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  • 23 Dec 2021 2:45 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    The misfortune of the Fortune

    The Fortune departed Plymouth for England today, but fortune was not with the ship of that name on the return. Apparently due to a major navigation error, the ship sailed hundreds of miles off course from England, south-east into the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Vendee, north of La Rochelle. About five weeks into her voyage, on 19 January 1622 and not far from the fortified Ile d’Yeu, a French warship (or, according to other accounts, French pirates) overtook the Fortune which was off-course about 350 sea miles southeast of where they should be – Land's End and the English Channel. It seems the Fortune’s master mistook the long peninsula of Brittany in western France for the Lizard Peninsula on the southwestern end of England and then strayed off down the French Atlantic coast to be taken by the French. Although the Fortune was not considered an enemy ship, France at this time was undergoing Huguenot rebel activities and any English vessel coming close to their shore was suspected of aiding the rebels and was liable for search and seizure. The French stopped and boarded the Fortune, which was then seized. Although the Fortune was not carrying contraband, the French governor seized her guns, cargo and rigging. The governor locked the ship's master in a dungeon and kept Cushman and the crew on board under guard. After thirteen days they were freed, but without its cargo of valuable beaver skins, otter pelts, and wood. The Fortune finally arrived back into the Thames on 17 February 1621/22.

    The loss of the Fortune's valuable cargo dealt a severe financial loss to the Merchant Adventurers who by this time had little hope of recouping their investment in either the Fortune or the Mayflower. Due to this, the Merchant Adventurers were reorganized in 1626 in conjunction with Plymouth Colony leaders, in an effort to restructure financial agreements and for Plymouth Colony eventually to pay its creditors.  The colonists didn’t have the money but agreed to pay £200 instalments for nine years -- this might have been the first debt management program in American history.  Like just about everything else in this tale, it didn’t go quite as planned. The Pilgrims ended up taking 23 years to pay off their debt.

    * * * * *

    This marks the 518th post on the Mayflower, Day-by-Day, starting on 24 July 1620, the day before the Mayflower departed London to rendezvous with the Speedwell in Southampton, and ending on 23 December 1621, the day the Fortune departed Plymouth to return to England.  I actually started with the post for 6 September 1620, so the posts from 24 July 1620 through 6 September 1620 are “double posts” on those days alongside the posts for 1621.    If you count only the actual, individual posts (and don’t separate the double posts, where I wrote about 1621 and 1620 on the same day), this is post number 474.

    This is the last post (cue the bugle): I have to stop somewhere, and the return of the Fortune is as good a place as any.  I am astonished that I have lasted this long, and managed to post every single day, mostly between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM, for well over a year.  Thank you all for your kind wishes and comments, and, as I have said several times, if you have any suggestions on how this can be “packaged” and made available in another way -- since trying to use Facebook, with so many other posts and the way the algorithm rearranges even the posts I made, can be difficult -- please do let me know.

  • 22 Dec 2021 3:01 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Departure of the Fortune

    After a stay of just two weeks, the Fortune left to return to London on 23 December 1621 (n.s.).  Robert Cushman returned, carrying the signed agreement of the settlers with the London Merchant Adventurers (which may have been the primary purpose of the Fortune’s voyage), as well as a manuscript account of the first year of the Pilgrims in New England that would become known as Mourt’s Relation. We have been sampling longer and shorter excerpts of this work, written by Edward Winslow and William Bradford, for the past thirteen months -- it contained the brief summary of what later generations called “the first Thanksgiving,” and painted a rosy picture of bounty and good, which would soon -- very soon -- disintegrate, as the settlers entered a winter which, if anything, was more difficult than the last. Robert Cushman left his son Thomas in the care of William Bradford, who gave him a home, educated him, and treated him as a son. The last letter written by Cushman to Bradford, dated “London, December 22, AD 1624,” concluded: "Lastly, I must intreat you still, to have a care of my son, as of your own; and I shall rest bound unto you. I pray you let him sometime practice writing. I hope the next ships to come to you." Bradford replied: "Your son and all of us, are in good health (blessed be God).  He received the things you sent him. I hope God will make him a good man." But Cushman had died before the comforting message reached him.

  • 21 Dec 2021 2:33 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Christmas at Plimoth Plantation: Saints v Strangers

    The differences between the Separatists and the newcomers did not wait for long to manifest themselves after the Fortune’s departure.  It took the settlers a little more than a month to impale the town; the chopping and sawing was back-breaking and time consuming, made all the more difficult by the lack or deficiency of their equipment.  Without oxen to help drag the tree trunks in from the forest, they were forced to lug the ten to twelve foot lengths of timber in by hand.  They dug a two- to three- foot trench, first using picks to break through the frozen topsoil and then a large hoe-like tool to dig a trench that was wide and deep enough to accommodate the ends of the pales.  Adding to the difficulties was the lack of food.  Some of the labourers grew so faint from hunger that they were seen to stagger on their way back to their homes after a day’s work.

    And then came the twenty-fifth of December, a day like any other for the previous inhabitants of Plymouth, although it did mark the first anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth.  There was probably a gasp of unbelief when several of the newly arrived passengers from the Fortune stated flatly that they would not work today, because it was “against their consciences” -- an excuse that was quite clearly aimed to carry the most weight with the Pilgrims.  Bradford, begrudgingly, gave this suddenly pious minority the day off, and headed out to the fields to work with most of the settlement’s men.  Coming back at mid-day, however, he was horrified to see that those who had stayed behind were not engaged in prayer, but in playing games.  If they wanted to spend Christmas praying at home, that was fine with the Governor; “but there should be no gaming or reveling in the streets” -- freedom of conscience did not extend to stool ball (a game like cricket that was popular in the west of England).  While I do know some people who treat cricket like a religion, a rough modern equivalent of this behaviour might be eating pork in a synagogue.  Bradford confiscated the balls and bats and declared that is was not fair if a few healthy men played while everyone else worked.

    The Pilgrims had come to the New World to live according to the Gospel, and were now confronted with a noisy minority that were doing what they could to make that impossible, or at least unlikely.  Bradford was thus presented not only with an impending attack on the settlement by hostile Narragansetts, but also with a visible and growing hostile divide among his own people: an internal attack on the very reason for this settlement.  Bradford had to make it clear that no matter how things were done in England, Plymouth would follow God’s law, to which everyone would be expected to conform.  For many of the new arrivals, however, this must have been astonishing, to say the least.  While some of the passengers on the Fortune knew the Leiden congregation well, others probably had little knowledge of, or appreciation for, the project being lived out in Plimoth Plantation.  Almost half of the thirty-five passengers of the Fortune were on the 1623 land division but are not on the 1627 division of cattle, suggesting that they either died in the meantime, or, perhaps more likely, had returned to England, finding that life in New England was not what they had bargained for at all.
  • 20 Dec 2021 2:55 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Cushman Monument on Burial Hill

    By far the most conspicuous memorial on Burial Hill is to someone who is not buried there.  The Cushman memorial, a twenty-five foot obelisk erected in 1858, is to Robert Cushman, his son Thomas, and Mary (Allerton) Cushman, Thomas’ wife.  Robert Cushman returned to England on the Fortune, and never came back to New England; he died in London during the Great Plague of 1625.  On the west side of the memorial is this touching inscription: “He died, lamented by the forefathers as ‘their ancient friend, - who was as their right hand with their friends the adventurers, and for divers years had done and agitated all their business with them to their great advantage. And you, my loving friends, the adventurers to this plantation, as your care has been first to settle religion here before either profit or popularity, so, I pray you, go on. -- I rejoice -- that you thus honor God with your riches, and I trust you shall be repaid again double and treble in this world, yea, and the memory of this action shall never die.’”  The monument makes special mention of yesterday’s sermon, so that this may very well be the only monument in America to a Sunday sermon.

    Robert Cushman’s son Thomas became the ruling elder of the Plymouth church, and married Mary Allerton, the last surviving of the passengers of the Mayflower (depending on how one considers Peregrine White).  Robert’s 1691 grave marker is one of the half dozen seventeenth century gravestones on Burial Hill; the original was removed to make room “for a more enduring memorial” and placed next to the newer (and more showy) granite obelisk.

  • 19 Dec 2021 2:54 AM | Soule (Administrator)


    The text on which Cushman’s sermon was preached was, Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth (I Corinthians 10:24). "The occasion of these words of the Apostle Paul, was because of the abuses which were in the Church of Corinth. Which abuses arose chiefly through swelling pride, self-love and conceitedness. …  It is lawful sometimes for men to gather wealth, and grow rich, even as there was a time for Joseph to store up corn, but a godly and sincere Christian will see when this time is, and will not hoard up when he seeth others of his brethren and associates to want, but then is a time, if he have anything to fetch out and disperse it. … bear ye therefore one another's burthen, and be not a burthen one to another, avoid all factions, frowardness, singularity and withdrawings, and cleave fast to the Lord, and one to another continually; so shall you be a notable president to these poor heathens, whose eyes are upon you, and who very brutishly and cruelly do daily eat and consume one another, through their emulations, ways and contentions; be you therefore ashamed of it, and win them to peace both with yourselves, and one another, by your peaceable examples, which will preach louder to them, then if you could cry in their barbarous language, so also shall you be an encouragment to many of your christian friends in your native country, to come to you, when they hear of your peace, love and kindness that is amongst you: but above all, it shall go well with your souls, when that God of peace and unity shall come to visit you with death as he hath done many of your associates, you being found of him, not in murmurings, discontent and jars, but in brotherly love, and peace, may be translated from this wandering wilderness unto that joyful and heavenly Canaan."

    Cushman's audience had been struggling in the wilderness under the burdens of the London contract for an entire year. But like Winthrop's much more famous Modell of Christian Charity a decade later, Cushman's sermon exhorted its listeners to Christian love and selfless cooperation for the welfare of the whole. In Cushman's case the good of the whole would be achieved by sacrificial and charitable attitudes and actions toward both fellow settlers at Plymouth and unreliable partners in London. But, as it turned out, Christian love and charity, under the restraints of an unfavourable business contract, were a mixed blessing for ordinary people of mean estates. Such virtues may have been the way to heaven but were decidedly not the way to a full belly, and Plymouth's people were eager for both rewards. This was not clear to Robert Cushman; it was only too clear to Governor Bradford: most settlers in Plymouth were poor, and the partnership with Londoners kept them so. The Pilgrims' purpose in America could be served in several ways, but the colonists quickly concluded that the "common course and condition" laid down by the investors in London was not one of them. Circumstances in early Plymouth dictated a rough equality. Curiously, it was at odds with conventional thinking about God's design for his people, and it tended to erode as conditions first worsened and then, through individual effort, improved.  Bradford concluded that because all of Plymouth's settlers were treated alike and were expected to respond alike, "they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another" -- a condition Cushman in London would have applauded, were Christian virtue the motive. But, the governor went on, although the equalitarian tendency did not altogether erase those arbitrary distinctions that “God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them.” To Bradford this was a fundamental contradiction; the "common course and condition" worked against divine doctrine about human differences that existed for the common good.  Cushman's sermon contained repeated warnings that selfish individualism, a shifting for oneself, could only destroy the spiritual league and covenant of love and sacrifice and lead to the colony's demise. The Pilgrims' response to Cushman's plea was almost immediate, and positive: the settlers accepted the offered contract. But absolute commitment to the "common course and condition" for the good of the whole soon faded before more secular realities of the New World struggle. Bradford with a great deal of sorrow explained that "God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them."  Given the abundance of land and resources -- once settlers learned to use them -- there probably was no other way.

    Cushman’s sermon was first printed in England (1621) and later in America (Boston, 1846).  The latter half of the sermon, on the sweetness of friendship, does not seem to have been included in either of the publications.  I have spent some time trying to see if any of that part of the sermon has survived, and it does not appear that any of it has.

  • 18 Dec 2021 2:57 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Cushman’s sermon

    Robert Cushman had brought the sober news that those who had financed the voyage were displeased and required the Pilgrims to sign an amended contract. Cushman and Bradford convinced them to sign. The amended contract greatly benefitted the Pilgrims with additional support from their financiers. During his short visit to New England he would make a contribution of a spiritual nature, as well: Cushman was committed to the extreme Protestantism the Pilgrims espoused, and spent time in prison in England for it. In 1619 he wrote a book about his experience called The Cry of a Stone, on how the Church of England was no church.  The title of his sermon in Plymouth this weekend was “The Sin and Danger of Self-Love and the Sweetness of True Friendship,” with teaching and exhortation as to the danger of selfishness and how to live a godly, unselfish life.  Although the language is somewhat difficult for us to read today, it’s an excellent sermon, and parts are quite moving.  It is credited with changing the settlers’ minds so that they finally agreed to the contract.  And undoubtedly occasioned complaints that all sermons are about money.

    Portions of this sermon tomorrow.

  • 17 Dec 2021 2:35 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Letter sent back to England

    Bradford composed a letter to Thomas Weston in answer to his letter to Governor Carver, carried on the Fortune: “Sir: Your large letter written to Mr. Carver, and dated the 6. of July, 1621, I have received the 10. of November, wherein (after the apology made for your self) you lay many heavy imputations upon him and us all. Touching him, he is departed this life, and now is at rest in the Lord from all those troubles and encumbrances with which we are yet to strive. He needs not my apology; for his care and pains was so great for the common good, both ours and yours, as that therewith (it is thought) he oppressed himself and shortened his days; of whose loss we cannot sufficiently complain. At great charges in this adventure, I confess you have been, and many losses may sustain; but the loss of his and many other honest and industrious men’s lives, cannot be valued at any price.  Of the one, there may be hope of recovery, but the other no recompence can make good. But I will not insist in generall, but come more particularly to the things themselves. You greatly blame us for keeping the ship so long in the country, and then to send her away empty.  She lay 5. weeks at Cape-Codd, whilst with many a weary step (after a long journey) and the endurance of many a hard brunt, we sought out in the foul winter a place of habitation. Then we went in so tedious a time to make provision to shelter us and our goods, about which labour, many of our arms & legs can tell us to this day we were not negligent.  But it pleased God to visit us then with death daily, and with so generall a disease, that the living were scarce able to bury the dead; and the well not in any measure sufficient to tend the sick.  And now to be so greatly blamed, for not freighting the ship, doth indeed go near us, and much discourage us. But you say you know we will pretend weakness; and do you think we had not cause? Yes, you tell us you believe it, but it was more weakness of judgment, then of hands. Our weakness herein is great we confess, therefore we will bear this check patiently amongst the rest, till God send us wiser men. But they which told you we spent so much time in discoursing & consulting, &c., their hearts can tell their tongues, they lie.  They cared not, so they might salve their own sores, how they wounded others. Indeed, it is our calamity that we are (beyond expectation) yoked with some ill conditioned people, who will never do good, but corrupt and abuse others, &c.”

  • 16 Dec 2021 2:54 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    The Wall

    The wall had to be at least half a mile in length; hundreds, if not thousands, of trees had to be felled, their trunks stripped of branches and chopped or sawed to the proper length, then set deeply into the ground.  The tree trunks of the fort had to be set so tightly together that a man could not get between them.  Standish also insisted that they must construct three protruding gates, known as flankers, that would also serve as defensive shooting platforms.  For a work force of fewer than fifty men, living on a starvation diet, this was an almost impossible task.  One of the remarkable things about the small village is that it had been able to survive for almost a year without any stockade or wall -- enemies and friends could, and did, simply walk straight into the village, where the only place of defence was the fort, which also served as a church, meeting hall, storehouse, and dormitory.  It took them more than a month to finish the stockade around the village.

  • 15 Dec 2021 3:00 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    “Impaling” the Village

    The Pilgrims realised that their little village (with only seven houses) was wide-open to attack.  Their muskets were cumbersome, and their big guns, while they might blow a ship in the harbour out of the water, were of little use against a rapid Indian attack, especially if they attacked at night.  "This makes us more carefully to look to ourselves, and agree to enclose our Dwellings with strong Pales, Flankers, Gates, &c.”

  • 14 Dec 2021 3:23 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Symbolic Threats

    Bradford noted that, “At length Canonicus their chief Sachem in a braving manner sends us a Bundle of Arrows tied with a Snake Skin, which Squanto tells us it is a Challenge and Threatning.”  This mysterious object was intended for Squanto, but when the Narragansett messenger discovered that he was away, he hurriedly handed it over to the Pilgrims.  When Squanto arrived back, he explained its meaning.  Winslow recorded that “our Governor with Advice of others, sends them an Answer, That if they had rather War than Peace, they might Begin when they wou'd; we had done them no Wrong, nor do we fear them, nor shou'd they find us unprovided. By another Messenger we send back the Snake-Skin charg'd with Powder and Bullets: But they refuse to receive it, and Return it to us.  Since the Death of so many Indians they tho't to Lord it over the Rest, conceive we are a Bar in their Way, and see Massassoit already take Shelter under our Wings.”  Philbrick adds that “the powder-stuffed snake skin was passed like a hot potato from village to village until it finally made its way back to Plymouth” (Mayflower, 127).
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