easton-letter-weetamoo.DOC.QR3.jpg1 2017-05-29T18:41:12+00:00 Marisa Parham 0b3989f8b160e074aa2cff76ed0bc80e7e72fc17 6 1 John Easton letter, 1675 May 26, to Josiah Winslow (Mss C 357). R Stanton Avery Special Collections Department, New England Historic Genealogical Society plain 2017-05-29T18:41:12+00:00 Marisa Parham 0b3989f8b160e074aa2cff76ed0bc80e7e72fc17
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The Queen’s Right and the Quaker’s Relation, Pocasset and Pokanoket, Spring 1675
The phrase "The Queen's Right" comes from John Easton's letter to Plymouth governor Josiah Winslow, in which he conveyed an urgent message from Weetamoo about Pocasset lands. A Quaker and the Deputy Governor of Rhode Island colony, Easton wrote one of the earliest narratives about King Philip's War. His Relacion of the Indian War accurately conveys the most pressing Wampanoag concerns on the eve of war, namely the increasingly severe encroachment of Plymouth settlers onto Wampanoag homelands and subsistence, including forceful assertions of colonial jurisdiction. Although Easton's Relation is fairly well known, this letter is nearly unknown. It is one of the most vital statements regarding the "great fear of oppression from the English" that Wampanoag leaders like Weetamoo and Metacom (Philip) faced. Easton composed the missive on May 26, 1675, one month before the outbreak of King Philip's War.
Through this letter, Weetamoo conveyed to Easton and Winslow her intent to set and "record" the "bounds" of Pocasset, an act prompted by her "fear of oppression" from Plymouth men, including Constant Southworth, who threatened the sovereignty and subsistence of Wampanoag people. Indeed, "the Queen's right" faced encroachment on all sides, toward Assonet from Taunton and Swansea, toward Watuppa from Dartmouth, and toward Pocasset from Middleboro (Nemasket) and Sakonnet. She sought to use colonial tools of recording to retain a wide homeland for subsistence and to determine the bounds herself, rather than allowing Plymouth to set the bounds for her or to contain Pocasset people within a limited "reserve" or "Indian town." By this time, as Easton's Relation conveys, Plymouth had encroached so much upon Pokanoket territory that Metacom and his kin faced a bottleneck at Kickemuit, with new houses built right at the narrow neck of the peninsula at Montaup, land that Winslow sought.
Frind Josiah Winslow Governor of Plimoth Colony
Weetomuw the quene of Pocaset and hir husband, showd mee a leter Constant Southworth and others names to it dated aprell 30: 75 - by which thay have great feare of opretion from the English, that thay could not tell how to trust mee, but that I wold to pleas English ioyne to do them rong therfore did not shew mee the leter untill the 24: of may alltho I had informed theme that I take my selef as much ingadged that thay should not be ronged as if thay wer my Cuntry men, and I of ther nation and ingadged on of ther counsell to his ruler or landlord and I so understood that I did not take that to be good to my selef or English which was by hurte to any and thay had purchased of mee so to promise them, - when I herd what thay informed me of ther Case I saied if it were true ther Case was good but I could no otherwise be absolute without I had heard both partys thay and Plimoth men wold defer them selefs as you thoft [thought] was for yourselefs and that later told ... iudgmentes allredy I saied in such Cases I thoft [thought] you wold be willing to have it... and here what Indians could say and so do as for what was ... and for that to take place - I earnestly desier you may so deall with them for acording to right I wold have them in submition to you the Case why thay so much stand upone for what thay wold now have ther bounds north and south is to maintaine a river at each end by which thay have gret dependanc for fish, but ar free to acomodat thee or home they shall admit with thee of fouer mile square of land at least at the hed of dartmoth bounds and of the lotes on the other side of the fales river and dout not but by having ther other bounds confirmed in your records thay shall agree to what more they will give them thay prefer so faier and as it apereth to mee desier only of you what is ther resonabell dew that I have larg hope you will not deny it and to have the diferanc desided as to them it may apere not to be by such as determen in ther own Case I am perswaided both mai be so satesfied , I am largly ingadged in my selef to manefest to them that I am not falce, but to indever thay may have right acording to English Law and hope it will not be in ani oposition to your desires or to your ruell in your Colony I know about 60 have confirmrd to the quens right to be to a far greter tract of land beside what now shee and thay would be contented with - if you will proseed to try the Case at your Court I having a gret desier that thay may not be scared to do rong, alltho I desier as much as any thay mai fear for having dun rong. I will be hir bayle if you will order it so as I may have a opertunity and if I can atend to maneg hir Case or send an aturny if thou canst be an instrument for ther peasabell setellment and by a way of peace thay promis not to be ungratfiill so I am thy true frind as it mai not be hurt to ani willing to serve thee.
26: 3m: 1675
In the letter, Easton also demonstrated his sense of responsibility to Indigenous leaders, like Weetamoo, in whose homelands he lived. Rhode Island settlers' diplomatic agreements with Narragansett and Wampanoag leaders formed the foundation of their legal occupancy. Easton assured Weetamoo and her husband, when they expressed their distrust, that he saw himself as a counselor to a "landlord," recognizing not only their rightful sovereignty, but their role as hosts (reflecting an earlier meaning of the term) and his responsibility to advocate their concerns to neighboring colonial leaders. To Winslow, Easton asserted that he knew "about 60" men who had "confirmed" that "the Queen's Right" exceeded the bounds Weetamoo now sought to set, conveying Weetamoo's willingness to compromise, as both diplomat and host, to "accommodate" those settlers, whom she was willing to "admit," in particular places. He advised Winslow that should he not likewise accommodate Weetamoo's request, the result would be further conflict, fueled by Wampanoag's legitimate fear of oppression. Easton's Relation records a council, shortly thereafter, in which Metacom and his counselors addressed these grievances in full, as well as Easton's hope for a diplomatic resolution.
Although Josiah Winslow did not respond directly to Easton's letter or to Weetamoo's request, he did send a letter to Weetamoo and her husband days before the war erupted, requesting their neutrality. This rare document conveys crucial information about Plymouth's intentions and communications, as well as Weetamoo's critical role, but has rarely been considered in histories of King Philip's War, or analysis of its origins.
What would Weetamoo have done with this letter, once she received it? With the implied threat to her kin, including the husband of her sister (brother to her former husband), as well as their children, would she be likely to carry the letter across the bay, to show them the evidence of Plymouth's intent? Did this letter further instigate the conflict that soon erupted? Did it allow Weetamoo's relations time to prepare?
Letter to Weetamoo, and Ben her husband, Sachems of Pocasset. June 15, 1675. Marshfield.
Friends and Neighbors
I am informed that Phillip the Sachem of Mount Hope Contrary to his many promises and ingagements; and that upon no ground [crossed out] provocation nor unt__ness in the least from us, but mostly from his owne base groundless feare is Creating new troubles to himself and us; And hath endeavored to ingage you and your people with him, by intimations of notorious falsehoods as if we were secretly designing mischief to him, and you, such unmanly treacherous practices as we abhor to think of, and yet he hath also [?]…[torn] against you if you shall deny to help him; I am [torn]…prevayled very little [unto?] you, except where some few of your giddy inconsiderate young men; if it be fact, as I am willing to believe it may; you shall find us always ready to acknowledge and incourage your faithfulness, and protect you also so farr as in us lyeth from his pride and tyranny; And if you continue faithfull, you shall assuredly reape that fruit of it to your Comfort, when he by his pride and treachery have wrought his owne ruin. As a testimony of your continued friendship I desire you will give us what intelligence you may have, or shall gather up, that is of con__ment, and you shall not find me ungrateful, who am and desire to continue
Your reall friend,