Of Plymouth Plantation | Study Guide

William Bradford

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Of Plymouth Plantation | Book 1, Chapters 7–8 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 7

The Separatists finally left Holland in the summer of 1620, when two ships were hired to transport them westward. Boarding a small ship, the Speedwell, at Delftshaven, they traveled to Southampton, where a larger vessel, the Mayflower, waited for them. Disputes over the terms of their agreement cost them the support of Thomas Weston, the merchant who originally had arranged shipping for them. Several farewell letters from John Robinson, the leader of the Leyden congregation, are reprinted next.

As a result of the dispute, the Pilgrims now were about 100 pounds short of meeting their obligations. Thus, they were forced to sell some of their provisions.

Book 1, Chapter 8

After Southampton, however, the Pilgrims' troubles continued. The Speedwell began to leak and had to return to London, with some of its passengers being taken on board the Mayflower. A letter from Robert Cushman—one of the Speedwell passengers who stayed behind—further attests to the difficulties faced in this early leg of the voyage.

Analysis

Surprisingly, given how famous the ship later became, the name "Mayflower" is not mentioned by Bradford in the chapters describing the Pilgrims' original voyage. It first appears not in Bradford's writings, but in a 1623 record of land allotments. The name of the companion vessel, the Speedwell, is likewise omitted from Of Plymouth Plantation but is present in later 17th-century literature.

The colonists got much more from the Mayflower than passage over the Atlantic. The ship sheltered them until a safe landfall could be made and served as a temporary lodging while settlements were built on shore. Like other merchant ships of its kind, the Mayflower was also armed with cannons of various sizes to defend against pirates and privateers. Several of these were left behind for the defense of the colony and were mounted on the fortifications of the New Plymouth settlement. Bradford later describes this "great ordnance" (artillery) as valuable in warding off Native American attacks.

After its return to England in the spring of 1621, the Mayflower made a few more voyages before being effectively retired in 1622. The ship was appraised in 1624, at which point, if not before, it was deemed no longer seaworthy. Historians generally believe it was broken up soon thereafter, and its timbers may have been used for building on land. Bradford's subsequent references to a vessel called the Mayflower indicate a completely different ship of the same name.

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