Great Puritan Exodus To New England, Founding Of Boston
Author: Palfrey, John G.

Great Puritan Exodus To New England, Founding Of Boston


Whatever might have been the historic development of New England had it
proceeded from the single plantation of Plymouth, it is certain that the
growth and character of the new community were vitally affected by the large
influx of English Puritans who ten years later followed the Pilgrims to these

[See Early Religious Service Of Puritans: To these English colonists in
America, who settled in New England, religious worship was important. When
they left England and escaped the persecutions to which they were subjected,
it was with a peculier sense of gratification that they found themselves able
to worship God in the manner approved of by conscience. The above picture
shows an early religious service of the Pilgrim Fathers in their new home.]

Soon after the departure of the Pilgrims from England, in 1620, King
James I incorporated a successor to that Plymouth Company under whose patent
Plymouth colony was founded. This new company is known as the Council for New
England. The territory granted to the council extended from 40 degrees to 48
degrees north latitude, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The land was
conferred in absolute property, with unlimited powers of legislation and
government. Emigrants to New England were placed wholly under the authority
of this corporation. The great privileges conferred upon the monopoly caused
indignation among James' subjects, but nevertheless the council made numerous
grants to settlers in New England.

Meanwhile, dissatisfaction in England increased; in 1625 James was
succeeded by his son, Charles I; at Plymouth the Pilgrim colony was struggling
for existence; at home the Puritans chafed under the growing despotism of
Charles. Out of this unrest came the movement leading to the larger
emigration to New England which Palfrey, the New England historian, describes.

The emigration of the Englishmen who settled at Plymouth had been
prompted by religious dissent. In what manner Robinson, who was capable of
speculating on political tendencies, or Brewster, whose early position had
compelled him to observe them, had augured concerning the prospect of public
affairs in their native country, no record tells; while the rustics of the
Scrooby congregation, who fled from a government which denied them liberty in
their devotions, could have had but little knowledge and no agency in the
political sphere. The case was widely different with the founders of the
Colony of Massachusetts Bay. That settlement had its rise in a state of
things in England which associated religion and politics in an intimate

Years had passed since the severity of the government had overcome the
Separatists, forcing them either to disband their congregations or flee from
the kingdom. From the time when Bishop Williams was made keeper of the great
seal, four years before the death of King James, the high-commission court
again became active, and the condition of Puritans in the Church was day by
day more uneasy. While some among them looked for relief to a happy issue of
the struggle which had been going on in Parliament, and resigned themselves to
await and aid the slow progress of a political and religious reformation in
the kingdom, numbers, less confident or less patient, pondered on exile as
their best resource, and turned their view to a new home on the Western
continent. There was yet a third class, who, through feeble resolution or a
lingering hope of better things, deferred the sacrifices which they scarcely
flattered themselves they should ultimately escape, and, if they were
clergymen, retained their preferments by a reluctant obedience to the canons.
The coquetry of Buckingham with the Puritans, inspiring false hopes, was not
without effect to excuse indecision and hinder a combined and energetic

Among the eminent persons who had reconciled themselves to the course of
compromise and postponement was Mr. John White, an important name, which at
this point takes its place in New England history. White, who since the
second year of King James' reign had been rector of Trinity Church in
Dorchester, was a man widely known and greatly esteemed, alike for his
professional character and his public spirit. The subject of New England
colonization, much canvassed everywhere among the Puritans, who were numerous
in the part of the kingdom where he lived, was commended to his notice in a
special form. Dorchester, near the British Channel, the principal town of the
shire, furnished numbers of those who now made voyages to New England for
fishing and trade; and they were often several months upon the coast without
opportunity for religious worship and instruction. Mr. White interested
himself with the ship-owners to establish a settlement where the mariners
might have a home when not at sea, where supplies might be provided for them
by farming and hunting, and where they might be brought under religious
influences. The result of the conferences was the formation of an
unincorporated joint-stock association, under the name of the "Dorchester
Adventures," which collected a capital of three thousand pounds.

The Dorchester company turned its attention to the spot on Cape Ann where
now stands the town of Gloucester. The Council for New England, perpetually
embarrased by the oppugnation of the Virginia Company and the reasonable
jealousy of Parliament, had recourse to a variety of expedients to realize the
benefits vainly expected by its projectors. In carrying out one scheme, that
of a division of the common property among the associates, the country about
Cape Ann was assigned to Lord Sheffield, better known as a patriot leader
under his later title of Earl of Mulgrave. Of him it was purchased for the
people of New Plymouth by Edward Winslow, when in England on the business of
that colony; and they in turn conveyed to White and his associates such as
site as was wanted for their purposes of fishing and planting.

The Dorchester company had probably anticipated this arrangement by
despatching a party of fourteen persons to pass the winter. They carried out
live stock, and erected a house, with stages to dry fish and vats for the
manufacture of salt. Thomas Gardner was overseer of the plantation, and John
Tilley had the fishery in charge. Everything went wrong. Mishaps befell the
vessels. The price of fish went down. The colonists, "being ill chosen and
ill commanded, fell into many disorders and did the company little service."
An attempt was made to retrieve affairs by putting the colony under a
different direction. The Dorchester partners heard of "some religious and
well-affected persons that were lately removed out of New Plymouth, out of
dislike of their principles of rigid separation; of which number Mr. Roger
Conant was one, a religious, sober, and prudent gentleman."

He was then at Nantasket, with Lyford and Oldham. The partners engaged
Conant "to be their governor" at Cape Ann, with "the charge of all their
affairs, as well as fishing and planting." With Lyford they agreed that he
should "be the minister of the place," while Oldham, "invited to trade for
them with the Indians," preferred to remain where he was and conduct such
business on his own account. The change was not followed by the profits that
had been hoped, and the next year" the adventurers were so far discouraged
that they abandoned the further prosecution of this design, and took order for
the dissolving of the company on land, and sold away their shipping and other
provisions." Another seemed added to the list of frustrated adventurers in New

But Mr. White did not despair of its renewal. All along, it is likely,
he had regarded it with an interest different from what had yet been avowed.
At his instance, when "most part of the land-men returned," "a few of the most
honest and industrious resolved to stay behind, and to take charge of the
cattle sent over the year before. And not liking their seat at Cape Ann,
chosen especially for the supposed commodity of fishing, they transported
themselves to Nahumkeike, about four or five leagues distant to the southwest
from Cape Ann."

White wrote to Conant, exhorting him "not to desert the business,
faithfully promising that if himself with three others, whom he knew to be
honest and prudent men, viz., John Woodbury, John Balch, and Peter Palfrey,
employed by the adventurers, would stay at Naumkeag, and give timely notice
thereof, he would provide a patent for them, and likewise send them whatever
they should write for, either men, or provision, or goods wherewith to trade
with the Indians." With difficulty Conant prevailed upon his companions to
persevere. They "stayed to the hazard of their lives." Woodbury was sent to
England for supplies.

"The business came to agitation afresh in London, and being at first
approved by some and disliked by others, by argument and disputation it grew
to be more vulgar; insomuch that some men, showing good affection to the work,
and offering the help of their purses if fit men might be procured to go over,
inquiry was made whether any would be willing to engage their persons in the
voyage. By this inquiry it fell out that among others they lighted at last on
Master Endicott, a man well known to divers persons of good note, who
manifested much willingness to accept of the offer as soon as it was tendered,
which gave great encouragement to such as were upon the point of resolution to
set on this work of erecting a new colony upon the old foundation."

The scheme on foot was no longer one of Dorchester fishermen looking for
a profitable exercise of their trade. It had "come to agitation in London,"
where some men had offered "the help of their purses," and a man of
consequence, Humphrey, probably from a county as distant as Lincoln, was
already, or very soon after, treasurer of the fund. Matters were ripe for the
step of securing a domain for a colony, and the dimensions of the domain show
that the colony was not intended to be a small one. A grant of lands
extending from the Atlantic to the Western Ocean, and in width from a line of
latitude three miles north of the River Merrimac to a line three miles south
of the Charles, was obtained from the Council for New England by "Sir Henry
Roswell and Sir John Young, knights, and Thomas Southcote, John Humphrey, John
Endicott, and Simon Whitcomb, gentlemen," for themselves, "their heirs, and
associates." Roswell and Young were gentlemen of Devon, Southcote was probably
of the same country, and Whitcomb is believed to have been a London merchant.

Gorges, though not in the counsels of the patentees, supposed himself to
understand their object. Having mentioned the angry dissolution by King
Charles of his second Parliament, and his imprisonment of some of the patriot
leaders, he proceeds to say that these transactions "took all hope of
reformation of church government from many not affecting episcopal
jurisdiction, nor the usual practice of the Common Prayers of the Church;
whereof there were several sorts, though not agreeing among themselves, yet
all of like dislike of those particulars. Some of the discreeter sort, to
avoid what they found themselves subject unto, made use of their friends to
procure from Council for the affairs of New England to settle a colony within
their limits; to which it pleased the thrice-honored Lord of Warwick to write
to me, then at Plymouth, to condescend that a patent might be granted to such
as then sued for it. Whereupon I gave my approbation, so far forth as it
might not be prejudicial to my son Robert Gorges' interests, whereof he had a
patent under the seal of the Council. Hereupon there was a grant passed as
was thought reasonable."

After three months Endicott, one of the six patentees, was despatched, in
charge of a small party, to supersede Conant at Naumkeag as local manager.
Woodbury had preceded them. They arrived at the close of summer. The persons
quartered on the spot, the remains of Conant's company, were disposed to
question the claims of the new-comers. But the dispute was amicably composed,
and, in commemoration of its adjustment, the place took the name of Salem, the
Hebrew name for peaceful. The colony, made up from the two sources, consisted
of "not much above fifty or sixty persons," none of them of special importance
except Endicott, who was destined to act for nearly forty years a conspicuous
part in New England history.

Before the winter, an exploring party either began or made preparations
for a settlement at Mishawum, now Charlestown. With another party, Endicott,
during Morton's absence in England, visited his diminished company at
Merry-Mount, or, as Endicott called it, Mount Dagon, "caused their Maypole to
be cut down, and rebuked them for their profaneness, and admonished them to
look there should be better walking." The winter proved sickly; an "infection
that grew among the passengers at sea, spread also among them ashore, of which
many died, some of the scurvy, others of an infectious fever." Endicott sent
to Plymouth for medical assistance, and Fuller, the physician of that place,
made a visit to Salem.

The New Dorchester Company, like that which had preceded it, and like the
company of London Adventurers concerned in that settlement at Plymouth, was
but a voluntary partnership, with no corporate powers. The extensive
acquaintance of Mr. White with persons disaffected to the rulers in church and
state was probably the immediate occasion of advancing the business another
step. Materials for a powerful combination existed in different parts of the
kingdom, and they were now brought together for united action. The company,
having been "much enlarged," a royal charter was solicited and obtained,
creating a corporation under the name of the "Governor and Company of the
Massachusetts Bay in New England."

This is the instrument under which the colony of Massachusetts continued
to conduct its affairs for fifty-five years. The patentees named in it were
Roswell and his five associates, with twenty other persons, of whom White was
not one. It gave power forever to the freemen of the company to elect
annually, from their own number, a governor, deputy-governor, and eighteen