Thursday, November 26, 2009

Story of Squanto

Many know the story of how the Indian Squanto helped to save the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth. His ability to speak English, his timely arrival and helpful counsel and connections all contributed to the survival of the Pilgrims after a difficult first winter (1620-1621). Cotton Mather tells the story by giving some background and reminds us to consider the providence in disposing all things for the good of his people and the glory of his name.

Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, Vol. 1, pp. 55-56:

...our crippled planters were not more comforted with the early advance of the Spring, than they were surprized with the appearance of two Indians, who in broken English bade them, welcome Englishmen! It seems that one of these Indians had been in the eastern parts of New-England, acquainted with some of the English vessels that had been formerly fishing there; but the other of the Indians, and he from whom they had most of service, was a person provided by the very singular providence of God for that service. A most wicked ship-master being on this coast a few years before, had wickedly spirited away more than twenty Indians; whom having enticed them aboard, he presently stowed them under hatches, and carried them away to the Streights, where he sold as many of them as he could for Slaves. This avaritious and pernicious felony laid the foundation of grievous annoyances to all the English endeavours of settlements, especially in the northern parts of the land for several years ensuing. The Indians would never forget or forgive this injury; but when the English afterwards came upon this coast, in their fishing-voyages, they were still assaulted in an hostile manner, to the killing and wounding of many poor men by the angry natives, in revenge of the wrong that had been done them; and some intended Plantations here were hereby utterly nipt in the bud. But our good God so ordered it, that one of the stoln Indians, called Squanto, had escaped out of Spain into England; where he lived with one Mr. Slany, from whom he had found a way to return into his own country, being brought back by one Mr. Dermer, about half a year before our honest Plymotheans were cast upon this continent.. This Indian (with the other) having received much kindness from the English, who he saw generally condemned the man that first betrayed him, now made unto the English a return of that kindness: and being by his acquaintance with the English language, fitted for a conversation with them, he very kindly informed them what was the present condition of the Indians; instructed them in the way of ordering their Corn; and acquainted them with many other things, which it was necessary for them to understand. But Squanto did for them a yet greater benefit than all this: for he brought Massasoit, the chief Sachim or Prince of the Indians within many miles, with some scores of his attenders, to make our people a kind visit; the issue of which visit was, that Massasoit not only entred into a firm agreement of peace with the English, but also they declared and submitted themselves to be subjects of the King of England; into which peace and subjection many other Sachims quickly after came, in the most voluntary manner that could be expressed. It seems this unlucky Squanto having told his countrymen how easie it was for so great a monarch as K. James to destroy them all, if they should hurt any of his people, he went on to terrifie them with a ridiculous rhodomantado, which they believed, that this people kept the plague in a cellar (where they kept their powder), and could at their pleasure let it loose to make such havock among them, as the distemper had already made among them a few years before. Thus was the tongue of a dog made useful to a feeble and sickly Lazarus! Moreover, our English guns, especially the great ones, made a formidable report among these ignorant Indians; and the hopes of enjoying some defence by the English, against the potent nation of Narraganset Indians, now at war with these, made them yet more to court our friendship. This very strange disposition of things, was extreamly advantageous to our distressed planters: and who sees not herein the special providence of the God who disposeth all?

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