Of Plymouth Plantation Analysis
Of Plymouth Plantation Analysis

Of Plymouth Plantation Analysis

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II. Of Plymouth Plantation: Summary and Commentary Bradford, William was one of the Pilgrim leaders and American colonial governor, born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England. In 1606 he joined the Separatists, a dissident Protestant sect. Three years later, in search of freedom of worship, he went with them to Holland, where he became an apprentice to a silk manufacturer. Bradford sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, and after his arrival in America he helped found Plymouth Colony.

In April 1621 he succeeded Governor John Carver as chief executive of Plymouth Colony. Except for five years, Bradford served as governor almost continuously from 1621 through 1656, having been reelected 30 times. In 1621 he negotiated a treaty with Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Under the treaty, which was vital to the maintenance and growth of the colony, Massasoit disavowed Native American claims to the Plymouth area and pledged peace with the colonists.

The first Thanksgiving Day celebration in New England was organized by Bradford in 1621. Bradford was a delegate on four occasions to the New England Confederation, of which he was twice elected president. His History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, was published in 1856, 200 years after his death. The book is an important source of information about the early settlers. Of Plymouth Plantation is an excellent foundation text for the study of colonial American literature.Bradford’s text seems to have created something that would provide the foundation both for a new country and a nascent New World identity.

Like the journal writers of the period, Bradford records details of early obstacles and colonial life; even more that other historians,

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however, Bradford develops in Of Plymouth Plantation a large sense of meaning and importance of colonial history. Creating an awareness of history while the colonists were yet engaged in the process of establishing their society gave colonial America a cultural foundation.In addition, he offers the colonists a written document (“The Mayflower Compact”) as a conerstone of government, and he associates their origins with sacred rebirth, typologically interprets events as signs of connection with a higher authority, and , in the later chapters of Book II, conveys a sense of prophecy that serves to link his own historical text with the colonists’ future. The earlier sections from Of Plymouth Plantation help us to visualize the combined practical and spiritual concerns of the earliest colonials. Bradford’s account reveals the necessity for self-reliance among the first Puritan settlers.

We are surprised to discover how secular and pragmatic the Puritans had to be in the process of crating their spiritual New World. Among the excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation, “The Mayflower Compact” (Book II, Chapter XI) deserves close analysis. Bradford writes that the document was “occasioned partly by the discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers [non-Puritans aboard the Mayflower] amongst them had let fall from them in the ship. ” Putting their first agreement into written form was an act of major significance for the Puritans–who believed in the Bible’s literal truth and authority.Written words, from the beginning of American culture, carry the associative power of God’s word.

The writing of “The Mayflower Compact”

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has significance for the Puritans’ need for divine authority. From the point of landing in the New World, the Puritans were already setting into motion the necessity of inventing for themselves solutions to material concerns that the Bible does not address. In “The Mayflower Compact,” we see them trying to create other documents that would, like the Bible of their covenant theology, possess the power to compel respect and obedience.In later chapters of Book II, Bradford’s hopeful vision breaks down.

In his “endeavor to give some answer hereunto,” he ends by raising an unanswerable and prophetic question: “And thus, by one means or other, in 20 years’ time it is a question whether the greater part be not grown the worser? ” Do the selections from Book II in particular suggest a less-than-optimistic view of our colonial origins? Social problems existed from the beginning–corruption, dissent, falling away from the “ancient mother,” abandonment, lack of fidelity. From Marjorie Pryse

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