December 14, 2019

1. Plymouth Colony

I read an American classic, William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647. Excellent book, an authentic and dramatic story about heroic endurance in the face of countless challenges. Perhaps a suitable epigraph for the book would be the Buddha’s saying, “Life is suffering.”

This is the kind of book that once played a prominent role in American culture. Writers like Hawthorne, Longfellow, and Cooper studied early American history, and wrote about it. Now, however, Bradford’s book is rarely read — until recently, I hadn’t heard of it, much less read it.

A Harvard historian named Samuel Eliot Morison had a special interest in early America, and the early history of Massachusetts. I recommend Morison’s edition of Bradford’s book, which is available as an e-book as well as a printed book. Morison tries to preserve the charm of Bradford’s language, while modernizing his spelling.

Bradford begins his story in England. Some Protestant preachers felt that the Anglican church was not sufficiently “reformed,” was too close to Catholicism. They wanted to re-create the Christianity of the apostles. They were called “Puritans” because they wanted to “purify” Christianity of late accretions and Catholic practices, and bring it back to the text of the Bible, back to the ways of the apostles. They liked to quote the Book of Matthew: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Who needs a church hierarchy?

When Puritans refused to attend the state church (the Anglican church), they were punished and persecuted. Some took refuge in Switzerland or Holland. Dutch Protestants were sympathetic and tolerant, having been persecuted themselves by Spanish Catholics.

The Pilgrims decided to go to Holland, but it was difficult for them to leave England. You couldn’t leave at will, you needed a license, and the government generally refused such licenses to Puritans and Catholics. So the Pilgrims tried to sneak out, but a group of 100 people and all their baggage attracts attention. They were caught, stripped of their money and belongings, and forced to start over. Eventually they made their way to Holland in small groups.

The Pilgrims remained in Holland for about ten years. They learned trades related to textiles, but were barely able to make ends meet. They became concerned that their children were blending into Dutch society, losing their English identity, and losing their religious ardor. They were also concerned that Holland’s treaty with Spain was expiring, and war seemed imminent. They were threatened with arrest by the English government, which disapproved of the texts coming from Pilgrim printing-presses. So the Pilgrims decided to emigrate to America.

They needed to borrow money for ships and supplies. They borrowed from a group of English “Merchant Adventurers” who were intent on making a profit, or at least recovering their investment. The “Adventurers” had little sympathy for the plight of the Pilgrims. Morison says

they treated the Pilgrims much as a loan shark treats a man in financial difficulties; the more beaver and other commodities [the Pilgrims] sent to England, the more the debt grew. Finally it was paid off in 1648 after Bradford, Alden, Standish, Winslow and Prence had sold houses and large parcels of land to make up the balance.1

So it took them about thirty years to pay off the debt.

They set sail for America in two ships, Mayflower and Speedwell. The Speedwell leaked, so they returned to port, and many of the Speedwell’s passengers crammed into the Mayflower. The cramped quarters were a breeding ground for disease, and many passengers fell ill.

After about two months at sea, they sighted land, and realized they were at Cape Cod. They tried to sail around the south side of the Cape and reach the Hudson River, but high winds and dangerous shoals forced them back, and they anchored in Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620.

Cape Cod & Environs
P=Plymouth, H=Provincetown Harbor
B=Buzzards Bay, C=Cape Cod Canal
M=Martha’s Vineyard, D=Dangerous Shoals


They rejoiced to be on dry land, but their joy was short-lived. Bradford writes,

Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation... they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to... Summer being done, all things stand upon them with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue. If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

They dispatched a small boat to explore the area, and find a place to settle; Bradford was on this small boat. Meanwhile, his young wife was so depressed by the cramped conditions on the Mayflower, by the cold weather, etc. that she jumped into the sea and killed herself (she may have fallen into the sea accidentally, but that’s unlikely). They chose to settle in Plymouth, and started building, while most of their party continued sleeping on the Mayflower.

Of the Mayflower’s 102 passengers, only half were from the Leiden congregation, the rest were “strangers” whom the Merchant Adventurers had put onboard. Of the 102 passengers, 51 died the first winter, many from disease. People were dying in such numbers that the healthy were barely able to bury the dead in the frozen ground.

Despite their hardships, the Pilgrims maintained their esprit de corps, their cooperative spirit. Perhaps they were inspired by their Protestant convictions. Bradford writes,

In the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them.... And all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren.

While the Pilgrims had all they could do to bury their dead, the Merchant Adventurers back in London were asking, “Why haven’t you sent back any fur or fish or lumber? Where are the bars of gold that we were expecting?” The Pilgrims spent much of the next thirty years arguing with the Merchant Adventurers. The Pilgrims needed supplies from England, and they also needed legal documents, such as a “patent” to build a trading-post. They bought on credit, and they were charged high interest rates. They didn’t keep careful records, so they didn’t know how much they owed.

They best way for the Pilgrims to pay their debts was with furs. In one shipment to England, they sent “1,150 pounds of beaver and 200 otter skins, besides sundry small furs, as 55 minks, two black fox skins, etc.”2 Furs were usually obtained from the Indians. What did the Indians want in exchange?

The best supplies of fur were found not in the Plymouth area but on the Kennebec River or the Connecticut River, so the Plymouth Colony established trading-posts on those rivers. Their Maine trading-posts brought them into conflict with the French, and with the NewHampshire colony (the NewHampshire colony was based on the Piscataqua River, near Portsmouth). Their Connecticut trading-post brought them into conflict with the Dutch and with the Boston colony (Boston and Salem were part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony).

It was not unusual for a trading-post to be seized by an enemy, and the goods stolen. And when they sent goods back to England, their ships were sometimes lost at sea, or captured by pirates (once NorthAfrican pirates captured a ship with Pilgrim goods in the English Channel, and sold the crew into slavery).

The Plymouth Colony tried to avoid the long and dangerous journey around Cape Cod. So they built a trading-post in Buzzards Bay, a post they could reach by travelling overland. In more recent times, the Cape Cod Canal was built as a shortcut, to avoid rounding the Cape.3

2. Merrymount

In 1624, some English settlers began living at what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. Their leader was Thomas Morton, and they called their settlement Merrymount. They were a merry, free-spirited bunch, who danced around a May-pole. The Pilgrims at Plymouth were horrified.4

The Merrymount settlers often sold guns to the Indians, and other settlements became alarmed, fearing that the guns might be turned against themselves. In 1628, several settlements asked Plymouth to lead an expedition against Merrymount. Plymouth was the largest and oldest settlement (John Winthrop & Co. didn’t settle in Boston until 1630). The settlements that contributed to the expedition against Merrymount were

Naumkeag (Salem), led by Roger Conant £1
Piscataqua (Portsmouth)£2
Wessagusset (Weymouth)£2
the widow Thompson (Thompson’s Island, Boston Harbor)15s
William Blackstone (Shawmut Peninsula, which became Boston)12s
Edward Hilton (Cocheco, which became Dover, New Hampshire)£1
Plymouth£2 10s
Oldham at Nantasket (Hull) and Maverick at Winnisimmet (Chelsea) apparently gave nothing 

Myles Standish, captain of the Plymouth forces, chopped down the Merrymount May-pole, and put Morton into the stocks at Plymouth. Jollity was vanquished, and the hippies were in full retreat. Morton later wrote a book called New English Canaan, which Morison calls “the most amusing of all books about early New England, full of malicious humor, good animal spirits, and appreciation of the country and the Indians.”5 In his book, Morton dubbed the diminutive Standish “Shrimpie.”

Morison compares the expedition against Merrymount to a UnitedNations expedition. In many ways, the settlements were like mini-nations, with their own governments, armies, diplomats, etc. There was even an Articles of Confederation that spelled out the rules for settlement interactions.

3. Judas in Plymouth

One of Bradford’s chief themes is the Judas Theme — betrayal by someone on your team. The Pilgrims were beset by problems, and their biggest problem was a fellow Pilgrim. Bradford devotes much of his book to describing how Isaac Allerton enriched himself at the expense of other Pilgrims.

Allerton was a passenger on the Mayflower, a signer of the Mayflower Compact. Allerton sailed back to England to handle Pilgrim business, but he also did business on his own account. The accounts became complicated and confused. The Pilgrims had signed a document making Allerton their agent, so when he bought something, they were responsible for the debt. In other words, they had given him a credit card, and he took advantage of it, he betrayed their trust.

For many years, the Colony struggled under a load of debt, while Allerton went back and forth between Plymouth and England, enriching himself at the Colony’s expense. Bradford quotes the Bible: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Bradford regrets trusting Allerton: “Even amongst friends, men had need be careful whom they trust, and not let things of this nature lie long unrecalled.”

The Judas Theme figures prominently in history, in literature, and in this e-zine. In 2003, I wrote, “It’s not uncommon for employees to steal from the companies they work for. In fact, it’s difficult to build enough jail cells to hold such people.” In 2015, I discussed spies, and I said that the most damaging spies are those in your own spy organization — agents who become double-agents.

Scholars have overlooked the Judas Theme in Bradford’s work, perhaps because it didn’t relate to their own experience, perhaps because scholars don’t connect their scholarship to their experience. The Judas Theme is embedded in the human condition, and if we ever plant a colony on Mars, there will be a Judas in the colony. Bradford shows that you can build a fort to protect against the Indians, the French, and the Dutch, but you can’t protect yourself from the Judas who’s inside your fort.6 Bradford notes that, like the Pilgrims, St. Paul encountered “perils of waters... perils of robbers... perils of false brethren.”

Perhaps Allerton had a nose for money, a penchant for inserting himself into a transaction for his own benefit. Perhaps Allerton volunteered to sail back to England, knowing there would be opportunities for enrichment. Here’s a case from my own observation, a case of a person with a nose for money who inserted himself into a transaction:

A group of affluent people support a day-care center, a non-profit center for people who can’t afford to pay for day-care. The affluent people donate their time and money, and sit on the board of the day-care center. After twenty or thirty years, they decide to end their involvement, and sell to the YMCA, which will manage the day-care center. One of the affluent people (let’s call him John) offers to go to the closing, at which the sale will be finalized. At the closing, John arranges to receive a check for $25,000. Thus, by inserting himself into the transaction, John put $25,000 into his own pocket. Likewise, Allerton inserted himself into numerous transactions, and found numerous opportunities for enrichment.

Bradford divides his book into chapters, one chapter for each year. I’d like to quote the beginning of the 1643 chapter, to show the style and tone of the book:

I am to begin this year with that which was a matter of great sadness and mourning unto them all. About the 18th of April died their Reverend Elder and my dear and loving friend Mr. William Brewster, a man that had done and suffered much for the Lord Jesus and the gospel’s sake, and had borne his part in weal and woe with this poor persecuted church above 36 years in England, Holland and in this wilderness, and done the Lord and them faithful service in his place and calling. And notwithstanding the many troubles and sorrows he passed through, the Lord upheld him to a great age. He was near fourscore years of age (if not all out) when he died.

He had this blessing added by the Lord to all the rest; to die in his bed, in peace, amongst the midst of his friends, who mourned and wept over him and ministered what help and comfort they could unto him, and he again re-comforted them whilst he could. His sickness was not long, and till the last day thereof he did not wholly keep his bed. His speech continued till somewhat more than half a day [i.e., until after noon], and then failed him, and about nine or ten o’clock that evening he died without any pangs at all. A few hours before, he drew his breath short, and some few minutes before his last, he drew his breath long as a man fallen into a sound sleep without any pangs or gaspings, and so sweetly departed this life unto a better.

In addition to prose, Bradford wrote some poetry. His best-known poem mentions the Judas Theme:

From my years young in days of youth,
God did make known to me his truth.
And called me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace.
In wilderness he did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, through weal and woe,
A pilgrim, passed I to and fro:
Oft left of them whom I did trust;
How vain it is to rest on dust!

Clearly, the experience of betrayal, betrayal by someone he trusted, was a major event in Bradford’s life, and one that left a lasting mark. Bradford would agree with Freud, who said there are three sources of suffering: our own body, the external world, and “our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful to us than any other.”6B

4. Religious Disputes

The Pilgrims engaged in numerous religious disputes, in England and in New England. One of the most contentious subjects was church organization (church polity). The Pilgrims were Congregational, that is, they believed that the congregation should manage their own affairs, choose their own minister, etc. In the Episcopal or Anglican church, by contrast, bishops possessed considerable power (the word “episcopal” is related to the word “bishop”). One might describe the Congregational approach as “bottom-up,” and the Episcopal approach as “top-down.”

Presbyterian churches occupied a middle ground — they were managed partly by the local congregation, and partly by a regional assembly. A Presbyterian church wasn’t independent. (The word “Independent” acquired special significance during the English Civil War, when Cromwell’s party embraced the congregational or independent approach, against those who embraced an Anglican or Episcopal or Presbyterian approach. The Pilgrims sympathized with Cromwell’s party, and one of them, Edward Winslow, fought in Cromwell’s army.)

Another dispute at this time was whether to reform the Anglican church from within, or separate from it. Those who favored separating were called Separatists. Plymouth Colony, unlike Massachusetts Bay Colony, was Separatist. This may explain why the Plymouth settlers fled England for Holland, before coming to America; the Plymouth settlers may have faced greater persecution in England than non-Separatists.

There were also disputes about baptism. Should baptism be complete immersion, or just a sprinkling of water? Should infants be baptized, or only people old enough to understand Christianity? Baptists and Anabaptists didn’t believe in infant baptism; the Amish and Mennonites are Anabaptist. Roger Williams didn’t believe in infant baptism; he himself was baptized in 1638, at age 34. Williams founded America’s first Baptist Church in Providence in 1638.

5. New England Ecology

In 1615, five years before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, there were only about 100,000 Indians in all of New England. Around 1618, an epidemic (probably chicken pox) swept through Indian villages. So when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they found empty villages and bones strewn on the ground. The Pilgrims were helped by an Indian named Squanto, who was the sole survivor of his village; Squanto had lived in England when the epidemic was raging, and could speak English. Some Puritans said that God had wiped out natives to create space for Christians.

A few years later, another epidemic (probably smallpox) decimated Indian populations. Europeans had seen these diseases before, and developed some immunity to them, but the natives were defenseless against them.

If there were 100,000 natives in New England in 1615, there were only about 20,000 in 1650, as a result of the epidemics. Most of the NewEngland Indians were concentrated in southern New England, where agriculture supported a denser population. In New England’s northern woods, natives relied on hunting/gathering, and populations were low, only about 40 people per 100 square miles.

The southern Indians grew corn and beans, which could be stored for winter consumption. But the northern Indians went hungry in late winter; they feasted in times of plenty, and went hungry in times of scarcity. Sometimes the Abenaki Indians of Maine raided the Indians of Massachusetts Bay, and stole their corn. Like the Vikings, the Abenaki lived in a cold climate where it was difficult to grow crops, so they stole crops instead.

As for the European population of New England, there were only 93,000 Europeans in all of New England in 1700. During the 1600s, more than one Indian sachem thought, “We can exterminate these troublesome whites if we just band together.” King Philip’s War (1675) was the most serious attempt to band together and destroy white settlements.

The Indians were adept at controlled burning. They would set fires to clear land for planting, to keep the forest free of undergrowth, to drive animals during a hunt, etc. Animals flourished in the open, grassy “edge habitats” that Indian fires created. Strawberries, blueberries, and other berries also flourished in these open areas.

Why didn’t Indian fires burn out of control, and destroy the forest altogether? Since the forest had little undergrowth, the fire had little fuel, and didn’t reach a high temperature. William Cronon, author of Changes in the Land, says “they were more ground fires than forest fires.”7 In wartime, the Indians could apply their “fire skill” to military purposes, setting buildings on fire, or blocking an invader.

The Indians used wood for cooking and heating. They consumed the wood around their village, then re-located. When Europeans started appearing in New England, the Indians thought they were re-locating because their wood supply was used up.8 The Indians had another reason to re-locate: after 8-10 years, the soil was exhausted, and crops didn’t grow well.

Some Indians lived in coastal areas during the summer, inland areas during the winter. They harvested the fish that swam upstream in the spring, beginning in March, and lasting for about two months. The Pilgrims were astonished at the abundance of fish, and the abundance of birds, especially passenger pigeons.

The Pilgrims built two dams in the small stream in Plymouth. Since the dams were made of boards, they could be easily opened/closed. During the spring fish run, they trapped thousands of fish between the dams, then released the water from the entrapment, so they could scoop up the fish in baskets. The fish could be eaten fresh, or preserved by drying or salting, or used as fertilizer.

In 1630, the Great Migration of Puritans to New England began, and fish populations began to decline. By 1639, Striped Bass were becoming scarce, and by the 1800s, bass had disappeared entirely.9

The Great Migration increased the MassachusettsBay population, and increased the demand for cattle and corn. The Pilgrims, who had some cattle and corn, could make money in this “stock market,” and pay off their creditors.

The Pilgrims weren’t the first Europeans in New England. When they arrived in 1620, European fishermen had already been coming to New England waters for about 125 years. When Verrazzano explored New England in 1524, he encountered Indians who were familiar with Europeans.

The Pilgrims may have regretted choosing Plymouth. There was little arable land, no major river leading into the interior, and a mediocre harbor.10 Many Plymouth residents left, and the population dwindled. In 1644, the remaining residents considered leaving Plymouth en masse, but finally decided to stay.

Bradford describes an earthquake in Plymouth, and interprets it as a sign of God’s displeasure that the Plymouth congregation was separating/dispersing:

About the first or second of June [1638], was a great and fearful earthquake. It was in this place heard before it was felt. It came with a rumbling noise or low murmur, like unto remote thunder. It came from the northward and passed southward; as the noise approached nearer, the earth began to shake and came at length with that violence as caused platters, dishes and such-like things as stood upon shelves, to clatter and fall down. Yea, persons were afraid of the houses themselves.

It so fell out that at the same time divers of the chief of this town were met together at one house, conferring with some of their friends that were upon their removal from the place, as if the Lord would hereby show the signs of His displeasure, in their shaking a-pieces and removals one from another.

Bradford interprets everything that happens as an act of God.

6. The City on a Hill

Bradford notes that later settlements (such as Salem and Boston) followed Plymouth’s example:

Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing... and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.

The Pilgrims set an example of piety and perseverance. They aimed to create the model Christian community, the light of the world, the city on a hill that others would emulate. As John Winthrop said, “The eyes of all people are upon us.”

While the NewEngland Puritans had a sense of mission, those who settled the South did not. The historian Edmund Morgan said there was no Southern mind, no Southern self-consciousness until the mid-1800s.11 The contrast between North and South in the colonial period is, Morgan wrote,

a contrast between people committed to a well-articulated view of themselves as a group and people without such a view.... The men and women who settled New England were convinced that they were engaged in one of the most important enterprises in human history. They kept a record of everything they did, and they talked and wrote endlessly about it, because they never doubted that posterity would want to know all about it.

NewEngland self-consciousness shaped American self-consciousness: “The New Englanders... managed to impose [their view] on the whole nation of which they became a part.” The New England mission became the American mission. The Puritans had enthusiasm and strong convictions; they came out on top in the English Civil War, and they left their mark on the U.S.

Southern self-consciousness and Southern literature didn’t develop until after the Civil War. Morgan writes,

The South became a major source of high intellectual pursuits... only when it lay in ruins. With the end of the Civil War southerners began to write as never before, and from that time to this have produced more than their share of the country’s literature.

When you have a high ideal, when you try to be the light of the world, perhaps you repress the unconscious. The NewEngland Puritans may have aroused dark impulses by denying and repressing the unconscious. Bradford complained that New England was the scene of abominable crimes.

It may be in this case as it is with waters when their streams are stopped or dammed up. When they get passage they flow with more violence and make more noise and disturbance than when they are suffered to run quietly in their own channels; so wickedness being here more stopped by strict laws.12

In a list of NewEngland crimes, perhaps we should include state crimes, such as persecution of Quakers, execution of witches, etc. Puritan idealism has a dark side. As Jung said, “the brighter the light, the darker the shadow.”

The Puritans tried to build a model Christian community, but this lofty goal proved elusive. The Plymouth church was dispersed by economics, the Boston church was divided by theology. Religion is an inner experience, it’s difficult to institutionalize it, and make it permanent. The enthusiasm of the Puritans carried them through epidemics and wars, but enthusiasm is difficult to sustain.

7. Virginia

The Jamestown settlement began in 1607, and encountered some of the same problems that Plymouth encountered. Jamestown had a high mortality rate from hunger, disease, and hostile Indians. While the settlers were struggling to survive, Jamestown’s financial backers demanded that the settlers send them NewWorld products. Ships brought new settlers from England, but little food, so the food shortage became more acute with each batch of new settlers.

By 1610, Jamestown residents resorted to cannibalism, and to eating shoes. They decided to abandon Jamestown, and return to England. But as they were sailing away, they encountered Lord Delaware with a fresh batch of settlers and supplies, so they turned back.

One settler, John Rolfe, brought tobacco seeds that he had found in Bermuda. Tobacco was popular in England, and soon became an important source of cash for Virginia settlers.

In 1614, Rolfe married Pocahontas, daughter of the local Indian chief. In 1616, Rolfe and Pocahontas went to London, where Pocahontas became a celebrity. In 1617, Pocahontas died, and relations between Indians and settlers deteriorated. In 1622, more than 300 settlers were massacred by Indians. Perhaps Virginia Indians were more dangerous than those in Massachusetts because they hadn’t been decimated by epidemics.

According to legend, Pocahontas saved John Smith when he was about to be executed by her father’s tribe. Several scholars, including Henry Adams, have argued that this legend is implausible and unsubstantiated.13

Another improbable legend says that Oliver Cromwell, John Hampden, and other Parliamentary leaders were on their way to America when their ship was stopped in the Thames. This wild story was regarded by David Hume, the philosopher/historian, as “beyond controversy.” Macaulay also accepted it.14

Yet another improbable legend says that John Hampden eventually reached America, and helped to cure an ailing Indian chief, Massasoit. So American history contains numerous wild stories that have somehow gained acceptance, and then acquired a life of their own. Even outstanding writers like Hume and Macaulay have been fooled by these tales. I’ve devoted many pages of this e-zine to debunking historical myths, like the Shakespeare myth and the Chappaquiddick myth.

I asked my mother, Have you heard the story about Pocahontas saving John Smith? She said she had. I asked, Did you ever wonder if it actually happened, if it’s really true? She said, It’s a very nice story. This shows how people become attached to myths, they want them to be true, and they believe what they want. Then I said, There’s little evidence to support the Pocahontas story. She said, There must be some truth to it. This shows how, once a myth becomes established, people will assume it’s at least partly true, it’s difficult for people to believe that a myth is completely false.

Historical myths, like the Pocahontas myth and the Shakespeare myth, roll on, century after century. When Churchill was offered an Oxfordian book, he said, “No, thanks. I don’t like to have my myths tampered with.” Churchill seemed to sense that the Stratford story was false, but he wanted to believe it anyway, he didn’t want to take the trouble to re-arrange his mental furniture.

8. The Manchurian Candidate

I saw a movie called The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Very interesting, I recommend it. It starts slowly — you may not like it after 30 minutes or even 60 minutes — but it becomes engrossing.

Trump has been called a “Manchurian candidate” — that is, a candidate who believes the opposite of what he professes to believe.15 What are Trump’s real beliefs, real motives? Reagan often spoke of American destiny, the city on a hill, etc. Trump probably doesn’t share this lofty idealism, which seems to belong to an earlier generation. But Trump may be driven, at least in part, by patriotism, a patriotism that becomes angry when it sees the country cheated or diminished.

Should we abandon the idea that the U.S. has a special destiny, a unique mission? In an earlier issue, I argued that everything eventually merges into one:

A nation, a race, strives to be separate, special, better, but gradually merges with the outside world. We try to stem the merging by building higher walls... but the outside world finds a way in. The Romans were special and successful for centuries, but eventually the borders disintegrated.

Perhaps Americans are more divided because they no longer share a belief, a vision. Should we try to revive the lofty idealism of John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan? Or should we try to develop a new unifying idea, an idea that emphasizes common humanity rather than unique mission?

© L. James Hammond 2019
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1. Introduction, #1. Should we compare the exploration of the New World to the exploration of space? England and France competed in the New World as the U.S. and USSR competed in space. back
2. Ch. 27, 1636 back
3. In an earlier issue, I described how merchants avoided the stormy seas at Cape Horn by travelling 750 miles overland, from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. The Pilgrims likewise preferred to travel overland rather than sail around Cape Cod; a stream facilitated the overland journey. back
4. Hawthorne, who often writes about early American history, wrote a short story called “The May-pole of Merrymount.” Describing the conflict between Merrymount and Plymouth, Hawthorne says, “Jollity and gloom were contending for an empire.” back
5. The standard edition of Morton’s book is edited by Charles Francis Adams, brother of Henry Adams. There’s also a more recent edition, edited by Dr. John (Jack) Dempsey. Consider also a book by Charles Francis Adams called Three Episodes of Massachusetts History. There’s a new biography of Morton by Peter Mancall, The Trials of Thomas Morton: An Anglican Lawyer, His Puritan Foes, and the Battle for a New England.

Morison recommends Bradford of Plymouth, by a writer named Bradford Smith. Morison says that the best book about the Mayflower and the voyage is Land Ho! 1620, by W. Sears Nickerson. Morison mentions several historians who were prominent in his day, but are largely forgotten now, such as Charles McLean Andrews, who wrote a 4-volume work called The Colonial Period of American History. A disciple of Andrews, Lawrence Gipson, wrote a multi-volume work on the British Empire, paying special attention to the French & Indian War. Edward Channing wrote a general history of the U.S. in six volumes; Channing’s father, Ellery Channing, was a close friend of Thoreau.

John Demos, a well-known historian, wrote A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. Nick Bunker wrote Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World. If you want a general work about early New England, consider The Founding of New England, by James Truslow Adams.

The best documentary on the Pilgrims is a 2-hour documentary by Ric Burns, part of the AmericanExperience series. The Pilgrim museum in Plymouth is worth visiting. There are also “house museums,” such as the Jenney Museum, the Howland House, the Alden House (in Duxbury), and the Winslow House (in Marshfield). back

6. Bradford often quotes the Bible, and often compares his experiences to those of Biblical characters. But he doesn’t mention Judas, at least not explicitly. After all, if Allerton is Judas, then Bradford is Jesus, and Bradford may have felt it was blasphemous to draw an analogy between himself and Jesus. But Bradford may allude to Judas. Discussing Allerton’s shenanigans, Bradford says that he and his comrades were “bought and sold.”(Ch. 22, 1631) Jesus was sold by Judas for thirty pieces of silver, and bought by the priests, so Bradford’s phrase “bought and sold” may be an allusion to Judas. back
6B. Civilization and Its Discontents, Ch. 2 back
7. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, Ch. 3, p. 50 back
8. Ibid, p. 48, 49 back
9. Bradford, Ch. 14, Morison’s footnote 13 back
10. Morison writes, “There [was] a very narrow strip of arable land on Plymouth Bay; the back country was too rugged and rocky for profitable agriculture; and after the founding of Boston, ships from England found it more convenient to put in there. Boston gave them more business than Plymouth, which lay dead to windward of Cape Cod in the prevailing breezes, and where goods had to be lightered ashore instead of being landed on a wharf.”(Ch. 34, footnote 1)

When Samuel de Champlain visited Plymouth in 1605, he ran aground in the shallow harbor, and had to wait for the tide to lift his ship. back

11. The New York Review of Books, July 19, 1979, “The Chosen People.” For more on the Puritan mind, Morgan recommends the works of Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch. back
12. Ch. 32, 1642. One might compare the Puritans to the early Christians, the Christians of Constantine’s day. The Reformation was a new birth of Christianity. back
13. See “Captain John Smith,” by Henry Adams, North American Review, January, 1867 back
14. See Maija Jansson, “Shared Memory: John Hampden, New World and Old,” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Volume 32, Issue 2, December, 2008 back
15. “In the waning days of 2015, public intellectuals as varied as Salman Rushdie, Bill Maher, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floated... the notion that Donald Trump was a ‘Manchurian Candidate.’” Cinema Scope

The movie is based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon. The novel is based on public interest in brainwashing by Communists; this public interest began when American prisoners returned from Korea after undergoing brainwashing. “Fear of brainwashing and a new breed of ‘brain warfare’ terrified and fascinated the American public throughout the 1950s, spurred both by the words of the CIA and the stories of ‘brainwashed’ G.I.’s returning from China, Korea, and the Soviet Union.... The paranoia began to drift into American culture, with books like The Manchurian Candidate....

“The idea of brainwashing also provided many Americans with a compelling, almost comforting, explanation for communism’s swift rise — that Soviets used the tools of brainwashing not just on enemy combatants, but on their own people. Why else would so many countries be embracing such an obviously backward ideology? American freedom of the mind versus Soviet ‘mind control’ became a dividing line as stark as the Iron Curtain.”( back