William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Bradford's Letterbook - 3


To our beloved friends Mr. William Bradford, Mr. Isaac Allerton, Mr. William
Brewster, and the rest of the general society of Plymouth in New England,
salutations.

Though the thing we feared be come upon us and the evils we strove against, have
overtaken us; yet cannot we forget you, nor our friendship and fellowship,
which, together we have had some years; wherein though our expressions have been
small, yet our hearty affections towards you (Unknown by face) have been no less
than to our nearest friends, yea even to our own selves. And though your and our
friend, Mr. Winslow, can tell you the estate of things here, and what hath
befallen us; yet lest we should seem to neglect you, to whom by a wonderful
providence of God, we are so nearly united; we have thought good once more to
write unto you, and the arguments of our letter must consist of these three
points, first to shew you what is here befallen, 2dly, the reason and cause of
that which is fallen, 3rdly, our purposes and desires towards you hereafter.
The former course for the generality here is wholly dissolved from that course
which was held. And whereas you and we, were formerly sharers, and partners in
all voyages and dealings, this way is now so no more, but you and we are left to
bethink ourselves, what course to take in the future, that your lives and our
monies be not lost. And this, as ourselves first saw, so have we begun to
practice, as we thought best for your and our safety for hereafter; and it
standeth you no less in hand seriously to consider what is best to do, that you
may both continue good conscience with God and procure your best safety in this
world.

The reasons and causes of this alteration, have been these first and mainly, the
many crosses, and losses and abuses by sea and seamen, which have caused us to
run into so much charge, and debts and engagements, as our estates and means
were not able to go on without impoverishing ourselves, and much hindering if
not spoiling our trades and callings here; except our estates had been greater
or our associates had cloven better to us. 2dly, As here hath been a faction and
siding amongst us now more than two years; so now there is an utter breach and
sequestration amongst us, and in two parts of us, a full dissertion, and
forsaking of you, Without any intent or purpose of medling more with you.
And though we are persuaded the main cause of their this doing is want of money
(for need whereof men use to make many excuses) yet other things are by many
pretended, and not without some colour urged, which are these: 1st, A distaste
of you there, for that you are (as they affirm) Brownists, condemning all other
churches, and persons but yourselves and those in your way, and you are
contentious, cruel and hard hearted, among your neighbours and towards such as
in all points both civil and religious, jump not with you. And that you are
negligent, careless, wasteful, unthrifty, and suffer all general goods, and
affairs to go at six and sevens and spend your time in idleness and talking and
confering, and care not what be wasted worn and torn out, whilst all things come
so easily, and so cheap unto you. 2dly, A distaste and personal contempt of us
for taking your parts and striving to defend you, and make the best of all
matters touching you, insomuch as it is hard to say whether you or we are least
loved of them.

Now what use either you or we may make of these things, it remaineth to be
considered; and the more, for that we know the hand of God to be present in all
these things, and he no doubt would admonish us of something which is not yet so
looked to and taken to heart as it should. And although it be now too late for
us, or you, to prevent and stay these things, yet is it not too late to exercise
patience, wisdom and Conscience, in bearing them, and in carrying ourselves in
and under them for time to come. And as we ourselves stand ready to embrace all
occasions that may tend to the furtherance of so hopeful a work; rather admiring
at what is, than grudging for what is not, so it must rest still in you to make
all good again. And if in nothing else you can be approved, yet let your honesty
and conscience be still approved, and lose not one jot of your innocence amidst
your many crosses and afflictions.

And surely if you upon this alteration behave yourselves wisely and go on
fairly, as men whose hopes is not in this life; you shall need no other weapon
to wound your adversaries; for when your righteousness is revealed as the light,
they shall cover their faces with shame, that causelessly have sought your
overthrow. And although (we hope) you need not our council in these things,
having learned of God how to behave yourselves, in all estates in this world,
yet a word for your advice and direction, to spur those forward, which we hope
run already

And first, seeing our generality here is dissolved, let yours be the more firm;
and do not you like carnal people (which run into inconveniences and evils by
examples) but rather be warned by your harms, to cleave faster together
hereafter; take heed of long and sharp disputes and oppositions, give no passage
to the waters, no not a little; let not hatred or heartburning be harboured in
the breast of any of you one moment, but forgive and forget all former failings
and abuses, and renew your love and friendship together daily. There is often
more sound friendship and sweeter fellowship in amietions and crosses than in
prosperity and favours; and there is reason for it, because envy flieth away
when there is nothing but necessities to lee looked on; but it is always a bold
guest where prosperity shews itself.

And although we here which are hedged about with so many favours and helps in
worldly things and comforts; forget friendship and love and fall out often times
for trifles; yet you must not do so, but must in these things turn a new leaf
and be of another spirit. We here can fall out with a friend and lose him today,
and find another tomorrow; but you cannot do so, you have no such choice, you
must make much of them you have, and count him a very good friend, Which is not
a professed enemy. We have a trade and custom of tale bearing, whispering and
changing of old friends for new, and these things with US are incurable. But you
which do as it were begin a new world and lay the foundation of sound piety and
humanity for others to follow, must suffer no such weeds in your garden, but nip
them in the head, and cast them out forever; and must follow peace and study
quietness, having fervent love amongst yourselves as a perfect and entire bond
to uphold you when all else fails you. And although we have written much to you
heretofore to provoke to Union and love as the only way to make you stand, and
without which all would come to nothing; so now you are much more to be provoked
"hereunto, since you are left, rather to be spectators to the eye than objects
to the hand, and stand most need one of another, at home when foreign help is so
much decayed and weakened.

And if any amongst you, for all that' have still a withdrawing heart, and will
be all to himself, and nothing to his neighbour, let him think of these things.
1st, The providence of God in bringing you there together. 2 d, His marvellous
preserving you from so many dangers, the particulars whereof yon know and must
never forget. 3 d, The hopes that yet are. of effecting somewhat for yourselves
and more for your posterity if hand join in hand. 4th, The woeful estate of him
Which is alone, especially in a wilderness 5th, The succor and comfort which the
generality can daily afford, having built houses, planted corn, framed boats,
erected salt works, obtained cattle, swine, and pulling,* together with the
diverse varieties of trades and faculties employed by sea and land, the gains of
every one stretching itself unto all whilst they are in the general: but such as
withdraw themselves tempting God and despising their neighbours, must look for
no share or part in any of these things; but as they will be a comonwealth
alone, so alone they must work, and alone they must eat, and alone they must be
sick and die, or else languishing Under the frustration of their vain hopes,
alone return to England, and there to help all cry out of the country and the
people; counting the one fruitless and the other merciless; when indeed their
own folly, pride, and idleness is the cause of all which never weigh either the
providence of God, the conscience of their duty, nor care for their neighbours,
or themselves, further than to grate Upon their friends; as if other men owed
them all things, and they owed no man any thing. 6th, The conscience of making
restitution, and paying those debts and charges which hath befallen to bring you
there, and send those things to you, which you have had, must hold you together;
and for him that withdraws himself from the general; we look upon him, as Upon a
man, who, having served his term, and fulfiled his desire, cares not what
becomes of others, neither maketh conscience of any debt, or duty at all, but
thinketh to slide away under secret colours, to abuse and deceive his friends;
and against whom we need say little, seeing the Lord will never cease to curse
his course.

And albeit, the company here as a company hath lost all; you know when Saul left
David, yea, and pursued him, yet David did not abuse his allegiance and loyalty
to him, 210 more should you; the evil of us here, cannot justify any evil in
you, but you must still do your duty, though we neglect ours. 2dly, Indeed we
are persuaded, it is in the most of the adventurers rather want of power, than
will, that maketh them break off; they having gone as far as they can in the
business, and are as sorry that they cannot go forward as you are offended that
they do not go forward, yea, and the presences of those which have the most
colours, we are persuaded, proceed more from weakness of the purse, than fear of
any thing else; and the want of money is such a grevious sickness now-a-days, as
that it makes men rave and cry out, they cannot tell for what. 3dly, And in a
word we think it but reason, that all such things as these, are appertaining to
the general, be kept and preserved together, and rather increased daily, than
any way dispersed or embezzled away, for any private ends or intents whatsoever.
4thly, That after your necessities are served, you gather together such
commodities as the country yields, and send them over to pay debts and clear
engagements here, which are not less than 1400. All which debts, besides
adventures, have been made about general commodities and implements, and for
which divers of us, stand more or less engage. And we dare say of you, that you
will do the best you can to free us, and unburden us, that for your sakes, and
help, are so much hazarded in our estates, and names. 5thly, If there be any
that will withdraw himself from the general, as he must not have, nor use any of
the general's goods, so it is but reason that he give sufficient security for
payment of so much of the debts as his part cometh to; which how much it will
come to, upon a person, or family is quickly counted; and since we require but
men's faithful endeavours, and cannot obtain them, let none think much if we
require other security than fair words and promises, of such men as make no more
conscience of their words and ways.

If any amongst you shall object against us, either our long delays in our
supplies heretofore, or our too much jollity in spending sometimes at our
meetings more than perhaps needed; that will prove but trifling, for we could
also find fault with the idleness and sloth of many amongst you, which have made
all the rest go forward slowly, as also we could find fault with your
liberality, and largeness also, when it might have been otherwise; but all such
matters must still be left to the discretion and conscience of either side,
knowing that where man have a hand in such business, there will not want some,
that are too timerous and slack; as also that in matters of note, something must
be done for form and credit. And for ourselves we think there hath hardly in our
days; been a business, of this note, and fame, carried by Londoners, with twice
the expense in by matters that this hath been; and therefore let each man rather
seek to mend himself, than hastily to cast in objections against others.
In a word, since it thus still falleth out, that all things between us, are as
you see, let us all endeavour to keep a fair and honest course, and see what
time will bring forth, and how God in his providence will work for us. We still
are persuaded, you are the people, that must make a plantation, and erect a city
in those remote places, when all others fail, and return; and your experience of
God's providence and preservation of you is such, that we hope your hearts will
not now fail you, though your friends should forsake you (which we ourselves
shall not do whilst we live, so long as your honesty so well appeareth) yet
surely help would arise from some other place, whilst you wait on God with
uprightness, though we should leave you also.

To conclude, as you are especially now to renew your love one to another; so we
advise you, as your friends to these particulars. First let all sharpness,
reprehensions, and corrections, of opposite persons, be still used sparingly,
and take no advantage against any, for any by respects; but rather wait for
their mending amongst you, than to mend them yourselves by thrusting them away,
of whom there is any hope of good to be had. 2 d, Make your corporation, as
formal as you can, under the name of the Society of Plymouth in New England,
allowing some peculiar privileges, to all the members thereof, according to the
tenure of the patents. 3 d, Let your practices and course in religion in the
church, be made complete, and full; let all that fear God amongst you, join
themselves thereunto without delay; and let all the ordinances of God be used
completely in the church without longer waiting upon uncertainties, or keeping
the gap open for opposites. 42y, Let the worship and service of God be strictly
kept on the Sabbath, and both together, and asunder let the day be sanctified;
and let your care be seen on the working days every where and upon all occasions
to set forward the service of God. And lastly, be you all entreated to walk so
circumspectly and carry yourselves so uprightly in all your ways, as that no man
may make just exceptions against you; and more especially that the favour and
countenance of God may be so towards you, as that you may find abundant joy and
peace even amidst tribulations, that you may say with David, though my father,
and my mother should forsake me; yet the Lord will take me up.

We have sent you some cattle, cloth, hose, shoes, leather, '&c. but in another
nature than formerly, as it stood us in hand to do; we have committed them to
the custody and charge of, as our factors, Mr. Allerton and Mr. Winslow, at
whose discretion they are to be sold and commodities, taken for them as is
fitting. And it standeth you in need the more carefully to look to, and make
much of all your commodities, by how much the more they are chargeable to you,
and though we hope you shall not want things necessary, so we think the harder
they are got, the more carefully they will be husbanded. Good friends, as you
buy them, keep a decorum in distributing them, and let none have varieties, and
things for delight, when others want for their mere necessities, and have an eye
rather on your ill deservings at God's hand, than Upon the failings of your
friends towards you; and wait on him with patience, and good conscience; rather
admiring his mercies, (than repining at his crosses,) with the assurance of
faith, that what is wanting here shall be made up in glory a thousand fold. Go
on good friends, comfortably pluck up your hearts cheerfully, and quit
yourselves like men, in all your difficulties, that notwithstanding all
displeasure and threats of men, yet the work may go on which you are about, and
not be neglected, which is so much for the glory of God, and the furtherance of
our Countrymen, as that a man may with more comfort spend his life in it; than
live the life of Methuselah in wasting the plenty of a tilled land, or eating
the fruit of a grown tree.

Thus having not time to write further Unto you, leaving other things to the
relation of our friends; with all hearty salutations to you all, and hearty
prayers, for you all, we lovingly take our leave this 18th of December, 1624.

Your assured friends to our power,

James Sherley, (sick) William Collier,
Thomas Fletcher, Robert Holland.

 

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