Thanksgiving, and its nod to the Mayflower colonists, is a perfect excuse to share this post from the New England Historical Society about a little-known episode in our Puritan past. The humans of Seven Trees Farm have ancestors on both sides of this incident, as do many of our readers no doubt.
There is a Rom/Gypsy proverb that says: “He who wishes to enslave you will never tell you the truth about your ancestors.” Here is some truth about our ancestors….
The Maypole That Infuriated the Puritans
Had it not been for his May Day party with a giant Maypole, Thomas Morton might have established a New England colony more tolerant, easygoing and fun than his dour Puritan neighbors created at Plymouth Plantation.
Morton was a well-educated, well-connected, free-thinking Englishman who came to America in 1624 as a senior partner in a trading venture sponsored by the Crown. He sailed aboard the Unity with Capt. Wollaston and 30 indentured servants. They settled in what is now Quincy, Mass., and began trading with the Indians for furs.
Morton wrote that he found two sorts of people in New England: the Christians and the Infidels. The Infidels he found ‘most full of humanity, and more friendly than the other.’
Morton would battle the Puritans over the next two decades using his wit, his pen, his political connections and his legal expertise. He even managed to get the royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony revoked. But his fortunes were tied to the Crown. When the Puritan Roundheads were clashing with Royalists in 1643, America’s first hippie was arrested and thrown in prison.
Thomas Morton was born in 1576 in Devonshire, England, a part of the country that still bore remnants ot Merrie Old England’s pagan past. He was the son of a soldier, probably a younger son, and he studied law in London at the Inns of Court, the barristers’ professional association.
Morton’s lawyering brought him the connections that brought him to New England. He couldn’t get along with the Puritans at Plymouth Plantation, so he, Wollaston and the indentured servants established their own colony, Mount Wollaston. It grew quickly and grew prosperous.
Morton parted ways with Wollaston in 1626 when he learned Wollaston was selling indentured servants into slavery on Virginia tobacco plantations. Morton encouraged the remaining servants to rebel against Wollaston and set up their own colony. They didn’t need much persuading. The servants organized themselves into a free community called Merrymount with Morton in command. He called himself the ‘host.’ Wollaston fled to Virginia.
Merrymount was a colonial utopia in which the settlers were considered ‘consociates’ and lived in harmony with the Algonquin Indians. The Puritans were horrified that the liberal-minded Morton and his men consorted with native women. They considered Morton an impious, drunken libertine. They also weren’t happy his easygoing colony attracted escapees from the strictness and starvation of Plymouth.
Read the rest of this fascinating tale of how religious extremism shaped our country’s path here – The Maypole That Infuriated the Puritans