Who were the colonists of Plymouth

Colonizing America: How the Devil Driven into the Pilgrim Fathers

Just like that old acquaintance, who came from England in 1629, stayed for a short time in New Plymouth and then moved back to his happy hill. Morton soon resumed not only his previous way of life, but also doing business with the Indians. An affront to the Massachusetts Bay Company and thus also Endecott, because they claimed a monopoly on trade. Morton, on the other hand, was of the opinion that every settler was free to trade with whomever and with whatever, independently and at his own discretion. The Puritans did not hesitate: Morton was arrested, put on display in leg irons, and shortly afterwards again shipped to England.

Endecott burned down the houses of Merrymount and felled the maypole. Among other things, unproven and very likely completely unfounded rumors that he had committed a murder years earlier in his old homeland (perhaps in connection with the disputes over the legacy of the widow Miller) served as justification for the measures. In addition, it was vaguely said that he had treated the Indians badly - of all people, whom they had previously accused of being too favored by the Indians.

A paradise with a weakness

Also at the second attempt, allegations against Morton were rejected by the English courts. Now he began to take legal action against the Puritans in New England in his old homeland, both legally and publicly. Together with other dissatisfied settlers and supported by the founder of the Maine colony, Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1568-1647), he tried in court from 1632 to have the Puritans of Plymouth revoked the royal authorization to establish a colony in New England for various offenses. They had, he argued, far exceeded their powers, for example by trying to expand the limits of their influence or to take control of all trade relations with the indigenous people. Despite initial success, these legal efforts were fruitless. So the man from Merrymount switched to journalism and propaganda as well. Morton wrote down his experiences in and with the New World and at the same time created a kind of counter-statement to the passages from Bradford's diary that have meanwhile also become known in England.

The Puritans did not hesitate: Morton was arrested and put on display in leg irons

His book "New English Canaan", published in Holland in 1637, is a remarkable document from the first decades of the occupation of North America by English settlers. It is at the same time an eulogy for the natives of the New World, an advertising pamphlet for the colonization of the continent and a bitter polemic against the Puritans. In the first of three parts the author describes the customs and habits of the Indians, of which, in contrast to other contemporary reports, he writes only in the highest tones. He praises her frugality as well as her diligence and skill. Several times he emphasizes their humanity, hospitality, contractual loyalty and moral maturity, even calling them more civilized than many Europeans. Conclusively, Morton urged Native American people to live in harmony and mutual benefit rather than gradually ousting them. All the more so since they harbored "the eager desire to trade with our nation" and met the English with benevolence, even with love. After all, there are worthwhile trade goods in abundance, Morton tells his readers.

In the second part of his book he gives enthusiastic information about the beauty, fertility and wealth of New England. Like the biblical Canaan, this new one is also a land in which milk and honey flow. Better still: "There is such an abundance of birds, game and fish that Canaan could not boast of." The water is sweeter, the earth more fertile, the forests denser, the trees taller than in the old homeland. There is no shortage of game and poultry, their fur is thicker and more resilient than that of English animals, their meat tastes better, and the feathers of the geese, for example, can be used to make sleeping places "that are softer than any bed I've been in" . The New World is, as it were, a land of milk and honey, its native inhabitants as decent and reliable business partners and workers.

Everything would be perfect if it weren't for those pious settlers. The Puritans, as the author notes in the third part of his work, are as complacent as they are incompetent. They knew nothing about trade and little about hunting. Although they constantly led God in their mouths, they continually disregarded the fundamental Christian commandment to love one's neighbor. They ignored the law, did not obey any treaty, and wielded a power that was not theirs. All their efforts are directed towards their narrow-minded community rules and laws, which dictate that they pray with their eyes closed, because: "They consider themselves so perfect on the high way to heaven that they think they can find it blind."

Morton's book disappears from the public eye

In 1643 - in England the conflict between supporters of King Charles I and those of the puritanically dominated English parliament had escalated to a civil war - Morton set out for the last time across the ocean and headed directly for Massachusetts Bay. The Puritans there can still remember him well - and by now they have also heard of his book, at least they know passages from it. Shortly after his arrival, the aged troublemaker is arrested for the third time and imprisoned for a few months before he is deported to Maine, to the colony of his old patron, Ferdinando Gorges. There he spent the last few years until his death in 1647 in the small town of Acomenticus on the Atlantic coast, today's York on the Gulf of Maine.

In the old homeland, Morton takes legal action against the Puritans: The royal license to found a colony is to be withdrawn from them

With Morton's death also began to be forgotten. After only a few years there were hardly any copies of "New English Canaan" left in the public domain, the publication of which the Puritans had been unable to prevent. Nathaniel Morton, a nephew of William Bradford and not related to the former "Lord of Lawlessness", published a work called "New England's Memorial" in 1669, in which he also reported on the quarrels about Merrymount, but he only used that His uncle's notes.

The other America

Over time, Thomas Morton and his work were all but forgotten. Interest in him only reawakened at the beginning of the 19th century. Curiously, three US presidents were involved in the rediscovery of Morton. John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), who later became the sixth President, bought a copy of "New English Canaan" at auction in 1798 as ambassador to the Prussian court in Berlin. Apparently this aroused the interest of his father John Adams (1735-1826), the second President of the United States. Personally, he did not think much of Thomas Morton, whom he called an "arsonist and agitator", but wrote an unpublished booklet around 1802 entitled "Scraps of the History of Mount Wollaston". In a letter to the third and then incumbent President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who in turn showed great interest in the story, Adams also revealed a personal motive for his concern with the subject: The Merrymount was on his own lands.

The romantic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was the first to take up the events in a literary way. In his short story "The May-Pole of Merry Mount" he portrays Morton as a tragic hero who rebels against the oppressive rule of the bigoted Puritans. "This grave dispute was about the future face of New England," wrote Hawthorne, lamenting the settlers of Merrymount, whose "hometown of wild happiness had been desolated in the middle of a gloomy forest."

Philip Roth also introduces him as the ancestor of the other countercultural America, who has his David Kepesh ask: “Why not consider Morton for what he is: the founding father of personal freedom? In the Puritan theocracy one had the freedom to do good; At Morton's Merry Mount you had freedom - and that was it. "