Thomas Morton

1580 –

Morton was born sometime between 1580 and 1595 into a gentry family in Devonshire and educated to be a gentleman at Clifford’s Inn in the Inns of Court. Lacking the cash and connection to pursue a genteel life, he said to American in 1624 to assist in the establishment of a reading colony at Mount Wollaston, within the limits of present day Quincy, Massachusetts. After the departure of the settlement’s leader, Morton usurped control, canceled laborers’ indentures and traded guns with Native Americans to secure the colony’s economic success; with the aid of newly armed Indian hunters, he established control over the regional market for game. In 1627, having renamed the colony Mare Mount, Morton erected a maypole and invited the resident of the surrounding countryside to participate in spring revels, becoming an emblem of carnality, wickedness, and paganism in the eyes of New England’s orthodox.

In 1628 officials from Plymouth Plantation arrested Morton, marooned him on the Isle of Shoals, finally permitting him to leave for England. In 1629 he returned to Massachusetts, and in 1630 he was arrested again, hi belongings seized and his house burned, and he was shipped to England. There he began legal proceeding against Massachusetts Bay, made petitions to various court, and expanded these into New English Canaan, an account of his life in American. (Completed in 1633, the book was too controversial for English publishers and was printed instead in Amsterdam, in 1637; Parliament, believing it to be a foreign-printed outlaw tract, confiscated most copies.) Morton returned to American in 1643, living in Maine and Rhode Island; traveling into Massachusetts, he was once again arrested, spent a year in a Boston jail, and died soon afterward.