Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation

William Bradford Character Analysis

William Bradford is the author of Of Plymouth Plantation and an important figure in the history of the Plymouth colony. He served as the governor of the colony for many years, including from 1621 to 1632 and 1645 to 1656. During this time, Bradford was instrumental in negotiating the colonists’ debts with English creditors, managing relationships between Plymouth and neighboring colonies, and soothing tensions between Plymouth and Native American tribes. While Bradford is clearly an important presence in his book, it would be wrong to say that he’s the main character. Indeed, Bradford makes it clear right away that his intention is to write a neutral, third-person history of the Plymouth colony, in which his own biases and experiences are secondary to the “objective” history of the colony. Bradford will occasionally refer to himself in the first person; however, he also refers to himself in the third person as a sign of his stated commitment to objectivity. Bradford is an authoritative, deeply pious leader—but at the same time, it’s important to understand his political, religious, and economic biases and see the subjective nature of his supposedly objective history of Plymouth.

William Bradford Quotes in Of Plymouth Plantation

The Of Plymouth Plantation quotes below are all either spoken by William Bradford or refer to William Bradford. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Publisher edition of Of Plymouth Plantation published in 0.
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I must begin at the very root and rise of it; and this I shall endeavor to do in a plain style and with singular regard to the truth, at least as near as my slender judgment can attain to it.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

But still more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be borne, was that many of the children, influenced by these conditions, and the great licentiousness of the young people of the country and the many temptations of the city were led by evil example into dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and leaving their parents.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

About this time they heard both from Mr. Weston and others, that sundry honorable lords had obtained a large grant from the King, of the more northerly parts of the country arising out of the Virginia Company's patent, but wholly separated from its government, and to be called by another name, viz., New England.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Thomas Weston, King James I
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

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My object is that their children may see with what difficulties their fathers had to wrestle in accomplishing the first beginning; and how God ultimately brought them through, notwithstanding all their weakness and infirmities; also that some use may be made of them later, by others, in similar important projects.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

Mr. Weston also came up from London to see them embark, and to have the conditions confirmed; but they refused, and told him that he knew well that they were not according to the first agreement, nor could they endorse them without the consent of the rest in Holland. In fact they had special orders when they came away, from the chief men of the congregation, not to do it. At this he was much offended, and told them in that case they must stand on their own legs; so he returned to London in displeasure. They lacked about 100 pounds to clear their obligations; but he would not disburse a penny, and left them to shift as they could. So they were forced to sell some of their provisions…

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Thomas Weston
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

It pleased God, before they came half seas over, to smite the young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first to be thrown overboard. Thus his curses fell upon his own head, which astonished all his mates for they saw it was the just hand of God upon him.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

They also found two of the Indians’ houses covered with mats, and some of their implements in them; but the people had run away and could not be seen. They also found more corn, and beans of various colors. These they brought away, intending to give them full satisfaction when they should meet with any of them.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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Thus it pleased God to vanquish their enemies, and give them deliverance; and by His special providence so to dispose that not one of them was hit, though the arrows came close to them, on every side, and some of their coats which were hung up in the barricade were shot through and through. Afterwards they gave God solemn thanks and praise for their deliverance, and gathered up a bundle of the arrows, and later sent them to England by the captain of the ship. They called the place "The First Encounter."

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

So he went with the rest, and left them; but on returning from work at noon he found them at play in the street, some pitching the bar, some at stool-ball, and such like sports. So he went to them and took away their games, and told them that it was against his conscience that they should play and others work. If they made the keeping of the day a matter of devotion, let them remain in their houses; but there should be no gaming and reveling in the streets.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

This was the end of those who at one time boasted of their strength—all able, healthy men—and what they would do in comparison with the people here, who had many women and children and weak ones among them and who had said, on their first arrival, when they saw the want here, that they would take a very different course and not to fall into any such condition as these simple people had come to. But a man’s way is not in his own hands.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, that the taking away of private property and the possession of it in community by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

Then the Governor explained to the people that he had done it as a magistrate, and was bound to do it to prevent the mischief and ruin that this conspiracy and plot of theirs might otherwise have brought to the colony.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), John Lyford, John Oldham
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

While we ourselves are ready to take every opportunity to further so hopeful an enterprise, it must rest with you to put it on its feet again. And whatever else may be said, let your honesty and conscience remain approved, and lose no jot of your innocence amidst your crosses and afflictions; and surely if you behave yourselves wisely and go on fairly, you will need no other weapon to wound your adversaries; for when your righteousness is revealed as the light, they, who have causelessly sought your overthrow, shall cover their faces with shame.

Related Characters: William Bradford
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

Hitherto Mr. Allerton had done them good and faithful service: would that he had so continued.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Isaac Allerton
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

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How many Dutch and English have lately been killed by Indians, thus furnished; and no remedy is provided—nay, the evil has increased. The blood of their brothers has been sold for profit; and in what danger all these colonies are is too well-known.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Mr. Morton
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

Thus out of small beginnings greater things have grown by His hand, Who made all things out of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light enkindled here has shone to many…

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 13 Quotes

Others again, thinking themselves impoverished, or for want of accommodation, broke away on one pretense or another, thinking their own imagined necessity or the example of others sufficient warrant. This I fear will be the ruin of New England.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

I shall leave the matter, and desire the Lord to show him his errors and return him to the way of truth, and give him a settled judgment and constancy therein; for I hope he belongs to the Lord and that He will show him mercy.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Roger Williams
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

Notice was given a month beforehand, viz.: to Massachusetts, Salem, Piscataqua, and others, requesting them to produce any evidence they could in the case. The place of meeting was Boston. But when the day came, there only appeared some of the magistrates and ministers of Massachusetts and of New Plymouth. As none had come from Piscataqua or other places, Mr. Winthrop and the others said they could do no more than they had done, and the blame must rest with them.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Governor John Winthrop, Hocking
Page Number: 170-171
Explanation and Analysis:

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The chief Sachem himself died, and almost all his friends and relatives; but by the marvelous goodness and providence of God not one of the English was so much as ill…

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Sachem
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 16 Quotes

He consulted with the Captain how he could get further supplies of gun powder, for he had not enough to carry him home; so he told him he would go to the next settlement and endeavour to procure him some, and did so. But Captain Standish gathered, from intelligence he received that he intended to seize the bark and take the beaver, so he sent him the powder and brought the bark home. Girling never attacked the place again, and went on his way; which ended the business.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Captain Myles Standish, Girling
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 19 Quotes

Some of the more ignorant colonists objected that an Englishman should be put to death for an Indian. So at last the murderers were brought home from the Island, and after being tried, and the evidence produced, they all in the end freely confessed to all the Indian had accused them of and that they had done it in the manner described. So they were condemned by the jury, and executed. Some of the Narragansett Indians and the murdered man's friends, were present when it was done, which gave them and all the country satisfaction. But it was a matter of much sadness to them here, as it was the second execution since they came,—both being for willful murder.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), Arthur Peach, Thomas Jackson, Richard Stinnings
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 23 Quotes

I cannot but take occasion here to wonder at the marvelous providence of God, that, notwithstanding the many changes these people went through, and the many enemies they had, and the difficulties they met with, so many of them should live to very old age. It was not only their reverend elder—for one swallow makes no summer, as they say—but many more of them, some dying about and before this time, and some still living, who reached sixty or sixty-five years of age, others seventy and over, and some nearly eighty as he was. It must needs be accounted for by more than natural reasons…

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker), William Brewster
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

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The said United Colonies, for themselves and their posterity jointly and severally, hereby enter into a firm and perpetual league of friendship and amity for offence and defense, mutual advice and succor, upon all just occasions, both for preserving and propagating the truth of the Gospel, and for their own mutual safety and welfare.

Related Characters: William Bradford (speaker)
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

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William Bradford Character Timeline in Of Plymouth Plantation

The timeline below shows where the character William Bradford appears in Of Plymouth Plantation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
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William Bradford says that he will begin with an account of the events that led to the... (full context)
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Throughout history, Bradford claims, the Devil has tried to fight Christianity through various means. In ancient Rome, for... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2
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Bradford says he will not dwell on the details of how the English reformers made their... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
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Bradford says he won’t dwell on the details of the English reformers’ lives in Holland, since... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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...senior congregants begin to plan for a long-term colony in another part of the world. Bradford will now discuss the congregants’ reasons for proposing such a colony. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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Bradford provides letters that give an overview of the process by which the reformers negotiated a... (full context)
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...eventually decides not to go to America at all. Thus the patent is a symbol, Bradford says, of “the uncertain things of this world.” (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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...planters should be allowed “personal profit” from their work on the land in New England. Bradford, along with three of his peers, also pens a letter to Cushman, stressing that they’d... (full context)
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Bradford acknowledges that he has been especially thorough on the matters of financing the transatlantic voyage.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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...it’s winter when the Pilgrims arrive. They have nothing to sustain them but God’s mercy, Bradford says. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
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William Bradford says that he will compose the second part of his journal in somewhat less detail... (full context)
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...escape and reach Virginia. There are many other reports of the Indians’ savagery and bloodthirstiness, Bradford says. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
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The colony experiences a setback when Governor Carver becomes ill and dies. William Bradford is then chosen governor, despite the fact that he’s very ill. Isaac Allerton is appointed... (full context)
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...to the Pilgrims that Corbitant may have attacked Squanto. To defend the Pilgrims’ friend, Governor Bradford sends armed men to punish Corbitant, only to find that Squanto is alive and well—Corbitant... (full context)
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...The Pilgrims send the ship back to England, laden with valuable beaver and otter skins. Bradford also gives the captain a letter for Mr. Weston, in which he defends Carver’s decision... (full context)
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...is a threat of war. The Pilgrims respond by sending a pile of bullets. Governor Bradford organizes his people to take precautions in the event of war, and arranges for a... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
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William Bradford receives a third letter from Weston, this one addressed to him. Weston, now aware that... (full context)
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Bradford receives one more letter, this one from Robert Cushman. Cushman greets Bradford warmly, and mentions... (full context)
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...ship earlier in the year have settled in Massachusetts. They experience famine, and write to Bradford, begging to trade with the Pilgrims. Bradford consents, and enlists the Massachusetts settlers to sail... (full context)
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...word that they’re considering warring with the Indians to ensure that they have enough food. Bradford emphatically replies that the colonists shouldn’t war with the Indians. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
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It is strange, Bradford notes, that the Massachusetts colony should have fallen into hard times. The colony suffered because... (full context)
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...to send food. Standish agrees to help the settlers, and refuses to accept any payment. Bradford notes that the Massachusetts settlers, starved and diseased, had once claimed to be invincible. But,... (full context)
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...when he finally arrives in Plymouth, he is a shadow of his former self—“so uncertain,” Bradford notes, “are the mutable things of this unstable world.” (full context)
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...they take pity on him and offer him some food and skins. To this day, Bradford says, Weston has never repaid the Pilgrims. Furthermore, no new ship bearing supplies reaches Plymouth. (full context)
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Meanwhile, Governor Bradford mandates that all households plant their own corn. Each family is assigned a parcel of... (full context)
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...to the colonists, but that the ship had to return to England due to leaks. Bradford also receives a letter from the Virginia Company, explaining that the land patent for land... (full context)
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...not just because of luck but because the Pilgrims have become better organized. Since 1623, Bradford says, the Pilgrims haven’t suffered from famine. The colony becomes so successful that settlers come... (full context)
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...is a fire in Plymouth, caused by some sailors who were “roistering.” With God’s mercy, Bradford says, the colonists manage to put out the fire before it does great damage to... (full context)
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Captain Gorges issues a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Weston. Bradford is sorry to hear this news, and tries to persuade Gorges to desist. However, Gorges... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
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The year is 1624, and it’s time for the election of Plymouth officers. Bradford orders that more officials be elected, since the colony is growing. Five assistants, instead of... (full context)
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...particularly those who came over after 1620, begin to whisper about defecting to another colony. Bradford makes it known that defectors must still pay their way out of the joint partnership,... (full context)
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Bradford receives a letter, dated January 24, 1623, from Robert Cushman explaining that the Pilgrims would... (full context)
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Bradford also receives a letter from a Virginia Company shareholder, laying out a series of charges... (full context)
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Bradford receives another letter from John Robinson in Leyden. Robinson mourns the deaths of Indians, which... (full context)
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Bradford says he will now describe the state of the colony in 1624. Each household is... (full context)
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Bradford calls for a public trial against Lyford and Oldham, on the grounds that they’ve denounced... (full context)
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Bradford proceeds to read more excerpts from Lyford’s letters, showing that Lyford has been in contact... (full context)
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...trying to “help several poor souls” who the church in Plymouth Plantation wasn’t providing for. Bradford apologizes for devoting so much space to Lyford’s case. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
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In the winter, Bradford recalls, a Virginia-bound ship is cast ashore in a storm, near Plymouth. The survivors make... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10
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...been living in Leyden to America, where they arrive in the small town of Salem. Bradford notes what a “wonder” it is that the Christians living in Holland were able to... (full context)
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In March 19, 1629, James Sherley sends Bradford a letter concerning Allerton’s behavior. Allerton curries favor with important English aristocrats; however, he also... (full context)
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...rumored to be a murderer, and his return to America frightens many. Allerton also angers Bradford by bringing far more than the fifty pounds of goods Bradford requested, selling these goods... (full context)
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Sherley sends Bradford a letter, dated March 19th, 1629, in which he explains that Allerton has arranged for... (full context)
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Bradford next relates the story of Ralph Smith, a former minister who traveled to the Massachusetts... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
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...the execution of John Billington—the first use of the death penalty in the Plymouth Plantation. Bradford arranges for Billington to be tried for murder, and Billington is found guilty. John Winthrop,... (full context)
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...reports that many in Charlestown look to Plymouth for guidance in their time of crisis. Bradford concludes his chapter by celebrating how Plymouth grew “out of small beginnings” to become a... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 12
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Bradford receives a letter from Winslow explaining that Allerton has taken the White Angel for himself... (full context)
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Bradford offers a few thoughts about Sherley’s letters. First, it seems clear that it was Allerton’s... (full context)
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Bradford will now go over the details of Mr. Allerton’s accounts, which weren’t fully understood until... (full context)
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...In Massachusetts, he flees from his community to live with Indians. Later on, Indians approach Bradford about arresting Gardiner, and Bradford offers them a reward for doing so, on the condition... (full context)
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Gardiner later tries to sue Bradford for allowing the Indians to hurt him during his capture. In early 1632, Gardiner sends... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 13
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...ship in Spain, as he had originally planned—“what became of the money he best knows,” Bradford writes. Although Allerton’s actions have increased the colony’s debts, Plymouth continues to thrive. The Pilgrims... (full context)
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...known as Duxbury demand that they be included in “a distinct body.” To preserve unity, Bradford arranges to give plentiful Duxbury land to handpicked Pilgrims, in the hopes that they’ll inspire... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
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...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 15
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Prince and Bradford try to decide how to handle the Hocking controversy. John Winthrop advises them to hold... (full context)
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...Many more Indians die of the “pox,” including Sachem, a powerful chief. By divine providence, Bradford says, not a single Englishman dies. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 16
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...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 17
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Since 1634, Bradford writes, the Pequot Indians have been at war with the Narragansett. The Pequot attempt to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 18
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...the English instead. The Plymouth courts agree to send fifty soldiers to fight the Pequot. Bradford says that he will not describe in any great detail what happened in the ensuing... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 19
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...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.” (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 20
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Bradford says that he will discuss 1639 and 1640 together, since they were a calm time... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 21
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In 1641, Mr. Sherley writes to William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth once more, about his financial situation. He urges Bradford to send... (full context)
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...of 1400 pounds as a final payment for the White Angel and all outstanding debts. Bradford writes, “Next year this long and tedious business came to an issue … though not... (full context)
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Bradford next discusses the career of Reverend Charles Chauncey, who had arrived in Plymouth in 1638.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 23
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In 1643, on April 18th, William Brewster dies after a long illness. Bradford wonders if Brewster’s life was made worse by his “former sufferings,” but concludes that these... (full context)
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Bradford marvels that so many virtuous Pilgrims, not just William Brewster, lived to a remarkably old... (full context)
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Bradford next describes how the Narragansett form an alliance against the English, alongside whom they’d fought... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 26
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...Plymouth settlers number some 130 people, and thirty of the original colonists are still alive. Bradford concludes, “Let the Lord have the Praise, Who is the High Preserver of men.” (full context)