A Relation of the Indian War by Mr. Easton of Rhode Island 1675
[The following is an account of the meeting between John Easton, the deputy governor of Rhode Island, and King Philip (or Metacom), on the eve King Philip’s War in 1675. The meeting followed the execution of three Wampanoag Indians who were accused of killing John Sassamon, a Christian Indian who had been an English informant against King Philip.]
Philip called his council and agreed to come to us; he came himself unarmed and about 40 of his men armed. Then 5 of us went over; three were magistrates.
We sat very friendly together. We told him our business was to endeavor that they might not receive or do wrong. They said that was well—they had done no wrong, the English wronged them. We said we knew—the English said the Indians wronged them and the Indians said the English wronged them, but our desire was the quarrel might rightly be decided in the best way, and not as dogs decided their quarrels. The Indians owned [i.e. admitted] that fighting was the worst way; then they propounded how right might take place, we said by arbitration. They said all English agreed against them, and so by arbitration they had had much wrong, many miles square of land so taken from them; for English would have English arbitrators, and once they were persuaded to give in their arms, that thereby jealousy might be removed, and the English having their arms would not deliver them as they had promised, until they consented to pay a 100 pounds, and now they had not so much land or money, that they were as good to be killed as to leave all their livelihood. We said they might choose an Indian king, and the English might choose the Governor of New York; that neither had cause to say either were parties in the difference. They said they had not heard of that way, and said we honestly spoke, so we were persuaded if that way had been tendered they would have accepted…
They said they had been the first in doing good to the English, and the English the first in doing wrong; they said when the English first came, their king’s father was as a great man and the English as a little child. He constrained other Indians from wronging the English and gave them corn and showed them how to plant and was free to do them any good and had let them have a 100 times more land than now the king had for his own people. But their king’s brother, when he was king, came miserably to die by being forced into court and, as they judged, poisoned.
And another grievance was if 20 of their honest Indians testified that a Englishman had done them wrong, it was as nothing; and if but one of their worst Indians testified against any Indian or their king when it pleased the English, that was sufficient.
Another grievance was when their kings sold land the English would say it was more than they agreed to and a writing must be proof against all them, and some of their kings had done wrong to sell so much that he left his people none, and some being given to drunkeness, the English made them drunk and then cheated them in bargains, but now their kings were forewarned not to part with land for nothing in comparison to the value thereof. Now whomever the English had once owned for king or queen, they would later disinherit, and make another king that would give or sell them their land, that now they had no hopes left to keep any land.
Another grievance was that the English cattle and horses still increased so that when they removed 30 miles from where the English had anything to do, they could not keep their corn from being spoiled, they never being used to fence, and thought that when the English bought land of them that they would have kept their cattle upon their own land.
Another grievance was that the English were so eager to sell the Indians liquors that most of the Indians spent all in drunkeness and then ravened upon the sober Indians and, they did believe, often did hurt the English cattle, and their kings could not prevent it.
We knew beforehand that these were their grand complaints, but then we only endeavored to persuade them that all complaints might be righted without war, but could get no other answer but that they had not heard of that way for the governor of New York and an Indian king to have the hearing of it. We had cause to think that had it been tendered, it would have been accepted. We endeavored however that they should lay down their arms, for the English were too strong for them. They said, then the English should do to them as they did when they were too strong for the English.
So we departed without any discourteousness, and suddenly had a letter from Plymouth’s Governer saying that they intended in arms to conform [i.e. suppress] Philip, but giving no information what it was that they required or what terms he refused to have their quarrel decided, and in a week’s time after we had been with the Indians the war was thus begun.
In about two paragraphs, you will explain its significance to the study of American history. What does it tell us about the past?