Web Text-ues Logo

Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             

Click Here to return to
St. Baltoph's Town
Content Page

Kellscraft Studio Logo




To Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the intimate friend of Sir Walter Raleigh and a man of much more than common interest in the history of Elizabethan England, is due the credit of the first enduring settlement in the environs of Boston. John Smith had skirted the coast of New England and looked with some care into Boston Harbour before Gorges came; Miles Standish had pushed up from Plymouth to trade with the Indians of this section; and Thomas Weston, soldier of fortune, had es­tablished a temporary trading-post in what is now Weymouth. But it remained for Gorges and his son Robert to plant firmly upon our shores the standard of England and to reiter­ate that that was the country to which, by virtue of the Cabots, those shores rightly be­longed.

The Cabots, to be sure, had come a century and a quarter before and, since their time, ex­plorers of several other nations had ventured to the new world — one of them even going so far as to carve his name upon the continent. But an English king had fitted out the "car­vels" of John and Sebastian Cabot; and Eng­lish kings were not in the habit of forgetting incidents of that sort. The letter in which Sebastian Cabot relates the story of those Bris­tol vessels is very quaint and interesting. "When my father," he writes, "departed from Venice many yeers since to dwell in Eng­land, to follow the trade of merchandizes, he took me with him to the city of London, while I was very yong, yet having, nevertheless, some knowledge of letters, of humanity and of the Sphere. And when my father died in that time when news was brought that Don Chris­tofer Colonus Genuse [Columbus] had discov­ered the coasts of India whereof was great talke in all the court of King Henry the Seventh, who then raigned, inso much that all men with great admiration affirmed it to be a thing more divine than humane, to sail by the West into the East where spices growe, by a way that was never known before; by this fame and report there increased in my heart a great flame of desire to attempt some notable thing. And, understanding by reason of the Sphere, that if I should saile by way of the Northwest winde, I should by a shorter track come into India, I thereupon caused the king to be advertised of my devise, who immediately commanded two Carvels to bee furnished with all things appertaining to the voiage, which was, as farre as I remember, in the yeere 1496, in the beginning of Sommer.

"I began therefore to saile toward the Northwest, not thinking to find any other land than that of Cathay, and from thence to turn toward India, but after certaine dayes I found that the land ranne towards the North, which was to me a great displeasure. Nevertheless, sailing along the coast to see if I could find any gulfe that turned, I found the land still con­tinuing to the 56 deg. under our pole. And seeing that there the coast turned toward the East, despairing to find the passage, I turned back again, and sailed down by the coast of that land towards the Equinoctiall (ever with intent to find the said passage to India) and came to that part of this firme land which is now called Florida, where my victuals failing, I departed from thence and returned into Eng­land, where I found great tumults among the people, and preparation for warrs in Scotland: by reason whereof there was no more consid­eration had to this voyage." But barren of immediate results as this voyage undoubtedly was it is of immense importance to us as the first link in the chain which, for so long, bound America to England.

Captain John Smith

The next link was, of course, forged by Cap­tain John Smith to whom New England as well as Virginia owes more than it can ever repay. About one year before the settlement of Boston by the company which came with Winthrop Smith recapitulated the affairs of New Eng­land in the following lucid manner: "When I went first to the North part of Virginia, [in 1614] where the Westerly colony [of 1607] had been planted, which had dissolved itself within a yeare, there was not one Christian in all the land. The country was then reputed a most rockie barren, desolate desart; but the good return I brought from thence, with the maps and relations I made of the country, which I made so manifest, some of them did beleeve me, and they were well embraced, both by the Londoners and the Westerlings, for whom I had promised to undertake it, thinking to have joyned them all together. Betwixt them there long was much contention. The Londoners, in­deed, went bravely forward but in three or four yeares, I and my friends consumed many hundred pounds among the Plimothians, who only fed me but with delayes promises and excuses, but no performance of any kind to any purpose. In the interim many particular ships went thither, and finding my relations true, and that I had not taken that I brought home from the French men, as had beene re­ported; yet further for my paines to discredit me and my calling it New England, they obscured it and shadowed it with the title of Cannada, till, at my humble suit, king Charles confirmed it, with my map and booke, by the title of New England. The gaine thence re­turning did make the fame thereof so increase, that thirty forty or fifty saile, went yearely only to trade and fish; but nothing would be done for a plantation till about some hundred of your Brownists of England, Amsterdam and Leyden, went to New Plimouth, whose humour­ous ignorances caused them for more than a yeare, to endure a wonderful deale of misery with an infinite patience; but those in time doing well diverse others have in small handfulls undertaken to goe there, to be severall Lords and Kings of themselves...."

Cover and Title-Page of John Harvard's Book

The Gorges project, certainly, aimed at noth­ing short of a principality and was begun in all pomp and circumstance. To Greenwich on June 29, 1623, came the Dukes of Buckingham and Richmond, four earls and many lords and gentlemen to draw lots for possessions in the new country. This imposing group was called the Council for New England and had been established under a charter granted in 1620 to the elder Gorges and thirty-nine other patentees. Gorges had had the good luck to acquaint Raleigh with the conspiracy of the Earl of Essex against Queen Elizabeth and James I had valid reason, therefore, to appoint him governor of Plymouth in Devonshire. It was while pursuing his duties in Plymouth that his interest in New England was excited, by the mere accident, as he relates, of some Indians happening to be brought before him. At much pains he learned from them something of the nature of their country and his imagination was soon fired with the vision of golden har­vests waiting in the western continent to be reaped by such as he. Naturally sanguine and full of enthusiasm he succeeded in interesting in his project Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, through whose acquaintance with noblemen and connection at Court the coveted patent for making settle­ments in America was ere long secured.

Then the success of the Greenwich assembly — King James himself drew for Buckingham! — seems to have decided both Sir Ferdinando and his son to go at once to their glittering new world; and, a few weeks later, the latter sailed forth, armed with a commission as lieutenant of the Council with power to exercise jurisdic­tion, civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical, over the whole of the New England coast. The plan was for him to settle not too far from Ply­mouth, absorb as soon as might be the little group of men and women who were really lay­ing there the foundations of a nation and be­gin in masterful fashion the administration of the vast province which was undeniably his — on paper.

At Weymouth Thomas Weston had left a rude block-house and this Robert Gorges and his comrades immediately appropriated. In their company were several mechanics and tillers of the soil who proceeded to make them­selves useful in the new land; but of most in­terest to us because of their after-history, were three gentlemen colonists, Samuel Maverick, a, young man of means and education who es­tablished at what is now Chelsea the first per­manent house in the Bay colony, Rev. William Morrell, the Church of England representative in the brave undertaking and William Black­stone, graduate of Cambridge University and destined to renown as the first white settler of what we to-day know as Boston.

It was in September, 1623, that Robert Gorges landed in Weymouth. In the spring of 1624 he returned to England taking with him several of his comrades. Governor Bradford, whom he tried in vain to bully into obeisance observes mildly that Gorges did not find "the state of things heare to answer his Qualitie and condition." So he stayed less than a year. Some of those who had come with him were for trying the thing longer, however. Even the Rev. Mr. Morrell put in a second bitter winter before giving up the attempt. Though he speaks feelingly of the hard lot of men who are "landed upon an unknown shore, peradven­ture weake in number and naturall powers, for want of boats and carriages," and being for this reason compelled with a whole empty con­tinent before them "to stay where they are first landed, having no means to remove them­selves or their goods, be the place never so fruitlesse or inconvenient for planting, build­ing houses, boats or stages, or the harbors never so unfit for fishing, fowling or mooring their boats," — yet Morrell was none the less very favourably impressed, as Smith and all the others had been, with the natural charms of New England. As the fruit of his sojourn we have a Latin poem in which the country is described in a genial and somewhat imaginative way.

The year that Morrell returned to England (1625) was in all probability that in which William Blackstone took up his abode across the bay, in Shawmut, opposite the mouth of the Charles. And it was in that same ,year, too, that Captain Wollaston and his party es­tablished themselves at the place since known as Mount Wollaston, in the town of Quincy.

Among Wollaston's companions was one Thomas Morton "of Clifford's Inn, Gent.," a lawyer by profession and an outlaw by practice. In the rather dull pages of early New England history Morton's escapades supply "colour," however, for which we cannot be too grateful to him. The staid Plymouth people soon came to speak of him as the "Lord of Misrule" and there is no evidence whatever that he failed to deserve the title. When Wollaston departed to Virginia on business he proceeded to become captain in his stead and, naming the settlement Mare Mount, — Merry Mount, — he invited all the settlers to have a good time. They did so, according to Morton's own account — in the mad glad bad way ever dear to roystering Eng­lishmen. Not only did he and his followers drink deep of the festal bowl but they made the Indians with whom they traded welcome to drink deep also. To the men savages were given arms and ammunition while to the women was extended the privilege of becoming the mates of the conquering English. The May Day of 1627 was celebrated in revelry run riot. Morton has left us a minute description of the pole used on this occasion " a goodly pine tree of 80 foote long... with a peare of bucks horns nayled one, somewhat neare unto the top of it," while Governor Bradford says they "set up a May-pole, drinking and dan­cing aboute it many days togither, inviting the Indean women for their consorts, dancing and frisking togither (like so many fairies, or furies rather) and worse practices."

Bradford not unnaturally failed to appre­ciate the "colour." Moreover, the settlers could not, of course, have the natives furnished with firearms. So Morton was, after some difficulty, made a prisoner and shipped off to England. But he came back again the next year and for a considerable time was a veri­table thorn in the flesh to Endicott and his com­panions at Salem.

The Salem settlement was in the nature of a rescuing party. For while Sir Ferdinando and his friends had been exhausting themselves upon the pomps and ceremonies of colonization John White, a Dorchester clergyman, had es­tablished a little group of "prudent and hon­est men" in a kind of missionary settlement near what is now Gloucester. Of these men Roger Conant with three others had stayed on in the face of much discouragement after their companions returned to England, finally re­moving to Naumkeag (Salem), — where Endi­cott found them — when he landed early in the fall of 1628.

The rights of Endicott's men to territory in New England were obtained by purchase from Sir Ferdinando's Council of Plymouth. The name adopted by them was that of "the Massa­chusetts Company." Very wisely, however, as matters turned out, Endicott and his friends insisted that a charter be obtained from the Crown confirmatory of the grant from the

Council of Plymouth. And though they sailed before the charter passed the seals, when it did so, March 4, 1629, the rights of the colonists were defined as they never before had been, — and Charles I had placed in the hands of mere subjects powers which many a king who came after him would have given much to revoke.

Though Endicott was the "Governor of London's Plantation in the Massachusetts Bay of New England" Matthew Cradock was the governor, — i. e. the executive business head, — in the old country; and Cradock it was who, in July, 1629, submitted to his fellow-members in England certain propositions, conceived by himself, which, reinforced as they were by the charter, were destined to work a veritable revolution in the colonization of New England. Up to this time there seems to have been no thought whatever of transferring to the new land the actual government of the Company but Cradock made the startling proposal that just this should be done to the end that persons of worth and quality might deem it worth while to embark with their families for the planta­tion. There is still standing in Medford, near Boston, a house bearing the name of this gov­ernor and built for his use though he never came to occupy it. Between the suggestion of Cradock's plan at Deputy Goffe's house in London, in August, 1629, and its adoption a month later every member of the Company gave deep thought to the change involved. And, gradually, they came to see in it a way of escape from persecution and oppression. Reforms in England, whether of Church or State, seemed impossible. Strafford was at the head of the army and Laud in control of the Church. Illegal taxes were being levied on all hands and it looked as if Charles were re­solved to rule the kingdom in his own stiff­-necked way, disdaining the cooperation of any Parliament. Little hope indeed did the Old World offer to the liberty-loving, religious men who made up the bulk of the Puritan party!

Old House in Medford, built by Governor Craddock

The document by which these men finally emancipated themselves has come down to us as the Cambridge Agreement, so called because it was signed beneath the shadows and prob­ably within the very walls of that venerable university whose traditions it was destined to transplant into a new world. It bore the date. August 26, 1629; and was in the following words: —

"Upon due consideration of the state of the Plantation now in hand for New England. Wherein we whose names are hereunto subscribed, have engaged ourselves, and having weighed the work in regard of the consequence, God's glory and the Church's good; as also in regard of the difficulties and discouragements which in all probabilities must be forecast upon the prosecution of this business; considering withal that this whole adventure grows upon the joint confidence we have in each other's fidelity and resolution herein, so as no man of us  would have adventured it without the assurance of the rest; now for the better en­couragement of ourselves and others who shall join with us in this action, and to the end that every man may without scruple dispose of his estate and affairs as may best fit his prepara­tion for this voyage; it is fully and faithfully agreed among us, and every one of us doth hereby freely and sincerely promise and bind himself, in the word of a Christian and in the presence of God, who is the searcher of all hearts, that we will so really endeavor the prosecution of this work, as by God's assist­ance we will be ready in our persons, and with such of our several families as are to go with us, and such provision as we are able conve­niently to furnish ourselves withal, to embark for the said Plantation by the first of March next, at such port or ports of this land as shall be agreed upon by the Company, to the end to pass the Seas (under God's protection) to in­habit and continue in New England: Provided always, that before the last of September next, the whole Government, together with the Patent for the said Plantation, be first, by an order of Court, legally transferred and estab­lished to remain with us and others which shall inhabit upon the said Plantation; and provided also, that if any shall be hindered by such just or inevitable let or other cause, to be allowed by three parts of four of these whose names are hereunto subscribed, then such persons for such times and during such lets, to be dis­charged of this bond. And we do further promise, every one for himself, that. shall fail to be ready by his own default by the day ap­pointed, to pay for every day's default the Sum of £3 to the use of the rest of the company who shall be ready by the same day and time.


As important to this epoch-making agree­ment as the Prince of Denmark to the play of Hamlet is the sentence "Provided always, that before the last of September next, the whole Government, together with the Patent for the said Plantation, be first by an order of Court, legally transferred and established to remain with us and others which shall inhabit upon the said Plantation." This was the great condi­tion, we must bear clearly in mind, upon which Saltonstall, Dudley, Winthrop and the rest agreed to leave the land where they had been born and bred, and "inhabit and continue" in a new land of which they knew nothing. Two months later John Winthrop was chosen head of the enterprise, with the style and title Gov­ernor of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Emphatically, Boston has now "begun."

 Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.