William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America


Letter of Robert Cushman to Edward Southworth

(Describes events surrounding the Mayflower's attempts to depart from

Dartmouth, August 17 [1620]

Loving Friend,

My most kind remembrance to you and your wife, with loving E.M.
etc., whom in this world I never look to see again. For besides the
eminent dangers of this voyage, which are no less than deadly, an
infirmity of body hath seized me, which will not in all likelihood
leave me till death. What to call it I know not, but it is a bundle
of lead, as it were, crushing my heart more and more these fourteen
days; as that although I do the actions of a living man, yet I am
but as dead, but the will of God be done.

Our pinnace will not cease leaking, else I think we had been
half-way to Virginia. Our voyage hither hath been as full of
crosses as ourselves have been of crookedness. We put in here to
trim her; and I think, as others also, if we had stayed at sea but
three or four hours more, she would have sunk right down. And
though she was twice trimmed at Hampton, yet now she is as open and
leaky as a sieve; and there was a board a man might have pulled off
with his fingers, two foot long, where the water came in as at a
mole hole. We lay at Hampton seven days in fair weather, waiting
for her, and now we lie here waiting for her in as fair a wind as
can blow, and so have done these four days, and are like to lie four
more, and by that time the wind will happily turn as it did at
Hampton. Our victuals will be half eaten up, I think, before we go
from the coast of England, and if our voyage last long, we shall not
have a month's victuals when we come in the country.

Near 700 hath been bestowed at Hampton, upon what I know not; Mr.
Martin saith he neither can nor will give any account of it, and if
he be called upon for accounts, he crieth out of unthankfulness for
his pains and care, that we are suspicious of him, and flings away,
and will end nothing. Also he so insulteth over our poor people,
with such scorn and contempt, as if they were not good enough to
wipe his shoes. It would break your heart to see his dealings, and
the mourning of our people; they complain to me, and alas! I can do
nothing for them. If I speak to him, he flies in my face as
mutinous, and saith no complaints shall be heard or received but by
himself, and saith they are froward and waspish, discontented
people, and I do ill to hear them. There are others that would lose
all they have put in, or make satisfaction for what they have had,
that they might depart; but he will not hear them, nor suffer them
to go ashore, lest they should run away. The sailors are so
offended at his ignorant boldness in meddling and controlling in
things he knows not what belongs to, as that some threaten to
mischief him; others say they will leave the ship and go their way.
But at the best this cometh of it, that he makes himself a scorn and
laughing stock unto them.

As for Mr. Weston, except grace do greatly sway him, he will hate us
ten times more than ever he loved us, for not confirming the
conditions. But now, since some pinches have taken them, they begin
to revile the truth and say Mr. Robinson was in the fault who
charged them never to consent to those conditions, nor choose me
into office; but indeed appointed them to choose them they did
choose. But he and they will rue too late, they may now see, and
all be ashamed when it is too late, that they were so ignorant; yea
and so inordinate in their courses. I am sure as they were resolved
not to seal those conditions, I was not so resolute at Hampton to
have left the whole business, except they would seal them, and
better the voyage to have been broken off then than to have brought
such misery to ourselves, dishonour to God and detriment to our
living friends, as now it is like to do. Four or five of the chief
of them which came from Leyden, came resolved never to go on those
conditions. And Mr. Martin, he said he never received no money on
those conditions; he was not beholden to the merchants for a pin,
they were bloodsuckers, and I know not what. Simple man, he indeed
never made any conditions with the merchants, nor ever spake with
them. But did all that money fly at Hampton, or was it his own?
Who will go and lay out money so rashly and lavishly as he did, and
never know how he comes by it or on what conditions? Secondly, I
told him of the alteration long ago and he was content, but now he
domineers and said I had betrayed them into the hands of slaves; he
is not beholden to them, he can set out two ships himself to a
voyage. When, good man? He hat but 50 in and if he should give up
his accounts he would not have a penny left him, as I am persuaded,

Friend, if ever we make a plantation, God works a miracle,
especially considering how scant we shall be of victuals, and most
of all ununited amongst ourselves and devoid of good tutors and
regiment. Violence will break all. Where is the meek and humble
spirit of Moses? and of Nehemiah who re-edified the walls of
Jerusalem, and the state of Israel? Is not the sound of Rehoboam's
brags daily here amongst us? Have not the philosophers and all the
wise men observed that, even in settled commonwealths, violent
governors bring either themselves or people or both to ruin? How
much more in the raising of commonwealths, when the mortar is yet
scarce tempered that should bind the walls! If I should write to
you of all things which promiscuously forerun our ruin, I should
over-charge my weak head and grieve your tender heart. Only this, I
pray you prepare for evil tidings of us every day. But pray for us
instantly, it may be the Lord will be yet entreated one way or other
to make for us. I see not in reason how we shall escape even the
gaspings of hunger-starved persons; but God can do much, and His
will be done. It is better for me to die than now for me to bear
it, which I do daily and expect it hourly, having received the
sentence of death both within me and without me. Poor William Ring
and myself do strive who shall be meat first for the fishes; but we
look for a glorious resurrection, knowing Christ Jesus after the
flesh no more, but looking unto the joy that is before us, we will
endure all these things and account them light in comparison of that
joy we hope for.

Remember me in all love to our friends as if I named them, whose
prayers I desire earnestly and wish again to see, but not till I can
with more comfort look them in the face. The Lord give us that true
comfort which none can take from us. I had a desire to make a brief
relation of our estate to some friend. I doubt not but your wisdom
will teach you seasonably to utter things as hereafter you shall be
called to it. That which I have written is true, and many things
more which I have forborn. I write it as upon my life, and last
confession in England. What is of use to be spoken presently, you
may speak of it; and what is fit to conceal, conceal. Pass by my
weak manner, for my head is weak, and my body feeble. The Lord make
me strong in Him, and keep both you and yours.

Your loving friend,

Dartmouth, August 17, 1620


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas