Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pilgrims in 1621, Part 3: Trade

Continuing in 1621 there are two events that show the Pilgrims’ policies when it came to trading and exploration. Shortly after the expedition to Massasoit came back, a boy named John Billington lost himself in the woods. John Billington had already been a trouble maker, as he and his brother had almost blown up the Mayflower on the trip over. This time he simply lost his way. The English sent word to Massasoit to find out where he was, and learned that he had survived on wild berries for five days until some Indians found him, and he had been taken to a village called Nawsett over 20 miles away. This was a precarious position as some earlier English explorers had kidnapped some of these Indians and it was these Indians that had shot arrows at the Pilgrims during the winter. It was also found out that it was these Indians that the Pilgrims had taken corn from. So the Pilgrims sent an expedition down to Nawsett to try to retrieve the boy and to appease the natives. When they got there, they were greatly relived to find a relatively warm reception. There was some that were angry at the Englishmen, but the Pilgrims apologized for the wicked deeds of their countrymen and promised good will between them. They gave gifts and offered to pay for the corn they had taken. The Indians then peace with the English, promises to come and trade with them, and gave them the boy. This was a providential blessing for the Pilgrims and could have been much worse. It brings to mind Proverbs 16:7, “When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” In fact, this verse is applicable to many of the Pilgrims’ encounters.

The second event that shows the Pilgrims’ policy of trade and exploration happened in September. The Pilgrims, never ones to be lazy, determined to send out another expedition, this time to the north, to the Massachusets tribe, near what is now Boston. Again they wanted to explore the area around them, to make peace with this tribe (there had been rumors that this tribe had threatened them), and to trade with them. As they traveled they remarked at the beauty and potential of the land, but remembered as Bradford put it, “it seems the Lord, who assigns to all men the bounds of their habitations, had appointed it for an other use.” Instead of the being land grabbers like many later Americans, particularly in the west were known as, they both admired the land, and respected the Indians’ claim to it. When they first arrived to where the Massachusets lived, they found that they had fled in fear. They finally found some of the women and children huddled in some huts. Squanto showed his Indian view of ethics when he suggested that the Pilgrims steal anything they needed from the women and children, because the Massachusets were a bad people and had threatened the Pilgrims behind their back. The Pilgrims answered that even if the Massachusets were as bad as Squanto said the Pilgrims would not wrong them, for they little weighed their words, but if they once attempted any aggression against them, they would do much more than merely take some trinkets. The Pilgrims then traded with the Massachusets, and slowly won their confidence, and invited them to come and trade at Plymouth. The Pilgrims were not preemptive in there actions, merely attacking because of who they were or what they could have said, but sought peace as far as possible, overlooking offenses, and reserved war for when it was really needed in defense. And when they meant war, they did not want to mess around with minor things, but when they fought it was a serious and definite thing. We can see this seriousness in two more events in 1621 that showed the Pilgrims’ way of justice and warfare.

To be continued...

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