JOHN ELIOT, THE APOSTLE OF THE RED INDIANS.
Since the great efforts that Britain had made between the years 500 and 1000 to bring the knowledge of the truth into the still heathen portions of the Continent,--since the days of Columban and Gal, of Boniface and Willibrord,--there had been a cessation of missionary enterprise. The known portions of the world were either Christian, or were in the hands of the Mahommedans; and no doubt much of the adventurous spirit which, united with religious enthusiasm, forms the missionary, found vent in the Crusades, and training in the military orders. The temper of the age, and the hopelessness of converting a Mahommedan, made the good men of the third 500 years use their swords rather than their tongues against the infidel; and it was only in the case of men possessing such rare natures as those of Francis of Assisi, or Raymond Lull, that the possibility of trying to bring over a single Saracen to the faith was imagined.
It was in the revival from the Paganism with which classical tastes had infected the Church, that the spirit of missions again awoke, stimulated, of course, by the wide discoveries of fresh lands that were dawning upon the earth. If from 1000 to 1500 the progress of the Gospel was confined to the borders of the Slavonic nation, the space of time from 1500 onwards has been one of constant and unwearied effort to raise the standard of the Cross in the new worlds beyond the Atlantic.
Spain, Portugal, France, as nations, and the great company of the Jesuits as one mighty brotherhood, were the foremost in the great undertaking; but their doings form a history of their own, and our business is with the efforts of our own Church and country in the same great cause.
Our work was not taken up so soon as theirs, partly because the spirit of colonization did not begin amongst us so early as in Spain and Portugal, and partly because the foundations of most of our colonies were laid by private enterprise, rather than by public adventure, and moreover some of the earlier ones in unsettled times.
It may be reckoned as one peculiarity of Englishmen, that their greatest works are usually not the outcome of enthusiastic design, but rather grow upon them by degrees, as they are led in paths that they have not known, and merely undertake the duty that stands immediately before them, step by step.
The young schoolmaster at Little Baddow, near Chelmsford, who decided on following in the track of the Pilgrim Fathers to New England, went simply to enjoy liberty of conscience, and to be free to minister according to his own views, and never intended to become the Apostle of the Red Indians.
Nothing is more remarkable than the recoil from neglected truths. When, even in the earliest ages of the Church, the Second Commandment was supposed to be a mere enhancing of the first, and therefore curtailed and omitted, there was little perception that this would lead to popular, though not theoretical, idolatry, still less that this law, when again brought forward, would be pushed by scrupulous minds to the most strange and unexpected consequences, to the over-powering of all authority of ancient custom, and to the repudiation of everything symbolical.
This resolution against acknowledging any obligation to use either symbol or ceremony, together with the opposition of the hierarchy, led to the rejection of the traditional usages of the Church and the previously universal interpretation of Scripture in favour of three orders in the ministry. The elders, or presbytery, were deemed sufficient; and when, after having for many years been carried along, acquiescing, in the stream of the Reformation, the English Episcopacy tried to make a stand, the coercion was regarded as a return to bondage, and the more ardent spirits sought a new soil on which to enjoy the immunities that they regarded as Christian freedom.
The Mayflower led the way in 1620, and the news of the success of the first Pilgrim Fathers impelled many others to follow in their track. Among these was John Eliot. He had been born in 1604 at Nasing in Essex, and had been bred up by careful parents, full of that strong craving for theological studies that characterized the middle classes in the reign of James I.
Nothing more is known of his youth except that he received a university education, and, like others who have been foremost in missionary labours, had a gift for the comparison of languages and study of grammar. He studied the Holy Scriptures in the original tongues with the zeal that was infused into all scholars by the knowledge that the Authorized Version was in hand, and by the stimulus that was afforded by the promise of a copy of the first edition to him who should detect and correct an error in the type.
The usual fate of a scholar was to be either schoolmaster or clergyman, if not both, and young Eliot commenced his career as an assistant to Mr. John Hooker, at the Grammar School at Little Baddow. He considered this period to have been that in which the strongest religious impressions were made upon him. John Hooker was a thorough-going Puritan of great piety and rigid scruples, and instructed his household diligently in godliness, both theoretical and practical. Eliot became anxious to enter the ministry, but the reaction of Church principles, which had set in with James I., was an obstacle in his way; and imagining all ceremonial not observed by the foreign Protestants to be oppressions on Christian liberty, it became the strongest resolution of the whole party to accept nothing of all these rites, and thus ordination became impossible to them, while the laws were stringent against any preaching or praying publicly by any unordained person. The instruction of youth was likewise only permitted to those who were licensed by the bishop of the diocese; and Mr. Hooker, failing to fulfil the required tests, was silenced, and, although forty-seven clergy petitioned on his behalf, was obliged to flee to Holland.
This decided Eliot, then twenty-seven years of age, on leaving England, and seeking a freer sphere of action in the newly-founded colonies of New England, which held a charter from Government. He took leave of his betrothed, of whom we only know that her Christian name was Anne (gracious), and that her nature answered to her name, and sailed on the 3rd of November, 1631, in the ship Lyon, with a company of sixty persons, among whom were the family of Governor Winthrop.
They landed at Boston, then newly rising into a city over its harbour, and there he found his services immediately required to conduct the worship in the congregation during the absence of the pastor, who had gone to England finally to arrange his affairs.
On his return, Mr. Eliot was found to be in such favour, that the Bostonites strove to retain him as an assistant minister; but this he refused, knowing that many friends in England wished to found a separate settlement of their own; and in less than a year this arrangement was actually carried out, a steep hill in the forest-land was selected, and a staunch band of East Saxons, bringing with them the gracious Anne, came forth. John Eliot was married, elected pastor, ordained, after Presbyterian custom, by the laying on of the hands of the ministers in solemn assembly, and then took possession of the abode prepared for him and of the building on the top of the hill, where his ministrations were to be conducted.
These old fathers of the United States had found a soil, fair and well watered; and though less rich than the wondrous alluvial lands to the west, yet with capacities to yield them plentiful provision, when cleared from the vast forest that covered it. Nor had they come for the sake of wealth or luxury; the earnestness of newly-awakened, and in some degree persecuted, religion was upon them, and they regarded a sufficiency of food and clothing as all that they had a right to seek. Indeed, the spirit of ascetiscism was one of their foremost characteristics. Eliot was a man who lived in constant self-restraint as to both sleep and diet, and, on all occasions of special prayer, prefaced them by a rigorous fast--and he seems to have been in a continual atmosphere of devotion.
One of his friends objected (oddly enough as it seems to us) to his stooping to pick up a weed in his garden. "Sir, you tell us we must be heavenly-minded."
"It is true," he said, "and this is no impediment unto that; for, were I sure to go to heaven to-morrow, I would do what I do to-day."
And, like many a good Christian, his outward life was to him full of allegory. Going up the steep hill to his church, he said, "This is very like the way to heaven. 'Tis up hill! The Lord in His grace fetch us up;" and spying a bush near him, he added, "And truly there are thorns and briars in the way, too."
He had great command of his flock at Roxbury, and was a most diligent preacher and catechiser, declaring, in reference to the charge to St. Peter, that "the care of the lambs is one-third part of the charge to the Church of God." An excellent free school was founded at Roxbury, which was held in great repute in the time of Cotton Mather, to whom we owe most of our knowledge of this good man. The biography is put together in the peculiar fashion of that day, not chronologically, but under heads illustrating his various virtues, so that it is not easy to pick out the course of his undertakings. Before passing on to that which especially distinguished him, we must give an anecdote or two from the "article" denominated "His exquisite charity." His wife had become exceedingly skilful in medicine and in dealing with wounds, no small benefit in a recent colony scant of doctors, and she gave her aid freely to all who stood in need of help. A person who had taken offence at something in one of his sermons, and had abused him passionately, both in speech and in writing, chanced to wound himself severely, whereupon he at once sent his wife to act as surgeon; and when the man, having recovered, came to return thanks and presents, he would accept nothing, but detained him to a friendly meal, "and," says Mather, "by this carriage he mollified and conquered the stomach of his reviler."
"He was also a great enemy to all contention, and would ring a loud Courfew Bell wherever he saw the fires of animosity." When he heard any ministers complain that such and such in their flocks were too difficult for them, the strain of his answer was still: "Brother, compass them;" and, "Brother, learn the meaning of those three little words, 'bear, forbear, forgive.'"
Once, when at an assembly of ministers a bundle of papers containing matters of difference and contention between two parties--who, he thought, should rather unite--was laid on the table, Eliot rose up and put the whole upon the fire, saying, "Brethren, wonder not at that which I have done: I did it on my knees this morning before I came among you."
But that "exquisite charity" seems a little one-sided in another anecdote recorded of him, when "a godly gentleman of Charlestown, one Mr. Foster, with his son, was taken captive by his Turkish enemies." Public prayers were offered for his release: but when tidings were received that the "Bloody Prince" who had enslaved him had resolved that no captive should be liberated in his own lifetime, and the distressed friends concluded, "Our hope is lost;" Mr. Eliot, "in some of his prayers before a very solemn congregation, very broadly begged, 'Heavenly Father, work for the redemption of Thy poor servant Foster, and if the prince which detains him will not, as they say, release him so long as himself lives, Lord, we pray Thee kill that cruel prince, kill him, and glorify Thyself upon him.' And now behold the answer. The poor captiv'd gentleman quickly returns to us that had been mourning for him as a lost man, and brings us news that the prince, which had hitherto held him, was come to an untimely death, by which means he was now set at liberty."
"And to turn their hearts" was a form that did not occur to the earnest suppliant for his friend. But the "cruel prince" was far away out of sight, and there was no lack of charity in John Eliot's heart for the heathen who came into immediate contact with him. Indeed, he was the first to make any real effort for their conversion.
The colonists were as yet only a scanty sprinkling in easy reach of the coast, and had done little at present to destroy the hunting-grounds of the Red man who had hitherto held possession of the woods and plains.
The country was inhabited by the Pequot Indians, a tall, well-proportioned, and active tribe, belonging to the great Iroquois nation. They set up their wigwams of bark, around which their squaws cultivated the rapidly growing crop of maize while the men hunted the buffalo and deer, and returning with their spoil, required every imaginable service from their heavily-oppressed women, while they themselves deemed the slightest exertion, except in war and hunting, beneath their dignity. Their nature had much that was high and noble; and in those days had not yet been ruined either by the White man's vices or his cruelty. They were neither the outcast savages nor the abject inferiors that two hundred years have rendered their descendants, but far better realized the description in Longfellow's "Hiawatha," of the magnificently grave, imperturbably patient savage, the slave of his word, and hospitable to the most scrupulous extent. It was in mercy and tenderness that the character was the most deficient. The whole European instinct of forbearance and respect to woman was utterly wanting,--the squaws were the most degraded of slaves; and to the captive the most barbarous cruelty was shown. Experience has shown that there is something in the nature of the Red Indian which makes him very slow of being able to endure civilization, renders wandering almost a necessity to his constitution, and generally makes him, when under restraint, even under the most favourable conditions, dwindle away, lose all his fine natural endowments, and become an abject and often a vicious being. The misfortune has been that, with a few honourable exceptions, it has not been within the power of the better and more thoughtful portion of man to change the Red Indian's vague belief in his "Great Spirit" to a more systematic and stringent acceptance of other eternal verities and their consequent obligations, and at the same time leave him free to lead the roving life of the patriarchs of old; since, as Scripture itself shows us, it takes many generations to train the wandering hunter to a tiller of the soil, or a dweller in cities; and the shock to the wild man of a sudden change is almost always fatal both to mental and bodily health. This conclusion, however, has been a matter of slow and sad experience, often confused by the wretched effects of the vice, barbarity, and avarice of the settler and seaman, which in many cases have counteracted the effects of the missionary, and accelerated the extinction of the native.
In John Eliot's time, there was all to hope; and the community of Englishmen with whom he lived, though stern, fierce, intolerant, and at times cruel in their intolerance, did not embarrass his work nor corrupt the Indians by the grosser and coarser vices, when, in his biographer's words, "our Eliot was on such ill terms with the devil as to alarm him with sounding the silver trumpets of Heaven in his territories, and make some noble and zealous endeavours towards ousting him of his ancient possessions." The Pilgrim Fathers had obtained their land by fair purchase, i.e. if purchase could be fair where there was no real mutual understanding; and a good deal of interest had been felt in England in the religious state of the Red men. The charter to the colony had enforced their conversion on the settlers, and Dr. Lake, Bishop of Bath and Wells, declared that but for his old age and infirmities he would have headed a mission to America for the purpose. Had he done so, perhaps something systematic might have been attempted. As it was the new colonists had too severe a struggle with their own difficulties to attend to their heathen surroundings, even though the seal of their colony of Massachusetts represented an Indian with the label in his mouth, "Come over and help us." A few conversions had taken place, but rather owing to the interest in the White men's worship taken by individual Indians, than to any efforts on the part of the settlers.
Sixteen years, however, passed without overt aggression, though already was beginning the sad story that is repeated wherever civilized man extends his frontiers. The savage finds his hunting-ground broken up, the White man's farm is ruined by the game or the chase, the luxuries of civilization excite the natives' desires, mistrust leads to injury, retaliation follows, and then war.
In 1634, only two years after Eliot's arrival, two gentlemen, with their boat's crew, were killed on the Connecticut river, and some of the barbarities took place that we shall too often have to notice--attacks by the natives on solitary dwellings or lonely travellers, and increasing anger on the part of the colonists, until they ceased to regard their enemies as fellow-creatures.
However, the Pequots were likewise at war with the Dutch and with the Narragansets, or river Indians, and they sent a deputation to endeavour to make peace with the English, and secure their assistance against these enemies. They were appointed to return for their answer in a month's time; and after consultation with the clergy, Mr. Dudley and Mr. Ludlow, the Governor and Deputy-Governor, decided on making a treaty with them, on condition of their delivering up the murderers of the Englishmen, and paying down forty beaver and thirty otter skins, besides 400 fathoms of wampum, i.e. strings of the small whelks and Venus-shells that served as current coin, a fathom being worth about five shillings.
It surprises us that Eliot's name first appears in connection with the Indians as an objector to this treaty, and in a sermon too, at Roxbury; not on any grounds of injustice to the Indians, but because it had been conducted by the magistrates without reference to the people, which was an offence to his views of the republican rights to be exercised in the colony. So serious was his objection deemed, that a deputation was appointed to explain the principles on which Government had acted, and thus convince Mr. Eliot, which they did so effectually that he retracted his censure in his next sermon.
Probably this was what first awakened John Eliot's interest in the Red- skins; but for the next few years, in spite of the treaty, there was a good deal of disturbance on the frontier, and some commission of cruelties, until the colonists became gradually roused into fury. Some tribes were friendly with them; and, uniting with these the Mohicans and river Indians, under the conduct of Uncas, the Mohican chief, seventy- seven Englishmen made a raid into the Pequot country and drove them from it. Then, in 1637, a battle, called "the Great Swamp Fight," took place between the English, Dutch, and friendly Indians on the one hand, and the Pequots on the other. It ended in the slaughter of seven hundred of the Pequots and thirteen of their Sachems. The wife of one of the Sachems was taken, and as she had protected two captive English girls she was treated with great consideration, and was much admired for her good sense and modesty; but the other prisoners were dispersed among the settlers to serve as slaves, and a great number of the poor creatures were shipped off to the West India Islands to work on the sugar plantations.
Those who had escaped the battle were hunted down by the Mohicans and Narragansets, who continually brought their scalps in to the English towns, and at last they were reduced to sue for peace when only 200 braves were still living. These, with their families, were amalgamated with the Mohicans and Narragansets, and expelled from their former territory, on which the English settled. An annual tribute of a length of wampum, for every male in the tribe, varying according to age and rank, was paid to the English, and their supremacy was so entirely established that nearly forty years of peace succeeded.
Eliot's missionary enterprise, Mather allows, was first inspired by the "remarkable zeal of the Romish missionaries," by whom he probably means the French Jesuits, who were working with much effect in the settlements in Louisiana, first occupied in the time of Henri IV. Another stimulus came from the expressions in the Royal Charter which had granted licence for the establishment of the colony, namely, "To win and incite the natives of that country to the knowledge and obedience of the only true God and Saviour of mankind and the Christian faith, in our Royal intention and the Adventurers' free profession, is the principal end of the Plantation."
That the devil himself was the Red men's master, and came to their assistance when summoned by the incantations of their medicine men, was the universal belief of the colonists, in corroboration of which the following story is given:--"The Indians in their wars with us, finding a sore inconvenience by our dogs, which would make a sad yelling if in the night they scented the approaches of them, they sacrificed a dog to the devil, after which no English dog would bark at an Indian for divers months ensuing."
In the intended contest Mr. Eliot began by preaching and making collections from the English settlers, and likewise "he hires a native to teach him this exotick language, and, with a laborious care and skill, reduces it into a grammar, which afterwards he published. There is a letter or two of our alphabet which the Indians never had in theirs; though there were enough of the dog in their temper, there can scarce be found an R in their language, . . . but, if their alphabet be short, I am sure the words composed of it are long enough to tire the patience of any scholar in the world; they are Sesquipedalia verba, of which their linguo is composed. For instance, if I were to translate our Loves, it must be nothing shorter than Noowomantamoonkanunonush. Or to give my reader a longer word, Kremmogkodonattootummootiteaonganunnnash is, in English, our question."
The worthy Mr. Mather adds, with a sort of apology, that, having once found that the demons in a possessed young woman understood Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, he himself tried them with this Indian tongue, and "the demons did seem as if they understood it." Indeed, he thinks the words must have been growing ever since the confusion of Babel! The fact appears to be, that these are what are now called agglutinate languages, and, like those of all savage tribes, in a continual course of alteration--also often using a long periphrastic description to convey an idea or form a name. A few familiar instances will occur, such as Niagara, "thunder of water."
This formidable language Mr. Eliot--the anagram of whose name, Mather appropriately observes, was Toils--mastered with the assistance of a "pregnant-witted Indian," who had been a servant in an English family. By the help of his natural turn for philology, he was able to subdue this instrument to his great and holy end,--with what difficulty may be estimated from the sentence with which he concluded his grammar: "Prayer and pains through faith in CHRIST JESUS will do anything."
It was in the year 1646, while Cromwell was gradually obtaining a preponderating influence in England, and King Charles had gone to seek protection in the Scottish army, that John Eliot, then in his forty-second year, having thus prepared himself, commenced his campaign.
He had had a good deal of conversation with individual Indians who came about the settlement at Roxbury, and who perceived the advantages of some of the English customs. They said they believed that in forty years the Red and White men would be all one, and were really anxious for this consummation. When Eliot declared that the superiority of the White race came from their better knowledge of God, and offered to come and instruct them, they were full of joy and gratitude; and on the 28th of October, 1646, among the glowing autumn woods, a meeting of Indians was convoked, to which Mr. Eliot came with three companions. They were met by a chief named Waban, or the Wind, who had a son at an English school, and was already well disposed towards them, and who led them to his wigwam, where the principal men of the tribe awaited them.
"All the old men of the village, All the warriors of the nation, All the Jossakeeds, the prophets, The magicians, the Wabenos, And the medicine men, the medas, Came to bid the strangers welcome. 'It is well,' they said, 'O brothers, That you came so far to see us.' In a circle round the doorway, With their pipes they sat in silence, Waiting to behold the strangers, Waiting to receive their message, Till the Black Robe chief, the pale face, From the wigwam came to greet them, Stammering in his speech a little, Speaking words yet unfamiliar."
Mr. Eliot prayed in English, and then preached on the 9th and 10th verses of the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, where the prophet is bid to call the Breath of God from the four winds of heaven to give life to the dry bones around. It so happened that the Indian word for breath or wind was Waban, and this made a great impression, and was afterwards viewed as an omen.
The preacher worked up from the natural religion, of which this fine race already had an idea, to the leading Christian truths.
Then the Black Robe chief, the prophet, Told his message to the people, Told the purport of his mission, Told them of the Virgin Mary, And her blessed Son, the Saviour: How in distant lands and ages He had lived on earth as we do; How He fasted, prayed, and laboured; How the Jews, the tribe accursed, Mocked Him, scourged Him, crucified Him; How He rose from where they laid Him, Walked again with His disciples, And ascended into heaven."
The sermon lasted an hour and a quarter, but the Indians are a dignified and patient people, prone to long discourses themselves, and apt to listen to them from others. When he finally asked if they had understood, many voices replied that they had; and, on his encouraging them to ask questions, many intelligent inquiries were made. The whole conference lasted three hours, and Mr. Eliot was invited to come again, which he did at intervals of about a fortnight, and again with good promise.
In one of these meetings they asked, very reasonably, why the English called them Indians, a question it could not have been easy to answer. The Powaws, or priests, began to make some opposition, but Waban was continually going about among the people, repeating portions of the instructions he had received, and teaching his friends to pray--for some had at first supposed that the English God might not be addressed in the native tongue, but only in English.
After some little time, he thought the Indians ripe for being taught to live a settled life, and obtained for his congregation--"the praying Indians," as they were commonly called--a grant of the site of his first instructions. The place was named "Rejoicing,"--in Indian, a word that soon got corrupted into Nonantum; and, under Mr. Eliot's directions, they divided their grounds with trenches and stone walls, for which he gave them tools to the best of his ability. They built wigwams of a superior construction, and the women learnt to spin; there was a continual manufacture of brushes, eel-pots, and baskets, which were sold in the English towns, together with turkeys, fish, venison, and fruits, according to the season. At hay and harvest times they would hire themselves out to work for their English neighbours, but were thought unable or unwilling to do what sturdy Englishmen regarded as a fair day's work.
A second settlement of praying Indians followed at Neponset, around the wigwam of a Sachem named Cutshamakin, a man of rank much superior to Waban. He had already been in treaty with the English, and had promised to observe the Ten Commandments, but had unhappily learnt also from the English that love of drink which was the bane of the Indian; and while Mr. Eliot was formally instructing the family, one of the sons, a boy of fifteen, when learning the fifth commandment, persisted in saying only "honour thy mother," and, when admonished, declared that his father had given him fire-water, which had intoxicated him, and had besides been passionate and violent with him. The boy had always been a rude, contumacious fellow, and at the next lecture day Mr. Eliot turned to the Sachem, and lamented over these faults, but added that the first step to reforming him would be for his father to set the example by a confession of his own sins, which were neither few nor light.
The Sachem's pride was subdued. He stood up and openly declared his offences, lamenting over them with deep sincerity. The boy was so touched that he made humble confession in his turn, and entreated forgiveness. His parents were so much moved that they wept aloud, and the board on which Cutshamakin stood was wet with his tears. He was softened then, but, poor man, he said: "My heart is but very little better than it was, and I am afraid it will be as bad again as it was before. I sometimes wish I might die before I be so bad again!"
Poor Cutshamakin! he estimated himself truly. The Puritan discipline, which aimed at acting on the conduct rather through the conscience and feelings than by means of grace, never entirely subdued him, and he remained a fitfully fierce, and yet repentant, savage to the end of his life. His squaw must have been a clever woman; for, being publicly reprimanded by the Indian preacher Nabanton, for fetching water on a Sunday, she told him after the meeting that he had done more harm by raising the discussion than she had done by fetching the water.
Sunday was impressed upon the natives with all the strictness peculiar to the British Calvinists in their reaction from the ale-feasts, juggleries, and merry-makings of the almost pagan fifteenth century. It is never hard to make savage converts observe a day of rest; they are generally used to keep certain seasons already, and, as Mr. Eliot's Indians honestly said, they do so little work at any time that a weekly abstinence from it comes very easily. At Nonantum, indeed, they seem to have emulated the Pharisees themselves in their strictness. Waban got into trouble for having a racoon killed to entertain two unexpected guests; and a case was brought up at public lecture of a man who, finding his fire nearly gone out, had violated the Sabbath by splitting one piece of dry wood with his axe.
But the "weightier matters of the law" were not by any means forgotten, and there was a continual struggle to cure the converts of their new vice of drunkenness, and their old habit of despising and maltreating their squaws, who in the Christian villages were raised to a state far less degraded; for any cruelty or tyranny towards them was made matter of public censure and confession in the assembly.
Several more distant journeys were taken by Mr. Eliot, some of them to the Merrimac River to see a powerful old Sachem of a great age, named Passaconaway, who his people believed to be able to make green leaves grow in winter, trees dance, and water burn.
He was so much afraid of the Missionary that he fled away the first time he heard he was coming, probably thinking him a great sorcerer; but the next time he remained, listened eagerly, expressed his intention of praying, and tried to induce Mr. Eliot to settle in his district. He lived to a great age, and left a charge with his children never to contend with the English, having convinced himself that the struggle was hopeless. Several other Sachems gave a sort of attention: and it appeared that the way had been in some degree prepared by a French priest, who had been wrecked on Cape Cod, had been passed from one tribe to another, and had died among them, but not without having left a tradition of teaching which was by some identified with Eliot's.
Of one Sachem, Mather tells a story: "While Mr. Eliot was preaching of Christ unto the other Indians, a demon appeared unto a Prince of the Eastern Indians in a shape that had some resemblance of Mr. Eliot or of an English minister, pretending to be the Englishman's God. The spectre commanded him 'to forbear the drinking of rum and to observe the Sabbath- day, and to deal justly with his neighbours;' all which things had been inculcated in Mr. Eliot's ministry, promising therewithal unto him that, if he did so, at his death his soul should ascend into a happy place, otherwise descend unto miseries; but the apparition all the while never said one word about Christ, which was the main subject of Mr. Eliot's ministry. The Sachem received such an impression from the apparition that he dealt justly with all men except in the bloody tragedies and cruelties he afterwards committed on the English in our wars. He kept the Sabbath-day like a fast, frequently attending in our congregations; he would not meddle with any rum, though usually his countrymen had rather die than undergo such a piece of self-denial. That liquor has merely enchanted them. At last, and not long since, this demon appeared again unto this pagan, requiring him to kill himself, and assuring him that he should revive in a day or two, never to die any more. He thereupon divers times attempted it, but his friends very carefully prevented it; however, at length he found a fair opportunity for this foul business, and hanged himself,--you may be sure without his expected resurrection."
This story, grotesque as it sounds in the solemn simplicity of the worthy Puritan, is really only an instance of what takes place wherever the light of the Gospel is held up to men capable of appreciating its standard of morality, but too proud to bend the spirit to accept the doctrine of the Cross. The Sachem was but a red-skinned "seeker after God," an "ape of Christianity," like Marcus Aurelius, and like the many others we shall meet with who loved darkness rather than light, not so much because their deeds were evil as because their hearts were proud.
Like all practical men, Eliot found it absolutely necessary to do what he called "carrying on civility with religion," i.e. instructing the converts in such of the arts of life as would afford them wholesome industry; but want of means was his great difficulty, and in the middle of a civil war England was not very likely to supply him.
Still he made his Indians at Nonantum hedge and ditch, plant trees, sow cornfields, and saw planks; and some good man in England, whose name he never knew, sent him in 1648 ten pounds for schools among the natives, half of which he gave to a mistress at Cambridge, and half to a master at Dorchester, under whom the Indian children made good progress, and he catechized them himself most diligently by way of teaching both them and the parents who looked on.
He had by this time translated the Bible, but it remained in manuscript for want of the means of printing it; and his favourite scheme of creating an Indian city, with a scriptural government, well out of the way of temptation from and interference by the English, was also at a standstill, from his poverty.
He likewise sustained a great loss in his friend Mr. Shepard, who had worked with him with equal devotion and enthusiasm, but this loss really led to the fulfilment of his wishes, for Mr. Shepard's papers were sent home, and aroused such an interest in Calamy and others of the devout ministers in London, that the needs of the Indians of New England were brought before Parliament, and an ordinance was passed on the 27th of July, 1649, for the advancement of civilization and Christianity among them. Then a corporation was instituted, entitled the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, of which Judge Street was the first president, and Mr. Henry Ashurst the first treasurer, with powers to receive the collections that the ministers in every parish were exhorted to make by authority of Parliament, backed up by letters from the two Universities.
There was a good deal of opposition; people fancied it a new plan of getting money for Government, and were not at all interested about the Indians, but money enough was collected to purchase lands worth about 500l. or 600l. a year, by way of foundation, at a time when the property of Cavaliers was going cheap, and the Society was able to undertake the cost of printing Eliot's Bible, as well as of building him an Indian college, of paying his teachers, and of supplying the greatly needed tools and other necessaries for his much-desired station.
Still there was a great deal of difficulty and opposition, from the English dislike and contempt for the Indians, who were judged en masse by the degraded ones who loitered about the settlements, begging and drinking; as well as from the Powaws or medicine men who found their dupes escaping, and tried to terrify them by every means by which it was possible to work upon their superstition. The Sachems, likewise, were finding out that Christians were less under their tyranny since they had had a higher standard, and many opposed Eliot violently, trying to drive him from their villages with threats and menacing gestures, but he calmly answered, "I am engaged in the work of God, and God is with me. I fear not all the Sachems in the country. I shall go on with my work. Touch me if you dare;" nor did he ever fail to keep the most angry in check while he was present, though they hated him greatly. Uncas, the chief of the Mohicans, made a regular complaint to Government that Eliot and his colleagues prayed by name for the conversion of the Mohicans and Narragansets. Even Cutshamakin, when he heard of the project of an Indian town, broke out against it with such fury, that all the men in favour of it cowered and slunk away from his furious howls and gesticulations. Mr. Eliot was left alone to confront him, and looking steadily at him told him that, as this was God's work, no fear of him should hinder it. The savage quailed before him, but afterwards came to him and stated that his objection was that the praying Indians did not pay him their tribute. Eliot kindly answered that this had been complained of before, and that he had preached a sermon enforcing this duty upon the tribe.
The words were good, said Cutshamakin, but the Indians would not obey them. So Mr. Eliot, after consultation with the ministers and elders in Boston, invited the Indians who understood English to hear a sermon there, and in it the duty of rendering to all their due was fully enforced. Afterwards, however, the Indians came forward declaring themselves much surprised and mortified at being accused of not paying their just duty to their chief; and they specified the service and gifts: each had rendered twenty bushels of corn, six bushels of rye, fifteen deer, days spent in hunting, the building of a wigwam, reclaiming two acres of land; and the amount when added up amazed Mr. Eliot. At his next lecture, then, he took for his text the rejection by the Saviour of all the kingdoms of the world, and personally applied it to Cutshamakin, reproaching him with lust of power and worldly ambition, and warning him that Satan was tempting him to give up the faith for the sake of recovering his arbitrary power. The discourse and the conversation that followed again melted the Sachem, and he repented and retracted, although he continued an unsafe and unstable man.
At length, in 1651, Mr. Eliot was able to convene his praying Indians and with them lay the foundation of a town on the banks of Charles River, about eighteen miles to the south-west of Boston. The spot, as he believed, had been indicated to him in answer to prayer, and they named it Natick, or the place of hills. The inhabitants of Nonantum removed thither, and the work was put in hand. A bridge, eighty feet long and nine feet wide, had already been laid across the river, entirely by Indian workmen, under Mr. Eliot's superintendence; and the town was laid out in three streets, two on one side of the river and one on the other; the grounds were measured and divided, apple-trees planted, and sowing begun. The cellars of some of the houses, it is said, remain to the present day. In the midst was a circular fort, palisaded with trees, and a large house built in the English style, though with only a day or two of help from an English carpenter, the lower part of which was to serve as a place of worship on Sunday, and for a school on other days, the upper part as a wardrobe and storehouse for valuables, and with a room partitioned off, and known as "the prophet's chamber," for the use of Mr. Eliot on his visits to the settlement. Outside were canopies, formed by mats stretched on poles, one for Mr. Eliot and his attendants, another for the men, and a third for the women. These were apparently to shelter a sort of forum, and likewise to supplement the school-chapel in warm weather. A few English-built houses were raised; but the Indians found them expensive and troublesome, and preferred the bark wigwams on improved principles.
The spot was secured to the Indians by the Council of Government, acting under the Commonwealth at home; but the right of local self-government was vested in each township; and Eliot, as the guide of his new settlers, could lead them to what he believed to be a truly scriptural code, such as he longed to see prevail in his native land. "Oh!" he exclaimed, "the blessed day in England, when the Word of God shall be their Magna Carta and chief law book, and all lawyers must be divines to study the Scripture."
His commencement in carrying out this system was to preach Jethro's advice to Moses, and thence deduce that the Indians should divide themselves into hundreds and into tens, and elect rulers for each division, each tithing man being responsible for the ten under him, each chief of a hundred for the ten tithings. This was done on the 6th of August, 1651; and Eliot declared that it seemed to him as if he beheld the scattered bones he had spoken of in his first sermon to the Indians, come bone to bone, and a civil political life begin. His hundreds and tithings were as much suggested by the traditional arrangements of King Alfred as by those of Moses in the wilderness; and his next step was, in like manner, partly founded on Scripture, partly on English history,--namely, the binding his Indians by a solemn covenant to serve the Lord, and ratifying it on a fast-day. His converts had often asked him why he held none of the great fast-days with them that they saw the English hold, and he had always replied that there was not a sufficient occasion, but he regarded this as truly important enough. Moreover, a ship containing some supplies, sent by the Society in England, had been wrecked, and the goods, though saved, were damaged. This he regarded as a frown of Providence and a fruit of sin. Poor Cutshamakin also was in trouble again, having been drawn into a great revel, where much spirits had been drunk; and his warm though unstable temper always made him ready to serve as a public example of confession and humiliation. So when, on the 24th of September, 1651, Mr. Eliot had conducted the fast-day service, it began with Cutshamakin's confession; then three Indians preached and prayed in turn, and Mr. Eliot finally preached on Ezra's great fast. There was a pause for rest; then the assembly came together again, and before them Mr. Eliot solemnly recited the terms of the Covenant, by which all were to bind themselves to the service of the Lord, and which included all their principal laws. He asked them whether they stood to the Covenant. All the chiefs first bound themselves, then the remainder of the people; a collection was made for the poor; and so ended that "blessed day," as the happy apostle of the Indians called it.
When Governor Endicot shortly after visited the place, he was greatly struck with the orderliness and civilization he found there. "I account this one of the best journeys I have made for many years," he says. Many little manufactures were carried on, in particular one of drums, which were used for lack of bells in some of the American settlements, as a summons to come to church.
There was a native schoolmaster, named Monequassum, who could write, read, and spell English correctly, and under whom the children were making good progress. Promising lads were trained by Mr. Eliot himself, in hopes of making them act as missionaries among their brethren. All this time his praying Indians were not baptized, nor what he called "gathered into a Church estate." He seems to have been determined to have full proof of their stability before he so accepted them; for it was from no inclination to Baptist views that he so long delayed receiving them. However, on the 13th of October, 1652, he convened his brother- ministers to hear his Indians make public confession of their faith. What the converts said was perfectly satisfactory; but they were a long-winded race, accustomed to flowing periods; and as each man spoke for himself, and his confession had to be copied down in writing, Mr. Eliot himself owns that their "enlargement of spirit" did make "the work longsome." So longsome it was, that while the schoolmaster was speaking every one got restless, and there was a confusion; and the ministers, who had a long dark ride through the woods before them, went away, and were hard to bring back again, so that he had to finish hearing the declarations of faith alone.
Still, he cut off the baptism and organization of a church till he had sent all these confessions to be considered by the Society in England, printed and published under the title of "Tears of Repentance," with a dedication to Oliver Cromwell. Then came other delays; some from the jealousy and distrust of the English, who feared that the Indians were going to ally themselves to the Dutch; some from the difficulty of getting pastors to join in the tedious task of listening to the wordy confessions; and some from the distressing scandal of drunkenness breaking out among the Indians, in spite of the strict discipline that always punished it. It was not till 1660 that Mr. Eliot baptized any Indians, and the next day admitted them to the Lord's Supper, nine years after he had begun to preach. The numbers we do not know, but there is no doubt that he received no adults except well proved and tried persons coming up to the Puritan standard of sincerity and devotion.
At this time the Society at home was in great danger; for, on the Restoration, the charter had become void, and, moreover, the principal estate that formed the endowment had been the property of a Roman Catholic,--Colonel Bedingfield,--who resumed possession, and refused to refund the purchase money, as considering the Society at an end. It would probably have been entirely lost, but for the excellent Robert Boyle, so notable at once for his science, piety, and beneficence. He placed the matter in its true light before Lord Clarendon, and obtained by his means a fresh charter from Charles II. The judgment in the Court of Chancery was given in favour of the Society, and Boyle himself likewise endowed it with a third part of a grant of the forfeited impropriations in Ireland which he had received from the king. But all the time there was a great disbelief in the efficacy of the work among the Indians both at home and in New England. It was the fashion to call all the stories of Indian conversions mere devices for getting money, and the unhappy, proud hostility that almost always actuated the ordinary English colonist in dealing with natives, was setting in in full force. However, at Massachusetts, the general court appointed an English magistrate to hold a court of judicature in conjunction with the chiefs of the Christian Indians, and to be in fact a sort of special member of government on their behalf. The first so appointed was Daniel Gookin, a man of great piety, wisdom, and excellence, and a warm friend of Mr. Eliot, with whom he worked most heartily, not only in dealing with the Indians of Natick, but with all those who came under English jurisdiction, providing schools, and procuring the observance of the Sunday among them. It was also provided that the Christian Indians should set apart a tenth of all their produce for the support of their teachers--a practice that Mr. Gookin defended from the charge of Judaism. It seems as if these good men, who went direct to the Old Testament for their politics, must have been hard set between their desire of scriptural authority and their dread of Judaizing.
It was well for Eliot that he had friends, for in the first flush of the tidings of the successes of the Puritans in England, he had written a set of papers upon Government, entitled the "Christian Commonwealth," which had been sent to England, and there lay dormant for nine or ten years, until in the midst of all the excitement on the Restoration, this speculative work, the theory of a scholar upon Christian democracy, was actually printed and launched upon the world at home, whether by an enemy or by an ill-advised friend does not appear, and without the author's consent. Complaints of this as a seditious book came out to New England, and John Eliot was forced to appear before the court, when he owned the authorship, but disowned the publication, and retracted whatever might have declared the Government of England, by King, Lords, and Commons, to be anti-Christian, avowing it to be "not only a lawful but eminent form of government, and professing himself ready to conform to any polity that could be deduced from Scripture as being of Divine authority." The court was satisfied, and suppressed the book, while publishing Mr. Eliot's retractation. Some have sneered at his conduct on this occasion as an act of moral cowardice; but it would be very hard if every man were bound to stand to all the political views expressed in an essay never meant for the general eye, ten years old, and written in the enthusiasm of the commencement of an experiment, which to the Presbyterian mind had proved a grievous disappointment.
He had a much more important work in hand than the defence of old dreams of the reign of the saints--for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England had just finished printing his translation of the New Testament, Wusku Wuttestermentum as it was called, and in two years more the Old Testament was finished. A copy was presented to Charles II., to the Chancellor Clarendon, and to the two Universities in England, as well as to Harvard College. It was in the Mohican dialect, which was sufficiently like that of the neighbouring tribes to serve for them, and had all the correctness that the scholarship and philology of the time could furnish. There is a story that Eliot wrote the whole with a single pen. It went through a good many editions, but is now very rare, and with Eliot's Catechism, and translations of Baxter's chief works, and a metrical version of the Psalms, remains the only vestige of the language of the Mohicans.
There were now several Indian congregations, one in especial at the island called Martha's Vineyard, under the charge of an Indian pastor, John Hiacoomes, who is said to have been the first red-skinned convert, and who had made proof of much true Christian courage. Once in the act of prayer he received a severe blow from a Sachem, and would have been killed if some English had not been present; but all his answer was, "I have two hands. I had one hand for injuries, and the other for God. While I did receive wrong with the one, the other laid the greater hold on God."
When some of the Powaws, or medicine men, were boasting that they could, if they would, destroy all the praying Indians at once, Hiacoomes made reply: "Let all the Powaws in the island come together, I'll venture myself in the midst among them all. Let them use all their witchcrafts. With the help of God, I'll tread upon them all!"
By which defiance he wonderfully "heartened" his flock, who, Christians as they were, had still been beset by the dread of the magic arts, in which, as we have seen, even their White teachers did not wholly disbelieve.
Such a man as this was well worthy of promotion, and Mr. Eliot hoped to educate his more promising scholars, so as to supply a succession of learned and trained native pastors. Two young men, named Joel and Caleb, were sent to Harvard College, Cambridge, where they both were gaining distinguished success, and were about to take their degree, when Joel, who had gone home on a visit, was wrecked on the Island of Nantucket, and, with the rest of the ship's company, was either drowned or murdered by the Indians. The name of Caleb, Chee-shah-teau-muck, Indus, is still to be seen in the registers of those who took their degree, and there are two Latin and Greek elegies remaining, which he composed on the death of an eminent minister, bearing his signature, with the addition, Senior Sophister. How curiously do the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin proclaim themselves the universal languages, thus blending with the uncouth Mohican word! Caleb's constitution proved unable to endure College discipline and learning, and he died of decline soon after taking his degree. Consumption was very frequent among the Indians, as it so often is among savages suddenly brought to habits of civilization, and it seems to have mown down especially the more intellectual of the Indians; Monequassum, the first schoolmaster at Natick, among them. An Indian College, which had been established at Cambridge, failed from the deaths of some scholars and the discouragement of others, and had to be turned into a printing house, and the energetic and indefatigable Eliot did the best he could by giving courses of lectures in logic and theology to candidates for the ministry at Natick, and even printed an "Indian logick primer." It was a wonderful feat, considering the loose unwieldy words of the language.
From 1660 to 1675 were Eliot's years of chief success. His own vigour was unabated, and he had Major Gookin's hearty co-operation. There had been time for a race of his own pupils to grow up; and there had not been time for the first love of his converts to wax cool. There had been a long interval of average peace and goodwill between English and natives, and there seemed good reason to suppose that Christianity and civilization would keep them friends, if not fuse them together. There were eleven hundred Christian Indians, according to Eliot and Gookin's computation, with six regularly constituted "churches" after the fashion of Natick, and fourteen towns, of which seven were called old and seven new, where praying Indians lived, for the most part, in a well-conducted, peaceable manner, though now and then disorderly conduct would take place, chiefly from drunkenness. Several Sachems had likewise been converted, in especial Wanalanset, the eldest son of the famous old chief Passaconnaway. After four years of hesitation whether he should, as he said, quit his old canoe and embark in a new one, he came to the conclusion that the old canoe was floating down the stream of destruction, and manfully embraced the faith, although at the cost of losing many of his tribe, who deserted him on his profession of Christianity.
But there is always a period of check and disappointment in every great and holy work. The tide of evil may be driven into ebb for a time, but it always rallies and flows back upon the servant of God, and usually when the prime of his strength is past, and he is less able to withstand. Most good and great men have closed their eyes upon apparent failure and disappointment in what is especially their own task, and, like the first great Leader and Lawgiver, have had to cry, "Show Thy servants Thy work, and their children Thy glory." Often the next generation does see the success, and gather the fruits; but the strong, wise, scholarly, statesman-like Apostle of the Indians was destined to see his work swept away like snow before the rage and fury of man, and to leave behind him little save a great witness and example. At least he had the comfort of knowing that the evil did not arise among his own children in the faith, but came from causes entirely external, and as much to be preferred as persecution is better than corruption.
The Sachem nearest to Plymouth had been at the first arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers, Massasoiet, chief of the Wampanongs, who had kept the peace out of fear. His son Alexander had followed his example, but it was current among the English that he had died of "choler," on being detected in a plot against them, and his successor, Philip, was a man of more than common pride, fierceness, cunning, and ability. These were only names given them by the English; none of them were Christians. Mr. Eliot had made some attempts upon Philip, but had been treated with scorn. The Sachem, twisting a button upon the minister's coat, told him he cared not that for his Gospel; but Major Gookin had some hopes of having touched his heart.
However, there were indications that he was endeavouring to unite all the surrounding tribes in an alliance against the colony. A murder of an Englishman had taken place, and the Government at Plymouth required all natives to surrender the fire-arms they had obtained from the English. Even Philip consented to deliver them up until the English should see no further cause for detaining them. Upon this, in June 1671, Eliot wrote a remarkable letter to Mr. Prince, the Governor of Plymouth, requiring him not to detain the arms, especially of Philip. "My reasons are," he says, "first, lest we render ourselves more afraid of them and their guns than indeed we are or have cause to be. Alas! it is not the gun, but the man; nor, indeed, is it the man, but our sin that we have cause to be afraid of. Secondly, your so doing will open an effectual door to the entertainment of the Gospel." Probably Mr. Eliot was right, and the keeping the arms only irritated the high-spirited chief, who said to the messenger of the Governor of Massachusetts, "Your governor is but a subject. I will not treat but with my brother, King Charles of England."
For four years enmity smouldered on. The rights of the dispute will never be known. The settlers laid all upon Philip's machinations, except those who lived near his wigwams and knew him best; and they said that so far from entering into a conspiracy, he always deplored the war, but was forced on by the rage and fury of the young braves, over whom the Sachems had no real power, and who wanted to signalize their valour, and could not fail to have their pride insulted by the demeanour of the ordinary English. One instance of brutality on the river Saco is said to have been the immediate cause of the war in that district. Some English sailors, seeing a canoe with an Indian woman and her infant, and having heard that a papoose could swim like a duck, actually upset the canoe to make the experiment. The poor baby sank, and the mother dived and brought it up alive, but it died so soon after, that the loss was laid to the charge of the cruel men by the father, who was a Sachem named Squando, of considerable dignity and influence, a great medicine man.
On Philip's border to the southward, a plantation called Swawny was attacked and burnt by the Indians in the June of 1675. He is said to have shed tears (impassible Indian as he was) at the tidings, foreseeing the utter ruin of his people; and, twenty days after, Squando's influence led to another attack 200 miles off, and this was viewed as a sign of complicity with Philip.
There was deadly terror among the English. The Indians swarmed down at night on lonely villages and farmhouses, slew, scalped, burnt, and now and then carried off prisoners to be tortured to death, and children to tell by and by strange tales of life in the wigwams. The militia were called out, but left their houses unprotected. At Newich-wannock, the farmhouse of a man named Tozer was attacked by the Indians when only tenanted by fifteen women and children. A girl of eighteen, who was the first to see the approach, bravely shut the door and set her back against it; thus giving time for the others to escape by another door to a better secured building. The Indians chopped the door to pieces with their hatchets, knocked the girl down, left her for dead, and hurried on in pursuit of the others, but only came up with two poor little children, who had not been able to get over the fence. The rest were saved, and the brave girl recovered from her wounds; but other attacks ended far more fatally for the sufferers, and the rage and alarm of the New Englanders were great. A few of the recently taught and unbaptized Indians from what were called the "new praying towns" had joined their countrymen; and though the great body of the converts were true and faithful, the English confounded them all in one common hatred to the Red- skin. The magistrates and Government were not infected by this blind passion, and did all they could to restrain it, showing trust in the Christian natives by employing them in the war, when they rendered good and faithful service; but the commonalty, who were in the habit of viewing the whole people as Hivites and Jebusites, treated these allies with such distrust and contumely as was quite enough to alienate them.
In July 1675, three Christian Indians were sent as guides and interpreters to an expedition to treat with the Indians in the Nipmuck country. One was made prisoner, but the two officers in command gave the fullest testimony to the good conduct of the other two; nevertheless they were so misused on their return that Mr. Gookin declared that they had been, by ill-treatment, "in a manner constrained to fall off to the enemy." One was killed by a scouting party of praying Indians; the other was taken, sold as a slave, and sent to Jamaica; and though Mr. Eliot prevailed to have him brought back, and redeemed his wife and children, he was still kept in captivity.
The next month, August, a number of the Christian Indians were arrested and sent up to Boston to be tried for some murders that had been committed at Lancaster. Eliot and Gookin succeeded in proving their perfect innocence, but the magistrates had great difficulty in saving their lives from the fury of the mob, who thirsted for Indian blood, and both minister and major were insulted and reviled, so that Gookin said on the bench that it was not safe for him to walk in the streets; and when Eliot met with a dangerous boat accident, wishes were expressed that he had been drowned.
Natick was looked upon with so much distrust and aversion that Government, fearing occasions of bloodshed, decided that the inhabitants must be removed to Deer Island. On the 7th of October a great fast-day, with prayer and preaching, had been held, and fierce and bitter entreaties had been uttered against the Indian Sachems, especially Philip. One wonders whether Eliot--now seventy-one years old--felt it come home to him that he knew not what spirit he had been of when he had prayed for the death of the Moorish prince. It must have been a heart- breaking time for the aged man, to see the spot founded in so much hope and prayer, the fruit of so much care and meditation, thus broken up and ruined, and when he was too old to do the like work over again. At the end of that month of October, Captain Thomas Prentiss, with a party of horse and five or six carts, arrived at Natick, and made known the commands of the Government. Sadly but patiently the Indians submitted. Two hundred men, women, and children were made to get together all they could carry, and marched from their homes to the banks of the Charles River. Here, at a spot called the Pines, Mr. Eliot met them, and they gathered round him to hear his words of comfort, as he exhorted them to meek patience, resignation, and steadiness to the faith. The scene was exceedingly affecting, as the white-haired pastor stood by the river-side beneath the tall pines, with his dark-skinned, newly reclaimed children about him, clinging to him for consolation, but neither murmuring nor struggling, only praying and encouraging one another. Captain Prentiss and his soldiers were deeply touched; but at midnight, when the tide was high enough, three large boats bore the Indians over to Deer Island. Here they were, transplanted from their comfortable homes in the beginning of a long and very severe winter; but, well divided by the river from all suspicion of doing violence, they fared better than the praying Indians of the new town of Wamesit. A barn full of hay and corn had been burnt, and fourteen men of Chelmsford, the next settlement, concluding it had been done by the Wamesit Red-skins, went thither, called them out of their wigwams, and then fired at them, killing a lad and five women and children. After all, the fire had been caused by some skulking heathen Indians; but though the Government obtained the arrest of the murderers, the jury would not find them guilty. The Wamesit Indians fled into the forest, and sent a piteous letter:--"We are not sorry for what we leave behind, but we are sorry that the English have driven us from our praying to God and from our teacher. We did begin to understand praying to God a little." They were invited back, but were afraid to come till cold and hunger drove them to their old abode, and then the indefatigable Eliot and Gookin visited them, and did all in their power to bring about a better feeling towards them in Chelmsford.
This whole autumn and winter--a terribly severe one--seems to have been spent by these good men in trying to heal the strifes between the English and the Indians. Wanalanset had fled, true to his father's policy of never resisting, and they were sent to invite him back again; but when he returned, he found that the maize grounds of his settlement had been ploughed up by the English and sown with rye, so that his tribe had most scanty subsistence.
Several settlements of Christians were deported to Deer Island. One large party had been made prisoners by their heathen countrymen and had managed to escape, but when met with wandering in the woods by a party of English soldiers, were plundered of the little the heathens had left them, in especial of a pewter cup, their communion plate, which Mr. Eliot had given them, and which was much treasured by their native pastor. The General interfered in their behalf, but could not protect them from much ill-usage. The teacher was sent with his old father and young children to Boston, where Mr. Eliot saw and cheered him before he was conveyed to Deer Island. There, in December, Eliot, with Gookin and other friends, frequently visited the Indians, now five hundred in number, and found them undergoing many privations, but patient, resigned, and unmurmuring. The snow was four feet deep in the woods by the 10th of December that year, and the exertion and exposure of travelling, either on snow-shoes or sledges, must have been tremendous to a man of Mr. Eliot's age; but he never seems to have intermitted his labours in carrying spiritual and temporal succour to his people, and in endeavouring to keep the peace between them and the English.
The hard winter had had a great effect in breaking the strength of the enemy, and they were much more feeble on the renewal of the war in the spring. The good conduct of the praying Indians had overcome the popular prejudice so much that it was decided to employ them to assist the scanty forces of the English in hunting down the hostile tribes, and Gookin boasts of their having taken and slain more than 400 foes in the course of the summer of 1676, which one would scarcely think was very good for their recent Christianity. In the mean time, the absence of all the able- bodied men and hunters reduced their families to such distress that serious illness broke out among them, and Major Gookin caused them to be brought to the neighbourhood of Cambridge, where there was good fishing, and where he could attend to them, and provide them with food, clothing, and medicine.
In August Philip was killed, the English believing themselves to "have prayed the bullet straight into his heart;" and his head was carried about on a pole, in a manner we should have called worthy of the Indians themselves, did we not recollect that there were a good many city gates at home with much the same kind of trophy, while his wife and children--miserable fate!--were, like many others of the captives, sold into slavery to the sugar planters in Jamaica.
After this the war did not entirely cease, but the Christian Indians were allowed to creep back to their old settlements at Nonantum, and even at Natick, where Mr. Eliot continued periodically to visit and instruct them; but after this unhappy war there were only four instead of fourteen towns of Christian Indians in Massachusetts, and a blow had been given to his mission that it never recovered.
Still there was a splendid energy and resolution about this undaunted old man, now writing a narrative of the Gospel History in his seventy-fourth year, now sending Robert Boyle new physical facts, now protesting hard against the cruel policy of selling captive Indians into slavery. What must not the slavery of the West Indian isles, which had already killed off their native Caribbeans, have been to these free hunters of the North American forest, too proud to work for themselves, and bred in a climate of cold, dry, bracing air? And even in the West Indies, a shipload of these miserable creatures was refused in the over-stocked market, and the horrors of the slave-ship were prolonged across the Atlantic, till at last Mr. Eliot traced the unhappy freight to Tangier. He at once wrote to conjure the excellent Mr. Boyle to endeavour to have them redeemed and sent home,--with what success, or if any were left alive, does not appear.
He had the pleasure of seeing a son of good Major Gookin become the minister of a district including Natick, and likewise of the ordination at Natick of an Indian named Daniel Takawombgrait. Of his own six children only one son and one daughter survived him. Benjamin, the youngest son, was his coadjutor at Roxbury, and was left in charge there while he circulated amongst his Indians, and would have succeeded him. The loss of this son must have fallen very heavily on him; but "the good old man would sometimes comfortably say, 'I have had six children, and I bless God for His free grace; they are all either with Christ or in Christ, and my mind is now at rest concerning them.'"
When asked how he could bear the death of such excellent children, his answer was, "My desire was that they should have served God on earth, but if God will choose to have them rather serve Him in heaven, I have nothing to object against it, but His will be done."
His last letter to Mr. Boyle was written in his eighty-fourth year, and was a farewell but a cheerful one, and he had good hopes then of a renewal of the spirit of missions among his people. But though his Christians did not bely their name in his own generation, alcohol did its work on some, consumption on others; and, in 1836, when Jabez Sparks wrote his biography, there was one wigwam at Natick inhabited by a few persons of mingled Indian and Negro blood, the sole living remnants of the foundation he had loved so well. Nevertheless, Eliot's work was not wasted. The spark he lit has never gone out wholly in men's minds.
His wife died in 1684, at a great age, and her elegy over her coffin were these words from himself: "Here lies my dear faithful, pious, prudent, prayerful wife. I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me."
He had become very feeble, and was wont to say, when asked how he did, "Alas! I have lost everything: my understanding leaves me, my memory fails me, my utterance fails me, but, I thank God, my charity holds out still; I find that rather grows than fails."
He was forced to give up the duties of his office to a new pastor, and though often entreated to preach again, he would hardly ever do so, by reason, he said, that it would be wronging the souls of his people, when they had an able minister; and when he preached for the last time on a fast day, on the 63rd Psalm, it was with an apology for what he called the poorness, and meanness, and brokenness of his meditations.
"I wonder," he used to say, "for what the Lord lets me live. He knows that now I can do nothing for Him."
Yet he was working for Him to the utmost of his power. A little boy in the neighbourhood had fallen into the fire, and lost his eyesight in consequence. The old minister took him into his house to instruct, and first taught him to repeat many chapters in the Bible, and to know it so thoroughly that when listening to readers he could correct them if they missed a word; after which he taught him Latin, so that an "ordinary piece" had become easy to him.
The importation of negro slaves had already begun, and Mr. Eliot "lamented with a bleeding and a burning passion that the English used their negroes but as their horses or oxen, and that so little care was taken about their immortal souls. He look'd upon it as a prodigy, that any bearing the name of Christians should so much have the heart of devils in them, as to prevent and hinder the instruction of the poor Blackamores, and confine the souls of their miserable slaves to a destroying ignorance, merely through fear of using the benefit of their vassalage." So, old as he was, he induced the settlers around to send him their negroes on certain days of the week for instruction; but he had not made much progress in the work before he became too feeble to carry it on. He fell into languishments attended with fever, and this he viewed as his summons. His successor, Mr. Nehemiah Walters, came to live with him, and held a good deal of conversation with him.
"There is a cloud," he said, "a dark cloud upon the work of the Gospel among the poor Indians. The Lord renew and prosper that work, and grant it may live when I am dead. It is a work which I have been doing much and long about. But what was the word I spoke last? I recall that word. My doings. Alas! they have been poor and small, and lean doings, and I'll be the man that shall throw the first stone at them all."
Mather relates that he spake other words "little short of oracles," and laments that they were not correctly recorded; but it appears that he gradually sank, and died in his eighty-seventh year of age, at Roxbury, in the year 1690. His last words were, "Welcome joy."