Two months after his birthday almost to the day, on July 19, 1805 John’s prayers for rescue were at long last answered. As he recounts in the Narrative:
“… on a day that will be ever held by me in grateful remembrance of the mercies of God, while
I was employed with Thompson in forging daggers for the king, my ears were saluted with the
joyful sound of three cannon, and the cries of the inhabitants exclaiming, Weena, weena
– Mamethlee – that is, strangers – white men.”
The brig Lydia, a trading ship from Boston commanded by Capt. Samuel Hill, was the first trading ship to venture into the harbor since news of the 1803 massacre that killed John’s comrades had spread among the ship merchants causing them to avoid the area. Maquina’s ego and his greed made him anxious to board the ship and resume trade with the foreign merchants; however, he hesitated for fear that the white men would seek revenge for the massacre incident. It occurred to the chief that if John wrote a letter to Captain Hill explaining that he had been treated well by Maquina and that he should be welcomed onboard the ship without being harmed, it might protect him.
At this critical moment, John’s greatest abilities as a writer and communicator were called upon as he set about composing a letter that the chief with his limited knowledge of the English language might believe was a letter of recommendation when in fact it was a plea to hold him as prisoner in exchange for the release of John and Thompson. The success of such a plan depended on John’s ability to keep a straight face, pretending he had no interest in escaping from the village when in fact he could barely contain his joy and excitement at the prospect.
"On my giving the letter to Maquina, he asked me to explain it to him. This I did line by line,
as he pointed them out with his finger, but in a sense very different from the real. When I
had finished, placing his finger in a significant manner on my name at the bottom, and eyeing
me with a look that seemed to read my inmost thoughts, he said to me, “John, you no lie?”
Never did I undergo such a scrutiny, or ever experience greater apprehensions than I felt at
that moment when my destiny was suspended on the slightest thread."
Both men were taking a calculated risk as they eyed each other. It is a testament to the power of the written word, that one simple document with its multiple meanings would determine the fates of these two men.
The chief, ultimately convinced that the letter was legitimate, got into his canoe and accompanied by a couple of his men, set out for the brig anchored just offshore. The Captain upon reading John’s letter understood that he should take Maquina prisoner until such time as John and Thompson were both released. The Narrative describes the dramatic conclusion as both men get returned to the ship and John arranges for Maquina -- who had fully expected to be killed -- to be released back to his village. In the end, it was with mixed feelings that Maquinna and John parted ways…
“Then Maquina, grasping both my hands, with much emotion, while the tears trickled down
his cheeks, bade me farewell, and stept into the canoe, which immediately paddled him on
shore. Notwithstanding my joy at my deliverance… I could not avoid experiencing a
painful sensation on parting with this savage chief, who had preserved my life, and
in general treated me with kindness, and considering their ideas and manners, much better
than could have been expected."
Links to Related Sites
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Rod Collins - Lincolnshire Thro' History, Life, Lens and Words
The Old Palace Lincoln - Elegant Bed and Breakfast
National Portrait Gallery - London
College of Arms
The Jewett Family of America
History and Geneaology of the Jewitts of America
Marvinas Bay Lodge
First Peoples of Canada