Fromthe General History of Virginia by Captain John Smith

Fromthe General History of Virginia by Captain John Smith

English III - American Literature

Native American/Explorers Unit

Excerpts from New English Canaan by Thomas Morton: Selections Concerning Native Americans
Of their Reverence, and Respect to Age.
It is a thing to be admired, and indeed made a precedent, that a Nation yet uncivilized should more respect age than some nations civilized, since there are so many precepts both of divine and humane writers extant to instruct more Civil Nations: in that particular, wherein they excel, the younger are always obedient unto the elder people, and at their commands in every respect without grumbling; in all councils, (as therein they are circumspect to do their actions by advice and counsel, and not rashly or inconsiderately) the younger men’s opinion shall be heard, but the old men’s opinion and council embraced and followed: besides, as the elder feed and provide for the younger in infancy, doe the younger, after being grown to years of manhood, provide for those that be aged; . . .
The consideration of these things, me thinks, should reduce some of our irregular young people of civilized Nations, when this story shall come to their knowledge, to better manners, and make them ashamed of their former error in this kind, and to become hereafter more dutiful; which I, as a friend, (by observation having found,) have herein recorded for that purpose. . . .
I must needs commend them in this particular, that, though they buy many commodities of our Nation, yet they keep but few, and those of special use.
They love not to be cumbered with many utensils, and although every proprietor knows his own, yet all things, (so long as they will last), are used in common amongst them: A biscuit cake given to one, that one breaks it equally into so many parts as there be persons in his company, and distributes it. Plato's Commonwealth is so much practiced by these people.
According to humane reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people lead the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the minds of so many Christians: They are not delighted in baubles, but in useful things. . . .
I have observed that they will not be troubled with superfluous commodities. Such things as they find they are taught by necessity to make use of, they will make choice of, and seek to purchase with industry. So that, in respect that their life is so void of care, and they are so loving also that they make use of those things they enjoy, (the wife only excepted,) as common goods, and are therein so compassionate that, rather than one should starve through want, they would starve all. Thus doe they pass away the time merrily, not regarding our pomp, (which they see daily before their faces,) but are better content with their own, which some men esteem so meanly of.
Of their Houses and Habitations.
The Natives of New England … are willing that any shall eat with them. Nay, if any one that shall come into their houses and there fall asleep, when they see him disposed to lie down, they will spread a matt for him of their own accord, and lay a roll of skins for a boulster, and let him lie. If he sleep until their meat be dished up, they will set a wooden bowl of meat by him that sleepeth, and wake him saying, CattupkeeneMeckin: That is, If you be hungry, there is meat for you, where if you will eat you may. Such is their Humanity.
Of Plymouth Plantation from Chapter Twenty-Eight. [The Pequot War] by William Bradford
[Note: In 1633 an outbreak of European diseases killed up to 80% of the Pequots population. Desperate at their losses and the growth of English settlements, the Pequots made one great effort to drive away the English, who allied with the Narragansetts and Mohegans, the Pequots’ traditional enemies. They attacked settlements and approached other tribes about joining forces to drive the colonists away. The colonists then asked the Governor for military support.]
Anno Dom: 1637.
The Governor’s answer…I shall here insert.
Sir: . . . withal we conceive that you look at the Pequots, and all other Indians, as a common enemy, who, though he may take occasion of the beginning of his rage, from some one part of the English, yet if he prevail, will surely pursue his advantage, to the rooting out of the whole nation.
In the meantime, the Pequots, especially in the winter before, sought to make peace with the Narragansetts, and used very pernicious arguments to move them thereunto: as that the English were strangers and began to overspread their country, and would deprive them thereof in time, if they were suffered to grow and increase; and if the Narragansetts did assist the English to subdue [the Pequots], [the Narragansetts] did but make way for their own overthrow, for if they were rooted out, the English would soon take occasion to subjugate them; and if they would hearken to them, [the Indians] should not need to fear the strength of the English; for they would not come to open battle with them, but fire their houses, kill their cattle, and lie in ambush for them as they went abroad upon their occasions; and all this they might easily do without any or little danger to themselves. The which course being held, they well saw the English could not long subsist, but they would either be starved with hunger, or be forced to forsake the country; with many the like things; insomuch that the Narragansetts were once wavering, and were half-minded to have made peace with [the Pequots], and joined against the English.
But again when [the Narragansetts] considered, how much wrong they had received from the Pequot, and what an opportunity they now had by the help of the English to right themselves, revenge was so sweet unto them, as it prevailed above all the rest; so as they resolved to join with the English against them, and did.
So [the English] went on, and so ordered their march, as the [Narragansett] Indians brought them [the English] to a fort of the [Pequot] enemies (in which most of their chief men were) before day. They approached the same with great silence, and surrounded it both with English and Indians, that they might not break out; and so assaulted them with great courage, shooting amongst them, and entered the fort with all speed; and those that first entered found sharp resistance from the enemy, who both shot at and grappled with them; others [of the English] ran into their houses, and brought out fire, and set them on fire, which soon took in their mats, and, standing close together, with the wind, all was quickly on a flame, and thereby more were burnt to death then was otherwise slain; it burnt their bowstrings, and made them unserviceable. Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched, and very few escaped.
It was conceived [the English] thus destroyed about 400 [of the Pequot Indians] at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy. . . .

fromThe General History of Virginia by Captain John Smith

But now was all our provision spent, the sturgeon gone, all helps abandoned, each hour expecting the fury of the savages; when God, the patron of all good endeavors, in that desperate extremity so changed the hearts of the savages, that they brought such plenty of their fruits and provision, as no man wanted….

The new President, and Martin, being little beloved, of weak judgment in dangers, and less industry in peace, committed the managing of all things abroad to Captain Smith, who by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build houses, others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in short time, he provided most of them lodgings, neglecting any for himself.

This done, seeing the savages' superfluity begin to decrease, (with some of his workmen) [he] shipped himself in the shallop to search the country for trade. The want of the language, knowledge to manage boat without sails, the want of a sufficient power (knowing the multide of the savages), apparel for his men, and other necessaries, were infinite impediments yet no discouragement.

Being but six or seven in company we went down the river to Kecoughtan, where at first they scorned him, as a famished man, and would in derision offer him a handful of corn, a piece of bread, for their swords and muskets, and such like proportions also for their apparel. But seeing by trade and courtesy there was nothing to be had, he made bold to try such conclusions as necessity enforced, though contrary to his commission: let fly his muskets, ran his boat on shore, whereat they all fled into the woods.

So marching toward their houses, they might see great heaps of corn; much ado he had to restrain his hungry soldiers from present taking it, expecting as it happened that the savages would assault them, as not long after they did with most hideous noise. Sixty or seventy of them, some black, some red, some white, some parti-coloured, came in a square order, singing and dancing out of the woods, with their Okee (which was an idol made of skins, stuffed with moss, all painted and hung with chains and copper) borne before them; and in this manner, being well armed with clubs, targets, bows, and arrows, they charged the English, that so kindly received them with their muskets loaded with pistol shot, that down fell their God, and divers lay sprawling on the ground; the rest fled again to the woods, and ere long sent one of their Quiyoughkasoucks to offer peace and redeem their Okee.

Smith told them, if only six of them would come unarmed and load his boat, he would not only be their friend but restore them their Okee, and give them beads, copper, and hatchets besides, which on both sides was to their contents performed; and then they brought him venison, turkies, wild fowl, bread, and what they had singing and dancing in sign of friendship till they departed.

. . .

The next voyage he proceeded so far that with much labor by cutting of trees asunder he made his passage; but when his barge could pass no farther, he left her in a broad bay out of danger of shot, commanding none should go ashore till his return: himself with two English and two savages went up higher in a canoe, but he was not long absent, but his men went ashore, whose want of government, gave both occasion and opportunity to the savages to surprise one George Cassen, whom they slew, and much failed not to have cut off the boat and all the rest.

Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river's head, twenty miles in the desert, had his two men slain (as is supposed) sleeping by the canoe, whilst himself by fowling sought them victuall who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself, with the aid of a savage his guid[e], whom he bound to him with his garters, and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner.

When this news came to Jamestown, much was their sorrow for his loss, few expecting what ensued.

Six or seven weeks those barbarians kept him prisoner, many strange triumphs and conjurations they made of him, yet he so demeaned himself amongst them, as he not only diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own liberty, and got hill and his company such estimation amongst them, that those savages admired him more than their own Quiyoughkasoucks.