The May-Pole of Merrymount



HAD Thomas Morton contented himself during his residence in New England with the sports of the field, or with making observations on the habits and usages of the Indians, he might probably have lived and died at Ma-re Mount. At least such neighbors as he then had in the quiet Plymouth settlement would hardly have disturbed him, and the other straggling planters would have had no disposition to do so. He might, also, to the very end have persisted in observing his favorite anniversary, even though he had erected a new May-pole, gay with garlands and ribbons, every recurring spring. Unfortunately for him, however, he was not there for that purpose. He had a keen eye for a bargain as well as for nature and enjoyment. He was there to trade with the Indians, and trade with them he would and did after a fashion consistent neither with the well-being of the savages nor with the safety of the infant settlements. The two things the savages most coveted were spirits and guns, — fire-water and fire-arms. For these, then as now, they would give anything they possessed. The trade in firearms had been forbidden by royal proclamation issued by King James in 1622; the less dangerous " liquor traffic,” as it is now called, was scandalous, but not yet under the ban of law. Morton, however, cared little either for law or morals, and the savages flocked to him as to their natural ally. He probably treated them well; at any rate, though he denied that he was in the custom of giving them liquor, he unquestionably invited them to participate in his revels, and employed them to hunt and fowl for him, putting guns into their hands and instructing them in their use. They showed themselves apt pupils, also; for not only were they swift of foot, but they were remarkably quick of sight and thoroughly familiar with the haunts and habits of all descriptions of game. Learning thus how to use guns, the savages became eager to possess them. A petty and illicit trade in fire-arms had long been carried on by the adventurers and fishermen who trucked for furs along the coast, but it had never taken any regular shape or, indeed, assumed formidable proportions. Now, however, it seemed as though Morton was about to reduce it to a system. In cheap exchange for his surplus weapons there poured into the store-room at Merrymount a profusion of furs of the bear and the otter, the marten and the beaver, together with those choicer deerskins which the savages valued at three or four beaver-skins, and the robes of the black wolf, one of which was looked upon as the equal of forty beavers, and as being a gift worthy of the acceptance of a prince.

For a time, trade at Merrymount was brisk, and the money of the adventurers was as recklessly spent as it was easily made. The profits of the peltry trade thus conducted were as large then as they were nearly two centuries later, when upon them the foundations of the largest private fortune in America were securely laid. Naturally, however, Morton soon found his available stock of spare fire-arms exhausted, and so he made haste to send to England for a new and larger supply. The reputation, such as it was, of his post was now established, and the masters of the vessels, of which an ever-increasing number, already amounting to fifty sail a year, frequented the coast, all looked into the bay for barter and refreshment. Things, indeed, went prosperously with the remnant of the vanished Wollaston’s party, and those who had put their trust in its erratic leader doubtless looked forward to years of always larger accruing profits.

As might naturally have been expected, however, Morton’s neighbors watched his proceedings with a disfavor which rapidly assumed the shape of deep alarm. At first they were merely scandalized at his antics and complained that his people, like Weston’s before them, were destroying the trade in furs by their reckless modes of dealing. Nothing except fire-arms and ammunition possessed any attraction to the savages, and, in the strong language of Governor Bradford, “ they became madd, as it were, after them, and would not stick to give any prise they could attaine too for them.” Now, although the neighboring settlers were Puritans and Separatists, they were also poor men and shrewd dealers, eager to turn an honest penny in the way of trade, and they by no means fancied being driven out of the market in this wise. But more than this, they had come into New England to stay. They were not mere adventurers on the shore of a savage land, seeking, regardless of every ultimate consequence, at once to secure whatever they could extract from it. They were here with their wives and their little children, living at best in feeble communities on the outskirts of the forest or, in the case of Morton’s immediate neighbors, as solitary families or single individuals. To men thus situated the presence of such a reckless gang as Morton’s was more than an annoyance; it was a menace. Accordingly, when Governor Bradford came to these events in his history he gave vent to an outburst of indignation and alarm which is in curious contrast with the usual moderation of his language. “ O the boriblnes of this vilanie! how many both Dutch & English have been latly slaine by the Indeans, thus furnished; and no remedie provided, nay, ye evill more increased, and ye blood of their brethren sould for gaine, as is to be feared; and in what danger all these colonies are in is too well known. Oh! that princes & parlements would take some timly order to prevente this mischeefe, and at length to suppress it, by some exemplerie punishmeute upon some of these gaine thirstie murderers, (for they deserve no better title,) before their collonies in these parts he over throwne by these barbarous savages, thus armed with their owne weapons, by these evill instruments, and traytors to their neigbors and cuntrie.” It is the commencement of a long refrain, — a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong, — which has gone up from the frontier for two centuries and a half, and which is heard as clearly through the reports of the war department of to-day as through the pages of the annalist of 1627.

The frightened planters now began to meet Indians prowling through the woods armed with guns. As yet they were only in search of game or furs, but to men living in absolute solitude on the verge of an infinite, unknown wilderness, even the poor survivors of the Massachusetts tribe were a cause for apprehension. It was impossible that in imagination at least conspiracies should not always be forming behind the inscrutable veil of the forest, which would be revealed only as they had been revealed on the terrible 22d of March in Virginia, when the warwhoop had given the first intimation of danger. Five years had now elapsed since Pecksuot had vaunted his “ pictured knife ” in the face of Miles Standish at Wessagusset, and since Wattawamat’s ghastly head had scowled from the top of the Plymouth block-house. The terror occasioned by the nervous blow thus dealt them by the Puritan captain could not be expected to remain forever fresh in the minds of the savages. Though cowed, the leopard does not change his spots, nor the Indian his nature. Thus the planter’s safety grew daily more precarious. The instinct of self-preservation told him clearly enough that such a condition of affairs could not be suffered to continue. But, on the other hand, the remedy was not very clear. If it came to a trial of strength, the master of Merrymount, even without his Indian allies, was more than a match for all the settlers about Boston bay combined. The number of his retainers as yet was small, but the place threatened to become a refuge for loose and disorderly characters, whether runaway servants of the planters or deserters from the fishing fleet. Thus it might before long be a question whether even the Plymouth colony was able to abate the growing nuisance. Under these circumstances the heads of the straggling plantations met together to confer. The wide-spread apprehension which had been excited by Morton’s proceedings is clearly proven by the extent of territory from which those who joined in this action were brought together. What are now Portsmouth and Salem were represented, as well as Nantasket, Weymouth, Boston and Charlestown on Boston bay; yet these settlements altogether probably did not number fifty souls of all ages and both sexes. It was finally determined to invoke the assistance of the comparatively powerful Plymouth colony, which then may have numbered a population of some two hundred in all. Letters were accordingly prepared and sent in charge of a delegation to that place, the people of which upon full consideration of the reasons urged upon them and of the common danger decided to interfere. Though the application very distinctly looked to the suppression of the Merrymount settlement, the Plymouth elders thought best not to have recourse to force at once. They were well enough aware that Morton was not a promising subject to labor with in the spirit, yet, knowing that their own standing with the authorities in England was not too strong, and being anxious above all things not to give King Charles’s Council for New England any convenient handle against them, they wished to proceed deliberately and to exhaust every means of peaceable relief before going to extremities. A letter was accordingly dispatched to Morton, pointing out the perils to which his methods of dealing exposed the settlers, and admonishing him “ in a friendly and neighborly way ” to desist from such dangerous practices. The result of the interview between the Plymouth emissaries and the master of Merrymount was anything but satisfactory to the former. Morton carried matters with a high hand. He very distinctly told them that they were meddling in matters which did not belong to them, that the Plymouth colony had no jurisdiction over him or his plantation, and that he proposed to continue to deal with the Indians in any way he saw fit. The discomfited messengers returned with this reply, which was probably not unexpected, and the master of Merrymount pursued the uneven tenor of his ways. Then presently, as things did not improve but rather grew worse, the elders of Plymouth, following strictly the scriptural injunction, sent to him a second time “ and bad him be better advised, and more temperate in his termes, for ye countrie could not beare ye injure he did; it was against their comone saftie, and against ye king’s proclamation. He answerd in high terms as before, and that ye kings proclaimation was no law; demanding what penaltie was upon it. It was answered, more then he could bear, his majesties displeasure. But insolently he persisted, and said ye king was dead and his displeasure with him, & many ye like things; and threatened withall that if any came to molest him, let them looke to them selves, for he would prepare for them.” This insolent defiance, also, he seems to have enforced with a liberal use of expletives which were probably far more familiar to the mouths and ears of the dwellers at Merrymount than to those of Plymouth. Then at last patience failed; they were a generation slow to wrath, but there was an end even to Plymouth longsuffering. They had plainly gone too far now to hesitate. Morton, " petie-fogger ” that he was, might be correct in his law that King James’s proclamation had died with him in 1625 and had not since been renewed by King Charles, and that, even had it been, it bore no penalty; but of this they must take the risk. If they hesitated now there was an end to all order in New England. Conscious that he had browbeaten them, Morton’s insolence would know no bounds. So it was at last resolved to send Captain Standish to Boston bay with a sufficient backing to insure Morton’s speedy arrest. This conclusion was reached in the latter days of May or early in June, 1628. In obedience to orders Standish at once set sail, accompanied by a force of eight men. Whether a plot had been laid to assist him by entrapping Morton at Wessagusset does not appear; but in any event he found the man he sought at that place and there secured him. The moment he felt himself in custody the tone of the lately defiant Morton seems to have undergone a surprising change; for, assuming an air of virtuous astonishment, he innocently inquired why he was subjected to such violence. In reply he was reminded of the criminal acts to which his attention had been called, and he at once, with sublime impudence, requested to know who was the author of the complaint against him. Thereupon, when his custodians declined to furnish him with the desired information, he at once stood upon his rights as an Englishman, and, peremptorily refusing to answer any charges, demanded to be forthwith set at liberty. This view of the case naturally failed to recommend itself to Captain Standish, who prepared to remove his prisoner early the next morning to Plymouth. Meanwhile measures were taken to secure him over night. Six men, as he himself asserts, were put on guard over him, and one even lay on the bed with him to render more impracticable any attempt at escape. Elated with the complete and speedy success which had crowned their expedition, his captors during the evening appear to have indulged in some grim festivities with their Wessagusset hosts and confederates, in which their prisoner felt little inclination to join. In consequence their slumbers would seem to have been of the soundest, for presently the wakeful Morton contrived to slip off the bed, and passed two doors without being detected. As he went out, however, the last or outer door shut to so violently as to waken his custodians. What is supposed to have ensued can only he fold in the fugitive’s own language: “ The word which was given with an alarme, was, o he ’s gon, he ’s gon, what shall wee doe, he ’s gon? the rest (halfe a sleepe) start up in a maze, and like rames, ran theire heads one at another full butt in the darke. Their grand leader Captaine Shrimp [Standish] tooke on most furiously, and tore his clothes for anger, to see the empty nest, and their bird gone. The rest were eager to have torne theire Inure from theire heads, but it was so short, that it would give them no hold.”

Morton was once more at liberty, nor in the night and so near the woods was it any easy matter to recapture him. In a direct line he was hut a mile or two from his home, but the Monatiquot ran between him and it, and, as he had no means of crossing, it was necessary for him to take the longer road around, by the points where the river was fordable. This increased the distance to at least eight miles; but he was well acquainted with the path, and was moreover aided in finding it by the vivid lightning of a thunder-storm which illumined the night. He went resolved on forcible resistance. He reached his home before morning and at once set actively to work on his preparations. There was no time for idling; with the early day Standish and his party would cross the Monatiquot in their boats, or come round through the bay, and a short walk across the upland would bring them upon him. Morton’s entire force now consisted of but seven men beside himself, and, fortunately for Standish, five of these had at this particular time gone up into the interior in search of furs. His available garrison, therefore, was reduced to three,—himself and two others. Nothing daunted by this disparity of force, he and his followers got out all the guns they could find on hand, four in number, and made ready on the table an ample supply of powder and ball. Having then made fast the doors they very fortunately proceeded to defy their enemies over their cups. It would seem that, whatever resulted, they were determined that at least Merrymount should to the last be Merrymount. They had not long to wait. A friendly savage presently appeared, and gave warning that the pursuers had left Wessagusset and were already close at hand. They soon made their appearance, and, blissfully unconscious of the preparations which had been made to receive them, marched directly up to the fortified house, where Standish called for an immediate capitulation. The unfortunate Morton was now reduced to a reliance for his defense on his own unsupported arm, for the courage had clean oozed out of one of his men, while the other was hopelessly and helplessly drunk. Nevertheless, putting on a bold face, he met Standish’s summons with a defiance, and, when the latter proceeded to force an entrance, he sallied bravely out, musket in hand, followed by his single staggering retainer. He even made as if he would fire on the Plymouth captain. The struggle was, however, as ludicrous as it was brief. Pushing aside the carbine, Standish advanced and seized Morton, who was himself probably none too sober, as subsequently his weapon was found so overcharged as to be half-full of powder and ball. Even while this was going on, Morton’s reeling follower completed his superior’s overthrow by running " his owne nose upon ye pointe of a sword yt one held before him as he entered ye house. ”

This man’s hurt, however, does not seem to have been a very severe one, as Governor Bradford goes on to add that “ he lost but a litle of his hott blood.” The result of “ this outragions riot, ” as he termed it, was that Morton became again a prisoner, and this time with small prospect of escape. Indeed, he was forthwith carried to Plymouth ; while, of his retainers at Merrymount, some of the worst were dispersed, while others less irreclaimable remained about the house and deserted May-pole in the expectation that their master would ultimately be released and return.

The expense of this first police effort on the part of the embryotic New England confederacy, including, of course, the expenses of Morton’s imprisonment and subsequent passage to England, fell upon the Plymouth colony. The sum of £12 7s. was contributed by those who had participated in it, although Bradford asserts that this by no means made good its cost. Of the amount, £2 10s. only were forth-coming from Plymouth, whose people considered themselves least of all benefited by the abatement of the nuisance, while Conant and the others at Salem paid £l 10s. ; William and Edward Hilton at Rye, N. H., paid, the first £ 2 10s. and the last £ 1; two planters at Weymouth, named Jeffrey and Burslem, paid £2; the widow of David Thomson, on Thomson’s Island, 15s.; William Blackstone at Boston, 12s.; and those living at Nantasket, whose names have not come down to us, £l 10s. This contribution was, of course, a voluntary one and in no way a proportionate levy, but it is interesting as showing the situation and, in some respects, the relative means of all those who then lived in New England. Referring to Morton’s subsequent return, Bradford complained that the money was spent to little purpose ; but it would not so appear. Practically, as a result of this expenditure, the Wollaston settlement was broken up and an end was put to the open trade in firearms and ammunition. Whether that in furs revived on a more legitimate basis does not appear.

Shortly after Morton was brought to Plymouth a council was held to deliberate on his case, at which it was decided to send him a prisoner to England, with letters to those in authority setting forth the reasons why he had been arrested and asking to have criminal proceedings instituted against him. From Plymouth he was in the first place sent to the Isles of Shoals, where he was detained for a month, and then dispatched to his destination under charge of John Oldham, who was also bearer of the letters respecting his case. There are not many names more frequently mentioned than Oldham’s in the early history of Plymouth; and, indeed, he was once expelled from that settlement with divers strange and ignominious ceremonies, of which Morton has himself left the following graphic account: “ A lane of Musketiers was made, and hee compelled in scorne to passe along betweene, & to receave a bob upon the bumme be every musketier, and then a board a shallop, and so conveyed to Wessaguscus shoare, & staid at Massachusetts.” Perhaps, remembering this experience, Oldham may have felt a little friendly sympathy with his prisoner. Whether that was the cause of it or not, however, Bradford distinctly says that Morton “ foold ” him, and that consequently no proceedings whatever were had in the matter in England. So Morton escaped without even a rebuke. Nor was this all. In the summer of 1629, to their unspeakable disgust and astonishment, the magistrates of Plymouth saw the irrepressible Morton again landed in their settlement; and when they remonstrated that he had not yet answered the charges preferred against him, with consummate impudence he coolly replied “ that lice did perceave they were willfull people, that would never be answered; and derided them for their practises and losse of laboure.”

The most unaccountable thing of all about Morton’s reappearance at Plymouth was that he had been brought back there by Isaac Allerton, the agent of the colony. Bradford very distinctly asserts that Allerton had received a bribe, but whether this was the case or whether he too, like Oldham, had been “ foold ” by the cunning adventurer cannot now be ascertained. Certain it is that his course gave great offense at Plymouth; but none the less, in defiance of public opinion, he continued for some time to harbor Morton in his own house, employing him as a scribe. At last, however, the quondam Lord of Misrule was once more compelled to depart and to seek refuge in his old haunts. But, during his year of enforced absence, great changes had taken place in New England,—changes nearly affecting the plantation at Passonagessit. On the 6th of September, 1628, just three months after Morton’s arrest by Miles Standish, John Endicott had landed at Naumkeag, and the colony of Massachusetts Bay, which included Merrymount within its limits, had come into existence. One of the earliest acts of the new magistrate had been to take order as to the condition of affairs at Mt. Wollaston. Shortly after his arrival he had gone over there with a few followers and effectually quenched the smoking flax; for, after sharply rebuking the lingering remnants of Morton’s band for their profaneness, and admonishing them to look well to their future conduct, he had emphasized his remarks by hewing down the Maypole and by rechristening the spot as Mt. Dagon. In the selection of this name he exhibited, also, a characteristic familiarity with scriptural mythology; for Dagon was that sea idol of the Philistines upon whose day of solemn feast Samson had pulled down the pillars of Gaza’s temple. So when Morton at last returned to what had been Merrymount, it was only to find the very name of the place obliterated, his house deserted, his followers dispersed, and his darling Maypole level with the ground beneath the flying leaves of autumn.

He was, however, a man of cheerful temperament, and he seems to have accommodated himself as best he might to his altered circumstances. But. his trials were far from over. Indeed, it was absurd to suppose that a loose roysterer such as he — believing in nothing, jeering at everything — could long live side by side with the austere, Godfearing Puritans who had now established themselves over against him at Salem. Under the circumstances of his past career had he been as pure as ice and as chaste as snow he would not have escaped calumny: but he was neither. He seems to have returned to Mt. Wollaston in the autumn of 1629, and by the summer of 1630 he was in serious trouble with Endicott. he refers to a General Court held in Salem, but of which we have no other record, and at which he says he was present. There Endicott submitted certain articles to the planters, which all of them were called upon to sign. Their tenor was “ that in all causes, as well Ecclesiasticall, as Politticall, wee should follow the rule of Gods word.” Morton states that he alone refused to sign without the proviso, " So as nothing be done contrary or repugnant to the Lawes of the Kingdome of England.” He then refers to some provisions for the regulation of the peltry trade, to which also he refused his assent; and he intimates that an attempt was subsequently made to arrest him, which he frustrated by leaving his house and taking a temporary refuge in the woods. There seems to be little doubt that he proved himself a thorn in Endicott’s side, in deriding whom, according to his own account, he passed much of his time. John Endicott, however, was not a man likely to be “ derided ” with impunity by such as Morton; and so, if they were not trumped up, which is more than probable, complaints began to come in against him from both the Indians and the English: it was alleged that he had stolen a canoe from the former; that he had fired a charge of shot into a party of them from across a river when they had delayed answering his call for them to come and ferry him over; that some years before he had murdered a man who had ventured money in his plantation; and so on. Accordingly under date of August 23, 1630, at the very first General Court held after the arrival of Governor Winthrop at Charlestown, it was “ Ordered, that Morton of Mount Woolison should presently be sent for by processe. ” Two weeks later, on September 7th, he was arraigned before the magistrates. In those days criminal proceedings were somewhat arbitrary in their character, and the principal part which would seem to have devolved on Morton upon this occasion was not to defend himself, but to receive, with as much philosophy as he might, the sentence which the court had already decided to be suitable to the nature of his offenses. It was in vain, therefore, that the gentleman of Clifford’s Inn vehemently protested and entered his pleas to the jurisdiction of the tribunal; he was peremptorily silenced by cries from the assistants of “ Hear the governor! Hear the governor!” And he did hear the governor with sensations which must have rendered him dumb with amazement as that dignitary proceeded to impose upon him the following swingeing sentence: “ Ordered, that Thomas Morton of Mount Wolliston shall presently be set in the bilbowes, & after sent prisonor into England by the shipp called the Gifte, nowe returneing thither; that all his goods shal he seazed upon to defray the charge of his transportation, payement of his debts, and to give satisfaction to the Indians for a cannoe hee unjustly tooke away from them; & that his house, after the goods are taken out, shal be burnt downe to the ground in sight of the Indians, for their satisfaction, for many wrongs hee hath done them from tyme to tyme.”

Neither was this sentence a mere empty threat. The master of Merrymount, Sachem of Passonagessit as he loved to call himself, and Lord of Misrule as the Puritans called him, did indeed sit in the stocks, while the neighboring savages, “ poore, silly lambes,” came and looked at him with astonished eyes. Then his habitation at Merrymount was before his own eyes “ burnt downe to the ground, and nothing did remaine, but the bare ashes as an embleme of their cruelty.”

Morton’s first arrest by the Plymouth authorities was almost unquestionably justifiable from every point of view. With his usual graceless impudence he subsequently asserted that the real ground of complaint was not that alleged, but envy at the prosperity of his plantation and his gain in the beaver trade; nor yet that in chief, but most of all because he “ was a man that indeavoured to advance the dignity of the Church of England; which they (on the contrary part) would laboure to vilifie; with uncivile terms: enveying against the sacred booke of common prayer, and mine host that used it in a laudable manner amongst his family, as a practise of piety.” Yet he never denied that he was in the custom of selling fire-arms to the savages; and, indeed, he studiously ignored that particular charge. That he would have denied it quickly enough if he could is apparent from the distinctness with which he declares that he never was guilty of the other crime of selling spirits to them. In arresting and sending him to England for trial, therefore, the Plymouth magistrates showed great moderation and their usual conscientious desire to act strictly within the law. Had they been of another and more modern type of settler, they would no doubt have disposed of him in a far more summary manner. Even as it was, Morton asserts that Standish was beyond expression enraged at the moderation shown towards him, and threatened to put him to death with his own hand. This, however, may well be questioned. Meanwhile, the justice of his second arrest and consequent punishment by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay is not so obvious. For his misdeeds prior to their arrival he had been arraigned before the proper authorities, and they had not proceeded against him. Legally at liberty, he had voluntarily returned to Plymouth and had at least been tolerated there for a considerable length of time. When he returned, therefore, to his home, until he should have committed some new misdemeanors the grounds for his further prosecution are not apparent. The charges alleged against him were certainly not of a character to justify the extremely harsh sentence inflicted, for they amounted to nothing more than taking an Indian canoe, and a vague suggestion of other offenses. Had he continued the illicit trade in firearms after his return, or even kept up his May-pole revels, we may feel very sure that due emphasis would have been given to the fact. Nothing of the sort was even intimated. Dudley says that he was punished that it might appear to the Indians and to the English that the magistrates meant to do justice impartially between them. If this was indeed the case, it would seem that in their eagerness for an example of doing justice impartially between races the magistrates were somewhat unmindful of impartial justice to individuals. It is true that both Dudley and Bradford also say that a warrant was received from the lord chiefjustice of England for Morton’s arrest to answer capitally for some more grave offense alleged to have been committed by him before he came to America. But, though this would unquestionably necessitate his being sent back to England, it hardly seems to warrant the confiscation in advance of conviction of all his goods and the burning of his house. These were high-handed acts of unmistakable oppression.

The probabilities in the case would seem to he that the Massachusetts magistrates had made up their minds in advance to drive the man out of the country. His presence at Mt. Wollaston was a standing menace to them in various ways. Apart from all illicit dealings which they may have apprehended between himself and the Indians, they seem to have regarded him with the same apprehension that they did the mysterious Sir Christopher Gardiner, and for the same reason. They suspected him of being an emissary of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and interested in the efforts to invalidate their grant of the territory of Massachusetts Bay. Both Sir Christopher Gardiner and Thomas Morton were accordingly hunted out of New England, with and without law. That Gardiner was an agent of Gorges admits of no doubt. Up to the time of his second arrest there is, however, no evidence whatever that Morton was, though there is no doubt he afterwards became one. That he was an extremely undesirable character to have about an infant colony like that presided over by Endicott and Winthrop admits of no dispute; and perhaps their severe treatment of him was justified by the exigencies of their position. But whether from this point of view justifiable or otherwise, it proved in the event a serious blunder. To have left him alone would have evinced in them a larger share of worldly wisdom. At most a mere nuisance at Mt. Wollaston, Morton rose to the dignity of a formidable enemy when driven away to Whitehall. In Massachusetts he was under Winthrop’s eye and within reach of Endicott’s hand; in London, as will presently be seen, he became the instrument of Gorges, and inspired the eager malignity of Laud. An end was indeed made of him in New England, and that quickly; but he could hardly be blamed for feeling a sense of wrong and injustice, or for nourishing against those who had despoiled him a bitter spirit of revenge. And this he passed the rest of his life vainly attempting to gratify.

The remainder of Morton’s career may be disposed of in few words. The sun of Merrymount had forever set behind Governor Winthrop’s bilboes. That portion of its master’s sentence which provided for his transportation to England in the Gift proved more difficult of execution than those other portions of it which related to his exposure in the stocks or the destruction of his house. The master of the Gift wholly refused to carry him. Accordingly be remained a prisoner in Boston for nearly three months, until, towards the end of December, a passage was secured for him on the ship Handmaid. Upon his arrival in England he was thrown into Exeter jail. He could not, however, have remained there long, for the next year he was at liberty, and busily intriguing through Sir Ferdinando Gorges for the overthrow of the Massachusetts colony. A letter full of hope, which he wrote on the subject to Sir Christopher Gardiner, happened to pass through Governor Winthrop’s hands, and was by him intercepted and opened without the smallest apparent scruple. Two years later he had developed into a truly formidable opponent, having in some way, doubtless through Gorges’s influence, secured the ear of Archbishop Laud. In conjunction with Sir Christopher Gardiner and Philip Ratcliff (who for some animadversions on the Salem church and the government was sentenced to be whipped, lose his ears, and be banished, to which Morton adds, to have his nose slit, his tongue bored through, his face branded, and to pay a fine of £40) Morton then petitioned the king in council to vacate the Massachusetts charter. The attack excited the gravest apprehensions among the friends of the colony, and the danger was warded off only through their most strenuous exertions.

A year later, in 1634, Morton believed that his hour of triumph and revenge had at last surely come. For his old enemies, the magistrates of the colony, the news was indeed sufficiently startling. In consequence of a fresh assault on the charter, a special commission had been created for the management of the colonies and the revocation of their charters, with Archbishop Laud at its head. Sir Ferdinando Gorges was to be sent out as governor-general. Under these circumstances the destruction of the colony seemed nearly impending. Morton could not control his elation. Having himself seen the new commission, which had passed the privy seal, upon the very day on which it was sent to the lord-keeper to have the great seal annexed to it, he was so indiscreet as to write in triumph to William Jeffrey, one of the old settlers under Robert Gorges at Wessagusset, boasting to him of what had been done and indulging in many threats against Governor Winthrop, whom he called “King Winthrop,” and the gratification of “ cropping ” whose ears he stated had been granted in advance to his friend Ratcliffe. Unfortunately for him, however, “ his very good gossip,” as he familiarly called Jeffrey, — who, by the way, had been one of the contributors to the expense of his first arrest, — was not entirely in sympathy with him on the subject to which his letter related. Accordingly it was forthwith carried by him to Governor Winthrop, who, having read it, methodically filed it away as another rod in pickle, so to speak, for the unlucky Morton, as he found out ten years later.

At this time, however, Morton not only became a place-holder, but he had the keen satisfaction of gratifying his spite against one at least of the Plymouth magistrates. It fell out in this wise: Edward Winslow, being at the time in London as agent of the Plymouth colony, exerted himself strongly against Archbishop Laud’s new commission. Morton, thereupon, maliciously prompted the archbishop to charge him with having performed the marriage service in America, he being a layman, and then testified that he had himself seen him do it. Of course Winslow’s answer that he had acted as a magistrate wholly failed to satisfy the primate, and the Plymouth agent was thrown into the Fleet prison and kept there seventeen weeks.

The body known as the Council for New England had at this time succeeded by degrees in getting its affairs into a condition of inextricable snarl. As a short way out of the difficulty, and as part of the Gorges-Laud commission scheme, it resolved to resign its charter into the hands of the king, on condition that all the territory included within its domain should be granted back to the members of the council individually. In view of the fact that large tracts of this territory had already been alienated by the council to others who then occupied them, the scheme was one of bare-faced spoliation, thoroughly in keeping with the Star Chamber dynasty which King Charles was then systematizing in England. Twelve associates accordingly proceeded to a distribution of New England among themselves by lot, and for the completion of the business it only remained to pass the deeds and oust the present occupants. Thomas Morton was then " entertained to be solicitor for confirmation of the said deeds under the great seal, as also to prosecute suit at law for the repealing of the patent belonging to the Massachusetts company; and is to have for fee twenty shillings a term, and such further reward as those who are interested in the affairs of New England shall think him fit to deserve upon the judgment given in the cause.” Like all the others this new and most formidable attack on the charters failed; but it failed only from circumstances which have never been accounted for, and which Winthrop attributed to the immediate interposition of the Almighty. John Mason, of New Hampshire, the most energetic, persistent, and dangerous enemy the colonies had, died in London about this time; and the ship which was being built to bring over the new governor-general “ in the very launching fell all in pieces, no man knew how.” For the time being the charter was safe. Just at this juncture the long gathering civil trouble between king and Parliament assumed a definite shape in the ship-money issue, and from that time forward the attention of Charles and his primate was wholly absorbed in the increasing difficulties at home. New England was left to administer itself.

Morton’s occupation was now gone, nor is it known where or how he lived during the next eight years. In 1637 his book, the New English Canaan, was printed in Holland, and in it he took such revenge as lay in his power upon his old persecutors, particularly Stamlish, Endicott, and Winthrop, who figure ludicrously enough under the names of Shrimp, Littleworth, and Temperwell. Endicott was, however, the object of his special animosity, and he thus contemptuously describes the state with which that sternest of Puritan magistrates sought to surround himself in primitive New England. After referring to him as “a great swelling fellow ” who “ crept over to Salem ” he thus goes on: “ To ad a Majesty (as hee thought) to his new assumed dignity, hee caused the Patent of the Massachussets (new brought into the Land) to be carried where hee went in his progresse to and froe, as an emhleme of his authority: which the vulger people not acquainted with, thought it to he some instrument of Musick locked up in that covered case, and thought (for so some said) this man of littleworth had bin a fidler.” . . . In connection with Endicott, too, the worthy Dr. Samuel Fuller of Plymouth, who went from there to Salem to minister to the sick emigrants shortly after their first arrival, did not escape him. He accuses him roundly of quackery, and says, “ yet hee did a great cure for Captaine Littleworth, hee cured him of a disease called a wife.”

At last, in 1643, in the midst of the civil war and just as the scales trembled in the balance at Newbury before turning finally against King Charles, Thomas Morton once more found his way back to Plymouth. It was twenty-one years since he had first landed there “ in the moneth of June, Anno Salutis: 1622,” and he must now have been a man in the decline of life. He seems, however, still to have retained his sportsman’s tastes, for we next come across him exciting the intense wrath of Miles Standish by fowling over his domain at Duxbury. Subsequently we find him again in trouble in Boston, where on the 9th of September, 1644, after the lecture, he was called before the court of assistants and charged with having made the complaints against the colony before the council in 1633. He denied the charge, claiming that he was called only as a witness to facts stated in an information filed by others. Then at last he was confronted with his letter to William Jeffrey; and there was Governor Winthrop— “ King Winthrop,” the “ cropping ” of whose ears was specially provided for in black and white under his own hand — sitting among the magistrates before him. Such evidence could not he gainsaid. In the early days of New England, and upon sound reasons of public policy also, to enter an appeal to the king was looked upon and treated as an aggravation of each original offense. To be summarily stripped of all one’s possessions, see one’s house burned down, and be banished by a colonial magistracy might not be pleasant, but at least it was final. Neither then nor subsequently did any sufferer do more than waste his time and remaining substance by seeking to carry his woes before the sovereign. Thus practically the magistrates of Massachusetts Bay exercised a somewhat singular jurisdiction. Not only did they settle what crime was and define its limits, but they also both meted out adequate punishments therefor and saw them summarily inflicted. The law was locked up in their bosoms, and the bilboes were handy. A lively recollection of past experiences probably satisfied Morton on these points. He was enough of a lawyer to know that it was useless for him to kick against the pricks. For the time being, however, he was merely committed to jail, there to await the arrival of yet other evidence which was expected from England. As this did not come, after about a year of imprisonment he was again called before the court, and, after some discussion, fined one hundred pounds and set at liberty. The reason for which leniency Governor Winthrop thus explains with delightful naiveté: “ He was a charge to the country, for he had nothing, and we thought not fit to inflict corporal punishment upon him, being old and crazy, but thought better to fine him and give him his liberty, as if it had been to procure his fine, but indeed to leave him opportunity to go out of the jurisdiction, as he did soon after.” Broken down by years, imprisonment, and misfortune, the once roystering Thomas Morton left for the last time the province of Massachusetts Bay and sought refuge at Accomenticus, in Maine, where York now stands, and there about the year 1648 he died, old, poor, crazy, and despised.

Still, in Morton’s case, also, the whirligig of time has not been without its revenges. It was Captain Miles Standish who in 1628 arrested him and destroyed his rising prosperity. There is probably no single legend connected with early New England history with which so many people are familiar as with Captain Miles Standish’s vicarious courtship of the Puritan maiden who afterwards became Priscilla Alden: —

“ Still John Alden went on, unheeding the words of Priscilla, . . .
But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language,
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, ‘ Why don't you speak for yourself, John?' ”

Among the descendants of John and Priscilla Alden was a granddaughter, Hannah Bass, who in 1688 married one Joseph Adams, of Braintree, whose descendants at the close of another century became by marriage and inheritance the owners of Mt. Wollaston. There one of them now resides close to where Morton’s May-pole stood. It thus happens that while Miles Standish, with ignominious violence, expelled from his home the first master of Merrymount, the last master of Merrymount traces a descent from Miles Standish’s successful rival.

Charles Francis Adams, Jr.