Of Plymouth Plantation | Study Guide

William Bradford

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Of Plymouth Plantation | Glossary


adventurer: early modern term for an investor. The adventurers who invested in the Plymouth Colony sought a profit and were discouraged by the colony's difficult early years.

charter: a formal grant of power by a monarch or government. Plymouth never received a royal charter, leaving its territory and legal status ambiguous for much of its existence.

first comers: those who came to Plymouth on the original Mayflower expedition. Bradford uses the term just once in his record, but later historians have adopted it to distinguish this first "wave" of colonists.

joint-stock company: a company in which shares can be bought, sold, and otherwise transferred. The investors in the Plymouth Colony formed a joint-stock company, whose membership changed repeatedly over the course of the colony's early history.

lading: the cargo of a ship. The economy of the early Plymouth Colony was weakened by the inability to send back much, if any, lading on the ships that visited the colony.

Mayflower Compact: the 1620 document that served as the basis for Plymouth Colony's law and government. Bradford reports the text of the Compact in Book 2, A.D. 1620.

Papist: a disparaging term for an adherent of the Catholic Church. As a Protestant living in the immediate aftermath of the Reformation, Bradford had a deep distrust for "popish" practices.

patent: short for "letters patent," a legal document issued by a monarch or government. In Bradford's writings, "patent" refers to a grant of land, not to modern patents for inventions.

Pequot War: the 1636–38 conflict that pitted a confederation of colonists and Native American tribes against the rival Pequot tribe. Bradford describes the war as particularly bloody, especially on the part of the English.

pilgrim: literally, anyone who goes on a religious journey to a sacred site. The term Pilgrim (with a capital P) was later adopted for those who settled at Plymouth for religious reasons.

pinnace: a small boat, rigged for sailing, carried aboard and deployed from a larger ship. In the early years of Bradford's chronicle, the colonists often have few or no ships at their disposal and must make do with pinnaces.

Puritan: a term initially applied as an insult to English Protestants who wished to reform the Church of England further. Bradford and other Puritans later adopted the label as a mark of distinction.

sachem: an elected chief of a northeastern Native American tribe. The Plymouth colonists often became embroiled in conflicts among the sachems of the tribes near their settlement.

saint: a person recognized as holy by a church or religious tradition. Bradford uses the word to indicate those Plymouth colonists who settled there for religious purposes.

stranger: a foreigner, in the English of Bradford's day. The term stranger is used to distinguish those colonists who were not "saints"—i.e., not members of Bradford's Puritan congregation.

wampum: small cylindrical beads made of white and purple seashells. The Plymouth colonists used wampum as a currency in their trading relations with the Native Americans.

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