Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation Book 2, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In 1633, Edward Winslow becomes the new governor. Ships return from England, bearing news from Sherley about Allerton’s finances. Sherley regretfully explains that he’s been unable to make any progress in shifting the burden of debt away from the Pilgrims and onto Allerton—as a result, the Pilgrims are going to have to pay for some of the debts Allerton accumulated.
1633 marks a turning point, because Bradford steps down as Governor. This might suggest that the community is stable and complacent enough that it can afford to switch leaders. It also reminds readers that Plymouth is, at least in theory, a democratic community, in which leaders lead for short periods of time before being replaced (however, notice that Bradford doesn’t write about how Winslow becomes governor, or if Bradford himself was continually reelected for his long period as governor).
Themes
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Around the same time, Roger Williams—“a godly and zealous man” with “very unstable judgment”—rises to become a minister in Massachusetts. His teachings are acclaimed, even after his opinions become very eccentric. When controversy arises, he applies to transfer to Salem, where he becomes even more eccentric and controversial. Bradford simply writes that he pities Williams and prays that God will bring him back to a righteous path one day.
Roger Williams is another famous figure of early New England history: he’s noted for taking the Protestant doctrine of predestination to its logical extreme, arguing that good behavior and frugal living made no difference to one’s salvation. Bradford seems to respect Williams’ intellect, even if he disagrees with Williams’s conclusions. (The historian Andrew Delbanco has written about the paradox of Puritan society: Puritans believed in the soul’s predestination, and yet, with the exception of Roger Williams, everybody behaved as if God would judge them for their behavior and deeds.)
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The Pilgrims learn from the Dutch of a fertile territory near what would eventually be known as the Connecticut River. Slowly they begin to explore the territory and trade with Indians there. Meanwhile, the Indians try to convince the Massachusetts colony to trade with them near the Connecticut River. The Plymouth and Massachusetts governors confer about building joint trading houses in Connecticut, but Massachusetts has too many financial problems at the time, so Plymouth becomes the first English colony to expand into Connecticut.
Plymouth builds on its economic advantages by allocating resources for the colonization of the Connecticut River territory. In this way, it seems to outperform the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which, according to Bradford, is too poor and disorganized to explore (although the Massachusetts Bay Colony was actually larger than Plymouth).
Themes
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Around the same time, the Dutch, realizing how strategically useful Connecticut could be, begin to expand into the territory themselves. They build fortresses and forbid the Pilgrims from expanding any farther from Plymouth. However, the Dutch eventually allow some Pilgrims to pass through Connecticut, perhaps afraid that fighting will lead to a full-scale war.
As the European colonies in America become larger and more stable, they begin to compete with one another militarily. As before, the colonies aren’t exactly preparing for war; rather, they demonstrate their military might in an effort to deter war.
Themes
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Later in 1633, an “infectious fever” breaks out, claiming the lives of many colonists. The Plymouth physician, Samuel Fuller, is killed—a huge loss to the community. However, the settlers are able to send home a huge supply of beaver furs, paying off a significant chunk of the colony’s debts.
Note that Bradford doesn’t assume, as he might otherwise, that the plague is a sign of God’s disapproval or punishment.
Themes
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