The Lobster Coast

The most seasoned traveler I know spends at least a week and usually a good deal more on the Coast of Maine, and if you’ve been there, you know why. If you haven’t, I can only say you should go and see the Gulf of Maine.

However you might feel about the influence of ‘intelligent design’ upon geography, geology and climatology, it does seem a place uniquely suited to human habitation, where industrious people might subsist happily, as they did for centuries, on the bounty of the seas and the forests.

It’s a place of remarkable beauty, too, where the most famous painters in America have always come for inspiration.

New Englanders have this sense that nothing of any importance happens outside New England. And Mainers are the high priests, the Levites of New Englandism.

I picked up a really good book about Maine for a buck at a tag sale in Deerfield, The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard. This is a really good read, thorough, scholarly, and, well, readable. It tells the whole story of the early settlements and the relations between the Abenaki and the Europeans of different stripes.

There’s a lot of interesting detail about the original proprietors of New England, mostly royalists from the West of England and how they allowed a settlement in Massachusetts of roundheads, mostly from the East.

I am always left sick with disgust when I come to King Philip’s War. That’s when the ‘Puritans’ of Massachusetts demonstate what vile people they were.

The colony at Plymouth was saved, in its first year, by a shipment of fish from Maine, and in its second year by the generosity of Massassoit, who is shown in the traditional depictions of the Thanksgiving Dinner.

As for Massassoit, the pilgrims poisoned one of his sons and displayed the head of the other on a pike for twenty years. The Mainers who helped them in their first year were subjugated by force and forced to take part in King Philips War, which wiped out every settlement north of York.

These vile people wanted Philip’s land to set up a distillery in Narragansetts Bay to take part in the molasses to rum to slaves triangle trade, so they deliberately provoked a war in which the people who suffered most were Europeans on good terms with the Indians and Indians on good terms with Europeans.

Providence was burned twice. The so-called ‘praying Indians’ were sequestered on an island in Boston Harbor where most of them starved to death,

The so-called ‘puritans’ were the Cheneys and Bushs and Rumsfelds of their day, who unleashed the dogs of war for their own personal gain. It was very like Bosnia, too, where the cosmopolitan areas that welcomed everyone suffered most.

If there’s anyone who buys that John Winthrop ‘City of a Hill’ crap that Ronald Reagan was peddling, my fond hope is they will wake up and smell the rotting corpses of innocent men, women and children.

But I always see red when I read about King Philip’s War, and there’s a lot more to The Lobster Coast.

It’s like Woodward, not actually a Mainer by birth, but who may become one by adoption, as many have before him, gives the reader an entree into this one-of-a-kind world.

He speaks of Monhegan Island as a world where “scions of great moneyed families are socially and politically outranked by persons who earn their living stuffing rotten herring in nylon bags in an effort to ensnare large bottom-feeding bugs.”

“Where democracy is practiced directly by the citizens and aristocratic privilege is unrecognized or unknown.”

“A simpler, perhaps nobler world that might have been, but can never be again.”

Anyone who knew Martha’s Vineyard back in the day knows what he is talking about.