Friday, 19 October 2012

Week 4 Blog Post

A Baptist minister in Rhode Island explains that, by driving out and killing the Indians as punishment for their sins, “God was pleased to make ready a Place prepared as an Asylum” for the early New England settlers.

The Indians in this Part of America appear to have been some of the least improved of the human Species, without any Learning or Knowledge in any of the politer Arts of Life, even without Iron and the Improvements which depend on that. The strange Destruction of this People, now since the Wars ceased, and within Memory, is very remarkable. Their insuperable Aversion to the English industry and Way of Life, the Alteration from the Indian Method of living, their Laziness, and their universal Love of Strong Drink, have swept them away, in a wonderful Manner. So that there are now above twenty English to one Indian in the Colony. Their few miserable Remainders are left as Monuments of the Anger of a righteous God, and for our Warning & Instruction. . . .
And this brings me now at last, to the Remarks I promised at the Beginning. And
I. The first is, The wonderful and unsearchable Providence of GOD in the whole Affair of driving out the Natives and planting Colonies of Europeans, and Churches of Christians, in the Place of Heathenism and Barbarity. . . .
The Discovery and the Conquest of America, with the amazing Desolations wrought therein, appear a more remarkable Event than any other in all profane History since the universal Deluge. A new World, as it was justly called, discovered to the other, or rather to Europe, and all its Riches and Glory overturned, and given away to another People; and the Aboriginal Natives, by Famine, Sword and Pestilence, destroyed, and wasted away by Millions throughout all America! Who can tell how, or how long it had been inhabited; and by what a Series of Iniquity, it was ripe for such a fearful Desolation, such an utter Destruction! . . .
Moreover, as these People came not here for Plunder, which drew over the Spaniards to the South-ward, neither did they settle themselves by Force or by their own Might; but GOD was pleased to make ready a Place prepared as an Asylum for them. And since he has wonderfully driven out and consumed the Natives by his devouring Judgments, their Sins have proved their Punishment, and their detestable Vices have drawn on those mortal Sicknesses which have wasted away all within the English Pale; but a few embraced Christianity or who, by submitting to the English Power, remains the Memorials of these wonderful Events.

–Rev. John Callender, An Historical Discourse on the Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of
Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations in New-England in America,1739, excerpts.7

It is quite hard to read this article with impartiality because the words of Rev John Callender seem so abhorrent to our contemporary morals. However, it does offer an important insight into the mindset of the early settlers (primarily English) and how they believed they were acting under God's will, which underpins Callender  comments on two specific points - the land of plenty and the native Americans.

Calling the Native Americans "the least improved of the human species" in the first line sets the tone. It can be logically inferred that as a Reverend in 1739, Callenders views are indicative of wider opinions. Going on he mentions how, even following the end of the wars with the Natives, they continue to die out - their "strange destruction". He attributes this to their "laziness" and their "love of strong drink" (both sins) which has "swept them away, in a wonder manner." The idea that these people were somehow, less than human and it is their sins (not disease or famine from European origins) which is causing their deaths is obscene today but then it would be have a powerful tool for the Reverand to use with his own parishioners  He states "their few miserable Remainders are left as Monuments of the Anger of a righteous God and for our Warning." Follow me or you too will pass away like they did, this is the central theme of Callenders Discourse.

He continues this theme throughout the following paragraphs, they are not settling these lands with good luck and skill, but rather they were called by God to do his bidding, to rid the world of heathens with "Famine, Sword and Pestilence" in order to save a sacred place of riches which was "wasted" by these Native people.

There is an interesting paragraph which seems to state that he believes the Native Americans killed themselves or were struck down by Pestilence before settlers arrived. The line "Who can tell how, or how long it had been inhabited;" could imply that Callenders believes a civilisation that may have existed in the country before, but it is no more and all that is left are a few remain enemies of God.

He goes to on to speak of the first landings as being uneventful. The English and Spaniards came in peace - "not here for Plunder" and did not "settle themselves by Force" but were welcome with bounty and riches. He calls this God's "Asylum" - areas where God has removed the Native American population in order to make way for his chosen people.

He never once deviates from the idea that the Native Americans are a people against God. His final line - "a few embraced Christianity or who, by submitting to the English Power, remains the Memorials of these wonderful Events." - is the only mention of converting/saving the sinners which suggests he didn't think it was worth doing or so few Natives converted that these "Memorials" are rare indeed.

Callender's narrative, as the title suggests, is intent on saying there was a War which wiped out the Native Americans, and that as a reward God helped Europeans to settle in New England. I noted the term "Asylum" above because it is likening America to the next Garden of Eden. It's resources are destined for the Europeans and are the reward for believing in God. He uses the imagery of Noah discovering land after the great flood (the "universal Deluge"). It is odd then that people who exist in this promised land are not revered but discounted as heathens. I suspect if the Native's hadn't been susceptible to European diseases or had steel weapons then Callender may well have changed the tone of his thesis.

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