Smithsonian

Thomas Morton on New England Indians in New English Canaan, 1637

Of their Reverence, and Respect to Age.

It is a thing to be admired . . . that a Nation yet uncivilized should more respect age than some nations civilized, since there are so many precepts both of divine and humane writers extant to instruct more Civil Nations: in that particular, wherein they excel, the younger are always obedient unto the elder people, and at their commands in every respect without grumbling; in all councels, (as therein they are circumspect to do their actions by advise and councell, and not rashly or inconsiderately) the younger mens opinion shall be heard, but the old mens opinion and councell embraced and followed.

Of their Trafficke and Trade One With Another.

Although these people have not the use of navigation, whereby they may trafficke as other nations, that are civilized, use to doe, yet doe they barter for such commodities as they have, and have a kinde of beads instead of money, to buy withall such things as they want, which they call Wampampeak [wampum]: and it is of two sorts, the one is white, the other is of a violet coloure. These are made of the shells of fish. The white with them is as silver with us; the other as our gould: and for these beads they buy and sell, not only amongst themselves, but even with us.

We have used to sell them any of our commodities for this Wampumpeak, because we know we can have beaver againe of them for it: and these beads are currant [currency] in all the parts of New England, from one end of the coast to the other. . . .


That the Salvages live a contended life.

A Gentleman and a traveller, that had been in the parts of New England for a time, when he returned againe, in his discourse of the Country, wondered, (as he said,) that the natives of the land lived so poorly in so rich a Country, like to our Beggars in England. Surely that Gentleman had not time or leisure while he was there truly to informe himself of the state of that Country, and the happy life the Salvages would leade were they once brought to Christianity. . . .

If our beggars of England should, with so much ease as they, furnish themselves with food at all seasons, there would not be so many starved in the streets, neither would so many gaoles [jails] be stuffed, or gallouses [gallows] furnished with poore wretches, as I have seen them. . . .

According to humane reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people leades the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the mindes of so many Christians: They are not delighted in baubles, but in usefull things.