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His Excellency Mr. Morris
Stillbirth of A Nation: Peter Meets the Governor
© 2015 James LaFond
DEC/13/15
“It is a shameful and unblessed thing to take the scum of people and wicked condemned men to be the people with whom you plant; and not only so, but it spoileth the plantation; for they will ever live like rogues, and not fall to work but be lazy, and do mischief, and spend victuals, and be quickly weary, and then certify over to their country to the discredit of the plantation….
“…It is the sinfullest thing in the world to forsake or destitute a plantation once in forwardness; for, besides the dishonor, it is the guiltiness of blood of many commiserable persons.
-Francis Bacon, 1587, On Plantations
[Inferred in Bacon’s essay On Plantations, is the fact that the term plantation itself originally had two meanings, a colony of transplanted people from a mother country, and a place where planting was to be undertaken [Initially to provide supply bases for war ships contending with the Spanish Navy and privateers raiding the Spanish Main, and eventually for commercial profit.] Hence, the original idea of a plantation was of a privately owned and royally chartered supply-producing base for naval operations, which would sustain itself partially through mining and trade with the indigenous inhabitants and eventually for the basis for a quasi-feudal/commercial society of a toe that strikes broth the modern and primitive soul with horror, but was deemed “good” in late 16th Century England.
Does the reference to “Plantations” in Pennsylvania strike the reader as odd? Peter never describes homesteads as farms, but plantations, because they are all worked by master, family and slaves [and the Indians obviously recognized who the slaves were and appropriated them as such for their own use] on the basis of the earlier mercantile model described above. Later, retrospective 19th Century accounts would naturally correct this to fit with the then current ideal of family homesteads.
The settlement of North America by the English, on the Jamestown model, was nothing more than an attempt to establish a slave society in virgin soil with the sugar plantations of the West Indies as the model. This was not seen as a transplantation of European tradition or culture but as a new wealth-generating innovation in social engineering, debated by the greatest minds of the age and inspired by the wildly successful enslavement of Central and South America by the Spanish and Portuguese.]
The news of my happy arrival at my father-in-law's house, after so long and strange an absence, was soon spread round the neighbouring plantations, by the country people who continually visited me, being very desirous of hearing and eagerly enquiring an account of my treatment and manner of living among the Indians; in all which I satisfied them. Soon after this my arrival, I was sent for by his excellency Mr. Morris, the governor, a worthy gentleman, who examined me very particularly as to all incidents concerning my captivity, and especially in regard to the Indians, who had first taken me away, whether they were French or English parties.
[Clarity break! Before proceeding with his investigation, the English Governor of the frontier province of Pennsylvania, conforming roughly to the Susquehanna Basin around Chester County, wanted to know if the cannibal rapists who had used Peter as a pack mule were working for English coin, inferring that the English had their own cannibal war dogs on the frontier [the Iroquois], and also that these were known to raid English plantations while in the King’s employ.
Indeed, such was the arrangement between the Crown and the most warlike of the mountain-dwelling Indians as far back as 1619 in Jamestown Virginia, that the agents of the Governor or King would provide weapons, ammunition and coin in return for English scalps, as proof that the Indians were keeping the slaves on the plantation and not permitting any wild notions of homesteading unless by the Governor’s permission. This arrangement served the Governor’s controlling interest and helped preserve the Indian’s habitat.
Needless to say, with only seasonal communications by word of mouth between agents and Indians, more than a few legally sanctioned small scale plantation owners like Peter must have been mistaken by the King’s or Governor’s Indians as escaped indentures.
In the next section of his narrative, Peter will discuss a disagreement between the Colonial Governor and Assembly as to Indian relations and the status of free homesteaders.]
I assured his excellency they were of those who professed themselves to be friends of the former: and informed him of the many barbarous and inhuman actions I had been witness to among them, on the frontiers of the province; and also that they were daily increasing, by others of our pretended friends joining him; that they were all well supplied by the French with arms and ammunition, and greatly encouraged by them in their continual excursions and barbarities, not only in having extraordinary premiums for such scalps as they should take and carry home with them at their return, but great presents of all kinds, besides rum, powder, ball, etc., before they sallied forth.
Having satisfied his excellency in such particulars as he requested, the same being put into writing, I swore to the contents thereof, as may be seen by those who doubt of my veracity, in the public papers of that time, as well in England as in Philadelphia. Having done with me, Mr. Morris gave me three pounds, and sent the affidavit to the assembly, who were then sitting in the state-house at Philadelphia, concluding on proper measures to check the depredations of the savages, and put a stop to their barbarous hostilities on the distressed inhabitants, who daily suffered death in a most deplorable condition; besides being obliged to abscond their plantations, and the country being left desolate for several hundred miles on the frontiers, and the poor sufferers could have no relief, by reason of the disputes between the Governor and the Assembly.[?]
The former [Governor] was led by the instructions of the proprietor [control], which was entirely against the interest of the province [expansion], so that it caused great confusion among the people to see the country so destroyed, and no preparations making for its defence.
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