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2.5: King Philip’s War

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By 1675, the European settlers in New England had lived in relative peace with the Native Americans for nearly 40 \;\mathrm{years}. However, during this period, the settlers gradually encroached on native lands. Between 1600 and 1675, the Native American population of New England decreased from 150,000 to 10,000, while the English population grew to 50,000. Some Englishmen worked to convert the remaining natives to Christianity, translating the bible into their languages and establishing so-called “praying towns” in which the Indians began to adopt a European way of life.

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.

King Philip agreed to come to us; came himself unarmed, and about 40 of his men armed. Then 5 of us went over. We sat very friendly together. We told him our business. They said that was well; they had done no wrong, the English wronged them. We said that both sides thought the other side wronged them, but our desire was to avoid war. The Indians agreed that fighting was the worst way; then they asked how Right might take Place. We said, by negotiation. They said that they lost many square miles of land through negotiation.

They said they had been the first in doing Good to the English, and the English were the first in doing wrong. They said when the English first came, their King’s Father was as a great Man, he prevented other Indians from wronging the English, and gave them Corn and showed them how to plant, and let them have a 100 \;\mathrm{times} more land than now the Indian King had for his own people.

And another grievance was, if 20 of their honest Indians testified that a Englishman had done them wrong, it was as nothing; and if but one of their worst Indians testified against any Indian, when it pleased the English it was sufficient.

Another Grievance was, the English made them drunk and then cheated them in Bargains; that now, they had no Hopes left to keep any Land.

Another Grievance, the English cattle and horses still increased and kept spoiling their corn. They thought when the English bought Land of them they would have kept their cattle upon their own Land, but the English didn’t use a fence.


  1. Sourcing: Who wrote this document? When? Is it fair to say the document represents King Philip’s perspective?
  2. Contextualization: What was happening in New England that led to the meeting between King Philip and Easton?
  3. 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.

There are many different theories for what caused the present Indian war. Some blame the people of Boston for trying to Christianize the Indians before they were civilized and forcing them the strict observation of their laws, which, to a people so rude and uncivilized, has proved unbearable.

Some believe there have been Catholic priests, who have made it their business, for some years past, to turn the Indians against the English and to promise supplies from France.

Others blame the Indian leader, King Philip. Some English tried to get his land and brought him to court and sometimes imprisoned him, and always took another little piece of his land.

But the Puritan government of the Massachusetts thinks that God has allowed the Indians to rise against them. The Puritans believe it is punishment for men wearing long hair and wigs made of women’s hair; for women cutting, curling and laying out the hair. For people not going to town meetings.

The English have contributed much to their misfortunes, for they first taught the Indians the use of arms, and let them attend trainings, and showed them how to handle and fix their muskets.

The loss to the English in the several colonies, in their habitations and stock, is reckoned to amount to 150,000 \;\mathrm{pounds}. About 1200 houses have been burned, 8000 \;\mathrm{head} of cattle, great and small, killed, and many thousand bushels of wheat and other grain burned, and over 3000 Indians, men, women, and children destroyed.


  1. Sourcing: What kind of document is this? When was it written and by whom? Does that make it more or less trustworthy?
  2. Close Reading: What were the causes of King Philip’s War, according to Edward Randolph?

Section Questions:

  1. Corroboration: On what points do the two documents agree? On what points do they conflict?
  2. Corroboration: Where the documents conflict, which one do you find more trustworthy? Why?
  3. Corroboration: Considering both documents, what were the causes of King Phillip’s War?

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