From Of Plimouth Plantation (1630-1650), From BOOK ONE, CHAPTER 4 (Showing the Reasons and Causes of their Removal)



AFTER they had lived in this citie about some 11 or 12 years, (which is ye more observable being ye whole time of yt famose truce between that state & ye Spaniards,) and sundrie of them were taken away by death, & many others begane to be well striken in years, the grave mistris Experience haveing taught them many things, [16] those prudent governours with sundrie of ye sagest members begane both deeply to apprehend their present dangers, & wisely to foresee ye future, & thinke of timly remedy.  In ye agitation of their thoughts, and much discours of things hear aboute, at length they began to incline to this conclusion, of remoovall to some other place.  Not out of any newfanglednes, or other such like giddie humor, by which men are oftentimes transported to their great hurt & danger, but for sundrie weightie & solid reasons; some of ye cheefe of which I will hear breefly touch.  And first, they saw & found by experience the hardnes of ye place & countrie to be such, as few in comparison would come to them, and fewer that would bide it out, and continew with them.  For many yt came to them, and many more yt desired to be with them, could not endure yt great labor and hard fare, with other inconveniences which they underwent & were contented with.  But though they loved their persons, approved their cause, and honoured their sufferings, yet they left them as it weer weeping, as Orpah did her mother in law Naomie, or as those Romans did Cato in Utica, who desired to be excused & borne with, though they could not all be Catoes.  For many, though they desired to injoye ye ordinances of God in their puritie, and ye libertie of the gospell with them, yet, alass, they admitted of bondage, with danger of conscience, rather then to indure these hardships; yea, some preferred & chose ye prisons in England, rather then this libertie in Holland, with these afflictions.  But it was thought that if a better and easier place of living could be had, it would draw many, & take away these discouragments.  Yea, their pastor would often say, that many of those who both wrate & preached now against them, if they were in a place wher they might have libertie and live comfortably, they would then practise as they did.

2ly, They saw that though ye people generally bore all these difficulties very cherfully, & with a resolute courage, being in ye best & strength of their years, yet old age began to steale on many of them, (and their great & continuall labours, with other crosses and sorrows, hastened it before ye time,) so as it was not only probably thought, but apparently seen, that within a few years more they would be in danger to scatter, by necessities pressing them, or sinke under their burdens, or both.  And therfore according to ye devine proverb, yt a wise man seeth ye plague when it cometh, & hideth him selfe, Pro. 22. 3., so they like skillfull & beaten souldiers were fearfull either to be intrapped or surrounded by their enimies, so as they should neither be able to fight nor flie; and therfor thought it better to dislodge betimes to some place of better advantage & less danger, if any such could be found.

Thirdly; as necessitie was a taskmaster over them, so they were forced to be such, not only to their servants, but in a sorte, to their dearest chilldren; the which as it did not a title wound ye tender harts of many a loving father & other, so it produced likwise sundrie sad & sorowful effects.  For many of their children, that were of best dispositions and gracious inclinations, haveing lernde to bear ye yoake in their youth, and willing to bear parte of their parents burden, were, often times, so oppressed with their hevie labours, that though their minds were free and willing, yet their bodies bowed under ye weight of ye same, and became decreped in their early youth; the vigor of nature being consumed in ye very budd as it were.  But that which was more lamentable, and of all sorowes most heavie to be borne, was that many of their children, by these occasions, and ye great licentiousnes of youth in yt countrie, and ye manifold temptations of the place, were drawne away by evill examples into extravagante & dangerous courses, getting ye raines off their neks, & departing from their parents.  Some became souldiers, others tooke upon them farr viages by sea, and other some worse courses, tending to dissolutnes & the danger of their soules, to ye great greefe of their parents and dishonour of God. So that they saw their posteritie would be in danger to degenerate & be corrupted.

Lastly, (and which was not least,) a great hope & inward zeall they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way therunto, for ye propagating & advancing ye gospell of ye kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of ye world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for ye performing of so great a work.

These, & some other like reasons, moved them to undertake this resolution of their removall; the which they afterward prosecuted with so great difficulties, as by the sequell will appeare.

The place they had thoughts on was some of those vast & unpeopled countries of America, which are frutfull & fitt for habitation, being devoyd of all civill inhabitants, wher ther are only salvage & brutish men, which range up and downe, litle otherwise then ye wild beasts of the same.  This proposition being made publike and coming to ye scaning of all, it raised many variable opinions amongst men, and caused many fears & doubts amongst them selves.  Some, from their reasons & hops conceived, laboured to stirr up & incourage the rest to undertake & prosecute ye same; others, againe, out of their fears, objected against it, & sought to diverte from it, aledging many things, and those neither unreasonable nor unprobable; as that it, was a great designe, and subjecte to many unconceivable perills & dangers; as, besids the casulties of ye seas (which none can be freed from) the length of ye vioage was such, as ye weake bodys of women and other persons worne out with age & traville (as many of them were) could never be able to endure.  And yet if they should, the miseries of ye land which they should be exposed unto, would be to hard to be borne; and lickly, some or all of them togeither, to consume & utterly to ruinate them.  For ther they should be liable to famine, and nakednes, & ye wante, in a maner, of all things.  The chang of aire, diate, & drinking of water, would, infecte their bodies with sore sickneses, and greevous diseases.  And also those which should escape or overcome these difficulties, should yett be in continuall danger of ye salvage people, who are cruell, barbarous, & most trecherous, being most furious in their rage, and merciles wher they overcome; not being contente only to kill, & take away life, but delight to tormente men in ye most bloodie maner that may b ; fleaing some alive with ye shells of fishes, cutting of ye members & joynts of others by peesmeale, and broiling on ye coles, eate ye collops of their flesh in their sight whilst they live; with other cruelties horrible to be related.  And surely it could not be thought but ye very hearing of these things could not but move ye very bowels of men to grate within them, and make ye weake to quake & tremble.  It was furder objected, that it would require greater sumes of money to furnish such a voiage, and to fitt them with necessaries, then their consumed estats would amounte too; and yett they must as well looke to be seconded with supplies, as presently to be trasported.  Also many presidents of ill success, & lamentable misseries befalne others in the like designes, were easie to be found, and not forgotten to be aledged; besids their owne experience, in their former troubles & hardships in their removall into Holand, and how hard a thing it was for them to live in that strange place, though it was a neighbour countrie, & a civill and rich comone wealth.

It was answered, that all great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages.  It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likly, yet they were not cartaine; it might be sundrie of ye things feared might never befale; others by providente care & ye use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through ye help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome.  True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground & reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, &c.  But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good & honourable; their calling lawfull, & urgente; and therfore they might expecte ye blessing of God in their proceding.  Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable.  They lived hear but  as men in exile, & in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12 years of truce were now out, & ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are all way uncertaine.   Ye Spaniard might prove as cruell as [18] the salvages of America, and ye famine and pestelence as sore hear as ther, & their libertie less to looke out for remedie.  After many other perticuler things answered & aledged on both sids, it was fully concluded by ye major parte, to put this designe in execution, and to prosecute it by the best means they could.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (The Renewable Anthology of Early American Literature by Jared Aragona) is free of known copyright restrictions.

Share This Book