A historian revisits the bloody confrontations between American Indians and New England colonists in the mid-17th century, finding much behavior to deplore but one leader to admire.
Daily Beast contributor Warren (Giap: The General Who Defeated America in Vietnam, 2013, etc.) relies heavily (and explicitly) on the previous works of historians of the era, quoting extensively. But he also uses his contemporary viewpoint to analyze conflicts between the natives and the newer arrivals from England. Emerging as a towering figure of tolerance is Roger Williams (1603-1683), the Puritan minister who was determined to understand the local Narragansett and advocate for religious freedom and cultural tolerance. As Warren shows us—after rightly noting that the voices of the Indians are too often silent in the historical record—Williams, after establishing the Rhode Island colony, worked tirelessly on behalf of all; it was only when Puritan expansionism (and rampant lying and greed) grew intolerable that frontier warfare erupted. The fighting ended with predictable results, with mere numbers and superior firepower being the keys. Warren distinguishes himself by trying to understand all the motives of the principal players in this sad, sanguinary drama, but, as he reveals, it was basically the oldest story of all: people who believe their God is the only true one slaughtering those who beg to differ—and arrogating for themselves the losers’ lands and property. There are several simultaneous stories going on, and the author handles them all deftly: Williams (his banishment from Massachusetts, his establishment of Rhode Island), the power of the Massachusetts and Connecticut Puritans, the struggles of the various Indian tribes in the region, the bloody battles, and colonial historiography in general.
A solid book of American history that will cause readers to grimace at the fire and fury and perhaps blush with shame for the suffering and the shamelessness.