In 1675, and Indian sachem (chief) named Metacom united many tribes of the region into a military alliance, and a bloody war broke out between Indians and settlers. Metacom had been given the English name ‘Philip’ and the war became known to the settlers and to history as ‘King Philip’s War.’ The causes of the war are disputed. The following documents show two perspectives on why the war began.
King Philip’s Complaints – John Easton
Source: John Easton, Attorney General of the Rhode Island colony, met King Philip in June of 1675 in an effort to negotiate a settlement. Easton recorded Philip’s complaints. However, Easton was unable to prevent a war, and the fighting broke out the following month.
Sourcing: Who wrote this document? When? Is it fair to say the document represents King Philip’s perspective?
Contextualization: What was happening in New England that led to the meeting between King Philip and Easton?
Close Reading: List three complaints that the Native Americans made to John Easton.
King Philip’s War – Edward Randolph
Source: The English government sent Edward Randolph to New England to report on the causes for the wars with the Native Americans. He wrote this report in 1685.
Various are the reports and conjectures of the causes of the present Indian war. Some impute it to an imprudent zeal in the magistrates of Boston to Christianize those heathen before they were civilized and enjoining them the strict observation of their laws, which, to a people so rude and licentious, hath proved even intolerable, and that the more, for that while the magistrates, for their profit, put the laws severely in execution against the Indians, the people, on the other side, for lucre and gain, entice and provoke the Indians to the breach thereof, especially to drunkenness, to which those people are so generally addicted that they will strip themselves to their skin to have their fill of rum and brandy....
Some believe there have been vagrant and Jesuitical priests, who have made it their business, for some years past, to go from Sachem to Sachem, to exasperate the Indians against the English and to bring them into a confederacy, and that they were promised supplies from France and other parts to extirpate the English nation out of the continent of America. Others impute the cause to some injuries offered to the Sachem Philip; for he being possessed of a tract of land called Mount Hope... some English had a mind to dispossess him thereof, who never wanting one pretence or other to attain their end, complained of injuries done by Philip and his Indians to their stock and cattle, whereupon Philip was often summoned before the magistrate, sometimes imprisoned, and never released but upon parting with a considerable part of his land.
But the government of the Massachusetts... do declare these are the great evils for which God hath given the heathen commission to rise against them.... For men wearing long hair and perewigs made of women’s hair; for women... cutting, curling and laying out the hair.... For profaneness in the people not frequenting their meetings....
With many such reasons... the English have contributed much to their misfortunes, for they first taught the Indians the use of arms, and admitted them to be present at all their musters and trainings, and showed them how to handle, mend and fix their muskets, and have been furnished with all sorts of arms by permission of the government....
Sourcing: What kind of document is this? When was it written and by whom? Does that make it more or less trustworthy?
Close Reading: What were the causes of King Philip’s War, according to Edward Randolph?
Corroboration: On what points do the two documents agree? On what points do they conflict?
Corroboration: Where the documents conflict, which one do you find more trustworthy? Why?
Corroboration: Considering both documents, what were the causes of King Phillip’s War?