Dinsmore Documentation presents Classics of American Colonial History
|Author:||Adams, James Truslow.|
|Title:||The Founding of New England.|
|Citation:||New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921.|
|HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added July 28, 2003|
|◄Chapter IV Directory of Files Chapter VI ►|
In 1606, in the obscure English village of Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire, a little group of men, which included John Robinson, William Brewster, and William Bradford, had for some years been meeting together in Brewster’s house for worship, and had formed themselves into an Independent church. Robinson was a graduate of Cambridge, and had been a Church of England clergyman in Norwich.1 Brewster, after a short attendance at Cambridge, had become connected, in some capacity, with Davison, then Secretary of State, and had accompanied him to the Low Countries in 1585. When Davison fell from power, Brewster’s career at court was ended, and at the time of the formation of the church in Scrooby, he had, for some years, been occupying the position of postmaster there, living in the old manor-house which had attracted the covetous eyes of James the First. A spiritually minded man of some culture but of modest means, he was the most influential layman in the little congregation, which, for the most part, was composed of the untutored farmers and farm-hands of that remote rural district. With little or no education, without even that sharpening of wits which comes from mere contact in the more populous ways of life, they were, as their own historian has said, only such as had been “used to a plaine countries life and the innocent trade of husbandry.”3 That historian. William Bradford, was himself of yeoman stock, and a mere
1 O. S. Davis, John Robinson, the Pilgrim Pastor (Boston, 1903), pp. 62-74. Cf. also C. Burrage, A Tercentenary Memorial, Oxford, 1910; and W. H. Burgess, The Pastor of the Pilgrims; New York, 1920.
2 Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, ed. by C. Deane (Boston, 1861), pp. 409 ff.; H. M. Dexter, The England and Holland of the Pilgrims (Boston, 1905), pp. 216-320. Scrooby was a halting place on the great northern post-road, and the duties of “postmaster” were more varied and important then than now.
3 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 11; Dexter, England and Holland, pp. 379 ff.
lad of sixteen or so, when the Scrooby church was formed.1 Already one of the leaders in the practical affairs of the church when scarcely more than a lad, he developed into a man of sound judgment, as well as morals, and one whose counsel was to be invaluable to the little colony in the New World, the fortunes of which he was to share and chronicle. A student, and a writer of a singularly pure English style, he seems also to have made himself familiar with Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, if we may believe Cotton Mather’s statement, which is, in part, borne out by other evidence.
The persecution that the little band underwent before the year of their attempt to emigrate to Holland was, in the main, from neither church nor state, but only such as they had to suffer from the scoffs and jeers of their more easy-going and more commonplace neighbors and companions. In 1607, however, some one or more of these latter, possibly from a neighborly desire to pay off a grudge, apparently laid a complaint before the ecclesiastical authorities, of which the Commissioners of the Province of York had to take note; and in November, Neville, Brewster, and seven others were cited to appear. Neville, who did so, was allowed to testify without taking the usual oath, and, after a short confinement, was released without further trial. Fines were imposed upon the others for non-appearance, but beyond that no action seems to have been taken, nor- were any efforts made to apprehend them.
According to the standards of the day, they were treated with leniency, and there is little to indicate that they were “harried from the land,” or that either the civil or ecclesiastical authorities were anxious to interfere with them.3 Justly dreading, however, what might happen, rather than what had happened, and, perhaps, partly influenced by some of the
1 J. Hunter, The Founders of New Plymouth (London, 1854), pp. 101-15.
2 Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (ed. Hartford, 1855), vol. i, p. 113.
3 R. G. Usher, The Pilgrims and their History (New York, 1918), pp. 19 ff.; F. J. Powicke, “John Robinson and the Beginning of the Pilgrim Movement,” Harvard Theologieal Review, July, 1920, pp. 261 f. This article contains a criticism of Usher’s somewhat extreme position.
motives which induced them to leave Holland later, they decided to flee from England secretly, and to establish a church in Amsterdam, whither a neighboring congregation had already gone. To take their departure legally, it would have been necessary to get the consent of the authorities—a matter having nothing more to do with religion than the granting of passports to-day. Neither money nor goods were allowed to leave England without governmental permit; and, as the Scrooby group intended to take both without such authorization, they had to leave clandestinely. About one hundred of them made the attempt, but were betrayed to the customs officers by the captain of the ship that was to transport them. A certain amount of the discomfort and unpleasant notoriety to which these simple and modest folk objected was undoubtedly of necessity incidental to the simultaneous arrest of so large a body of law-breakers. They were temporarily placed in confinement, for this purely secular offense, and were well treated by the magistrates, who “used them courteously, and showed them what favour they could.”1 The Privy Council, which had to be advised of the attempt to evade the customs laws, acted promptly; and, in spite of the slow communication in those days, within a month all but seven, who were considered the ringleaders of the fugitives, were released and sent to their homes. The seven, of whom Brewster was one, were also freed later, apparently without even having been trial. Some of the party reached Holland safely that autumn, an’ others made another attempt some months after. At the ver moment of embarking from an out-of-the-way place, they wer surprised by some of the country people, who notified the authorities, and such of the passengers as had not got a board were again taken into custody. Although they we known to be breaking the laws, apparently no justice or court could be found to punish them; and, when again set at liberty they finally reached Holland in safety. Neither the Privy Council nor the ecclesiastical authorities had taken any noti of the matter. Not only had there been little or no religious
1 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 12.
persecution, but even when the refugees had obviously committed civil crimes these were officially condoned.1
After about a year in Amsterdam, owing to the quarrels that marred the life of the church earlier established, the newcomers decided to remove to Leyden, where they remained until the eventful year 1620.2 Their life in the old university town, although hard in many ways, seems to have been singularly peaceful, and wholly unmarred by any of those petty,bickerings and contentions so curiously characteristic of the ultra-godly of the period. They seem, indeed, to have valued “peace and their spirituall comforte above any other riches whatsoever,” and to have lived together in “love and holiness,” as Bradford wrote. Robinson was their minister, and Brewster their elder, the latter eking out his income by teaching English and printing Puritan books. The company generally set to trades and handicrafts, by which “at length they came to raise a competente and comforteable living,” and won the deserved respect of their Dutch hosts.3 They seem, however, to have lived a life apart, and to have been but little influenced by the nation with which they had cast their lot. In spite of extravagant claims to the contrary, direct Dutch influence in New England, as derived through the Pilgrims’ sojourn in Holland, can be traced in but one particular, that of marriage by a civil magistrate instead of a clergyman.4 At that time, Holland was, in almost all respects, far ahead of England intellectually. In the matter of religious toleration she was immeasurably in advance of the rest of Europe. Dutch influence would have been a noble one, indeed, in New England’s history, but there is virtually nothing to indicate its presence.5
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 13-15; Usher, Pilgrims, pp. 27-31; E. Arber, The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers (London, 1897), p. 93.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 16 ff.
3 Ibid., pp. 17, 19, 412; Arber, Pilgrim Fathers, p. 195. Brewster taught in Latin.
4 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 101, 330.
5 The claims put forward by Douglass Campbell, The Puritan in Holland, England and America, are now generally considered as thoroughly unsound. Cf. the article by the Dutch historian, H. T. Colenbrander, “The Dutch Element in American History,” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1909, pp. 191-203. Also, in the same report, Ruth Putnam, “The Dutch Element in the United States,” pp. 203-19.
Although there were other English in Leyden, and, therefore, the size of Robinson’s congregation is difficult to determine accurately, it seems to have numbered about two hundred at the time that its members were considering their third emigration, and had decided to leave Holland.1 The reasons for this decision, as given by Bradford, were the difficulty, for many, of making a living, and the unlikelihood of attracting others; the possibility that they would themselves disperse in time; the temptations which beset their children; and their desire to spread the gospel in the new world. To these, Winslow, who had joined the group about 1617, added their wish to remain Englishmen; the inability to give their children as good an education as they themselves had received; and the somewhat ambiguous reason, “how little good we did or were like to do to the Dutch in reforming the sabbath.”3 Their motives were, therefore, partly patriotic, partly economic, and partly religious, the same which, in shifting proportions and embodied in a very varied assortment of personalities, we find as mainsprings of colonization from the beginning. The one constant factor is the economic. No matter what other motives may have induced any one, from John Cabot to the last arrival at Ellis Island, to turn his face westward, added to them has ever been the hope of bettering his economic condition. America has always offered comparative material prosperity to the most idealistic as well as to the most sordid. When this factor ceases to operate, as in time, perhaps a short time, it must, American history will enter upon a new phase.
The little group of Englishmen in Leyden, who thus desired to emigrate, were without means for any such undertaking. Whatever their motives might be, it was evident that no colony could be planted, in which they were concerned, unless monied men, from the same or other motives, could be induced to risk capital in what, so far, had constantly been proved a very unprofitable business. English merchants and capitalists
1 Usher, Pilgrims, pp. 293-304; Dexter, England and Holland, pp. 601 ff.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 22-24.
3 Winslow, in Young, Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers (Boston, 1844), p. 381.
had already spent vast sums in the attempt to turn America to account, with but little success. The English-American balance-sheet showed a colossal amount spent in exploration and attempted development on the one page, and but a handful of people in Virginia, a feeble beginning in Bermuda, and the Newfoundland fishing fleet, on the other.
At first, the Pilgrims did not seem to realize how inadequate their resources were for such a project. Apparently, the question which they discussed most was where they should go, rather than how they should get there. Some of the more substantial and important members advocated Guiana, as they might there grow rich with little labor -which was a very human ambition.1 Fear of tropical diseases and the Spaniard negatived this otherwise alluring plan. Thought of possible persecution vetoed the next proposition also, which was to settle somewhere near the colony already established in Virginia. The final decision was to live under the government of that company, but as a distinct body by themselves, after a grant of religious freedom should have been procured from the King. It is rather odd, in view of the persecution which they thought they had undergone, and that which they constantly seemed to fear, that they should have been so confident that the King would consent in writing to an act so far in advance of English thought. The fact that they had escaped any rigorous attack in England, and that their illegal acts on leaving had been condoned by the authorities, may have added to their hope of being so tenderly treated, which was unreasonably held out to them by “some great persons of good rancke and qualitie.”2
In the fall of 1617, John Carver and Robert Cushman were dispatched to London to confer with Sir Edwin Sandys about the matter. Sandys was a brother of Sir Samuel Sandys, at that time lessee of the Scrooby Manor, in which Brewster had lived, and was favorably disposed toward the Leyden people. He was also a member of the East India, Bermuda, and Virginia companies, the last of which he was virtually
1 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 27.
2 Ibid., pp. 28 f.
managing at the time of the emissaries’ arrival, owing to the illness of that Company’s treasurer.1 The “Seven Articles of the Church at Leyden,” which the Pilgrims had carefully worded in the somewhat na´ve expectation that they might satisfy the authorities without committing themselves, were privately submitted to some of the members of the Virginia Council, and approved; so that Sandys wrote hopefully of the prospects to Robinson and Brewster.2 The upshot of the matter, however, was what might have been expected, or was perhaps even more favorable than should reasonably have been hoped for under the circumstances. The King would not grant them toleration under his “broad seale, according to their desires,” which would naturally have got him into serious difficulties politically; but, apparently, he did agree to “connive at them, and not molest them, provided they carried themselves peaceably.”3 They wisely decided that, if this were not enough, nothing would be, for, if the King meant to wrong them “though they had a seale as broad as the house floor, it would not serve the turne, for ther would be means enow found to recall or revers it.”4 With this and, perhaps, the vain regret that they had not let sleeping dogs lie, they had to be content.
The next step was to secure a patent, and find “adventurers,”—as men were still called who invested in such enterprises,—who would supply the necessary money. Owing to the dissensions in the Virginia Company, which now became acute, the negotiations were delayed; but on April 19, 1619, that company elected Sandys treasurer; and a patent, taken out in the name of John Wincob, “comended to the Company by the Earle of Lincolne,” received its seal June 9.5 This was never made use
1 Brown, Genesis, pp. 991-94.
2 Correspondence in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 31-38. The articles are reprinted by E. D. Neill, History of the Virginia Company of London (Albany, 1869), pp. 123 f.; Arber, Pilgrim Fathers, pp. 280 f.; and elsewhere.
3 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 29 ff.
4 Ibid., p. 30.
5 Records of the Virginia Company of London (Washington, 1906), vol. i, pp. 221, 228. Its date was not known when Palfrey wrote. Bradford gives few dates, and the exact sequence of events is much a matter of inference. The Wincob patent has not been preserved, and its terms are unknown.
of, and apparently the one they intended to utilize was that previously granted to John Pierce, on February 2, antedating a later one to the same person.1
During the following months, their efforts to raise money became known both in Holland and in England. The Dutch, now become the most important colonizing power, tried to induce them to settle either in Zealand or on the Hudson River; and they also received offers from an English merchant, Thomas Weston, who ran over from London on the scent of business. He finally prevailed upon them to make an agreement with himself and his associates. His own motives, as amply proved by events, were wholly mercenary, as were those of most of the other outsiders who financed the enterprise. The planting of the first permanent colony in New England was due to the desire for gain on the part of these ordinary business men, who risked a large sum, and made heavy losses, as well as to the higher motives. of some of the actual emigrants, whose character, sense, and patience rescued the enterprise from disaster. The infant colony was the child of two parents, and the share of each in its creation must be recognized, even if one were vulgar and sordid, and subsequently disinherited its offspring.
The agreement, which became the subject of bitter controversy, created a joint stock, divided into shares of £10 each. Every person, over sixteen years of age, who went as an emigrant received one share free, and a second if he fitted himself out to that amount, or paid for his transportation. On the one hand, the results of the entire labor of the colonists were to go to this joint fund, and, on the other, all their food, clothing, and other necessities were to be provided for them out of the stock. At the end of seven years, the entire fund, with its accumulations, including houses, lands, and cash on hand, was to be divided, pro rata, among all the shareholders, the expectation being that the profits would accrue mainly from fishing and the Indian trade.
1 Records of the Virginia Company, vol. i, p. 303. On Feb. 16, it was stated at a meeting of the Company that Pierce’s colonists did not intend to sail for two or three months. Ibid., p. 311. This early patent is connected with the Pilgrims by inference only, which, however, seems reasonable.
The emigrants had anticipated that two days a week would be allowed them for their own profit, and that, at the end of the seven-year period, they would retain individual possession of their houses and improved lands. Indeed, it was only after they were so far committed to the scheme that many of them could not well turn back, that they found this was not to be the case.1 The merchants, however, can hardly be blamed for refusing to allow so large a vent for possible profits to slip through. It was the general custom at the time for any one going to the colonies, who could not pay his way, to become an indentured servant for seven years in exchange for his transportation.
The suggestion of the emigrants that one third of their working time, and the permanent improvements, as well as the land on which they lived, should accrue to themselves, and in no part to those who were providing the means, must have seemed as grasping to the Adventurers as their attitude, in turn, seems to have been considered by the Pilgrims. The exact amount put into the venture by the capitalists, during their connection with it, cannot now be determined accurately; but according to Captain John Smith, there were about seventy of them, and the joint stock invested up to 1624 was about £7,000.2 The greater part must have been subscribed by the Adventurers, not by the emigrants; so that, making all due allowances for the share contributed by the latter, and for returns made subsequently by their efforts in America, the final loss on the part of the capitalists was very heavy. Their judgment as to the risk their money was running was thus unpleasantly justified. They were not subscribing to foreign missions, but employing their capital in a purely business venture, and the terms, as business was conducted at that time, cannot be considered as at all harsh. Cushman, in London, who was acting as agent for the Leyden people, fearing the failure of the entire enterprise if the merchants’ terms were not accepted, exceeded his authority, and agreed
1 The text of agreement and objections is in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 45 ff.
2 Smith, Works, vol. ii, p. 783.
to them, to the great resentment of his principals, who refused to sign the revised contract.
Meanwhile, a small ship, the Speedwell, which it was intended to take to Virginia and keep there, had been bought in Holland, and a larger one, the Mayflower, chartered in London to carry the major part of the colony.1 The two vessels were to meet at Southampton, and make the passage together. It had been decided that, if a majority of the congregation voted to remain in Leyden, Robinson should stay with them, Brewster becoming the spiritual leader of those who should go. As this proved to be the case, the members of the little party which at last sailed from Delft Haven there took their final leave of their beloved pastor.2 Their debt to him had been great. His gentle spirit, humble seeking of ever more light, and broad tolerance of mind, shone almost alone in that period of intolerant dogmatism and persecuting zeal, alike of Churchman and Puritan. “We ought,” he wrote, “to be firmly persuaded in our hearts of the truth, and goodness of the religion, which we embrace in all things; yet as knowing ourselves to be men, whose property it is to err and to be deceived in many things; and accordingly both to converse with men in that modesty of mind, as always to desire to learn something better, or further, by them, if it may be.”3 He recognized that “men are for the most part minded for, or against toleration of diversity of religion, according to the conformity which they themselves hold, or hold not, with the country, or kingdom, where they live. Protestants living in the countries of Papists commonly plead for toleration of religion: so do Papists that live where Protestants bear sway:
1 The captain was Christopher Jones, and not the Captain Thomas Jones of unsavory memory. J. R. Hutchinson, “The Mayflower, her Identity and Tonnage,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. LXX, pp. 337-42. Also Usher, Pilgrims, p. 72. The ship is thought to have been in the wine trade for several years; and as a wine ship was known among sailors as a “sweet” ship, this may have had something to do with the remarkable health of the Pilgrims on the voyage. For disease on shipboard during that period, cf. Oppenheim, Administration of the Royal Navy, vol. i, p. 136. Drake on his famous voyage lost 600 out of a crew of 2,300.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 42, 60.
3 John Robinson, Works (Boston, 1851), vol. i, p. 39.
though few of either, specially of the clergy, as they are called, would have the other tolerated, where the world goes on their side.”1 In his farewell address to his flock shortly before their leaving, he dwelt particularly upon the need of their being open-minded, for “he was very confident that the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy word,” and so his followers should “follow him no further than he followed Christ.”2 It is unlikely that such doctrines were wholly grasped by all his humble followers, but the influence of his life and teaching were felt long after in the little church of Plymouth; and the spirit which, in general, animated that colony must have been derived in large measure from the rare spirituality of its first pastor in the Old World.
In the latter part of July the Speedwell reached Southampton, where the Mayflower had already arrived, and whither Weston had also gone for a final conference. On finding it impossible to make the Pilgrims accept the changes in the agreement, he left them, telling them “they must then looke to stand on their own leggs,” and even refused to pay £100, which was necessary to adjust matters in Southampton before their sailing. Provisions were sold to settle the debt, and both ships cleared for America early in August. Owing to the leakiness of the small Speedwell, it was necessary to put back to Dartmouth, where repairs were made. After a second start, the Speedwell still giving trouble, both vessels put into Plymouth, where it was decided to leave some of the company behind, and proceed in the Mayflower alone.3 One hundred and two passengers
1 Robinson, Works, vol. i, p. 40. The italics are mine. Cf. Buckle, History of Civilization, vol. i, p. 337: “In every Christian country where it [toleration] has been adopted, it has been forced upon the clergy by the authority of the secular classes.”
2 Winslow, in Young, Chronicles, p. 397. Dr. H. M. Dexter has vigorously attacked the idea of Robinson’s having been broad-minded in the modern sense, and thinks his words refer only to church discipline and not to belief. Congregationalism in the last 300 Years, pp. 400 ff. From a study of Robinson’s writings, I cannot agree with him. Cf. Davis (John Robinson, pp. 241-65), who also disagrees with Dexter; and the very just estimate by H. H. Henson, Studies in Religion in the 17th Century (London, 1903), pp. 234 ff. and W. W. Fenn, “John Robinson’s Farewell Address,” Harvard Theological Review, July, 1920, pp. 236 ff.
3 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 68 f.
crowded into the little vessel, the company being made up of thirty-five of the Leyden congregation and the remainder from London.1 Cushman stayed behind; but, on the other hand, an invaluable accession was made in the person of Captain Myles Standish. This little “Captain Shrimp,” as Morton of Merry Mount nicknamed him, although not a Puritan, remained a staunch friend to the colonists, and with his little “army” of a dozen or less, stood as a shield between them and their enemies, white and red. He was short in stature and in temper. “A little chimney is soon fired,” Hubbard wrote of him. But he could also be as gentle as he was valiant; and the first service he rendered the infant colony was not in fighting the Indians, but in tenderly nursing his new friends through the sickness of the first winter.
Finally, their “troubles being blowne over, and now all being compacte togeather in one shipe, they put to sea againe with a prosperous winde,” heavily laden with passengers, a vast amount of ghostly furniture, and the first consignment of the New England conscience. After falling in with Cape Cod, on the 19th of November, they ran among dangerous shoals in their effort to pass southward to reach Hudson’s river, and so resolved to put back, casting anchor two days later in the harbor of Provincetown.2 Much speculation has been indulged in as to their reasons for not going farther; but the obvious ones would seem as good as any, and there is no cause to suspect treachery on the part of Captain Jones of the Mayflower, the Dutch, or others.3
As has been noted, only about one third of the company were of the Leyden people. The other sixty-seven were evidently a very mixed lot, comprising undesirable characters, as well as some excellent ones. As it was now decided to settle in the nearest suitable spot, they knew that they would be outside
1 The list is in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 447-55; cf. also Dexter, England and Holland, p. 650.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 77.
3 First suggested by Nathaniel Morton in his Memorial, 1669 (ed. Boston, 1855), p. 22. The statement is now generally discredited, though frequently repeated. Dr. Antes, The Mayflower and her Log, pp. l00 ff., attempted to revive it by identifying Christopher Jones with the now discarded Thomas.
Illustration Facing Page 98: Page from Bradford’s History, on which Is the Mayflower Compact.
the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, and, therefore, also outside the bounds of their own patent. Some of the London element, taking advantage of that fact, boasted openly that they did not intend to be ruled by anyone, but “would use their owne libertie.”1 It was evident to the more substantial members that, if order were to be maintained on shore, some responsible government would have to be created, backed by sufficient show of public opinion and force to keep the unruly in subjection. Before anyone was permitted to land, therefore, the famous Mayflower Compact was drawn up, by which the signers agreed to combine themselves into a “civill body politick” for their order and preservation, and by virtue of it to enact necessary laws and to elect officers.2 This short document, the body of which is but seven lines, was not intended to be a new departure in state constitutions, but was a perfectly simple extension of the ordinary form of church covenant, with which they were familiar, to cover the crisis in their civil affairs which they now faced. As events developed, however, it came about that the Compact remained the only basis on which the independent civil government in Plymouth rested, as the colonists were never able to get a charter conferring rights of jurisdiction. It was the first example of that “plantation covenant” which was to form the basis of the river towns of Connecticut, of New Haven, and of so many other town and colony governments in that land of covenants, ecclesiastical and civil.3 From the exigencies of the case, rather than from any preconceived philosophical notions, the first settlers thus established a pure democracy, which was subsequently modified. At first, however, the entire male population met in a body which constituted a General Court, and was the source of all local political power and judicial decisions.
The document was signed by forty-one men, of whom only seventeen were from Leyden. It may here be noted that the
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 89 ff.
2 The compact is in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 89 f.; the list of signers in Morton, Memorial, p. 26.
3 Cf. Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i, p. 291.
usual historical method of approach to the settlement of Plymouth, which is by way of Scrooby and Holland, is, to a certain extent, misleading. The capital, which made the enterprise possible, was practically all subscribed in London. Of the first emigrants but a third belonged to Robinson’s congregation, and, in the entire Pilgrim movement to America, only a dozen or so persons, at most, can be even remotely traced to the neighborhood of Scrooby.1 It is true that the Scrooby leaven, in the persons of Brewster and Bradford, and the influence of Robinson, leavened the whole Plymothean mass; but, if we had the documents, which we have not, it would be instructive to hear the story from the standpoint of the Londoners, both capitalists and colonists.
The first few weeks were occupied in searching for a site for settlement; and it was only on the third expedition in their little shallop that the exploring party finally landed at Plymouth, on December 21.2 Having found the harbor fit for shipping, and the site possible for a settlement, they decided to search no farther. “It was the best they could find, and the season, and their presente necessitie, made them glad to accepte of it,” wrote Bradford, somewhat unenthusiastically.3
Five days later, the Mayflower herself arrived from Provincetown, and the people began the erection of the first common house for themselves and their goods—a log but about twenty feet square, with a thatched roof. Soon, however, they abandoned building in common, and “agreed that every man should build his own house, thinking that by that course men would make more haste,” so promptly did human nature and winter’s cold assert themselves over theory. The season, though stormy, happily proved unusually mild. Fortunately, also, the great sickness which had recently decimated the Indians, had killed off almost the entire native population about Plymouth and Massachusetts bays, and completely
1 Dexter, England and Holland, p. 650.
2 The celebration of “Forefathers Day,” for many years, on Dec. 22, was due to a mistake in transposing Old-Style dates into New. In any case, there was, of course, no such “landing” of the whole company as appears in popular tradition.
3 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 88.
broken the spirit of the remainder, though this was as yet unknown to the settlers, who lived in constant fear of attack.1 They occupied but a clearing on the edge of the vast and unknown wilderness. Mysterious and unexplored, it stretched interminably before them, while the midwinter North Atlantic tossed as endlessly behind them. In the woods, Indian yells had been heard, and an occasional savage had been seen skulking behind cover. John Goodman, going for a walk one evening with his dog, suddenly found the small beast taking refuge between his legs, chased by two wolves. He threw a stick at them, whereupon “they sat both on their tails grinning at him a good while.”
Soon, owing to exposure, many of the settlers fell ill; and so quickly did the disease spread, and so fatal were its effects, that by the end of March forty-four, or nearly one half of the little company, were dead. Sometimes two or three died in a day, and but six or seven were well enough to nurse the living and bury the corpses. Their kindness and courage under these trials were beyond all praise. Before the arrival of the first supply ship, in the following autumn, six more had died, including the governor, Carver, so that only one half the company remained. But the little colony was not to be crushed.
Bradford was elected in Carver’s place, and in March, in spite of the terrors which encompassed them, in spite of the graves of the dead, which far outnumbered the homes of the living, Winslow could yet note that “the birds sang in the woods most pleasantly.”
Suddenly, toward the end of that month, at the very moment when they were debating questions of defense, an Indian walked boldly into the settlement, and bade them welcome in English. The savage, Samoset by name, proceeded to give them much useful information about the natives, and from him, apparently, the settlers first learned of the great mortality
1 The nature of the disease is unknown. It was evidently neither yellow fever nor smallpox, as some have thought, and white men were not affected, even when they slept in the same huts with the Indians. Cf. C. F. Adams, Three Episodes in Massachusetts History (Boston, 1893), vol. i, pp. 1-4.
among them. After spending the night, he was dismissed with gifts, promising to bring others of the natives with him on his return. This he did a few days later, the savages bringing with them some tools which they had stolen a while before, and which they now restored. A week later, Samoset and another Indian, named Squanto, who was the only survivor of the group which had dwelt where the Pilgrims had settled, came to announce the arrival of the great sachem himself, Massasoit. With him, the settlers made a treaty of peace and friendship, which was honorably maintained on both sides for over half a century, the Indian proving himself a loyal friend to the English until his death in 1662.1
The sachem’s visit was returned in July, Winslow and Hopkins making the journey of forty miles, with the ever-useful Squanto as guide. During the summer, the colonists were joined also by another Indian, Hobomack, who made his home with them, and continued faithful during his life. In spite of some minor troubles, due to the childish jealousy and desire to appear important on the part of the two savages, the debt that the settlers owed to them cannot be overestimated. They not only served as interpreters and intermediaries with the other Indians, but taught the colonists how to plant and manure the native corn and where to catch fish, acted as guides about the country, and made themselves generally in valuable. These services were not regarded wholly with favor by some of the Indians who were opposed to the whites, and the settlers had to teach the sachem Corbitant a sharp lesson, to make them leave their two Indian friends alone.
The Mayflower, having been detained by the sickness of her crew, as well as by that prevailing on shore, until the middle of April, had then sailed for home, none of the planters abandoning the enterprise to sail with her. Needless to say, there had been no opportunity to gather cargo to send to the merchants in England before her sailing. With the summer, however,
1 The treaty is in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 94 ff. The minor incidents in connection with Plymouth in this chatter, when references are not given, are all taken from Bradford, or Bradford and Winslow, the latter as given in Young’s Chronicles.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 102 ff.; Young, Chronicles, pp. 202-14, 218-23.
health had returned, and there had been a moderate degree of comfort, as well as abundance of food, at Plymouth; so that in September, under the guidance of Squanto, the Pilgrims undertook their first trading voyage, sailing to Massachusetts Bay. Their plan had been both to explore the country and to make peace with the Indians of that district, as well as to “procure their truck.” Although gone only four days, the little party of thirteen, under command of Standish, were eminently successful in all three objects, making the first beginning, on any large scale, of that trade which was to prove their financial salvation. In fact the Bible and the beaver were the two mainstays of the young colony. The former saved its morale, and the latter paid its bills; and the rodent’s share was a large one. The original foundations of New York, New England, and Canada all rest on the Indian trade, in which the item of beaver-skins was by far the most important and lucrative.
Having thus got together a good store of pelts and some clapboards, they were able to despatch the Fortune, which had arrived in November, back to England within a fortnight after her arrival, with their first consignment, worth £500, all of which was lost to them by the capture of the ship by the French.1 A long letter from Weston, brought from England by Cushman, complained bitterly and unreasonably of their having returned no cargo in the Mayflower, and also brought word that a new patent had been obtained for them from the Council of New England, in the name of John Pierce and his associates.2
There had also arrived on the Fortune thirty-five persons to remain in the colony, evidently sent by the merchants, and with practically no supplies of any kind. They were made; welcome by the Pilgrims, who were ever hospitable, not alone to those who differed from them in doctrine, but even to their avowed enemies, so long as either needed their help. Bradford noted that they were glad of this addition to their strength,
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 105 ff.; Young, Chronicles, pp. 234 ff.
2 Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series IV, vol. ii, pp. 158 ff.
though he “wished that many of them had been of better condition, and all of them better furnished with provisions.” The colonists, who had but recently been congratulating themselves on having ample food for the coming winter, due to their own efforts, had now to be put on very short commons; and it was not until the gathering of the crops in the autumn of the following year that they again had a sufficient supply.
The addition to their numbers, however, must have increased their feeling of security in the Indian troubles which soon threatened them. The powerful Narragansetts, who were hostile both to the Pilgrims and to their native allies, and who had suffered but slightly from the plague, sent them a challenge in the form of a bundle of arrows tied in a snake-skin. Squanto having interpreted the message, they returned the skin stuffed with powder and shot, with word to the natives that “if they had rather have wary then peace, they might begin when they would.” Nevertheless, in spite of their “high words and lofty looks,” Winslow wrote, they were not a little anxious, and took all the precautions possible, including the building of a palisade about the village. Nothing came of the episode, however, except the anxiety of the settlers, which was increased the following summer by the receipt of a letter telling them of the great and sudden massacre at Jamestown.1 So greatly were they then worried that they faced another winter of short rations more willingly than they did the savages, and took much valuable time from the tilling of their crops for the building of a fort.
Until the great immigration into Massachusetts Bay, in 1630, Plymouth continued to be the largest single settlement in New England; but, from 1622 onward, there were scattered beginnings at other points along the coast, many of which proved permanent. Gorges endeavored to put new life into colonization, and in that year published his “Briefe Narration” of the efforts he had made heretofore.2 In less than two months
1 The letter was sent to them by a stranger, John Hudlston, whose name deserves to be remembered for his thoughtful kindness. It is in Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 114 f.
2 Reprinted in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series II, vol. ix, pp. 1-25.
after the granting of Pierce’s patent for the benefit of the Pilgrims, another grant was made to Captain John Mason of all the lands lying between the Naumkeag and Merrimac rivers, and extending from their heads to the seacoast, thus including the shore from Salem to Newburyport.1 In August, a third grant was passed, to Mason and Gorges jointly, of the coast from the Merrimac eastward to the Kennebec, extending sixty miles inland, and including all islands within fifteen miles of the shore, to be called the Province of Maine.2 Other grants were also made in the same year,3 and a small settlement may have been begun at Nantasket.4
Of more immediate interest to the people of Plymouth than paper principalities or small fishing stations, of which there were probably many along the coast, used annually at certain seasons, was the attempt made by their own financial backer, Thomas Weston, to establish a private and rival trading colony almost at their very door. Profits not having come in as rapidly as he had anticipated, he had sold out his holdings in the enterprise to his associates, and now intended to plant and trade for his own account, getting all he could from the Pil grims. Although he attempted to misrepresent the new relation which he now bore toward them, it was not long before they learned the truth from their friends at home. Toward the end of May, a small shallop arrived with seven of his men, whom he had detached from a fishing vessel of his at Damaris Cove, near Monhegan, and sent to Plymouth to be cared for. Soon followed word of his having broken with the company, and of his having procured a separate patent for himself. By the vessel which brought this news arrived also sixty more of his colonists, who were set ashore at Plymouth, by the Charity, which then proceeded to Virginia. Well and sick, the whole
1 Printed in C. W. Tuttle, Capt. John Mason (Prince Soc., Boston, 1887), pp. 170-77. Cf. Ibid., pp. 45-52.
2 Ibid., pp. 177-83.
3 For list of grants cf. S. F. Haven, “History of Grants under the Great Cound for New England,” in Lowell Lectures, Boston, 1869; also the two volumes of the Farnham Papers; Maine Historical Society, Portland, 1901-2.
4 S. G. Drake, The History and Antiquities of Boston; Boston, 1856. Cf. Winsor, Memorial History, vol. i, p. 79.
sixty-seven remained a burden upon the Pilgrims, until, the Charity having returned, they sailed in her to Wessagusset, now Weymouth, where they seated themselves. An unruly crew, with no leadership, and utterly unfitted for colonizing, they were soon short of provisions. A joint voyage to the southward, made by some of them and of the Pilgrims, resulted in securing but little corn, the expedition having had to be abandoned on account of the death of Squanto, who, as usual, was serving as guide.
As the winter passed, the Wessagusset men slowly starved. Their attitude toward the natives was the height of folly, and the somewhat hostile Massachusetts Indians, perceiving their plight, formed a plot to exterminate both settlements at once. This was revealed to the Pilgrims by Massasoit, who, at this most opportune moment, had been cured by them of what his followers had thought a deadly sickness. The crisis was a serious one, and the Pilgrims acted promptly. Feigning a trading voyage, Standish and eight men went to Wessagusset, inveigled the ringleaders into one of the houses, and there slew them. Pecksuot, who had personally insulted Standish, was killed with his own knife, which the captain snatched from around his neck; and, in all, six savages were slain on the expedition. Three of Weston’s men, who, in spite of warnings, had gone to stay with the Indians, were murdered by them in retaliation. Most of the remainder, refusing the Pilgrims’ offer to care for them at Plymouth, sailed for Monhegan, in the hope of finding passage to England.1 Weston himself, arriving soon after, found his colony deserted, and himself ruined. On reaching Plymouth, after having been robbed and stripped by the Indians, he unblushingly borrowed capital from the compassionate Pilgrims in order to set himself up as a trader.
Another of the capitalists also gave the Pilgrims trouble by trying the same plan of planting a colony of his own. On the 30th of April, 1622, Pierce, in whose name their patent stood, obtained another, which, on the same day, he exchanged for
1 Young, Chronicles, pp. 314-45.
a deed-pole, by which he became the owner of the lands on which Plymouth was settled.1 Having this cut the ground from under the Pilgrims’ feet, he proceeded to send out a hundred and nine colonists for his own account. The ship was forced to turn back, however; and finally, the Pilgrims, on making complaint to the Council for New England, had their original rights confirmed, upon payment to Pierce of £500.1
These troubles, which occupied their minds in the early summer of 1623, were soon followed by the arrival of Captain West, who had been commissioned Admiral of New England, and sent to collect license fees from the fishermen along the coast. These proved to be “stuborne fellows,” however, and the only result of West’s brief attempt at authority was to bring up anew in Parliament the fight for free fishing and the opposition to the monopoly created by the New England Council. Robert Gorges also came over as Governor of New England, accompanied by the Rev. William Morell, who was to superintend ecclesiastical affairs in the interest of the Church of England; but, although Gorges spent the winter at Weston’s abandoned site, nothing more came of this high-sounding scheme to govern the wilderness.
Among the passengers in the Anne, which arrived at Plymouth in the same summer of 1623, were some few who were not to belong to the general body, or be subject to the rules of joint trading, but came on “their perticuler,” as Bradford describes it. An agreement was soon made with them, debarring them from the Indian trade until the period of joint trading should end, and otherwise defining their status in the community. Such an anomalous group within the body politic naturally tended to trouble, nor were leaders lacking who endeavored to fan the sparks into a blaze. Among the “perticulers” was a rough-and-ready trader named John Oldham, a man of considerable practical ability, but heady, self-willed, and of an ungovernable temper. In the following spring appeared also a canting hypocritical clergyman, John Lyford
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 138-41; Records of Council for New England, Proceedings American Antiquarian Society, April, 1866, pp. 91-93.
by name, who seems to have been a sort of lascivious Uriah Heep. Pretending great humility, he was honorably received by the Pilgrims, as they thought befitting a clergyman, and was given a scat in the Governor’s Council. Soon, however, he and Oldham joined forces, and gathered together the various malcontents of the colony, without any very clear idea, apparently, beyond that of fishing in troubled waters, in the hope of making some profitable catch. The waters were troubled enough at this juncture, for the factions among the Adventurers at home were then at their height. To the party there adverse to the Pilgrim interest, Oldham and Lyford dispatched letters, containing matter distinctly inimical to the established order. These were read and copied by Bradford, in the cabin of the ship which was to bear them, unknown to the senders. The latter, indeed, had some suspicions, and “were somewhat blanke at it, but after some weeks, when they heard nothing, they were as brisk as ever,” like boys relieved from the fear of having been caught in mischief. In fact, they became so brisk that Oldham, when called upon to do his turn of guard duty by Standish, refused and raised a tumult.
The grotesque effect of their next stroke was naturally lost upon people who, with all their excellent qualities, were, unhappily for themselves, very obviously lacking in the saving grace of humor. The curiously assorted couple decided to set up a church of their own. The thought of Oldham, “a mad Jack in his mood,” and the sniveling clergyman, whose innumerable light loves had brought so many heavy sorrows, reforming the Pilgrims’ church is one of the bits which lighten the somewhat sombre recital of those frontier days. A General Court was convened, and the two were brought to trial. Both of them were sentenced to banishment, Oldham to go at once, and Lyford to have six months’ grace, although the former seems to have been rather the more respectable, as he was much the more masculine, of the two. Oldham went, but, having nursed his wrath, he suddenly returned in March, for the sole purpose, apparently, of exploding it upon the yet unreformed Pilgrims, who, however, merely “committed him
till he was tamer.” Lyford, meanwhile, had utilized his reprieve to write home again, criticizing the government of the colony, and making some just complaints, on the part of the large minority, of the required conformity of worship. The sentence of banishment was then enforced, and both rebels betook themselves temporarily to Nantasket.1
In the same summer in which the Pilgrims had acquired Lyford and Oldham, an addition of about sixty other persons had also been made to the colony, some of them “very usefull” to the settlers, and some of them “so bad, as they were faine to be at charge to send them home againe the next year.”2 Other settlements, too, continued to be planted along the coast, Robert Gorges, who had received a grant of some three hundred square miles on the northeast side of Massachusetts Bay, but who had settled his men at Wessagusset, left some of them there when he returned to England, and the permanent occupation of that section was begun.3 In 1623, David Thompson established himself at the mouth of the Piscataqua; while, Edward and William Hilton may soon after have settled some, miles up the river, thus founding the modern towns of Ports. mouth and Dover. Christopher Levett, who was one of Robert Gorges’s Council, made a short-lived plantation at York, and a permanent colony was effected on Monhegan.4 For the greater convenience of their fishing operations, which were never successful, the Pilgrims had secured a grant of land at Cape Ann, and erected a fishing stage there, although the grant, which was derived from Lord Sheffield, was of questionable validity.5A fishing company was formed of Dorchester men in England, who made a little settlement on the Cape, holding
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 183. ff.
2 Ibid., p. 142.
3 Haven, Lowell Lectures, p. 154; Adams, Three Episodes, vol. i, p. 144; Hazard, Historical Collections, vol. i, p. 391. In regard to the settlement by Thompson, we have documentary evidence in New Hampshire State Papers, vol. XXV, pp. 715, 734; but there is no such proof of the traditionary settlement by Hilton, until 1628, although it is accepted by the earlier historians. Cf. W. H. Fry, New Hampshire as a Royal Province (New York, 1908), pp. 18, 32. Also, J. G. Jenness, Notes on the First Planting of New Hampshire (Portsmouth, 1878), pp. 4, 14 ff.
4 Burrage, Colonial Maine, pp. 169-75; J. P. Baxter, Christopher Levett of York, Gorges Society, Portland, 1893; Bradford, Plymouth, p. 154.
5 J. W. Thornton, The Landing at Cape Anne (Boston, 1854), pp. 31 ff.
it of the Plymouth people., Although the undertaking was unprofitable, and always a source of trouble to the Pilgrims, it is of interest owing to the connection with it of some of those who were later influential in England in organizing the Massachusetts colony.
About 1625, individuals also seem to have established themselves at Shawmut, at Noddle’s Island, and on the Mystic River; and, a year later, Thompson removed from the Piscataqua, and settled on the island which has since borne his name in Boston Harbor.2 Farther eastward, John Brown, by 1625, had founded a settlement at New Harbor, on the eastern shore of Pemaquid; and in the next five years, eighty-four families had located there, on St. Georges River, and at Sheepscot.3 A station had also been established at Old Orchard Bay, while the importance of Monhegan as a centre for Indian trading is proved by large transactions there as early as 1626.4
Thus, the inhabitants of Plymouth, after the middle of the first decade of their settlement, were evidently outnumbered by the other permanent settlers, who were likewise founding New England. Some of these we know to have been of the established Church, as were Gorges and Mason, the proprietors of a large section of the territory; while of the majority, we know only that they were traders and planters, who were quite evidently in New England to make their fortunes, and for no other reason.
In 1625, there sailed into Boston Bay and New England history, a certain “man of pretie parts,” by name Captain Wollaston, a convivial sport named Thomas Morton, and “a great many servants, with provisions and other implements for to begine a plantation.” Among the implements was obviously a prodigious supply of strong waters. They “pitched themselves
1 Smith, Works, vol. ii, p. 783; Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 168 f.; John White, The Planter’s Plea (Force Tracts, Washington, 1838), vol. ii, pp. 38 ff.; Wm. Hubbard, History of New England (Cambridge, 1815), pp. 102 ff.
2 J. Winsor, Memorial History, vol. i, pp. 78, 83; C. F. Adams, “Old Planters about Boston Harbor,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, Series I, vol. XVI, p. 206.
3 Burrage, Colonial Maine, pp. 78, 83.
4 Ibid., pp. 183, 199.
in a place” within the present town of Quincy, calling their settlement Mt. Wollaston, after their leader. He, however, like some others before and since, did not find life in New England to “answer his expectations,” and carried off a number of his servants to Virginia, where he sold them at a good figure, and took his exit from the stage of history.
Thomas Morton, of Cliffords Inn, Gent., whose literary portrait has come down to us in the somewhat unreliable form of an appreciation by himself, supplemented by sundry exceedingly unflattering sketches by his enemies, now proceeded to take control of the situation in a manner entirely satisfactory to himself, the rest of the stranded Quincy band, and, it was darkly rumored, the less virtuous of the Indian squaws. He suggested to the remaining servants that, instead of allowing themselves to be transported to Virginia, they should stay with him as copartners, he having had a share in the enterprise; and that, together, they should thrust out Wollaston’s lieutenant. To this they willingly agreed, and matters proceeded merrily. Morton, who, whatever his failings, was a thorough sportsman and passionately fond of outdoor life, became a great favorite with the Indians, and trade was brisk. It must have been, if Bradford’s report that they sometimes drank ten pounds’ worth of liquor in a morning is to be credited, as the liquor certainly was not. “They also set up a Maypole,” wrote the scandalized Pilgrim, “drinking and dancing aboute it many days togeather, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together like so many fairies or furies” and revived “the beasley practicses of the madd Bacchinalians.”1
The joy of life had, indeed, made one other feeble effort to acclimatize itself in the frosty New England air on Christmas Day, in Plymouth, four years before. Most of the then recent arrivals, constituting, perhaps, a third of the entire community, had had the hardihood to wish to refrain from work on that day, and to celebrate it “in the streete at play, openly” with
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 237 ff.; Morton, New English Canaan (Force Tracts), vol. ii, 89 ff.
such ungodliness as pitching a bar and playing ball.1 That, however, with a certain show of grim humor, had been successfully repressed, as was the May-pole of Merry Mount, on the arrival of Endicott in Massachusetts.
When the echoes of Morton’s mad songs died for the last time among the pines of Quincy, rigid conformity to the Puritanical code of manners and morals had won its second victory. Repression and conformity, the two key-notes of Puritan New England, were to continue to mould the life of her people throughout the long “glacial age” of her early history. They did not, indeed, produce universal morality, but they produced the outward semblance of it, and a vast deal of hypocrisy. If they must revel, Bradford told the ballplayers, let them do it out of sight, “since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly.” Twenty years later, as he meditated upon the extraordinary amount of crime of unnamable sorts, which, as he wrote, had developed in New England “as in no place more, or so much, that I have known or heard of,” the possibility did, indeed, occur to him that, among other reasons, it might be “as it is with waters when their streams are stopped or damed up, when they gett passage they flow with more violence.”2
In spite of the good which Puritanism did as a protest against the prevailing immorality, it must be admitted also, that, in taking from the laboring classes and others so much of their opportunity for recreation of all sorts, it undoubtedly fostered greatly the grosser forms of vice, and helped to multiply the very sins it most abhorred. Those who lacked the taste or temperament to find their relief from the deadly monotony of long hours of toil in theological exposition, and who were debarred from their old-time sports, turned to drunkenness and sexual immorality, both of which were frequent in Puritan New England.
The attempt to erect the moral opinion of a minority into a
1 The colony numbered about 85. The newcomers were 35, and Bradford says (Plymouth, p. 112), “the most of this new-company” were guilty of the attempt.
2 Bradford, Plymouth, p. 385.
legal code binding upon all was not, by any means, confined to that section alone at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was, and is, a characteristic of Puritanism wherever found. At the very time that Bradford was condemning the Christmas sports of Plymouth, the authorities in Bermuda, for example, were passing laws requiring that there should be haled to court all “Sabath breakers” who were such “by absenting themselves from church, or leaving during service,” or “by using any bodily recreation by gaminge, sportinge, or by doing any servile work as travelling, fyshinge, cuttinge of wood, digginge of potatoes, carryinge of burdens, beatinge of corne,” together with a long list of other misdemeanors. New England Sabbatarian legislation never went further. Even that petty spying upon one another, to detect sins to be reported to the church, which must have been such an unpleasant form of keeping one’s brother in New England, was by no means indigenous there. The “churchwardens and sydesmen,” continued the Bermudian law, “shall dailie observe the carriage and lives of the people, and shall forthwith informe the ministers of all such scandalous crymes as shall be comitted by any of them.”1 Such quotations from the statute books of the other colonies could be multiplied almost indefinitely. The Puritan seed was sown on many soils, and if it took root and flourished so abundantly in New England as there to crowd out the flowers of the field to a greater extent than elsewhere, it was due in part to the nature of the actual soil which the Puritan himself had to till. We have already noted how the geographical features of the region fostered the classes of fishermen, small traders, subsistence farmers, and townsmen; how it prevented the growth of a large land-owning or slave-owning population; how, in a word, it produced a society which was largely democratic and almost wholly middle-class. Moreover, in the discussion of Puritanism, we noticed how that movement was strongest, struck its roots deepest, and assumed its most uncompromising form, in the very class which thus
1 J. H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlements of the Bermudas (London, 1877-79), vol. ii, p. 320.
became almost synonymous with the New England population. To return to Merry Mount, however, it must be conceded that there were more serious things wrong there than merely heavy drinking and loose living. Morton, led by cupidity, had made the fatal error of selling fire-arms to the Indians. Needless to say, the profits, in beaver, of such a trade, were enormous; but it threatened the life of every white man on the coast, and residents of the scattered settlements asked Plymouth to join with them in suppressing the deadly mischief. Morton, after a brief struggle, of which he gives an amusing account, was taken into custody, and shipped to England with a complaint to the Council for New England.
The cost of the expedition, which had been led by Standish, amounted to a little over £12, borne by eight settlements, of which the inhabitants of Plymouth outnumbered all the other seven together.1 That colony, however, contributed but one sixth of the money spent, for which several reasons might be suggested. During the years of its existence, it had received practically no help from the capitalists at home, subsequent to the first fitting out, and the really great achievement of its leaders had consisted in maintaining, for the first time, the existence of a plantation in a wilderness by its own unaided efforts. The three main points of interest in that connection were the abandonment of the common-stock theory, the growth of trade, and the buying out of the interest of the capitalists, which latter transaction foreshadowed the transfer to America of the Massachusetts charter.
The theory of a common-stock as a necessity for the profitable operation of colonies was the accepted one of the day, in spite of repeated failures due to human nature. That failure had been as evident in Plymouth as elsewhere. Young unmarried men objected to having the fruits of their toil go to support other men’s wives and children. Married men disliked having their wives sew, cook, and wash for the others. Hard-working men thought it unfair that they should support
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 240 ff.; cf. also Bradford, Letter Book, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series I, vol. iii, p. 63.
the more idle or incapable. The older men, or those of the better class, declined to work for the younger or meaner. The pinch of hunger, in 1623, finally decided the colonists to set aside their agreement, in the interests of the capitalists as well as their own, in the one particular of raising food. The immediate result was a greatly increased production, so that many had a surplus and trading began among themselves, with corn as currency. The following year, one acre of land was confirmed to each individual in severalty.1
There was, however, no surplus of food for export, and lumber and beaver were the only available commodities. But the site that had been chosen for the colony was in a poor location for the Indian trade, which required access to the interior along some waterway; and the Pilgrims were therefore forced to resort to coasting voyages for their main supply of skins.
Not only had the London merchants received almost no interest upon their investment, but it began to seem evident to them that the principal itself was lost. Quarrels among themselves over the character of the colonists sent out, and mutual recriminations, completed the break-down of the company. Finally, in December, 1624, some of them wrote to Bradford and others that they had decided to abandon the venture and lose what they had already expended rather than risk any more, suggesting that the Pilgrims send over what they could to pay special debts, amounting to £1400. Those writing the letter also sent out, on their own account, some cattle and various useful commodities, to be sold to the settlers at seventy per cent advance, to cover the profits and risks. The latter were indeed great, insurance alone, at that time, consuming about twenty-five per cent for the round trip;3 and the following year, Standish, who had been sent to
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 134, 167. The list of lots, with their owners, is in Plymouth Records, vol. XII, pp. 1-6.
2 In 1626, it was decreed that no corn, beans or peas could be exported without license from the governor and council. Plymouth Records, vol. XII, p. 8.
3 Gerard Malynes writing in 1622, quotes rates of insurance to various ports. He does not give New England, but quotes San Domingo as 12 per cent each way, and the East Indies at 15 per cent. Cf. his Consuetudo vel Lex Mercatoria (London, 1636), p. 108.
London for the purpose, could not borrow money, for the purchase of trading goods, at less than fifty per cent. Goods and capital they must have, however, and the profits, when made, were correspondingly great. While Standish was in London, Winslow made a trip to the Kennebec, in a small vessel, laden only with a little of that surplus corn which they had raised, and there secured seven hundred pounds weight of beaver, besides other furs. In 1626, hearing that the trading station at Monhegan was going out of business, Bradford and Winslow, accompanied by Thompson from Piscataqua, went to attend the sale, at which the Pilgrims bought goods to the value of £400. An additional stock, amounting to £100, was bought from the wreck of a French ship in the ill-fated Damaris Cove, the purchases being paid for with the beaver which they had accumulated the winter before. The following spring, Allerton arrived from London with £200 more, which he had succeeded in raising at thirty per cent; so that their capital was now ample.1 The greatest advance which they made in their trade with the Indians, however, was due to the friendly Dutch, who sold them some wampum, and taught them its great value in dealing with the savages. This appearance of the ubiquitous Dutch, helping a struggling colony to achieve economic strength by valuable advice or yet more valuable trading in needed goods, was a frequent one in the early seventeenth century, and in all quarters of the globe. The Pilgrims at Plymouth, the French at St. Christophers, and innumerable other little settlements on secluded bays or on lonely islands, owed their prosperity or preservation to the timely arrival of a “Dutch trading captain.” It would be interesting to trace how many little bands of people, abandoned by their own companies or governments, were thus nursed into strength by the Holland traders, who sought them out, and knew their needs.2
Assured now of sufficient food, and with the Indian trade well established, the settlers felt that their position in these
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 198, 204, 209, 222, 234.
2 Cf. S. L. Minis, Colbert’s West Indian Policy (Yale Univ. Press, 1912), pp. 20 f.
respects was secure. There were, however, two matters which gave them cause for anxiety. One was the interference by outsiders with their trade on the Kennebec, and the other was their ill-defined situation in regard to the Adventurers in London. In spite of the abandonment of the enterprise by the latter, their claims would continue in existence unless legally extinguished; and it was essential for the settlers to come to some agreement with them, in order that their property and goods should not be liable to seizure in the future. Negotiations, begun by Allerton in 1626, were completed by him on a second trip the year after, when he not only secured a patent for a definite tract on the Kennebec from the Council for New England, but consummated the deal with the Adventurers by which all claims of every description were to be canceled by the payment to them of £1800, in annual instalments of £200 each. The payment of this sum, together with £600 of additional debt, was undertaken by Bradford, Brewster, Standish, and Winslow, with four others in the colony and four friends in England, in exchange for a monopoly of the colony’s trade for six years.1
By their purchase of all the Adventurers’ interest, the Pilgrims had thus practically eliminated the proprietary elements that had existed in their organization, and the settlement became what, for all practical purposes, it had been from the start—a corporate colony. A new patent for Plymouth, granted them in 1630, in the name of Bradford and certain associates, assigned them a definite territory, which the earlier ones had not done, and a confirmation of the Kennebec holdings also straightened out boundary matters there. Their title-deeds, therefore, were now secure. Their powers of government, however, continued to rest solely upon the compact signed in the cabin of the Mayflower ten years before; for, in spite of their efforts, they were never able to obtain a royal charter with privileges similar to those enjoyed by Massachusetts. But in four of the most important elements in than
1 Bradford, Plymouth, pp. 212, 221, 226.
2 Cf. Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i, p. 290.
larger migration,—the bringing of families to form permanent homes, the peculiar form of church government, the individual ownership of freely acquired land, and the severing of business and legal relations with any company in England,—the Massachusetts leaders but followed the ways laid out by the simple founders of Plymouth.
Dinsmore Documentation presents Classics of American Colonial History