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By Nicholas Humphrey

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Tribal and band rivalries, old quarrels, and Philip’s relative youth all worked to effect what can only be called a failure. When the struggle did finally erupt, Native forces were unified in neither leadership nor cause. It is one of the great seductions in the study of history to assume that events of great consequence have equally grand causes. King Philip’s War was surely the product of forces set in motion long before 1675. But “forces set in motion” is a phrase that tends to obscure the faces of the past and the decisions made, the alternatives chosen or rejected.

Colbert understood the imperial value of trade as a means to secure Indian allies, but he feared that trade alone could never provide a reliable foundation for French power in North America. But none of Colbert’s grand plans could ever come to pass so long as New France lacked competent leadership and sufficient military force to break the Iroquois stranglehold. To that end, Colbert and the king sent to Quebec Jean Baptiste Talon as intendant (civil administrator) and Alexandre de Prouville, seigneur de Tracy, to take charge of military affairs.

He could either acquiesce to English demands for land and claims on band sovereignty or risk resistance and face the Pequot fate. The alternatives seemed stark—survival under foreign domination or resort to some kind of violent action. Philip did not pursue a single policy. At various times he sought compromise, while at other moments there was open talk of war. ” Throughout the 1660s and into the 1670s, Philip attempted to export his brand of pan-Indianism and force it into a military alliance.

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