from Plimoth governor to desier our help with sum boats if thay had such acation, and for us to looke to our selefs; and from the genarall at the quarters we had leter of the day that intended to Cum upon the indians, and desier for sum of our boats to atend. So we tooke it to be of nesesety for our Ieslanders [Aquidneck Island] one halef one day and night to atend and the other halef the next, so by turens for our oune safty. In this time sum indians fell a pilfering sum houses that the English had left, and a old man and a lad going to one of those houses did see 3 indians run out of therof. The old man bid the young man shoote; so he did, and a indian fell doune but got away againe. It is reported that then sum indians Came to the gareson, asked why thay shot the indian. Thay asked whether he was dead. The indians saide yea. A English lad said it was no mater. The men indevered to inforem them it was but an idell lad's words, but the indians in hast went away and did not harken to them. The next day, the lad that shot the indian and his father and fief [five] English more were killed. So the war begun with Philip.

Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest

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