Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation Book 2, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Edward Winslow arrives in England, where he gets a warm welcome, thanks largely to the ample supply of furs he brings. Moreover, Winslow learns that the White Angel will not be charged against the Pilgrims—but Winslow is still asked to testify about the state of the colonies before the “Right Honorable Lords Commissioners for the Colonies in America.” Winslow explains that both the Dutch and the French have encroached on the Connecticut territory, building forts and interfering with England’s patent.
It’s suggested that the English investors recognize the profitability of the Plymouth colony, and therefore don’t feel the need to charge the Pilgrims for the White Angel. However, the colony’s profitability has brought it into conflict with the Dutch and French colonists, who also seek to expand their trading routes and landholdings.
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Winslow’s testimony leads some members of the Commission to propose allowing the colonists to resolve the trade dispute in their own way. However, Sir Ferdinand Gorges, a member of the Commission (and father of Robert Gorges) is planning to serve as Governor General, and wants to establish his authority over New England, “disturbing the peace of the churches.” However, Gorges’ plan comes to nothing. In the following days, Winslow is questioned by the Lords, and his character is called into question—it’s suggested that he’s an immoral man for marrying couples without proper religious authority. Winslow is imprisoned for seventeen weeks for his alleged abuse of power. He’s released, and the Commission never sends forces to resolve the trade dispute.
Winslow’s testimony is an important moment for the Plymouth colonists. At this moment, the New England colonies face the possibility of coming under the control of one overarching Governor, Sir Ferdinand Gorges. However, in the end, the English crown never sends Gorges to run the colonies. This is good news for the colonists, since it allows them to continue practicing their own religion and running their own affairs. (Bradford doesn’t say why the English never send Gorges to America, but in part it’s because the English state was weak at the time, due to plague and economic problems.)
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On September 7th, 1635, James Sherley sends the Plymouth colony a letter explaining that he’s sending the Pilgrims a letter of attorney that will enable them to sue Allerton for the costs of the White Angel.
The Pilgrims further strengthen their finances when Sherley arranges for them to sue Allerton.
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In 1635, the Pilgrims sustain a heavy loss from the French colonists. In Penobscot harbor, French colonists, led by one Monsieur d’Aulnay, take control of several English settlers’ homes in the name of the King of France. The Pilgrims retaliate by sending an armed brigade, led by Myles Standish, to sail to the harbor and demand that the French return the property. However, Standish quarrels with the captain of the ship, a man named Girling—first over Girling’s payment and then about the proper time to fire on the French. Girling clumsily begins shooting before the ship has even reached the harbor, wasting their supply of gunpowder. Embarrassed, Standish has no choice but to turn back.
Although the Pilgrims are economically self-sufficient and fairly healthy, they lack a strong military. This becomes a major problem because neighboring colonies can steal English property with impunity, embarrassing the New England settlers (though of course Bradford doesn’t comment on the fact that the colonists first stole the land from the Native Americans). While Bradford doesn’t dwell on the d’Aulnay affair for long, it’s a very influential moment in Pilgrim history, inspiring Bradford to strengthen Plymouth’s defenses (in the next few years, the Pilgrims fight a war and form a military alliance with their neighbors).
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The Pilgrims try to resolve the dispute with the French by contacting the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Massachusetts leadership supports the Pilgrims but claims that it cannot spare resources to deploy troops. Toward the end of 1635, they send troops for the Pilgrims’ mission, but apologize for being unable to provide more. Around the same time, Massachusetts merchants begin trading with the French, providing them with ammunition. To this day, Bradford writes, the French disrespect English trade and English property, largely because of the guns and ammunition they’ve obtained through English merchants.
Plymouth tries and fails to get military assistance from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As a result, the Plymouth settlement experiences a humiliating defeat—the French colonists snatch away the Pilgrims’ property, and the Pilgrims are unable to reclaim it. Less than a decade later, however, Plymouth forms a strong military alliance with Massachusetts, ensuring that enemy colonies won’t be able to do this again without facing opposition.
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In August, a storm decimates the Pilgrim community, especially near Connecticut. The same month, there’s a lunar eclipse. Shortly afterwards, settlers in the Massachusetts Bay venture into Connecticut, knowing that the storm has cleared the area—and in doing so, they interfere with the Pilgrims’ land rights. In the end, the colonists reach a treaty: the Plymouth settlers will keep their property along with “a 16th part of all they bought from the Indians,” leaving the remaining territory for the Massachusetts settlers. However, the memory of the Massachusetts settlers’ rudeness is not soon forgotten.
The Pilgrims quarrel with the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers in the Connecticut area. However, they reach a treaty with Massachusetts, ensuring that both colonies will be able to own property in Connecticut. Bradford’s noting of the lunar eclipse is an interesting aside, as he hardly ever comments on nature or larger external events except as they relate to the colony. The storm and eclipse so close together might be seen as bad omens.
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Edward Winslow, still in England, is under orders to recruit a new minister for Plymouth. He recruits a man who dies just before the voyage, meaning that he must quickly find a replacement. He settles on a man named Mr. Norton. Norton is unsure if he wants to live in Plymouth; in the end, he spends a year in Plymouth, but then moves to another colony.
The chapter ends on a depressing note: in just one year, the colony experiences a humiliating defeat, quarrels with one of its key allies, experiences a devastating storm, and can’t even recruit a preacher.
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