William Bradford and William Byrd's histories present colonial life and Indian relations, but the two authors handle those encounters very differently. What are the differences between the tones expressed in the histories? What techniques did the authors use to present these tones?
William Bradford forged peaceful relations with the native Wampanoag initially through Samoset and Squanto and then through their leader Massasoit. Bradford recorded the following after meeting with Samoset, Squanto, their leader Massasoit and a few other Native American representatives:
Being after some time of entertainment and gifts dismissed, a while after he came again, and five more with him, and they brought again all the tools that were stolen away before, and made way for the coming of their great Sachem, called Massasoit. Who, about four or five days after, came with the chief of his friends and other attendance, with the aforesaid Squanto. With whom, after friendly entertainment and some gifts given him, they made a peace with him (which hath now continued this 24 years) in these terms:
- That neither he nor any of his should injure or do hurt to any of their people.
- That if any of his did hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.
- That if anything were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.
- If any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them.
- He should send to his neighbors confederates to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace.
That when their men came to them, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them.
William Bradford's purpose and tone in his two-volume Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, was to record the occurrences at Plymouth in a secular manner, including his efforts to make peace with the Native peoples so that the Pilgrims could live in peace, co-existing with and learning from those who inhabited the land before them. After this meeting with Massasoit, peace resulted from the treaty they agreed to.
On the other hand, William Byrd kept diaries and manuscript narratives of his day to day life. In addition, he wrote The History of the Dividing Line. He came to Virginia not to establish a peaceful co-existence with the Native People but to develop economic avenues in order to prosper and acquire land from them. He felt they were lazy as he states in this quote:
Though these Indians dwell among the English and see in what plenty a little industry enables them to live, yet they choose to continue in their stupid idleness and to suffer all the inconveniences of dirt, cold, and want rather than disturb their heads with care or defile their hands with labor.
Byrd received military promotions based on his ability to develop both military and economic relations with the Native Americans. But he had a penchant for land and acquired much of it by surveying Native American land.
William Bradford's account of the First Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony noted how Native Americans and the settlers lived peacefully and survived due to the Lord's will and mutual aid and cooperation.
Bradford's writings give us, the reader, the impression that he was a humble and spiritual man grateful for the opportunity to survive.
For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.
William Byrd's account of the relations between the English colony of Virginia and subsequent colonies, in contrast, emphasized the importance of the royal crown and overcoming internal struggles and challenges in the New World.
Mastery over one's environment and material wealth are emphasized along with the need to become less dependent on Great Britain.
The six gentlemen who were first named of the company by the crown, and who were empowered to choose an annual president from among themselves, were always engaged in factions and quarrels, while the rest detested work more than famine. At this rate the colony must have come to nothing, had it not been for the vigilance and bravery of captain Smith, who struck a terror into all the Indians round about.
Though both William Byrd and William Bradford experienced similar hardships, Byrd appeared to focus on conquest while Bradford appeared to focus on divine intervention.