There is a heated debate in Connecticut around whether the statue of John Mason at the capitol in Hartford should be removed. While a number of media outlets have covered the debate –The Hartford Courant, Connecticut Mirror, Vermont and Connecticut NPR, etc.—what I find perplexing is that not a single one of these have offered John Mason’s own words, as preserved, in A Brief History of the Pequot War.
While many historians, educators, descendants of Mason, and others lend their own accounts of who they believe Mason was, and whether history should remember him as a hero or villain, surely the most objective statement of who he was, and how he wanted to be remembered, can be provided by Mason, himself.
On file at the Library of Congress, online, and on a significant number of university and educational websites, is a copy of A Brief History of the Pequot War, written by John Mason, and published posthumously. It’s unclear why this document has not been cited or quoted in this debate.
The decision of whether Mason’s statue remains is scheduled for December 14, 2021. I feel strongly that Mason’s own words must be considered as a part of that decision-making process. I hope you will publish the following of Mason’s statements. In this matter, Mason can speak for himself.
In the event the decision is to preserve the statue, as state historian, Walter Woodward, has suggested, and provide “enhanced educational programming;” then, Mason’s own words “WE MUST BURN THEM,” should be inscribed. This would correctly preserve for history, the actions of Mason and his troops.
On May 26, 1637, Captain John Mason and Captain John Underhill led 90 men in a strike against the Pequots. The following are excerpts from Captain Mason’s diary. He describes the attack:
“…(he) saw two Soldiers standing close to the Pallizado, with their Swords pointed to the Ground. The Captain told them that We should never kill them after that manner: The Captain also said “WE MUST BURN THEM, and immediately stepping into the Wigwam where he… brought out a Fire-Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wig-wams on Fire. Lieutenant Thomas Bull and Nicholas Olmsted, beholding, came up and when it was thoroughly kindled, the Indians ran as Men most dreadfully Amazed.”
And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the ALMIGHTY let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames where many of them perished.”
“Some of them climbing to the top of the Pallizado, others of them running into the very Flames…”
“…God was above them, who laughed [at] his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn making them as a fiery Oven. “…having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hands. Thus did the LORD judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies !”
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doth wondrous Things;…[and, who] was pleased to smite our Enemies …and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.”
[Explanation of the Hands. The natives were burned alive while they slept in their wigwams—many of them women, children, and elderly. As they tried to escape the fire, the militia used their swords to cut off their hands.]
Victoria Lackey lives in Middletown.