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King Philip’s War

It would be wrong to call King Philip’s war “long forgotten” as you’d have to have once known a little about it in order to forget it. Never in my grade school, high school or college history experiences did I hear mention of it, never in much of my leisurely reading on the American founding and the events leading up to it, did I even here so much as a whisper about it.

Yet this war, and a war it was, between the English colonists (and their Indian allies, including the Mohawks from NY) and various New England Indian tribes including the Pokunoket, Narragansett, Wampanoag (first Thanksgiving Indians) and others, is among the most significant in American history. In the short space of a blog post, I cannot do justice to the events leading up to the war, and what transpired in the war, and the changes wrought by the war, but I encourage you to pick up a good book about it, or visit an historical museum or other location that marks the event – it would be well worth the effort.

A couple of points of interest regarding the war and the events leading up to it. The war was fought in 1675-76, a little more than a half century beyond the arrival of the settlers at Plymouth. First, almost ALL of the real estate that was “settled” by the Plymouth colony and follow-on settlers was negotiated and contracted for. Now, this does not excuse the often poor treatment of the local tribes by the new arrivals, nor does it suggest that all of the contracts were negotiated and understood in earnest. Indeed, it may be the case that the local tribes did not quite fully understand European property traditions when they engaged in contract negotiations over land acquisition. I’ll leave it to professional economic historians to write about that. But my reason for bringing this up is not to rip open old wounds in regard to the treatment of native americans, they are fresh enough, rather how interesting it is that English property traditions migrated over here even though in England (though it was changing slowly over centuries of time since Magna Carta) the king technically owned all of the land (feudalism) AND that the colonies founded in the Americans were government granted monopolies – so the settlers had no recognizable British right to trade for land. Yet trade they did, and those trades were locally recognized as legitimate. In other words, the system of Western Property Law that we are now familiar with evolved right beneath the noses of the English Monarchs, and perhaps with their assent as well.

Second, and perhaps this need not be said, the history is depressing. Regardless of your feelings on these sorts of things, we should at least want to know more about it, and understand why episodes like this never made it into the history books. And for those of you looking for a good conspiracy theory, it certainly wouldn’t be a cabal of leftists to conspire to keep our children from learning about it, at least not how I view it. Maybe it was a cabal of right-wingers. I actually don’t have a theory.



One Response to “King Philip’s War”

  1. Scott says:

    I find the vast majority of history to be depressing. I’ve ‘given up’ on reading history on multiple occassions, after I have been able to accept that war is evil and ignorance is bliss. I certainly agree that particular parties have an interest in limiting or supressing how much “we” educate our “kids” on history, but I wonder if perhaps human history is so dark, so vile, so hateful, that we simply cannot comprehend how horrible it actually was, so we shut it out of our conscience altogether, because it’s so much less painful to just not think about it at all. After all, ‘he who increases knowledge, increases sorrow.’

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