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

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

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

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

Synopsis

During the first eighty years of permanent European colonization, webs of alliances shaped North America from northern New England to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and entangled all peoples in one form or another.

In Brothers among Nations, Cynthia Van Zandt argues that the pursuit of alliances was a widespread multiethnic quest that shaped the early colonial American world in fundamentally important ways. These alliances could produce surprising results, with Europeans sometimes subservient to more powerful Native American nations, even as native nations were sometimes clients and tributaries of European colonists. Spanning nine European colonies, including English, Dutch, and Swedish colonies, as well as many Native American nations and a community of transplanted Africans,Brothers among Nationsenlists a broad array of sources to illuminate the degree to which European colonists were frequently among the most vulnerable people in North America and the centrality of Native Americans to the success of the European colonial project.

Excerpt

Seventeenth-century Europeans believed that the sins of the father were visited upon the son. They also expected a son to avenge wrongs done to his father, despite the fact that, if they had thought about it carefully, they would have realized that the son's world is sometimes radically different from the father's. Nowhere does this seem clearer than in the heat of a Virginia summer in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Virginia governor William Berkeley and his council commissioned Major Isaac Allerton Jr. and Colonel John Washington to call out the militia from Virginia's Northern Neck in August of 1675. Major Allerton and Colonel Washington received instructions to investigate a series of recent Native American attacks in the region and to retaliate against the responsible tribe or tribes. Although it was not yet clear in 1675, these events would become entangled in Bacon's rebellion. Allerton and Washington called out the militia while also quickly enlisting the aid of additional troops from Maryland. They had decided (largely incorrectly as it turned out) that the Susquehannocks were to blame for several of the recent attacks.

The joint Virginia-Maryland militia advanced on a Susquehannock fort on the Potomac River. It laid siege to the stronghold for several weeks without breaking the Indians' defenses. But when a group of Susquehannock werowances came out of the fort to offer terms for a peace treaty, the colonial militia leaders saw a chance to end the stalemate. Militia officers agreed to discuss peace terms and led the Susquehannock leaders aside, ostensibly for peace negotiations. Instead they murdered them. When Major Allerton and Colonel Washington were later called to account for the Susquehannock leaders' deaths . . .

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