Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plantation of the Atlantic, XIV: Praying For a Pale

So Nathan Myhrvold is in the news again. (Well, Slate, anyway.) And this time the patent troll is arguing about how America just isn't nice enough to inventors. Mad? I'm mad. This happens when you scare governments into "pro-inventor" positions. Now, I'm not going to blog about Cowper Coles, now or next week. At least he had the grace to go down with the ship, and, more importantly, David McGee has already covered it. And if you can't get a copy of his unpublished dissertation, well, a little light on those who've neglected their responsibilities never hurts. I'll talk about something else next week.

First, Praying Towns.

If I had to summarise the conventional wisdom on "King Philip's War," the 1675--6 conflict memorialised by Increase Mather and Daniel Gookin, amongst others, it would be with something like this cut-and-paste from "Links: The International Journal of Socialist Renewal," on the theme of why Thanksgiving is actually bad, and you should feel guilty:

When this war ended, 600 European men, one-eleventh of the adult men of the New England Colonies, had been killed in battle. Hundreds of homes and 13 settlements had been wiped out. But the colonists won.
In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery. Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under 14 they could capture. The “Praying Indians” who had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles with “hostiles.” They were enslaved or killed. Other “peaceful” Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts–and were sold onto slave ships.
It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre and starvation.
After King Philip’s War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan’s New York colony: “There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts.”
In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a “day of public thanksgiving” in 1676, saying, “there now scarce remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain, captivated or fled. [emph. mine.]I

The poor guys at Links are cited because they placed high on my Google Search. They're reporting statistics they have from reliable sources on good faith, and the worse sin committed here is the passive one of confirmation bias. If you want to make King Philip's War a defining moment in America's fall from grace,  it would be as well for it have been the worst war ever.

The only problem being that the numbers are pure crazy town. "One-eleventh of the adult men" implies a New-England "colonist" population in the outside range of 20,000. Our baseline statistic for New England's population growth is 100,000 in 1710.

You see the head scratcher here. That's why the "Plymouth Rock" school historical demographers  put the number of immigrants to New England during the 1630--1640 timeframe at 40,000. Anything less is a problem.

It's also a great example of selection bias. f you type "600 eleventh King Phillip's War" into the Google search window, you get:

i) Someone's amateur website of every massacre ever.
ii) Wikipedia, which is pretty sound and sensible on the subject, as it usually is these days. (I donated a twenty again this month!)


iii) Mayflowerfamilies.com: " The horrors and devastation of Philip's war have no parallel in our history. The Revolution was a struggle for freedom; the contest with Philip was for existence. The war lasted only about fourteen months; and yet the towns of Brookfield, Lancaster, Marlborough, Medfield, Sudbury, Groton, Deerfield, Hatfield, Hadley, Northfield, Sprigfield, Weymouth, Chelmsford, Andover, Scituate, Bridgewater, Playmouth, and several other places were wholly or partially destroyed, and many of the inhabitants were massacred or carried into captivity. During this short period, six hundred of our brave men, the flower and strength of the Colony, had fallen, and six hundred dwelling houses were consumed. Every eleventh family was houseless, and every eleventh soldier had sunk to his grave." Charles Hudson: A History of Marlborough

This is some guy writing back in the 1840s. I have my doubts about his numbers, which are very.symmetrical, but they aren't the modern, accepted numbers. You can see where the error comes in, and that, again, theory is driving the facts. 

Now, the last thing I want to do is deny that King Philip's War happened, or that it was pretty traumatic event. I just want to suggest that there's an agenda here, and it's not a subtle one, either. To repeat the quote bloc:

After King Philip’s War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan’s New York colony: “There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts.”

You'd have to think that someone, somewhere, would be a little shy about reporting genocidal ethnic cleansing, that it would be some kind of secret with a bodyguard of lies, at least until Rutger Hauer discovers the horrifying truth. (That Neo-Nazi Youtube commenters will sit through very boring trailers).

I'm no Rutger Hauer, but I'll give it a whirl. Short version farmed out to Gene Autry. Sorry 'bout the cows.
(Going into the file of secrets that can be shared in state songs.)*

The long version starts in the moment. And that moment needs some attention, on account of the approach that treats the war as some crazy thing that happened, whereas on the contrary, it occurs at the beginning of a trajectory leading from Edmund Andros' arrival as first proprietal governor of New York, through the Dominion of New England to the dissolution of Plymouth Colony. Parallel is the rising trajectory of Boston, New Haven, Uncas and the Mohegans

In other words, it's the old conjuring trick. Focus the audience's attention on the tragic losers, while the winners exit, stage modernity.  Jill Lepore notes in her history of the war,  (more on the search that got me there in a moment) that when Increase Mather of Boston came out with his history of the war in 1676, the Reverend William Hubbard of Ipswich blasted back that there had been no war, but only "troubles." Lepore disagrees with Hubbard, and also a more recent critic, Haraold Lonkhuyzen, who points in the direction of Uncas, the resurgent Pequots, and the Praying Indians. Far from being expunged from "Britain's northern colonies," these groups all did very well out of the war. With respect especially to the decision to attack the secret fortress capital of the Narragansetts, deep within the Great Swamp, Lonkhuyzen makes the case for an "Indian Civil War." 

Why do the Praying Indians get included here as winners when they all got sold into slavery? The short answer is that they didn't. We know this for the Cape Cod and island Praying Indians, but sort of ignore this, so the issue is the mainly Nipmuc Praying Indians of the towns established by John Eliot. And here I can only point you to Kenneth Moynihan's recent splendid local history of one former praying town, Worcester. As a local historian does, he pays attention to the details, and the result is a deconstruction of Daniel Gookin's won't-melt-in-your-mouth collective hagiography of the suffering Christian Indians. 

Gookin, of course, wasn't just the superintendent of Indian affairs for the Bay Colony. He was also deeply involved, along with the Reverend John Eliot, in the creation of the new town of Worcester on a site adjacent to Lake Quinsigamond, around which were three Nipmuc settlements. Eliot, having already created 7 Indian praying towns for the Nipmuc, intended that Worcester/Quinsigamond  would incorporate the next. Oddly enough, though, then, the legal apparatus was in the context of a grant of land by Gookin to Indians; but this was the usual way in which Praying Towns were created, and raises questions that really need to be asked about Eliot and Gookin. Above all, it was vital to Eliot that Indians of status lead his Praying Towns. The point of the whole process was the conversion of Indian gentry. Their dependents would follow. Moynihan has established from archival sources that  Gookin had made several earlier trips to Quinsigamond and made treaties extinguishing the land rights of two of the local communities. He had not extinguished that of a third, and would not until after the war. (Which is to say, a Nipmuc community survived the entire war hard by modern Worcester without evidently attracting any attention, positive or negative. But this is hardly unique to the patchwork of violence that characterised "King Philip's War" and which leans me to accepting Hubbard's "troubles" usage.

So things are starting to get complicated. And potentially icky. Gookin and Eliot made further agreements extinguishing pre-existing rights at Quinsigamond, including those of European settlers, another township, as well as Nipmuc claims by various sachems of existing Praying Towns. Now the town could be surveyed, in the immediate run-up to the outbreak of hostilities, a platt was produced whereby Daniel Gookin got 50 acres, his son, Samuel, got 25. Their very appropriately named assistant, Daniel Henchman of Boston, got 25. 

Now, these allotments, even at the centre of a settlement, may not seem like much. However, Moynihan has discovered that in the postwar resurvey, allocations to the original founders would come with preferential political rights in the town meeting, and, perhaps more importantly, would be tax-free. This status was justified by reference to the support of churches and of Harvard College, but we have wandered far into prebendary territory. Now, I don't know if this reflects a harsher and more self-consciously oligopolic post war spirit, or a better understanding of the actual scheme. The answer might actually be in Moynihan, and I've just not read far enough in. That being said, what I do know is that it was Matoonas, Gookin's constable at the praying town of Pakachoag, who organised first the looting of the trading post at Quingisamond. The Quingisamond deal was not the specific trigger of the Troubles, because Philip was already in arms by this time. But it does seem to be the reason that disorder spread amongst the Nipimucs. And if these stunts over prebendaries were widespread, I think it may prove possible to formulate a new perspective on both the Troubles and Shay's Rebellion in the next century. Speculation aside, it was the crackdown on the Nipmucs after Matoonas' attack that forced many to join the Wampanoag in arms.

It was this split within the Nipmuc community that led to the infamous detention of the Praying Indians on Deer Island and the sale of some, but not by any means all, as slaves. Gookin and Eliot acquire considerable  credibility as advocates for Indian rights with their protests against these actions; but, then, they also retained their ample plots at the heart of the future Worcester --and elsewhere. So it all comes out in the wash.

So that's the moment. It's also the story of one of  Eliot's Praying Towns among many. Here's a list, per Wikipedia. Note that it excludes Praying Towns not established by Eliot, including Mashpee on Cape Cod, the Nantucket and Martha's Vinyard settlements, everything in Connecticut, and anything that might have been established much north of Boston, excepting Lowell/Wamesit. 

 "Littleton (Nashoba), Lowell (Wamesit, initially incorporated as part of Chelmsford), Grafton(Hassanamessit), Marlborough (Okommakamesit), a portion of Hopkinton that is now in the Town of Ashland (Makunkokoag), Canton(Punkapoag), Mendon-Uxbridge (Wacentug), and Natick.")

Of these, only two (I think) were actually ethnically cleansed in 1676. Others were "destroyed" in the 1676 attacks. But let's notice the stakes here. Mendon/Uxbridge (Wacentug), was granted as a Praying Town in 1660, burned during the Troubles and resettled in 1680 as a English town, by, amongst others, one Robert Taft. However, if we go by General Court records rather than family genealogy, we can trace the American Tafts in Wacentug back to the mid-1660s. Marlborough, too, was "destroyed by fire" in 1676, but the cleansing flames did not take an affidavit of the previous year listing the Praying Indians with property in town, including, per Wikipedia, "Old Nequenit, Robin, Benjamin Wuttanamitt, Great James, Mary, the widow of Peter Naskonit, on behalf of her child David Moses, Assoake, the widow of James Norwell "On behalf of my children," Sarah Conomy, 'sole executrix of my late husband Oomonog,' Elizebeth, 'the only daughter and sole heir of Solomon, deceased,' and James Spence 'on behalf of his wife.'"

There's  nothing more obviously Indian about the last  names "Norwell" and "Spence" than of Taft.

What of towns not cleansed, ethnically or by fire? In his history of Natick (here on JSTOR, also summarised here), Harold W. Lonkhuyzen concluded that it was not. A local history of the community extending from the war through the 1720s shows, rather, a gradual de-Indianising. It's a great piece of research, and commentary enough on the status of academic history that it hasn't been followed up, because Lonkhuyzen went back to school to get his MD, and apparently works as a psychiatrist these days. It's left to others to publish articles with provocative titles like "They were here all along." Grafton, which actually now has a Nipmuc reservation, rediscovered its Indian past as long ago as the 1850s, although the reservation was only erected in the last piece of Nipmuc-owned land in the township in the 1930s.

More smoking guns needed? Mashpee, on Cape Cod, received one group of Praying Indians not detained or deported. In spite of its historically Indian status, the town gradually lost its  status by degrees, not withstanding the famous Mashpee revolt of 1830. Finally, in 1870, it was incorporated as a town, the last  community on Cape Cod to have incorporation imposed save for Bourne. Today, Mashpee survives on tourist traffic driven by its self-consciously Indian (Wampanoag rather than Nipmuc or Nasuet) history. Bourne's Wikipedia article lacks a historical section. On Mashpee, here, here.. Also, have you heard of this guy?

I could say a great deal more about Nantucket, where the official history claims that all of the Indians died of  "the sickness" in the not-entirely-insignificant year of 1763, but I'm going south to the islands later. Right now I want to take a cruise northwards up the coast to Reverend Hubbard's country.

It's important to note that in spite of its reputation as an apocalyptic race war, King Philip's Troubles touched many parts of New-England very lightly, if at all. That certainly includes Ipswich and the surrounding country in the peculiar little protrusion that Massachusetts makes into New Hampshire, but also places with listed Praying Towns including Salem and the former town of Dorchester. Salem's affiliated Praying Town of Shawshinock doesn't appear on the list of Eliot's Praying Towns because it wasn't one. However, he was a witness to the deed establishing the town, and modern local historians reconstructing its boundaries have used (tax-free?) deeds of land within it to Gookin, Eliot, Harvard College, and other "Puritan" leading lights. 

Dorchester does appear on the list, but as "Canton," because the actual Praying Town, on the summer range of the resident Punkapoags in the Blue Hills, was incorporated as Canton in 1797. Just when the "Punkapoag" usage lapsed is unclear to me. William Dana Orcutt noted in his local history of the town that as long as there were "pure-blooded Indians" in Dorchester, they made an annual summer pilgrimage out to Punkapoag Plantation. The Taunton River Stewardship Council. notes a document listing a 1746 grant by Praying Indians James Thomas (5 acres), Stephen David (18 ¾ acres) and Job Ahanton (15 acres) for "a meeting house (church), burying place (old section of the cemetery), training field (green), parsonage" [and  grebe?]  The remaining Praying Indians joined the new meeting house in 1755, and per the Stewardship Council, "over the next 70 years, disappeared into history." Albeit, not, evidently, into the pauper's section of history. 

Finally, there is Ipswich. But for this story, I have to take it back a bit and, again, sail up the coast. Dorchester was founded in 1630 when the Mary and John arrived from Dorset and ten men rowed ashore at Mattapan, a neck highly suited for raising cattle. They found there Thomas Walford, William Trevour and David Thompson. These were all Englishmen, traders, and interpreters, although I abstract their names from slightly different sections of Orcutt's account. Orcutt notes that nothing is known of their origins or subsequent movements, so that it is hard to make them the first citizens of Dorchester. I believe that Anderson throws up his hands as well. Just three more emissions of the leaky pump, their role certainly important and interesting, if we just knew something about it. (Again, wait 'till I get to Ipswich.) 

Salem, founded at the mouth of Naumkeag, was what the settlers of Dorchester hoped to find: a rivermouth haven, easily dominated by guns planted onshore according to Mainwaring's prescription of a good port, dominated by guns to ensure peace and comity. As such, it was actually established by Thomas Gardiner, perhaps in the name of the Dorchester Company, one of the more obscure sidelights of early New England history, in 1624. Next year, Roger Conant, definitely acting for the company, took over. Roger Conant's descendants used to trace him back to one of the early immigrant ships to Patuxet/Plymouth, but we now know that only his brother emigrated at that time. Roger, presumably, was part of the leaky pump. Conant in turn was displaced in 1628 by the newly arrived Roger Endicott, yet another man of obscure origins, although in his case we at least know that he arrived on the Abigail in June with 50 settlers, under the aegis of the Earl of Warwick, then enjoying his turn at the head of New England-related activities back in London. Endicott aligned himself in timely fashion with John Winthrop, when he arrived with his fleet to establish Boston. In spite of, or because of this, there would be continuing friction between Salem and Boston for many years thereafter. The friction perhaps explains why the Troubles didn't reach Salem, although Salem troops fought in the war, and also started the earlier Pequot War.

It would be too neat, however, to draw a line across the coast separating a "Salem" and a "Boston" sphere of interest. When John Winthrop's flagship, the Arabella, arrived off the coast, Sachem Masconnonet of Agawam (Ipswich, not Springfield) rowed out to meet him with a retinue and was entertained by the new Governor for the day. In 1633, John Winthrop's eldest son, John, removed to Agawam, where he lived for several years as part of his career as a trans-Atlantic eminence that reached its climax when he became Governor of Connecticut, and where his eldest son was born.

Ipswich, it happens, intrudes into the Hampshire grant sought by Captain Mason, the author of that letter that I misattributed to Ferdinando Gorges in my last post. (Ah, the perils of overhasty reading.) Consequently, in the 1640s, in a heated controversy over the ownership of Plum Island and its associated fishery, Masconnonet's original deed was entered into the public record. Per Wikipedia, citing a 1912 compendium of Indian land grants of Essex County: 

Although he could not read or write at the time of the deed, Masconomet understood that he was effecting a union of the remnant of the tribe after decimation by disease (probably smallpox) with the English colonists. He testified to that effect before the General Court of Massachusetts, which was questioning the legality of the younger Winthrop's transactions. He and his heirs were seeking public reimbursement of the 20 pounds. The tribal members did not take up residence in distinct villages of "praying Indians" as did the other tribes but remained distributed on individual farms adjoining those of the English and integrated into the settlements. Giving up their native language and other marks and affiliations of native identity they soon vanished into Essex County. Masconomet, henceforward "John the Sagamore", gave his children English names. Memory of their ancestry persisted throughout the 17th century, a few generations after Masconomet's death in 1658. A memorial stone on Sagamore Hill in southeastern Hamilton marks where Mosconomet was buried with his gun and tomahawk. 

I'd take this as a smoking gun if I hadn't seen other charters of Yankee ethnogenesis in Praying Indian contexts that didn't work out nearly so well. What I find astonishing is this: the life of John Winthrop the Younger's eldest son, named John per the tradition of the day, but called "Fitz-John." I was so flabbergasted by the blatant use of a nickname indicating natural birth that I'm still struggling to make heads or tales of the Connecticut State Library's explanation that it is because people were confused by the fact that he had the same name as his father. Ingenuous? Sly? Accurate? I do notice, however, that Fitz-John was the long-term governor of Connecticut after his father, in spite of contracting a common law marriage with the wealthy heiress of a New Haven innkeeping family. (Colonial and early post-Colonial America and its socially prominent innkeepers. Dissertation-worthy or dissertation-worthy?) It does occur to me that even Puritans might be a little more forgiving of a bastard son who couldn't contract a legal marriage. Benjamin Franklin, ahem.

So I'm thinking that Masconnonet did very well by one of his daughters. Is it a surprise that it was only when the Plum Island litigation reached court that the Winthrops reluctantly disgorged the original Masconnonet deed from their family archives?

Speaking of which, here's one interesting fact about the disquieting end of (some) Praying Towns at the end of the Troubles. Many Praying Indians were, as we know, sold into slavery, either in the West Indies or domestically. Others, however, were "bound out" until their majority. They're listed here, and, not surprisingly, the favoured children appear to be the heirs of prominent Indian landowners.

Now, if this were medieval German history, I could make sense of this. Of course the children of defeated rebels are taken as wards by the victors. They're the heirs, and they're pretty much expected to marry into the families of their masters, bringing their lands with them. Of course, if this were medieval history, I would expect skulduggery over tax-exempt church land, and a commune righteously trying to prove that a grotesque little internecine conflict over land was actually the commune suppressing an overmighty rebel against the Emperor's great, but remote justice. And I would expect (kaisertrue sentimentalist that I am) that, eventually, the Emperor's judges would arrive and dispense true justice by revoking the commune's charter.

Oh, wait... Of course, I shouldn't be looking to medieval history to enlighten the early history of New England. New England is on a teleological path to modernity.    

*Perhaps not surprisingly, the "Sweetest rose of colour" line is omitted from Roy and Dale's utterly fabulous version. (Who knew that singing cowboy TV shows were where the gay people went in the 1950s?) The line is included in this painfully-missing-the-point Neo-Confederate  monstrosity, though. Head-scratcher, that. 

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