King of the Beggars - Chapter XI.

Chapter XI.

A Digression on the History of the Colony of Maryland

            At the first settling of Maryland, there were several nations of them governed by petty kings. Mr. Calvert, Lord Baltimore's brother having been sent by him to make the first settlement in Maryland, landed at Potowmac town; during the infancy of Werowance, Archibau his uncle, who governed his territories in his minority, received the English in a friendly manner. From Potowmac the governor proceeded to Piscataqua, about twenty leagues higher, where he found many Indians assembled, and among them an Englishman, Captain Henry Fleet, who had lived there several years in great esteem with the natives. Captain Fleet brought the Werowance, or Prince, on board the governor's pinnace to treat with him. Mr. Calvert asked him, whether he was agreeable that he and his people should settle in his country. The prince replied, I will not bid you go, neither will I bid you stay, but you may use your own discretion. The Indians, finding their prince stay longer on board than they expected, crowded down to the water-side to look after him, fearing the English had killed him, and they were not satisfied till he showed himself to them, to please them. The natives, who fled from St. Clement's isle, when they saw the English come as friends, returned to their habitations; and the governor, not thinking it advisable to settle so high up the river in the infancy of the colony, sent his pinnaces down the river, and went with Captain Fleet to a river on the north side of the Potowmac, within four or five leagues, in his long-boat, and came to the town of Yoamaco, from which the Indians of that neighbourhood are called Yoamacoes. The governor landed, and treating with the prince there, acquainted him with the occasion of his coming, to whom the Indian said little, but invited him to his house, entertained him kindly, and gave him his own bed to lie on. The next day he showed him the country, and the governor determining to make the first settlement there, ordered all his ships and pinnaces to come thither to him.

            To make his entry the more safe and peaceable, he presented the Werowance and Wilsos, and principal men of the place, with some English cloth, axes, hoes and knives, which they accepted very kindly, and freely consented that he and his company should dwell in one part of the town, and reserving the other for themselves. Those Indians, who inhabited that part which was assigned to the English, readily abandoned their houses to them; and Mr. Calvert immediately set hands to work to plant corn. The natives agreed further to leave the whole town to the English as soon as their harvest was in; which they did accordingly, and both English and Indians promised to live friendly together. If any injury was done on either part, the nation offending was to make satisfaction. Thus, on the 27th March, 1634, the governor took possession of the town, and named it St. Mary's.

            There happened an event which much facilitated this with the Indians. The Susquehanocks, a warlike people, dwelling between Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay, were wont to make incursions on their neighbours, partly for dominion and partly for booty, of which the women were most desired by them. The Yoamacoes, fearing these Susquehanocks, had a year before the English arrived, resolved to desert their habitations, and remove higher into the country; many of them were actually gone, and the rest prepared to follow them. The ships and pinnaces arriving at the town, the Indians were amazed and terrified at the sight of them, especially at hearing their cannon thunder, when they came to anchor.

            The first thing that Mr. Calvert did was to fix a court of guard, and erect a storehouse; and he had not been there many days before Sir John Harvey, governor of Virginia, came there to visit him, as did several of the Indian Werowances, and many other Indians, from several parts of the continent; among others, came the king of Patuxent, and, being carried aboard the ship, then at anchor in the river, was placed between the governor of Virginia and the governor of Maryland, at an entertainment made for him and others. A Patuxent Indian coming aboard, and seeing his king thus seated, started back; thinking he was surprised, he would have fain leaped overboard, and could not be persuaded to enter the cabin, till the Werowance came himself, and satisfied him he was in no danger. This king had formerly been taken prisoner by the English of Virginia. After the storehouse was finished and the ship unladen, Mr. Calvert ordered the colours to be brought ashore, which was done with great solemnity, the gentlemen and their servants attending in arms: several volleys were fired on board and on shore, as also the cannon, at which the natives were struck with admiration, such at least as had not heard the firing of pieces of ordnance before, to whom it could not be dreadful.

            The kings of Patuxent and Yoamaco were present at this ceremony, with many other Indians of Yoamaco; and the Werowance of Patuxent took that occasion to advise the Indians of Yoamaco to be careful to keep the league that had been made with the English. He stayed in town several days, and was full of his Indian compliments; when he went away he made this speech to the governor: "I love the English so well, that, should they go about to kill me, if I had so much breath as to speak, I would command my people not to revenge my death, for I know they would not do such a thing, except it were through my own fault."

            This infant colony supplied themselves with Indian corn at Barbadoes, which, at their first arrival, they began to use to save their French store of flour and oatmeal. The Indian women, perceiving that their servants did not know how to dress it, made their bread for them, and taught them to do it themselves. There was Indian corn enough in the country, and these new adventurers soon after shipped off 10,000 bushels for New England, to purchase salt fish and other provisions. While the English and Indians lived at St. Mary's together, the natives went every day to hunt with the newcomers for deer and turkeys, which, when they had caught, they gave to the English, or sold for knives, beads, and such like trifles. They also brought them good store of fish, and behaved themselves very kindly, suffering their women and children to come among them, which was a certain sign of their confidence in them.

            Most of the Indians still follow the religion and customs of their ancestors; and are not become either more pious or more polite by the company of the English.

            As to their religion, they have all of them some dark notions about God; but some of them have brighter ones, if a person may be believed who had this confession from the mouth of an Indian: "That they believed God was universally beneficent; that his dwelling was in heaven above, and the influence of his goodness reached to the earth beneath; that he was incomprehensible in his excellence, and enjoyed all possible felicity; that his duration was eternal, his perfection boundless, and that he possessed everlasting happiness." So far the savage talked as rationally of the existence of a God as a Christian divine or philosopher could have done; but when he came to justify their worshipping of the Devil, whom they call Okee, his notions were very heterodox. He said, "It is true God is the giver of all good things, but they flow naturally and promiscuously from him; that they are showered down upon all men without distinction; that God does not trouble himself with the impertinent affairs of men, nor is concerned at what they do, but leaves them to make the most of their free will, and to secure as many as they can of the good things that flow from him; that therefore it was to no purpose either to fear or worship him; but, on the contrary, if they did not pacify the evil spirit, he would ruin their health, peace, and plenty, he being always visiting them in the air, thunders, storms, &c."

            As to the idol which they all worship, and is kept in a temple called Quiocasan, he seemed to have a very different opinion of its divinity, and cried out against the juggling of the priests.—This man did not talk like a common savage, and therefore we may suppose he had studied the matter more than his countrymen, who, for the generality, paid a great deal of devotion to the idol, and worshipped him as their chief deity.

            Their priests and conjurors are highly reverenced by them. They are given extremely to pawning or conjuring; and one of them very lately conjured a shower of rain for a gentleman's plantation, in a time of drought, for two bottles of rum. We are not apt to give credit to such supernatural events; and, had we not found this in an author who was on the spot, we should have rejected it as a fable.

            Their priests promise fine women, eternal spring, and every pleasure in perfection in the other world, which charmed them in this; and threaten them with lakes of fire, and torments by a fairy in the shape of an old woman. They are often bloody in their sacrifices, and offer up young children to the devil. They have a superstitious ceremony among them, which they call Huskanawing, and is performed thus: they shut up ten or twelve young men, the most deserving among them, about twenty years of age, in a strong inclosure, made on purpose, like a sugar loaf, and every way open like a lattice, for the air to pass through; they are kept for several months, and are allowed to have no sustenance but the infusion or decoction of poisonous intoxicating roots, which turn their brains, and they run stark mad.

            By this it is pretended they lose the remembrance of all former things, even of their parents, treasure, and language, as if they had drunk of the water of oblivion, drawn out of the lake of Lethe. When they have been in this condition as long as their custom directs, they lessen this intoxicating potion; and, by degrees, the young men recover the use of their senses; but before they are quite well, they are shown in their towns; and the youths who have been huskanawed are afraid to discover the least sign of their remembering anything of their past lives; for, in such a case, they must be huskanawed again, and they are disciplined so severely the second time, that it generally kills them.

            After the young men have passed this trial, they are Coucarouses, or men of quality in their nations; and the Indians say they do it to take away from youth all childish impressions, and that strong partiality to persons and things which is contracted before reason takes place.

            The Indian priests, to command the respect of the people, make themselves look as ugly and as terrible as they can; the conjurors always share with them in their deceit, and they gain by it; the Indians consult both of them before they go on any enterprise. There are no priestesses or witches among them. They erect altars on every remarkable occasion, and have temples built like their common cabins, in which their idol stands, and the corpse of their kings and rulers are preserved.

            They have no sort of literature among them; and their way of communicating things from one to another is by hieroglyphics. They make their accounts by units, tens, hundreds, &c., as the English do; but they reckon their years by cohonks, or winters, and divide every year into five seasons; the budding time, the earing of the corn, the summer, the harvest, and the winter.

            Their months they count by moons. They divide the day into three parts, the rise, power, and lowering, of the sun; and keep their accounts by knots on a string, or notches on a stick, of which Captain Smith relates a very pleasant story; that, when the princess Pocahonta went for England, a Coucarouse, or lord of her own nation, attended her; his name was Uttamaccomack: and king Powhatan, Pocahonta's father, commanded him, when he arrived in England, to count the people, and give him an account of their number. Uttamaccomock, when he came ashore, got a stick, intending to count them by notches; but he soon found that his arithmetic would be to no purpose, and threw away his stick. At his return, the king asked him how many people there were? And he replied, count the stars of the sky, the leaves upon the trees, and the sand upon the seashore, and you will know how many are the people in England.

            They esteem the marriage-vow as the most sacred of all engagements, and abhor divorces; adultery is the most unpardonable of all crimes amongst them, and seldom occurs without exemplary punishment.

            Their maidens are very chaste; and if anyone of them happen to have a child before marriage, her fortune is spoiled. They are very sprightly and good humoured, and the women generally handsome. Their manner of handling infants is very rough: as soon as the child is born, they plunge it over head and ears in cold water, and they bind it naked to a board, making a hole in the proper place for evacuation. Between the child and the board they put some cotton, wool, or fur, and let it lie in this posture till the bones begin to harden, the joints to knit, and the limbs to grow strong; they then loosen it from the board, and let it crawl about where it pleases. From this custom, it is said, the Indians derive the neatness and exactness of their limbs, which are the most perfect in the world. Some of them are of a gigantic stature, live to a great age, and are stronger than others; but there is not a crooked, bandy-legged, or ill-shaped, Indian to be seen. Some nations of them are very tall and large limbed, but others are short and small; their complexion is a dark brown and tawny. They paint themselves with a pecone root, which stains them a reddish colour. They are clear when they are young, but greasing and sunning make their skin turn hard and black. Their hair, for the most part, is coal black; so are their eyes; they wear their hair cut after several whimsical modes, the persons of note always keep a long lock behind; the women wearing it very long, hanging at their backs, or twisted up with beads; and all the better sort adorn their heads with a kind of coronet. The men have no beards, and, to prevent their having any, use certain devices, which they will not communicate to the English.

            Their clothes are a mantle girt close in the middle, and underneath a piece of cloth tied round their waist, and reaching down to the middle of the thigh. The common sort only tie a piece of cloth or skin round the middle. As for their food they boil, broil, or roast, all the meat they eat; honomy is the standing dish, and consists of Indian corn soaked, broken in a mortar, and then boiled in water over a gentle fire ten or twelve hours together. They draw and pluck their fowls, skin and paunch their quadrupeds, but dress their fish with the scales on, and without gutting; they leave the scales, entrails, and bones, till they eat the fish, when they throw the offal away. Their food is chiefly beeves, turtle, several species of snakes, broth made of deer's humbles, peas, beans, &c. They have no set meals: they eat when they are hungry, and drink nothing but water. Their bread is made of Indian corn, wild oats, or the seed of the sun-flower; they eat it alone, and not with meat.

            They travel always on foot with a gun or bow. They live upon the game they kill, and lie under a tree upon a little high grass. The English prohibit them to keep corn, sheep, or hogs, lest they should steal their neighbour's.

            When they come to rivers, they presently patch up a canoe of birch bark, cross over in it, and leave it on the river's bank, if they think they shall not want it; otherwise they carry it along with them.

            Their way of receiving strangers is by the pipe, or calumet of peace. Of this Pere Henepin has given a long account in his voyage, and the pipe is as follows: they fill a pipe of tobacco, larger and bigger than any common pipe, light it, and then the chief of them takes a whiff, gives it to the stranger, and if he smoke of it, it is peace; if not, war; if peace, the pipe is handed all round the company.

            The diseases of the Indians are very few, and easy to be cured: they for the most part arise from excessive heats and colds, which they get rid of by sweating. As for aches, and settled pains in the joints or limbs, they use caustics and scarifying. The priests are their physicians, and from their childhood are taught the nature and use of simples, in which their knowledge is excellent; but they will not communicate it, pretending it is a gift of God; and by this mystery they make it the more valuable.

            Their riches consist of furs, peak, roenocke, and pearl. Their peak and roenocke are made of shells; the peak is an English bugle, but the roenocke is a piece of cockle, drilled through like a bead. Before the English came among them, the peak and the roenocke were all their treasure; but now they set a value on their fur and pearl, and are greedy of keeping quantities of them together. The pearl is good, and formerly was not so rare as it is at this time.

            They had no iron tools till the English brought them over: their knives were sharpened reeds or shells, their axes sharp stones. They rubbed fire, by turning the end of a hard piece of wood upon the side of one that is soft and dry, which at last would burn. They felled great trees by burning them down at the root, having ways of keeping the fire from ascending. They hollowed them with a gentle fire, and scraped the trunk clean, and this made their canoes, of which some were thirty feet long. They are very good handicraft men, and what they do is generally neat and convenient.

            Their kingdoms descended to the next heir, male or female, and they were exact in preserving the succession in the right line. If, as it often happened, one great prince subjected the other, those conquests commonly were lost at his death, and the nation returned again to the obedience of their natural princes. They have no written laws, neither can they have any, having no letters.

            Their lands are in common, and their Werowances, or judges, are all lord-chancellors, deciding causes and inflicting punishments according as they think fit. These Werowances and the Coucarouses are their terms to distinguish the men of quality; the former are their war-captains, and the latter such as have passed the trial of huskanawing. Their priests and conjurors have great authority among them. They have servants whom they call black boys, and are very exact in requiring the respect that is due to their several qualities.

            Most of the Indians live on the eastern shore, where they have two or three little towns; some of them go over to the other side, in winter time, to hunt for deer, being generally employed by the English. They take delight in nothing else, and it is very rare that any of them will embrace the Christian way of living and worship. There are about 500 fighting Indians in all the province; the cause of their diminution proceeded not from wars with the English, for they have none with them worth speaking of, but from the perpetual discords and wars among themselves. The female sex have always swept away a great many.

            One thing is observed in them, though they are a people very timorous and cowardly in fight, yet when taken prisoners and condemned, they will die like heroes, braving the most exquisite tortures that can be invented, and singing all the time they are upon the rack.

            We find several of the Indians doing actions which would do honour to the greatest heroes of antiquity: thus captain Smith, who was one of the first adventurers in planting the colony of Virginia, being taken prisoner, while he was making discoveries, by king Oppecamcanough, he not only spared Mr. Smith's life, but carried him to his town and feasted him; and afterwards presented him to Powhaton, the chief king of the savages, who would have beheaded him, had he not been saved by the intercession and generosity of his daughter, Pocahonta, who, when Mr. Smith's head was on the block, and she could not prevail with her father to give him his life, put her own head upon his, and ventured receiving the blow to save him, though she was scarce then sixteen years of age.

            Some time after, Sir Thomas Dale sent captain Argall to Patowmac to buy corn, where he met with Pocahonta. He invited her to come aboard his ship, which with some difficulty she consented to, being betrayed by the king of Postcany, brother to the king of Patowmac, with whom she then resided.

            Argall, having got her into his custody, detained her, and carried her to James's Town, intending to oblige her father, king Powhaton, to come to what terms he pleased for the deliverance of his daughter. Though the king loved her tenderly, yet he would not do anything for her sake which he thought was not for his own and the nation's interest; nor would he be prevailed upon to conclude a firm treaty of peace till he heard his daughter, who had turned a Christian, was christened Rebecca, and married to Mr. John Rolfe, an English gentleman, her uncle giving her away in the church.

            Powhaton approved of the marriage, took it for a sincere token of friendship, and was so pleased with it, that he concluded a league with the English in the year 1613.

            Some time after, Sir Thomas Dale going for England, took Mr. Rolfe and his wife Pocahonta with him, and arrived at Plymouth.

            Captain Smith, hearing the lady who had been so kind to him was arrived in England, and being engaged at that time in a voyage to New England, which hindered his waiting on her himself, petitioned queen Anne, consort to king James, on her behalf, setting forth the civilities he had received from her, and obligations she had laid upon the English, by the service she had done them with her father.

            The queen received this petition very graciously; and before Captain Smith embarked for New England, Mr. Rolfe came with his wife from Plymouth to London. The smoke of the city offending her, he took lodgings for her at Brentford, and thither Captain Smith went with several friends to wait on her.

            Pocahonta was told all along that Captain Smith was dead, to excuse his not coming to Virginia again; from which he had been diverted by settling a colony in New England. Wherefore, when this lady saw him, thinking the English had injured her in telling her a falsity, which she had ill deserved from them, she was so angry that she would not deign to speak to him: but at last, with much persuasion and attendance, was reconciled, and talked freely to him: she then put him in mind of the obligations she had laid upon him, and reproached him for forgetting her, with an air so lively, and words so sensible, that one might have seen nature abhors nothing more than ingratitude—a vice that even the very savages detest.

            She was carried to court by the Lady Delaware, and entertained by ladies of the first quality, towards whom she behaved herself with so much grace and majesty, that she confirmed the bright character Captain Smith had given of her. The whole court was charmed with the decency and grandeur of her deportment so much, that the poor gentleman, her husband, was threatened to be called to an account for marrying a princess royal without the king's consent; though in that king James showed a very notable piece of kingcraft, for there was no likelihood that Mr. Rolfe, by marrying Pocahonta, could any way endanger the peace of his dominions; or that his alliance with the king of Wicomaco could concern the king of Great-Britain; indeed, we are told, that upon a fair and full representation of the matter, the king was pleased to be satisfied.

            The lady Pocahonta, having been entertained with all manner of respect in England, was taken ill at Gravesend, where she lay in order to embark for Virginia; she died there with all the signs of a sincere Christian and true penitent.

            She had one son by Mr. Rolfe, whose posterity are at this day in good repute in Virginia, and inherit lands by descent from her.

            The language of the Indians is lofty, but narrow; the accent and emphasis of some of their words are great and sweet, as Okorocston, Rancoce, Oriston, Shakameton, Poquiffin, all names of places, and as sonorous as any in Attica; then for sweetness they have their anna, mother, issimus, brother, nelapsin and usque oret, very good, pone, bread, morridge walk, a burying-place, scaw, a woman, salop, a man, pappoes, a child.

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