This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE MAY-FLOWER AND HER LOG
July 15, 1620–May 6, 1621
Chiefly from Original Sources
By AZEL AMES, M.D.
Member of Pilgrim Society, etc.
THE OFFICERS AND CREW OF THE MAYFLOWER
The officers and crew of the MAY-FLOWER were obviously important factors in the success of the Pilgrim undertaking, and it is of interest to know what we may concerning them. We have seen that the “pilot,” John Clarke, was employed by Weston and Cushman, even before the vessel upon which he was to serve had been found, and he had hence the distinction of being the first man “shipped” of the MAY-FLOWER’S complement. It is evident that he was promptly hired on its being known that he had recently returned from a voyage to Virginia in the cattle-ship FALCON, as certain to be of value in the colonists’ undertakings.
Knowing that the Adventurers’ agents were seeking both a ship and a master for her, it was the natural thing for the latter, that he should propose the Captain under whom he had last sailed, on much the same voyage as that now contemplated. It is an interesting fact that something of the uncertainty which for a time existed as to the names and features of the Pilgrim barks attaches the names and identity of their respective commanders. The “given” name of “Master” Reynolds, “pilott” and “Master” of the SPEED WELL, does not appear, but the assertion of Professor Arber, though positive enough, that “the Christian name of the Captain of the MAY-FLOWER is not known,” is not accepted by other authorities in Pilgrim history, though it is true that it does not find mention in the contemporaneous accounts of the Pilgrim ship and her voyage.
There is no room for doubt that the Captain of the FALCON–whose release from arrest while under charge of piracy the Earl of Warwick procured, that he might take command of the above-named cattle-ship on her voyage to Virginia, as hereinafter shown–was Thomas Jones. The identity of this man and “Master Jones” who assumed command of the MAY-FLOWER–with the former mate of the FALCON, John Clarke, as his first officer–is abundantly certified by circumstantial evidence of the strongest kind, as is also the fact that he commanded the ship DISCOVERY a little later.
With the powerful backing of such interested friends as the Earl of Warwick and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, undoubtedly already in league with Thomas Weston, who probably made the contract with Jones, as he had with Clarke, the suggestion of the latter as to the competency and availability of his late commander would be sure of prompt approval, and thus, in all probability, Captain Thomas Jones, who finds his chief place in history–and a most important one–as Master of the MAY-FLOWER, came to that service.
In 1619, as appears by Neill, the Virginia Company had one John Clarke in Ireland, “buying cattle for Virginia.” We know that Captain Jones soon sailed for Virginia with cattle, in the FALCON, of 150 tons, and as this was the only cattle ship in a long period, we can very certainly identify Clarke as the newly-hired mate of the MAY-FLOWER, who, Cush man says (letter of June 11/21, 1620), “went last year to Virginia with a ship of kine.” As 1620 did not begin until March 25, a ship sailing in February would have gone out in 1619, and Jones and Clarke could easily have made the voyage in time to engage for the MAY-FLOWER in the following June. “Six months after Jones’s trip in the latter” (i.e. after his return from the Pilgrim voyage), Neill says, “he took the DISCOVERY (60 tons) to Virginia, and then northward, trading along the coast. The Council for New England complained of him to the Virginia Company for robbing the natives on this voyage. He stopped at Plymouth (1622), and, taking advantage of the distress for food he found there, was extortionate in his prices. In July, 1625, he appeared at Jamestown, Virginia, in possession of a Spanish frigate, which he said had been captured by one Powell, under a Dutch commission, but it was thought a resumption of his old buccaneering practices. Before investigation he sickened and died.”
That Jones was a man of large experience, and fully competent in his profession, is beyond dispute. His disposition, character, and deeds have been the subject of much discussion. By most writers he is held to have been a man of coarse, “unsympathetic” nature, “a rough sea-dog,” capable of good feeling and kindly impulses at times, but neither governed by them nor by principle. That he was a “highwayman of the seas,” a buccaneer and pirate, guilty of blood for gold, there can be no doubt. Certainly nothing could justify the estimate of him given by Professor Arber, that “he was both fair-minded and friendly toward the Pilgrim Fathers,” and he certainly stands alone among writers of reputation in that opinion. Jones’s selfishness,
[Bradford himself–whose authority in the matter will not be doubted–says (Historie, Mass. ed. p. 112): “As this calamitie, the general sickness, fell among ye passengers that were to be left here to plant, and were basted ashore and made to drinke water, that the sea-men might have ye more bear [beer] and one in his sickness desiring but a small can of beare it was answered that if he were their own father he should have none.” Bradford also shows (op. cit. p. 153) the rapacity of Jones, when in command of the DISCOVERY, in his extortionate demands upon the Plymouth planters, notwithstanding their necessities.]
threats, boorishness, and extortion, to say nothing of his exceedingly bad record as a pirate, both in East and West Indian waters, compel a far different estimate of him as a man, from that of Arber, however excellent he was as a mariner. Professor Arber dissents from Goodwin’s conclusion that Captain Jones of the DISCOVERY was the former Master of the MAY- FLOWER, but the reasons of his dissent are by no means convincing. He argues that Jones would not have accepted the command of a vessel so much smaller than his last, the DISCOVERY being only one third the size of the MAY-FLOWER. Master-mariners, particularly when just returned from long and unsuccessful voyages, especially if in bad repute,–as was Jones,– are obliged to take such employment as offers, and are often glad to get a ship much smaller than their last, rather than remain idle. Moreover, in Jones’s case, if, as appears, he was inclined to buccaneering, the smaller ship would serve his purpose–as it seems it did satisfactorily. Nor is the fact that Bradford speaks of him–although previously so well acquainted–as “one Captain Jones,” to be taken as evidence, as Arber thinks, that the Master of the DISCOVERY was some other of the name. Bradford was writing history, and his thought just then was the especial Providence of God in the timely relief afforded their necessities by the arrival of the ships with food, without regard to the individuals who brought it, or the fact that one was an acquaintance of former years. On the other hand, Winslow–in his “Good Newes from New England”– records the arrival of the two ships in August, 1622, and says, “the one as I take [recollect] it, was called the DISCOVERY, Captain Jones having command thereof,” which on the same line of argument as Arber’s might be read, “our old acquaintance Captain Jones, you know”! If the expression of Bradford makes against its being Captain Jones, formerly of the MAY- FLOWER, Winslow’s certainly makes quite as much for it, while the fact which Winslow recites, viz. that the DISCOVERY, under Jones, was sailing as consort to the SPARROW, a ship of Thomas Weston,–who employed him for the MAY-FLOWER, was linked with him in the Gorges conspiracy, and had become nearly as degenerate as he,–is certainly significant. There are still better grounds, as will appear in the closely connected relations of Jones, for holding with Goodwin rather than with Arber in the matter. The standard authority in the case is the late Rev. E. D. Neill, D. D., for some years United States consul at Dublin, who made very considerable research into all matters pertaining to the Virginia Companies, consulting their original records and “transactions,” the Dutch related documents, the “Calendars of the East India Company,” etc. Upon him and his exhaustive work all others have largely drawn,–notably Professor Arber himself,–and his conclusions seem entitled to the same weight here which Arber gives them in other relations. Dr. Neill is clearly of opinion that the Captains of the MAY-FLOWER and the DISCOVERY were identical, and this belief is shared by such authorities in Pilgrim literature as Young, Prince, Goodwin, and Davis, and against this formidable consensus of opinion, Arber, unless better supported, can hardly hope to prevail.
The question of Jones’s duplicity and fraud, in bringing the Pilgrims to land at Cape Cod instead of the “neighbor-hood of Hudson’s River,” has been much mooted and with much diversity of opinion, but in the light of the subjoined evidence and considerations it seems well-nigh impossible to acquit him of the crime–for such it was, in inception, nature, and results, however overruled for good.
The specific statements of Bradford and others leave no room for doubt that the MAY-FLOWER Pilgrims fully intended to make their settlement somewhere in the region of the mouth of “Hudson’s River.” Morton states in terms that Captain Jones’s “engagement was to Hudson’s River.” Presumably, as heretofore noted, the stipulation of his charter party required that he should complete his outward voyage in that general locality. The northern limits of the patents granted in the Pilgrim interest, whether that of John Wincob (or Wincop) sealed June 9/ 19, 1619, but never used, or the first one to John Pierce, of February 2/12, 1620, were, of course, brought within the limits of the First (London) Virginia Company’s charter, which embraced, as is well-known, the territory between the parallels of 34 deg. and 41 deg. N. latitude. The most northerly of these parallels runs but about twenty miles to the north of the mouth of “Hudson’s River.” It is certain that the Pilgrims, after the great expense, labor, and pains of three years, to secure the protection of these Patents, would not willingly or deliberately, have planted themselves outside that protection, upon territory where they had none, and where, as interlopers, they might reasonably expect trouble with the lawful proprietors. Nor was there any reason why, if they so desired, they should not have gone to “Hudson’s River” or its vicinity, unless it was that they had once seemed to recognize the States General of Holland as the rightful owners of that territory, by making petition to them, through the New Netherland Company, for their authority and protection in settling there. But even this fact constituted no moral or legal bar to such action, if desirable First, because it appears certain that, whatever the cause, they “broke off” themselves their negotiations with the Dutch,–whether on account of the inducements offered by Thomas Weston, or a doubt of the ability of the Dutch to maintain their claim to that region, and to protect there, or both, neither appears nor matters. Second, because the States General–whether with knowledge that they of Leyden had so “broken off” or from their own doubts of their ability to maintain their claim on the Hudson region, does not appear–rejected the petition made to them in the Pilgrims’ behalf. It is probable that the latter was the real reason, from the fact that the petition was twice rejected.
In view of the high opinion of the Leyden brethren, entertained, as we know, by the Dutch, it is clear that the latter would have been pleased to secure them as colonists; while if at all confident of their rights to the territory, they must have been anxious to colonize it and thus confirm their hold, increase their revenues as speedily as possible, and
Third, because it appears upon the showing of the petition itself, made by the New Netherland Company (to which the Leyden leaders had looked, doubtless on account of its pretensions, for the authority and protection of the States General, as they afterward did to the English Virginia Company for British protection), that this Company had lost its own charter by expiration, and hence had absolutely nothing to offer the Leyden people beyond the personal and associate influence of its members, and the prestige of a name that had once been potential. In fact, the New Netherland Company was using the Leyden congregation as a leverage to pry for itself from the States General new advantages, larger than it had previously enjoyed.
Moreover it appears by the evidence of both the petition of the Directors of the New Netherland Company to the Prince of Orange (February 2/12, 1619/20), and the letters of Sir Dudley Carleton, the British ambassador at the Hague, to the English Privy Council, dated February 5/15, 1621/22, that, up to this latter date the Dutch had established no colony
[British State Papers, Holland, Bundle 165. Sir Dudley Carleton’s Letters. “They have certain Factors there, continually resident, trading with savages . . . but I cannot learn of any colony, either I already planted there by these people, or so much as intended.” Sir Dudley Carleton’s Letters.]
on the territory claimed by them at the Hudson, and had no other representation there than the trading-post of a commercial company whose charter had expired. There can be no doubt that the Leyden leaders knew, from their dealings with the New Netherland Company, and the study of the whole problem which they evidently made, that this region was open to them or any other parties for habitation and trade, so far as any prior grants or charters under the Dutch were concerned, but they required more than this.
To Englishmen, the English claim to the territory at “Hudson’s River” was valid, by virtue of the discovery of the Cabots, under the law of nations as then recognized, not withstanding Hudson’s more particular explorations of those parts in 1609, in the service of Holland, especially as no colony or permanent occupancy of the region by the Dutch had been made.
Professor John Fiske shows that “it was not until the Protestant England of Elizabeth had come to a life-and-death grapple with Spain, and not until the discovery of America had advanced much nearer completion, so that its value began to be more correctly understood, that political and commercial motives combined in determining England to attack Spain through America, and to deprive her of supremacy in the colonial and maritime world. Then the voyages of the Cabots assumed an importance entirely new, and could be quoted as the basis of a prior claim on the part of the English Crown, to lands which it [through the Cabots] had discovered.”
Having in mind the terrible history of slaughter and reprisal between the Spanish and French (Huguenot) settlers in Florida in 1565-67,
[Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. i. p. 68; Fiske, Discovery of America, vol. ii. p. 511 et seq. With the terrible experience of the Florida plantations in memory, the far-sighted leaders of the Leyden church proposed to plant under the shelter of an arm strong enough to protect them, and we find the Directors of the New Netherland Company stating that the Leyden party (the Pilgrims) can be induced to settle under Dutch auspices, “provided, they would be guarded and preserved from all violence on the part of other potentates, by the authority, and under the protection of your Princely Excellency and the High and Mighty States General.” Petition of the Directors of the New Netherland Company to the Prince of Orange.]
the Pilgrims recognized the need of a strong power behind them, under whose aegis they might safely plant, and by virtue of whose might and right they could hope to keep their lives and possessions. The King of England had, in 1606, granted charters to the two Virginia Companies, covering all the territory in dispute, and, there could be no doubt, would protect these grants and British proprietorship therein, against all comers. Indeed, the King (James I.) by letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, his ambassador at the Hague, under date of December 15, 1621, expressly claimed his rights in the New Netherland territory and instructed him to impress upon the government of the States General his Majesty’s claim,–“who, ‘jure prime occupation’ hath good and sufficient title to these parts.” There can be no question that the overtures of Sandys, Weston, and others to make interest for them with one of these English Companies, agreed as well with both the preferences and convictions of the Leyden Pilgrims, as they did with the hopes and designs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges. In the light of these facts, there appears to have been neither legal nor moral bar to the evident intention of the Pilgrims to settle in the vicinity of “Hudson’s River,” if they so elected. In their light, also, despite the positive allegations of the truthful but not always reliable Morton, his charges of intrigue between the Dutch and Master Jones of the MAY-FLOWER, to prevent the settlement of his ship’s company at “Hudson’s River,” may well be doubted. Writing in “New England’s Memorial” in 1669, Morton says: “But some of the Dutch, having notice of their intentions, and having thoughts about the same time of erecting a plantation there likewise, they fraudulently hired the said Jones, by delays while they were in England, and now under pretence of the shoals the dangers of the Monomoy Shoals off Cape Cod to disappoint them in going thither.” He adds: “Of this plot between the Dutch and Mr. Jones, I have had late and certain intelligence.” If this intelligence was more reliable than his assertion concerning the responsibility of Jones for the “delays while they were in England,” it may well be discredited, as not the faintest evidence appears to make him responsible for those delays, and they are amply accounted for without him. Without questioning the veracity of Morton (while suggesting his many known errors, and that the lapse of time made it easy to misinterpret even apparently certain facts), it must be remembered that he is the original sponsor for the charge of Dutch intrigue with Jones, and was its sole support for many years. All other writers who have accepted and indorsed his views are of later date, and but follow him, while Bradford and Winslow, who were victims of this Dutch conspiracy against them, if it ever existed, were entirely silent in their writings upon the matter, which we may be sure they would not have been, had they suspected the Dutch as prime movers in the treachery. That there was a conspiracy to accomplish the landing of the MAY-FLOWER planters at a point north of “the Hudson” (in fact, north of the bounds defined by the (first) Pierce patent, upon which they relied), i.e. north of 41 deg. N. latitude,–is very certain; but that it was of Dutch origin, or based upon motives which are attributed to the Dutch, is clearly erroneous. While the historical facts indicate an utter lack of motive for such an intrigue on the part of the Dutch, either as a government or as individuals, there was no lack of motive on the part of certain others, who, we can but believe, were responsible for the conspiracy. Moreover, the chief conspirators were such, that, even if the plot was ultimately suspected by the Pilgrims, a wise policy–indeed, self-preservation– would have dictated their silence. That the Dutch were without sufficient motive or interest has been declared. That the States General could have had no wish to reject so exceptionally excellent a body of colonists as subjects, and as tenants to hold and develop their disputed territory–if in position to receive them and guarantee them protection– is clear. The sole objection that could be urged against them was their English birth, and with English regiments garrisoning the Dutch home cities, and foreigners of every nation in the States General’s employ, by land and by sea, such an objection could have had no weight. Indeed, the Leyden party proposed, if they effected satisfactory arrangements with the States General (as stated by the Directors of the New Netherland Company), “to plant there [at “Hudson’s River”] a new commonwealth, all under the order and command of your Princely Excellency and their High Mightinesses the States General: The Leyden Pilgrims were men who kept their agreements.
The Dutch trading-companies, who were the only parties in the Low Countries who could possibly have had any motive for such a conspiracy, were at this time themselves without charters, and the overtures of the principal company, made to the government in behalf of themselves and the Leyden brethren, had recently, as we have seen, been twice rejected. They had apparently, therefore, little to hope for in the near future; certainly not enough to warrant expenditure and the risk of disgraceful exposure, in negotiations with a stranger–an obscure ship-master–to change his course and land his passengers in violation of the terms of his charter-party;–negotiations, moreover, in which neither of the parties could well have had any guaranty of the other’s good faith.
But, as previously asserted, there was a party–to whom such knavery was an ordinary affair–who had ample motive, and of whom Master Thomas Jones was already the very willing and subservient ally and tool, and had been such for years. Singularly enough, the motive governing this party was exactly the reverse of that attributed–though illogically and without reason–to the Dutch. In the case of the latter, the alleged animus was a desire to keep the Pilgrim planters away from their “Hudson’s River” domain. In the case of the real conspirators, the purpose was to secure these planters as colonists for, and bring them to, the more northern territory owned by them. It is well known that Sir Ferdinando Gorges was the leading spirit of the “Second Virginia Company,” as he also became (with the Earl of Warwick a close second) of “The Council for the Affairs of New England,” of which both men were made “Governors,” in November of 1620, when the Council practically superseded the “Second Virginia Company.” The Great Charter for “The Council of Affairs of New England,” commonly known as “The Council for New England,” issued Tuesday, November 3/13, 1620, and it held in force till Sunday, June 7/17, 1635.
Although not its official head, and ranked at its board by dukes and earls, Sir Ferdinando Gorges was–as he had been in the old Plymouth (or Second) Virginia Company–the leading man. This was largely from his superior acquaintance with, and long and varied experience in, New England affairs. The “Council” was composed of forty patentees, and Baxter truly states, that “Sir Ferdinando Gorges, at this time  stood at the head of the Council for New England, so far as influence went; in fact, his hand shaped its affairs.” This company, holding–by the division of territory made under the original charter-grants–a strip of territory one hundred miles wide, on the North American coast, between the parallels of 41 deg. and 45 deg. N. latitude, had not prospered, and its efforts at colonization (on what is now the Maine coast), in 1607 and later, had proved abortive, largely through the character of its “settlers,” who had been, in good degree, a somewhat notable mixture of two of the worst elements of society,–convicts and broken-down “gentlemen.”
“In 1607,” says Goodwin, “Gorges and the cruel Judge Popham planted a colony at Phillipsburg (or Sagadahoc, as is supposed), by the mouth of the Kennebec. Two ships came, ‘THE GIFT OF GOD’ and the ‘MARY AND JOHN,’ bringing a hundred persons. Through August they found all delightful, but when the ships went back in December, fifty five of the number returned to England, weary of their experience and fearful of the cold …. With spring the ships returned from England; “but by this time the remainder were ready to leave,” so every soul returned with Gilbert [the Admiral] . . . . For thirty years Gorges continued to push exploration and emigration to that region, but his ambition and liberality ever resulted in disappointment and loss.” The annals of the time show that not a few of the Sagadahoc colonists were convicts, released from the English jails to people this colony.
Hakluyt says: “In 1607 [this should read 1608], disheartened by the death of Popham, they all embarked in a ship from Exeter and in the new pynnace, the ‘VIRGINIA,’ built in the colony, and sett sail for England, and this was the end of that northern colony upon the river Sachadehoc [Kennebec].”
No one knew better than the shrewd Gorges the value of such a colony as that of the Leyden brethren would be, to plant, populate, and develop his Company’s great demesne. None were more facile than himself and the buccaneering Earl of Warwick, to plan and execute the bold, but–as it proved–easy coup, by which the Pilgrim colony was to be stolen bodily; for the benefit of the “Second Virginia Company” and its successor, “the Council for New England,” from the “First (or London) Company,” under whose patent (to John Pierce) and patronage they sailed. They apparently did not take their patent with them,–it would have been worthless if they had,–and they were destined to have no small trouble with Pierce, before they were established in their rights under the new patent granted him (in the interest of the Adventurers and themselves), by the “Council for New England.” Master John Wincob’s early and silent withdrawal from his apparently active connection with the Pilgrim movement, and the evident cancellation of the first patent issued to him in its interest, by the (London) Virginia Company, have never been satisfactorily explained. Wincob (or Wincop), we are told, “was a religious Gentleman, then belonging to the household of the Countess of Lincoln, who intended to go with them [the Pilgrims] but God so disposed as he never went, nor they ever made use of this Patent, which had cost them so much labor and charge.” Wincob, it appears by the minutes of the (London) Virginia Company of Wednesday, May 26/June 5, 1619, was commended to the Company, for the patent he sought, by the fourth Earl of Lincoln, and it was doubtless through his influence that it was granted and sealed, June 9/19, 1619. But while Wincob was a member of the household of the Dowager Countess of Lincoln, mother of the fourth Earl of Lincoln; John, the eldest son of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, had married the Earl’s daughter (sister ?), and hence Gorges stood in a much nearer relation to the Earl than did his mother’s friend and dependant (as Wincob evidently was), as well as on a much more equal social footing. By the minutes of the (London) Virginia Company of Wednesday, February 2/ 12, 1619/20, it appears that a patent was “allowed and sealed to John Pierce and his associates, heirs and assigns,” for practically the same territory for which the patent to Wincob had been given but eight months before. No explanation was offered, and none appears of record, but the logical conclusion is, that the first patent had been cancelled, that Master Wincob’s personal interest in the Pilgrim exodus had ceased, and that the Lincoln patronage had been withdrawn. It is a rational conjecture that Sir Ferdinando Gorges, through the relationship he sustained to the Earl, procured the withdrawal of Wincob and his patent, knowing that the success of his (Gorges’s) plot would render the Wincob patent worthless, and that the theft of the colony, in his own interest, would be likely to breed “unpleasantness” between himself and Wincob’s sponsors and friends among the Adventurers, many of whom were friends of the Earl of Lincoln.
The Earl of Warwick, the man of highest social and political rank in the First (or London) Virginia Company, was, at about the same time, induced by Gorges to abandon his (the London) Company and unite with himself in securing from the Crown the charter of the “Council of Affairs for New England.” The only inducements he could offer for the change must apparently have resided in the promised large results of plottings disclosed by him (Gorges), but he needed the influential and unscrupulous Earl for the promotion of his schemes, and won him, by some means, to an active partnership, which was doubtless congenial to both. The “fine Italian hand” of Sir Ferdinando hence appears at every stage, and in every phase, of the Leyden movement, from the mission of Weston to Holland, to the landing at Cape Cod, and every movement clearly indicates the crafty cunning, the skilful and brilliant manipulation, and the dogged determination of the man.
That Weston was a most pliant and efficient tool in the hands of Gorges, “from start to finish” of this undertaking, is certainly apparent. Whether he was, from the outset, made fully aware of the sinister designs of the chief conspirator, and a party to them, admits of some doubt, though the conviction strengthens with study, that he was, from the beginning, ‘particeps criminis’. If he was ever single-minded for the welfare of the Leyden brethren and the Adventurers, it must have been for a very brief time at the inception of the enterprise; and circumstances seem to forbid crediting him with honesty of purpose, even then. The weight of evidence indicates that he both knew, and was fully enlisted in, the entire plot of Gorges from the outset. In all its early stages he was its most efficient promoter, and seems to have given ample proof of his compliant zeal in its execution. His visit to the Leyden brethren in Holland was, apparently, wholly instigated by Gorges, as the latter complacently claims and collateral evidence proves. In his endeavor to induce the leaders to “break off with the Dutch,” their pending negotiations for settlement at “Hudson’s River,” he evidently made capital of, and traded upon, his former kindness to some of them when they were in straits,–a most contemptible thing in itself, yet characteristic of the man. He led the Pilgrims to “break off” their dealings with the Dutch by the largest and most positive promises of greater advantages through him, few of which he ever voluntarily kept (as we see by John Robinson’s sharp arraignment of him), his whole object being apparently to get the Leyden party into his control and that of his friends,–the most subtle and able of whom was Gorges. Bradford recites that Weston not only urged the Leyden leaders “not to meddle with ye Dutch,” but also,–“not too much to depend on ye Virginia [London] Company,” but to rely on himself and his friends. This strongly suggests active cooperation with Gorges, on Weston’s part, at the outset, with the intent (if he could win them by any means, from allegiance to the First (London) Virginia Company), to lead the Leyden party, if possible, into Gorges’s hands and under the control and patronage of the Second (or Plymouth) Virginia Company. Whatever the date may have been, at which (as Bradford states) the Leyden people “heard, both by Mr. Weston and others, yt sundrie Honble: Lords had obtained a large grante from ye king for ye more northerly parts of that countrie, derived out of ye Virginia patents, and wholly secluded from theire Governmente, and to be called by another name, viz. New England, unto which Mr. Weston and the chiefe of them begane to incline;” Bradford leaves us in no doubt as to Weston’s attitude toward the matter itself. It is certain that the governor, writing from memory, long afterward, fixed the time at which the Honble: Lords had obtained “their large grante” much earlier than it could possibly have occurred, as we know the exact date of the patent for the, “Council for New England,” and that the order for its issue was not given till just as the Pilgrims left Leyden; so that they could not have known of the actual “grante” till they reached Southampton. The essential fact, stated on this best of authority, is, that “Mr. Weston and the chiefe of them [their sponsors, i.e. Weston and Lord Warwick, both in league with Gorges “begane to incline” to Gorges’s new “Council for New England.” Such an attitude (evidently taken insidiously) meant, on Weston’s part, of necessity, no less than treachery to his associates of the Adventurers; to the (London) Virginia Company, and to the Leyden company and their allied English colonists, in the interest of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and his schemes and of the new “Council” that Gorges was organizing. Weston’s refusal to advance “a penny” to clear the departing Pilgrims from their port charges at Southampton; his almost immediate severance of connection with both the colonists and the Adventurers; and his early association with Gorges,–in open and disgraceful violation of all the formers’ rights in New England,–to say nothing of his exhibition of a malevolence rarely exercised except toward those one has deeply wronged, all point to a complete and positive surrender of himself and his energies to the plot of Gorges, as a full participant, from its inception. In his review of the Anniversary Address of Hon. Charles Francis Adams (of July 4, 1892, at Quincy), Daniel W. Baker, Esq., of Boston, says: “The Pilgrim Fathers were influenced in their decision to come to New England by Weston, who, if not the agent of Gorges in this particular matter, was such in other matters and held intimate relations with him.”
The known facts favor the belief that Gorges’s cogitations on colonial matters–especially as stimulated by his plottings in relation to the Leyden people–led to his project of the grant–and charter for the new “Council for New England,” designed and constituted to supplant, or override, all others. It is highly probable that this grand scheme– duly embellished by the crafty Gorges,–being unfolded to Weston, with suggestions of great opportunities for Weston himself therein, warmed and drew him, and brought him to full and zealous cooperation in all Gorges’s plans, and that from this time, as Bradford states, he “begane to incline” toward, and to suggest to the Pilgrims, association with Gorges and the new “Council.” Not daring openly to declare his change of allegiance and his perfidy, he undertook, apparently, at first, by suggestions, e.g. “not to place too much dependence on the London Company, but to rely on himself and friends;” that “the fishing of New England was good,” etc.; and making thus no headway, then, by a policy of delay, fault finding, etc., to breed dissatisfaction, on the Pilgrims’ part, with the Adventurers, the patent of Wincob, etc., with the hope of bringing about “a new deal” in the Gorges interest. The same “delays” in sailing, that have been adduced as proof of Jones’s complicity with the Dutch, would have been of equal advantage to these noble schemers, and if he had any hand in them-which does not appear–it would have been far more likely in the interest of his long-time patron, the Earl of Warwick, and of his friends, than of any Dutch conspirators.
Once the colonists were landed upon the American soil, especially if late in the season, they would not be likely, it doubtless was argued, to remove; while by a liberal policy on the part of the “Council for New England” toward them–when they discovered that they were upon its territory–they could probably be retained. That just such a policy was, at once and eagerly, adopted toward them, as soon as occasion permitted, is good proof that the scheme was thoroughly matured from the start. The record of the action of the “Council for New England”–which had become the successor of the Second Virginia Company before intelligence was received that the Pilgrims had landed on its domain–is not at hand, but it appears by the record of the London Company, under date of Monday, July 16/26, 1621, that the “Council for New England” had promptly made itself agreeable to the colonists. The record reads: “It was moved, seeing that Master John Pierce had taken a Patent of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and thereupon seated his Company [the Pilgrims] within the limits of the Northern Plantations, as by some was supposed,”‘ etc. From this it is plain that, on receipt by Pierce of the news that the colony was landed within the limits of the “Council for New England,” he had, as instructed, applied for, and been given (June 1, 1621), the (first) “Council” patent for the colony. For confirmation hereof one should see also the minutes of the “Council for New England” of March 25/April 4., 1623, and the fulsome letter of Robert Cushman returning thanks in behalf of the Planters (through John Pierce), to Gorges, for his prompt response to their request for a patent and for his general complacency toward them Hon. James Phinney Baxter, Gorges’s able and faithful biographer, says: “We can imagine with what alacrity he [Sir Ferdinando] hastened to give to Pierce a patent in their behalf.” The same biographer, clearly unconscious of the well-laid plot of Gorges and Warwick (as all other writers but Neill and Davis have been), bears testimony (all the stronger because the witness is unwitting of the intrigue), to the ardent interest Gorges had in its success. He says: “The warm desire of Sir Ferdinando Gorges to see a permanent colony founded within the domain of the Plymouth [or Second] Virginia Company was to be realized in a manner of which he had never dreamed [sic!] and by a people with whom he had but little sympathized, although we know that he favored their settlement within the territorial limits of the Plymouth [Second] Company.” He had indeed “favored their settlement,” by all the craft of which he was master, and greeted their expected and duly arranged advent with all the jubilant open-handedness with which the hunter treats the wild horse he has entrapped, and hopes to domesticate and turn to account. Everything favored the conspirators. The deflection north-ward from the normal course of the ship as she approached the coast, bound for the latitude of the Hudson, required only to be so trifling that the best sailor of the Pilgrim leaders would not be likely to note or criticise it, and it was by no means uncommon to make Cape Cod as the first landfall on Virginia voyages. The lateness of the arrival on the coast, and the difficulties ever attendant on doubling Cape Cod, properly turned to account, would increase the anxiety for almost any landing-place, and render it easy to retain the sea-worn colonists when once on shore. The grand advantage, however, over and above all else, was the entire ease and certainty with which the cooperation of the one man essential to the success of the undertaking could be secured, without need of the privity of any other, viz. the Master of the MAY-FLOWER, Captain Thomas Jones.
Let us see upon what the assumption of this ready and certain accord on the part of Captain Jones rests. Rev. Dr. Neill, whose thorough study of the records of the Virginia Companies, and of the East India Company Calendars and collateral data, entitles him to speak with authority, recites that, “In 1617, Capt. Thomas Jones (sometimes spelled Joanes) had been sent to the East Indies in command of the ship LION by the Earl of Warwick (then Sir Robt. Rich), under a letter of protection from the Duke of Savoy, a foreign prince, ostensibly ‘to take pirates,’ which [pretext] had grown, as Sir Thomas Roe (the English ambassador with the Great Mogul) states, ‘to be a common pretence for becoming pirate.'” Caught by the famous Captain Martin Pring, in full pursuit of the junk of the Queen Mother of the Great Mogul, Jones was attacked, his ship fired in the fight, and burned,–with some of his crew,–and he was sent a prisoner to England in the ship BULL, arriving in the Thames, January 1, 1618/19. No action seems to have been taken against him for his offences, and presumably his employer, Sir Robert, the coming Earl, obtained his liberty on one pretext or another. On January 19, however, complaint was made against Captain Jones, “late of the LION,” by the East India Company, “for hiring divers men to serve the King of Denmark in the East Indies.” A few days after his arrest for “hiring away the Company’s men, Lord Warwick got him off” on the claim that he had employed him “to go to Virginia with cattle.” From the “Transactions” of the Second Virginia Company, of which–as we have seen–Sir Ferdinando Gorges was the leading spirit, it appears that on “February 2, 1619/20, a commission was allowed Captain Thomas Jones of the FALCON, a ship of 150 tons” [he having been lately released from arrest by the Earl of Warwick’s intercession], and that “before the close of the month, he sailed with cattle for Virginia,” as previously noted. Dr. Neill, than whom there can be no better authority, was himself satisfied, and unequivocally states, that “Thomas Jones, Captain of the MAY-FLOWER, was without doubt the old servant of Lord Warwick in the East Indies.” Having done Sir Robert Rich’s (the Earl of Warwick’s) “dirty work” for years, and having on all occasions been saved from harm by his noble patron (even when piracy and similar practices had involved him in the meshes of the law), it would be but a trifling matter, at the request of such powerful friends as the Earl and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, to steal the Pilgrim Colony from the London Virginia Company, and hand it over bodily to the “Council for New England,”–the successor of the Second (Plymouth) Virginia Company,–in which their interests were vested, Warwick having, significantly, transferred his membership from the London Company to the new “Council for New England,” as it was commonly called. Neill states, and there is abundant proof, that “the Earl of Warwick and Gorges were in sympathy,” and were active coadjutors, while it is self-evident that both would be anxious to accomplish the permanent settlement of the “Northern Plantations” held by their Company. That they would hesitate to utilize so excellent an opportunity to secure so very desirable a colony, by any means available, our knowledge of the men and their records makes it impossible to believe,–while nothing could apparently have been easier of accomplishment. It will readily be understood that if the conspirators were these men,–upon whose grace the Pilgrims must depend for permission to remain upon the territory to which they had been inveigled, or even for permission to depart from it, without spoliation, –men whose influence with the King (no friend to the Pilgrims) was sufficient to make both of them, in the very month of the Pilgrims’ landing, “governors” of “The Council for New England,” under whose authority the Planters must remain,–the latter were not likely to voice their suspicions of the trick played upon them, if they discovered it, or openly to resent it, when known. Dr. Dexter, in commenting on the remark of Bradford, “We made Master Jones our leader, for we thought it best herein to gratifie his kindness & forwardness,” sensibly says, “This proves nothing either way, in regard to the charge which Secretary Morton makes of treachery against Jones, in landing the company so far north, because, if that were true, it was not known to any of the company for years afterward, and of course could not now [at that time] impair their feelings of confidence in, or kindness towards, him. “Moreover, the phraseology, “we thought it best to gratifie,” suggests rather considerations of policy than cordial desire, and their acquaintance, too, with the man was still young. There is, however, no evidence that Jones’s duplicity was suspected till long afterward, though his character was fully recognized. Gorges himself furnishes, in his writings, the strongest confirmation we have of the already apparent fact, that he was himself the prime conspirator. He says, in his own “Narration,” “It was referred [evidently by himself] to their [the London Virginia Company’s] consideration, how necessary it was that means might be used to draw unto those their enterprises, some of those families that had retired themselves into Holland for scruple of conscience, giving them such freedom and liberty as might stand with their liking.” When have we ever found Sir Ferdinando Gorges thus solicitous for the success of the rival Virginia Company? Why, if he so esteemed the Leyden people as excellent colonists, did he not endeavor to secure them himself directly, for his own languishing company? Certainly the “scruple of conscience” of the Leyden brethren did not hinder him, for he found it no bar, though of the Established Church himself, to giving them instantly all and more than was asked in their behalf, as soon as he had them upon his territory and they had applied for a patent. He well knew that it would be matter of some expense and difficulty to bring the Leyden congregation into agreement to go to either of the Virginia grants, and he doubtless, and with good reason, feared that his repute and the character and reputation of his own Company, with its past history of failure, convict settlers, and loose living, would be repellent to these people of “conscience.” If they could be brought to the “going-point,” by men more of their ilk, like Sir Edwin Sandys, Weston, and others, it would then be time to see if he could not pluck the ripe fruit for himself,–as he seems to have done.
“This advice,” he says, “being hearkened unto, there were [those] that undertook the putting it in practice [Weston and others] and it was accordingly brought to effect,” etc. Then, reciting (erroneously) the difficulties with the SPEEDWELL, etc., he records the MAY-FLOWER’S arrival at Cape Cod, saying, “The . . . ship with great difficulty reached the coast of New England.” He then gives a glowing, though absurd, account of the attractions the planters found–in midwinter– especially naming the hospitable reception of the Indians, despite the fact of the savage attack made upon them by the Nausets at Cape Cod, and adds: “After they had well considered the state of their affaiis and found that the authority they had from the London Company of Virginia, could not warrant their abode in that place,” which “they found so prosperous and pleasing [sic] they hastened away their ship, with orders to their Solicitor to deal with me to be a means they might have a grant from the Council of New England Affairs, to settle in the place, which was accordingly performed to their particular satisfaction and good content of them all.” One can readily imagine the crafty smile with which Sir Ferdinando thus guilelessly recorded the complete success of his plot. It is of interest to note how like a needle to the pole the grand conspirator’s mind flies to the fact which most appeals to him– that they find “that the authority they had . . . could not warrant their abode in that place.” It is of like interest to observe that in that place which he called “pleasant and prosperous” one half their own and of the ship’s company had died before they hastened the ship away, and they had endured trial, hardships, and sorrows untellable,–although from pluck and principle they would not abandon it. He tells us “they hastened away their ship,” and implies that it was for the chief purpose of obtaining through him a grant of the land they occupied. While we know that the ship did not return till the following April,–and then at her Captain’s rather than the Pilgrims’ pleasure,–it is evident that Gorges could think of events only as incident to his designs and from his point of view. His plot had succeeded. He had the “Holland families” upon his soil, and his willing imagination converted their sober and deliberate action into the eager haste with which he had planned that they should fly to him for the patent, which his cunning had–as he purposed–rendered necessary. Of course their request “was performed,” and so readily and delightedly that, recognizing John Pierce as their mouthpiece and the plantation as “Mr. Pierces Plantation,” Sir Ferdinando and his associates–the “Council for New England,” including his joint- conspirator, the Earl of Warwick–gave Pierce unhesitatingly whatever he asked. The Hon. William T. Davis, who alone among Pilgrim historians (except Dr. Neill, whom he follows) seems to have suspected the hand of Gorges in the treachery of Captain Jones, here demonstrated, has suggested that: “Whether Gorges might not have influenced Pierce, in whose name the patent of the Pilgrims had been issued–and whether both together might not have seduced Capt. Jones, are further considerations to be weighed, in solving the problem of a deviation from the intended voyage of the MAYFLOWER.” Although not aware of these suggestions, either of Mr. Davis or of Dr. Neill, till his own labors had satisfied him of Gorges’s guilt, and his conclusions were formed, the author cheerfully recognizes the priority to his own demonstration, of the suggestions of both these gentlemen. No thing appears of record, however, to indicate that John Pierce was in any way a party to Gorges’s plot. On the contrary, as his interest was wholly allied to his patent, which Gorges’s scheme would render of little value to his associate Adventurers and himself he would naturally have been, unless heavily bribed to duplicity beyond his expectations from their intended venture, the last man to whom to disclose such a conspiracy. Neither was he necessary in any way to the success of the scheme. He did not hire either the ship or her master; he does not appear to have had any Pilgrim relations to Captain Jones, and certainly could have had no such influence with him as Gorges could himself command, through Warwick and his own ability–from his position at the head of the “New England Council”–to reward the service he required. That Gorges was able himself to exert all the influence requisite to secure Jones’s cooperation, without the aid of Pierce, who probably could have given none, is evident. Mr. Davis’s suggestion, while pertinent and potential as to Gorges, is clearly wide of the mark as to Pierce. He represented the Adventurers in the matter of patents only, but Weston was in authority as to the pivotal matter of shipping. An evidently hasty footnote of Dr. Neill, appended to the “Memorial” offered by him to the Congress of the United States, in 1868, seems to have been the only authority of Mr. William T. Davis for the foregoing suggestion as to the complicity of Pierce in the treachery of Captain Jones, except the bare suspicion, already alluded to, in the records of the London Company. Neill says: “Captain Jones, the navigator of the MAY-FLOWER, and John Pierce, probably had arranged as to destination without the knowledge of the passengers.” While of course this is not impossible, there is, as stated, absolutely nothing to indicate any knowledge, participation, or need of Pierce in the matter, and of course the fewer there were in the secret the better.
Unobservant that John Pierce was acting upon the old adage, “second thief best owner,” when he asked, a little later, even so extraordinary a thing as that the “Council for New England” would exchange the patent they had so promptly granted him (as representing his associates, the Adventurers and Planters) for a “deed-pole,” or title in fee, to himself alone, they instantly complied, and thus unwittingly enabled him also to steal the colony, and its demesne beside. It is evident, from the very servile letter of Robert Cushman to John Pierce (written while the former was at New Plymouth, in November-December, 1621, on behalf of the MAY-FLOWER Adventurers), that up to that time at least, the Pilgrims had no suspicion of the trick which had been played upon them. For, while too adroit recklessly to open a quarrel with those who could–if they chose– destroy them, the Pilgrims were far too high-minded to stoop to flattery and dissimulation (especially with any one known to have been guilty of treachery toward them), or to permit any one to do so in their stead. In the letter referred to, Cush man acknowledges in the name of the colonists the “bounty and grace of the President and Council of the Affairs of New England [Gorges, Warwick, et als.] for their allowance and approbation” of the “free possession and enjoyment” of the territory and rights so promptly granted Pierce by the Council, in the colonists’ interest, upon application. If the degree of promptness with which the wily Gorges and his associates granted the petition of Pierce, in the colony’s behalf for authority to occupy the domain to which Gorges’s henchman Jones had so treacherously conveyed them, was at all proportionate to the fulsome and lavish acknowledgments of Cushman, there must have been such eagerness of compliance as to provoke general suspicion at the Council table. Gorges and Warwick must have “grinned horribly behind their hands” upon receipt of the honest thanks of these honest planters and the pious benedictions of their scribe, knowing themselves guilty of detestable conspiracy and fraud, which had frustrated an honest purpose, filched the results of others’ labors, and had “done to death” good men and women not a few. Winslow, in “Hypocrisie Unmasked,” says: “We met with many dangers and the mariners’ put back into the harbor of the Cape.” The original intent of the Pilgrims to go to the neighborhood of the Hudson is unmistakable; that this intention was still clear on the morning of November 10 (not 9th)– after they had “made the land”–has been plainly shown; that there was no need of so “standing in with the land” as to become entangled in the “rips” and “shoals” off what is now known as Monomoy (in an effort to pass around the Cape to the southward, when there was plenty of open water to port), is clear and certain; that the dangers and difficulties were magnified by Jones, and the abandonment of the effort was urged and practically made by him, is also evident from Winslow’s language above noted,–“and the mariners put back,” etc. No indication of the old-time consultations with the chief men appears here as to the matter of the return. Their advice was not desired. “The mariners put back” on their own responsibility.
Goodwin forcibly remarks, “These waters had been navigated by Gosnold, Smith, and various English and French explorers, whose descriptions and charts must have been familiar to a veteran master like Jones. He doubtless magnified the danger of the passage [of the shoals], and managed to have only such efforts made as were sure to fail. Of course he knew that by standing well out, and then southward in the clear sea, he would be able to bear up for the Hudson. His professed inability to devise any way for getting south of the Cape is strong proof of guilt.”
The sequential acts of the Gorges conspiracy were doubtless practically as follows:–
(a) The Leyden leaders applied to the States General of Holland, through the New Netherland Company, for their aid and protection in locating at the mouth of “Hudson’s” River;
(b) Sir Dudley Carleton, the English ambassador at the Hague, doubtless promptly reported these negotiations to the King, through Sir Robert Naunton;
(c) The King, naturally enough, probably mentioned the matter to his intimate and favorite, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the leading man in American colonization matters in the kingdom;
(d) Sir Ferdinando Gorges, recognizing the value of such colonists as the Leyden congregation would make, anxious to secure them, instead of permitting the Dutch to do so, and knowing that he and his Company would be obnoxious to the Leyden leaders, suggested, as he admits, to Weston, perhaps to Sandys, as the Leyden brethren’s friends, that they ought to secure them as colonists for their (London) Company;
(e) Weston was dispatched to Holland to urge the Leyden leaders to drop the Dutch negotiations, come under English auspices, which he guaranteed, and they, placing faith in him, and possibly in Sandys’s assurances of his (London) Virginia Company’s favor, were led to put themselves completely into the hands of Weston and the Merchant Adventurers; the Wincob patent was cancelled and Pierces substituted;
(f) Weston, failing to lead them to Gorges’s company, was next deputed, perhaps by Gorges’s secret aid, to act with full powers for the Adventurers, in securing shipping, etc.;
(g) Having made sure of the Leyden party, and being in charge of the shipping, Weston was practically master of the situation. He and Cushman, who was clearly entirely innocent of the conspiracy, had the hiring of the ship and of her officers, and at this point he and his acts were of vital importance to Gorges’s plans. To bring the plot to a successful issue it remained only to effect the landing of the colony upon territory north of the 41 st parallel of north lati tude, to take it out of the London Company’s jurisdiction, and to do this it was only necessary to make Jones Master of the ship and to instruct him accordingly. This, with so willing a servant of his masters, was a matter of minutes only, the instructions were evidently given, and the success of the plot–the theft of the MAY-FLOWER colony–was assured.
To a careful and candid student of all the facts, the proofs are seemingly unmistakable, and the conclusion is unavoid able, that the MAY- FLOWER Pilgrims were designedly brought to Cape Cod by Captain Jones, and their landing in that latitude was effected, in pursuance of a conspiracy entered into by him, not with the Dutch, but with certain of the nobility of England; not with the purpose of keeping the planters out of Dutch territory, but with the deliberate intent of stealing the colony from the London Virginia Company, under whose auspices it had organized and set sail, in the interest, and to the advantage, of its rival Company of the “Northern Plantations.”
It is noteworthy that Jones did not command the MAY-FLOWER for another voyage, and never sailed afterward in the employ of Thomas Goffe, Esq., or (so far as appears) of any reputable shipowner. Weston was not such, nor were the chiefs of the “Council for New England,” in whose employ he remained till his death.
The records of the Court of the “Council” show, that “as soon as it would do,” and when his absence would tend to lull suspicion as to the parts played, Captain Jones’s noble patrons took steps to secure for him due recognition and compensation for his services, from the parties who were to benefit directly, with themselves, by his knavery. The records read:
“July 17, 1622. A motion was made in the behaffe of Captaine Thomas Jones, Captaine of the DISCOVERY, nowe employed in Virginia for trade and fishinge [it proved, apparently, rather to be piracy], that he may be admitted a freeman in this Companie in reward of the good service he hath there [Virginia in general] performed. The Court liked well of the motion and condiscended thereunto.” The DISCOVERY left London at the close of November, 1621. She arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in April, 1622. She reached Plymouth, New England, in August, 1622. Her outward voyage was not, so far as can be learned, eventful, or entitled to especial consideration or recognition, and the good store of English trading-goods she still had on hand–as Governor Bradford notices–on her arrival at Plymouth indicates no notable success up to that time, in the way of a trading-voyage, while “fishing” is not mentioned. For piracy, in which she was later more successful, she had then had neither time nor opportunity. The conclusion is irresistible, that “the good service” recognized by the vote recorded was of the past (he had sailed only the MAY-FLOWER voyage for the “Council” before), and that this recognition was a part of the compensation previously agreed upon, if, in the matter of the MAY-FLOWER voyage, Captain Jones did as he was bidden. Thus much of the crafty Master of the MAY-FLOWER, Captain Thomas Jones,–his Christian name and identity both apparently beyond dispute,– whom we first know in the full tide of his piratical career, in the corsair LION in Eastern seas; whom we next find as a prisoner in London for his misconduct in the East, but soon Master of the cattle-ship FALCON on her Virginia voyage; whom we greet next–and best–as Admiral of the Pilgrim fleet, commander of the destiny freighted MAY-FLOWER, and though a conspirator with nobles against the devoted band he steered, under the overruling hand of their Lord God, their unwitting pilot to “imperial labors” and mighty honors, to the founding of empire, and to eternal Peace; whom we next meet–fallen, “like Lucifer, never to hope again”– as Captain of the little buccaneer,–the DISCOVERY, disguised as a trading-ship, on the Virginian and New England coasts; and lastly, in charge of his leaking prize, a Spanish frigate in West Indian waters, making his way–death-stricken–into the Virginia port of Jamestown, where (July, 1625), he “cast anchor” for the last time, dying, as we first found him, a pirate, to whom it had meantime been given to “minister unto saints.”
Of JOHN CLARKE, the first mate of the MAY-FLOWER, we have already learned that he had been in the employ of the First (or London) Virginia Company, and had but just returned (in June, 1620) from a voyage to Virginia with Captain Jones in the FALCON, when found and employed by Weston and Cushman for the Pilgrim ship. Dr. Neill quotes from the “Minutes of the London Virginia Company,” of Wednesday, February 13/23, 1621/2, the following; which embodies considerable information concerning him:–
“February 13th, 1621. Master Deputy acquainted the Court, that one Master John Clarke being taken from Virginia long since [Arber interpolates, “in 1612″] by a Spanish ship that came to discover the Plantation, that forasmuch as he hath since that time done the Company presumably the First (or London) Virginia Company good service in many voyages to Virginia; and, of late  went into Ireland, for the transportation of cattle to Virginia; he was a humble suitor to this Court that he might be a Free brother of the Company, and have some shares of land bestowed upon him.”
From the foregoing he seems to have begun his American experiences as early as 1612, and to have frequently repeated them. That he was at once hired by Weston and Cushman as a valuable man, as soon as found, was not strange.
He seems to have had the ability to impress men favorably and secure their confidence, and to have been a modest and reliable man. Although of both experience and capacity, he continued an under-officer for some years after the Pilgrim voyage, when, it is fair to suppose, he might have had command of a ship. He seems to have lacked confidence in himself, or else the breadth of education necessary to make him trust his ability as a navigator.
He is not mentioned, in connection with the affairs of the Pilgrims, after he was hired as “pilot,”–on Saturday afternoon the 10th of June, 1620, at London,–until after the arrival at Cape Cod, and evidently was steadily occupied during all the experience of “getting away” and of the voyage, in the faithful performance of his duty as first mate (or “pilot”) of the MAY-FLOWER. It was not until the “third party” of exploration from Cape Cod harbor was organized and set out, on Wednesday, December 6, that he appeared as one of the company who put out in the shallop, to seek the harbor which had been commended by Coppin, “the second mate.” On this eventful voyage–when the party narrowly escaped shipwreck at the mouth of Plymouth harbor–they found shelter under the lee of an island, which (it being claimed traditionally that he was first to land there on) was called, in his honor, “Clarke’s Island,” which name it retains to this day. No other mention of him is made by name, in the affairs of ship or shore, though it is known inferentially that he survived the general illness which attacked and carried off half of the ship’s company. In November, 1621,–the autumn following his return from the Pilgrim voyage,–he seems to have gone to Virginia as “pilot” (or “mate”) of the FLYING HART, with cattle of Daniel Gookin, and in 1623 to have attained command of a ship, the PROVIDENCE, belonging to Mr. Gookin, on a voyage to Virginia where he arrived April 10, 1623, but died in that colony soon after his arrival. He seems to have been a competent and faithful man, who filled well his part in life. He will always have honorable mention as the first officer of the historic MAY-FLOWER, and as sponsor at the English christening of the smiling islet in Plymouth harbor which bears his name.
Of ROBERT COPPIN, the “second mate” (or “pilot”) of the MAY-FLOWER, nothing is known before his voyage in the Pilgrim ship, except that he seems to have made a former to the coast of New England and the vicinity of Cape Cod, though under what auspices, or in what ship, does not transpire. Bradford says: “Their Pilotte, one Mr. Coppin, who had been in the countrie before.” Dr. Young a suggests that Coppin was perhaps on the coast with Smith or Hunt. Mrs. Austin imaginatively makes him, of “the whaling bark SCOTSMAN of Glasgow,” but no warrant whatever for such a conception appears.
Dr. Dexter, as elsewhere noted, has said: “My impression is that Coppin was originally hired to go in the SPEEDWELL, . . that he sailed with them [the Pilgrims] in the SPEED WELL, but on her final putting back was transferred to the MAY-FLOWER.” As we have seen in another relation, Dr. Dexter also believed Coppin to have been the “pilot” sent over by Cushman to Leyden, in May, 1620, and we have found both views to be untenable. It was doubtless because of this mistaken view that Dr. Dexter believed that Coppin was “hired to go in the SPEEDWELL,” and, the premise being wrong, the conclusion is sequentially incorrect. But there are abundant reasons for thinking that Dexter’s “impression” is wholly mistaken. It would be unreasonable to suppose (as both vessels were expected to cross the ocean), that each had not–certainly on leaving Southampton her full complement of officers. If so, each undoubtedly had her second mate. The MAY-FLOWER’S officers and crew were, as we know, hired for the voyage, and there is no good reason to suppose that the second mate of the MAY-FLOWER was dismissed at Plymouth and Coppin put in his place which would not be equally potent for such an exchange between the first mate of the SPEEDWELL and Clarke of the MAY-FLOWER. The assumption presumes too much. In fact, there can be no doubt that Dexter’s misconception was enbased upon, and arose from, the unwarranted impression that Coppin was the “pilot” sent over to Leyden. It is not likely that, when the SPEEDWELL’S officers were so evidently anxious to escape the voyage, they would seek transfer to the MAY-FLOWER.
Charles Deane, the editor of Bradford’s “Historie” (ed.1865), makes, in indexing, the clerical error of referring to Coppin as the “master- gunner,” an error doubtless occasioned by the fact that in the text referred to, the words, “two of the masters-mates, Master Clarke and Master Coppin, the master-gunner,” etc., were run so near together that the mistake was readily made.
In “Mourt’s Relation” it appears that in the conferences that were held aboard the ship in Cape Cod harbor, as to the most desirable place for the colonists to locate, “Robert Coppin our pilot, made relation of a great navigable river and great harbor in the headland of the Bay, almost right over against Cape Cod, being a right line not much above eight leagues distant,” etc. Mrs. Jane G. Austin asserts, though absolutely without warrant of any reliable authority, known tradition, or probability, that “Coppin’s harbor . . . afterward proved to be Cut River and the site of Marshfield,” but in another place she contradicts this by stating that it was “Jones River, Duxbury.” As Coppin described his putative harbor, called “Thievish Harbor,” a “great navigable river and good harbor” were in close relation, which was never true of either the Jones River or “Cut River” localities, while any one familiar with the region knows that what Mrs. Austin knew as “Cut River” had no existence in the Pilgrims’ early days, but was the work of man, superseding a small river-mouth (Green Harbor River), which was so shallow as to have its exit closed by the sand-shift of a single storm.
Young, with almost equal recklessness, says: “The other headland of the bay, alluded to by Coppin, was Manomet Point, and the river was probably the North River in Scituate; “but there are no “great navigable river and good harbor” in conjunction in the neighborhood of Manomet, or of the North River,–the former having no river and the latter no harbor. If Coppin had not declared that he had never seen the mouth of Plymouth harbor before (“mine eyes never saw this place before”), it might readily have been believed that Plymouth harbor was the “Thievish Harbor” of his description, so well do they correspond.
Goodwin, the brother of Mrs. Austin, quite at variance with his sister’s conclusions, states, with every probability confirming him, that the harbor Coppin sought “may have been Boston, Ipswich, Newburyport, or Portsmouth.”
As a result of his “relation” as to a desirable harbor, Coppin was made the “pilot” of the “third expedition,” which left the ship in the shallop, Wednesday, December 6, and, after varying disasters and a narrow escape from shipwreck–through Coppin’s mistake–landed Friday night after dark, in the storm, on the island previously mentioned, ever since called “Clarke’s Island,” at the mouth of Plymouth harbor.
Nothing further is known of Coppin except that he returned to England with the ship. He has passed into history only as Robert Coppin, “the second mate” (or “pilot”) of the MAY-FLOWER.
But one other officer in merchant ships of the MAY-FLOWER class in her day was dignified by the address of “Master” (or Mister), or had rank with the Captain and Mates as a quarter-deck officer,–except in those instances where a surgeon or a chaplain was carried. That the MAY-FLOWER carried no special ship’s-surgeon has been supposed from the fact of Dr. Fuller’s attendance alike on her passengers and crew, and the increased mortality of the seamen–after his removal on shore.
[The author is greatly indebted to his esteemed friend, Mr. George Ernest Bowman, Secretary-General of the Society of MAY-FLOWER Descendants, for information of much value upon this point. He believes that he has discovered trustworthy evidence of the existence of a small volume bearing upon its title-page an inscription that would certainly indicate that the MAY-FLOWER had her own surgeon. A copy of the inscription, which Mr. Bowman declares well attested (the book not being within reach), reads as follows:–
“To Giles Heale Chirurgeon, from Isaac Allerton
Feb. 10, 1620.”
Giles Heale’s name will be recognized as that of one of the witnesses to John Carver’s copy of William Mullens’s nuncupative will, and, if he was the ship’s-surgeon, might very naturally appear in that relation. If book and inscription exist and the latter is genuine, it would be indubitable proof that Heale (who was surely not a MAY-FLOWER passenger) was one of the ship’s company, and if a “chirurgeon,” the surgeon of the ship, for no other Englishmen, except those of the colonists and the ship’s company, could have been at New Plymouth, at the date given, and New England was then included in the term “Virginia.” It is much to be hoped that Mr. Bowman’s belief may be established, and that in Giles Heale we shall have another known officer, the surgeon, of the MAY-FLOWER.]
That she had no chaplain goes without saying. The Pilgrims had their spiritual adviser with them in the person of Elder Brewster, and were not likely to tolerate a priest of either the English or the Romish church on a vessel carrying them. The officer referred to was the representative of the business interests of the owner or chartering-party, on whose account the ship made the voyage; and in that day was known as the “ship’s-merchant,” later as the “purser,” and in some relations as the “supercargo.” No mention of an officer thus designated, belonging to the MAY-FLOWER, has ever been made by any writer, so far as known, and it devolves upon the author to indicate his existence and to establish, so far as possible, both this and his identity.
A certain “Master Williamson,” whose name and presence, though but once mentioned by Governor Bradford, have greatly puzzled Pilgrim historians, seems to have filled this berth on board the MAY-FLOWER. Bradford tells us that on Thursday, March 22, 1620/21, “Master Williamson” was designated to accompany Captain Standish–practically as an officer of the guard–to receive and escort the Pokanoket chief, Massasoit, to Governor Carver, on the occasion of the former’s first visit of state. Prior to the recent discovery in London, by an American genealogist, of a copy of the nuncupative will of Master William Mullens, one of the MAY- FLOWER Pilgrims, clearly dictated to Governor John Carver on board the ship, in the harbor of New Plymouth (probably) Wednesday, February 21, 1620 (though not written out by Carver till April 2, 1620), on which day (as we learn from Bradford), Master Mullens died, no other mention of “Master Williamson” than that above quoted was known, and his very existence was seriously questioned. In this will, as elsewhere noted, “Master Williamson” is named as one of the “Overseers.” By most early writers it was held that Bradford had unwittingly substituted the name “Williamson” for that of Allerton, and this view–apparently for no better reasons than that both names had two terminal letters in common, and that Allerton was associated next day with Standish on some military duty–came to be generally accepted, and Allerton’s name to be even frequently substituted without question.—Miss Marcia A. Thomas, in her “Memorials of Marshfield” (p. 75), says: “In 1621, Master Williamson, Captain Standish, and Edward Winslow made a journey to make a treaty with Massasoit. He is called ‘Master George,’ meaning probably Master George Williamson,” etc.
This is certainly most absurd, and by one not familiar with the exceptional fidelity and the conscientious work of Miss Thomas would rightly be denounced as reckless and reprehensible fabrication. Of course Williamson, Standish, and Winslow made no such journey, and made no treaty with Massasoit, but aided simply in conducting, with due ceremonial, the first meeting between Governor John Carver and the Indian sachem at Plymouth, at which a treaty was concluded. There is no historical warrant whatever for the name of “George,” as appertaining to “Master William son.” The fact, however,–made known by the fortunate discovery mentioned,–that “Master Williamson” was named in his will by Master Mullens as one of its “Overseers,” and undoubtedly probated the will in England, puts the existence of such a person beyond reasonable doubt. That he was a person of some dignity, and of very respectable position, is shown by the facts that he was chosen as Standish’s associate, as lieutenant of the guard, on an occasion of so much importance, and was thought fit by Master Mullens, a careful and clear- headed man as his will proves,–to be named an “Overseer” of that will, charged with responsible duties to Mullens’s children and property. It is practically certain that on either of the above-mentioned dates (February 21, or March 22) there were no human beings in the Colony of New Plymouth beside the passengers of the MAY-FLOWER, her officers and crew, and the native savages. Visitors, by way of the fishing vessels on the Maine coast, had not yet begun to come, as they did a little later. It is certain that no one of the name of “Williamson” was among the colonist passengers, or indeed for several years in the colony, and we may at once dismiss both the passengers and the savages from our consideration. This elimination renders it inevitable that “Master Williamson” must have been of the ship’s company. It remains to determine, if possible, what position upon the MAY-FLOWER’S roster he presumably held. His selection by “Master” Mullens as one of the “Over seers” of his will suggests the probability that, having named Governor Carver as the one upon whom he would rely for the care of his family and affairs in New England, Mr. Mullens sought as the other a proper person, soon to return to England, and hence able to exercise like personal interest in his two children and his considerable property left there? Such a suggestion points to a returning and competent officer of the ship. That “Master Williamson” was above the grade of “petty officer,” and ranked at least with the mates or “pilots,” is clear from the fact that he is invariably styled “Master” (equivalent to Mister), and we know with certainty that he was neither captain nor mate. That he was a man of address and courage follows the fact that he was chosen by Standish as his lieutenant, while the choice in and of itself is a strong bit of presumptive proof that he held the position on the MAY-FLOWER to which he is here assigned.
The only officer commonly carried by a ship of the MAY-FLOWER class, whose rank, capacities, and functions would comport with every fact and feature of the case, was “the ship’s-merchant,” her accountant, factor, and usually–when such was requisite–her “interpreter,” on every considerable (trading) voyage.
It is altogether probable that it was in his capacity of “interpreter” (as Samoset and Tisquantum knew but little English), and on account of what knowledge of the Indian tongue he very probably possessed, that Standish chose Williamson as his associate for the formal reception of Massasoit. It is indeed altogether probable that it was this familiarity with the “trade lingo” of the American coast tribes which influenced– perhaps determined–his employ ment as “ship’s-merchant” of the MAY- FLOWER for her Pilgrim voyage, especially as she was expected to “load back” for England with the products of the country, only to be had by barter with the Indians. It is evident that there must naturally have been some provision made for communication with the natives, for the purposes of that trade, etc., which the Planters hoped to establish. Trading along the northern coast of Virginia (as the whole coast strip was then called), principally for furs, had been carried on pretty actively, since 1584, by such navigators as Raleigh’s captains, Gosnold, Pring, Champlain, Smith, Dermer, Hunt, and the French and Dutch, and much of the “trade lingo” of the native tribes had doubtless been “picked up” by their different “ship’s-merchants.” It appears by Bradford’ that Dermer, when coasting the shores of New England, in Sir Ferdinando Gorges’s employ, brought the Indian Tisquantum with him, from England, as his interpreter, and doubtless from him Dermer and other ship’s officers “picked up” more or less Indian phrases, as Tisquantum (Squanto) evidently did of English. Winslow, in his “Good Newes from New England,” written in 1622, says of the Indian tongue, as spoken by the tribes about them at Plymouth, “it is very copious, large, and difficult. As yet we cannot attain to any great measure thereof, but can understand them, and explain ourselves to their understanding, by the help of those that daily converse with us.” This being the case, after two years of constant communication, and noting how trivial knowledge of English speech Samoset and Tisquantum had, it is easy to understand that, if Williamson had any knowledge of the native tongue, Standish would be most anxious to have the benefit of it, in this prime and all-important effort at securing a permanent alliance with the ruling sachem of the region. Bradford, in “Mourt’s Relation,” speaking of the speech of Governor Carver to Massasoit, says: “He [Massasoit] liked well of the speech and heard it attentively, though the interpreters did not well express it.” Probably all three, Tisquantum, Samoset, and Williamson, had a voice in it.
That “Master Williamson” was a veritable person at New Plymouth, in February and March, 1620/21, is now beyond dispute; that he must have been of the ship’s company of the MAY-FLOWER is logically certain; that he was one of her officers, and a man of character, is proven by his title of “Master” and his choice by Standish and Mullens for exceptional and honorable service; that the position of “ship’s-merchant” alone answers to the conditions precedent, is evident; and that such an officer was commonly carried by ships of the MAY-FLOWER class on such voyages as hers is indicated by the necessity, and proven by the facts known as to other ships on similar New England voyages, both earlier and later. The fact that he was called simply “Master Williamson,” in both cases where he is mentioned, with out other designation or identification, is highly significant, and clearly indicates that he was some one so familiarly known to all concerned that no occasion for any further designation apparently occurred to the minds of Mullens, Carver, or Bradford, when referring to him. In the case of Master John Hampden, the only other notable incognito of early Pilgrim literature, the description is full, and the only question concerning him has been of his identity with John Hampden, the English patriot of the Cromwellian era. It is, therefore, not too much to assert that the MAY-FLOWER carried a “ship’s-merchant” (or purser), and that “Master Williamson” was that officer. If close- linked circumstantial evidence is ever to be relied upon, it clearly establishes in this case the identity of the “Master Williamson” who was Governor Bradford’s incognito, and the person of the same name mentioned a month earlier in “Master” Mullens’s will; as also the fact that in him we have a new officer of the MAY FLOWER, hitherto unknown as such to Pilgrim literature. If Mr. Bowman’s belief as to Giles Heale (see note) proves correct, we have yet another, the Surgeon.
The Carpenter, Gunner, Boatswain, Quartermaster, and “Masters-mates” are the only “petty officers” of the Pilgrim ship of whom any record makes mention. The carpenter is named several times, and was evidently, as might be expected, one of the most useful men of the ship’s crew. Called into requisition, doubtless, in the conferences as to the condition of the SPEEDWELL, on both of her returns to port, at the inception of the voyage, he was especially in evidence when, in mid-ocean, “the cracking and bending of a great deck-beam,” and the “shaken” condition of “the upper works” of the MAY-FLOWER, gave rise to much alarm, and it was by his labors and devices, and the use of the now famous “jack-screw,” that the bending beam and leaking deck were made secure. The repairs upon the shallop in Cape Cod harbor also devolved upon him, and mention is made of his illness and the dependence placed upon him. No doubt, in the construction of the first dwellings and of the ordnance platform on the hill, etc., he was the devising and principal workman. He undoubtedly returned to England with the ship, and is known in history only by his “billet,” as “the carpenter” of the MAY-FLOWER.
The Master Gunner seems to have been a man with a proclivity for Indian barter, that led him to seek a place with the “third expedition” at Cape Cod, thereby nearly accomplishing his death, which indeed occurred later, in Plymouth harbor, not long before the return of the ship.
The Boatswain is known, by Bradford’s records, to have died in the general sickness which attacked the crew while lying in Plymouth harbor. The brief narrative of his sickness and death is all that we know of his personality. The writer says: “He was a proud young man, and would often curse and scoff at the passengers,” but being nursed when dying, by those of them who remained aboard, after his shipmates had deserted him in their craven fear of infection, “he bewailed his former conduct,” saying, “Oh! you, I now see, show your love like Christians indeed, one to another, but we let one another lie and die like dogs.”
Four Quartermasters are mentioned (probably helmsmen simply), of whom three are known to have died in Plymouth harbor.
“Masters-mates” are several times mentioned, but it is pretty certain that the “pilots” (or mates) are intended. Bradford and Winslow, in “Mourt’s Relation,” say of the reappearance of the Indians: “So Captain Standish, with another [Hopkins], with their muskets, went over to them, with two of the masters-mates that follow them without [side?] arms, having two muskets with them: Who these “masters-mates” were does not appear.” The language, “two of the masters-mates,” would possibly suggest that there were more of them. It hardly seems probable that both the mates of the MAY-FLOWER would thus volunteer, or thrust themselves forward in such a matter, and it seems doubtful if they would have been permitted (even if both ashore at one time, which, though unusual, did occur), to assume such duty. Whoever they were, they did not lack courage.
The names of the petty officers and seamen of the MAY-FLOWER do not appear as such, but the discovery of the (evidently) nuncupative will of William Mullens–herein referred to–has perhaps given us two of them. Attached to John Carver’s certificate of the particulars of this will, filed at Somerset House, London, are the names, “Giles Heale” and “Christopher Joanes.” As Mr Mullens died Wednesday, February 21, 1620, on board the MAY-FLOWER in Plymouth harbor, on which day we know from Bradford’ that “the Master [Jones, whose name was Thomas] came on shore with many of his sailors,” to land and mount the cannon on the fort, and as they had a full day’s work to draw up the hill and mount five guns, and moreover brought the materials for, and stayed to eat, a considerable dinner with the Pilgrims, they were doubtless ashore all day. It is rational to interpret the known facts to indicate that in this absence of the Captain and most of his crew ashore, Mr. Mullens, finding himself failing fast, sent for Governor Carver and–unable to do more than speak –dictated to him the disposition of his property which he desired to make. Carver, noting this down from his dictation, undoubtedly called in two of the ship’s company (Heale very likely being the ship’s-surgeon), who were left aboard to “keep ship,” to hear his notes read to Mullens and assented to by him, they thus becoming the witnesses to his will, to the full copy of which, as made by Carver (April 2), they affixed their names as such. As there were then at Plymouth (besides savages) only the passengers and crew of the MAY-FLOWER, and these men were certainly not among the passengers, it seems inevitable that they were of the crew. That “Christopher Joanes” was not the Master of the ship is clear, because Heale’s is the first signature, and no man of the crew would have dared to sign before the Captain; because the Captain’s name was (as demonstrated) Thomas; and because we know that he was ashore all that day, with most of his men. It is by no means improbable that Captain Jones had shipped one of his kinsmen in his crew, possibly as one of the “masters mates” or quartermasters referred to (and it is by no means certain that there were not more than two), though these witnesses may have been quartermasters or other petty officers left on board as “ship- keepers.” Certain it is that these two witnesses must have been of the crew, and that “Christopher Joanes” was not the Captain, while it is equally sure, from the collateral evidence, that Master Mullens died on shipboard. Had he died on shore it is very certain that some of the leaders, Brewster, Bradford, or others, would have been witnesses, with such of the ship’s officers as could aid in proving the will in England. It is equally evident that the officers of the ship were absent when Master Mullens dictated his will, except perhaps the surgeon.
The number of seamen belonging to the ship is nowhere definitely stated. At least four in the employ of the Pilgrims were among the passengers and not enrolled upon the ships’ lists. From the size of the ship, the amount of sail she probably carried, the weight of her anchors, and certain other data which appear,–such as the number allowed to leave the ship at a time, etc.,–it is probably not a wild estimate to place their number at from twenty to twenty-five. This is perhaps a somewhat larger number than would be essential to work the ship, and than would have been shipped if the voyage had been to any port of a civilized country; but on a voyage to a wild coast, the possibilities of long absence and of the weakening of the crew by death, illness, etc., demanded consideration and a larger number. The wisdom and necessity of carrying, on a voyage to an uninhabited country, some spare men, is proven by the record of Bradford, who says: “The disease begane to fall amongst them the seamen also, so as allmost halfe of their company dyed before they went away and many of their officers and lustyest men; as ye boatson, gunner, 3 quarter maisters, the cooke, and others.”
The LADY ARBELLA, the “Admiral” of Governor Winthrop’s fleet, a ship of 350 tons, carried 52 men, and it is a fair inference that the MAY-FLOWER, of a little more than half her tonnage, would require at least half as many. It is, therefore, not unlikely that the officers and crew of the MAY-FLOWER, all told, mustered thirty men, irrespective of the sailors, four in number (Alderton, English, Trevore, and Ely), in the Pilgrims’ employ.
ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:
As 1620 did not begin until March 25
Crime–for such it was, in inception, nature, and results Malevolence rarely exercised except toward those one has wronged The old adage, “second thief best owner” Theft of the MAY-FLOWER colony