William Bradford (1590-1657) Of Plymouth Plantation (Written 1630–50)
The Pestilent Morton and his Merry Mount
This woodcut of six boys dancing around a maypole, published in Massachusetts in 1788, is the oldest American published illustration of a country dance.
William Bradford (c.1590 – 1657) was an English Separatist leader who grew up in Yorkshire, and later moved to Leiden, Holland, and helped found the Plymouth Colony. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact while aboard the Mayflower in 1620. He served as Plymouth Colony Governor 5 times covering about 30 years between 1621 and 1657. His journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, covered the period from 1620 to 1657 in Plymouth Colony.
"They also set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, (like so many fairies, or furies rather.) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived and celebrated the feast of the Roman goddess Flora, or the beastly practices of the mad Bacchanalians. Morton likewise (to show his poetry) composed sundry rhymes and verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the detraction and scandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle or idol May-pole. They changed also the name of their place, and instead of calling it Mount Wollaston, they call it Merry Mount, as if this jollity would have lasted ever. But this continued not long, for after Morton was sent for England, (as follows to be declared,) shortly after came over that worthy gentleman, Mr. John Endicott, who brought over a patent under the broad seal, for the government of the Massachusetts, who visiting those parts caused that May-pole to be cut down, and rebuked them for their profaneness, and admonished them to look there should be better walking; so they now, or others, changed the name of their place again, and called it Mount Dagon."
Even John Adams wrote notes on Thomas Morton, the "Indians," & the Maypole on October 19. 1802. As did others...
Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts Bay. Page 7.
In 1625 one Capt. Wollaston with about 30 Persons began a Plantation near Westons. They gave it the name of Mount Wollaston. It was known by that name some years after, but at length the name was lost in that of Braintree, of which Town it is a part. The particular Hill, which caused the name of Mount is in the farm of John Quincy Esq late one of the council for the Province. No mention is made of a Patent to Wollaston. One (Thomas) Morton of Furnivals Inn was of this Company. He was not left in command, but contrived to make himself chief, changed the name of Mount Wollaston to Merry mount, Sett all the Servants free, erected a May pole, and lived a Life of dissipation untill all the Stock intended for trade was consumed. He was charged with furnishing the Indians with Guns and Ammunition, and teaching them the use of them. At length he made himself so obnoxious to the Planters in all parts, that at their general desire the People of New Plimouth Seized him by an armed force and confined him untill they had an opportunity of Sending him to England.
Prince’s New England Chronology page 152.
This year, 1625 comes over Capt. Wollaston with three or four more of Some Eminence, and a great many Servants, Provisions &c to begin a Plantation. Deputy Governor Dudley says there came 30 with Capt. Wollaston; in his Letter to the Countess of Lincoln of March 28 1631 printed in 8.vo at Boston 1696. They pitch on a place in the Massachusetts Bay Since named Braintree, on the northerly mountainous part thereof which they call Mount Wollaston, among whom is one Thomas Morton, who had been a kind of petty Fogger at Furnival’s Inn.
Prince’s Chronology page 162. Capt. Wollaston having continued at Mount Wollaston Some time, and finding Things not answer his Expectation, he carries a great part of the Servants to Virginia writes back to Mr. Rasdall one of his Chief Partners to carry another part, and appoints Mr Fitcher his Lieutenant, till he or Rasdall returns. But Rasdall being gone, Morton excites the rest to turn away B. Fitcher to seek his bread among his Neighbours, till he can get a pass to England. After this they fall to great licentiousness and [Profaneness].
Prince’s Chronology page 175. That worthy Gentleman Mr Endicot coming over for the Government of the Massachusetts, visits the People at Merry Mount, causes the Maypole to be cutt down, rebukes them for their Profaneness, admonishes them to look there be better Walking and the Name is changed to Mount Dagon. But Morton and Company, to maintain their Riot, hearing what Gain the French and Fisherman made by Selling Guns with Powder and Shot to the Natives; he beings the Same trade in those parts; teaches how to use them, employs the Indians in hunting and fowling for him wherein they become more active than any English, by their Swiftness of foot, nimbleness of Body, quick sightedness, continual Exercise and knowing the haunts of all Sorts of Game. And finding the Execution Guns will do, and the benefit thereby, become mad after them And give any price for them. Morton Sells them all he can Spare and sends to England for many more. The Neighbouring English who live Scattered in diverse places, and have no Strength in any meeting the Indians in the Woods, thus armed, are in great terror, and those in remoter places See the mischief will quickly Spread if not forthwith prevented. Besides they See they Should not keep their Servants: for Morton receives any, how vile soever; and they, with the discontented will flock to him, if this nest continues; and the other English will be in more fear of this debauched and wicked Crow, than of the Savages themselves. The chief of the Straggling Plantations therefore Piscatoway, Naumkeak, Winisimet, Wessaguscusset, Natasco and other places, meet, and agree to Solicit those of Plimouth, who are of greater Strength than all, to join and Stop this growing Mischief, by Suppressing Morton and Company before they grow to a further head. Those of Plimouth receiving their Messengers and Letters, are willing to afford our help. However, first sent a Messenger with Letters to advise him in a friendly Way to forbear those Courses. But he Scorns their advice, asks who has to do with him; declares he will trade pieces with the Indians, in despight of all &c. We send a Second time to be better Advised; for the Country cannot bear the Injury; it is against their common Safety and the Kings Proclamation. He says the Kings Proclamation is no Law, has no Penalty but his displeasure, that the King is dead and his displeasure with him; and threatens, if any come to molest him, let them look to themselves; he’ll prepare for them. Upon this they See no Way but force: and therefore obtain of the Plimouth Governor, to send Captain Standish with some aid to take him. The Captain coming, Morton arms his consorts, heats them with liquor, bars his doors, Setts his Powder and Bulletts on the table ready, the Captains Summons him to yeild, but has only Scoffs &c. At length Morton fearing We Should do some violence to the house, he and Some of his Crew came out to Shoot the Captain: At which the Captain Steps up to him, puts by his piece, takes him, enters the house, disperses the worst of the Company, leaves the more modest there, brings Morton to Plymouth: where he is kept, till a Ship going to the Isle of Shoals to England, he is sent in her to the New England Council, with a Messenger and Letters to inform against him &c: yet they do nothing to him not so much as rebuke him and he returns next year.