Imágenes de páginas

other, of a bed consisting of a plank platform, raised a foot or two from the ground and covered with a thin mat. Two of his chief men, probably by way of compliment, were also stationed upon the same premises; and this body-guard performed their pressing duty of escort so effectually, that no other circumstances were necessary to make the honored guests “ worse weary of their lodging than they had been of their journey.”

On the following day, many of the petty chiefs, with their subjects, came in from the adjacent country, and various sports and games were got up for the entertainment of the English. At noon, they par. took, with the sachem and about forty others, of a meal of boiled fish shot by himself, (probably with arrows.) They continued with him until the next morning, when they departed, leaving Massasoit “ both . grieved and ashamed” that he could not better entertain them. Very importunate he was, adds the journalist, to have them stay with him longer; but as they had eaten but one meal for two days and a night, with the exception of a partridge, which one of them killed; and what with their location at night, the “ savages' barbarous singing of themselves to sleep," musquitoes without doors, and other trifling inconveniences within, could not sleep at all; they begged to be excused, on the score of conscience, Sunday being near at hand,--not to mention that they were growing light-headed, and could hardly expect, if they stayed much longer, to be able to reach home.

Massasoit's friendship was again tested in March, 1622, when an Indian, known to be under Squanto's influence,* came running in among a party of colonists, with his face gashed, and the blood iresh upon it, calling out to them to flee for their lives, and then looking behind him as if pursued. On coming up, he told them that the Indians, under Massasoit, were congregating at a certain place for an attack upon the Colony; that he had received his wounds in consequence of opposing their designs, and had barely escaped from them with his life. The report occasioned no little alarm; although the correctness of it was flatly denied by Hobamock, a Pokanoket Indian resident at Plymouth, who recommended that a messenger should be sent secretly to Sowams, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth. This was done, and the messenger, finding every thing in its usually quiet state, informed Massasoit of the reports circulated against him.


He was

* Which, it may be here observed, was quite considerable. Squanto was ambitious and meddlesome, though not malicious-well-disposed and serviceable to the English, but a little too anxious to have credit for that fact among his countrymen. He amused himself with telling them that the whites kept the plague barrelled up in their cellars, that they intended war upon various tribes, &c., for the sake of being employed, sometimes hired, to act as mediator; and of course he always succeeded in settling the difficulty. Squanto died in November, 1622, on an expedition fitted out by Governor Bradford for obtaining corn among the Indians. His last request was, that the governor would pray for him that he might go to the Englishman's God in heaven. He bequeathed his litt property to his English friends. So perished the last aboriginal of the Plymouth soil. He sometimes played “Jack upon both sides," as Hubbard says, but his death was justly considered a public loss.

excessively incensed against Squanto, but sent his thanks to the governor for the opinion of his fidelity, which he understood him to retain; and directed the messenger to assure him, that he should instantly apprise him of any conspiracy which might at any future time take place.

That the declarations of Massasoit, upon this occasion, were far from being mere words of compulsion or of courtesy, is abundantly proved by his conduct during the next season, 1623. Early in the spring of that year, news came to Plymouth that he was very sick at Sowams; and it was determined to send Mr. Winslow to visit him once more, in token of the friendship of the colonists. That gentleman immediately commenced his journey, being provided with a few cordials, and attended by “one Master John Hampden, a London gentleman, who then wintered with him, and desired much to see the country,”-no doubt the same character so eminently distinguished afterwards in the politics of England.

They heard, at various places on their route, that the sachem was already dead; and their guide, Hobamock, indulged himself all the way in the most unbounded grief. They found him still living, however, on their arrival; and the multitude of dependents and friends who thronged his lodge, made way as fast as possible for their admittance and accommodation. He appeared to be reduced to the last extremities. Six or eight women were employed in chafing his cold limbs, and the residue of the numerous company were exerting them. selves to the utmost, meanwhile, in making what Winslow rather uncharitably calls “such a hellish noise as distempered those that • were well."* He had the good sense to wait for the conclusion of the ceremony; and the exhausted performers being then satisfied they had done all that in them lay for the benefit of the patient, one of them apprised him of the arrival of the English.

Who have come?" muttered the sachem, still conscious, though his sight was wholly gone. They told him Winsnow had come, (as they generally substituted n for the English l.) “Let me speak with him then,” he replied; “ let me speak one word to him.” Winslow went forward to the matted platform where he lay, and grasped the feeble hand which the sachem, informed of his approach, held out for him. " Art thou Winsnow?" he whispered the question again, (in his own language,) “ Art thou Winsnow?” Being readily answered in he affirmative, he appeared satisfied of the fact. But «0 Winsnow,” be added mournfully, “ I shall never see thee again!"

Hobamock was now called, and desired to assure the sachem of the governor's kind remembrance of him in his present situation, and to nform him of the articles they had brought with them for his use. He immediately signified his wish to taste of these, and they were

* Probably an Indian Powah was leader of the chorus. Of these barbarian quacks, Roger Williams says, that " the poore people commonly dye under their hands," for the very good reason that they “ administer nothing, but howle, and roar, and hollow over them, and begin the song to the rest of the people about them, who all joyne (like a quire) in prayer to the gods for them."-Key to the Indian Language, chapter xxxi.

given him accordingly, to the great delight of the people around him. Winslow then proceeded to use measures for his relief, and they wrought a great change in him within half an hour. He recovered his sight gradually, and began to converse, requesting his good friend Winslow, among other things, to kill him a fowl, and make him some English pottage, such as he had seen at Plymouth. This was done for him, and such other care taken as restored his strength and appetite wonderfully within the day or two of Winslow's stay.

His expressions of gratitude, as well as those of his delighted at. tendants, were constant, as they were evidently warm from the heart. Finally, as his guests were about to leave him, he called Hobamock to his side, and revealed to him a plot against the colonists, recently formed, as he understood, among certain of the Massachusetts tribes, and in which he had himself been invited to join. He also recommended certain summary measures for the suppression of the plot, and concluded with charging Hobamock* to communicate the intelligence to Winslow on the way to Plymouth. It may be added here, that these measures were subsequently executed by Standish, and were successful. The conspiracy itself was occasioned by the notorious and outrageous profligacy of the banditti, of “Master Weston," at Weymouth.

The leading particulars in the residue of Massasoit's life may soon be detailed. In 1632, he was assaulted at Sowams, by a party of Narragansetts, and obliged to take refuge in an English house. His situation was soon ascertained at Plymouth; and an armed force being promptly despatched to his succor, under his old friend Standish, the Narragansetts retired. About the year 1639, he probably associated his eldest son, Moanam or Wamsutta, with him in the government; for they came together into open court at Plymouth, it is said, on the 28th of September of that year, and desired that the ancient treaty of 1621 might remain inviolable. They also entered into some new en. gagements, chiefly going to secure to the Colony a pre-emptive claim to the Pokanoket lands. “And the whole court,” add the records, s in the name of the whole government for each town respectively, did then likewise ratify and confirm the aforesaid ancient league and confederacy."

From this time, the names of the father and son are sometimes found united, and sometimes not so, in instruments by which land was conveyed to the English. In 1649, the former sold the territory of Bridgewater in his own name.

The precise date of Massasoit's death is unknown. In 1653, his name appears in a deed by which he conveyed part of the territory of Swansey to English grantees. Hubbard supposes that he died about three years subsequent to this; but as late as 1661, he is noticed in

* The date of this Indian's death is not known. He is said to have once been a war-captain among the Massachusetts tribes. Hubbard describes him as a “proper lusty young man, and of good account among the Indians of those parts for his valor," He was useful, like Squanto, without being troublesome,

the records of the United Colonies, as will appear more particularly in the life of his eldest son. Two or three years afterwards, convey. ances were made of the Pokanoket lands, in which he appears to have had no voice; and it may be fairly inferred that he died in that interval. He must have been near eighty years of age.

Such are the passages which history has preserved concerning the earliest and best friend of the Pilgrims. Few and simple as they are, they give glimpses of a character that, under other circumstances, might have placed Massasoit among the illustrious of his age, He was a mere savage ; ignorant of even reading and writing, after an intercourse of near fifty years with the colonists, and distinguished from the mass of savages around him, as we have seen, by no other outward emblem than a barbarous ornament of bones. It' must be observed, too, as to them, that the authority which they conferred upon him, or rather upon his ancestors, was their free gift, and was liable at any moment to be retracted, wholly or in part, either by the general voice or by the defection or violence of individuals. The intrinsic dignity and energy of his character alone, therefore, must have sustained the dominion of the sachem, with no essential distinc.. tion of wealth, retinue, cultivation, or situation in any respect, between him and the meanest of the Wampanoags. The naked qualities of his intellect and his heart must have gained their loyalty, controlled their extravagant passions to his own purposes, and won upon their personal confidence and affection.

That he did this appears from the fact, so singular in Indian history, that among

all the Pokanoket tribes there was scarcely an instance of even an individual broil or quarrel with the English during his long, life. Some of these tribes living nearer the colony than any other Indians, and going into it daily in such numbers, that Massasoit was. finally requested to restrain them from “pestering their friends by their mere multitude,-these shrewd beings must have perceived, as well as Massasoit himself did, that the colonists were as miserably fearful as they were feeble and few. Some of them, too—the sachem Corbitant, for example-were notoriously hostile, and perhaps had certain supposed reasons for being so. Yet that cunning and ambi. rious savage extricated himself from the only overt act of rebellion he is known to have attempted, by “soliciting the good offices of Massasoit,”. we are told, “to reconcile him to the English.” And such was the influence of the chief sachem, not only over him, but over the Massachusetts sachems, that nine of the principal of them soon after came into Plymouth from great distances, for the purpose of signifying their humble respect for the authority of the English..

That Massasoit was beloved as well as respected by his subjects and neighbors, far and wide, appears from the great multitude of anxious friends who thronged about him during his sickness. Some of them, as Winslow ascertained, had come more than one hundred miles for the purpose of seeing him; and they all watched his operations in that case with as intense anxiety as if the prostrate patient had been the father or the brother of each. And meagre a's is the

justice which history does the sachem, it still furnishes some evidence, not to be mistaken, that he had won this regard from them by his kindness. There is a passage of affecting simplicity in Winslow's Relation, going to show that he did not forget their minutest interests, even in his own almost unconscious helplessness. “That morning," it is said, “ he caused me to spend in going from one to another among those that were sick in the town (Sowams,) requesting me to treat them as I had done him, and to give to each of them some of the same I gave him, saying they were good folk.”

But these noble traits of the character of Massasoit are still more abundantly illustrated by the whole tenor of his intercourse with the whites. Of his mere sense of his positive obligations to them, including his fidelity to the famous treaty of 1621, nothing more need be said, excepting that the annals of the continent furnish scarcely one parallel even to that case. But he went much further than this. He not only visited the colony in the first instance of his own free will and accord, but he entered into the negotiations cheerfully and deliberately, and in the face of their manifest fear and suspicion. Henceforth the results of it were regarded, not with the mere honesty of an ally, but with the warm interest of a friend. It was probably at his secret and delicate suggestion, and it could scarcely have been with. out his permission, at all events that his own subjects took up their residence among the colonists, with the view of guiding, piloting, interpreting for them, and teaching them their own usctul knowledge. Winslow speaks of his appointing another to fill the place of Squanto at Plymouth, while the latter should be sent about among the Poka. nokets, under his orders, “to procure truck (in furs) for the English."

The vast grant of territory which he made in the first instance has been spoken of. It was made with the simple observation that his claim to it was the sole claim in existence. It was also without con. sideration; the generous sachem, as Roger Williams says of the Nar. ragansetts in a similar case, “being shy and jealous of selling the lands to any, and choosing rather to make a gift of them to such as they affected.” Such is the only jealousy which Massasoit can be said ever to have entertained of the English. Nor do we find any evidence that he repented of his liberality, or considered it the incautious extravagance of a moment of flattered complaisance. We do find, however, that he invariably watched over the interest of the grantees with more strictness than he would probably have watched over his own. He laid claim, in one instance, to a tract for which Mr. Williams had negotiated with the Narragansetts,--that gentleman being ignorant, perhaps, of an existing controversy between the two tribes. “It is mine," said the sach m, “it is mine, and therefore theirs,"—plainly implying that the ground in question was comprised within the original transfer. Whether this claim was just, or whether it was insisted upon, does not appear; but there is indication enough both of the opinion and feeling of Massasoit.

An anecdote of him, recorded by Governor Winthrop, under the title of a “pleasant passage,” is still more striking. His old friend,

« AnteriorContinuar »