Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 Book 2, Chapters 13-15 Analysis
Regardless of the Pilgrims’ issues with their financial partners and agents, Bradford’s attitude towards Plymouth’s economy has been mainly positive up until this point; if absolutely nothing else, he suggests that their successes are an indication of their perseverance and industriousness. In Chapter 13, however, his tone becomes wistful as he remarks that the prosperity numerous inhabitants have actually enjoyed in Plymouth has actually deteriorated the colony’s overall sense of common identity and purpose; not just have lots of settlers dispersed in search of pasturage, but the original churchgoers has divided into different churches.
In other words, in spite of the strong ties elsewhere in the account between industrialism and Calvinist Christianity, Bradford here reveals some ambivalence about the results of that relationship. Although Bradford himself does not state so explicitly, his analysis of how and why a lot of settlers have actually moved away suggests that the individualism of Plymouth’s capitalist economy exists in stress with its spiritual focus on neighborhood. The deaths of several of the earliest settlers in the 1633 epidemic is another indication that Plymouth is changing and moving far from its origins, yet unavoidably so, in this case.
Combined with the growing presence of other settlers in New England, Bradford’s issue for the survival of the region’s “churches of God” (161) is easy to understand. Although a few of the surrounding neighborhoods, such as Salem, share convictions similar to the Pilgrims’, the events surrounding Roger Williams’ departure show that the Pilgrims have a narrow meaning of what constitutes true Christianity. As a result, their community is continuously under “threat” (110) from forces they consider as corrupt.
On a more practical level, the Pilgrims are now likewise finding themselves progressively in dispute with other inhabitants over trading rights– most significantly, the Dutch and the settlers at Piscataqua. This might be one factor Plymouth was initially available to the concept of entering into a joint trading operation with the Massachusetts Bay Nest; as the area becomes significantly more inhabited, the Pilgrims need to seek external alliances out in order to make it through and stay competitive.