Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A description of the Indians of New England by Thomas Morton (1637)

I chose this account by Thomas Morton, who was one of the founders of the settlement at Mount Wollaston. He observes and provides a counter-narrative account of the Native inhabitants as he portrays their way of life mostly in a positive light.

He begins by discussing how he admires the Native community, including the fact that the Natives respect age. 'The younger men's opinion shall be heard, but the old men's opinion and councell embraced and followed.' He states that he has recorded this account in order for ignorant settlers to be 'Ashamed of their former errors in this kinde.' and that the Indians shouldn't be treated as inferior, rather it depicts that the Natives embrace their lifestyle and enabled their way of life to flourish.

Although he refers to the Natives as 'Savages' he has gone out of his way to pay close attention to understand their spiritual beliefs, although he claims that their religious beliefs just amounted to devil worship overall. He takes into account that they are good people.  'I asked him [an Indian who lived in Morton's house] who was a good man; his answer was, he that would not lie, nor steal... These, with them, are all the capital crimes that can be imagined.' So this shows that even though the Natives were depicted as savages by the Pilgrims, it actually shows that despite their uncivilised way of life, they still share many of the same moral values.

Thomas Morton seems to be in awe of the Natives way of life. He states that 'According to reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people leades the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the mindes of so many Christians: They are not delighted in baubles, but in usefull things...' This shows that Thomas believes that the settlers are not paying attention to practical things, rather they are more interested in wealth.  He portrays the Native inhabitants so optimistically yet equally portrays an unflattering image of the Puritans. In contrast to most of the opinions of settlers during the 17th Century he believes that the Indians constructive yet care free lifestyle is more admirable as he says 'Their life is so void of care, and they are so loving also that they make use of those things they enjoy.'  

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