Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.Vol. II. The Beginnings of Americanism: 16501710
[From “Historical Collections of the Indians in New England,” written in 1674.]
The Epistle Dedicatory.
I have read that Artaxerxes Mnemon, king of Persia, going his progress, the people used to present him with their several gifts in the way; and among the rest a countryman, having nothing else to present him with, ran to the river, and taking up his hands full of water, presented him with that. Artaxerxes was so taken therewith, that he gave the fellow a considerable beneficence.
So have I, dread Sovereign, presumed to offer this poor mite, as a testimony of my affection. I must acknowledge it is most unworthy to kiss your royal hands, being so meanly apparelled in an Indian garb. But the matter therein contained, being a true account of the progress of the Gospel among the poor Indians, within your dominions, and that under the influence of your royal favor, this, as I conceive, is not unmeet for your Majesty’s knowledge. Therefore let it please your Majesty graciously to accept and peruse these Collections, and especially that humble proposal made in Chap. 12. Sect. 5. as a necessary expedient to promote this great work, and which must have its life, under God, from the rays of your Majesty’s favor.
The God of heaven and earth bless your Majesty with all temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings in Christ Jesus; and make you more and more a nursing father to his church; that under your shadow it may rejoice, and every individual person thereof be encouraged in all ways of godliness and honesty.
So prayeth he that is one of the most unworthy, yet desirous to be reckoned among the number of your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects.
[From the Same, Chap. I.]
The color of their skins, the form and shape of their bodies, hair, and eyes, demonstrate this. Their skins are of a tawny color, not unlike the tawny Moors in Africa; the proportion of their limbs, well formed; it is rare to see a crooked person among them. Their hair is black and harsh, not curling; their eyes, black and dull; though I have seen, but very rarely, a gray-eyed person among them, with brownish hair. But still the difficulty yet remains, whence all these Americans had their first original, and from which of the sons of Noah they descended, and how they came first into these parts; which is separated so very far from Europe and Africa by the Atlantic Ocean, and from a great part of Asia, by Mar del Zur, or the South sea: in which sea Sir Francis Drake, that noble hero, in his famous voyage about the world, sailed on the west of America, from the straits of Magellan, lying about 52 degrees of south latitude, unto 38 degrees of north latitude: where he possessed a part of the country, and received subjection from those very tractable Indians, in the right of the English nation, and his sovereign prince, the famous queen Elizabeth, then reigning, and her successors, and gave it the name of New Albion: which country lies west northerly of Massachusetts in New England: for Boston lies in 42° 30′ and New Albion in 48° of north latitude, which is near six degrees more northerly.
There are divers opinions about this matter.
First, some conceive that this people are of the race of the ten tribes of Israel, that Shalmaneser carried captive out of their own country, A.M. 3277, of which we read in II. Kings, xviii. 9–12; and that God hath, by some means or other, not yet discovered, brought them into America; and herein fulfilled his just threatening against them, of which we may read, II. Kings, xvii. from 6 to the 19 verse; and hath reduced them into such woful blindness and barbarism, as all those Americans are in; yet hath reserved their posterity there: and in his own best time, will fulfil and accomplish his promise, that those dry bones shall live, of which we read Ezek. xxxvii. 1–24. A reason given for this is taken from the practice of sundry Americans, especially of those inhabiting Peru and Mexico, who were most populous, and had great cities and wealth, and hence are probably apprehended to be the first possessors of America. Now of these the historians write, that they used circumcision and sacrifice, though oftentimes of human flesh: so did the Israelites sacrifice their sons unto Moloch, II. Kings, xvii., 17. But this opinion, that these people are of the race of the Israelites, doth not greatly obtain. But surely it is not impossible, and perhaps not so improbable, as many learned men think.
Secondly, another apprehension is, that the original of these Americans is from the Tartars, or Scythians, that live in the north-east parts of Asia; which some good geographers conceive is nearly joined unto the north-west parts of America, and possibly are one continent, or at least separated but by some narrow gulf; and from this beginning have spread themselves into the several parts of the North and South America; and because the southern parts were more fertile, and free from the cold winters incident to the northern regions, hence the southern parts became first planted, and most populous and rich. This opinion gained more credit than the former, because the people of America are not altogether unlike in color, shape, and manners, unto the Scythian people, and in regard that such a land travel is more feasible and probable than a voyage by sea so great a distance, as is before expressed, from other inhabited places, either in Europe, Asia, or Africa; especially so long since, when we hear of no sailing out of sight of land, before the use of the loadstone and compass was found. But if this people be sprung from the Tartarian or Scythian people, as this notion asserts, then it is to me a question, why they did not attend the known practice of that people; who, in all their removes and plantations, take with them their kine, sheep, horses, and camels, and the like tame beasts; which that people keep in great numbers, and drive with them in all their removes. But of these sorts and kinds of beasts used by the Tartars, none were found in America among the Indians. This question or objection is answered by some thus: First, possibly the first people were banished for some notorious offences; and so not permitted to take with them of these tame beasts. Or, secondly, possibly, the gulf, or passage, between Asia and America, though narrow, comparatively, is yet too broad to waft over any of those sort of creatures; and yet possibly men and women might pass over it in canoes made of hollow trees, or with barks of trees, wherein, it is known, the Indians will transport themselves, wives and children, over lakes and gulfs, very considerable for breadth. I have known some to pass with like vessels forty miles across an arm of the sea.
But before I pass to another thing, suppose it should be so, that the origination of the Americans came from Asia, by the north-west of America, where the continents are conceived to meet very near, which indeed is an opinion very probable; yet this doth not hinder the truth of the first conjecture, that this people may be of the race of the ten tribes of Israel: for the king of Assyria who led them captive, as we heard before, transported them into Asia, and placed them in several provinces and cities, as in II. Kings, xvii. 6. Now possibly, in process of time, this people, or at least some considerable number of them, whose custom and manner it was to keep themselves distinct from the other nations they lived amongst; and did commonly intermarry only with their own people; and also their religion being so different from the heathen, unto whom they were generally an abomination, as they were to the Egyptians; and also partly from God’s judgment following them for their sins: I say, it is not impossible but a considerable number of them might withdraw themselves; and so pass gradually into the extreme parts of the continent of Asia; and wherever they came, being disrelished by the heathen, might for their own security pass further and further, till they found America; which being unpeopled, there they found some rest; and so, in many hundred of years, spread themselves in America in that thin manner, as they were found there, especially in the northern parts of it; which country is able to contain and accommodate millions of mankind more than were found in it. And for their speech, which is not only different among themselves, but from the Hebrew, that might easily be lost by their often removes, or God’s judgment.
A third conjecture of the original of these Indians, is, that some of the tawny Moors of Africa, inhabiting upon the sea coasts, in times of war and contention among themselves, have put off to sea, and been transported over, in such small vessels as those times afforded, unto the south part of America, where the two continents of Africa and America are nearest; and they could not have opportunity or advantage to carry with the small vessels of those times any tame beasts, such as were in that country. Some reasons are given for this notion. First, because the Americans are much like the Moors of Africa. Secondly, the seas between the tropics are easy to pass, and safe for small vessels; the winds in those parts blowing from the east to the west, and the current setting the same course. Thirdly, because it is most probable, that the inhabitants of America first came into the south parts; where were found the greatest numbers of people, and the most considerable cities and riches.
But these, or any other notions, can amount to no more than rational conjecture; for a certainty of their first extraction cannot be attained; for they being ignorant of letters and records of antiquity, as the Europeans, Africans, and sundry of the Asians, are and have been, hence any true knowledge of their ancestors is utterly lost among them. I have discoursed and questioned about this matter with some of the most judicious of the Indians, but their answers are divers and fabulous. Some of the inland Indians say, that they came from such as inhabit the sea-coasts. Others say, that there were two young squaws, or women, being at first either swimming or wading in the water; the froth or foam of the water touched their bodies, from whence they became with child; and one of them brought forth a male; and the other a female child; and then the two women died and left the earth: So their son and daughter were their first progenitors. Other fables and figments are among them touching this thing, which are not worthy to be inserted. These only may suffice to give a taste of their great ignorance touching their original; the full determination whereof must be left until the day, wherein all secret and hidden things shall be manifested to the glory of God.
But this may upon sure grounds be asserted, that they are Adam’s posterity, and consequently children of wrath; and hence are not only objects of all christians’ pity and compassion, but subjects upon which our faith, prayers, and best endeavours should be put forth to reduce them from barbarism to civility; but especially to rescue them out of the bondage of Satan, and bring them to salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ; which is the main scope and design of this tractate.
[From the Same, Chap. III.]
[From the Same, Chap. V.]
I remember but only two of them all, that lived in the college at Cambridge; the one named Joel, the other, Caleb; both natives of Manila’s Vineyard. These two were hopeful young men, especially Joel, being so ripe in learning, that he should, within a few months, have taken his first degree of bachelor of art in the college. He took a voyage to Martha’s Vineyard to visit his father and kindred, a little before the commencement; but upon his return back in a vessel, with other passengers and mariners, suffered shipwreck upon the island of Nantucket; where the bark was found put on shore; and in all probability the people in it came on shore alive, but afterwards were murdered by some wicked Indians of that place; who, for lucre of the spoil in the vessel, which was laden with goods, thus cruelly destroyed the people in it; for which fault some of those Indians was convicted and executed afterwards. Thus perished our hopeful young prophet Joel. He was a good scholar and a pious man, as I judge. I knew him well; for he lived and was taught in the same town where I dwell. I observed him for several years, after he was grown to years of discretion, to be not only a diligent student, but an attentive hearer of God’s word; diligently writing the sermons, and frequenting lectures; grave and sober in his conversation.
The other called Caleb, not long after he took his degree of bachelor of art at Cambridge in New England, died of a consumption at Charlestown, where he was placed by Mr. Thomas Danforth, who had inspection over him, under the care of a physician in order to his health; where he wanted not for the best means the country could afford, both of food and physic; but God denied the blessing, and put a period to his days.
Of this disease of the consumption sundry of those Indian youths died, that were bred up to school among the English. The truth is, this disease is frequent among the Indians; and sundry die of it, that live not with the English. A hectic fever, issuing in a consumption, is a common and mortal disease among them. I know some have apprehended other causes of the mortality of these Indian scholars. Some have attributed it unto the great change upon their bodies, in respect of their diet, lodging, apparel, studies; so much different from what they were inured to among their own countrymen.
These awful providences of God, in frustrating the hopeful expectations concerning the learned Indian youth, who were designed to be for teachers unto their countrymen, concurring with some other severe dispensations of God obstructive to this work,—some whereof may be hereafter mentioned,—caused great thoughts of heart unto the well-willers and promoters thereof. Some conceived, God was not pleased yet to make use of any of the Indians to preach the Gospel; and that the time of the great harvest of their ingathering is not yet come, but will follow after the calling of the Jews. Others thought that this honor of their instruction and conversion shall be continued with Englishmen. Others were of opinion, that Satan, the great enemy and opposer of men’s salvation, who had for many years held these poor barbarians under his dominion, did use all his stratagems and endeavors to impede the spreading of the Christian faith, that he might the better keep possession of his kingdom among them. But others, whose faith I hope in God was active and vigorous, did conclude that there was nothing more in these providences and remoras, than did usually attend and accompany all good designs, tending to the glory of God and salvation of souls; whereof plentiful examples are recorded in Holy Scriptures, especially in the primitive times; which in several chapters or the Acts of the Apostles may be demonstrated….
[From the Same, Chap. VII.]
“Sirs, you have been pleased for four years last past, in your abundant love, to apply yourselves particularly unto me and my people, to exhort, press, and persuade us to pray to God. I am very thankful to you for your pains. I must acknowledge,” said he, “I have, all my days, used to pass in an old canoe” (alluding to his frequent custom to pass in a canoe upon the river), “and now you exhort me to change and leave my old canoe, and embark in a new canoe, to which I have hitherto been unwilling: but now I yield up myself to your advice, and enter into a new canoe, and do engage to pray to God hereafter.”
This his professed subjection was well pleasing to all that were present, of which there were some English persons of quality; as Mr. Richard Daniel, a gentleman that lived in Billerica, about six miles off: and Lieutenant Henchman, a neighbor at Chelmsford; besides brother Eliot and myself, with sundry others, English and Indians. Mr. Daniel before named desired brother Eliot to tell this sachem from him, that it may be, while he went in his old canoe, he passed in a quiet stream: but the end thereof was death and destruction to soul and body. But now he went into a new canoe, perhaps he would meet with storms and trials; but yet he should be encouraged to persevere, for the end of his voyage would be everlasting rest. Moreover he and his people were exhorted by brother Eliot and myself to go on and sanctify the Sabbath, to hear the Word, and use the means that God hath appointed, and encourage their hearts in the Lord their God. Since that time I hear this sachem doth persevere, and is a constant and diligent hearer of God’s Word, and sanctifieth the Sabbath, though he doth travel to Wamesit meeting every Sabbath, which is above two miles; and though sundry of his people have deserted him, since he subjected to the Gospel, yet he continues and persists.
[From “An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians.”]
[From the Same.]
[From the Same.]