Thursday, December 06, 2007

All They Wanted ...

By the midpoint of the seventeenth century, however, the attitudes of many of the Indians and English had begun to change. With only a fraction of their original homeland remaining, more and more young Pokanokets claimed it was time to rid themselves of the English. The Pilgrims' children, on the other hand, coveted what territory the Pokanokets still possessed and were already anticipating the day when the Indians had, through the continued effects of disease and poverty, ceased to exist. Both sides had begun to envision a future that did not include the other.

For years Philip [the son of Massasoit] had used the promise of war as a way to appease his increasingly indignant warriors. Whenever pushed to an actual confrontation, however, he had always backed down, and it appears that as late as June 23, 1675, he held out hope that war might once again be averted. But instead of providing Philip with the support he so desparately needed to control his warriors, Governor Winslow [the son of Edward Winslow] only made matters worse. Indeed, it was his callous prosecution of Tobias and the others, for Sassamon's murder, that triggered the outbreak of violence. By refusing to acknowledge that Philip's troubles were also his troubles, Winslow was as responsible as anyone for King Philip's War.

In the end, both sides wanted what the Pilgrims had been looking for in 1620: a place unfettered by obligations to others. But from the moment Massasoit decided to become the Pilgrims' ally, New England belonged to no single group. For peace and for survival, others must be accommodated. The moment any of them gave up on the difficult work of living with their neighbors -- and all of the compromise, frustration, and delay that inevitably entailed -- they risked losing everything. It was a lesson that Bradford and Massasoit had learned over the course of more than three long decades. That it could be so quickly forgotten by their children remains a lesson for us today.

-- Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower (pp. 347-348)

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