The Life of John Papoonung – Part 3

Papoonung then continued his speech, and made complaint of some abuses which the white people put on them in trade. He said that the prices promised them for their skins had not been given them when they were brought in for sale, and that this had led their young men to play unfair tricks, by leaving the ears and paws attached to the skins. “This,” he added,” is not as it ought to be. We should not leave our skins in such a manner, but our corrupt hearts have found out this way of dealing.”

“Brother, you see there is no love nor honesty on either side. You do wrong in altering your prices, and the Indians do wrong in bringing skins to you with so much badness on them. Brother, we propose to fling this entirely away, for if it remains, we shall never agree or love one another as we ought to do. Now, brother, I desire you may not raise your goods to too high a price, but lower them as you can afford it, that we may live and walk together in one brotherly love and friendship, as brethren ought to do.

“Brother, I must once more acquaint you that my chief design in making this visit, is to confer about religious matters, and that our young men agree with me in this, and want to love God, and leave off their former bad courses.”

“Brother, with regard to what I have mentioned about religion, it may be some may not think as I do, or may think slightly of these matters, but I am fixed in my principles, and shall always abide by them. I am glad I have an opportunity of mentioning these several matters in presence of such a large audience of young and old people. The great God observes all that passes in our hearts, and hears all that we say to one another.”

He then finished with a solemn act of prayer and thanksgiving, which he performed very devoutly.

The next day the governor returned a kind and suitable answer, promising that care should be taken to prevent the cause of complaint in trade, encouraged them to persevere in their religious progress, and wished them a prosperous journey.

From the foregoing speech of Papnonung, it appears that he had had many satisfactory interviews with Friends on religious subjects. Anthony Benezet’s account of this visit states, “Friends had solid opportunities with them. They regularly attended meetings during their stay in town, kept themselves quite free from drink, and behaved soberly and orderly.”

From the accounts derived from these Indians, it appeared that there had been for some years a time of religions awakening among them, and especially of late under the ministry of Papoonung. Two or three others among them had recently felt themselves called to labor in the same line. They appeared very earnest in desire that true piety, that inward work by which the heart is changed from bad to good, might be promoted. This change they expressed by the heart becoming soft and filled with good. As they had come to experience this, they had absolutely refused to join the other Indians in their wars, telling them that they would not, though they should be killed or made negroes for declining it. Papoonung said, whatever argument might be advanced for war, he was fully persuaded that when God made man, he never intended they should kill or destroy one another.

When the time came for them to return, a Friend from the city accompanied them as far as Bethlehem, who reported on his return that their conduct was commendable, and that the behavior of Papooning afforded him much satisfaction and instruction.

He says: — “His deportment was such as manifested his mind to be quiet and easy, accompanied with a becoming solidity and gravity. He dropped several expressions, which as they were interpreted to me, appeared worthy of note. Being asked what he thought of war, he answered, ‘It has long been told to my heart, that man was not made for that end, therefore I have ceased from war. Yet I have not labored to bring about peace so much as I ought to have done. I was made weak for that work by the bad spirit striving to overcome the good in my heart. But I hope the good spirit will overcome the bad, and then I shall be strong to labor heartily to bring people from war to peace.’

“Relics of the Past No. 38 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.5 Oct. 26, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758