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Of Plymouth Plantation: Sixteen Twenty to Sixteen Forty-SevenSummary and Reviews of Of Plymouth Plantation: Sixteen Twenty to Sixteen Forty-Seven
Of Plymouth PlantationSummary and Reviews of Of Plymouth Plantation
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William Bradford

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William Bradford (1590-1657), who sailed with the “Pilgrims” of Mayflower fame to Plymouth in 1620, was different from John Winthrop, his counterpart in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in that he did not have the advantages of wealth and status early in life.  The two were the same, however, in that they believed that the Church of England had lost its purity and had become Christian in name only.  So, they both became Puritans.  Bradford joined Richard Clyfton’s Separatist congregation after hearing Clyfton’s sermons at the young age of twelve.  Bradford was an orphan raised on a farm by an uncle, but because of his poor health, he had a lot of time for Bible study.  Therefore, when he heard these sermons, he understood what he heard and was convinced that the Church of England was on the wrong path.  He joined the Puritans in Scrooby where Clyfton preached and sailed for Holland with them when they could no longer stay in England because of persecution.

After the Puritans arrived in Plymouth a few years later, Bradford began to give spontaneous sermons during church services.  Lay people often gave this type of sermon, but Bradford’s apparently impressed many people.  When John Carver, the colony’s first governor, died, Bradford was elected to replace him.  In those days, the governor of a colony had widespread power as chief judge and jury, superintendent of agriculture and trade, and secretary of state.  Bradford, consequently, was able to shape the colony into what he thought it should be.  He held the post of governor in this way for thirty-three years.  By the time he died in 1657, the colony had elected him thirty times.

Bradford’s main literary work his Of Plymouth Plantation, an unfinished history of the Plymouth colony.  Though it ends after a description of the colony in the year 1646, the book, nevertheless, gives the reader a good background into how the Puritan colonists lived in the New World.  Bradford wrote of several instances, like the Thomas Morton-Merrymount affair, in which the divine will exerted itself in the lives of humanity.  Here, as in John Winthrop’s writing, though, some historians see conflict, in this case between Bradford’s belief that the purpose of God’s work through mankind was for the edification of future generations and the obvious evil that some of the colonists committed.  Though Bradford never lost faith, he seemed to understand it in a different way by the time of his death.  At the end of Of Plymouth Plantation, he seemed to acknowledge the free will of humanity.  He also seemed to believ that those who chose evil over good were increasing. 


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