Brothers among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660

By Cynthia J. Van Zandt | Go to book overview

4
Alliance Making and the Struggle for the Soul
of Plymouth Colony

Plymouth Colony was established only two years before the 1622 Powhatan assault on Jamestown. We often think of Plymouth's colonists as being isolated in the colony's early years, by both design and accident. After all, Plymouth was founded by members of an extreme Protestant sect that took its interpretation of the need to purify the Christian church to levels that made even other puritans uneasy. However, regardless of how much Plymouth's separatists desired isolation, the colony was not cut off from others, nor could it be. As with all other communities, Plymouth's settlers depended upon supplies and information that they could obtain only through regular contact with other people, both Native Americans and Europeans. Their very survival depended upon it. They too had to map the peoples around them. Like it or not, their existence was also dependent upon their ability to contain conflicts to which they themselves were not parties.

When colonists in Plymouth received news of the 1622 Powhatan attack on English settlers in Virginia, they responded by taking careful stock of the Indians around them. They looked for signs of new alliances between New England Algonquian tribes and sent out agents to discover whether any New England Algonquians had kinship or other ties with the Powhatans. They did this despite the fact that Plymouth was more than four hundred miles from Jamestown. Moreover, colonists in Plymouth built their fort partly as a result of fears prompted by the 1622 assault in Virginia.

The colony was only two years old when its residents learned that their fellow English settlement to the south had suffered dramatic casualties in a surprise

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