What is Bradford's attitude toward the the Pequot Massacre? How does it fit in with his larger view of the purpose of the colony?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his famous chronicle Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford wrote this of the Pequot Massacre in 1637:

Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them...but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

Clearly, Bradford celebrates the elimination of the Pequots and thanks God for this victory. Perhaps, he felt somewhat justified in this action because an Englishman had been killed by the Pequots. Or, perhaps it was that Bradford felt that his people could go no farther and must take a stand. Nevertheless, the massacre  of old men, women and children was a terrible act.

After the hardships of England and further ones in Holland, in which many were imprisoned and bound over to the "assizes," a second attempt was made to leave Holland, but troops came just as the Puritans were about to board, so women and children were left behind while some of the men were on board the ship. This ship then encountered a terrible storms at sea and they were driven to the coast of Norway. So, when the pilgrims finally were able to set sail for American in order to "dislodge betimes to some place of advantage and less danger, of any such could be found," Bradford may have felt that they must survive by whatever means were necessary.  His depiction of the Native Americans earlier was a disparaging one, calling them savages and saying that they would just as easily shoot the Englishmen with their arrows. Therefore, it is evident that he celebrated the elimination of anyone that could be a threat to his people.

Read the study guide:
History of Plymouth Plantation

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