William Bradford Quotes in Of Plymouth Plantation
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hitherto Mr. Allerton had done them good and faithful service: would that he had so continued.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.