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THE FOUNDERS OF
NEW P L Y M O U T H.
TT does not often happen to those who are intent - on historical investigation of the minuter kind, and who are willing to devote themselves to the study of writings usually deemed uninviting and uninstructive, such as monumental inscriptions, parish registers, account rolls, wills, visitation books; to recover facts important not only in the history of any one family or nation, but in the history of the migration of Nations, which is, in fact, a main topic in the history of the Human Race : yet this seems to have been for once my good fortune.
The settlement of colonies, which often issues in the establishment of new and independent Colonization communities, is usually the work of Govern- vernments, or ments; and the transaction is duly chro- prise. nicled with other public events. But it is not always so. It was private commercial enterprise which led to the settlement of Barbadoes, and subsequently of
effected by Go
the other West India Islands belonging to Great Britain. It was the working in a few private men of an overstrained spirit of opposition to the established order of ecclesiastical affairs in Protestant England, which led to the colonization of New England, and, in the event, to the establishment of the United States of America as one of the great communities of the civilized world. If we desire to know the particulars of movements such as these, we must not therefore expect to find them in public histories, or floating on the surface of human knowledge, but we must look to the circumstances of private families, of which it is hard to collect the particulars, and dive deep into those evidences, whatever they may be, in which anything is to be found respecting them. In many
In the latter cases it happens that nothing can be reof recovering covered, because all evidence has perished. information. England is, perhaps, in this respect not in a worse condition than other countries, but all who have made the experiment know that the difficulty is very great of recovering facts respecting private people who lived even no longer ago than thereigns of Elizabeth and James the First. And even in the more favoured cases, when the people about
whom we inquire are not literally those of whom there is no memorial left, who are passed away as if they had never been, the notices which we are able to collect, after the most persevering inquiry, are often but few, unconnected, casual, so that the inferences to be drawn from them and the combinations to be made of them may be often uncertain. Yet it is not always so; and there sometimes, as in the case before us, comes in aid of what may be collected from the general evidences of the times, particular evidence to some facts, in the form of private historical or biographical memorials, the writings of the persons themselves, or of others, their contemporaries, who knew much of their principles and proceedings.
Beside this, it will generally be found that the leaders in enterprises of this kind, though but private men and little known perhaps in their own time, were not of the very obscure, but men of some education, of some energy, and even of some position on the social scale.
I have reason to know that the subject on which we are about to enter possesses a strong The coloniza
tion of New American interest; but it cannot be said
subject of into be without a claim on the attention of
hat it cannot be mein
Englishmen also. The settlement of New Plymouth, says Governor Hutchinson, writing in 1767, “occasioned the settlement of Massachusetts Bay, which was the source of all the other colonies in New England ;” and he speaks of the persons by whom it was founded as “the founders of a flourishing town and colony if not of the whole British empire in America.”] And to cite another English authority : when Sir Charles Lyell had viewed the relics of these founders which are preserved in the Museum at New Plymouth, he remarks, “When we consider the grandeur of the results which have been realized in the interval of two hundred and twenty-five years since the May-Flower sailed into Plymouth Harbour, how in that period a nation of twenty millions had sprung into existence and peopled a vast continent, and covered it with cities and churches, schools, colleges, and railroads, and filled its rivers and ports with steamboats and shipping, we regard the pilgrim relics with veneration.” 2
The people of New England pay all proper 1 The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, &c. 8vo, Boston, 1747, p. 452.
% A Second Visit to the United States of North America. 12mo, 1849, vol. i, p. 117.