Trading with the Enemy:
"But our answer was: Were they never so bad, we would not wrong them,
or give them any just occasion against us." (79)
The voyage to the Massachusetts Indians is a voyage to the enemy, or at least a potential one. Though the small squad of Pilgrims marches “in arms” (78), the writer of this section represents the purpose of the journey as partly to see the country, partly to make peace, and partly to trade – not to make war. And, indeed, the Pilgrims trade, make plans for future peaceful contact, and discover that “Better harbors for shipping cannot be than here are” (80). The conditions for taking rather than trading are surely present, however. The Pilgrims encounter only a “shaking and trembling” man and native women who had “fled for fear of us,” pulling down their houses in such haste that they even leave valuable food behind (79). But both are soothed by the “gentle carriage” of the Pilgrims, and trade and promises of future trade are the result (79). Ironically, it is the Indian Squanto who is the war-like one – encouraging the Pilgrims to “rifle the savage women” because they are a “bad people” and “have oft threatened you” (79). To wit, the Pilgrim response is to give peace a chance: they will neither start a conflict nor let merely verbal threats upset them. And so we are left with the image of a successful trading mission in which the native women happily sell the Pilgrims the very clothes off their backs (and fronts!).
Edward J. Gallagher
(page references to Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, ed. Dwight B. Heath [Bedford: Applewood Books, 1963])