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tv   History Bookshelf Nathaniel Philbrick Mayflower  CSPAN  December 28, 2020 2:16pm-3:15pm EST

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runoffs. david perdue and kelly leffler are running against jon ossoff and raphael warnock. hear from the candidates. live coverage on c-span. >> announcer: up next, to mark the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims arrival, "may flower," nathaniel philbrick's book. we recorded this in plymouth, massachusetts in 2006, the year the book was published.
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my name is peggy baker. i'm the director of pilgrim hall museum and i would like to welcome you all here tonight for what is a grand occasion for all of us who love pilgrims, because we are, in essence, gathered to celebrate the first well-written, comprehensive narrative about plymouth colony in over 50 years. three key words. one, well-written. as one would expect from nat philbrick who has written a string of notable books, to "the heart of the sea" to "sea of go glory." second, comprehensive, covering not just the voyage or the first few years or king phillip's war, all of which have recently been done, but in covering the entire story, allowing us, the readers, to enjoy the true benefit of
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history, which is the scope to follow consequences of actions through generations. and narrative, because what nat does best is to tell a story. an adventure story, but in many ways an unexpected adventure story. look at the cover. i, of course, love it because it's our painting, the mayflower on her arrival in plymouth harbor. but what i really love is that even though the book is entitled "the mayflower" this cover doesn't put the mayflower front and center. it doesn't show a ship tossed by waves. that would be the expected adventure story. instead, it focuses on this little group of pilgrims leaving the ship that has brought them through storms and peril, headed off toward shore on the verge of starting new lives.
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and it's there in the territory of these wide open possibilities that the real adventure story begins. an adult adventure story dealing with mature themes like the nature of leadership, the establishment of respect with a widely varying culture, and then the disintegration of that respect. and this, of course, is why the pilgrims are relevant. it's why they matter, it's why this book matters, because the mayflower tells the story of real people facing complex choices in a confusing time. people who had to make difficult decisions without knowing how the story would end. so i'm very pleased to introduce to you our author, nat philbrick, a man who through his book has once again started the conversation about the choices that were made by those
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17th century voyagers. choices that affect us even now, living in a nation and a world that those mayflower pilgrims could not even begin to imagine. nat philbrick. [ applause ] thank you. it is a true pleasure to return to plymouth, and particularly pilgrim hall. it's been a very interesting month and a half going around the country talking about the book, but it really does seem like a homecoming to be not only in pilgrim hall, but beside the painting. and for me the thing about the painting is, as it's on the cover, doesn't that look a lot like a whale boat with the guy
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up front? for me, it was a great continuity in books. well, like a lot of americans, i first learned about the pilgrims in elementary school. i think it was third grade and it was thanksgiving time and it was time for the pilgrim unit. and the teacher divided us in half, half of us indians, half of us pilgrims. i wanted to be an indian, but she made me a pilgrim. we learned about the story of how in 1620 the mayflower sailed across the ocean, came to cape cod and then plymouth harbor, came to the famous rock, were greeted by the native americans and then a year later celebrated the first thanksgiving. and that's pretty much all i would learn about the pilgrims throughout my education not only in high school, but in college. about 20 years ago i moved to nantucket island and i became fascinated with the place, having grown up in the maritime center of the world, pittsburgh,
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pennsylvania, i was a little overwhelmed by having all this water around it. and i was also overwhelmed because one of my most favorite books in the world was "moby dick." this was as if i stepped into the pages of my favorite novel. i wanted to learn everything i could about it. and the more i learned about it, the more i began to realize if i was ever going to write a book about the history of nantucket, i had to put it in the context of new england. i had to begin with the pilgrims, the story i assumed i already knew. so i began to look into 17th century new england. and the more i looked into the story, the more almost indignant i became because what i learned in third grade didn't do justice to what really happened in new england. the story of the pilgrims does not end with the first thanksgiving. that is just the beginning of an inter-generational story that is truly epic in scope.
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yes, there was the first thanksgiving and then for the next 54 years there was a remarkable thing in plymouth colony. there was peaceful co-existence between the indians and english in plymouth. and given the subsequent history of america, that is truly remarkable. but in 1675, 55 years after the sailing of the mayflower, war came to plymouth colony. when massasoit's son phillip, phillip led his people in a war against the sons and grandsons of the pilgrims, known today as king phillip's war. and it's a conflict about which many americans know almost nothing. for me, it's what makes the story of the pilgrims all the more relevant, because in just 14 months what had been this
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remarkably bi-cultural colony saw a war of total annihilation in which there were military defeats and victories and it looked like the english might be driven to the sea during the first year of the conflict. almost half the town's new england was burned and abandoned. there was true fears that the english would be driven to the sea. but the war became a war not of military victories and defeats, but a war of attrition. in the spring of 1676, the indians were unable to plant their corn crops and they began to starve. the resistance collapsed. the english, who had the mother country to provide them with provisions and weapons were able to outlast them. in august of 1676 phillip was taken and killed and thus ended king phillip's war. but this was no victory for the english, because for decades to come they would be paying for this conflict. the war was by no means over for the next century. there would be indian conflict
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after indian conflict throughout new england. and worst of all, from the standpoint of plymouth colony, it would be absorbed by massachusetts bay and in the years after the war, new england, which had been remarkably independent throughout the first half century of the 17th century, there would be a royal governor. and that would really end an era in new england, because by fighting this war of annihilation with the native people that had stood by their side for so long, the children and grandchildren of the pilgrims had really destroyed their forefathers' way of life. and when you take the arc of the story from the mayflower to king phillip's war, you begin to see that -- you know, when i was a teenager in my cynical teenage years in the '60s and '70s, i began to look at the pilgrims as irrelevant to america,
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stereotypes with buckles on their shoes that were trotted out for thanksgiving. this is not the case. when you put it in the context of what happened during those first 56 years, the story of the pilgrims is vital to showing us what america would become. american history begins -- in the popular view, begins with the voyage of the mayflower, but then there really isn't much until the american revolution, the founding fathers. well before the founding fathers, there were things happening that would determine in large respect where america would be headed. because for whatever reason, the pilgrims have become the founding myth of america. we're a recent people. we need a beginning. and i think we owe it to ourselves to examine that beginning and see it as best we can as it was, rather than in terms of the legends and myths that have been passed to us from another age. and i would like to begin by
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reading a selection from my book, from the first chapter. the first chapter is entitled "they knew they were pilgrims." and this is a quote from william bradford from plymouth plantation. it's one of the great books in american history in literature. bradford was the true rock upon which plymouth colony would be built. without his leadership the settlement would have never been a success and the pilgrims never referred to themselves as the pilgrims. this comes from a phrase bradford uses of plymouth plantation and it's as good a term as any to refer to them given the complexity of what was beneath that label. for 65 days the mayflower had blundered her way through storms and headwinds. her bottom a shaggy pelt of sea
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sea weed and barnacles. there are 102 of them, 104 if you counted the two dogs, a spaniel and slobbery mastiff. i was contacted by a reader who has a mastiff who felt a vital connection with the pilgrims. most of their provisions and equipment were beneath them in the hold, the primary storage area. the passengers were in the between decks, a dank, airless space about 75 feet long and not even five feet high that separated the hold from the upper deck. the between decks was more of a crawl space than a place to live, made even more claustrophobic by the passengers' attempts to gain privacy. cabins will been built and overflowed with people and their possessions.
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chests of clothing, casks of food, pillows, rugs. there was even a boat cut into pieces for later assembly doing temporary duty as a bed. they were nearly ten weeks into a voyage that was supposed to have been completed during summer, but they had started late and it was now november and winter was coming on. they had long since run out of firewood and they were reaching the slimy bottoms of their water casks. of greater concern, they were down to their last casks of beer. due to the notoriously bad quality of the drinking water in 17th century england, beer was considered essential to a healthy diet. and sure enough with the rationing of the beer came the scenes of scurvy. so far only two had died, a sailor and a young servant. but if they didn't reach land soon, many more would follow. they had set sail with three pregnant mothers. these are the true heroes of the mayflower. elizabeth hopkins, suzanne
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white and mary alder. elizabeth had given birth to a son and suzanne and mary were both well along in their pregnancies. it had been a miserable passage. a fierce wave had exploded against the ship and had cracked the timber like a chicken bone. the master, christopher jones, had considered turning back to england but jones had to give his passengers their due. they knew next to nothing about the sea or savage coast for which they were bound but their resolve was unshakeable. despite all they had suffered, agonizing delays, seasickness, cold and scorn and ridicule of the sailors, they had done everything in their power to help the carpenter repair the fractured beam. they had brought a mechanical device to assist them in constructing houses in the new world. they lifted the beam into place and once the carpenter had hammered in a post for support, the mayflower was sound enough to continue on.
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and on they would go. who were the people we refer to as the pilgrims? the motivating force behind this voyage came from a group of religious enthusiasts we refer to as puritan separatists. they lived in exile in holland for more than a decade. they believed that the church of england was not holy and they must separate from it and worship god as they felt god intended. this was illegal in england at the time. they had gone to holland and things did not necessarily turn out the way they wanted in holland. they had been there for ten years and their congregation had grown under the guidance of john robinson, their pastor, but the pilgrims were forced to work low-end back-breaking jobs because they were foreigners and their health had suffered. they would work dawn until dusk six days a week, often with their children by their side. and a treaty with spain was
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about to go up and there was fear that war might come to holland. but their biggest concern was that their children were becoming dutch. despite the fact that they had left england, these people were fiercely proud of their english ancestry and they wanted to reconnect with it. but they couldn't go home. what to do? go to the new world. transplant the congregation wholesale to america where they could reconnect with their english english ancestry, but be free of king james and his bishops. sounds like a great concept. like many great concepts, it would prove very difficult to implement. the pi the pillgrims were great people. they knew each other wonderfully well but they had trouble relating to those outside of their circle and they became the objects of people who saw this group of religious radicals who wanted to go 3,000 miles across the ocean to the
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new world as a way to separate them from their money. and thomas westin would be a merchant from london who would tell them everything they wanted to hear. he had sympathy for their religious convictions and had contacts that would provide them with the money they needed. but westin proved to be less than he advertised. by 1620, by the spring of 1620 he had not yet come up with a ship. the provisioning of the expedition was in chaos and more and more people began to worry that maybe this was not the right thing to do at this time. in fact, as more and more people dropped out, they were going to come eventually, but not in this first brunt. this created a problem for the investors. they needed to fill up the ship. so they began to recruit people in london, people who did not necessarily share the pilgrims' point of view. they would become referred to as the strangers and this created a division aboard the mayflower almost from the beginning. and this was a troublesome thing
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for them, because their whole world view was based on drawing a line between themselves and the rest of the world. here they were going to share space with these strangers. just before their departure from holland, john robinson would write them a very important letter, the farewell letter, where he urged them not to judge these strangers, to try to make it work because the future success of the settlement depended on that. that would have a huge impact on making things eventually work. the mayflower would leave terribly late. they were supposed to go early in the season so they would arrive in the new world with plenty of time to build new structures before winter came on. but it was september before the mayflower finally left england. it would be a miserable voyage, storm after storm after storm. the mayflower would average in the neighbor of 1.5 miles an hour as it made its way across the atlantic.
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it would take more than two months. and they were headed not for new england, but the hudson river. they could have been our first new yorkers, but they were 200 miles off course and they came across what we now refer to as the back side of cape cod. christopher jones headed south for their intended destination but there are no trustworthy charts of new england at this time and they run smack dab into pollack rip. it's not far from my home on nantucket. and i can tell you from firsthand experience, pollack rip is still a frightening piece of water. they almost lost the ship, but remarkably the wind does 180 degrees and starts blowing from the south. jones said we ain't going to the hudson river. we're going to cape cod. i need to get these people off the ship and get myself back to england. this creates an uproar in the between decks of the mayflower because the strangers who are roughly half the passengers
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realize that their legal paperwork does not apply to a settlement this far north. they realize that the passengers aboard the mayflower are about to become america's first illegal immigrants. if this is the case, why should we go with them? they say you guys do what you want to do. we're going to do our own thing. now, this might mean the end of the settlement, if they divide this early on and this is a pivotal moment. what do they do? they do a remarkable thing. they put pen to paper and borrowing many of the words from john robinson's farewell letter, they draft what we refer to as the mayflower compact. given the future course of american history, it's tempting to see the mayflower compact as the u.s. constitution in utero. it's not that. but it is still an extraordinary document where both sides, what
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have been called saints and strangers, agree to listen to their duly-elected leaders. this is civil government and this really is the first step towards the ultimate success of plymouth colony. they arrive, finally, after having drafted the mayflower compact at provincetown harbor. it's signed and now they have a big question. what do we have before us? they know nothing about the coast upon which they have arrived. their biggest concern is what about the native people? what's going to happen? well, i would like to now read from chapter three, "into the void," which begins with the other side of the story. just a word of explanation, the pilgrims would refer to them as the pokanoke-ites, massasoit
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their leader. about 60 miles southwest of provincetown harbor, at the confluence of two rivers, lived massasoit, the most powerful native leader in the region. he was in the prime of his life, about 35, strong and imposing with a quiet dignity that was expected of a sachem. despite his personal vigor, massasoit presided over people who had been devastated by disease. during the three years that the pilgrims had been organizing their voyage to america, the indians had been hit by what scientists refer to as a soil epidemic, a contagion against which they had no antibodies. from 1616 to 1619, what may have been bubonic plague spread south
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along the atlantic seaboard to the eastern shore, killing in some cases as many as 90% of the region's inhabitants. so many died so quickly there was nobody left to bury the dead. regions were suddenly empty of people, with only the bones of the dead to indicate that a thriving community had once existed along the shores. in addition to disease, what were described as civil dissensions and bloody wars were throughout the region, as they struggled to create a new order amid the haunted vacancy of new england. massasoit's people had been particularly hard hit. before the plague, they had numbered about 12,000, enabling massasoit to muster 3,000 fighting men. after three years of disease,
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his force had been reduced to a few hundred warriors, making it even worse for massasoit, was that the plague had not affected their neighboring enemies who controlled the western portion of the bay and numbered about 20,000 with 5,000 fighting men. just recently, massasoit and ten of his warriors had suffered the humiliation of being forced to obey them. wasted by disease and now under the thumb of a powerful and proud enemy, they were in a desperate struggle to maintain existence as a people. they had their allies who shared the their antipathy. this does not prevent massasoit
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from attempting to use his alliances with other tribes to neutralize the threat to the west. a small bird is called sachem, the englishman roger williams later observed, because of it's prince-like courage and command over greater birds that a man shall often see the small bird pursue and vanquish and put to flight the other birds far bigger than itself. the narragansetts would soon discover massasoit was a small bird. what he would do is rather than look at the pilgrims, who did not necessarily ingratiate themselves with the local population, massasoit would say, wait a minute, perhaps an alliance with this small group of english people could provide my people with a kind of parity relative to the narragansetts. he would forge an alliance. there are other factors at work. remember squanto?
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well, squanto -- when i learned about squanto, he was the generous interpreter who took the pilgrims by the hand and taught them how to plant corn. it turns out squanto had an agenda of his own from the very beginning. squanto was born here in plymouth harbor, and just a few years before the arrival of the pilgrims he was abducted by an english explorer, made his way back to europe and would eventually end up in london where he learned the english language. he would return to his native home as an interpreter and at some point he began to see this as a possible opportunity. he saw that massasoit was now vulnerable due to these terrible plagues and squanto had ambitions to become the next massasoit because he realized that if ever there should be a significant english settlement in this area, he would be in a unique position.
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he could tell massasoit what he wanted him to think the english were saying and he could tell the english what he wanted them to think the indians were saying. and for a year in plymouth colony, that is exactly what he would do. it would take a year before both massasoit and bradford began to realize that he had been telling indians in the region that the pilgrims possessed the plague. it was in a barrel and buried underneath one of their houses and they could unleash it at will. a 17th century weapon of mass destruction. and that he, given his relationship with the pilgrims, was the one who had the power that the indians in the region should come to him, rather than massasoit. now, when the level of his ambitions were revealed, massasoit was indignant. he demanded his head, but bradford had become dependent on him.
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this almost brought down the end of the alliance. squanto would die suddenly, unexpectedly, perhaps poisoned by massasoit, we'll never know, about a year later. and once again, relations between the two peoples, the pilgrims and the wampanoag were back on track. but it was not a benign embrace between those cultures. it was a harrowing, often disturbing give and take between two peoples. three years after the arrival of the pilgrims massasoit would send word to them that there was a conspiracy against plymouth colony, that the massachusetts just to the north were part of a conspiracy and were about to descend on the pilgrims and wipe them out, man, woman and child. and it was advised that they send a group up to snuff out this plot. bradford decided to send his military officer, miles
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standish, with about half a dozen pilgrims, and standish was all for this because there was a warrior there that he had not liked for a long time. and they would arrive, standish and some other pilgrims would invite this warrior and others into a house, close the door, and as they sat down to eat, standish would reach over to the warrior's chest and grab the knife, his knife that was suspended by a string around his neck, and stab him to death with it while pilgrims did the same to another indian. by the time they were done, half a dozen indians had been killed and they would return in triumph with the head of the warrior wrapped in a piece of white linen. the head would be placed on the roof of the fort where they were worshipping every sunday. a few months after this in the summer of 1623, bradford would
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celebrate his marriage to alice southworth. his wife had died, like so many others, during the first winter. during the first winter 55 of 102 would die. but in the summer of 1623, bradford was celebrating his wedding and massasoit and one of his wives was invited over and it became a celebration of not just a wedding, but of the power of the alliance. and it was decided that a flag should be raised in massasoit's honor. up would go that blood-soaked piece of linen. this was not the story of the pilgrims i learned in third grade. it's a story in many ways that the next 50 years of peace was something that is very different from that snapshot we get in elementary school. it was a difficult, often harrowing time of this give and take, but it worked. they worked very hard at trying to get through their differences. the indians and english did not
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necessarily like each other, they did not necessarily understand each other. but they both realized that their mutual existence was dependent on the other. but there were pressures building in new england. in the beginning, the native americans had the fur trade to provide them with a means to purchase western goods, iron, hose and guns and things like this, upon which they became dependent. but as the beaver and other fur-bearing animal became scarce, the fur trade dried up. the only thing the native americans had that the english valued was their land. in the meantime, the pilgrims were averaging somewhere between seven and nine children per family. john holland would have 88 grandchildren. so the need for land was insatiable. and by the middle of the 17th century, much had changed in new england.
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the second generation had a very different attitude from the first. the young englishmen began to covet the lands the native americans still possessed, while the young warriors said what good are these english to us? they've taken our birthright. both sides began to see the other as not something that they needed for survival, but as an impediment to their future survival. and this was -- this created a real increasing tension in the colony. and yet when war broke out in june of 1675, it was not inevitable. in fact, it struck most people in the colony, native and english alike, by total surprise. there was a real crisis in leadership on both sides going into this. for one thing, phillip, son of massasoit, and josiah winslow son of edward winslow and governor of plymouth colony did not like each other very much.
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phillip was convinced that josiah had been responsible for the death of his older brother known as alexander about a decade before the outbreak of violence. and for his part, josiah had distinguished himself as an unscrupulous purchaser of land using debt to get vast tracts of land and when violence broke out in june of 1675, both leaders were loath to use a diplomatic solution. what was a very isolated outbreak of violence in plymouth colony began to spread rapidly. there were english men, women and children killed, their bodies mutilated and the english were wracked with fear and anger and began to look at all of the native americans that had once been their friends as potential foes. and as the war broke out, there was someone among the english who was uniquely situated. where bradford is the focus of the first half of the book,
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benjamin church is the focus of the second half. he lived in little compton, rhode island at the outbreak of the conflict. he was the only english settler among indians and he had gotten to know them well and was a very good friend of the female and by necessity he had gotten to know them well and was a very good friend of the female sachem. as the war was building, he realized that most of the indians in the region wanted no part of it. in fact, some were willing to fight the english side. but among the english as with these first atrocities, the hatred and the anger and the racial nature of this became such that all indians became the enemy. and early on in the fighting several hundred native americans gave themselves up to the authorities in the vicinity of modern day new bedford. they thought this is what we're supposed to do if we're going to stay out of this. josiah winslow and the authorities in plymouth colony would crowd them into a ship, sail them to the caribbean
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where they were sold as slaves to the sugar plantations. if you had told me two decades ago that slavery was an issue in the history of plymouth colony, i would have been very surprised. but it's true. and it's in this 76-year span you see so much of what will be issues in america in this confined space. and when church heard about the enslavement of the indians, he was outraged. he said, look, if we do this, this means that no indian in his right mind will surrender to us. this will only prolong the war. and that's exactly what would happen. native groups throughout new england that wanted no part of the war began to say that phillip may be right. the only alternative we have is to fight. it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. so half of the towns in new england would be burned and abandoned. in the first year it was just a terrifying time for everyone. and this is a war about which most americans know very little.
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and if you look at the losses, it's truly horrendous. there were 70,000 people in new england in 1675, about 20,000 indians, 50,000 english. 5,000 would die in this war, with three-quarters of those losses native american. and the english losses alone, it was twice as bloody as the american civil war, the war that most of us think of as the worst in our history. for the native americans it was much, much worse and that's not counting the 1,000 slaves sent to the caribbean and beyond during this time. and the fear was such that even those indians that were clearly loyal to the english, the praying indians who lived in a series of christian towns around boston, were herded into internment camps in boston harbor and plymouth harbor, clarks island here, and towards
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the end of that first year people began to say this is crazy. perhaps these native americans hold the key to helping us turn the tide in this war. and towards the early part of 1676, church would be given a small company of primarily native americans with a few of his english friends, and in the spring of 1676 they would begin bringing in more captives than all the companies of massachusetts and plymouth combined. now, in church's narrative, which is written many decades after the war with the help of his son, he is the hero of every incident. that -- such are the way of war memoirs. but it's also interesting that those puritan historians who would write the history of the king phillip's war, within months of the conclusion of the war, corroborate just about most of -- many of what seem like outlandish things that church
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claims. and there's a wonderful letter written by william bradford's son, william jr. he's very much his father's son. he's one of the captains involved in the war and it's in the summer of 1676. and church is out there, he's reckless, he's brazen, he's everything a pilgrim shouldn't be, and in his letter bradford says, you know -- clearly benjamin church is driving him a little crazy, but he says this is not the way i conduct myself. and he says, but, you know, without the benjamin forces we might not all be here. and so you see that church would be a key factor in this war. he was sort of the forrest gump of king phillip's war. if there was a major battle, he was there and it would be his group that would take phillip almost in the shadow of his symbolic home in mt. hope in
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bristol, rhode island, in august of 1776. and this was not a war that stopped the fighting. this was not a war that freed new england of the native threat. it really increased the threat for decades to come. and i think that's what makes the story ultimately a tragedy. because there was something special in plymouth colony for the first half century. it was not a utopia, but two very different people found a way to peacefully coexist. i think in the world today, where this is a global scene full of competing nations, religious groups, ethnic groups that don't necessarily like each other, don't necessarily understand each other. but if we don't find a way to peacefully exist, the alternatives are not good for anyone. and i really feel the first generation of wampanoags and pilgrims have many lessons from which we can still learn.
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in closing, i would like to read a brief passage that speaks not only to the bicultural nature of what went on during the first half century in plymouth colony, where the pilgrims wanted to keep the indians at an arm's length. but they were deeply influenced by their native neighbors, not only in food ways, but just in their understanding of the land that was plymouth colony. native americans embraced the western goods, in some cases their religion. and this is a passage that also speaks to the nature of history. what is history? is the past so remote from us today that those people were so different that -- is there a figurative pane of glass between us and us? maybe perhaps we can study it through a microscope, but ultimately it has little meaning to where we are today. or it's hard to do much better
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than the native american look at not only the past, but the present and future that was revealed to the pilgrims in the early years of plymouth colony in this passage. because history is not just about us humans, it's about the land in which we live, the land that was there in the past, is here now in the present and will be here in the future. and let me just set the scene. this is early on. they've just forged the alliance with massasoit. and bradford determines that they need to go visit massasoit in his home in pokanoke. so he sends out a delegation including edward winslow, who had become massasoit's best friend, and steven hopkins, who appears to have been in jamestown prior to boarding the mayflower and had experience with the native americans. squanto is still alive and he
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goes with them walking the hard-packed native trails that criss-crossed new england at this time. it's about a 45-mile walk and they head out. they head out. there's no horses yet, so they're walking these trails and they've just left the settlement when they come across a group of native americans who have been collecting lobsters in plymouth harbor and they begin to talk. they learn that to walk across the land in southern new england was to travel in time. all along this narrow, hard-packed trail were circular foot deep holes in the ground that had been dug where any remarkable act had occurred. it was each person's responsibility to maintain them so many things of great ann titiquity are ther.
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so as a man travels, the journey will be less tedious by the discourses related unto him. in closing, my only plea is that we keep the memory holes alive. thank you very much. i would be happy to try to answer some of your questions. any questions? yes, and if you could wait until the microphone comes over, that would be great. >> i love your story, that you just repeated. but i was fascinated with your almost 100 pages of notes and
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bibliography. and the details that you found like the indians were experts at burning and creating and open forest. can you talk a little bit about how you combined all these details to put this story together? >> thank you for -- it makes my heart feel warm when i hear someone has read the notes. i labor very mightly on them. so thank you. you know, it's -- for me writing a book is at bare minimum a three-year process. the first year is learning everything i can about the topic, throwing out the net, developing a bibliography. and getting a sense of where i think the book will go. the next two years is realizing that all of those plans were totally wrong. as i begin to work chapter by chapter, i begin to -- i am writing and researching
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simultaneously. and that is where i end up going down those avenues that i never expected. in some cases finding thing that's for me is a continual act of discovery. and it's -- it's -- you know, i do try -- i write narrative non-fiction. so i'm trying to tell a story and i also try to do due diligence when it comes to the scholarship. that is a true challenge, distilling the scholarship while maintaining a narrative as true as we can be to what actually happened. >> yes? yeah. >> in learning about the pilgrims, the process of dispelling the pilgrim myth, what was the most surprising fact that you learned in this whole process? >> yeah, you know -- this book was a series of surprises, but
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you know it is a couple of things. one thing -- i was astonished to learn at the level of suffering that first year in the plymouth colony. you know, i had written a book called "in the heart of the city" which was a survival tale. i thought i was used to these terrible things, but i had a renewed respect for what happened not only on the pilgrim side but also the native american side nor that year. both cultures were effectively over the process of those years broken down and they had to be put back together. and i think that building together process made possible the next 50 years of peace. for me it was, you know, i really renewed my understanding to see that the pilgrims did not
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come as empire builders. their ambitions were very humble. they wanted to transplant their congregation to the new world. they were never successful and completely successful in doing that. pastor robinson would die before he made it. not everyone would come over. that initial vision was never fully realized. you see bradford very depressed towards the end of his life as plymouth expands town after town. you think that is a success, right? for bradford that was a defeat. what he wanted was that congregation recreated. as peoples like edward winslow, miles standish moved to ducksbury and beyond, bradford saw this as a diminishment of what they should be. so that was a true surprise. and you know the other side, the second half of the book, was the impact of king phillip's war. i had, you know, you have to
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read the dozens if not hundreds of letters, many of them unpublished about the war. there's an incredible treasure-trove of information, not only narratives like church's, but mary rolson's narrative. there are very strong women in the story. and mary rolson would invent the indian captivity narrative and they have several meals for phillip. knit a cap for his son and provide firsthand information about what was going on. and yet it's a harrowing family saga, too. so with all this, it's -- for me it's a process of trying to connect the best way we can with the people who lived this. it is a process by which for me, with eachn+j/jqñchapter, i was continuously surprised and ultimately amazed. yeah.
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>> i had read that the philosophy when the english were coming was basically the same as romel's with fortress europe, basically throw them back to the sea. and then when the disease came in, he was forced to change his plans and strategies and form the alliance. was that true? did you find that to be? >> this is a bit of an oversimplification. john smith explored new england in 1614 and seems to have met with phillip and his brother and had a fairly good conversation with him, but also had flair-ups of violence. one of the other prizes, when we're often taught, it's as if the indians had never seen the indians before. the indians had vast experience
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with europeans by this point. there had been fishermen arriving for years along from the coast of new england up to maine, there were these explorers coming. but this was different. these were people -- not only men but women and children who were moving here. that's what made it different. yes? >> what first got you into writing? >> what first got me into writing. you know, writing is something i did -- when i was your age. i was scribbling a lot. nothing that i have saved. i wrote really bad poetry in middle school. kind of embarrassing to think about it. but what i found is i loved reading. and when i would read a book i would get so excited by what i read it made me want to write. what i began to realize is the more you write, it's like anything, the better you get at
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it. but to do that is to do it a lot, over and over again. so i -- i was, you know, scribbling things in middle school and in high school. in college i was an english major writing papers and things like that and i worked as a sailing journalist at a sailing magazine. and i became very interested in the history and i have followed that course ever since, so writing for me if i don't write something during the day i feel like i cheated myself in some way. so i try to keep at it. thank you. yes? any more questions? over here. >> as you've traveled around the country now on your book tour and i know you've been to new england, to chicago, to san francisco, to dallas. have you noticed any regional
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differences either in the way people, you know, look at the book or ultimately the way that they think about the pilgrims? >> yeah. the question for those of you who didn't hear it. i've been on this book tour that's taken me around the country, and what has been the response, are there regional differences in that response? well, for one thing, literally every place i've gone there has been a generous portion of the audience that are mayflower descendants. it has shown me this is a story that has a vital connection with who we are. getting back to the surprises, one of the surprises for me was to learn that to be a descendant of the mayflower passengers, i kind of assumed it was an elite club. but no, 10% of the american pop laig population, more than 34 million
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people were descendants of the mayflower. talk about a living legacy, it is everywhere in this country. one reader who i spoke to, i think it was milwaukee, part cherokee and part mayflower descendant. she said she feels like she is the living embodiment of what the country is about. i think that's true. it's very interesting, in texas of all places, i found a really strong response to this story. you know, this is -- for me, this story anticipates so much about what would happen in the 19th century. we think of the indian wars as a 19th century story. america's remorseless push west. and yet in the 17th century, in this 76-year span you see that dynamic unfold in a very essential way. so, you know, this is a story
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that i think does have relevance to all americans. no matter where you live. yes? >> i just begun your book, but you spoke of the 25 years roughly of peace, at times uneasy, between the pilgrims. the war, do you see that as an anomaly in that period? >> it was very interesting. in many ways, i sue thee that a pure tans. the puritans are the ones that arrived in boston a decade after the sailing of the mayflower. and quickly they took over new england. in one year plymouth colony goes from a region to the backwater.
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it was the great migration bringing thousands into the boston area, they quickly spread through massachusetts, maine and new hampshire but also to connecticut. it was really the pure tans that were really the motivators behind the war. plymouth colony didn't -- their soldiers did not arrive in time to be part of the conflict, and that may have been intended. i see that conflict, as many -- being the pure tan version of a conflict that would radically change the balance of power particularly among the native groups of the region. and would anticipate in many troubling ways what would happen next. the scale of what happened in the war was very different. hundreds of men, women, and children would die and be massacred at a fort that is now mystic, connecticut. and this brought a level of
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violence and brutality that was not a part of native warfare before this. this was a wake-up call to the stakes of any kind of conflict that might spread beyond something that was very local. thank you very much. you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies. today we're brought to you by these television companies who bring american history tv as a public service. weeknights this month we're
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featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight we look at the cold war. historian william hitchcock discusses presidential leadership during the cold war and the lasting impact on politics. the author of "the age of eisenhower." watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. every saturday go inside a different college classroom and hear topics from the american revolution to civil rights and 9/11. >> thanks for your patieny shet logging into class. >> gorbachev did most of the
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work, but reagan met him halfway. reagan encouraged him. reagan supported him. >> freedom of the press, which we'll get to later, madison called it freedom of the use of the press, it is indeed freedom to print things and publish things, it's not a freedom for institutionally as the press. >> lectures in history on american history tv on c-span3, every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. lectures in history is available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. next on "reel america" the pilgrims, a 1955 encyclopedia pr brita britainica film. it dramatizes their flight from persecution in end land to the netherlands. then 12 years later their ocean voyage on the mayflower and the founding of the colony in 1620.


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