1676 The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

5 November 2010

I can't imagine living through such a nightmare.  This book is the record of Mary Rowlandson's capture and captivity by some Native Americans in the year 1676 during King Philip's War.  This little war lasted a few years between the English colonists in Plymouth and the Wampanoag tribe.  Metacom was their chief, but the English called him King Philip.  Relations between the two groups had been good for a long time, but things were getting strained.  Metacom didn't mind living in peace with a few English colonists, but more and more were coming.  Soon, Metacom was afraid he might lose all of his land, and determined to fight.  One man, called John Sassamon by the English, from the Wampanoag tribe was friends with the English and had even been educated at their little university, Harvard.  He came to warn them, but the English didn't listen.  John Sassamon soon after paid for this act with his life.  The murder had been witnessed, and the colonists captured the Native Americans responsible, tried them, and executed them.  Metacom was furious over this breach of his power.  The war was on.

Both sides took prisoners.  Mary Rowlandson was a prisoner of the Native Americans for eleven weeks and five days, until her husband was finally able to ransom her.  Her husband, their three children and several friends and relatives from her town were also taken, though they were all separated and she only saw some of the others from time to time during her captivity.

She records the daily circumstances of her captivity in a very frank manner and describes how her faith in the Lord helped her to bear up under her afflictions.  Her captors were a rather interesting people.  Some of them were very nice and kind to her, and others were horribly cruel.  I thought it was interesting that though some of them mistreated her terribly, she makes it clear that "yet not one of them ever offered me the least abuse of unchastity to me, in word or action."   Rowlandson ends her record by saying, "Before I knew what affliction meant, I was ready sometimes to wish for it...For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth...but now I see the Lord had his time to scourge and chasten me."

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Colonial history, but be aware that Mary tells it how it was.  There is no over-dramatization, but that seems to drive her experience home with more strength.  I cried when reading this, and at times felt awe and disgust.  On a side note, I think it is important to read historical memoirs such as this in the context of the time in which it was written.  Don't judge Rowlandson by the rather strict guidelines on tolerance and political correctness that we have today or you'll miss the point of this book.  I think it's important to remember that terms like 'savage' were not necessarily derogatory, and also to keep in mind the view-point from which the book was written.