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Digital History ID 3577

 

In sixteenth-century England, a religious movement known as Puritanism arose which wanted to purge the Church of England of all vestiges of Roman Catholicism. The Puritans objected to elaborate church hierarchies and to church ceremonies and practices which lacked Biblical sanction and elevated priests above their congregation.

Late in the sixteenth century, some Puritans, known as separatists, became convinced that the Church of England was so corrupt that they withdrew from it and set up their own congregations. In 1609, a group of separatists (later known as Pilgrims) fled from England to Holland, eager to escape the corrupting wickedness around them. In his classic History of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford (1588-1657), the Pilgrim leader, explains why the Pilgrims decided to leave the Netherlands in 1619 and establish a new community in the New World. In this selection, he also describes how the Pilgrims were assisted by an Indian named Squanto.

Squanto's story illustrates the way that the entire Atlantic world became integrated in wholly new ways during the seventeenth century and the impact this transformation had upon real-life individuals and communities. A Patuxet Indian born around 1585, Squanto had grown up in a village of 2,000 located near where the Pilgrims settled in 1620. In 1614, Captain John Smith had passed through the region, and one of his lieutenants kidnapped Squanto and some twenty other Patuxets, planning to sell the Indians in the slave market of Malaga, Spain. After escaping to England, where he learned to speak English, Squanto returned to New England in 1619, only to discover that his village had been wiped out by a chicken pox epidemic--one of many epidemics that killed about 90 percent of New England's coastal Indian people between 1616 and 1618. Squanto then joined the Wampanoag tribe.

After the Pilgrims arrived, Squanto served as an interpreter between the Wampanoag leader, Massasoit, and the colonists and taught the English settlers how to plant Indian corn. He also tried to use his position to challenge Massasoit's leadership, informing neighboring tribes that the Pilgrims would infect them with disease and make war on them unless they gave him gifts. Squanto's scheme to use his connections with the Pilgrims to wrest power from Massaoit failed. In 1622, two years after the English settlers arrived, Squanto fell ill and died of an unknown disease.

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