Sunday, February 20, 2011

Maximum Massachusetts 9: A Letter from America

To the Honourable Sir Henry Ashurst, London, from the Reverend Cotton Mather, Port Royal, Nova Scotia, written this Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Two.

The Ways of God are in truth a Mystery, for this day finds me a Prisoner of none other than Sir Edmund Andros, the very Man whom I made a Prisoner on the day of our Revolt thirteen years Gone. This would be a Fitting Subject for one of my Sermons, demonstrating as it does the Impermanence of man's condition in This World, were I in any position preach a Sermon, which being in Gaol I am Not.

I am Mindful of your being in a State of Great Curiosity concerning the Circumstances which led to my present Incarceration. I offer my assurance that a Full Explanation will be forthcoming in the body of the Present Missive.

I have written before of my modest success in bringing the Word of God to the heathen Abenaki Indians who Inhabit the forests in the North of Maine and Nova Scotia, most of whom have either never been Exposed to the Christian Religion, or else have heard Nought but the idolotrous Superstitions which are commonly Preached by the Papist Priests out of Canada. It has been my Practise to spend one or two months in the Summer of each Year aboard one of the Vessels which sail North from Boston to engage in Trade with these Indians. In this way I am able to Renew my contact with those Worthy Men among the Abenaki who have Heeded the Call to the True Faith, and even seek to bring More of their Fellows to see the Light of God.

This Summer found me aboard the Lynn, and spent much of the Month of August meeting with the Clans of the Penobscot, the Kennebec, and the Malacites. In September the Lynn crossed the Bay of Fundy and made landfall on the Eastern Peninsula of Nova Scotia. Yesterday afternoon, being the Sixteenth Day of September, the Lynn weighed anchor within Port Royal Sound and I went ashore to pay my respects to Sir Edmund Andros, who had but lately taken up his duties as Royal Governor of this colony which was so Recently and so Imprudently made separate from Our Own.

Upon entering the Fort which Guards the Town of Port Royal, I was surprised to find the Guard House within occupied by one of the Abenaki sachems, Taxous, a great Rival of my friend Madockawando among the Penobscot Clan. When he saw me, Taxous called out in the Abenaki tongue, saying, "Have you come now to gloat, Crow, at the success of your lies?"

I assured Taxous that I knew nothing of his Imprisonment, having only just come from his People's Country on the Penobscot, and asked him to Explain how he came to be a Prisoner at Port Royal. He was Skeptical to begin with, and repeated that it had been my Lies which caused him to be Gaoled, but I prevailed upon him again, and he finally explained his Circumstances.

My success in Preaching to the Abenaki had done much to strengthen the Influence of Madockawando, and had led to a Waning of Taxous's in Proportion. Taxous had seen that the only way to Revive his Influence among his Country-Men was to Abandon the Alliance he had long held with the Papists and Jesuits of the French, and embrace the True Faith as had his Rival Sachem. He had come to Port Royal to meet with Captain Convers and Swear an Oath of Peace and Friendship with him. Upon arriving at Port Royal, Taxous had found Convers replaced by Andros, and so had made his Declaration to the Governor. Andros had then called Taxous a Lying Savage who meant only to Deceive him, and had ordered the Sachem put in the Guard House.

When I had heard Taxous I assured him again that I had no Knowledge of the Affair, and that I would go to speak with Governor Andros to gain his Release. I was greatly Agitated to hear what had befallen Taxous, for you will recall what I have written concerning the Vision I Received during my first stay with Madockawando, of a great War between the New English and the Abenaki that would end in the Deaths of every Indian in Nova Scotia. It seemed to me now that Andros in his Folly had taken the first step on the Road to that Vision. I had made a Vow to Madockawando that I would do all that was within my Power to avert the great War I had Foreseen, and it was in this Agitated state that I had my Interview with the Governor.

Having met Andros yourself you know how Disagreeable a Man he can be, so you will understand when I tell you that my meeting with him was even more Unpleasant than usual. He had lost his Wig overboard while Sailing to Port Royal and yet to secure a Replacement. His own hair is but a Fringe around his head, and when I first saw him the Tufts that stuck up from Above his Ears had the look of Devils Horns. He began the Conversation by telling me how Displeased he was to see my Face in Port Royal. When I began to Explain to him how it would be Desirable to free the captive Taxous he Interrupted to say that my words tempted him to Execute the sachem forthwith as a Lesson to all Deceiving Savages. I fear I let the Devil drive my Temper away from me, for I then call'd the Governor a Great Fool who would bring Ruin to Nova Scotia and to All of America. He grew Wrathful at my Hasty Words, and told me if I loved the Savage so well I could Keep him Company, and before I could Comprehend my Situation I was marched out of Andros's chamber and back to the Guard House, and there Interred.

I know not what the Outcome of this Affair may be, but I hear from visits I have received from Captain Convers and Daniel Prescott that there is much Anger among the People of Port Royal at Governor Andros for his Temerity at ordering me Gaoled. I also have an unexpected Ally in Taxous, who sees my Captivity as Proof of my True Concern for his Welfare. He calls me Brother and tells me that upon his Return to the Penobscot Country he will Publickly Embrace the True Faith and call upon all who look to him to do Likewise. If this be the Case then I think that Andros may do Service to the Cause of Peace despite himself, proving that God may Act even through Persons who Serve the Devil.

Daniel Prescott has promis'd to give this Letter to the Master of Lynn, who will see it on its way to you in London. I know not when God will allow me to Write again to you, but I promise I will make every Effort to keep you Informed of how Events here in Port Royal turn out.

I remain,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Cotton Mather

(Proceed to part 10 - The Battle of Breton)

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