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Making War and Minting Christians

Making War and Minting Christians: Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England

R. Todd Romero
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk132
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  • Book Info
    Making War and Minting Christians
    Book Description:

    In this book, R. Todd Romero traces the interaction of notions of gender, the practice of religion, and the conduct of warfare in colonial America. He shows how Native and AngloAmerican ideas of manhood developed in counterpoint, in the context of Christian evangelization, colonial expansion, and recurrent armed conflict. For the English, the cultivation of manliness became an important aspect of missionary efforts. Conversion demanded that the English “make men” of the Indians before they could “make them Christians,” a process that involved reshaping Native masculinity according to English patriarchal ideals that the colonists themselves rarely matched. For their part, Native Americans held on to older ways of understanding the divine and defining gender even as they entered English “praying towns” and negotiated the steep demands of the missionaries. Evolving ideas of masculinity resonated with religious significance and shaped the meaning of warfare for Natives and colonists alike. Just as the English believed that their territorial expansion was divinely sanctioned, Indians attributed a string of victories in King Philip’s War to “the Great God” and the perception that their enemies “were like women.” Trusting that war and manliness were necessarily linked, both groups engaged in ritual preparations for battle, believed deeply in the efficacy of the supernatural to affect the outcome of combat, and comprehended the meaning of war in distinctly religious ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-171-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On a March 1524 day, a party of Carolina Indians curiously watch as a “young sailor” who stands in the surf tries to interest them in some “bells, mirrors, and other trifles.” In the distance lies a French ship,La Dauphine, while closer to the action is a small boat that has brought the would-be trader and his compatriots to shore. He is not the most careful sailor. A wave knocks him unconscious. Acting quickly, the Indians carry the sailor to safety, perhaps saving his life. The man returns to consciousness only to begin shrieking, even as his surprised rescuers...

  6. Part I: Gender Counterpoint

    • [Part I: Introduction]
      (pp. 15-20)

      As summer turned to fall in 1622, the Plymouth colonists, who had arrived aboard theMayflowertwo years earlier, once again began worrying about the coming winter. Although they were rarely on friendly terms with the unruly settlers at Wessagussett, necessity forced the Plymouth colonists to join with their troublesome English neighbors to trade for corn with Indian communities living to the south and on Cape Cod. Initially, bad weather kept the expedition in Plymouth. But in November, Plymouth Governor William Bradford and a small party of Englishmen departed with their Patuxet Indian ally and guide Squanto (also known as...

    • CHAPTER 1 “In the shape of a Man, a Deare, a Fawne and Eagle”
      (pp. 21-30)

      Status and spiritual power played an important role in defining Indian manhood and womanhood. Edward Winslow, for example, commented that “the younger fore reverence for the elder … do all meane offices whilst they are together, although they bee strangers,” and noted that Indian children could not wear their hair in the style reserved for adult men and women. He also explained that boys were barred from smoking tobacco until they were men. William Wood confirmed the importance of hair, noting its significance in marking not only age but also ethnicity, political affiliation, and status. Additionally, Roger Williams reported that...

    • CHAPTER 2 “Manly Christianity”
      (pp. 31-45)

      Manliness was at once essential to Christian living in colonial New England and a frequent source of anxiety. Colonists did not create new gender identities or a new gender system when they moved to the region. Rather, they adapted English patterns to new social and demographic conditions, implementing a brand of patriarchalism that reflected not only Old World practices but also a commitment to reforming human behavior as a means of creating godly communities on the American coast. Within this context even Christian history was sometimes understood in gendered terms. InManly Christianity(1711; figure 2), Cotton Mather divided the...

    • CHAPTER 3 “A man is not accounted a man till he doe some notable act”
      (pp. 46-56)

      Natives and Anglo-Americans shared the view that manhood needed to be accomplished. They often came to different conclusions, however, about which activities were worthy or important. An examination of masculine accomplishment in four arenas—physical prowess, gaming, hunting, and speechways—illuminates areas of overlap and divergence. Colonists considered Native practices that departed from their understandings of manliness as markers of savagery and difference. Colonial officials and missionaries endeavored to transform these areas of Indian life and used their perceptions of Indian savagery to justify colonization. At the same time, colonists lauded those areas of Indian manliness that approximated English ideals....

    • CHAPTER 4 “If he is fat and sleek, a wife is given to him”
      (pp. 57-70)

      Colonial marriage practices suggest some of the ways in which manhood was juxtaposed with womanhood. Marriage served—along with its other emotional, familial, economic, diplomatic, and religious dimensions—as an arena for masculine accomplishment. Instead of a comprehensive treatment of the various marital practices in colonial New England, however, I focus particular attention on two elite marriages—one English and one Native—to further consider the importance of honor, exchange, and hospitality to Indian masculinity.¹

      Written early in the history of the English colonization of New England, Emmanuel Altham’s brief description of the celebrations in Plymouth Colony commemorating the April 14,...

  7. Part II: Minting Christians

    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 71-76)

      Reports that Montowompate’s older brother, Wonohaquaham (also known as Sagamore John), considered converting to Christianity caused a flurry of commentary, revealing many of this section’s concerns. Friendly with colonists, Wonohaquaham’s people lived in the area that comprises present-day Malden, Everett, Revere, and Chelsea, Massachusetts. As early as 1631, Wonohaquaham was speaking English and “affecting English apparel and houses,” while also “speaking well” of the Puritan God. An early missionary tract boldly declared that the sagamore had become “convinced” of the superiority of Anglo-American culture, claiming that he would go so far as to “resolve and promise to leave theIndians, and...

    • CHAPTER 5 “Man-like civilitie”
      (pp. 77-89)

      Manhood and colonization were intertwined for the early modern English settlers. Both colonial promotional literature and missionary writings reflect a belief in the transformative power of English masculinity and Protestantism to remake the New World in ways that Catholic Portuguese, Spanish, and French men could scarce approximate. Using John Smith’s 1616 promotional pamphletA Description of New Englandas a starting point, this chapter contends that industry, honor, Protestant Christianity, and martial prowess largely defined colonial masculine ideals. None of these aspects of colonial manhood remained constant, but all four—labor, honor, religion, and violence—shaped colonial expectations and realities....

    • CHAPTER 6 “Formerly … a harmlesse man”
      (pp. 90-106)

      As they coped with the destructiveness of colonialism, Native men and women found much in Christianity that proved appealing or at least amenable to long-standing ways of defining gender and religion. Although their persistence and adaptation are testament to their resourcefulness, it is the case that Indian communities considered becoming Christian at moments when they faced fewer palatable options for autonomy. They regularly dealt with disease, violence, dislocation, and the undoubtedly sad knowledge that English villages appeared to grow steadily at the same time as shrinking Native communities sought to reconstitute and form strategies for future vitality. Becoming Christian offered...

    • CHAPTER 7 “Endeavour … to follow the English mode”
      (pp. 107-120)

      The counterpoint between missionary ideals and praying-Indian realities is especially revealing in two highly symbolic areas: adornment and the built environment. Symbols mattered in colonial New England. Missionaries saw the adoption of English clothing and hairstyles by potential Indian converts as an important measure of the progress of civility and Christian living. For Native Americans, adornment had long formed an important means of conveying a range of information about political affiliation, ethnic identity, gender, age, rank, martial expertise, sexual maturity, personal accomplishments, and spiritual power. Colonists too found adornment deeply resonant. Praying Indians negotiated missionary demands that dress and hairstyles...

    • CHAPTER 8 Deficient Fathers and “Saucy” Children
      (pp. 121-136)

      Missionaries held strong fathers as key to reordering Native American families and instilling Christian sexual mores. Their view was part of a broader Anglo-American belief that orderly monogamous marriages served as the bedrock on which a productive, Christian, and civilized society was built. Whereas Native Americans found neither shame nor sin in premarital sex, the missionaries’ ideal limited all sexual activity to monogamous, procreative marriages. The orthodox Puritan view of male sexuality held sexual activity outside of marriage to be unmanly and as potentially dangerous to the individual as to the society: hence the missionary concern with reforming male sexuality...

  8. Part III: Making War

    • [Part III: Introduction]
      (pp. 137-140)

      Amid the still unburied dead and smoldering houses left from a successful attack on Providence in March 1676, an elderly Roger Williams and the young translator Valentine Whitman agreed to parley with the Narragansett sachem Wesauamog, his compatriot Pawatuk, and an unnamed warrior from the mixed group of Indians who had recently assaulted the settlements. The Indians, in choosing violence over peace, Williams declared with disgust, “forgot that they were Mankind, and ran about the Countrie like Wolves tearing, and Devouring the Innocent and peaceable.” He further remarked that “they had noe regard for their Wives, Relations … nor to...

    • CHAPTER 9 Manitou and Militia Days
      (pp. 141-155)

      Warfare was a deeply religious occasion for both Indians and colonists. Cross-cultural exchange as well as ritualized occasions like training days well illustrate this dynamic and offer an excellent way to begin exploring the connections between manliness, religion, and warfare. Take, for example, a striking series of exchanges between the Narragansetts and the Plymouth colonists in January 1622. Events began when a nervous, unnamed Narragansett messenger and “a friendlyIndian” named Tokamahamon arrived in Plymouth bearing a curious gift from the Narragansett sachem Canonicus: “a bundle of new arrowes lapped in a rattle Snakes skin.” Recognizing this gesture as a hostile...

    • CHAPTER 10 “Best to deal with Indians in their Own Way”
      (pp. 156-176)

      Beyond the origins and stakes of a given conflict, warfare was regarded as intrinsically religious and served as an arena for the performance of manhood, where dominance was viewed as manly, and defeat was implicitly tied to effeminacy, weakness, and failure. What defined a manly and honorable mode of warfare, however, remained contested. Natives and Anglo-Americans understood the connections between religious practice, manliness, and combat divergently, while also drawing different conclusions over the meaning of war. At the same time, the different ways in which manliness and religion figured in warfare shaped the evolution of martial cultures and combat in...

    • CHAPTER 11 “The God of Armies”
      (pp. 177-192)

      For Anglo Americans, war was imbued with religious and gendered significance: God’s hand shaped events big and small in ways, Puritans assumed, that sinful, imperfect humans could not fully discern, however mightily they tried. Writing in the 1650s, for example, Edward Johnson reported that New England military preparedness was part of a larger struggle that demanded Christian manliness. “Thus are these people with great diligence provided for these daies of war,” he explained, “hoping the day is at hand wherein the Lord will give [the] Antichrist the double of all her doings,” by employing soldiers “nursed up in their Artillery...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 193-198)

    Even as disaster turned to victory at the end of King Philip’s War, colonial officials worried that many English observers, especially at Whitehall, the seat of government in London, were blaming the conflict on local mismanagement of Indian affairs and colonial defense. Responding to such criticism, the Plymouth Colony secretary Nathanial Morton wrote to King Charles II in July 1677 with the hope of establishing an interpretation more amenable to colonial understandings of recent events. Responding to a number of the criticisms leveled at the colonial governments, he insisted that the naysayers were wrong: colonial government, land transactions, and legal institutions...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 199-248)
  11. Index
    (pp. 249-255)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 256-256)