Primary Source Analysis: The Causes and Results of King Philip’s War (1675)
One significant part of the Colonial New England experience was the relationship between the natives of the surrounding areas and the colonists. This relationship experienced significant change leading up to King Philip’s War and during the conflict. In the midst of the war, Edward Randolph wrote a report about what he believed to be the causes of the war and the results of it. The document itself comes from the time of the war, but not near the actual end of the war itself. Despite this, the document does offer some information of merit.
The first five paragraphs of the report are devoted to what Randolph thought some of the causes or contributing factors of King Philip’s War were. One cause that Randolph talked about at considerable length concerned how religion played a part in starting the war. According to his report, some had reported that the magistrates from Boston were too aggressive in trying to Christianize the natives, although he noted that it was done to keep the natives in line with their laws and own gains. He also mentioned that this was a response to how alcohol affected the natives and attempting to alter the punishments for natives becoming drunk in order not to upset them further.1 Another point worthy of note that Randolph brought up as a cause from a religious standpoint involved Jesuit priests. Randolph stated that some people were under the impression that the Jesuit priests tried to incite the natives into open conflict with the English while trying to form an alliance with France to drive the English out of the area and were given supplies in order to get the job done.2
In terms of other contributing factors that Randolph discussed in his report, he mentioned weaponry and attempts at control trade with the natives. Randolph thought it was a bad idea that the colonists taught the natives how to use European weapons and how to repair them. He did note that the colonists might have taught the natives too well. In regard to controlling trade, he said laws were put in place in order to not sell the natives weapon supplies. The fur trade was also factored into this, which Randolph stated that trading for furs had to be authorized and when it was not, traders could potentially sell natives ammunition or weaponry in exchange for furs, leading to further problems in Randolph’s opinion.3
Randolph did talk about what had happened with the war. He mostly talked about how many people had been killed while fighting the natives while those who were not associated with the colonial military, like church officials could remain in their homes without being exposed to the harsh conditions of the conflict out in the wilderness. Other points of note relating to the war itself was how much property damage Randolph accounted for in the New England colonies and Randolph thought that the war was nearing its end. He thought this because natives were surrendering and peace terms were issued, with one of the chief provisions being whoever killed a colonist or native on the opposite side would be held accountable for their actions.4 There are a few points to take away from this document.
Randolph’s report does make a good case for what some of the contributing factors or causes of King Philip’s War were. He also makes a good assessment of what the colonists could have potentially done differently to avoid the war or at the very least could have limited how they aggravated the natives. The source is limited in a couple of major ways. First, it may have been erroneous on Randolph’s part to conclude the war was nearing the end based on a few surrenders from the natives and the peace terms drawn up, but he did not say if both sides actually agreed with the terms. Second, because Randolph was an investigator for the King of England, he mostly likely was not looking out for the colonists given the overall tone he has and is critical of their actions leading up into the war. The other problem with the source is that it seems to be part of a larger report, since at the beginning of the document, Randolph starts with stating it is the eighth enquiry, but the collection this source comes from does not state how much of the report was chopped out or how long it was in its complete form. Despite the flaws, it does have some good information about some of the causes of King Philip’s War and what had happened by the time the report was completed.
In conclusion, Edward Randolph’s The Causes and Results of King Philip’s War (1675) offers good insight into what the potential causes or contributing factors were in relation to King Philip’s War. Despite the flaws of the document, the information offered did have some merit, but did not offer a complete picture of the whole war. If the issues between the natives and the colonists had been handled differently, the war might not have come about.
1 Edward Randolph, The Causes and Results of King Philip’s War (1675), in American History Told by Contemporaries, vol. 1, Era of Colonization, 1492-1689, by John Gould Curtis (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1910; Google Books, 2007), 458, http://books.google.com/books?id=kpNLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed October 17, 2012).
2 Randolph, 458, http://books.google.com/books?id=kpNLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed October 17, 2012).
3 Randolph, 459-460, http://books.google.com/books?id=kpNLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed October 17, 2012).
4 Randolph, 460, http://books.google.com/books?id=kpNLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed October 17, 2012).