William, The Patriarch is the first book in The Watertown Chronicles, a saga of one of America’s immigrant families. William, an early emigrant to Massachusetts, his wife, and their ten children live through the pivotal period in colonial history that surrounds the devastating King Philip’s War of 1675-76 in New England. The Chronicles comprise the twelve stories of these individuals, beginning in 1666 with the birth of the tenth sibling and ending with Samuel’s wedding in 1686. Though William, the Puritan patriarch, dies before King Philip’s war begins, he serves a colonial system that gives rise to the war. He is also the progenitor of the individuals who fight in and survive it. In the first book, the actions of the Watertown settlers alter the face of Indian lands, and the factionalism of European nations fracture the Indian alliances. In the subsequent books, William’s family reap the war that their father, a man who bowed to the Puritan ways, has unwittingly sowed for them. King Philip’s war ravaged more than half the New England villages, destroying eleven; its death toll was more than one thousand colonists (two percent of the fifty thousand New Englanders) and three thousand Indians (fifteen percent of the twenty thousand Algonquin Indians). After victory, the colonial government either executed or sold the remaining Indians into slavery, annihilating the East Coast native population, which was already fewer than half that of Europeans before the war started. This war was also pivotal in colonial history. The Royal Charter for The Massachusetts Bay Colony was unique in that it didn’t specify England as the seat of the governing board of stockholders, and board members bought out any stockholder who chose to stay in England. Unlike any other charter colony, The Massachusetts Bay Colony conducted regular meetings of company officers and stockholders— required of all colonies—in Boston instead of England. The officers resided in New England. Beginning in 1630, the Puritans set up a theocracy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. “Freemen”—white male church members who owned property and paid taxes— elected a governor and a single legislative body called the Great and General Court, made up of assistants and deputies. Although the colonists’ hunger for land has often been attributed to greed, clearly land ownership was more importantly a key to suffrage and social standing. Likewise, the doctrine of ‘divine providence’ was as much a ploy to keep settlers from returning to England as it was a religious belief. After the war, the colony lost this independence; in 1685, King Charles II revoked the Royal Charter and placed Massachusetts under the Dominion of New England, appointing a governing body. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around those years of rising tensions between the emigrating colonists and natives because the complexity of competing nations and shifting alliances is unparalleled. The new colonizers were still tied to the wars and rivalries of the European nations they’d left while immersed in those of the Indian nations surrounding them. English, French, Spanish, and Dutch immigrants were culturally more diverse than the Indian nations, tribal identity notwithstanding. European nations didn’t share a language, dress alike, or even eat the same food, though they shared technologies. The Massachusetts tribes were by comparison homogenous. Christianity did unite Europeans, even as the Protestants splintered the ways to worship. Some Massachusetts colonists made it their mission to convert natives to the Puritan faith, to unite with them. However, that intent politically divided the tribal people, complicating their alliances even more. The English colonists banded together to meet their unified interests, forming the New England Confederation, a military alliance of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. However, internal conflicts over boundaries, uneven contributions to the armies, and funding diminished its efficacy by 1662. The confederation no longer conducted regular meetings when the war began. Though it officially declared war on the Wampanoag and their allies in September 1675, conflict and resentment continued to erode its operation in the theater of King Philip’s war.
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