Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and provision from the salvages, we had nothing but mortall wounds, with clubs and arrowes." Here, too, we find the emperor availing himself of the disasters and despair of the colony, to procure swords, muskets and ammunition—so reckless had the colonists become through famine.

Still, it does not appear that Powhatan adopted any policy but such as he believed indispensable to the welfare, not to say the existence, of his sovereign dominions. His warfare was an Indian warfare, in. deed. But setting aside those circumstances of education and of situation which rendered this a matter both of pride and necessity, it may be safely said, that he but followed the example of those who should have known better. Not only did he act generally in self-defence, against what he deemed the usurpation of a foreign and unknown people, who had settled without permission upon his shores; but he was galled and provoked by peculiar provocations in numerous instances. The mere liberty of taking possession of a part of his territory might have been overlooked. Probably it was 80. In the earliest days of the settlement, when nothing could be easier for Powhatan than to extinguish it at a single assault, it is acknowledged that bis people often visited the English and treated them with kindness. Not long afterwards, indeed, they committed some trespasses, but meanwhile a party of the English had invaded the interior of the country. Considering the dissolute and unprincipled character. of a large part of them, it is not improbable that still greater freedom was exercised with the Indians; such of course as the historians would be likely neither to record nor to know. And yet Smith has told enough -of himself-to make this point clear. In his very first expedition after corn, seeing, he says, " that by trade and courtesie nothing was to be had, he made bold to try such conclusions as necessitie inforced.” He let fly a volley of musketry, ran his bonts ashore, skirmished with the natives, and forcibly obtained a supply of provisions. And thusadds the scrupulous captain

“ Thus God vnboundlesse by his power

Made them so kinde would vs devour." It was nothing to the emperor, or to his subjects, that Smith went beyond his authority in these matters. “ The patient councill ”-ke writes in another connection that nothing would moue to warre with the sæluages, would gladly have wrangled with Captaine Smithe for his crueltie.” He adds, that his proceedings—his conclusions, is his own language-had inspired the natives with such fear, that his very name was a terror. No wonder that he sometimes had peace and war twice in a day. No wonder that scárcely a week passed without some villany or other. Again, when the Chickahominies refused to trade, the president, “ perceiving (supposing) it was Powha. tan's policy to starve him,” landed his company forthwith, and made such a show of anger and ammunition that the poor savages presently brought in all their provisions. So we are summarily informed in Mr. Hamer's relation, that about

7

[ocr errors]

Christmas (1611), “ in regard of the injurie done vs by them of Apamatuk, Sir Thomas Dale, without the losse of any except some few salvages," took possession of the territory and provision of the tribe, made a settlement upon the former without ceremony, and called it New Bermudas! . One more illustration must suffice. It is a passage of Smith's history relating to a detachment of vagabonds, under the command of one West, who left Jamestown, and located themselves not far from Powhatan's residence at the falls of the river, “ But the worst was, that the poore salvages that daily brought in their contributions to the president, that disorderly company so tormented these poore soules, by steeling their corne, robbing their gardens, beating them, breaking their houses, and keeping some prisoners, that they daily complained to Captaine Smith he had brought them for protectors worse enemies than the Monacans themselves, which though till then for his love they had endured; they desired pardon if hereafter they defended themselves since he would not correct them as they had long expected he would." A most reasonable determination, civilly and candidly expressed.

But, whatever may be said of the motives or method of the warfare of Powhatan, it must be acknowledged that his character appears to no disadvantage in peace. We cannot but admire the Roman dignity with which he rejected all offers of compromise, so long as the English seemed disposed to take advantage of their own wrong in the violent seizure of Pocahontas. They knew that this was his favorite child, and they presumed on the strength of his attachment. But, much as her situation troubled him, he would not sacrifice his honor so far as to negotiate for her restoration on derogatory terms. He was afflicted, but he was still more incensed. When, however, he ascertained, by sending his sons to visit her, that she was well treated, and in good health, (though, we are somewhere told, “ they had heard to the contrarie,”) he began to think better of the offers of peace. Then came Rolfe“ to acquaint him with the business," and kindly he was entertained, though not admitted to the presence of Powhatan. The young gentleman explained himself, however, to the emperor's brother; and the latter promised to intercede for him, as did also the two sons. Their explanations proved successful. The emperor was not only convinced that his daughter was entertained civilly by the English, but he was pleased with the honorable intentions, and touched by the passionate and tender aflection of Rolle. No sooner, therefore, did the time appointed for the marriage come to his knowledye—and no doubt Rolfe had already had the politic courtesy to apply for his consent—than he despatched three members of his own family to confirm the ceremony. “ And ever since,” adds the historian, “ we have had friendly trade and commerce, as well with Powhatan himselfe, as all his subjects;" —so jealous were he and they of injustice, and so susceptible were they, at the same time, of mild and magnanimous impressions.

We find characteristic anecdotes, to the same eífect, in the curious account Mr. Ilamer has left on record, of a visit which he paid the emperor in 1614, soon after the conclusion of peace. After some conversation upon business matters, the visiter was invited to Powhatan's own residence, where was a guard of two hundred warriors, which (as Mr, Hamer supposes) always attended his person. Having offered that gentleman a pipe of tobacco, he immediately inquired after the health 'of Sir Thomas Dale, at that time president, and then of his own daughter and her husband; wishing to know especially how these two liked each other. Hamer answered, that Sir Thomas was perfectly well; and as for Pocahontas, she was so contented, that she never would return to her father's court again if she could. Pow. hatan laughed heartily at this reply, and soon after asked the particular cause of Mr. Hamer's present visit. On being told it was private, he ordered his attendants to leave the house, excepting only the two females—said to have been Indian queens--who always sat by him, and then bade Mr. mer proceed with his message.

The latter began with saying, that he was the bearer of sundry presents from Sir Thomas Dale, which were delivered accordingly, much to the emperor's satisfaction. He then added, that Sir Thomas, hearing of the fame of the emperor's youngest daughter, was desirous of obtaining her hand in marriage. He conceived there could not be a finer bond of union between the two people, than such a connection; and besides her sister Pocahontas was exceedingly anxious to see her at Jamestown. He hoped that Powhatan would at least oblige himself so much, as to suffer her to visit the colony when he should return.

Powhatan more than once came very near interrupting the delivery of this message. But he controlled himself, and replied with great gravity, to the effect that he gladly accepted the president's salutation oi love and peace, which he certainly should cherish so long as he lived; that he received with many thanks the presents sent him as pledges thereof; but that, as for his daughter, he had sold her, only a few days before, to a great werowance, living at the distance of three days' journey, for three bushels of Rawrenoke (Roanoke.) Hamer took the liberty to rejoin, that a prince of his greatness might no doubt recall his dauyhter, if he would---especially as she was only twelve years of age and that in such a case he should receive for her from the president three times the worth of the Roanoke, in beads, copper and hatchets.

To this Powhatan readily rejoined, that he loved his daughter as his life, and though he had many children, he delighted in her most of all. He could not live without seeing her, and that would be impossible if she went among the colonists, for he had resolved upon no account to put himself in their power, or to visit them. He therefore desired Mr. Hamer to say no more upon the subject, but to tell the president in his name, 1, That he desired no other assurance of the president's friendship than his word, which was already pledged. He had himself, on the other hand, already given such assurance in the person of Pocahontas. One was suflicient, he thought, at one time; when she died he would substitute another in her stead. But meanwhile he should consider it no brotherly part to bereave him of

1

more.

[merged small][ocr errors]

two children at once. 2, Though he gave no pledge, the president ought not to distrust him or his people. There had been already lives enough lost on both sides, and by his fault there should never be any

He had grown old, and desired to die peaceably. He should hardly fight even for just cause; the country was wide enough, and he would rather retreat. “Thus much,” he concluded, “I hope will satisfy my brother. And so here, as you are weary and sleepy, we will end." He then ordered a supper and good lodgings for his guest, and the latter took his leave for the night.

Early the next morning Powhatan himself visited Mr. Hamer at his lodging-place, and invited him to return to his own wigwam. There he entertained him in his handsomest manner. The time passed pleasantly, and Mr. Hamer began to feel at home. By and by came in an Englishman, one who had been surprised in a skirmish three years before at Fort Henry, and detained ever since. He was 80 completely savage in his complexion and dress, that 'Hamer only recognised him by his voice. He now asked that gentleman to obtain leave for him to return with him to the colony, and the request was accordingly made, and even pressed. The emperor was vexed at length. «Mr. Hamer," said he, “ you have one of my daughters, and I am content. But you cannot see one of your men with me, but you must have him away or break friendship. But take him if you will. In that case, however, you must go home without guides (which were generally offered the English on these occasions), and if any evil befalls you, thank yourselves.”

Hamer replied that he would do so, but he would not answer for the consequences if any accident should happen. The emperor was incensed at this, and left him, but he appeared again at supper time, feasted his guest with his best fare, and conversed cheerfully. About midnight he roused Hamer from a nap to tell him he had concluded to let Parker (the captive) go with him in the morning. But he must remind Sir Thomas to send him, in consideration thereof, ten large pieces of copper, a shaving-knife, a grindstone, a net, and sundry fish-hooks and other small matters. For fear Hamer should forget these particulars, he made him write a list of them in what the historians call a table-book, which he produced. “ However he got it,”* says the narrator, “it was a faire one, and I desired he would give it me.” Powhatan evaded this modest request by saying that he kept it to show to strangers; but when his guest left him in the morning he furnished him and his attendants with ample provision for his journey, gave each of them a buck's skin, “as well dressed as could be," and sent two more to his son-in-law and daughter.

There is much matter for reflection in this simple narrative. The sagacity of Powhatan in discerning the true object of the visit is worthy of the fearless dignity with which he exposed it. He gave little heed, it would seem, w the pretext of marriage, and considering

Probably of some English captive. Smith wrote his famous letter to Jamestown, during his first captivity, on what he calls the leaf of a tablebook.

only the age of his daughter, especially as compared with the president's, there was reason enough why he should. His conjectures were undoubtedly correct, and he had some right to be offended at the jealousy which was still harbored by the colonists. Stith expressly states, that the policy of Sir Thomas was merely to obtain an additional pledge for the preservation of peace.

The affection which Powhatan here manifests for his children, his hospitality even to one who took liberties upon the strength of it, his liberality, the resolution with which he maintained peace while he still evidently distrusted the English honor, his ready evasions and intelligent reasoning, his sensibility to insult, which he nevertheless thought it beneath him to resent, are all easily to be perceived in this instance, and are well worthy to be regarded among other evidences of his temper and genius.

His self-command and his chivalrous courtesy on every former occasion would have done no dishonor, in another country and time, to the lion-hearted monarch of England himself. In this respect he was well matched with Smith, and it is not the least interesting point in the common history of the two, to observe the singular union of suavity and energy with which both effected their purposes. Immediately after delivering the celebrated reply which he sent to Newport's proposal by Smith, the historian adds that many other discourses they had, (yet both content to give each other content in complimentall courtesies), and so Captain Smith returned with his answer.” In the same style, when Newport came himself, perceiving his purpose was to discover and invade the Monacans, we are told that he “refused to lend him either men or guides more than Namontack, and so, after some complimental kindnesse on both sides,” he presented the disappointed captain with seven or eight bushels of corn, and wished him a pleasant journey to Jamestown. He would not suffer so brave a man as Smith to be even beheaded, without having first ordered two of his queens to serve him with water and a bunch of feathers, and then feasted him in what the victim himself considered his best barbarous manner. It is very evident there was neither fear nor hypocrisy in any of these cases.

None of the noble traits we have mentioned lose any of their charm from being connected, as they are, with the utmost simplicity of barbarism. The reader of these times, therefore, may be allowed to smile at the pertinacity with which this mighty warrior and renowned monarch insisted upon Parker's being ransomed in fish-hooks, and the solemn gravity with which he divested himself of his mantle and old shoes for the gratification and reward of Newport. The presents sent to him by Sir Thomas Dale were two pieces of copper, five strings of white and blue beads, five wooden combs, ten fish-hooks, and a pair of knives, not to mention the promise of a grindstone, whenever he should send for it-clearly a much better bargain for his daughter, had he wished to dispose of her, than the two bushels of Roanoke. The werowances and queens of conquered nations waited upon him at his meals, as humbly as certain kings of the middle ages are said

« AnteriorContinuar »