Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation Book 2, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In 1629, Isaac Allerton arrives in England and proceeds with his negotiations. While he’s in England, a ship sends many of the reformers who’d been living in Leyden to America, where they arrive in the small town of Salem. Bradford notes what a “wonder” it is that the Christians living in Holland were able to form a thriving colony in the New World. James Sherley sends letters to Bradford, explaining that the colony has become profitable to the point where the investors are willing to send more colonists. The “Leyden companies” arrive in America by May 1630. These new Pilgrims are in debt as a result of their transatlantic voyage, but they work hard to pay off their financial obligations.
Notice that Bradford attributes the splendor of the Plymouth Plantation to both God’s majesty and the Pilgrims’ own hard work, instead of one or the other. The Pilgrims saw themselves as being personally responsible for their own lots in life, even if they also worshipped God and thanked him for their success. This combination of Christianity and a strong emphasis on personal responsibility has been interpreted as a distinctly Protestant, or even distinctly American ideology. (However, Plymouth’s success creates a new wave of immigration from England, and a new generation of debtors (mostly indentured servants) who must work hard to pay off their obligations. Recently, some historians have written about how the waves of indentured servants in 17th-century America created a permanent underclass that survives in America today.)
Themes
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Bias and Propaganda Theme Icon
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In March 19, 1629, James Sherley sends Bradford a letter concerning Allerton’s behavior. Allerton curries favor with important English aristocrats; however, he also asks to be sent to England one further time to settle the patent, a request that Sherley makes in his letter. Bradford insists that, in reality, Allerton wanted more time in England for his own selfish purposes, since the patent could have been settled very quickly.
Bradford is intelligent enough to recognize that Allerton is exploiting his position and, presumably, using the extra time to establish new business deals to make himself richer.
Themes
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War, Violence, and the State Theme Icon
Allerton returns to America and brings Mr. Morton with him, further upsetting the Pilgrims. Morton is now rumored to be a murderer, and his return to America frightens many. Allerton also angers Bradford by bringing far more than the fifty pounds of goods Bradford requested, selling these goods for his own profit. It becomes clear that Allerton is now more interested in his own finances than helping the colony. Yet he also marries the daughter of William Brewster, meaning that he has a reputation for virtue.
Allerton is a complex character: like Weston, Morton, or other “villains” in the book, he’s presented as a selfish hypocrite. However, unlike these characters, Allerton is genuinely respected. By marrying a Brewster—one of the most respected families in the Pilgrim community—Allerton gains an unearned reputation for respectability, since people naturally assume that only a very virtuous, honorable man could become William Brewster’s son-in-law.
Themes
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War, Violence, and the State Theme Icon
Sherley sends Bradford a letter, dated March 19th, 1629, in which he explains that Allerton has arranged for a separate financial partnership with a man named Edward Ashley. Bradford points out that Allerton was reckless to begin another venture before the Pilgrims had paid off their debts. He adds that Ashley is known to be a “very profane young man,” who has lived among the Indians. The Pilgrims agree to join Ashley’s new enterprise, recognizing that if they don’t, they risk losing English investors and business contacts. After further debate, the Pilgrims send Allerton back to England to close negotiations on the Kennebec patent. Many of the Pilgrims are suspicious that Allerton will pursue his own interests instead of the colony’s, but Allerton insists that he’ll make up for his errors.
Allerton is clearly pursuing his own business ventures, which means that he’s not giving the Pilgrims’ finances the attention they deserve. However, as with Weston, the Pilgrims decide that their best, most pragmatic option is to keep working with Allerton: even if Allerton is untrustworthy, he still has too much power over the Pilgrim’s business connections in England to cut ties. Also note Bradford’s judgment of Ashley’s perceived immorality—a religious opinion that affects his financial dealings.
Themes
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Bradford next relates the story of Ralph Smith, a former minister who traveled to the Massachusetts Bay in early 1629. Smith and his family travel to Plymouth, where he becomes a minister. Around the same time, the Salem governor, John Endicott, writes to Bradford requesting his help treating scurvy victims. Bradford sends a doctor to Salem, and afterwards strikes up a firm friendship with Endicott.
As time goes on, Bradford becomes more confident in his role as a governor of the Plymouth colony. He develops useful contacts with authorities in neighboring colonies and cities, such as Salem.
Themes
Christianity Theme Icon
War, Violence, and the State Theme Icon
Debt and Religious Capitalism Theme Icon