Jill Lepore, In the Name of War

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JillLepore, Inthe Name of War

InTheName of War,Jill Lepore asserts that in the late 17thcentury in New England, in a time of change and cultural anxieties,King Philip’s War served as a way for colonists to “reclaim theirEnglishness.” The English immigrants wanted to conquer both thephysicalwar and the war of words.This claim is backed by several chroniclers such as:

  • Rowlandson

  • Hubbard

  • Mather

  • Wheeler

KingPhilip was a famous Native Indians’ chief previously referred to asMetacomet.He was also a new convert to Christianity from Native Americancustoms and vehemently fought the New England settlers with theintention of chasing them away out of the colonies after theybreached the agreement. He felt threatened by the colonist who hadestablished several new towns in his territories. Besides, the chieffelt disrespected after the colonists summoned, gave him an ultimatumto surrender the guns his people owned. The hatred and competitionfor supremacy between the native Indians and the colonists finallyled to the Metacom’s resistance that lasted between 1675 and 1676.Although both the settlers and the Native Indians sustained heavycasualties, inTheName of War,Jill Lepore asserts that in late 17thcentury New England, in a time of change and cultural anxieties, KingPhilip’s War served as a way for colonists to “reclaim theirEnglishness.”

Oneof the colonists’ emphasis was maintenance of law and order. Theeffort is evidenced by the effort they put in arresting andprosecuting the three Indians who allegedly killed John Sassamon forcollaborating with the settlers. Unlike the Native Indians who killedsuspects on cold blood and without allowing them an opportunity todefend their innocence, the settlers prosecuted the suspects and thenexecuted them after they confirmed they were guilty (Lepore 18).

Thesettlers in New England assumed to be in command over the NativeIndians. They pressurized the community to sell their lands to theimmigrants. Initially, the Indians were willing to trade the lands inexchange for the goods the British traders offered. However, thetrade came to a halt when the settlers ran out of supplies. Theyattempted to force the indigenous tribes to sell their land so thatthey could find additional settlement. However, the Indians declinedto sell their ancestral lands (Lepore 27). Besides, King Metacombegan a bloody attack on the British settlements close to the Swanseaborder. The conflict was the first and the last major confrontationbetween the Native tribes and the British colonists. Consequently,the war gave the settlers an opportunity to crush the Indianresistance and prove their superiority and supremacy in the region.

TheKing Philip War also intended to stop the British settlers fromconstructing additional frontier towns. As such, the militantdestroyed the cities, maimed the defenders of the settlementsalongside the women and children. However, the settlers “reclaimedtheir English identity through crushing the rebellion of the localIndians. The militia out-numbered the settlers, but they stillmanaged to inflict casualties and defeat the warriors. Theachievement was significant to the colonists because they could nowexpand their territories to the regions that were previouslyinhabited by the local tribes. The victory symbolized the settlers asgroups of determined and unstoppable force and ready to spread outtheir “Englishness.”

JillLepore also identifies disloyalty as another significant distinctionbetween the native Indians and the British colonists (p. 34). One ofthe causes of the Metacom War is attributed to the death of JohnSassamon. Sassamon was a native Indian, who had converted toChristianity. He worked as an interpreter and adviser of ChiefMetacom. Besides, he reported the events that his people did. Heallegedly informed the British of an eminent operation that hispeople were planning against the settlers. The Indian spy whoinformed Captain Benjamin Church, the British Army general, whereKing Philip was hiding also emphasizes the Indians’ disloyal totheir leaders, unlike the colonists who never collaborated with theassailants (Lepore 55). By the end of the war, the settlers hadrecruited several Native Americans into their military. Thissymbolized superiority over Metacom’s militia.

Inthe 1600s, culture coflict was a common occurrence in the regions theBritish settled. The colonists believed their civilization wassuperior to other people. As such, they gradually trained andencouraged the Podunk, Nipmuck, Wampanoag, Nashaway and NarragansettIndian tribes to shun their primitive culture for Christianity.However, the native Indians were diehards. Only a few peopleconverted into Puritanism. As a result, King Philip’s War gave thecolonists an opportunity to eliminate the inferior and primitiveIndian tribes from their settlements. Lepore notes that the languageand culture of the native Indians almost became extinct since the fewsurvivors who still opposed British supremacy. The intensiveoperation to banish the Indians aimed at reducing culture conflicts.Majority of the native people who were spared to being sold intoslavery had converted into Puritanism (Lepore 61).

Insummary, King Philip’s War inlate 17thcentury in New England served as a strategy for the settlers to“reclaim their Englishness.” They fought a grueling battle thatproved their war superiority to the Indians. Besides, they managed toacquire more land to construct the frontier cities after driving outthe original inhabitants.

Inaddition, the book claims that the war helped the colonist to reclaimtheir Englishness superiority. Both the British colonists and theAlgonquian-speaking Indian tribes suffered heavy casualties in thebattle. However, the New England settlers believed that the conflictdeclared them as the supreme ruler since they emerged out victoriousand almost rendered the activities of native Indians extinct in theregion. Nonetheless, Mary Rowlandson in Jill Lepore, Inthe Name of War,describes the war as the God’s punishment to the colonists forneglecting the Puritan faith values.

InLapore’s book, Rowlandson describes the Indians as bloodthirstypagans. She attributes their savageness to lack of mainstreamreligion such as Puritanism. One of the instances she portrays theassailants as barbaric was the treatment she received after she wascaptured. She was a carrying a six-year child who was badly wounded. The child cried incessantly because the mother did not have a firstaid kit to treat the wounds. Besides, she also had severe woundsthat stunk and pained her day and night. However, the Indiansneglected the writer and her poor child. In the author’sperspective, the Indians could have shown mercy to the mother and thecrying child by providing them with basic medication if they werePuritans. On the contrary, the kidnappers occasionally threatened tokill the crying child instead of giving her medication.

Isat much alone with a poor wounded child in my lap, which moanednight and day, having nothing to revive the body, or cheer thespirits of her, but instead of that, sometimes one Indian would comeand tell me one hour that &quotyour master will knock your child inthe head”(Lepore).

Asa chronicler in this book, Mrs. Rowland was amazed by the hostility,therefore, indicating that her culture would find mercy on such ahelpless person.

Onthe same note, she justifies the barbarism of the Indians through thedescription of other horrendous actions they commit while attackingthe settlers. In her view, she considers children as defenseless andinnocent victims of the war that do not deserve to be hurt during theconflict. The colonist militias spared the lives of women andchildren from the Indian settlements they captured. They incarceratednon-warriors, captured fighters as well as children or sold them intoslavery instead of killing them in cold blood. The war ethics of thecolonists is incomparable with the Indians since they imprisoned KingPhilip’s wife and son. They did not transfer the anger of theatrocities that the chief had committed to the British families. Ifthe British did not practice restraint, they could have killed thechief’s family instantly just as their tribe’s warrior had doneto the colonists’ defenders.

Hebegged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me) butthey would not hearken to him but knocked him in head, and strippedhim naked, and split open his bowels”(Leopore). “Hebegged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me) butthey would not hearken to him but knocked him in head, and strippedhim naked, and split open his bowels”(Lepore).

Thecolonist’s defender did not offer to betray his community becausehe was loyal to his people. The promise of giving the Indians moneyfor them to spare his life cannot be considered as a betrayal. Insummary, Rowland mainly portrayed the major difference between theNative Indians and the British settlers as their religious beliefs.In fact, she describes the Podunk, Nipmuck, Wampanoag, Nashaway andNarragansett Indian tribes as savages because they lack faith in amerciful religion such as the Puritanism. She also argues that theirGod gave their enemies power to inflict massive damage to theircommunity because they had neglected the Puritan lifestyle they aresupposed to follow. The entire war was a deliberate strategy theirmaker had planned to punish the sinners as well as well as make theremaining faithful develop stronger faith after he delivered themfrom the jaws of death.

InLepore’s book as well, Hubbard identified disloyalty as anothersignificant distinction between the native Indians and the Britishcolonists. One of the causes of the Metacom War is attributed to thedeath of John Sassamon. Sassamon was a native Indian, who hadconverted to Christianity. He allegedly informed the British of aneminent operation that his people were planning against the Britishsettlers. The Indian spy who informed Captain Benjamin Church, theBritish Army general, where King Philip was also hiding emphasizesthe Indians’ lack of loyalty to their leaders. On the contrary,not even a single colonist is portrayed as a sellout. In fact, eventhe soldiers who attempted to plead for their life with the Indianspromised them material gift instead of betraying their people.

Hubbarddescribed the most significant difference between the colonist andthe Indians as loyalty to their leaders. The British refrains fromselling out their people, while at least a couple of Indians traitorslet down their people. One of them is Sassamon while the other is theinformant who collaborates with the British to flush out King Philipsfrom his hiding place in the mountains.


Lepore,Jill. TheName of War: King Philip`s War and the Origins of American Identity.New York: Vintage Books, 1999. Internet resource.