In England, Isaac Allerton closes the deal with investors, such that the Pilgrims will pay off their debts over six years. On November 17th, 1628, James Sherley sends the colonists notice that, although the colony has sent back beaver and otter skins, they still have “large obligations.” Yet the “adventurers,” recognizing the profitability of the colony, invest another eighty pounds in supplies for the Pilgrims. Allerton also drafts a contract allowing Sherley to act as the Pilgrims’ attorney.
The Plymouth colony is becoming more and more financially successful, which means that English merchants are investing money in it’s growth—not just trying to make back their old investments. Once again, this links financial decisions with religious ones.
Allerton returns to Plymouth in the spring with goods. He informs Bradford that he’s put Mr. Sherley in charge of their affairs. Allerton also provides the Pilgrims with a patent for the nearby region of Kennebec. Bradford notes, “Allerton had done…good and faithful service: would that he had so continued.”
The chapter represents a turning point, as after this Allerton becomes increasingly self-interested, and begins to use his position of power over the Pilgrims for his own selfish advantage.
Later in 1629, the Dutch visit the Pilgrims, bringing linen and sugar. The Pilgrims trade with the Dutch and buy wampum (a kind of shell used by the Indians to make beads), and the Dutch assure them that there’s much more of it in Kennebec. In the next few years, the Pilgrims begin trading with the Dutch to a much greater degree, limiting their trade with fishermen. The Pilgrims’ new interest in trading wampum also alters Indian society. Previously, the Massachusetts Indians had little wampum, but envied tribes such as the Narragansett Indians for owning so much of it. Recognizing the Indians’ desire for more wampum, the Pilgrims begin selling more of it to the Indians. The Indians then start using wampum as currency, even using it to buy guns from the French.
It’s another sign of the Pilgrims’ growing economic clout that, at least according to Bradford, the supply of wampum in the area grows significantly. Now that the colonists are trading with the Native Americans year-round, certain tribes have an incentive to devote their resources to harvesting wampum and nothing else—essentially adapting to the new system of European capitalism and currency now being forced on them.
The relationship between Indians and guns is worth describing, Bradford says. A few years earlier, one Captain Wollaston led a settlement in Massachusetts, in which there were many “servants” (indentured servants). Mr. Morton, one of the colonists, resented that Wollaston sent so many of these servants down to Virginia. While Wollaston was in Virginia, Morton led the remaining servants in a rebellion against the temporary leader of the colony. As the new leader of his colony, Mr. Morton threw lavish parties and got his new followers drunk. To make more money, he began trading guns with the Indians, who were eager to acquire the weaponry. Countless Englishmen and Dutchmen have now been murdered by Indians, Bradford says, thanks to Morton’s trading. Morton not only sold guns to the Indians but also trained them in marksmanship.
Indentured servants barely show up in Bradford’s account of Plymouth Plantation, but in fact they were a huge part of early colonial American history. These working-class people, much like the Pilgrims themselves, traveled to America and then worked for years to pay off their debts. Bradford characterizes those like Morton, who led working-class revolts against the colonial authorities, as villainous—a drunken, disorderly con artist. However, many later historians have praised Morton and other similar figures (for example, Nathaniel Bacon) for challenging authoritarian rule.
The Pilgrims decide to write to Mr. Morton and urge him to stop selling guns to the Indians, reminding him that the King has forbidden the practice. Morton “haughtily” replies, “the king’s proclamation was no law.” Bradford decides to send Captain Standish and armed men to arrest Morton. They do so, take him to Plymouth, and eventually send him back to England. However, Morton “fooled” his guards in England, and returns to America the next year. Bradford regrets having to devote so much space to writing about “so unworthy a person.”
Morton is very influential in early colonial history, since he’s responsible for selling guns to Native Americans, correcting some of the technological asymmetry in the constant clashes between the Native Americans and the European colonists.
Returning from his latest trip to England, Allerton brings over a minister named Mr. Rogers for the Pilgrims. However, Rogers is quickly found to be “crazed in the brain,” and the Pilgrims are forced to pay to send him back to England. Allerton is harshly criticized for wasting so much of the colony’s money on such a person. In addition to bringing back goods from England, Allerton begins to sell some of his own goods to the colonists, and to settlers in other areas. In previous years, this hasn’t been a problem, but now, Allerton begins selling more and more of his goods, to the point where some of the Puritans become suspicious that he’s taking investors’ provisions and passing them off as his own.
Allerton’s decision to bring Mr. Rogers back to America is the first sign that he’s beginning to waver in his devotion to the colonists. Allerton exploits his elite position by selling goods for his own advantage. Allerton’s behavior could be interpreted as an example of how “power corrupts”—a position that the English reformers generally shared (and which inspired them to criticize the English prelates early in the century).
In spite of their suspicions, the Pilgrims decide to send Allerton back to England to negotiate a new, more generous patent on Kennebec. His instructions are to renegotiate the land patent and bring back no goods other than hose, shoes, and linen.
As with Weston, the Pilgrims don’t particularly trust Allerton anymore, but recognize that they don’t have much of a choice but to continue working with him.