The MayPole At Merry Mount Essay Research

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The May-Pole At Merry Mount Essay, Research Paper THE MAY-POLE AT MERRY MOUNTA MOST confusing thing in American History, as read it, is the nearly universal lack of scale. This parochialism is helped by such balanced statement as A. C. Adams’ preface to Thomas Morton’s The New English Dictionary in which the incident of the May-pole at Merry Mount is related. Adams has compared that “vulgar royalist libertine,” Morton, and the Puritans of the Plymouth Colony too closely. He has seen the time too near. He has accepted the mere chance presence of Morton in the neighborhood of Plymouth as the outstanding fact, letting his mind dwell upon that, trying one party against the other, as they quarreled in the flesh till both are worn, in our eyes, to some unrecognizable,

indifferent proportion. The description, “a vulgar royalist libertine, thrown by accident into the midst of a Puritan Community, an extremely reckless but highly amusing debauchee and tippler,” is not adequate to describe a man living under the circumstances that surrounded Morton; its tone might do for a London clubman but not a New World pioneer taking his chances in the wilderness. It lacks scale. Adams’ pretty scholar humor can be very annoying. “Had Morton lived in Virginia or even in the vicinity of New York,” he says, “he would not have been noticed.” What of it? He did notlive in either Virginia or New York and he was noticed; so he was brought to write the Canaan, so he has come down to us and so we recognize him. Instead of quarreling with his luck, Adams

should have given us a better picture. Not that one expects or should expect, in the preface to a book of slight importance, more than a simple exposition of the facts relating to it. But Thomas Morton was unique in our history and since Adams does attempt an evaluation of his book it is a pity he did not realize that, in history, to preserve thing of “little importance” may be more valuable as it is more difficult and more the business of a writer than to champion a winner. It is not so much good history to present Morton with sly amusement in mortal and unmannerly combat with his betters, as it would be to relieve him from that imposition of his time and seriously to show up that lightness, his essential character, which discloses the Puritans themselves as maimed, to their

advantage, for survival, the converse of which in a crooked way, perhaps, but in a way Morton presented. No use, merely because he lived that way, to join Morton with the Puritans; comment upon him and his book should be laid mainly elsewhere, upon the more general scene of the New World, in his relationship with its natives to which the Puritans so violently objected. And they were dead right in that, Adams convinces us. Such a place as Morton kept at “Ma-re Mount,” the yearly rendezvous of a rough and law- less class of men, selling liquor and firearms to the savages “was a terror unto them, who lived stragglingly, and were of no strength in any place;” and it was unfair of Morton seeing how the Indians valued guns and liquor to use them for barter when the other

settlers were not permitted to do so. This was the practical side of the desire to rid the colony of this man. But since the whites were armed guns and had liquor, was it in the eyes of history wrong for Morton to use them for his trade? Another side of Puritan disgust with this brazen fellow was the moral one of his consorting with the Indian girls. It was upon this count, not the first, that they chose finally to attack him. Lasses in beaver coats come away Ye shall be welcome to us night and day.Some of the earlier writers on the New England Indians have spoken of the modesty of the women; Wood, in his Prospect, for instance, and Josselyn, in the second of his “Two Voyages.” “Morton however is significantly silent on this point, and the idea of female chastity in the