Examination of Puritan Philosophy in Bradford's "On Plymouth Plantatio

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Examination of Puritan Philosophy in Bradford's "On Plymouth Plantation"

The Puritan people first came to the New World to escape the religious persecution that hounded Non-Anglicans in England. They established the Plymouth Colony in 1620, in what is now Massachusetts. The colony was a reflection of the Puritans' beliefs. These beliefs, along with the experience of establishing a colony in "the middle of nowhere", affected the writings of all who were involved with the colony. In this writing, the Puritan philosophy behind William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation" will be revealed. Some factors that will be considered include: how Puritan beliefs affect William Bradford's interpretation of events, the representation of Puritan theology in the above mentioned text, and how Puritanism forms the basis for Bradford's motivation in writing.

In Bradford's text, there are numerous instances in which his beliefs affect his interpretation of what happens. In Chapter IX (nine) of "Of Plymouth Plantation", entitled "Of Their Voyage…" , he tells of a sailor "..of a lusty, able body.." who "would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily….he didn't let to tell them that he hoped to help cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end". But, "it pleased God before they came half-seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard". Bradford believes that the sailor died because God was punishing him. According to Bradford, the sailor's cursing, and mistreatment of the other passengers displeased God, so God punished him accordingly.

In the same chapter, Bradford tells of another ship passenger named John Howland. At one point in the trip, the Mayflower came upon a violent storm. The winds of the storm were so fierce, and the seas were so high, that all the sailors and passengers had to "hull for divers days together". During this storm, a young man named John Howland was thrown into the sea, and as Bradford tells us, "it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length". Howland caught hold of a rope, and "though he was sundry fathoms under water", he held on until he was hauled up. Bradford reasons that the man was saved because he was blessed by God. He goes on to say that he "became a profitable member in both church and state, implying that John Howland was one of the so called "Puritan Saints". To the Puritans, Saints were people whom God was to save, so these people received God's blessings, and therefore were profitable in Puritan society.

In Chapter X (ten) of Bradford's writing, entitled "Showing How They Sought Out a Place…", Bradford tells us about an Indian attack on his people. Some explorers went out to explore the area around Cape Cod. As they are resting, the Indians attack. "And withal, their arrows came flying amongst them." He continues "Their men ran with all their speed to recover their arms, as by the good province of God they did." Bradford belief that the Puritans are God's "chosen" shows in his writing, and affects his narration of the story. After telling us of the attack, he adds, "Thus it pleased God to vanquish their enemies, and give them deliverance; and by his special providence so to dispose that not any one of them were either hurt or hit, though their arrows came close by them, and on every side [of] them; and sundry of their coats, which hung up in the barricado, were shot through and through."

In nowhere else does Bradford's Puritan beliefs affect his interpretation of events in his writing as much as in Book II, Chapter XIX of "Of Plymouth Plantation", entitled "Thomas Morton of Merrymount". Throughout the chapter, Bradford tells of a Thomas Morton. His disdain for Morton shows throughout the entire section.

As the story of goes, there...
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