Is there anything more barbaric in the annals of Indian warfare, than the narrative of the Pequod Indians? In one place we read of the surprise of an Indian fort by night, when the inmates were slumbering, unconscious of any danger. When they awoke they were wrapped in flames, and when they Attempted to flee, were shot down like beasts. From village to village, from wigwam to wigwam, the murderers proceeded, "being resolved," as your historian piously remarks, "by God's assistance, to make a final destruction of them," until finally a small but gallant band took refuge in a swamp. Burning with indignation, and made sullen by dispair, with hearts bursting with grief at the destruction of their nation, and spirits galled and sore at the fancied ignominy of their defeat, they refused to ask life at the hands of an insulting foe, and preferred death to submission. As the night drew on, they were surrounded in their dismal retreat, volleys of musketry poured into their midst, until nearly all were killed or buried in the mire. In the darkness of a thick fog which preceded the dawn of day, a few broke through the ranks of the beseigers and escaped to the woods.
Again, the same historian tells us that the few that remained, "stood like sullen dogs to be killed rather than to implore mercy, and the soldiers on entering the swamp, found many sitting together in groups, when they approached, and resting their guns on the boughs of trees, within a few yards of them, literally filled their bodies with bullets." But they were Indians, and it was pronounced a pious work. But when the Gauls invaded Italy, and the Roman Senators, in their purple robes and chairs of State, sat unmoved in the presence of barbarian conquerors, disdaining to flee, and equally disdaining to supplicate for mercy, it is applauded as noble, as dying like statesmen and philosophers. But the Indians with far more to lose and infinitely greater provocation, sits upon his mother earth upon the green mound, beneath the canopy of Heaven, and refuses to ask mercy of civilized fiends, he is stigmatized as dogs, spiritless, and sullen. What a different name has greatness, clothed in the garb of christian princes and sitting beneath spacious domes, gorgeous with men's device, and the greatness, in the simple garb of nature, destitute and alone in the wilderness.
There is nothing in the character of Alexander of Macedon who "conquered the world, and wept that he had no more to conquer," to compare with the noble qualities of king Philip of Mt. Hope, and among his warriors are a long list of brave men unrivaled in deeds of heroism, by any of ancient or modern story. But in what country, and by whom were they hunted, tortured, and slain, and who was it that met together to rejoice and give thanks at every species of cruelty inflicted upon those who were fighting for their wives, their children, their homes, their altars and their God. When it is recorded that "men, women and children, indiscriminately, were hewn down and lay in heaps upon the snow," it is spoken of as doing God's service, because they were nominally heathen. "Before the fight was finished, the wigwams were set on fire, and into those, hundreds of innocent women and children had crowded themselves, and perished in the general conflagration." And for those thanksgivings were sent up to heaven, the head of Philip is strung upon a pole, and exposed to the public. But this was not done by savage warriors, and the crowd that huzzaed at the revolting spectacle, assembled on the Sabbath day, in a Puritan church, to listen to the Gospel that proclaims peace and love to all men. His body was literally cut in slices to be distributed among the conquerors, and a christian city rings with acclamation.
In speaking of this bloody contest, one who is most eminent among the fathers, says: "Nor could they cease praying unto the Lord against Philip, until they had prayed the bullet through his heart." "Two and twenty Indian captives were slain, and brought down to hell in one day." "A bullet took him in the head, and sent his cursed soul in a moment amongst the devils and blasphemers in hell forever."
Masasoit, the father of Philip, was the true friend to the English, and when he was about to die, took his two sons, Alexander and Philip, and fondly commended them to the kindness of the new settlers, praying them the same peace and good will might be between them, that had existed between him and his white friends. Upon mere suspicion only a short time afterwards, the elder, who succeeded his father as ruler, among his people, was hunted in his forest home, and dragged before the court, the nature and object of which he could not understand. But the indignity which was offered him, and the treachery of those who insulted him, so chafed his proud spirit that a fever was the consequence, of which he died. And that is not all. The son and wife of Philip were sold into slavery, (as were also about eight hundred persons of the Tuscaroras, and also many others of the Indians that were taken captive during the Colonial wars.) "Yes," says a distinguished orator, (Everett,) "they were sold into slavery, West Indian slavery. An Indian princess and her child, sold from the cold breezes of Mount Hope, from a wild freedom of New England forest, to drop under the lash, beneath the blazing sun of the tropics."
Bitter as death, aye, bitter as hell! Is there anything--I do not think in the range of humanity--is there any animal that would not struggle against this? Nor is this indeed all. A kinswoman of theirs, a Princess in her own right, Wetamore Pocasset, was pursued and harassed till she fell exhausted in the wilderness, and died of cold and starvation. There she was found by men professing to be shocked at Indian barbarity, her head severed from her body, and carried bleeding upon a pole to be exposed in the public highways of the country, ruled by men who have been honored as saints and martyrs.
"Let me die among my kindred," "Bury me with my fathers," is the prayer of every Indian's heart; and the most delicate and reverential kindness in the treatment of the bodies of the dead, was considered a religious duty. There was nothing in all their customs that indicated a barbarism so gross and revolting as these acts, which are recorded by New England historians without a censure, while the Indian's protests in his grief at seeing his kindred dishonored and his religion reviled, are stigmatized as savage and fiendish.
If all, or even a few who ministered among them in holy things, had been like Eliot, who is called "the Apostle to the Indians," and deserved to be ranked with the Apostle of old, or Kirkland, who is endeared to the memory of every Iroquois who heard his name, it could not have become a proverb or a truth that civilization and Christianity wasted them away.
They were, not by one, but many, unscrupulously called "dogs, wolves, bloodhounds, demons, devils incarnate, hellhounds, fiends, monsters, beasts," always considering them inferior beings, and scarcely allowing them to be human, yet one, who was at that time a captive among them, represents them as "kind and loving and generous;" and concerning this same monster--Philip--records nothing that should have condemned him in the eyes of those who believed in wars aggressive and defensive, and awarded honors to heroes and martyrs and conquerors.
By the Governor of Jamestown a hand was severed from the arm of a peaceful, unoffending Indian, that he might be sent back a terror to his people; and through the magnanimity of a daughter and king of that same people, that colony was saved from destruction. It was through their love and trust alone that Powhatan and Pocahontas lost their forest dominions.
Hospitality was one of the Indians' distinguishing virtues, and there was no such thing among them as individual starvation or want. As long as there was a cup of soup, it was divided. If a friend or a stranger made a call he was welcome to all their wigwams would furnish, and to offer him food was not merely a custom, for it was a breach of politeness for him to refuse to eat however full he might be.
Because their system not being like the white people's, it does not follow that it was not a system. You might have looked into the wigwam or lodge and thought everything in confusion, while to the occupants, there was a place for everything, and everything in its place: each had a couch which answered for bed by night and seat by day. The ceremonies at their festivals were as regular as in the churches, their rules of war as well defined as those of christian nations, and in their games and athletic sports there was a code of honor which it was disgraceful to violate: their marriage vows were as well understood, and courtesy as formally practiced at their dances.
The nature of the Indian is in all respects like the nature of any other nation; placed in the same circumstances, he exhibits the same passions and vices. But in his forest home there was not the same temptation to great crimes, or what is termed the lesser ones, that of slander, scandal, and gossip, as exists among civilized nations.
They knew nothing of the desire of gain, and therefore were not made selfish by the love of hoarding; and there was no temptation to steal, where they had everything in common, and their reverence for truth and fidelity to promises, may well put all the nations of Christendom to shame.
I have written in somewhat of the spirit which will characterize a History, by an Indian, yet it does not deserve to be called Indian partiality, but only justice and the spirit of humanity; or, if I may be allowed to say it, the spirit with which any christian should be able to consider the character and deeds of his foe. I would not detract from the virtues of your forefathers. They were at that time unrivaled, but bigotry and superstition of the dark ages still lingered among them, and their own perils blinded them to the wickedness and cruelty of the means they took for defense.
Four, and perhaps two centuries hence, I doubt not, some of your dogmas will seem unchristian, as the Indians seem to you, and I truly hope, ere then, all wars will seem as barbarous, and the fantastic dress of the soldiers as ridiculous, as you have been in the habit of representing the wars and the wild drapery of the Indians of the forest.
How long were the Saxon and Celt in becoming a civilized and Christian people? How long since the helmet, the coat of mail, and the battle axe, were laid aside?
To make himself more terrific, the Briton of the days of Henry II drew the skin of a wild beast over his armor with the head and ears standing upright, and mounted his war-horse to go forth crying, "To arms! Death to the invader!" The paint and the Eagle plume of the Indian warrior were scarcely a more barbarous invention, nor his war-cry more terrible.
It is not just to compare the Indian of the fifteenth, with the christian of the fifteenth century. But compare them with the barbarian of Britain, of Russia, of Lapland, and Tartary, and represent them as truly as these nations have been represented, and they will not suffer by the comparison.