Abstract and Keywords
During the Pequot War of 1636-37, Narragansetts and Mohegans allied with Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonists against the Pequots. Six years later, the Narragansett sachem Miantonomi was killed in Mohegan custody after attempting to forge a regional pan-Indian alliance against colonists. The documents below are a Narragansett letter sent to Charles I and the Narragansett response to a summons from Massachusetts Bay authorities to the sachems Conanicus, Miantonomi’s uncle, and Pessicus, Miantonomi’s brother and successor, to appear in Boston. A Rhode Island colonist, Samuel Gorton, then enmeshed in a dispute with Massachusetts Bay officials over land that Miantonomi deeded him, and three associates (all mentioned below) delivered the Narragansett letter to Charles I and probably helped to write it.
Document Source: Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, ed. John Russell Bartlett, (Providence, RI, 1856), 1:134–38.
The Act and Deed of the voluntary and free submission of the chiefe Sachem, and the rest of the Princes, with the whole people of the Nanhigansets1, unto the Government and protection of that Honorable State of Old-England; set downe, here. verbatim.
Know all Men, Colonies, Peoples, and Nations, unto whom the fame hereof shall come; that wee, the chiefe Sachems, Princes or Governors of the Nanhigansets (in that part of America, now called New-England), together with the joynt and unanimous consent of all our people and subjects, inhabitants thereof, do upon serious consideration, mature and deliberate advise and counsell, great and weighty grounds and reasons moving us thereunto, whereof one most effectual unto us, is, that noble fame we have heard of that Great and mighty Prince, Charles, King of Great Britaine, in that honorable and princely care he hath of all his servants, and true and loyall subjects, the consideration whereof moveth and bendeth our hearts with one consent, freely, voluntarily, and most humbly to submit, subject, and give over ourselves, peoples, lands, rights, inheritances, and possessions whatsoever, in ourselves and our heires successively for ever, unto the protection, care and government of that worthy and royal Prince, Charles, King of Great Britaine and Ireland, his heires and successors forever, to be ruled and governed according to the ancient and honorable lawes and customes, established in that so renowned realme and kingdome of Old England; we do, therefore, by these presents, confesse, and most willingly and submissively acknowledge ourselves to be the humble, loving and obedient servants and subjects of his Majestie; to be ruled, ordered, and disposed of, in ourselves and ours, according to his princely wisdome, counsell and lawes of that honorable State of Old England; upon condition of His Majesties’ royal protection, and wrighting us of what wrong is, or may be done unto us, according to his honorable lawes and customes, exercised amongst his subjects, in their preservation and safety, and in the defeating and overthrow of his, and their enemies; not that we find ourselves necessitated hereunto, in respect of our relation, or occasion we have, or may have, with any of the natives in these parts, knowing ourselves sufficient defence, and able to judge in any matter or cause in that respect; but have just cause of jealousy and suspicion of some of His Majesty’s pretended subjects. Therefore our desire is, to have our matters and causes heard and tried according to his just and equall lawes, in that way and order His Highness shall please to appoint: Nor can we yield over ourselves unto any, that are subjects themselves in any case; having ourselves been the chief Sachems, or Princes successively, of the country, time out of mind; and for our present and lawfull enacting hereof, being so farre remote from His Majestie, wee have, by joynt consent, made choice of foure of his loyall and loving subjects, our trusty and well-beloved friends, Samuel Gorton, John Wickes, Randall Houlden and John Warner, whom we have deputed, and made our lawfull Attornies or Commissioners, not only for the acting and performing of this our Deed, in the behalfe of his Highnesse, but also for the safe custody, carefull conveyance, and declaration hereof unto his grace: being done upon the lands of the Nanhigansett, at a Court or Generall Assembly called and assembled together, of purpose, for the publick enacting, and manifestation hereof.
And for the further confirmation, and establishing of this our Act and Deed, wee, the abovesaid Sachems or Princes, have, according to that commendable custome of Englishmen, subscribed our names and sett our seals hereunto, as so many testimonies of our fayth and truth, our love and loyalty to that our dread Soveraighne, and that according to the Englishmen’s account. Dated the nineteenth day of April, one thousand six hundred and forty-four.
PESSICUS, his marke, Chief Sachem, and successor of that late deceased Miantonomy. Would it be possible to include the marks by which each Narragansett assented to the agreement?
The marke of that ancient CONANICUS, Protector of that late deceased Miantonomy, during the time of his nonage.
The marke of MIXAN, son and heire of that abovesaid Conanicus.
Witnessed by two of the chiefe counsellors to Sachem Pessicus.
AWASHOOSSE, his marke,
Indians. TOMANICK, his marke.
Sealed and delivered, in the presence of these persons:
English. ROBERT POTTER,
Here followeth a copy of a letter sent to the Massachusetts, by the Sachems of the Narragansetts, (shortly after their subjection to the State and Government of Old England) they being sent unto by the Massachusetts, to make their appearance at their General Court, then approac[h]ing.
We understand your desire is, that we should come downe into the Massachusetts, at the time of your Courte, now approaching. Our occasions at this same time are very great; and the more because of the loss (in that manner) of our late deceased brother, upon which occasion, if we should not stir ourselves, to give testimony of our faithfulness unto the cause of that our so unjust deprivation of such an instrument as he was amongst us, for our common good, we should fear his blood would lie upon ourselves; so that we desire of you, being we take you for a wise people, to let us know your reasons why you seem to advise us as you do, not to go out against our so inhuman and cruel adversary, who took so great a ransom to release him, and his life also, when that was done. Our brother was willing to stir much abroad to converse with men, and we see a sad event at the last thereupon. Take it not ill, therefore, though we resolve to keep at home, (unless some great necessity calls us out,) and so, at this time, do not repair unto you, according to your request. And the rather because we have subjected ourselves, our lands and possessions, with all the rights and inheritances of us and our people, either by conquest, voluntary subjection or otherwise, unto that famous and honorable government of that Royal King, Charles, and that State of Old England, to be ordered and governed according to the laws and customs thereof; not doubting of the continuance of that former love that hath been betwixt you and us, but rather to have it increase, hereby being subjects now (and that with joint and voluntary consent), unto the same King and State yourselves are. So that if any small things of difference should fall out betwixt us, only the sending of a messenger may bring it to right again; but if any great matter should fall (which we hope and desire will not, nor may not), then neither yourselves, nor we are to be judges; and both of us are to have recourse, and repair unto that honorable and just Government; and for the passage of us or our men, to and again amongst you, about ours or their own occasions, to have commerce with you, we desire and hope they shall have no worse dealing or entertainment than formerly we have had amongst you, and do resolve accordingly to give no worse respect to you or yours, than formerly you have found amongst us, according to the condition and manner of our country.
Narrangansett, this present May the 24th, 1644.
PESSICUS, His marke.
CONANICUS, His marke.
- On what grounds and for what reasons did Conanicus, Pessicus, and the Narragansetts submit to the authority of Charles I? On what grounds and in what terms did the sachems characterize their relationship to Massachusetts Bay Colony?
- In what ways did the Narragansetts use ideas brought by the English to defend their sovereignty?