Editor’s note: Doug Phillips is writing a series of columns for WND about the quadricentennial of the settlement of Jamestown, Va., being celebrated in June. See his previous commentaries.
America’s first permanent European settlement was largely a color-blind society. Religious and cultural differences, not melanin count, divided peoples inhabiting the Virginia of 1607.
In fact, it was exactly 394 years ago yesterday on the banks of the James River that ethnic reconciliation was declared by the founding fathers of America. On that date (April 5, 1614) America’s first sanctioned “biracial” couple were joyfully brought into the bonds of holy matrimony with the official blessing of both the church and the state in Jamestown.
The name of this couple: John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas.
To secure the rights to the marriage, John Rolfe wrote a lengthy, detailed, impassioned, theological treatise to the governor of Virginia in which he argued for the propriety of a Christian man marrying a woman of different ethnic origin, where the woman was a convert to Christianity.
Rolfe not only explained that his motivation was “for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our countrie, for the glory of God, for my owne salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ …,” but he declared:
If not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanities, but to labour in the Lords vineyard, there to sow and plant, to nourish and increase the fruites thereof, daily adding witt the good husband in the Gospell … Likewise, adding hereunto her great apparance of love to me, her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God, her capablenesse of understanding, her aptnesse and willingnesse to receive anie good impression, and also the spirituall, besides her owne incitements stirring me up hereunto.
Virginia’s Gov. Dale not only endorsed Rolfe’s interpretation of the Scripture, but he blessed the marriage and later sought to marry a converted Indian woman for himself.
This legal and religious precedent established by Pocahontas and Rolfe predominated for at least half a century. And the principle was very simple: It is faith, not skin color or ethnic background, that ultimately unifies or divides men. Where man and woman are truly united in Jesus Christ, there must be no legal impediments to their marriage.
The Jamestown settlers knew nothing of anti-miscegenation laws. Their practice and precedent of “interracial” marriages would not be reversed until much later in Virginia history, and that in direct response to tensions arising from the tragic introduction of chattel slavery to our nation.
The issue was religion, class and culture, not color
The significance of “The Pocahontas Letter” and the union of Englishman and Indian in the bonds of Christian marriage is of central significance to the real issues at play in Jamestown. It demonstrates what Tim Hashaw, author of the acclaimed book “The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown” has observed:
For most of the 17th century, class and religion were the dominant markers of social prejudice. Race did not become an issue in marriage until nearly the end of the century.
Of course, this flies in the face of many of the historical revisionists presently engaged in the wholesale indoctrination of America’s children through the official state-sponsored Jamestown Quadricentennial events. As previously noted in this column, they would have us believe that the Jamestown settlers of 1607 were virtual Nazis and Klansmen who came over to Jamestown and left a legacy of slavery and racial intolerance.
But this is rhetoric and fiction, not history.
For the Jamestown founders, it was the animistic religion and worship of spirits and devils by the natives, not their racial identity, that made Indian communities culturally inferior.
This worship of devils gave rise to a culture that not only lacked a written language, but that welcomed and encouraged bigamy and forms of ritual torture against men, women and children. Especially grievous to many was the brutal murder and cannibalization of children, a horror depicted in great detail by John Smith himself in a chapter from the second book of his account of Virginia, entitled “Their Solemn Sacrifices of Children, Which They Call Black-Boyes.”
These concerns were substantive. And they remained concerns long past Jamestown. They were even echoed in the Declaration of Independence where Thomas Jefferson laments the unlawful union of King George with “savages” who waged war on women and children:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
The legacy of Rolfe and Pocahontas meant that Africans living in Virginia could marry those who shared a common faith, even where the skin color was different. Of the Africans of the first Jamestown generation, many free blacks married free white women more or less of the same class status and religious faith. Examples include Phillip Morgan, John Graweere, Emanuel Driggus, Tony Longo, Francis Payne and Richard Johnson – all black men who married English women.
The simple truth is this: The political correctness police do not like the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. They don’t like it because it was symbolic of the triumph of Christianity over paganism. They don’t like it because the entire account flies in the face of their theories of racial bigotry of European Christians. They don’t like it because they are embarrassed by an Indian princess who abandoned pagan culture and proclaimed her devotion to a Christian God.
And that is why they are doing everything in their power to rewrite history and to change a record that has been largely unassailable for the better part of four centuries.
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