Woolgathering/Just Kids

Woolgathering By Patti Smith

A New Directions Book  1992

The Woolgatherers

“And the image of the woolgatherers in that sleepy field drew me to sleep as well. And I wandered among them, through thistle and thorn, with no task more exceptional than to rescue a fleeting thought, as a tuft of wool, from the comb of the wind” (12).

Just Kids

By Patti Smith

HarperCollinsPublishers  2010  New York

I read this book in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe’s biography of Robert Mapplethorpe. I was interested to see if any of the stories collided. They were obviously different works with Patti writing from first person and Mapplethorpe being a biography. Patti focuses her work, Just Kids, on the friendship between Mapplethorpe and herself, mythologizing along the way about both of their personas. I often felt like Patti was working to appear stranger and more quirky than perhaps was actually her true self. Morrisroe’s Mapplethorpe biography did not focus on the friendship, for its target is Robert himself. Whereas the Mapplethorpe biography (to be summarized in a separate piece) does not shy away from the decadent details of sexual exploration pre-and-inside the AIDS epidemic, Smith engages in very little discussion of Mapplethorpe’s twisted sexual proclivities. It feels as if she wanted his focus to remain on her as muse rather than face the harsh reality that she was simply another stepping-stone to Mapplethorpe’s promotion of his outsized ego. 

Monday’s Children

“On one such day, limping back to the home front beneath the anvil of the su, I was accosted by my mother.

“‘Patricia,’ my mother scolded, ‘put a shirt one!’

“‘It’s too hot,’ I moaned. ‘No one else has one on.’

“‘Hot or not, it’s time you started wearing a shirt. You’re about to become a young lady.’ I protested vehemently and announced that I was never going to become anything but myself, that I was of the clan of Peter Pan and we did not grow up” (10).

“I’m certain, as we filed down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve-year-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not” (11).

Of Mapplethorpe she writes: “The light fell upon the pages of his coloring book, across his child’s hands. Coloring excited him, not the act of filling in space, but choosing colors that no one else would select. In the green of the hills he saw red. Purple snow, green skin, silver sun. He liked the effect it had on others, that it distrurbed his siblings. He discovered he had a talent for sketching. He was a natural draftsman and secretly he twisted and abstracted his images, feeling his growing powers. He was an artist, and he knew it. It was not a childish notion. He merely acknowledged what was his” (13).

“No one expected me. Everything awaited me” (25).

“We piled the best leaves on the bread and happily ate.

“‘A real prison breakfast,’ I said.

“‘Yeah, but we are free.’

“And that summed it up” (28).

“When it got really rough, I would go back to Pratt, occasionally bumping into someone I knew who would let me shower and sleep a night. Or else I would sleep in the hall near a familiar door. That wasn’t much fun, but I had my mantra, ‘I’m free, I’m free.’ Although after several days, my other mantra, ‘I’m hungry, I’m hungry,’ seemed to be in the forefront. I wasn’t worried, though. I just needed a break and I wasn’t going to give up. I dragged my plaid suitcase from stoop to stoop, trying not to wear out my unwelcome.

“It was the summer Coltrane died. The summer of ‘Crystal Ship.’ Flower children raised their empty arms and China exploded the H-bomb. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. AM radio played ‘Ode to Billie Joe.’ There were riots in Newark, Milwaukee, and Detroit. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, the summer of love. And in this shifting, inhospitable atmosphere, a chance encounter changed the course of my life” (31).  She meets Robert Mapplethorpe.

Just Kids

“But Robert, wishing to shed his Catholic yoke, delved into another side of the spirit, reigned over by the Angel of Light. The image of Lucifer, the fallen angel, came to eclipse the saints he used in his collages and varnished onto boxes. On one small wooden box, he applied the face of Christ; inside, a Mother and Child with a tiny white rose; and in the inner lid, I was surprised to find the face of the Devil, with his extended tongue.

“I would return home to find Robert in brown monk’s cloth, a Jesuit robe he had found in a thrift store, poring over pamphlets on alchemy and magic. He asked me to bring him books slanted toward the occult. At first he didn’t read these books so much as utilize their pentagrams and satanic images, deconstructing and refiguring them. He was not evil, though as darker elements infused his work, he became more silent.

“He grew interested in creating visual spells, which might serve to call up Satan, like one would a genie. He imagined if he could make a pact that accessed Satan’s purest self, the self of the light, he would recognize a kindred soul, and that Satan would grant him fame and fortune. He did not have to ask for greatness, for the ability to be an artist, because he believed he already had that” (62-3).

“Robert was cutting out sideshow freaks from an oversized paperback on Tod Browning. Hermaphrodites, pinheads, and Siamese twins were scattered everywhere. It threw me, for I couldn’t see a connection between these images and Robert’s recent preoccupation with magic and religion” (67).

“It was in that spirit that we would go to Coney Island to visit the sideshows. We had looked for Hubert’s on Forty-second Street, which had featured Snake Princess Wago and a flea circus, but it had closed in 1965. We did find a small museum that had body parts and human embryos in specimen jars, and Robert got fixated on the idea to use something of that sort in an assemblage. He asked around where he might find something of that sort, and a friend told him about the ruins of the old City Hospital on Welfare (later Roosevelt) Island.”

“We went from room to room and saw shelves of medical specimens in their glass jars. Many were broken, vandalized by visiting rodents. Robert combed each room until he found what he was looking for, an embryo swimming in formaldehyde within a womb of glass.

“We all had to agree that Robert would most likely make great use of it. He clutched the precious find on the journey home. Even in his silence, I could feel his excitement and anticipation, imagining how he could make it work as art” (68).

“In early June, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol” (69).

“In response I made a collage drawing for him called My Hustler, where I used one of his letters as a component. Even as he reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, he seemed to be moving deeper into the sexual underworld that he was portraying in his art. He seemed to be attracted to S&M imagery–’I’m not sure what that all means–just know it’s good’–and described to me works titled Tight Fucking Pants, and drawings in which he lacerated S&M characters with a matte knife. ‘I have a hook coming out of where his prick should be, where I’m gonna hang that chain with dice and skulls from it.’ He spoke of using bloody bandages and starred patches of gauze.

“He wasn’t merely jerking off. He was filtering this world through his own aesthetic, criticizing a movie called Male Magazine as ‘nothing more than an exploitation film using an all male cast.’ When he visited the Tool Box, and S&M bar, he felt it was ‘just a bunch of big chains and shit on the wall, nothing really exciting,’ and wished he could design a place like that.

“As the weeks went on, I worried that he wasn’t doing well. It wasn’t like him to complain about his physical condition. ‘My mouth is sick,’ he wrote, ‘my gums are white and achy.’ He sometimes didn’t have enough money to eat.

“His P.S. was still filled with Robert bravado. ‘I’ve been accused of dressing like a hustler, having the mind of a hustler and the body of one” (84). [Well…if it looks, sounds and walks like a duck…]

Hotel Chelsea

“I’m in Mike Hammer mode, puffing on Kools reading cheap detective novels sitting in the lobby waiting for William Burroughs. He comes in dressed to the nines in a dark gabardine overcoat, gray suit, and tie. I sit for a few hours at my post scribbling poems. He comes stumbling out of the El Quixote a bit drunk and disheveled. I straighten his tie and hail him a cab. It’s our unspoken routine.

“In between I clock the action. Eyeing the traffic circulating the lobby hung with bad art. Big invasive stuff unloaded on Stanley Bard in exchange for rent. The hotel is an energetic, desperate haven for scores of gifted hustling children from every rung of the ladder. Guitar bums and stoned-out beauties in Victorian dresses. Junkie poets, playwrights, broke-down filmmakers, and French actors. Everybody passing through here is somebody, if nobody in the outside world.

“The elevator is slowgoing. I get off at the seventh floor to see if Harry Smith is around. I place my hand on the doorknob, sensing nothing but silence. The yellow walls have an institutional feel like a middle school prison. I use the stairs and return to our room. I take a piss in the hall bathroom we share with unknown inmates. I unlock our door. No sign of Robert save a note on the mirror. Went to big 42nd street. Love you. Blue. I see he straightened his stuff. Men’s magazines neatly piled. The chicken wire rolled and tied and the spray cans lined in a row under the sink.

“I fire up the hot plate. Get some water from the tap. You got to let it run for a while as it comes out brown. It’s just minerals and rust, so Harry says. My stuff is in the bottom drawer. Tarot cards, silk ribbons, a jar of Nescafe, and my own cup–a childhood relic with the likeness of Uncle Wiggly, rabbit gentleman. I drag my Remington from under the bed, adjust the ribbon, and insert a fresh sheet of foolscap. There’s a lot to report” (91).

Stanley Bard is the hotel manager. They have Room 1017 for 55 dollars a week to live at the Chelsea Hotel.

“Twenty-third Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues still had a postwar feel” (96).

The Manson murders occur.

“A week or two later I waltzed into the El Quixote looking for Harry and Peggy. It was a bar-restaurant adjacent to the hotel, connected to the lobby by its own door, which made it feel like our bar, as it had been for decades. Dylan Thomas, Terry Southern, Eugene O’Neill, and Thomas Wolfe were among those who had raised one too many a glass there.

“I was wearing a long rayon navy dress with white polka dots and a straw hat, my East of Eden outfit. At the table to my left, Janis Joplin was holding court with her band. To my far right were Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane, along with members of Country Joe and the Fish. At the last table facing the door was Jimi Hendrix, his head lowered, eating with his hat on, across from a blonde. There were musicians everywhere, sitting before tables laid with mounds of shrimp with green sauce, paella, pitchers of sangria, and bottles of tequila” (105).

“The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe. I wandered the halls seeking its spirits, dead or alive. My adventures were mildly mischievous, tapping open a door slightly ajar and getting a glimpse of Virgil Thomson’s grand piano, or loitering before the nameplate of Arthur C. Clarke, hoping he might suddenly emerge. Occasionally I would bump into Gert Schiff, the German scholar, armed with volumes on Picasso, or Viva in Eau Sauvage. Everyone had something to offer and nobody appeared to have much money. Even the successful seemed to have just enough to live like extravagant bums. 

“I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively. There were rumors of Oscar Wilde’s trunks languishing in the hull of the oft-flooded basement. Here Dylan Thomas, submerged in poetry and alcohol, spent his last hours. Thomas Wolfe plowed through hundreds of pages of manuscript that formed You Can’t Go Home Again. Bob Dylan composed ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ on our floor, and a speeding Edie Sedgwick was said to have set her room on fire while gluing on her thick false eyelashes by candlelight.

“So many had written, conversed, and convulsed in these Victorian dollhouse rooms. So many skirts had swished these worn marble stairs. So many transient souls had espoused, made a mark, and succumbed here. I sniffed out their spirits as I silently scurried from floor to floor, longing for discourse with a gone procession of smoking caterpillars” (112-3).

“This mission led us to the city’s Bermuda Triangle: Brownie’s, Max’s Kansas City, and the Factory had moved from its original location on Forty-seventh Street to 33 Union Square. Brownie’s was a health food restaurant around the corner where the Warhol people ate lunch, and Max’s where they spent their nights.”

“Max’s Kansas City was on Eighteenth Street and Park Avenue South. It was supposedly a restaurant, though few of us actually had the money to eat there. The owner, Mickey Ruskin, was notoriously artist-friendly, even offering a free cocktail-hour buffet for those with the price of a drink. It was said that this buffet, which included Buffalo wings, kept a lot of struggling artists and drag queens alive. I never frequented it as I was working and Robert, who didn’t drink, was too proud to go.

“There was a big black-and-white awning flanked by a bigger sign announcing that you were about to enter Max’s Kansas City. It was casual and sparse, adorned with large abstract pieces of art given to Mickey by artists who ran up supernatural bar tabs. Everything, save the white walls, was red: booths, tablecloths, napkins. Even their signature chickpeas were served in little red bowls. The big draw was surf and turf: steak and lobster. The back room, bathed in red light, was Robert’s objective, and the definitive target was the legendary round table that still harbored the rose-colored aura of the absent silver king.

“On our first visit we only made it as far as the front section. We sat in a booth and split a salad and ate the inedible chickpeas. Robert and Sandy ordered Cokes. I had a coffee.The place was fairly dead. Sandy had experienced Max’s at the time when it was the social hub of the subterranean universe, when Andy Warhol passively reigned over the round table with his charismatic ermine queen, Edie Sedgwick. The ladies-in-waiting were beautiful, and the circulating knights were the likes of Ondine, Donald Lyons, Rauschenberg, Dali, Billy Name, Lichtenstein, Gerard Malanga, and John Chamberlain. In recent memory the round table had seated such royalty as Bob Dylan, Bob Neuwirth, Nico, Tim Buckley, Janis Joplin, Viva, and the Velvet underground. It was as darkly glamorous as one could wish for. But running through the primary artery, the thing that ultimately accelerated their world and then took them down, was speed. Amphetamine magnified their paranoia, robbed some of their innate powers, drained their confidence, and ravaged their beauty” (116-7).

“We drew on everything from Butterfield 8 to the French New Wave. She shot the stills from our imagined movies. Although I didn’t smoke, I would pocket a few of Robert’s Kools to achieve a certain look. For our Blaise Cendrars shots we needed thick smoke, for our Jeanne Moreau a black slip and a cigarette.

“When I showed him Judy’s prints, Robert was amused by my personas. ‘Patti, you don’t smoke,’ he’d say, tickling me. ‘Are you stealing my cigarettes?’ I thought he would be annoyed, since cigarettes were expensive, but the next time I went to Judy’s, he surprised me with the last couple from his battered pack.

“‘I know I’m a fake smoker,’ I would say, ‘but I’m not hurting anybody and besides I gotta enhance my image.’ It was all for Jeanne Moreau” (125).

“I looked around at everyone bathed in the blood light of the back room. Dan Flavin had conceived his installation in response to the mounting death toll of the war in Vietnam. No one in the back room was slated to die in Vietnam, though few would survive the cruel plagues of a generation” (127).

Gregory made lists of books for me to read, told me the best dictionary to own, encouraged and challenged me. Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs were all my teachers, each one passing through the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, my new university” (138).

“‘I don’t want to sing. I just want to write songs for him. I want to be a poet, not a singer’” (142).

“Memento mori. It means ‘Remember we are mortal’” (155).

I call my granddaughter LouLou, so this next passage stood out to me: “I liked Loulou, a charismatic redhead who was the celebrated muse of Yves Saint Laurent, the daughter of a Schiaparelli model and a French count. She wore a heavy African bracelet, and when she unclasped it, there was a red string tied around her tiny wrist, placed there, she said, by Brian Jones” (156).

“Michael Pollard was usually by her side. They were like adoring twins, both with the same speech patterns, punctuating each sentence with man. I sat on the floor as Kris Kristofferson sang her ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ Janis joining in the chorus. I was there for these moments, but so young and preoccupied with my own thoughts that I hardly recognized them as moments” (159).

“It was an infamous address, having housed the Film Guild Cinema in the twenties, and a raucous country-western club hosted by Rudy Vallee in the thirties. The great abstract expressionist artist and teacher Hans Hoffman had a small school on the third floor through the forties and fifties, preaching to the likes of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning. In the sixties it housed the Generation Club, where Jimi Hendrix used to hang out, and when it closed he took over the space and built a state-of-the-art studio in the bowels of 52 Eighth Street” (168).

“I was excited to go. I put on my straw hat and walked downtown, but when I got there, I couldn’t bring myself to go in. By chance, Jimi Hendrix came up the stairs and found me sitting there like some hick wallflower and ginned. He had to catch a plane to London to do the Isle of Wight Festival. When I told him I was too chicken to go in, he laughed solely and said that contrary to what people might think, he was shy, and parties made him nervous. He spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio. He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. It didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio.

“‘The language of peace. You dig?’ I did.

“I can’t remember if I actually went into the studio, but Jimi never accomplished his dream. In September I went with my sister and Annie to Paris. Sandy Daley had an airline connection and helped us get cheap tickets. Paris had already changed ina year, as had I. It seemed as if the whole of the world was slowly being stripped of innocence. Or maybe I was seeing a little too clearly.

“As we walked down the boulevard Montparnasse I saw a headline that filled me with sorrow: Jimi Hendrix est mort. 27 ans. I knew what the words meant” (169).

“But the next night we would meet in Johnny’s room to console one another again. I wrote but two words in my diary: Janis Joplin. For she had died of an overdose in room 105 of the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, twenty-seven years old” (170).

Holy Modal Rounders

“It was like being at an Arabian hoedown with a band of psychedelic hillbillies. I fixed on the drummer, who seemed as if he was on the lam and had slid behind the drums while the cops looked elsewhere. Toward the end of their set he sang a song called ‘Blind Rage,’ and as he slammed the drums, I thought, This guy truly embodies the heart and soul of rock and roll. He had beauty, energy, animal magnetism” (171). That man turned out to be Sam Shepard “the biggest playwright off-Broadway. He had a play at Lincoln Center. He won five Obies!”

“I was also writing more pieces for rock magazines–Crawdaddy, Circus, Rolling Stone. This was a time when the vocation of a music journalist could be an elevated pursuit. Paul Williams, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, and Sandy Pearlman were some of the writers I held in esteem. I modeled myself after Baudelaire, who wrote some of the great idiosyncratic critiques of nineteenth-century art and literature” (178).

“I wanted to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll” (180).

…”but then I remembered Lenny Kaye had said he played electric guitar. I went to see him.”

“With a nod to Brecht, I decided to open the reading singing ‘Mack the Knife.’ Lenny played along” (181).

“We finished with ‘Ballad of a Bad Boy’ accompanied by Lenny’s strong rhythmic chords and electric feedback. It was the first time an electric guitar had been played in St. Mark’s Church, provoking cheers and jeers. As this was hallowed ground for poetry, some objected, but Gregory was jubilant.”


“I was bombarded with offers stemming from my poetry reading. Creem magazine agreed to publish a suite of my poems; there were proposed readings in London and Philadelphia; a chapbook of poems for Middle Earth Books; and a possible record contract with Steve Paul’s Blue Sky Records. At first this was flattering, and then seemed embarrassing. It was a more extreme reaction than had greeted my haircut” (182).

“I thought of something I learned from reading Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. Crazy Horse believes that he will be victorious in battle, but if he stops to take spoils from the battlefield, he will be defeated. He tattoos lightning bolts on the ears of his horses so the sight of them will remind him of this as he rides. I tried to apply this lesson to the things at hand, careful not to take spoils that were not rightfully mine” (183).

“When we got to the part where we had to improvise an argument in a poetic language, I got cold feet. ‘I can’t do this,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what to say.’

“‘Say anything,’ he said. ‘You can’t make a mistake when you improvise.’

“‘What if I mess it up> What if I screw up the rhythm?’

“‘You can’t,’ he said. ‘It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.’

“In this simple exchange, Sam taught me the secret of improvisation, one that I have accessed my whole life” (185).

“An important new presence entered Robert’s life. David had introduced Robert to the curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. John McKendry was married to Maxime de la Falaise, a leading figure in New York’s high society. John and Maxime provided Robert with an entrance into a world that was as glamorous as he could have wished for. Maxime was an accomplished cook and hosted elaborate dinner parties where she served obscure dishes taken from her knowledge of centuries of English cooking. For every sophisticated course presented, there was equally well-spiced repartee served up by her guests. Those typically seated at her table: Bianca Jagger, Marisa and Berry Berenson, Tony Perkins, George Plimpton, Henry Geldzahler, Diane and Prince Egon von Furstenberg” (189).

“Being allowed to lift the tissues from these photographs, actually touch them and get a sense of the paper and the hand of the artist, made an enormous impact on Robert. He studied them intently–the paper, the process, the composition, and the intensity of the blacks. ‘It’s really all about light,’ he said” (190).

“I never anticipated Robert’s complete surrender to its powers. I had encouraged him to take photographs to integrate into his collages and installation, hoping to see him assume the mantle of Duchamp. But Robert had shifted his focus. The photograph was not a means to an end, but the object itself. Hovering over all of this was Warhol, who seemed to both excite and paralyze him.

“Robert was determined to do something Andy had not yet done. He had defaced Catholic images of the Madonna and Christ; he had introduced physical freaks and S&M imagery into his collages. But where Andy had seen himself as a passive observer, Robert would eventually insert himself into the action. He would participate in and document that which he had previously only been able to approximate through magazine imagery.

“He began to branch out, photographing those he met through his complex social life, the infamous and the famous, from Marianne Faithfull to a young tattooed hustler. But he always returned to his muse. I no longer felt that I was the right model for him, but he would wave my objections away. He saw in me more than I could see in myself. Whenever he peeled the image from the Polaroid negative, he would say, ‘With you I can’t miss’” (192).

Separate Ways Together

“It seemed like Allen was always on the road with Blue Oyster Cult…”(213).

Todd Rundgren and Bebe Buell  [We now know what this coupling produced]

Holding Hands With God

Slavery, Race, and the Making of American Literature

In 1820 the English critic Sidney Smith downplayed the emerging literature coming out of America and tied his critique to the practice of slavery: “Finally, under which of the old tyrannical governments of Europe is every sixth man a Slave, whom his fellow-creatures may buy and sell and torture?” The paradoxical fact that a nation founded on the principles of equality would develop into a slave holding republic was not lost on writers of the early national and antebellum period. American writers began to concern themselves with slavery issues. Tensions between the realities of slavery and the ideals of freedom inform much writing of the period.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, celebrated the democratic ideals while making clear that he regarded those ideals as best realized by whites. He presents black people as inferior to whites. African American writers regularly sought to counter such claims. Much African American writing of the period sought to abolish slavery, improve the condition of the free blacks, and challenge the hierarchical claims of the racial ethnologists by invoking (or reclaiming) the principles of the Declaration. [We can see in this example that two groups used the same document in different ways.] Others expanded the parameters of slavery and equality. Women reformers saw themselves as especially qualified to contest slavery, which they regarded both as a specific institution in the slave South and as one of many manifestations of patriarchal power.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was meant to humanize African Americans, but ended up in many ways having the opposite effect. She was hemmed in by stereotypes, not only regarding her subject matter, but against women writers in general. The spawn push-back. The debates on slavery exerted an especially strong influence on the literature of the 1840s and 1850s. If whiteness was the culture’s default and “superior” category of human existence, then, for many white writers blackness posed the threat (and sometimes appeal) of a dangerous otherness.

In 1857, the Supreme court ruled in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford that blacks could never become U.S. citizens and were inferior to whites. That ruling, which robbed Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence of its ambiguities and potential, made clear that the debates on slavery and race were debates about the nation. Much of the black writing ideals had them fleeing America altogether.

Tecumseh  (1775 ?-1813)

Was called by some the Greatest Indian. Tecumseh was unwaveringly hostile to the white Americans who relentlessly encroached on the lands of his people. When Indians began giving away land, Tecumseh attempted to organize a multi-tribal resistance to the Americans. In 1811 William Henry Harrison decisively defeated the Prophet’s (Tecumseh’s brother) forces at Tippecanoe. Tecumseh as not present at the battle. The defeat left the Prophet’s followers disillusioned, and Tecumseh had no further success in bringing the tribes together in resistance. He fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812 and was killed at the Battle of the Thames. The brief speech here derives from the “captivity narrative” of John Dunn Hunter, published in 1823. Hunter taken captive by Osage Indian as a baby and lived among them as a youth. When he was about ten he heard a speech made by Tecumseh. We must treat the following speech as such, but John Dunn Hunter was very moved at the time and the contents seem to match what Tecumseh was going through at the time.

Speech to the Osages

The white man wants to take us down so we must all stick together. When the whites first came here they were so weak that we had to take care of them. “Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death.” They are not our friends. They want ALL the land. They want to kill us all. They cheat us, despise us and think we are not good enough to live. We need vengeance. Make the tomahawk fat with blood and drink the blood of the white people. We are brave, but there are too many whites. We need the tribes to band together. “If we all unite, we will cause the rivers to stain the great waters with their blood. ” If we do not band together then they will simply take us down one tribe at a time. They are trying to turn us against each other. God wants us to win. Why should we fear the whites? They are not fast; easy to shoot. God will help us if we work together to destroy them. “We must be united; we must smoke the same pipe; we must fight each other’s battles; and more than all, we must love the Great Spirit; he is for us; he will destroy our enemies, and make all his red children happy.”

Cherokee Women

In traditional matriarchal Cherokee society, women held authority within their families, supervised land usage, occupied political offices such as Beloved Woman (or Ghighua), and participated in diplomacy. Motherhood was an organizing concept used to ground women’s claims to power. The diplomatic rhetoric of Cherokee women often focused on the physical and emotional bonds between mothers and children as a compelling reason to sustain peaceful relations with rival powers. In this address of Sept. 8, 1787, to Benjamin Franklin, then serving as the governor of Pennsylvania and as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, several representatives of the Cherokee Women’s Council ask Congress to pay attention to their desire for peace.

To Governor Benjamin Franklin

This side has smoked the peace pipe; hope your side will too. Consider that woman is the mother of All. We pull children from our own bodies; it is only right that people listen to us. I want to keep my children living in peace.

Logan  (1725 ?-1780)

Exact origins and identity of the man known as Chief Logan are not entirely clear. In English they called him John Logan. Agent of Virginia governor provoked a brief war in a bid for Indian lands in which Logan’s pregnant sister was mutilated along with her unborn child. This event was known as the Yellow Creek massacre and took place on the upper Ohio River. Afterwards, Logan was asked to attend a treaty meeting with Dunmore. He refused, but apparently sent a message that eventually was transformed into a speech in English known as “Logan’s Lament.” Not all points mentioned are factual. This speech was said to have been heard by a few who transcribed it, but the mystery surrounding the text deepens in light of the discrepancies between the historical facts as they have been uncovered and various statements attributed to Logan. He was later killed by his nephew who thought it a way to preserve his legacy. It remains unclear just how much of this speech represents the words that Logan actually spoke. It is the most famous instance of Indian oratory as a popular nineteenth-century American literary genre.

 

From Chief Logan’s Speech

Notes on the State of Virginia, Query VI

There is an introduction by Thomas Jefferson who says that in 1774 a robbery was committed by some Indians. The whites undertook to punish this outrage. Cresap and Great-house surprised a traveling and hunting party of the Indians, having their women and children with them, and murdered many. Among these families was Logan’s. This provoked his vengeance. The Indians were defeated. Logan disdained to be seen among the suppliants. He sent by a messenger the following speech to be delivered to Lord Dunmore.

Logan remained an advocate for peace. Such was my love of the white people. Col. Cresap, unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many.

Pontiac  (1720 ?-1769)

 

Pontiac was Ottawa and grew up in the Detroit area. Ottawa Indian meaning “commerce” or “to trade.” Strong trading and diplomatic alliances with the French. In 1760 the British defeated the French so the Indians were then refused supplies. The whites wanted to treat them as servants to the British Crown.

The Delaware Indians suffered at the hands of British, who had defrauded them of most of their lands. Neolin was a Delaware prophet preached the necessity of largely abandoning the things and manners of the Europeans. To persuade other tribes to join the Ottawas in resistance to the British, Pontiac is said to have given the speech printed here to an assembly of Ottawa, Huron, and Pottawatomi leaders in April 27, 1763.

This speech is taken from Francis Parkman’s book, but the original documents cannot be found. Parkman said the information came from John McDougall, but did he actually hear Pontiac speak? Who translated the work? We do not know. Pontiac’s speech can be understood as a bicultural composite, on the assumption that there is a strong likelihood that he spoke words to this effect based on his knowledge of the Delaware prophet.

Speech at Detroit

A Delaware Indian set off on a search for wisdom and began looking for the Great Spirit. He encountered three paths. He climbed a vast mountain of dazzling whiteness. He saw a beautiful woman arrayed in white. She said to throw away guns, ammunition, provisions, clothing. Wash yourself and be prepared to meet the Master of Life. The man went on a difficult climb and later found himself on the summit where he was welcomed into the celestial abode. He was conducted into the presence of the Great Spirit. God said he made the land for the red people. Why do you suffer the white man to live among you? Their products make you weak. And as for these English,–these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting-grounds, and drive away the game, you must lift the hatchet against them…but the French are cool. Don’t forget the prohibition to marry more than one wife and do not use magic!

 

J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur (1735-1813)

De Crevecoeur is a writer with a divided reputation and a mysterious and fascinating past. Crevecoeur rewards the reader’s close attention but only rarely provides firm conclusions about the author’s views and intentions. In “What Is an American?”–the most famous essay in his internationally acclaimed Letters from an American Farmer (1782)–Crevecoeur offers an idealistic portrait of the soon-to-be United States, one that resonated with later depictions of the nation as a melting pot and a land of opportunity. Farmer James, Crevecoeur’s persona in the Letters, is at his happiest and most hopeful here, and these qualities have sometimes been taken as his creator’s entire understanding of “the American, this new man”; however, the full text of the Letters tells a different story. It includes a shocking depiction of a slave suffering a brutal punishment; and it ends with Farmer James having moved his family to a frontier Indian village out of despair over the fratricidal violence unleashed by the Revolution. The complexity of Crevecoeur’s stance toward Revolutionary-era American society is greatly magnified by the uncertainties surrounding the author’s ultimate commitments. The uncertainties associated with the work itself are amplified by the differences between the English and French editions.

Born Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur in Caen, Normandy, he was the son of a minor nobleman. He came to reject Catholicism as oppressive, and perhaps for this reason he broke with his father as a teenager, sailed to England, and lived there with distant relatives. He traveled to French Canada and enlisted in the militia. He was wounded in the defense of Quebec during one of the major battles of the French and Indian War (1754-63). He later traveled to New York and was naturalized as a British colonial subject in 1765 and changed his name to Hector St. John. Sometimes he went by James Hector St. John, a moniker suggesting that he identified with his persona Farmer James. Crevecoeur traveled extensively in the colonies as a surveyor and a trader with American Indians. He married a wealthy Protestant woman, bought land in New York and settled into life on his farm. They had three children. In his first year at Pine Hill, Crevecoeur began to write a series of essays about America based on his travels and experience as a farmer.

He was arrested and imprisoned as an American spy in 1779, when he tried to sail from the British-held port of New York. Crevecoeur reached London in 1780 and sold his manuscript to a publishing house there, leading to the 1782 edition of Letters. There is evidence to suggest that the British edition was partially rewritten by an unknown editor to draw out its republican themes. He reconciled with his father then moved to Paris. The French translation of the Letters (1784) was recast more favorably toward France.

In 1783, Crevecoeur returned to the now victorious United States. He then learned that his farm had been burned in an Indian attack, his wife was dead, and his children were housed with strangers. After regaining custody of his children and moving to New York City, Crevecoeur was made French consul to New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. He was a great success as a diplomat. He later became an adopted member of the Oneida Nation.

Farmer James writes his letters in response to queries from an English visitor, who wishes to better understand America. The personal letter was a central genre in eighteenth-century literary culture, featured in epistolary novels as well as popular travelers’ and naturalists’ accounts, both factual and fictional. The American farmer was already a well-established figure in the political and social debates of the day.

Crevecoeur’s Letters engage the revolutionary-era debates over human nature and political organization vividly but unspecifically. He inserted himself into the same transatlantic debates over Americanness and its effects on humankind. Crevecoeur’s philosophical themes are woven through his work rather than presented discursively. This allusiveness distinguishes Crevecoeur’s Letters from the political writings of the day and lends the collection its lasting fascination.

 

From Letters from an American Farmer

From Letter III. What Is an American?

 

Begins lyrical and lofty in tone. The new continent is vast. Modern society, but different. No aristocratic families, no kings, no invisible power for the few. No great manufacturers employing thousands, few luxuries. Rich and poor closer to each other than in Europe. United by silken bands of mild government, all respecting laws, without dreading their power because they are equitable. Wants to convey the image that we are all equal and well taken care of. We have no princes. We are the most perfect society now in the world. We are a nation of immigrants. There never was a people, situated as they are, who with so ungrateful a soil have done more in so short a time.  

Crevecoeur writes of how much better this country treats her people. Laws protect people as they arrive and people are rewarded for their labors. People can buy land. Our government sets up the laws.

Crevecoeur sets out his definition of being an American. He mentions language, land, bread, protection and consequence. We all come from other countries and marry people from other countries. “He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men…” We can see our labors changing the world. Arts, sciences, vigor and industry. Incorporated into one fine system. We have new ideas and opinions. Simple subsistence. We are shaped through nurture and find little crime.

Crevecoeur describes different characteristics according to where people live. He mentions those that live near water, and those that live near the center of the country. More people are moving toward the center. The general indulgence leaves everyone to think for themselves in spiritual matters. He describes backwoods people saying they are the wildest bunch being the furthest away from the government. Where you live differentiates you from people living in other areas.

Various Christian sects introduced wear out, and religious indifference becomes prevalent. The nearer the church, the stronger the zeal. The strict modes of Christianity as practiced in Europe are lost. He gives an example. We do not care what religion you practice, so long as you are peaceful, who cares? Your religion doesn’t make you any better or worse than the next guy. “Their children will therefore grow up less zealous and more indifferent in matters of religion than their parents.” The fury of making proselytes, is unknown here; they have no time, the seasons call for all their attention. One may try a different religion’s church because it is nearby; others may stop attending altogether. Thus all sects are mixed as well as all nations; thus religious indifference is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of the continent to the other; which is at present one of the strongest characteristics of the Americans. Zeal evaporates in the great distance it has to travel. It burns away in the open air.

Woods people have to keep predators away. The farmer becomes the hunter. Woods people experience a lawless profligacy. Their wives and children live in sloth and inactivity; and having no proper pursuits, you may judge what education the latter receive. Half civilized, half savage. They are lonely and eat wild meat. No place of worship. They adopt the moroseness of ferocity of a native, without his mildness or his industry at home. As hunters it is divided between the toil of the chase, the idleness of repose, or the indulgence of inebriation. If European backwoods men can become so wild just imagine the Indians!

This place is settled by freeholders, the possessors of the soil they cultivate, members of the government they obey, the framers of their own laws, by means of representatives. The idle may be employed, the useless become useful, the poor become rich by cleared lands, cattle, good houses, good clothes. New arrivals meet with hospitality, kindness and plenty. We seldom hear of punishment or executions. We have elegant towns, industry and freedom. We have rural districts, convenient roads, good taverns and many accommodations.

If you want to work we have bread for you. America will also provide for your children, which is every parent’s fondest wish. “Go thou and work and till; thou shalt prosper, provided thou be just, grateful, and industrious.”

 

From Letter IX. Description of Charles-Town; Thoughts on Slavery; on Physical Evil; A Melancholy Scene

 

Charles-Town is a capital in the north and one of the richest provinces. Carolina produces commodities, has thriving industries and displays its riches and luxuries. It was build at the confluence of two large rivers. It have warfs, docks, and warehouses which are extremely convenient to facilitate this great commercial business. Inhabitants are the happiest and at the center of the beau monde. They have the richest planters with the best health and pleasure. Our space provides better health than the West Indians could ever dream. The growth of this town and province has been astonishingly rapid. The weather is temperate though sometimes when they have no sea breezes the sun is too powerful. There are elegant houses with sumptuous furniture and table settings. The three principal classes of inhabitants are lawyers, planters and merchants. The richest spoils are to them and nothing can exceed their wealth, power and influence. These men are more properly law givers than interpreters of the law. They have the skill and dexterity of the scribe with the power and ambition of the prince. We are a litigious society as well.

At the same time, scenes of misery overspread the country. They neither see, hear, nor feel for the woes of their poor slaves, from whose painful labors all their wealth proceeds. Here the horrors of slavery, the hardship of incessant toils, are unseen; and no one thinks with compassion of those showers of sweat and of tears which from the bodies of Africans, daily drop, and moisten the ground they till. [See ninth edition page 647 for deeper discussion of a slavery.]

A clergyman comes in to soften hearts against slavery. The people got upset and asked him to stick to the bible. We try to conceive of slavery as not so bad since it has been known in all ages and all countries. Does the cosmic order abandon mankind to all the errors, the follies, and the miseries, which their most frantic rage, and their most dangerous vices and passions can produce? Everywhere one part of the human species are taught the art of shedding the blood of the other; of setting fire to their dwellings; of leveling the works of their industry; half of the existence of nations regularly employed in destroying other nations. This displays the violence of colonization. Man is neither civilized in nature nor in city. I prefer the country. Too many people equals more trouble. These are my melancholy reflections. While on a walk I perceived a Negro suspended in a cage and left to expire [649]. I gave him a drink of water. The reason for this slave being thus punished was on account of his having killed the overseer of the plantation.

 

From Letter X. On Snakes; and on the Humming Bird

 

While on a walk I came across two snakes, one pursuing the other. The aggressor was of the black kind, six feet long; the fugitive was a water snake, nearly of equal dimensions. They mutually tried with open jaws to lacerate each other. The scene was uncommon and beautiful; for this opposed they fought with their jaws. The black one pulled the water snake back from the ditch. Victory seemed doubtful, inclining sometimes to the one side and sometimes to the other. They both plunged into the ditch. The black snake seemed to retain its wonted superiority. It incessantly pressed down under the water, until the water snake was stifled and sunk. The black snake returned to shore and disappeared.

 

Sarah Kemble Knight 1666-1727

Bostonian Sarah Kemble Knight kept a boarding house and taught school. Her keen writing skills allowed her to teach penmanship, copy court records and write court letters. Taught herself about the law and could settle estates. She traveled alone (while her husband was abroad) to settle her cousin’s estate. The journey was hazardous and not often attempted by women traveling alone. Her travel log was not published until the 19th century. Knight was a keen ethnographic observer of provincial America. She had a sharp humor and did not shy away from the crude or ridiculous. Her journal depitcts everyday life at the turn of the 18th century while revealing some of America’s most troubling prejudices.

The piece below is transcribed and edited. It provides a healthy contrast to the soul-searching journals of Knight’s contemporaries and reminds us of the manifold ways in which provincial Americans absorbed transatlantic models for the expression of the most common and intimate details of their lives.  Her work can be seen as a meditation on what made a provincial culture viable and mature. Knight was a woman who did not suffer fools gladly and she was tough-minded. Her work shows that women early in the eighteenth century had significant economic roles. The text here is from The Journal of Madame Knight, edited by George P. Winship (1920; reprinted 1935).

 

From The Private Journal of a Journey from Boston to New York

From Tuesday, October the Third

[not in new Norton Anthology edition]

This is a travel tale. Ms. Knight writes of a very arduous journey. She and her guide forge a river and travel on horseback through the woods at night. The journal is punctuated with poetry.

When she gets to the inn she cannot sleep for the two men arguing in the next room.

We read a short poem about the arguing men in the next room at the inn. They are arguing loudly. In the poem Knight is hoping the men will get drunk and pass out. She writes that she paid sixpence a piece for their dinners, which was only smell.

 

Saturday, October the Seventh

Having a young male accompany her on her trip–most likely for safety. Knight describes being lost and asking directions. When she arrives in New Haven she pays her guide who then leaves. “…informed myself of the manners and customs of the place and at the same time employed myself in the affair I went there upon.” Knight is discussing the culture and laws of Connecticut and how they are similar to Boston. She feels they come down a bit too hard on the punishment for some rules that don’t allow young people to be young. Public whippings were a preferred punishment. Speaking of negro slaves and Indians who steal and the language barriers that arise when the Native American is brought to court. For fun they go to lectures and perform military exercises. New Haveners marry early, usually before age 20. As a ritual, the groom will run from the chapel right before the joining of hands and his groomsmen then drag him back. The farmers are too friendly with their slaves and they even eat together “…and into the dish goes the black hoof as freely as the white hand.” Knight also speaks of a court arbitration between master and slave in which the slave won.

These are the most unchristian Indians I have ever seen. Indians can own land and live by their own laws, including having multiple wives. Both Indians and the New Haveners do not seem ashamed to get divorced. Indians can only be punished for offenses on English land. When Natives lose a loved one they paint their faces black, cut their hair, and won’t allow the dead’s name be spoken. Indians will trade almost anything for rum, but it is watered down by the English.

Knight tells a humorous anecdote of what usually occurs in a general store [613]. New Haveners have native intelligence but you can’t always tell. Country people should keep to their own hearths and clean. They dress plainly. They celebrate election day like a national holiday.

 

From December the Sixth

Knight is now in New York. Pleasant and compact on a fine river with a shipping harbor. There are brick skyscrapers. She describes the insides of houses, especially fireplaces. Most hue to the Church of England. They are not as strict as Bostonians regarding keeping the Sabbath. New Yorkers are courteous and civil. Knight goes into detail regarding the jewelry worn by middle class Dutch women. You can get a good stiff drink here. In the winter they ride sleighs and visit friends.

 

January the Sixth

[not in new edition]

The journey was so tough that her horse died! (Or acted as if he did!) Knight procured another horse and carried on. She returned home to her “tender mother and dear and only son.” The entire trip took five months. Knight returned home unscathed.

Anne Bradstreet: 1612-1672

More educated than most women of the day. When she first came to the new world she was resistant to change. She joined the Boston church feeling it was the way of God. Bodily weak, she still had eight children. Was prone to exploring her conscience. She struggled with supposed truths found in the scriptures; didn’t believe in miracles. Her belief in God came from seeing the world with her own eyes.
She wrote poems to please her father. Her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, brought with him to London a collection of her poetry and it was printed in 1650. The Tenth Muse was the first published volume of poems written by a resident of the New World and was widely read. The themes she explored were the ages of humankind and the seasons, concern for family and home, and the pleasures of everyday life.

The Prologue
I’m not well-versed enough to write of kings and wars. I do get jealous of not having more talent. I am simple. You cannot fix up my writing–it is irreparable. I will not get better at writing poetry given time. If I do write well they will think I must have stolen it. Yes, men are the best, but give us women credit where credit is due. Your works are awesome, but perhaps when you read mine both of our works could shine more brightly.

In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory
This poem is an ode: originally, a poem to be sung. In modern use, a lyrical poem, rhymed or unrhymed, typically addressed to some person or thing and usually characterized by lofty feeling, elaborate form, and dignified style.
The Proem [prelude]
Even though you are dead you are still famous. Your glory was so great that everyone could feel it. You’ve had exceptional gifts and sacrifices made in your name: “Mine bleating stands before thy royal hearse.” You did not disdain the poor, so I know you will also listen to me; I still sing your praises.
The Poem
Nothing can compare to your actions. She showed everyone that women can be smart. She showed up the men on many counts; she kicked butt! I literally do not have enough time to tell you all the cool things she did. She was better than Semiramis, better than Tomris. Better than Dido. Better than Cleopatra. Better than Zonobya. What does our Queen’s accomplishments say about the women’s race? You can no longer say we cannot reason. If we are the same in heaven then she will be ruling from a thrown. She is dead now–and there will never be another like her. “Here lies the pride of queens, pattern of kings, So blaze it, Fame, here’s feathers for thy wings.”
Her Epitaph Another

 

To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who Deceased, July 31, 1653, and of His Age 77
I have a duty to lament through verse; he taught me everything. His daughter knows best how to praise him. “Who heard or saw, observed or knew him better? Or who alive than I a greater debtor?” Everyone who knew him could also give him praise. He helped found this land and made it easier for those thereafter. He did not brag because he put worth into the afterlife in heaven. He did not show off–his thoughts and actions were more important. He served us well here and now he is at peace. I will see him again in heaven.
The last section entitled “His Epitaph” sums up the thought in truncated form.

To Her Father with Some Verses
I honor you by being honorable myself–like you taught me. I’ll try to live right in your memory–pay it forward.

Contemplations
Long days; thinking of summer. If there are so many wonders on earth, imagine how awesome God must be. Our world is so wonderful it seems like a heaven. A tall leafy tree; how long have you been growing? You have lived over many years–a reflection on the concept of eternity. What is glory to the Sun? No wonder people made the sun a god; if I hadn’t known better I would have too. The sun bursts upon the land; you wake up every living thing. We all know of the path and power of the sun. You make the seasons. Are you so powerful that we cannot look upon you? Are you so far away we cannot reach or imitate you? Think how powerful a god would have to be to make a sun. I walked alone and began to sing. Nature shows me my God, but I am not worthy. The grasshopper and cricket seem to sing better to the Lord than I. Looking back in time–God can see the farthest back. The fall of Adam. Cain is born and has no idea of his fate. Eve reflects back on a paradise lost and that she gave it all away for knowledge. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings, but Cain’s was rejected. Cain begins to plot against his brother. Abel suspects nothing before being killed. First blood was spilled–much more to come. Cain thought others would help in his quest, but none would. Cain falls into despair, guilt, worry and builds a big wall around his city. The elders hope the best for their young and teach them, but sometimes they go astray. The old ones seemed to accomplish so much yet the younger generation has hardly done anything. We eat, drink, and be merry until our end draws near. The earth rejuvenates itself with every spring, but when man grows old he must lie in a grave. We are born above all creatures but are cursed and cannot return to our innocence. Who will outlive: man or nature? Sitting outside. Nothing keeps the river from moving to its destination. Little streams mix with you, the river. I want to lead my children on their hoped-for path. Fish go wherever they may go in happiness. As I was contemplating fish, a bird began to sing–so I turned more toward hearing and wished for wings. Oh, to be a bird without care. The bird is zen. The birds all sing in the summer mornings then go to warmer places in the winter. Man is the opposite–full of woe and frustration, but no matter how much pain we endure we do not concentrate on there being a heaven. When the sea is smooth the captain thinks he is in charge, but when a storm comes he realizes his boundaries. When life is good you think you live in heaven, but when bad times come you realize you are a mere mortal. Time brings death. Life passes into the forgotten. All except the Lord will pass to dust.

 

The Flesh and the Spirit
In a secret place of crying (?) I heard two sisters discussing the past and the future. Flesh wanted money and looks. Spirit thought of the other world. Flesh asked if spirit could live solely on meditation–how could spirit live without all the worldly pleasures? If you desire it, you can see it. Set up monuments in your name. Have silver, pearls and gold. Take what you want–the world can supply more. Keep what you obtain. Spirit says “Enough!” I will fight you all the way on this. You were born of Adam, but I of God. You flatter, but that does not gain my trust. When I followed your ways my life was miserable! I look for higher things. I spend my time better than you. I value things you cannot see. My robes will one day outshine the sun. There is a description of heaven btw. lines 85-95. Heaven will not take you. I’ll live there and you can have the earth.

The Author to Her Book
What she would say to the second edition of her book:
This book was not strong; it was stolen. They didn’t spruce you up at the printer’s. You should have never been published. I would like to fix you up, but the more I try, the more mistakes I see. I couldn’t even come up with ways to make you better. Tell them you have no father and your mother is so poor that she sent you away.

Before the Birth of One of Her Children
Everything ends. We have joys and sorrow. No bond is strong enough to stave off death. How soon may I die? I hope you live longer than me. Let my faults die with me. Remember my good traits. Protect those who live on with you. If I am gone with you read this, kiss this page and remember me.

To My Dear and Loving Husband
This is a love poem.

A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment
How can you stand to be apart? I have so sun without you. I need your warmth. I’ll take the children to tide me over–for I see you in them. I will welcome you home and I want you to stay so we will be one again.

ROGER WILLIAMS: 1603-1683 English

Rabble-rouser. Shipped back to England for spreading “dangerous” ideas. Before they could catch him he debunked to Massachusetts where he hung with the Narragansett Indians. He stood for the idea of religious freedom. Others who felt religiously restricted followed Williams to Rhode Island. In 1663 Charles II granted Rhode Island a royal charter in which freedom of conscience was guaranteed. This idea was eventually viewed as so “American” that provision was made for it in our 1791 Bill of Rights.
Williams worked upon four main ideas that others viewed as threatening.
Believed that the land was not King Charles I’s property–it belonged to the Indians.
No person that was unconverted or uncommitted to a certain religion should be required to pray in churches or to swear an oath in court.

Mass. Bay Colony ministers persuaded the King of England that they wanted to remain with the Church of England. Williams felt that not only should the ministers pull away from the mother church, they should repent that they ever supported it.
That civil authority was limited to civil matters and that magistrates had no jurisdiction over the soul.
He wanted separation of church and state so that the religion of Jesus Christ would not be tainted by worldly affairs.
He found it important to get to know the natives and learn their language. He recognized a civility in the Indians. He did not want to convert people–he felt they were outside the people of God and to force them into a different belief would be unchristian.

from A Key into the Language of America: To My Dear and Well-Beloved Friends and Countrymen, in Old and New England
Williams wanted to create a way to converse with the Natives. A “key”. He wanted to spread civility and perhaps Christianity.
The Indians see all the stuff we have which makes them think our God is greater. When you let them know that Englishmen themselves used to be without creature comforts, the Indians see that they too can evolve.
The Indians feel they are lost and wandering. As an Indian named Wequash lay dying I spoke to him of his soul. Wequash spoke of problems with God and God having problems with him until he repented. The Indian said he had a “naughty heart”, but continued to pray.

Directions for the Use of the Language
Indian language is copious and they sometimes have many words for one thing.

from An Help to the Native Language of that Part of America Called New England
These short pieces are excerpts from chapters from a larger work. They are poetic, short philosophical ponderings sharing information about the Indian way of life and sometimes comparing it to the English way of life. The “chapters” cover topics such as: salutations, eating and entertainment, family and home, travel, the sea, religion, the soul, and art. The chapter on the soul gives many examples of Indian words and their translations. In addition to the translations he sometimes combines short narrative pieces expanding upon an idea.
from Chapter I. Of Salutation
The courteous pagan shall condemn Uncourteous Englishmen, Who live like foxes, bears and wolves, Or lion in his den. The wild barbarians with no more Than nature, go so far.
from Chapter II. Of Eating and Entertainment
Of wholesome beer and wine. Sometimes God gives them Fish or Flesh, Yet they’re content without. And what comes in, they part to friends And strangers round about. Natives share what little they have. They have taken care of me when I needed it.
from Chapter VI. Of the Family and Business of the House
Both English and Native have similar day-to-day concerns.
from Chapter XI. Of Travel
In nature with none to comfort me I had God as my companion.
from Chapter XVIII. Of the Sea
While even on the dangerous sea I recognized God’s wonders.
from Chapter XXI. Of Religion, the Soul, etc.
I must acknowledge I have received in my converse with them many confirmations of those two great points, Hebrews II. 6: That God is. That He is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek Him. When Natives experience crisis they figure God is displeased. They have many gods. The Catholics also have many gods. The Natives believe in the sun god, moon god, sea and fire gods. They have a modest religious persuasion not to disturb any man. They believe that the souls of men and women go to the southwest. The souls of murderers, thieves and liars wander restless abroad. If you want to discuss God with the Natives, here are some things you can say: [gives translations].

from Christenings Make Not Christians: Or a Brief Discourse Concerning That Name Heathen, Commonly Given to the Indians [as also concerning that great point of their conversion]
I inquire into the name heathen, which the English give Native Americans. “How oft have I heard both the English and Dutch…say, These heathen dogs, better kill a thousand of them than that we Christians should be endangered or troubled with them; better they were all cut off, and then we shall be no more troubled with them…” “…this word heathen is most improperly, sinfully, and unchristianly so used in this sence. The word heathen signifieth no more than nations and gentiles…” “why nations? Because the Jews being the only people and nation of God, esteemed (and that rightly) all other people, not only those that went naked…their stately cities and citizens, inferior [to] themselves, and not partakers of their glorious privileges…” “…Christians, the followers of Jesus, are now the only people of God…Who are then the nations, heathen, or gentiles, in opposition to this people of God? I answer, All people, civilized as well as uncivilized, even the most famous states, cities, and kingdoms of the world…” “…for the hopes of conversion, and turning the people of America unto God…we are all the work of his hands…” Both Europeans and Native Americans are sinners. Natives are intelligent, ingenuous, plain-hearted and inquisitive.
Catholics are converting people the wrong way by using unethical ways on the Natives. I could have converted the whole country if we are speaking of the Natives. The conversion umbrellas change with each new leader. So, many who convert are profane themselves. “It must not be (it is not possible it should be in truth) a conversion of people to the worship of the Lord Jesus by force of arms and swords of steel…” “The will in worship, if true, is like a free vote…Jesus Christ compels by the mighty persuasions of his messengers to come in, but otherwise with earthly weapons he never did compel nor can be compelled…The not discerning of this truth hath let out the blood of thousands…”

 

from The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, in a Conference between Truth and Peace
This is an excerpt from The Writings of Roger Williams, vol. 3.
This piece is Williams’s side of the debate with John Cotton on freedom of religion. He asks how turning against those who do not hold your same beliefs can be holy; everyone thinks their religion is the best.
If we believe one religion to be true, what weapons do you think God wants us to use on the others. Christianity can be superstitious, bloody, oppressive, deadly, and like a “fiery furnace”. It is anti-Christian to persecute others for their beliefs. If you don’t practice the religion YOU think is best then you are sinning. You may have to try a few religions until you find one that fits. You cannot force a religion into a person’s soul.
We must not let go of this freedom for any reason. We must be ruled by truth.

A Letter to the Town of Providence
This is an excerpt from The Writings of Roger Williams, vol. 6. The topic is religious autonomy and civil restraint. He calls this “liberty of conscience”. Since there are people of all religions they should neither be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship, nor forced to pray. We can have our own religions, but civility must reign.