Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
On May 20, 1648, at what’s now the corner of West John Street and Cantiague Rock Road in Hicksville, Robert Williams and a small gathering of Christian men met with Pugnipan and other representatives of the Matinecock Indians and acquired the rights to settle the land that became Hicksville, Jericho, and parts of Woodbury. The event was captured in a 1936 WPA mural by Joseph Phsioc and resides in the Hicksville Middle School. Most interesting is what these Quakers and their Indian hosts pledged to one another: “do for miself and in beehalfe of [others] to bargin sell and make over unnto the sayed Robert Williams his ares executors administrators and asines from teme pesuably to ingay forever for us our ares and sucksessers forever also.” Other 17th century Indian deeds in our area read similar.
The peaceful Quaker folk from England granted the right to live in harmony amongst the Indians and their posterity. Their “ares and sucksessers” included Ellias Hicks who, from the Jericho Meeting House, called slavery “the most unrighteous and cruel act anyone can be guilty of short of murder,” and those Quakers in Jerusalem (North Wantagh/South Levittown) who shunned addictive and injurious things like tobacco. And they who signed the Flushing Remonsterance calling for religious freedom and sought negotiation in the face of the Duke of York’s truculence and nonviolent resistance a century later when British troops occupied Long Island and stationed a Hessian force in Jericho. These Christians, first to speak out against slavery, the oppression of the helpless and the poor, and the conspiring to sow discord and instigate wars, would have been far more flabbergasted by our moral condition than our technological capacities.
Our school districts here on Long Island are assuming the necessary measures to ensure the safety of children in light of the recent mass murder of elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut. Yet evil against children is the new moral stain comparable to slavery in days of old and we - like the Quakers of Jericho, Jerusalem, and Bethpage - see it far and near. Our malls, box stores, and shopping centers with their poverty wages and Christmas Day openings overflow with merchandise manufactured by child slave labor in Third World sweatshops. Our communities, proudly established for soldiers who fought the tyrants and warlords who would subdue us, must confront the fact that our national leaders now wage wars against countries that never attacked us, killing thousands of innocent people - many children. Children grow up in poverty - yes, even in our community - because of rising taxes, falling wages, and billionaire business executives who outsource their parent’s jobs. Too many children in urban (and some suburban) areas attend schools overrun with guns, gangs, and drugs; live in communities that have become havens for people who live destructive and anti-social lifestyles and parasitize off the honest and hardworking.
We have much to learn from the Quakers and their Matinecock brethren who endeavored to plan a future in which their heirs and successors would know prosperity and peaceful coexistence. Still, the outpouring of sympathy for the people of Newtown, Connecticut, from a nation so depraved in its indifference to the plight of the world’s children, is a hopeful sign.