John Williams: (1664-1729) Contribution as American Author

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      John Williams was a minister in the frontier town of Deerfield, Massachusetts where he was taken as a prisoner in 1704 during the French Indian Wars. He was a military raid on his village by French Canadians and the Abenakis and Caughnawaga Mohawks during the French and Indian wars. Along with his wife and children, he was then marched to Canada. Most of them were held by the French. He published a kind of a journal entitled The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion in 1707. It is nothing but a descriptive account of his being captive for two long years among the Mohawk Indians and French Jesuits in the unknown Quebec. Consequently, it is the most appealing description of a man’s desperate struggle against two enemies — to truth and to “heathen cruelty” of one and the popish rage of the other. He had not only to endure extreme hardship and loss, including the killing of two of his children during the initial raid and also the death of his dear wife. When he was suffering in his capture the Puritan community was feeling more threatened and than it ever had been previously among other things, by an influx of new immigrants most of whom had no interest in Puritanism.

      During this critical period, the Jesuits tried to convert the natives to Catholicism. An experience, he found almost as harrowing as that of his physical deprivation. The later part of the book contains his letters written to his son, also a captive, who had been separated by him and later successfully converted by the Jesuits. Later his son reverted to Protestantism along with his father. The story of his captivity is set, for him, in a larger narrative in which events are thought to be a sign of divine disfavor and an indication that the things must gradually change. In 1706 he was released but his daughter was not. In fact, she later married an local Indian and joined the Roman Church and refused to return again to New England. In his book, Williams stresses that the afflictions of the raided and captured Indians have been visited on the colony for their sins committed.

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