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CONDUCT OF POWHATAN AFTER SMITH'S DEPARTURE FOR ENGLAND, AND CAUSES OF IT-MARRIAGE OF POCAHONTAS WITH JOHN ROLFE-DEATH AND CHARACTER OF POWHATAN.
From the date of the expedition of which the particulars have just been given, to the time of Smith's departure for England, a few months subsequent, the English and the Powhatans treated and traded with each other upon tolerably amicable terms. A principal cause of this Harmony is to be looked for in several fortunate incidents which went to impress the savage simplicity of one party with an inordinate conception of the superiority of the other.
Soon after the return of the expedition, several articles were stalen at Jamestown by one of the Chickahominy Indians who traded there; and a pistol among the rest. The thief fled, but two of his brothers, suspected of being accessaries in the case, were apprehended. One of them was discharged, to go in search of the offender; and the other was imprisoned, with the understanding that unless the former should be successful in his scarch within twelve hours, he was to be hanged. But for his comfort during that interval, Smith furnished him with victuals, and charcoal for a fire. In the evening, the man who had been discharged returned with the pistol; but the poor fellow in the dungeon was meanwhile very nearly smothered with the smoke of his coal. Those who came to release him took him up for dead. 66 The other most lamentably bewayled his death, and broke forth into such bitter agonies that the President (Smith), to quiet him, told him that if he would steale no more, he would make him (his brother) alive again; but he little thought he could be recovered. Yet we doing our best with aqua vita and vinegar, it pleased God to restore him againe to life, but so drunke and affrighted that he seemed lunaticke, the which as much tormented and grieued the other, as before to see him dead. Of this maladie, vpon promise of their good behaviour, the President promised to recover him; and so caused him to be layed by a fire to sleepe, who in the morning having well slept had recovered his perfect senses, and then being dressed of his burning, and each a piece of copper given them, they went away so well contented that this was spread among all the savages for a miracle, that Captain Smith could make a man alive that was dead."
Another of the incidents just alluded to is as follows. One of Pow. hatan's subjects, in his zeal to acquire knowledge and some other things, obtained possession of a large bag of gun-powder and the backe, as Smith calls it, of an armour. The ingenious artisan, on his return to Werowocomoco, determined to display these precious prizes to his wondering countrymen, and at the same time to exhibit his own extraordinary skill in the management of them. He therefore began drying the powder upon the armour, as he had seen the soldiers do at Jamestown. Unluckily he dried it too much. An explosion took
place, which blew up the proprietor, together with one or two of the spectators who were peeping over his shoulders. Several others were badly scorched, and all horribly frightened; and for some time after powder
fell into a general disuse with the savages, much to the benefit of the English.
These and other similar accidents, we are told, so affrighted Powhatan and his people, that they came in from every quarter with proffers of peace. Several stolen articles were returned, the loss of which had never before been discovered; and whenever an Indian was convicted of theft, wherever he might be found, he was promptly sent in to Jamestown for his punishment. Not long afterwards we find that “so affraide was al those kings and the better sort of the people to displease vs (the colonists), that some of the baser sort that we haue extreamely hurt and punished for their villanies, would hire vs we should not tell it to their kings or countrymen, who would also punish them, and yet returne them to lames-Toune to content the President, for a testimony of their loues."
Still, the prowess and the name of Smith himself were the best preservatives of peace; and he had scarcely left the country for Eng. land when matters relapsed into their worst state. * About thirty of the English were cut off by Powhatan's men at one time; and of a population of six hundred left in the colony at Smith's departure, there remained at the end of six months only sixty men, women and children. These were subsisted chiefly upon roots, herbs, acorns, walnuts, berries, and now and then a little fish. The skins of horses, and even considerable quantities of starch, were used for food. Others went so far as to disinter and devour the body of an Indian who had been slain and buried. One man killed his wife, “powdered her," and had eaten a part of her before it was known. The poor wretch was hanged for his horrible deed of despair.
Peace was finally effected with Powhatan through the intervention, or rather by the mere medium of Pocahontas, in the following manner. Early in 1613,* two ships arrived at Jamestown with supplies for the colony. These being insufficient, Captain Argall, who commanded one of them, was sent up the Potomac river to trade with the natives for corn. Here Argall formed a particular acquaintance with Japazaws, the chief sachem of the Potomacs or Patawomekes, and always a staunch friend of the English. He informed the captain, among other things, that Pocahontas was at this time in his territories, and not far distant, keeping herself in seclusion, and known only to a few trusty friends. What were the reasons which induced her thus to forsake her father's dominions for a foreigner's, does not appear. Stith supposes it was to withdraw herself from being a witness of the frequent butcheries of the English, whose folly and rashness, after Smith's departure, put it out of her power to save them. And very
* This date is mentioned by all the Virginiao historians; but Prince, in his Annals, says that the voyage took place a year afterwards. Belknap (Am. Biog.) is of the same opinion.
probably, as a later historian suggests, she had already incurred the displeasure of the emperor by these repeated and futile, though highly honorable attempts.
But whatever her motives might be, Argall had no sooner received intelligence of her situation, than he resolved on obtaining possession of her person, as a means—which he had no doubt the colony would thank him for-of effecting a peace with Powhatan. Japazaws seems to have been a well-meaning and honest fellow in general, but the temptation of a large new copper kettle, which Argall held out before him as the promised recompense for his aid and abettance in the case, the consideration of the praiseworthy object proposed to be accomplished by the measure, and last though not least of all, the captain's pledge that Pocahontas should not be harmed while in his custody, were sufficient to overcome his scruples. The next thing in order was to induce the princess, as this amiable and talented Indian female has generally been styled, to go on board Argall's boat. To that end Japazaws, who had himself seen many of the English vessels before this, induced his wife to affect an extreme curiosity upon the subject, so intolerably importunate that he finally threatened to beat her. The good woman, on the other hand, actually accomplished a few tears. This happened in the presence of Pocahontas, and the scene was frequently repeated, until at last Japazaws, affecting to be subdued by the manifest affliction of his wife, reluctantly gave her permission to visit the vessel, provided that Pocahontas would have the politeness to go with her.
The princess, always complaisant, and unable to witness any longer the apparent distress of her kind friend and hostess, consented to go on board the ship. There they were civilly welcomed, and first entertained in the cabin. The captain then found an opportunity to decoy Pocahontas into the gun-room on pretence of conferring there with Japazaws, but really because the kind-hearted sachem, who had received ere this the brilliant wages of his sin, and began perhaps to relent, was unwilling to be known by the princess to have been concerned in the plot against her liberty. When Argall told her, in his presence, that she must go with him to the colony, and compound a peace between her father and the English, she wept indeed in the bitterness of her soul; as for Japazaws and his wife, they absolutely howled with inconsolable and inconceivable affliction. But the princess recovered her composure on finding herself treated with kindness; and while she turned her face towards the English colony, (which she had not seen since Smith's departure,) with something even like cheerfulness at the prospect of doing good, her distressed guardian and his pliant spouse, with their copper kettle filled with toys, trudged merrily back to their own wigwam.
On Argall's arrival at Jamestown, a message was immediately despatched to Powhatan, “that his daughter Pocahontas he loued so dearly he must ransom with our men, swords, pieces, tooles, &c. hee trecherously had stolen.” This was not so complimentary or soothing as might have been imagined, it must be allowed (the courtesy of
Smith was no longer in the colony,) and this perhaps was the reason why, much as the unwelcome news of his daughter's captivity is said to have troubled him, he sent no answer to the message for the space of three months. Then, at the further persuasion of the council of Jamestown, he liberated and sent in seven of his English prisoners, with three rusty unserviceable muskets, an axe, a saw, and one canoe laden with corn. They were instructed to say, that if Pocahontas should be given up, he would make satisfaction for all the injuries he had done, conclude a perpetual peace, and send in a bonus of five hundred bushels of corn. To this the council replied that his daughter, though they would use her well, could not be restored to him until all the English arms and captives in his possession should be delivered back to the owners. They did not believe, what he or some of his men had asserted, that these arms had been lost, or that the whites who remained with him were free volunteers in his service.
This ungracious message was no more conciliating than the former; nor was any thing more seen or heard of the emperor until the spring of 1614, when a party of one hundred and fifty colonists, well armed, went up his own river Werowocomoco, taking Pocahontas with them. The Powhatans received them with scornful bravadoes, proudly demanding the purpose of this new invasion. The English answered' that they had brought the emperor's daughter, and that they expected the proper ransom for her, either peaceably or by force. The Powhatans rejoined, that if they came to fight they were welcome, and should be treated as Captain Ratcliffe* had been. Upon this the English said they would have a more civil answer at least, and forthwith commenced making rapidly for the shore in their small boats, the Indians having about the same time begun to let fly their arrows among them. They effected a landing, and burned and destroyed every thing they could find. The next day they sailed farther up the river, and meeting with a fresh party of Powhatans, after some altercation and explanation, a truce was concluded, and messengers were promised to be sent off for the emperor. This was probably a mere feint. It was also stated, that the English captives or deserters had run off, for fear of being hanged by their countrymen. As for the swords and pieces, they were to be brought in the next day; but nothing was seen of them, and the English proceeded till they came to a residence of Powhatan (called Matchot), where were collected about four hundred of his warriors, well armed. These men challenged the English to land, and when they did so, walked boldly up and down among them, demanded a conference with their captain, and said that unless time should be allowed them to send and receive directions from Powhatan, they would fight for their own as well as they were able. Other bravadoes passed between the parties, but a truce was finally agreed upon until noon of the next day. Meanwhile, two of the brothers of Pocahontas, of whom this is the first
* Massacred with the thirty colonists mentioned previously in this chapter. He was otherwise called Sicklemore.
merrtion, came to see her. They were delighted to find her in good health, and promised to do every thing they could to effect her redemption. Two of the English also set off to visit Powhatan. They were not admitted to the emperor's presence, for what reason is not stated, but Opechancanough treated them in the most hospitable manner. On their return, the whole party descended the river to Jamestown.
One of the two messengers last named was John Rolfe, styled by an old historian* “ an honest gentleman and of good behaviour," but more especially known by the event which we have now to notice his marriage with Pocahontas—between whom and himself there had been an ardent attachment for some time. The idea of this connection pleased Powhatan so much, that within ten days after Rolfe's visit he sent in one of his near relatives named Opachiko, together with two of his sons, to see (as says the authority just cited) the manner of the marriage, and to do in that behalf what they were requested for the confirmation thereof as his deputies. The ceremony took place about the first of April, and from that time until the death of the emperor, which happened in 1618, the most friendly relations were uniformly preserved with himself and with his subjects.
There are too many memorable passages in the history of this celebrated chieftain, and too many remarkable traits in his character, to be passed over with a mere general notice. But, previous to any other comment, it may be proper to mention certain facts respecting him, which belong rather to the curious than to the characteristic class. In the case of all great men, as well as of many noted men who are not great, there is a good deal of information generally to be gathered, which may be interesting without being strictly important. Powhatan was both a great and a noted man, though a savage, and the rude circumstances under which he proved himself the one, and made himself the other, should only render him the more signally an object of popular admiration and of philosophical regard.
In person he is described, by one who saw him frequently, as a tall, well-proportioned man, with a severe aspect, his head slightly gray, his beard thin (as that of the Indians always is), and “ of a very able and hardy body to endure any labor.” As he appeared to be about sixty years of age when the English first saw him, in 1607, he was probably about seventy at his death. He troubled himself but little with public affairs during his last years, leaving the charge of them chiefly to Opechancanough as his viceroy, and taking his own pleasure in visiting the various parts of his dominions.
We have already had occasion to observe that he had as many as three or four places of residence. Werowocomoco was abandoned for Oropakes, with the view of keeping at an agreeable distance from the colonists. The latter became a favorite resort. There, at the distance of a mile from the village, he had a house in which were deposited his royalties and his revenue-skins, copper, beads, red
* Ralph Hamer, whose relation is incorporated with some of the oldest luistories of other writers. He was subsequently one of the council.