Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation Book 2, Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Bradford says that he will discuss 1639 and 1640 together, since they were a calm time in Plymouth history. Plymouth acquires new land, and there are various controversies with Massachusetts over the borders of the new towns. The Plymouth and Massachusetts courts both appoint commissioners (including Bradford himself) to find fair boundaries. In the end, the commissioners divide the new communities along the Hingam River and nearby Bound Brook. The new Plymouth land patent is taken out in Bradford’s name, extending to his heirs and associates.
Although 1639 and 1640 seem to be slow periods, they’re actually very important in Puritan history. In the aftermath of the Pequot War, Plymouth and Massachusetts enjoy a degree of cooperation, mediated by the court system, that they’ve never experienced before.
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The Plymouth Plantation receives a few important letters from England, requesting further goods to help Mr. Sherley pay off his own obligations to investors. The colonists are highly reluctant to do so, but ask John Winthrop’s advice. Winthrop advises the Pilgrims not to send any goods back to Sherley. The Pilgrims are still irritated at having been blamed for falling behind in their debts for so many years, when in reality, they were the victims of corruption and laziness. Furthermore, many of the original colonists have no desire to go into debt once again, since they’re now financially comfortable and getting older.
The Pilgrims have nearly paid off their own debts, and therefore are reluctant to go into debt again to help Mr. Sherley. The cultural influence of the Pilgrims’ debt can still be felt in American society—their slow, steady working off of their financial obligations reinforced ideals of hard work and individual responsibility that later formed the cornerstone of the American capitalist ideology.
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