In 1638, Thomas Prince is chosen as Governor. During that same year, three men are executed for robbery and murder: Arthur Peach, Thomas Jackson, and Richard Stinnings. It’s found that Peach, a soldier in the Pequot War, was planning to defect to the Dutch colony, along with Jackson, Stinnings, and another man named Daniel Crose. It’s also revealed that Peach has “seduced” a maidservant and must leave to avoid disgrace. The four men flee the colony and quickly run into a group of Narragansett Indians. Peach attacks and kills one Indian; immediately afterwards, he and his friends are arrested by the Narragansett and brought to “Mr. Williams” (i.e., Roger Williams). Williams manages to pacify the Narragansett for a time, but eventually they bring the men back to Plymouth. Though some object that Englishmen should be executed for killing a “mere” Indian, the Plymouth leadership agrees to execute the men, giving the Narragansett “satisfaction.” (However, Crose escapes from captivity before he can be executed.)
It’s interesting that, just one year after waging the Pequot War against the Native Americans, the Pilgrim leaders prosecute their own citizens with greater severity and bloodthirstiness than ever before—it’s as if the war has set a new precedent for violence in Plymouth. Notice that the Plymouth leadership maintains its alliance with the Narragansett, prosecuting its own people for fighting with the Narragansett. Readers might interpret the Plymouth leaders’ behavior as a sign that they respect Native Americans and consider them human beings with rights (which is more than can be said for other colonists of the time)—but it could also be argued that the Plymouth leaders are just trying to maintain a useful strategic alliance with the Narragansett.
The Pilgrims receive many more letters from England, explaining that the investors have been unable to obtain any money from Mr. Sherley. Investors have also failed to obtain high prices for the goods the Pilgrims shipped them, and attempt to charge the Pilgrims for the losses. The Pilgrims send back more furs and other goods; however, Bradford writes, “this did not stay their clamor, as will appear hereafter.”
In some ways, the Plymouth Plantation is better organized and economically healthier than England itself: England is still recovering from a brutal plague that’s weakened its labor force and its market for luxury goods. Plymouth, on the other hand, has profited from a victory in the Pequot War.
In the same year, American prices for cattle and corn are exceptionally high, bringing great wealth to the colonists. The original Plymouth settlers, who own stock in the colony, begin to prosper. However, the colony experiences a setback when an earthquake occurs in early June. Who, Bradford asks rhetorically, can stay God’s hand? In the following years, temperatures are unseasonably cold. Bradford will leave it to naturalists to judge whether the temperature drop was responsible for the upcoming poor harvests.
The Plymouth Plantation begins to prosper, thanks to its economic productivity and the territory it protected in the First Pequot War. Yet even in the midst of its success, the colony experiences a horrible earthquake. Throughout the book, Bradford has interpreted natural disasters as signs of divine punishment—yet as usual, he doesn’t draw the same conclusion regarding his own people, and instead interprets the earthquake as a sign of God’s power.