After all of the organizational preparations had been made, the wave of new settlers sailed.
Continuing The Great Puritan Migration to New England,
our selection from History of New England by John G. Palfrey published in 1890. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Great Puritan Migration to New England.
If such were the aims of the members of the Massachusetts Company, it follows that commercial operations were a merely incidental object of their association. And, in fact, it does not appear that, as a corporation, they ever held for distribution any property except their land; or that they ever intended to make sales of their land in order to a division of the profits among the individual freemen; or that a freeman, by virtue of the franchise, could obtain a parcel of land even for his own occupation; or that any money was ever paid for admission into the company, as would necessarily have been done if any pecuniary benefit was attached to membership. Several freemen of the company — among others the three who were first named in the charter as well as in the patent from the Council for New England — appear to have never so much as attended a meeting. They were men of property and public spirit, who, without intending themselves to leave their homes, gave their influence and their money to encourage such as were disposed to go out and establish religion and freedom in a new country.
The company had no stock, in the sense in which that word is used in speaking of money corporations. What money was needed to procure the charter, to conduct the business under it, and carry out the scheme of colonization was obtained neither by the sale of negotiable securities nor by assessment, but by voluntary contributions from individuals of the company, and possibly from others, in such sums as suited the contributors respectively.
These contributions made up what is called in the records the joint stock, designed to be used in providing vessels and stores for the transportation of settlers. It is true that these contributors, called Adventurers, had more or less expectation of being remunerated for their outlay; and for this purpose two hundred acres of land within the limits of the patent were pledged to them for every fifty pounds subscribed, in addition to a proportional share of the trade which the government of the company was expecting to carry on. But a share of the profits of trade, as of the land, was to be theirs, not because they were freemen, but because they were contributors, which many of the freemen were not, and perhaps others besides freemen were.
When the transfer of the charter and of the government to America had been resolved upon, it was agreed that at the end of seven years a division of the profits of a proposed trade in fish, furs, and other articles should be made among the Adventurers agreeably to these principles; and the management of the business was committed to a board consisting of five persons who expected to emigrate, and five who were to remain in England. But this part of the engagement appears to have been lost sight of; at least never to have been executed. It is likely that the commercial speculation was soon perceived to be unpromising; and the outlay had been distributed in such proportions that the loss was not burdensome in any quarter. The richer partners submitted to it silently, from public spirit; the poorer, as a less evil than that of a further expense and risk of time and money.
From the ship Arbella, lying in the port of Yarmouth, the Governor and several of his companions took leave of their native country by an address, which they entitled “The Humble Request of his Majesty’s Loyal Subjects, the Governor and the Company late gone for New England, to the Rest of their Brethren in and of the Church of England.” They asked a favorable construction of their enterprise, and good wishes and prayers for its success. With a tenacious affection which the hour of parting made more tender, they said: “We esteem it our honor to call the Church of England, from whence we rise, our dear mother, and cannot part from our native country where she specially resideth, without much sadness of heart, and many tears in our eyes. Wishing our heads and hearts may be as fountains of tears for your everlasting welfare, when we shall be in our poor cottages in the wilderness, overshadowed with the spirit of supplication, through the manifold necessities and tribulations which may not altogether unexpectedly nor, we hope, unprofitably, befall us, and so commending you to the grace of God in Christ, we shall ever rest your assured friends and brethren.” The address is said to have been drawn up by Mr. White, of Dorchester.
The incidents of the voyage are minutely related in a journal begun by the Governor on shipboard off the Isle of Wight. Preaching and catechizing, fasting and thanksgiving, were duly observed. A record of the writer’s meditations on the great design which occupied his mind while he passed into a new world and a new order of human affairs, would have been a document of the profoundest interest for posterity. But the diary contains nothing of that description. On the voyage Winthrop composed a little treatise, which he called A Model Christian Charity. It breathes the noblest spirit of philanthropy. The reader’s mind kindles as it enters into the train of thought in which the author referred to “the work we have in hand. It is,” he said, “by a mutual consent, through a special overruling Providence, and a more than an ordinary approbation of the churches of Christ, to seek out a place of cohabitation and consortship under a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical.” The forms and institutions under which liberty, civil and religious, is consolidated and assured, were floating vaguely in the musings of that hour.
The Arbella arrived at Salem after a passage of nine weeks, and was joined in a few days by three vessels which had sailed in her company. The assistants, Ludlow and Rossiter, with a party from the west country, had landed at Nantasket a fortnight before, and some of the Leyden people, on their way to Plymouth, had reached Salem a little earlier yet. Seven vessels from Southampton made their voyage three or four weeks later. Seventeen in the whole came before winter, bringing about a thousand passengers.
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