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The Wessagussett Plantation

Thomas Morton's Account
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Thomas Morton's version of the events leading up to, and including, the preemptive attack by the Plymouth colonists at Wessagussett, has several features that are unique only to his version. The Morton version can best be explained by the fact that Morton, writing in 1635, was still smarting from his expulsion from New England by the Plymouth colonists. As a result, he appears to have attempted to slander or malign their position, possibly with the hope of affecting the view of their situation in England. Morton essentially took the facts and gave them a decidedly unfavorable spin so that whenever possible Plymouth comes out looking like the bad guys, the bullies, the villains in New England. One must take his version like any European version of seventeenth century events, with a grain of salt, and perhaps with an extra grain in Morton's case.

Morton recounts the experiences of the Weston colonists in five acts (Chapters II to V in Book ? of his work). The first is “Of the entertainement of Mr. Westons people sent to settle a plantation there”, where he reveals that when Weston sent his new colonists, who would eventually settle at Wessagussett, they were welcomed “in shew [show] at least” by the Plymouth colonists. Good cheer went forward and strong liquor walked while behind the scenes the Plymouth colonists, according to Morton, worried that their presence and proximity would hinder their trade in beaver from the Natives. This compounded with the fact that these new settlers were not Seperatists like many of the Plymouth colonists, casued the Plymouth colonists to decide to send Weston's men to Massachusetts Bay to settle. According to morton, Plymouth waited until supplies ran low and then hastened to Wessaguscus (Wessagussett), and “in a weake case, and there left them fasting.” So according to Morton, Plymouth welcomed Weston's until supplies ran low and then the low supplies compounded with their fear of having their beaver trade usurped and the fact that they were not Seperatists, caused Plymouth to kick these men out and encourage them to settle far away from Plymouth.
 
In the text that follows, the text in italics is Morton's original text while that in unitalicized font is my interpretation of his meaning.
 
245: C HAP. I I .
Of the entertainement of Mr. Westons people sent to settle a plantation there.

Master Thomas Weston, a Merchant of London that had been at some cost to further the Brethren of new Plimmouth in their designes for these partes, shipped a company of Servants, fitted with provition of all forts, for the undertaking of a Plantation to be setled there ; with an intent to follow after them in person. These servants at first court holy arived at new Plimmouth, where they were entertained with

court holy bread by the Brethren: they were made very wellcome, in shew at least : there these servants goodes were landed, with promifes to be assisted in the choise of a convenient place ; and still the good cheare went forward, and the strong liquors walked. In the meane time the Brethren were in consultation what was best for their advantage, singing the songe, Fruftra fapit, qui jibi nonfapit.


This plantation would hinder the present practice and future profit and Master Weston, an able man, would want for no supplies upon the returne of Beaver, and so might be a plantation that might keepe them under, who had a Hope to be the greatest, besides his people were no chosen Seperatists, but men made choice of at all adventures, fit to have served for the furtherance of Master Westons undertakinges : and that was as much as hee neede to care for ayminge at Beaver principally for the better effecting of his purpose. Now when the Plimmouth men began to finde that Master Westons mens store of provition grew short with feasting, then they hafted them to a place called Wessaguscus, in a weake case, and there left them fasting.

Morton then goes on in Chapter III to describe what he calls “A battle fought at the Massachsuetts betweene the English and the French”. Unfortunately the battle he describes was not fought chronologically where he places it in his narrative and it did not involve the French! The battle Morton describes occurred after the eight to 11 men from Plymouth, who had gone to Wessagussett in the spring of 1623 to warn the English settlers there of a plot by the Natives to kill them, attacked the Natives and chased them into the long swamp area near the settlement.

Morton begins by describing how the Plymouth colonists, again according to Morton, had removed a bearskin monument erected by the Native over the grave of Chickataubut's mother “...taking away the herse Cloath, which was two greate Beares skinnes sowed together at full length, and propped up over the grave of Chuatawbacks mother”. This occurred at Pasonagessit, modern day xxx. Chickataubut was enraged by this defacement and sought revenge on the Plymouth colonists. Morton goes on to recount the sachem's dream in which he saw his mother who demoaned the defacement of her monument. The Natives then went to await the boat from Plymouth and to attack it when it landed. Morton states that Captain Standish perceived the plot and chased the Natives and then fought. The leader of the natives was shot in the elbow and the Natives fled. This was a documented battle but had nothing to do with the French and in fact, Morton never mentions the French in his writing. It is possible that this is a printer's mistake as it seems like such an obvious difference in the story.

247:CHAP. III.

Of a Battle fought at the Massachussets, betweene the English and the French}

The Planters of Plimmouth, at their last being in those parts, having defaced the monument of the ded at Pasonagessit, (by taking away the herse Cloath, which was two greate Beares skinnes sowed together at full length, and propped up over the grave of Chuatawbacks mother,) the Sachem of those territories, being inraged at the same, stirred up his men in his bee halfe to take revenge and, having gathered his men together, hee begins to make an oration in this manner. “When last the glorious light of all the skey was underneath this globe, and Birds grew silent, I began to settle, (as my custome is,) to take repose ; before mine eies were fast closed, mee thought I saw a vison, (at which my spirit was much troubled,) and, trembling at that dolefull fight, a spirit cried aloude 'Behold, my sonne, whom I have cherisht, see the papps that gave thee suck, the hands that lappd thee warme and fed thee oft, canst thou forget to take revenge of those wild people that hath my monument defaced in despitefull manner, disdaining our ancient antiquities and honourable Customes? See now the Sachems grave lies like unto the common people of ignoble race, defaced ; thy mother doth complaine, implores thy aide against this theevish people new come hether; if this be suffered I mall not rest in quiet within my everlasting habitation.' This said, the spirit vanished ; and I, all in a sweat, not able scarce to speake, began to gett fome ftrength, and recollect my fpirits that were fled : all which I thought to let you underftand, to have your Councell, and your aide likewise”. This being spoken, straight way arose the grand Captaine and cried aloud, “Come, let us to Armes, it doth concerne us all, let us bid them Battaile” ; so to Armes they went, and laid weight for the Plimmouth boate ; and, forceinge them to forsake their landinge place, they seeke another best for their convenience ; thither the Salvages repaire, in hope to have the like successe ; but all in vaine, for the English Captaine warily foresaw, and, perceavinge their plot, knew the better how to order his men fit for Battaile in that place ; hee, bouldly leading his men on, rainged about the feild to and fro,* and, taking his best advantage, lets fly, and makes the Salvages give ground : the English followed them fiercely on, and made them take trees for their shelter, (as their custome is,) from whence their Captaine let flie a maine ; yet nono man was hurt ; at last, lifting up his right arm to draw a fatall shaft, (as hee then thought to end this difference), received a shott upon his elbow, and straight way fled; by whose example all the army followed the fame way, and yealded up the honor of the day to the English party; who were such a terror to them after that the Salvages durst never make to a head against them any more.

Morton recounted the situation at Wessagussett in some detail, at least portions that appear to have concerned him particularly for whatever reason. In Chapter IV Of the parliament held at Wessaguscus and the Actes, Morton describes the debate that ensued after on of the settlers stone corn for an Native storage pit. He begins by describing the settlers as being many of them lazy persons who did not try to help themselves to the benfits of the land around them, to which result, some fell sick and died. As the famine at Wessagussett grew worse, some of the settlers ranged out into the surrounding area in search of food. One able-bodied man found a Native storage pit and supposidly took only a capful. The Natives saw the English shoeprints at the scene of the crime and complained to the Plantation. This resulted in the calling of a parliament headed by Edward Johnson as the special judge, to discuss the appropriate course of action to satisfy the Natives. It was decided that a string of beads or a pretty knife would not satisfy them and the only way to appease them was to follow English law and hang the offender for theft. Some debated that since this man was young and able-bodied, perhaps he should be spared and a sick man be dressed in his clothes and sacrificed instead. It was debated, and eventually the true theif was deemed to be the one who should pay for his crime. The man was tricked into being tied up, for fear that because of his temper he would attack them, and was hung.

249: C HAP. IV.

Of a Parliament held at Wessaguscus, and the Actes.

Mafter Westons Plantation beinge setled at Wessaguscus, his Servants, many of them lazy persons that would use no endeavour to take the benefit of the Country, some of them fell sicke and died.

One amongst the rest, an able bodied man that ranged the woodes to see what it would afford, lighted by accident on an Indian barne, and from thence did take a capp full of corne ; the Salvage owner of it, finding by the foote some English had bin there, came to the Plantation, and made complaint after this manner. The cheife Commander of the Company one this occation called a Parliament of all his people, but those that were sicke and ill at ease. And wisely now they must consult upon this huge complaint, that a privy knife or sringe of beades would well enough have qualified; and Edward Johnson was a spetiall judge of this business; the fact was there in repetition ; construction made that it was fellony, and by the Lawes of England punished with death ; and this in execution must be put for an example, and likewise to appease the Salvage : when straight wayes one arose, mooved as it were with some compassion, and said hee could not well gaine say the former sentence, yet hee had conceaved within the compasse of his braine an Embrion that was of spetiall consequence to be delivered and cherished ; hee said that it would most aptly serve to pacify the Salvages complaint, and save the life of one that might, (if neede should be,) stand them in some good steede, being younge and stronge, fit for resistance against an enemy, which might come unexpected for any thinge they knew. The Oration made was liked of every one, and hee intreated to proceede to shew the meanes how this may be performed : sayes hee, you all agree that one must die, and one shall die; this younge mans cloathes we will take of, and put upon one that is old and impotent, a sickly person that cannot escape death, such is the disease one him confirmed that die hee must ; put the younge mans cloathes on this man, and let the sick person be hanged in the others steede : Amen sayes one ; and so sayes many more.

And this had like to have prooved their finall sentence, and, being there confirmed by Act of Parliament, to after ages for a President : But that one with a ravenus voyce begunne to croake and bellow for revenge ; and put by that conclusive motion, alledging such deceipts might be a meanes hereafter to exasperate the mindes of the complaininge Salvages, and that by his death the Salvages should see their zeale to justice ; and therefore hee very should die : this was concluded ; yet neverthelesse a scruple justice' was made ; now to countermaund this act, did represent itselfe unto their mindes, which was, how they should doe to get the mans good wil ? This was indeede a spetiall obstacle : for without that, they all agreed it would be dangerous for any man to attempt the execution of it, left mischeife should befall them every man ; hee was a person that in his wrath did seeme to be a second Sampson, able to beate out their branes with the jawbone of an Asse : therefore they called the man, and by perswation got him fast bound in jest ; and then hanged him up hard by in good earnest, who with a weapon, and at liberty, would have put all those wise judges of this Parliament to a pittifull non plus, (as it hath beene credibly reported,) and made the cheife judge of them all buckell to him.

Morton was fairly brief in his description of the attack on the Natives and consequences. In Chapter V, entitled “Of a Massacre made upon the Salvages at Wessaguscus”, Morton recounts what he had heard about the attack. He starts off by stating that three of Wessagussett settlers went to live with Chicataubut (or possibly with Obtakiest who was the sachem who was involved with the settlers) and that they were treated well. They planned to stay with the Natives until Weston arrived with supplies. Unfortunately for them men from Plymouth came, pretended to feast the Natives with things like pork, and then killed them with their own knives.

The sachem heard of the attack from one of the Natives who escdaped, and subsequently killed the English who were living with him in their sleep. Morton feels that all that the Plymouth settlers did was in order to ruin Weston and his settlement attempts. He states that if they really did do it for the good of Weston and his men, why didn't they hold the Natives hostage until the English had been released. Morton reports that the Natives ever after called the English cut throats, although the word he uses, Wotawquenange, actually means coat men.

CHAP. V.

Of a Massacre made upon the Salvages at Wessaguscus.

After the end of that Parliament, some of the plantation there, about three persons, went to live with Checatawback and his company ; and had very good quarter, for all the former quarrell with the Plimmouth planters : they are not like Will Sommers, to take one for another. There they purposed to stay untill Master Westons arrivall : but the Plimmouth men, intendinge no good to him, (as appered by the consequence,) came in the meane time to Wessaguscus, and there pretended to feast the Salvages of those partes, Plimmouth- bringing with them Porke and thinges for the purpose, which they sett before the Salvages. They eate thereof without suspition of any mischeife, who were taken upon a watchword given, and with their owne knives, (hanging salvages about their neckes.) were by the Plimmouth planters stabbed and slaine : one of which were hanged up there, after the slaughter.

In the meane time the Sachem had knowledge of this accident, by one that ranne to his Countrymen, at the Massachusett, and gave them intelligence of the newes ; after which time the Salvages there, consultinge of the matter, in the night, (when the other English feareles of danger were asleepe,) knockt them all in the head, in revenge of the death of their Countrymen : but if the Plimmouth Planters had really intended good to Matter Weston, or those men, why had they not kept the Salvages alive in Custody, untill they had secured the other English? Who, by meanes of this evill mannaginge of the businesse, lost their lives, and the whole plantation was dissolved thereupon ; as was likely, for feare of a revenge to follow, as a relatione to this cruell antecedent ; and when Master Weston came over hee found thinges at an evill exigent, by meanes thereof : But could not tell how it was brought about. The Salvages of the Massachussets, that could not imagine from whence these men should come, or to what end, seeing them performe such unexpected actions ; neither could tell by what name properly to distinguish them ; did from that time afterwards call the English Planters Wotawquenange, The salvages which in their language signifieth stabbers, or Cutthroates and this name was received by those that came there after for good, being then unacquainted with the signification of it, for many yeares following ; untill, from a Southerly Indian that understood English well, I was by demonstration made to conceave the interpretation of it, and rebucked these other that it was not forborne : The other callinge us by the name of Wotoquansawge, what that doth signifie, hee said, hee was not able by any demonstration to expresse ; and my neighbours durst no more, in my hearinge, call us by the name formerly used, for feare of my displeasure.

Morton's Chapter IV describes the arrival of Thomas Weston and the surprise and confusion that Morton states that he had regarding the dissolution of his plantation. Mrton sstates that the Plymouth planters explained to Weston that the trouble was all the result of the Natives “insolency” and that because of how dangerous they are, no English should live seperate from those at Plymouth. The coorolary in Morton's mind was that no English should trade from beaver except those at Plymouth. Morton uses his interpretation of the Plymouth colonists fear and disapproval of the Natives as a springboard for discussing his view of those Natives in the Massachusetts bay area. He describes them as friendly and more Christian than many English “The more Salvages the better quarter, the more Christians the worser quarter...”

Morton then goes on to describe what he sees as a plot by the settlers at plymouth, in collusion with some other English in the New England area, to seize Weston's ship and take the goods he brought. In actuallity, whether Morton knew it or not, Weston was in serious trouble with the English crown. In 1622 Weston had obtaied the right to sell ordinace and military goods to the colonists in New England, unfortunately he sold these to the French instead. Weston escaped England discguised as a blacksmith and arrived in Maine. Upon hearing of the situation of his plantation at Wessagussett, he and a companion set out in a small boat to go to Plymouth. The boat was subsequently wrecked near the mouth of the Merrimac River, he was stripped to a shirt by the Natives and eventually reached Plymouth. The hip that was seized at Plymouth was the Swan which was seized under a warrant issued by Sir Ferdinando Gorges acting under authority as Leiuteneant of the council of New England in November of 1623. The Swan had been left with the settlers at Wessagussett and upon the abandonment of the plantation there, was sailed to Maine to trade. Weston eventually got possession of this vessel and was trading along the coast. Gorges heard about this, issued a warrant for Weston to answer the charges regaring the gun sales to the French and the disordiliness of his settleres at Wessagussett. Gorges caught up with him at Plymouth Harbor where he confronted Weston but did not arrest him. Gorges threatened to sen Weston back to England but Bradford intervened and Weston was released on his own recognisance. By this point it was November and Gorges went to reestablish the settlement at Wessagussett. Gorges then felt that it would be to his best advantage to have the Swan at Wessagussett and so sent a warrant for the arrest and seizure of Weston and the ship. Bradford did not like the course of action and refused to serve the warrant, advising Weston that it may be best for him to leave. Westton decided againsts this, having a mutinous crew who had not yet been paid anything for the whole voyage and an empty ship. Another warrant came and eventually Weston and the Swan went to Wessagussett. The colony passed the winter there and then in the spring went up the coast for trade with Weston as the pilot. It was a poor voyage and Gorges decided to abandon the plantation and return to England. Gorges released and compensated Weston, restored his ship and left. Weston returned briefly to Plymouth and eventually went south to Virginia. He eventually returned to Egland and died during the Plague outbreak in 1645.

CHAP. VI.

Of the surprizinge of a Merchants Shipp in Plimmouth harbour.

This Merchant, a man of worth, arrivinge in the parts of New Canaan and findinge that his Plantation was dissolved, some of his men slaine, some dead with sicknes, and the rest at Plimmouth, hee was perplexed in his minde about the matter ; comminge as hee did with supply, and meanes to have rased their fortunes and his one exceedingly : and seeinge what had happened resolved to make some stay in the Plimmouth harbour.1nd this suted to their purpose; wherefore the Brethren did congratulate with him at his safe arrivall, and their best of entertainement for a swetning cast, deploring the disaster of his Plantation, and glozing upon the text, alledging the mischeivous intent of the Salvages there, which by freindly intelligence of their neighbours was discovered before it came to be full summed : so that they lost not all, allthough they saved not all : and this they pretended to proceede from the Fountaine of love and zeale to him and Christianity, and to chastise the insolency of the Salvages, of which that part had some dangerous persons. And this, as an article of the new creede of Canaan, would they have received of every new commer there to inhabit, that the Salvages are a dangerous people, subtill, secreat and mischeivous ; and that it is dangerous to live seperated, but rather together: and so be under their Lee, that none might trade for Beaver, but at their pleasure, as none doe or mall doe there : nay they will not be reduced to any other song yet of the Salvages to the southward of Plimmouth, because they would have none come there, sayinge that hee that will fit downe there must come stronge : but I have found the Massachussets Indian more full of humanity then the Christians ; and have had much better quarter with them ; yet I observed not their humors, but they mine ; although my great number that I landed were dissolved, and my Company as few as might be for I know that this falls out infallibly where two Nations meete, one must rule and the other be ruled, before a peace can be hoped for and for a Christian to submit to the rule of a Salvage, you will say, is both shame and dishonor : at least it is my opinion, and my practise was accordingly, and I have the better quarter by the meanes thereof. The more Salvages the better quarter, the more Christians the worser quarter, I found ; as all the indifferent minded Planters can testifie.

Now, whiles the Merchant was ruminatinge on this mishapp, the Plimmouth Planters perceivinge that hee had furnished himselfe with excellent Commodities, fit for the Merchandise of the Country, (and holding it good to fish in trobled waters, and so get a snatch unseene,) practised in secret with some other in the land, whom they thought apt to imbrace the benefit The of such a cheat, and it was concluded and resolved upon that all this shipp and goodes should be confiscated, for businese done by him, the Lord knowes when, or where a letter must be framed to them, and handes unto it, to be there warrant; this should shadow them. That of all his goodes were quite disperfed, and every actor [had] when every his proportion ; the Merchant was [then] inlarged ; his shipp, a burthen to the owner now, his undertakinges in these partes beinge quite overthrowne, was redelivered, and bondes of him were taken not to profecute : hee, being Bonds taken greived hereat, betakes him to drive a trade betweene that and Virginea many yeares. The brethren, (sharpe witted,) had it spread by and by amongst his freinds in England, that the man was mad. So thought his wife, so thought his other freindes that had it from a Planter of the Towne. So was it thought of those, that did not know the Brethren could dissemble : why, thus they are all of them in their particular, and every man, beinge bound to seeke anothers good, shall in the generall doe the best hee can to effect it, and so they may be excused I thinke.

As related at the outset, Morton had an axe to grind with the settlers at Plymouth and a s a result, either intentionally or subconsciously, they could do nothing right in his mind. It appears that Morton either believed in or was attempting to establish a sort of conspiracy theory regarding the Plymouth colonists, the failure of the colony at Wessagussett, and relations with the Natives. While Morton had some of the facts of the story, he puts his own twist to them. He may have heard the Native version more than the English or he may have simply been out tompalce the Plymouth colonists in as poor a light as possible. The main new possible fact that Morton added was that the natives may have been incensed against the English, both at Plymouth and Wessagussett, because of a despoiling of the monument over the grave of Chickataubut's mother and a subsequent vision that he had. This story does not appear elsewhere but does seem consistent with Native beliefs and no matter who did the actual act, would have contributed to tensions between the two nations.

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