Of Plymouth Plantation | Study Guide

William Bradford

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Of Plymouth Plantation | Book 2, A.D. 1629–30 | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, A.D. 1629

The "Leyden people" (the remaining Separatists at Leyden) arrived in New Plymouth in early 1629, with Isaac Allerton—the colony's representative in England—returning on a later ship. While in London, Allerton was able to conclude the agreement between the colonists and the English investors. He was also tasked with obtaining enlarged patents (grants of land) for New Plymouth and the Kennebec trading house but failed to do so before returning. Details of these negotiations are reprinted in a series of letters from James Sherley, an English investor who agreed to represent the colony's interests. Sherley's letters also introduce Edward Ashley, a young trader sent to the colony this year. A distrustful Bradford deemed Ashley "a very profane young man." Letters from other New England colonies tell of a disease outbreak at Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Book 2, A.D. 1630

By early 1630 Bradford had even less reason to trust Ashley, who had incurred debts at the colony while somehow finding the means to send trading goods back to England. To satisfy their and Ashley's mutual business partners, however, the New Plymouth colonists were forced to keep dealing with Ashley on favorable terms. Colonial leaders also grew dubious about how well Allerton was advocating for them in England. They sent Edward Winslow to check on him and, if necessary, relieve him of his duties. Two ships—the fishing ship Friendship and the trading ship White Angel—arrived later that year. The Friendship had been fitted out at the colony's expense despite no order being made for such a ship. For Bradford, this unauthorized dealing was a further sign Allerton "played his own game" and did not put the colony's interests first. Ultimately, Allerton was stripped of his authority for this and other lapses in judgment. Ashley, meanwhile, was arrested for dealing arms to the Native Americans and sent back to England as a prisoner.

Analysis

From this point onward, New Plymouth's relations with other English colonies will play an important part in its history. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in 1629, quickly became Plymouth's most important colonial neighbor. Like Plymouth, it was envisioned as a religious colony, but the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay were by and large not Separatists. The leadership at Massachusetts also tended to be stricter on matters of public morality and quicker to prosecute religious offenses as crimes. They cooperated with New Plymouth, although reluctantly, in matters of mutual defense, but the two colonies often failed to see eye to eye in religious matters. Moreover, the overlapping territorial claims of the colonies weakened trust between Massachusetts and New Plymouth. The founding governor of Massachusetts Bay, John Winthrop (1588–1649), is a frequent correspondent of Bradford in subsequent chapters, as is his successor John Endecott (1600–65). Massachusetts Bay's major settlements lay at Salem, Charlestown, and Boston, all of which are referenced in Bradford's writings. The Salem mentioned by Bradford is, incidentally, the same one later made famous by the witch trials of 1692. In addition, the "Dutch" colony is New Amsterdam, or what is now New York.

Subsequent colonies in New England included Connecticut, founded in 1633, and New Haven, founded in 1638. These two colonies later merged in 1665. Joining New Plymouth and Massachusetts, the four became the United Colonies of New England, or New England Confederation, in 1643. Before this merger, however, there were a number of unsuccessful attempts to establish some kind of body to allow the colonies to coordinate their defenses and settle boundary disputes. Intercolonial relations remained informal and ad hoc in character for a long time even as the New England region grew more crowded. This confusion was worsened by a lingering uncertainty as to how independent exactly the colonies were from England.

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