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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Pills for the Sachems

By John Eliot (1604–1690)

[Letter in Tract “The Light appearing more and more towards the perfect Day.” 1651.]

THIS business of praying to God (for that is their general name of Religion) hath hitherto found opposition only from the Pawwawes and profane spirits; but now the Lord hath exercised us with another and greater opposition; for the Sachems of the Country are generally set against us, and counterwork the Lord by keeping off their men from praying to God as much as they can. And the reason of it is this, They plainly see that Religion will make a great change among them, and cut them off from their former tyranny; for they used to hold their people in an absolute servitude, insomuch as whatever they had, and themselves too were at his command; his language was, as one said, omne meum; now they see that Religion teaches otherwise, and puts a bridle upon such usurpations. Besides their former manner was, that if they wanted money, or if they desire any thing from a man, they would take occasion to rage and be in a great anger; which when they did perceive, they would give him all they had to pacify him; for else their way was to suborn some villain (of which they have no lack) to find some opportunity to kill him. This keeps them in great awe of their Sachems, and is one reason why none of them desire any wealth, only from hand to mouth, because they are but servants, and they get it not for themselves. But now if their Sachem so rage, and give sharp and cruel language, instead of seeking his favor with gifts (as formerly) they will admonish him of his sin; tell him that is not the right way to get money; but he must labor, and then he may have money, that is God’s command, etc. And as for Tribute, some they are willing to pay, but not as formerly. Now these are great temptations to the Sachems, and they had need of a good measure both of wisdom and grace to swallow this Pill, and it hath set them quite off. And I suppose that hence it is, that (I having requested the Court of Commissioners for a general way to be thought of to instruct all the Indians in all parts, and I told the Indians that I did so, which they would soon spread; and still in my prayers, I pray for the Monohegens, Narragansets, etc.) the Monohegen Indians were much troubled lest the Court of Commissioners should take some course to teach them to pray to God; and Unkus their Sachem went to Hartford this Court (for there they sate) and expressed to Elder Goodwin his fear of such a thing, and manifested a great unwillingness thereunto; this one of our Commissioners told me at his coming home.

This temptation hath much troubled Cutshamaquin our Sachem, and he was raised in his spirit to such an height, that at a meeting after Lecture, he openly contested with me against our proceeding to make a Town; and plainly told me that all the Sachems in the Country were against it, etc. When he did so carry himself, all the Indians were filled with fear, their countenances grew pale, and most of them slunk away, a few stayed, and I was alone, not any English man with me. But it pleased God (for it was his guidance of me, and assistance) to raise up my spirit, not to passion, but to a bold resolution, telling him it was God’s work I was about, and he was with me, and I feared not him, nor all the Sachems in the Country, and I was resolved to go on do what they can, and they nor he should hinder that which I had begun, etc. And it pleased God that his spirit shrunk and fell before me, which when those Indians that tarried saw, they smiled as they durst, out of his sight, and have been much strengthened ever since; and since I understand that in such conflicts their manner is, that they account him that shrinks to be conquered, and the other to conquer; which alas I knew not, nor did I aim at such a matter, but the Lord carried me beyond my thoughts and wont.

After this brunt was over, I took my leave to go home, and Cutshamaquin went a little way with me, and told me that the reason of this trouble was, because the Indians that pray to God, since they have so done, do not pay him tribute as formerly they have done. I answered him that once before when I heard of his complaint that way, I preached on that text, “Give unto Cæsar what is Cæsar’s and unto God what is God’s;” and also on Rom. xiii.—naming him the matter of the texts (not the places of which he is ignorant). But he said, It’s true, I taught them well, but they would not in that point do as I taught them. And further he said, “This thing are all the Sachems sensible of, and therefore set themselves against praying to God.” And then I was troubled, lest (if they should be sinfully unjust) they should both hinder and blemish the Gospel and Religion; I did therefore consult with the Magistrates and Mr. Cotton and other Elders; Mr. Cotton’s text, by God’s providence, the next Lecture gave him occasion to speak to it, which I foreknowing advised some that understood English best, to be there; and partly by what they heard, and by what I had preached to the like purpose, and told them what Mr. Cotton said, etc., they were troubled, and fell to reckon up what they had done in two years past, a few of them that lived at one of the places I preached unto; I took down the particulars in writing, as followeth. At one time they gave him twenty bushels of corn, at another time more than six bushels; two hunting days they killed him fifteen Deers; they brake up for him two Acres of Land, they made for him a great house or Wigwam, they made twenty rod of fence for him, with a Ditch and two Rails about it, they paid a debt for him of £3 10 s. only some others were contributors in this money; one of them gave him a skin of Beaver of two pound, at his return from building, besides many days’ works in planting corn altogether, and some severally; yea they said they would willingly do more if they would govern well by justice, and as the word of God taught them. When I heard all this, I wondered, for this cometh to near £30 and was done by a few, and they thought it not much if he had carried matters better; and yet his complaint was, they do nothing. But the bottom of it lieth here, he formerly had all or what he would; now he hath but what they will; and admonitions also to rule better, and he is provoked by other Sachems, and ill counsel, not to suffer this, and yet doth not know how to help it; hence arise his temptations, in which I do very much pity him. Having all this information what they had done, and how causeless his complaint and discontent was, I thought it a difficult thing to ease his spirit, and yet clear and justify the people, which I was to endeavor the next day of our meeting after the former contestations, therefore I was willing to get somebody with me. And by God’s providence, Elder Heath went with me, and when we came there, we found him very full of discontent, sighing, sour looks, etc., but we took no notice of it.

I preached that day out of the fourth of Matthew, the temptations of Christ; and when I came at that temptation, of the Devils showing Christ the kingdoms and glories of the world, thereby to tempt him from the service of God, to the service of the Devil; I did apply it wholly to his case, showing him the Devil was now tempting him, as he tempted Christ; and Satan showeth him all the delights and dignities, and gifts and greatness that he was wont to have in their sinful way; Satan also tells him he shall lose them all if he pray to God, but if he will give over praying to God he shall have them all again; then, I showed him how Christ rejected that temptation, and exhorted him to reject it also, for either he must reject the temptation, or else he will reject praying to God; if he should reject praying to God, God would reject him.

After our exercise was ended, we had conference of the matter, and we gave him the best counsel we could (as the Lord was pleased to assist) and when we had done, Elder Heath his observation of him was, that there was a great change in him, his spirit was very much lightened, and it much appeared both in his countenance and carriage, and he hath carried all things fairly ever since.