Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

secure in her isolation, and cherished little affection for the mainland. Philip may well have thought that the island might be left to itself, until the other towns were overcome, as he felt in no danger from that direction. The whole burden rested upon Providence and Warwick. They did what they could, but, alone and unsupported, they could do little more than remain in their habitations and await events. With the last interview of Williams with the Narragansetts, the work of devastation began. The only military ability displayed by Philip, was in the simultaneousness and far reaching extent of his attacks. Even this was probably a suggestion of French officers, by whom Williams thought that the Indians were assisted.' Upon widely separated villages and hamlets, the blow fell heavily and at once. They had no men of military experience or training, and could only look to the security of their families, abandoning their homesteads to their fate. The tribes went to war with Englishmen in the same fashion, as that in which they had made war upon each other, when there were the same strategy and the same disadvantages on either side. They deemed thick woods and swamps sufficient refuges for women and children, while the men went to fight. They aimed at their enemies from behind trees, and in one of their ancient battles very few were slain on either side. They knew of none but a mere partizan warfare. Being without discipline they were subject to no control. Their forces melted away on the first reverse, and could with difficulty be reassembled. They had no conception of the necessity of magazines of provisions or materials of war, nor if they had them, could they construct military works adequate to their defence. The Indians of New England might have been useful auxiliaries in a French invasion. They could make havoc among its outposts, but could never unaided, have waged an aggressive war upon civilisation. Prolonged efforts

(1) See Williams's letter to Gov. Leverett, Jan. 14, 1675, Narr. Club Pub.,

VI. 381-82. Confession of Joshua Tift. (2)Key, pp. 74, 152.

were impossible. Whatever was lost, of stores or arms, could not be replaced, and any serious disaster was fatal. Then as ever since, Indian warfare showed its greatest capacity, for mischief at the very beginning. During four months, its terrors were felt by the scattered English of the frontier. The Government of Massachusetts was for the time checked, but not discouraged. They saw that nothing could be done until the winter, and that when the barbarians could no longer keep the field, would come the opportunity of civilisation. As usual in times of Indian troubles, Williams was again consulted, and now apparently for the last time. On the 11th of October, 1675, he wrote to Gov. Leverett-in effect—that the Indians would not venture to attack a fort, or garrison, and would avoid battles in the open field, and advised the settlers in the country to fire the woods around their dwellings and to beware of treachery and ambuscade. And so passed four months of anxiety and peril.

The situation in Mooshassuc was scarcely more reassuring, Notwithstanding the nominal friendship of the Narragansetts, there was little reason to hope that in a conflict of races, they would not take active part with their own blood. Failing to receive aid from the colony, the townsmen did what they could for themselves. The “garrison house” was fortified. It was perhaps the largest building in the town. The fort above the town mill was built, but we know not by whom, or when. This was by the advice of Williams, and by a subscription, unaided by the treasury. Although they were as yet unmolested, the freemen deemed other precautions necessary as the war went on. Town Records, Providence, October 14, 1675.

"Town Meeting, Arthur ffenner, Moderator. * * Ordered that six men every day, shall be sent out of the Towne to discover what Indians shall come to disquiet the Towne and that every housekeeper and all men residing in this Towne, shall take his turn, and he that shall refuse to take his turn, shall

(1)Narr. Club Pub., VI. 373-75. .
(2)On the lot where is now the Providence Bank.

forfeit to the Towne for every day's defect, 5 shillings, and that it shall be taken by distraint by the constable, and this order to be in force, from the 15th day of this instant October, and that this order shall stand in full force, until the Towne order the contrary.”

During the summer of 1675, the Varragansetts had lain quiet. They had sheltered the women and children of the Wampanoags and enabled their men to go to war. Canoes were constantly passing and repassing between Narragansett and Plymouth Colony. Intelligence was daily forwarded between the tribes, and many warriors had gone to the aid of Philip. But the nation had as yet done nothing. They were true to their ancient reputation of being less warlike than their neighbours. They were unable to compel the aid of their wary dependents the Nianties. They seem to have thought that they could lie inactive and suffer their country to be made a base of operation by Philip against Massachusetts. 'They had done enough to involve themselves in the responsibilities of the war, and had yet to learn the Englishmen's opinion of their proceedings. The Varragansetts looked on with approval, during what they esteemed the successes of the Wampanoags, until the snows of December drove them to their wigwams and their strongholds. With that winter came the end of the Narragansett monarchy, and people. December 27, 1675.

Rhode Island had given no provocation to her Indians, and might have been involved in no disaster, if there had been a man capable of controlling the Narragansetts, at the head of her affairs. When the event came which Williams had long foreseen, one of the foremost men of the Assembly was Walter Clarke of Newport, a leader among the disciples of Fox. If we may judge of him by the remaining specimens of his work, and from the notices of his contemporaries, he was a man feeble in action, smooth and procrastinating in speech, and ready with professions which might be unmeaning, or which it was not his duty to fulfill. When applications for aid were urged by the (1)In 1675, Walter Clark was an assistant and at the head of the committee

who wrote the letters discouraging any action by the towns. No oppo

mainland people, the Governor and his Assembly could give no wiser opinion than that the other colonies could not support themselves and their friends, that it was best for the Plantations to give up the contest, to resign their homesteads to the enemy, and to take refuge in Newport. What would have saved Newport, if the imbecile policy of the Governor and Assembly had not been thwarted by Massachusetts and Connecticut, he does not seem to have considered.

We do not know how large was the majority by which the •Foxians” controlled the policy of Rhode Island. But the minority was also large, and their discontent was daily increasing. We can imagine the effect of the Governor's refusal of aid, upon a people who had never been wanting in courage and pugnacity. The ruling majority were willing to do some little for the safety of Newport, which was not then threatened, and where there was no prospect of fighting. But they would give no aid to Providence which could only be defended by hard blows. While Clark was advising submission, his friend Edmunston (the disputant with Williams in 1672), was writing thus in his journal :'

“Great troubles attended Friends, by reason of the war, which lay very heavy on places belonging to that quarter, -without the Islanıl, the Indians killing and burning all before them, and the people that were not Friends were outrageous to fight, but the Governor being a Friend (one Walter Clarke) could not give commissions to kill and destroy men.”

To the same purpose wrote Thomas Story: “As a matter of conscience, they would not fight Indians,"—thus preferring that if any lives were lost, they should be those of the English settlers. Edmunston wrote privately, the reasons which Clarke had not the courage to speak out. One who had scruples about the support of government by force might well decline civil and especially military trusts. But the logic by which Clarke satisfied his conscience in the acceptance of the highest office in the colony, and in his solemn engagement to perform its duties, imposed by the charter, while he had no intention of fulfilling the most important of them, he had not thought fit to transmit to us. Subsequent generations have not been able to discover it. The people felt that they had been abandoned by their government, and their indignation rose high. They could do nothing then, but during many following years they remembered that the loss and ruin which fell upon the Plantations, might have been avoided if a man with the will and courage of Benedict Arnold had been at the head of the colonial government.

sition could be organized when men were flying for their lives, and he

was elected governor in May, 1676, after the burning of Providence. (1) Folio, p. 81, in John Carter Brown Library. (2) Life, folio in John Carter Brown Library, p. 266, 267.

There seems sufficient reason to believe that the town might have been saved from destruction, if it had not been left to its fate by Newport. The spirit of the freemen was bold and confident, and Williams, as a captain of militia, showed once more the pugnacity of his youth. As it was, the townsmen had no resource but flight, while the garrison of twenty-eight men made good their resistance, and preserved what remained of their habitations. The Narragansett survivors of the “great swamp fight,” (Dec. 27, 1675), appear to have been mere fugitives, without purpose and without hope. Their government and families and race had all perished together. They now accounted Providence among their enemies, and made a frantic effort for revenge. They had no place of refuge, and no home to which they had any desire to return. The carnage and destruction of which they might be the authors could only be profitless to themselves.

The burning of Providence, April 10, 1676, has been described by Mr. Stone, with a fulness of research which recalls the scene, and leaves nothing to be desired. We have no account of it from any of the garrison. The only writer present among them was Williams, and he has suffered it to perish. The contemporary author who has preserved the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »