In The Tempest, Shakespeare wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” In history, sometimes unusual leadership combinations occur for the strangest reasons.
- William Procter and James Gamble combined their soap and candle manufacturing into one business when they married sisters. (Not saying that marriage makes men miserable… that is another story)
- Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield combined their love of food into a successful ice cream company
- Bombastic George Patton and tempered Dwight Eisenhower combined their leadership styles into a force to defeat Fascism in World War II
- But the Wampanoag Sachem and Great Chief Massasoit and the Plymouth Colony Saint Edward Winslow? What in the world did they have in common to build a peace agreement that would last 54 years? Well, Shakespeare had it right… misery.
Massasoit was Miserable:
The Great Sachem Yellow Feather, otherwise known as Massasoit, was in a miserable condition:
- Five years before the Saints and Strangers arrived, he had lost most of his people due to illness, leaving the Wampanoag weak.
- Their enemy, the Narragansett, hadn’t been touched by the plague and they could easily overrun the Wampanoag.
- They had the unknown threat of European settlers
- He did have two advantages…two men from other tribes who had come to live with the Wampanoag. Squanto, who had been kidnapped by Spanish traders and had just come back to his home village, had lost his tribe to illness during his absence. He was fluent in English and Spanish, and knew European customs. Samoset, another man whose tribe had been decimated, had just come from the area known as Maine. He spoke English too.
Edward Winslow, and the Saints and Strangers, were Miserable
Edward Winslow, well educated, spoke Greek and Latin; he was a writer and printer, and a Pilgrim leader. The Saints and Strangers were in miserable shape:
- Half the original colony was dead. The religious Saints, looking for religious freedom, and the Strangers, looking for economic opportunity, had just found misery. Most of the women had died, leaving men and children with only 5 women remaining alive.
- The whole colony was malnourished
- The colony was surrounded by Native Tribes. Were they friends? Foes?
Massasoit and Winslow: Wise and Practical Leaders Create an Agreement
- Massasoit sent Samoset to Plymouth Colony first. Samoset entered the colony and said, “Welcome Englishmen,” in perfect English
- Seeing the poor conditions of the Englishmen, Massasoit sent Squanto to the Englishmen with provisions and instruction to help the Saints and Strangers survive.
- Samoset brought Massasoit, along with 60 braves, to Plymouth to meet the Englishmen
- Edward Winslow, wearing armor, greeted Massasoit giving him gifts of knives and a jeweled chain. Then Winslow offered himself as a hostage and took him to meet Governor Carver, who offered Massasoit food and drink.
- As time progressed and mutual trust was built, Massasoit and Carver made an agreement, using Squanto as interpreter.
- They promised to not hurt one another
- Any offender would be punished by the victim’s people
- If one group was attacked, the other would come to their aid
- This agreement lasted for 54 years, and both groups honored their commitments.
Massasoit and Winslow developed a deep friendship over the years. Massasoit became deathly ill, and Winslow stayed in the village at his side, nursing Massasoit back to health using his time-honored remedy, chicken soup.
These Strange Bedfellows Received Mutual Benefit from the Agreement.
- Massasoit had an ally with powerful weapons against their greatest enemy, the Narragansett.
- The Saints and Strangers had loyal Indian friends, including Squanto, who helped them survive.
- They had a mutual peace that lasted 54 years