Examination Of Puritan Philosophy In Bradfords “on Plymouth PlantatioExamination of Puritan Philosophy in Bradford’s “On Plymouth Plantation”The Puritan people first came to the New World to escape the religiouspersecution that hounded Non-Anglicans in England.
They established thePlymouth Colony in 1620, in what is now Massachusetts. The colony was areflection of the Puritans’ beliefs. These beliefs, along with the experienceof establishing a colony in “the middle of nowhere”, affected the writings ofall who were involved with the colony. In this writing, the Puritan philosophybehind William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” will be revealed.
Somefactors that will be considered include: how Puritan beliefs affect WilliamBradford’s interpretation of events, the representation of Puritan theology inthe above mentioned text, and how Puritanism forms the basis for Bradford’smotivation in writing. In Bradford’s text, there are numerous instances in which his beliefsaffect his interpretation of what happens. In Chapter IX (nine) of “Of PlymouthPlantation”, entitled “Of Their Voyage” , he tells of a sailor “. . of a lusty,able body. .Order now
” who “would always be condemning the poor people in their sicknessand cursing them daily. he didn’t let to tell them that he hoped to help casthalf of them overboard before they came to their journey’s end”. But, “itpleased God before they came half-seas over, to smite this young man with agrievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself thefirst that was thrown overboard”. Bradford believes that the sailor diedbecause God was punishing him. According to Bradford, the sailor’s cursing, andmistreatment of the other passengers displeased God, so God punished himaccordingly.
In the same chapter, Bradford tells of another ship passenger named JohnHowland. At one point in the trip, the Mayflower came upon a violent storm. The winds of the storm were so fierce, and the seas were so high, that all thesailors and passengers had to “hull for divers days together”. During thisstorm, a young man named John Howland was thrown into the sea, and as Bradfordtells us, “it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hungoverboard and ran out at length”. Howland caught hold of a rope, and “though hewas sundry fathoms under water”, he held on until he was hauled up. Bradfordreasons that the man was saved because he was blessed by God.
He goes on to saythat he “became a profitable member in both church and state, implying that JohnHowland was one of the so called “Puritan Saints”. To the Puritans, Saints werepeople whom God was to save, so these people received God’s blessings, andtherefore were profitable in Puritan society. In Chapter X (ten) of Bradford’s writing, entitled “Showing How TheySought Out a Place”, Bradford tells us about an Indian attack on his people. Some explorers went out to explore the area around Cape Cod. As they areresting, the Indians attack. “And withal, their arrows came flying amongstthem.
” He continues “Their men ran with all their speed to recover their arms,as by the good province of God they did. ” Bradford belief that the Puritans areGod’s “chosen” shows in his writing, and affects his narration of the story. After telling us of the attack, he adds, “Thus it pleased God to vanquish theirenemies, and give them deliverance; and by his special providence so to disposethat not any one of them were either hurt or hit, though their arrows came closeby them, and on every side of them; and sundry of their coats, which hung upin the barricado, were shot through and through. “In nowhere else does Bradford’s Puritan beliefs affect hisinterpretation of events in his writing as much as in Book II, Chapter XIX of”Of Plymouth Plantation”, entitled “Thomas Morton of Merrymount”.
Throughoutthe chapter, Bradford tells of a Thomas Morton. His disdain for Morton showsthroughout the entire section. As the story of goes, there is a plantation in Massachusetts calledMount Wollaston owned and run by a Captain Wollaston. On this plantation wereindentured servants. Captain Wollaston sometimes went to Virginia on trips tosell some of his indentured servants.
On one particular trip, Wollaston puts aman named Fitcher to be his Lieutenant, and thus govern the Plantation until hereturned. But, as Bradford puts it, “. . this Morton above said, having more craftthan honesty (who had been a kind of pettifogger of Furnival’s Inn) in theothers’ absence watches an opportunity, and got some strong drink and otherjunkets and made them a feast; and after they were merry, he began to tell themhe would give them good counsel.
” Morton goes on, “I advise you to thrust outthis Lieutenant Fitcher, and I, having a part in the Plantation, will receiveyou as my partners and consociates; so may you be free from service, and we willconverse, plant, trade, and live together as equals and support and protect oneanother. ” The servants had no problem with Morton’s suggestion, and withoutquestion, “thrust Lieutenant Fitcher out o’ doors. “Bradford continues the story, furthering his assault on Thomas Morton’scharacter. He continues, “After this, they fell into great licentiousness, andled a dissolute life, pouring out themselves into all profaneness. And Mortonbecame the Lord of Misrule, and maintained a School of Atheism. ” Morton and hisfellows also resorted to trading with Indians, and as Bradford puts it, “(They)got muchthey spent it as vainly in quaffing and drinking, both wine and strongwaters in great excess.
” They also “set up a maypole, drinking and dancingabout it many days together, inviting Indian women for consorts, dancing andfrisking together like so many fairies, or furies, rather; and worse practices. “Later, Bradford tells us that Morton “to show his poetry, composed sundry rhymesand verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the distraction andscandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle, or idol maypole. “The fact that Bradford sees Morton as the antithesis of all of hisPuritan beliefs lead him to partially misappropriate at least some of hisrepresentation of Thomas Morton’s character. He represents Morton as dishonest,and crafty.
According to Bradford, Morton got all of the servants drunk, thenwhile they were inebriated, preceded to convince them to throw out LieutenantFitcher, and take over the plantation. It is highly doubtful that Morton had todrug the servants to convince them to take over the plantation, as the servantsprobably didn’t want to be sold in Virginia. Bradford also implies Morton is apagan. He calls Morton “the Lord of Misrule”, and said Morton maintained a”School of Atheism”. He views Morton as worshipping the maypole, as Morton andhis fellows danced around it endlessly, and posted poetry to it. To Bradford,the drunken, hedonistic lifestyle that Morton maintained stood againsteverything the hard-working Puritans believed in.
Some of Morton’s “crimes” that Bradford told about in his story directlyaffected Bradford, which could’ve resulted in some of his prejudice towardsMorton. For one, Morton was taking away some of the Puritan workforce, byhousing indentured servants at his plantation. Also, Morton’s relationship withthe Indians most definitely bothered Bradford. Morton traded with them, andlater sold muskets to them, even showing the “natives” how to use the muskets.
Morton was also “guilty” of consorting with Indian women. Throughout the wholesection, Bradford’s Puritan Beliefs at least partially altered hisrepresentation of actual events. Representation of Puritan theology is also heavily prevalent inBradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation”. Included in Bradford’s writing arenumerous Bible quotes, and praises to God for anything going right during thePuritans voyage. In the chapter called “On Their Voyage”, Bradford tells ofthe condition of their ship.
Due to the number of storms encountered during thevoyage, “the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; andone of the main beams in the midships was bowed and cracked, which put them insome fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. ” After muchconsideration by the mariners, they decided to continue on with the voyage,rather than turning back to England. As Bradford put it, “So they committedthemselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed. ” Also in the samesection, after they landed “they fell upon their knees, and blessed the God ofHeaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered themfrom. ” Throughout the whole piece, there is much praise for God, and numerousbible quotes from Bradford. Many of the reasons for Bradford writing “Of Plymouth Plantation” stemsfrom his Puritan beliefs.
For one, he wanted to establish a link between hisMayflower group (the group that traveled over the sea), and all future groups ofPuritans. Right at the end of Chapter IX (“On Their Voyage”), right at the endof the section, Bradford gives us a speech. He begins, “May not ought thechildren of these fathers rightly say “Our fathers were Englishmen which cameover this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but theycried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity” etc. Let them therefore praise the Lord. “He wanted to show that what his group did was “great”. They endured thepersecution of the Anglicans in England, and then sailed over an ocean to anuntamed land, and established a colony.
Bradford’s story is one of hardship;the kind of hardship that the Puritans believe shows God is testing them. Bradford wants the future Puritans to never forget the hardships that his grouphad to endure. Bradford has a “sense” that what his first group of Puritans didwas grand, and thus he wants to justify the acts of his group. Bradford alsowants to quell any questions or fears that any investors might have had. Bradford’s Puritan background influences a great deal of “Of PlymouthPlantation”.
His beliefs sometimes affect his interpretation of events, as inhis telling us of Thomas Morton. His Puritan beliefs also form the basis of thepurpose of his writing. Still, Bradford manages to accomplish a great deal inthis writing. He does immortalize the struggles of his Puritan camp at Plymouth,and he does a good job of accurately depicting the events during those samestruggles.John