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woman, the starch was more in her heart than in the man's neck-cloth, and she herself was all unconsciously in that particular, under the rueful influence of the mint and anise system of the Pharisees. For the man was a plain countryman, clad in grey russet, without either welt or guard, as the proverb is, and the band he wore was scarce worth three
pence, and what is more, it was made of his wife's own home-spinning; and he was as godly and humble as he was plain. Governor Bradford, in relating this story, shows very clearly what he thought of this good lady's unreasonable strictness, and he asks, what would such professors, if they were now living, say to the excess of our times ?
At the age of thirty-two, with a ripeness of experience, a vigor of judgment, a strength and energy of purpose, and at the same time a mildness, charitableness, and patience of temper, which fitted him for a foremost part in the great enterprise of the Pilgrims, Mr. Bradford embarked with them, and gave himself and his means unsparingly to all the labors of the undertaking. The humility, the forbearance, the entire absence of all disposition to rule, which marked the characters of these men, is wonderful. Carver was chosen their first Governor, but God had been preparing for them a permanent leader and councillor, in Bradford, when the object of their first choice was so early and suddenly taken away. He had all the qualities which fitted him to command, while he seemed but to follow. Cotton Mather remarks most truly that if he had not been a person of more than ordinary wisdom, courage, and piety, he must have sunk under the difficulties of the first year of the colony. It is interesting and instructive minutely to trace his steps as they are recorded first in the Journal of the Pilgrims, and afterwards in the accurate annals of Prince. You are tracing the biography of an unassuming, unconscious Christian hero.
With the Pilgrims in Holland, and indeed with all their
unfoldings of character and enterprise, until they are set down in the untrodden wilds of their empire of industry and piety, in the New World, Governor Bradford is rather connected by his own history of the Church, than by any prominent events in which he himself was foremost. There are passages in his history where he writes evidently as an eyewitness, and we think of him as present and taking a part, but not because he is named. The embarkation of the Pilgrims at Delft Haven is linked with the remembrance both of Bradford and Winslow, because they have each described it in such simple, unaffected language, with the feelings of the heart. They were both marked personages in that scene “ of interest unparalleled, that scene of few and simple incidents, just the setting out of a handful of not then very famous persons, on a voyage ; but which, as we gaze on it, begins to speak to you as with the voices and melodies of an immortal hymn, which dilates and becomes idealized into the auspicious going forth of a colony, whose planting has changed the history of the world ;-a noble colony of devout Christians, educated, firm men, valiant soldiers, and honorable women; a colony, on the commencement of whose heroic enterprise the selectest influences of religion seemed to be descending visibly; and beyond whose perilous path are hung the rainbow and the western star of empire.” *
From the time when Governor Bradford enters upon his administration of the affairs of the colony, year after year its history is his. He was in an eminent degree the moving and guiding genius of the enterprise. His conduct towards the Indians was marked with such wisdom, energy, and kindness, that he soon gained a powerful influence over them. With the people of the colony, not merely his first fellow-pilgrims, but all that came successively afterwards, he had equal authority and power, without the necessity of assuming it. The most heedless among them seem to have
* Hon. Rufus Choate's New England Society Address
feared and respected him. He set them all at work, and would have none idle in the community, being resolved that if any would not work, neither should they eat. Cotton Mather gives an account of a company
fellows newly arrived, who were very unwilling to comply with his orders, or rather with the arrangements of the Colony, for working in the fields on the public account. But on Christmas Day they excused themselves from the labors of the public industry, under pretence that it was against their conscience to do any work on that day. The Governor told them if that were the case, he would spare them till they were better informed; but soon afterwards he found them all at play in the street, hard at work upon their diversions, as if in obedience to the Book of Sports. That being the case, he very quietly took away the instruments of their games, and gave them to understand that he had a
, conscience as well as they, and that it was against his conscience as the Governor that they should play while the others were at work ; so that, if they had any devotion to the day, they should show it at home, in the exercise of religion, and not in the street, with their pastime and frolics. The reproof was as effectual as it was happy, and the Governor was plagued with no more such tender consciences. *
His administration of affairs as connected with the Merchant Adventurers, was a model of firmness, patience, forbearance, energy, and enterprise. With a few others, as we have seen, he took the whole trade of the Colony into his hands, with the assumed responsibility of paying off all their debts, and the benevolent determination to bring over the rest of their brethren from Leyden. His activity in the prosecution of this great undertaking was indefatigable. Meanwhile, no other business, either of the piety or civil polity of the Colony, was neglected. He made such arrangements, in conjunction with his brethren, to redeem their labor from the hopelessness of its conditions in the Adventuring copartnership under which they were bound for the seven years' contract with the Merchants, as inspired them all speedily with new life and courage. Under the pressure of the famine his example was as a star of hope, for he never yielded to despondency; and while with Brewster he threw them upon God for support and provision, he set in motion every possible instrumentality for procuring supplies. He went in person with parties among the Indians for corn, and took part himself in every labor. There was a time amidst the sharpest pressure of the famine, when they had but one boat for their fishing expeditions, and were compelled to divide their little force into several companies, to go out and fish by turns, with absence of five or six days together, rather than return empty handed, the others meanwhile employing themselves in digging for shellfish. This was the time when for months together they had neither bread nor corn, and knew not, when they lay down at night, where they should find a morsel of food for the morrow, nor in the morning where they should provide for the day. This was the time when Mr. Winslow says that at noonday he had seen men stagger at their work, by reason of faintness for want of food. Yet was the temper of the Colony characterized by “ cheerfulness and rest on Providence,” and in no little measure because of the serenity .and patience of their leader. It was a period that demanded the highest qualities of a commander in unwearied exercise.
* Mather's Magnalia, Vol. i. 103.
So it was when the colony was surrounded with conspiracies, and nourished them at one time, by the treachery of men in England, even in its own bosom. The prudence, sagacity, and energy of Governor Bradford on such occa.sions may be seen in the chapter detailing the treachery of Lyford. The fearless deportment of the Governor and the Colony towards the threatening tribes of Indians was no small cause of their security ; “we all the while,” says Mr. Winslow, “knowing our own weakness, notwithstanding our high words and lofty looks towards them." It seemed a time of mortal peril, when Canonicus, the Sachem of the Narragansetts, sent to the Governor his savage defiance and declaration of war, a bundle of new arrows lapped in the skin of a rattlesnake. Having learned the meaning of this from the friendly Squanto, “ the Governor, after some deliberation,” says Mr. Winslow, “ stuffed the skin with powder and shot” and sent it back to Canonicus with the message that if he had shipping in the harbor to send his men at once to the Narragansetts they should have no need to come to Plymouth, and come when they might, they should neither be unwelcome nor unlooked for. The message was sent by an Indian, and was delivered in such sort at struck no small terror into the savage king ; insomuch that he dared not even touch the powder and shot, nor would suffer it to stay in his house or country. “Whereupon the messenger refusing it, another took it up; and having been posted from place to place a long time, at length it came whole back again."
In the spiritual prosperity of the Colony; Governor Bradford took an incessant and most anxious interest, possessing in himself, in no small degree, the wisdom and temper of his beloved Pastor Robinson. Under him and Brewster the Plymouth Church maintained their superiority in the liberality and independence of their views above all the other colonies. The answer which the Governor made to their slanderers in England, in regard to their church policy and customs, breathed the very spirit of scriptural wisdom and freedom so remarkable in the parting discourse of Robinson to the Pilgrims. “Whereas you would tie us up to the French discipline in every circumstance, you derogate from the liberty we have in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul would have none to follow
* Winslow's Relation in Young's Chronicles, 283.