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1636; New Haven, 1638. Four of these — the two Massachusetts and the two Connecticut colonieshad been leagued together since 1643 against the Indians and the Dutch; the others stood alone, each for itself. Among these scattered settlements, where was Ralegh's “English nation"? It existed in these germs.
THE HUNDRED YEARS' WAR
'UROPEAN history makes much of the “Seven
Years' War" and the “Thirty Years' War"; and when we think of a continuous national contest for even the least of those periods, there is something terrible in the picture. But the feeble English colonies in America, besides all the difficulties of pioneer life, had to sustain a warfare that lasted, with few intermissions, for about a hundred years. It was, moreover, a warfare against the most savage and stealthy enemies, gradually trained and reinforced by the most formidable military skill of Europe. Without counting the early feuds, such as the Pequot War, there elapsed almost precisely a century from the accession of King Philip, in 1662, to the Peace of Paris, which nominally ended the last French and Indian War, in 1763. During this whole period, with pacific intervals that sometimes lasted for years, the same essential contest went on; the real question being, for the greater part of the time, whether France or England should control the continent. The description of this prolonged war may, therefore, well precede any general account of the colonial or provincial life in America.
The early explorers of the Atlantic coast usually testify that they found the Indians a gentle, not a ferocious, people. They were as ready as could be expected to accept the friendship of the white race. In almost every case of quarrel the white men were the immediate aggressors, and where they were attacked without seeming cause--as when Smith's Virginian colony was assailed by the Indians in the first fortnight of its existence—there is good reason to think that the act of the Indians was in revenge for wrongs elsewhere.
One of the first impulses of the early explorers was to kidnap natives for exhibition in Europe, in order to excite the curiosity of kings or the zeal of priests; and even where these captives were restored unharmed, the distrust could not be removed. Add to this the acts of plunder, lust, or violence, and there was plenty of provocation given from the very outset.
The disposition to cheat and defraud the Indians has been much exaggerated, at least as regards the English settlers. The early Spanish invaders made no pretence of buying one foot of land from the Indians, whereas the English often went through the form of purchase, and very commonly put in practice the reality. The Pilgrims, at the very beginning, took baskets of corn from an Indian grave to be used as seed, and paid for it afterwards. The year after the Massachusetts colony was founded the court decreed: “It is ordered that Josias Plastowe shall (for stealing four baskets of corne from the Indians) returne them eight baskets againe, be fined five pounds, and hereafter called by the name of Josias, and not Mr., as formerly he used to be.” As a mere matter of policy, it was the general disposition of the English settlers to obtain lands by honest purchase; indeed, Governor Josiah Winslow, of Plymouth, declared, in reference to King Philip's War, that "before these present troubles broke out the English did not possess one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian proprietors.” This policy was quite general. Captain West, in 1610, bought the site of what is now Richmond, Virginia, for some copper. The Dutch Governor Minuit bought the island of Manhattan, in 1626, for sixty gilders. Lord Baltimore's company purchased land for cloth, tools, and trinkets; the Swedes obtained the site of Christiana for a kettle; Roger Williams bought the island of Rhode Island for forty fathoms of white beads; and New Haven was sold to the whites, in 1638, for "twelve coats of English cloth, twelve alchemy spoons, twelve hoes, twelve hatchets, twelve porringers, twenty - four knives, and twenty-four cases of French knives and spoons.” Many other such purchases will be found recorded by Dr. Ellis. And though the price paid might often seem ludicrously small, yet we must remember that a knife or a hatchet was really worth more to an Indian than many square miles of wild land; while even the beads were a substitute for wampum, or wompom, which was their circulating medium in dealing with each other and with the whites, and was worth, in 1660, five shillings a fathom.
So far as the mere bargaining went, the Indians were not individually the sufferers in the early days; but we must remember that behind all these transactions there often lay a theory which was as merciless as that quoted in a previous paper from the Spanish “Requisition," and which would, if logically carried out, have made all these bargainings quite superfluous. Increase Mather begins his history of King Philip's War with this phrase, “That the Heathen People amongst whom we live, and whose Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us for a rightful Possession”; and it was this attitude of hostile superiority that gave the sting to all the relations of the two races. If a quarrel rose, it was apt to be the white man's fault; and after it had arisen, even the humaner Englishmen usually sided with their race, as when the peaceful Plymouth men went to war in defence of the Weymouth reprobates. This fact, and the vague feeling that an irresistible pressure was displacing them, caused most of the early Indian outbreaks. And when hostilities had once arisen, it was very rare for a white man of English birth to be found fighting against his own people, although it grew more and more common to find Indians on both sides.
As time went on each party learned from the other. In the early explorations, as of Champlain and Smith, we see the Indians terrified by their first sight of fire-arms, but soon becoming skilled in the use of them. “The King, with fortie Bowmen to guard me," says Captain John Smith, in 1608, “entreated me to discharge my Pistoll, which they there presented to me, with a mark at sixscore to strike therewith; but to spoil the practise I broke the cocke, whereat they were much discontented.” But writing more than twenty years later, in 1631, he says of the Virginia settlers, “The loving Salvages their kinde friends they trained up so well to shoot in a Peace [fowling-piece] to hunt and kill them fowle, they became more expert than our own countrymen.” La Hontan, writing in 1703, says of the successors of those against whom Champlain had first used fire