Colonial New England Primary Sources
Historical documents. What clues can you gather about the time, place, players, and culture?
This letter from Virginia Governor Thomas Culpepper recounts his adventures after almost undergoing a shipwreck on his way to Boston and being forced to finish the journey by foot. Includes Culpepper's impressions of regional contrasts between the Chesapeake and New England.
This tract from Robert Livingston recounts a French and Indian raid on a Dutch and English settlement at Schenectady, New York, on 8-9 February 1690. The attack was a retaliation for recent Iroquois raids in Canada, which had essentially halted the French fur trade. Clearly European alliances and rivalries were carried over into the New World, where Indian tribes became entangled in the disputes.
Metacom, or King Philip, conveyed the trials and tribulations of his Wampanoag people in 1675 during a meeting with John Easton, Attorney General of Rhode Island colony. Easton was trying to broker a settlement, but he failed. As it turns out, his most important accomplishment was recording the King's comments for posterity.
Organist and schoolmaster Gottlieb Mittelberger emigrated to Philadelphia in 1750 along with 500 of his fellow Germans. Yet he returned to Germany in 1754 and wrote this tract to warn people of the false promises of America.
Robert Roules, a sailor, recounts a July 1677 Indian attack on his boat at Marblehead, Massachusetts. The local Native Americans had been targeting fishing ketches in their relentless struggle against the white settlers; they were part of an Indian resistance that continued up and down the New England coast for as much as two years after Metcaom was killed and King Philip's War "officially" ended. The white settlers recaptured Roules's boat and the white women of Marblehead proceeded to exact violent revenge on their own Indian captives.
Although eighteenth-century court documents make for some flowery and rather difficult reading, this intriguing court case from 1705 offers some indication of the ways in which colonial American society resembled its English sovereign, and the manner in which it was still considerably different. The Governor had accused two cart drivers of insubordination, because they refused to yield the right of way to his carriage when they approached one another from opposing directions on the same road. Traditional rules of social deference would have dictated that the drivers submit to the orders of their "social better," but instead one of the drivers retorted that "I am as good flesh & blood as you. I will not give way. You may go out of the way."