man of the household of the Countess of Lincoln, whose intention had been to go with them. But God so ordered that he never went, and they never made the least use of his patent, though it had cost them so much expense and labor.

Here first rise into notice those Merchant Adventurers, under agreement with whom, and partly at whose charge, the Pilgrims did at length begin their settlement. The patent which they had obtained was carried, says Governor Bradford, by one of their messengers to Leyden, for the people to consider, together with several proposals for their transmigration, made by Mr. Thomas Weston, of London, Merchant, and such other friends and merchants as should either go or adventure with them. And so they were requested to prepare with speed for the voyage, leaving it with their agents, Messrs. Cushman and Carver, to perfect the arrangements in England with the Merchant Adventurers.

Meanwhile the noblemen and gentlemen engaged before in the old patent for North Virginia were seeking a new and separate patent of incorporation for New England, under the style and title of the council established at Plymouth, in the county of Devon, for the planting, ruling, ordering, and governing of New England, in America, which, says Mr. Prince, is the great and civil basis of all the future patents and plantations that divide this country. This patent they at length obtained from King James; but it was not signed by the King until long after the Pilgrims had set sail, not indeed till Nov. 3d, 1620, just before the May Flower anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. There the Pilgrims were to land in New England, unchartered by any earthly power, and were to take possession at Plymouth of their desired retreat in the wilderness, in full liberty of conscience, unpatented and unfettered. A patent for them under the new incorporation was not till afterwards taken out in the name of Mr. John Pierce, who, as we have seen, treacherously endeavored to secure it under

his own power, allowing the Colony only what privileges he pleased.

In their arrangements for the voyage, and the business foundation and management of the Colony, the Pilgrims were very much at the mercy of the Merchant Adventurers, their own finances, after the expenses they were at, being in an exhausted state. They had to rely upon Mr. Weston and the Merchants for shipping and money to assist in their transportation. They therefore entered into a seven years' co-partnership with the Merchant Adventurers, so as to form with them one company, the articles being greatly to the advantage of the Merchants, and hard upon the Pilgrims, as might naturally be supposed. The most that is known of these Adventurers, except what was developed afterwards in regard to the character of individuals, is recorded by Captain John Smith, in the year 1624. "The adventurers," says he," which raised the stock to begin and supply this plantation, were about seventy, some merchants, some handicraftsmen, some adventuring great sums, some small, as their affections served. The general stock already employed is about 7000 pounds, by reason of which charge and many crosses, many would adventure no more ; but others, that know so great charge cannot be effected without both losses and crosses, are resolved to go forward with it to their powers; which deserve no small commendation and encouragement. These dwell most about London. They are not a corporation, but knit together by a voluntary combination, in a society, without constraint or penalty, aiming to do good, and to plant religion.”

Captain Smith seems not to have been aware of the divisions and conspiracies among a number of the members of this company. These things connected the history of the Merchant Adventurers for a little time, disastrously, as it seemed to human judgment, but beneficially, doubtless, in the result, with the progress of the Colony,





To do good and to plant religion, was far from being the desire, as the sequel proved, of some of these men. Some of them became enemies of the Colony ; others endeavored treacherously to upset its church and government, and entered into a conspiracy for that purpose. Some of them were bitter enemies of Robinson, and endeavored successfully to hinder his joining the Colony, being afraid of his powerful religious influence. Their character and treacherous dealings are partly laid open in a letter from Robinson himself to Brewster, preserved in Dr. Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims, in which he says—“ As for these adversaries, if they have but half their will to their malice, they will stop my course when they see it intended.” It was a faction of the Adventurers, as we shall see, who sent over to the Colony that miserable creature, Lyford, to be their minister, in order to hinder Mr. Robinson, and whose base intentions were so signally exposed and defeated by the prudence and energy of Governor Bradford. On the whole, the Colony suffered much from these Adventurers, although some of them were sincerely pious men, bent on doing good ; firm and undeviating friends to the Colonists, and laboring with them, and intending to join them in person.

Of this number was Mr. James Sherley, so honorably noticed by Governor Bradford, as a chief friend of the plantation. Mr. Cushman had written to the Governor, informing him of the sore sickness of Sherley, when he lay at the point of death ; declaring his love and helpfulness in all things, and bemoaning the loss of the Pilgrims if God should take him away, as being the stay and life of the business.

But it is evident enough there were not many of this noble stamp. Some of those the most relied upon proved enemies, as was found in the case of this Mr. Thomas Weston, who took so prominent and busy a part in getting the Pilgrims away, and who came from London to Southampton, to see them finally despatched. There was some trouble with him even at the outset ; for May 25th, 1620, Mr. Robinson had to write to Mr. Carver, complaining of Mr. Weston's neglect in getting shipping in England, for want of which they were in a piteous case at Leyden. But his character was not fully revealed till the year 1622, when he sent out two ships and a band of men to settle a plantation for himself, in Massachusetts Bay, for which he had procured a patent. The notice of this colony will be given in another chapter ; but at present we make in this connexion an extract from Governor Bradford's Journal, as given in Prince, which is as follows, under date of the spring of 1623:

Shortly after Mr. Weston's people went to the eastward, he comes there himself, with some of the fishermen, under another name, and disguise of a blacksmith ; where he hears the ruin of his plantation, and getting a shallop with a man or two, comes to see how things are, but in a storm is cast away in the bottom of the bay between Piscataquak and Merrimack river, and hardly escapes

with his life. Afterwards he falls into the hands of the Indians, who pillage him of all he saved from the sea, and strip


him of all his clothes to his shirt. At length he gets to Piscataquak, borrows a suit of clothes, finds means to come to Plymouth, and desires to borrow some beaver of us. Notwithstanding our straits, yet in consideration of his necessity, we let him have 170 odd pounds of beaver, with which he goes to the Eastward, stays his small ship and some of his men, buys provision and fits himself, which is the foundation of his future courses; and yet he never repaid us any thing save reproaches, and becomes our enemy on all occasions."*

But now the Colony, in the good providence of God, was rapidly getting beyond the reach of enmity, and in a condition to command friends. In England men began more and more to look thitherward across the ocean, as a refuge from the evils of their own home.

Mr. Sherley himself, who recovered from the dangerous illness spoken of above, wrote to the Plymouth Colonists, Dec. 27, 1627,+ describing, in part, the enmity of the Adventurers, against both the Pilgrims and himself. “The sole.cause,” says he, “why the greater part of the Adventurers malign me, was, that I would not side with them against you, and against the coming over of the Leyden people ; and assuredly, unless the Lord be merciful to us and the whole land in general, our condition is far worse than yours. Wherefore, if the Lord should send persecution here, which is much to be feared, and should put into our minds to fly for refuge, I know no place safer than to come to you.”

Looking to the character and ends of many of these Merchant Adventurers, as thus developed, and considering the manner in which the pilgrims were thrown into their power, when they entered into co-partnership with them for the commencement of the Colony, we read without surprise the articles and conditions of their agreement. With

* Prince's New Eng. Chron., vol. i. p. 134.

† Prince, vol. i. p. 169.

« VorigeDoorgaan »