Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXII Political Slings and Arrows


IN December, 1763, occurs one of the first of those outbursts of mob fury which have since become so common in American history and which, nearly always directed against the weak and unprotected, have so often grown into wholesale exhibitions of cowardice and bestiality.

The Indians of Pennsylvania, fired by rum and made cunning by contact with the white man, are for the most part a desperate lot, but among them are harmless tribes living in entire amity with the peaceful Quakers and Moravians. Among them is the remnant of a tribe of Conestogas living near Lancaster. There are only twenty of them, men, women and children. Early one morning a mounted band known as "the Paxton boys" surrounds their village and sets fire to it. Only six Indians are found at home. These are butchered.

Here and there a horrified protest is made, but most of the inhabitants approve the deed. Religious circles are silent when not openly commendatory. The authorities do nothing. However, the Lancaster magistrates collect the fourteen unbutchered Indians into the workhouse. The Paxton boys return to the blood-feast. A hundred of them break into the workhouse and slaughter the women and children as well as the men, carefully detaching their scalps in order to collect the provincial bounty.

The perpetrators are never found, never molested. The deed is regarded as an incident in a necessary and holy cru


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