The Belly of the Whale: The New English Canaan, Part IV
Morton tells the Puritans “that they would [in due time] repent those malicious practices, and so would he too; for he was a Separatist amongst the Separatists.”
Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History
In the last item of the present series, moderate royalist and Anglican Thomas Morton loosed arrow after arrow in the Puritans’ general direction, chastising them before the English public for their reckless destruction of his settlement. Morton’s attack was made all the more significant given the shift in context from his days in Merrymount to the publication of New English Canaan. Morton left New England in the late 1620s and published his memoir a decade later. By the time he did so, Puritan Massachusetts Bay battled for its very survival. Detailing “the Practice of their Church,” Morton primarily focuses his criticism on the outward orientation of “Separatism.” He begins by noting that virtually anyone can become a Puritan preacher, so long as he publicly professes a faith experience demonstrating Elect status before his peers. Once deemed Elect, “These are all public preachers,” who enjoy the monopoly privileges of office‐holding and voting. Yet the trappings and emoluments of both spiritual and temporal office failed to cleanse the Puritan’s moral slate. After all, “what is bred in the bone will not out of the flesh, nor the stepping into the pulpit can make the person fit for the employment.” Morton admits that though he has not known many Puritan preachers personally, “If a man observe these people in the exercise of their gifts, he may thereby discern the tincture of their proper calling, the asses’ ears will peep through the lion’s hide.” Most of all, the Puritan proudly puffed himself full of self‐love and bluster, convinced of his own divine agency in the New World frontier zone, surrounded by Satan and his demons. Morton concludes of it all: “I am sorry they cannot discern their own infirmities.” The current selection finishes Morton’s critique of the Puritans and their pretensions to moral superiority, with special reference to his capture by Miles Standish, who then marooned Morton in the Isles of Shoals off the Maine coast. Bitter, fuming with anger, and stranded by religious zealots, Morton longed for the day when New English pride finally aroused sufficient divine vengeance. Little did he know that new New Canaanites like Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and hundreds like them in England were busily, diligently turning the world upside down.
Anne Hutchinson, the brilliant wife of a well‐to‐do English merchant, arrived with her family in Boston in 1634. The colony was never quite the same. Anne and her cohort of new Puritan immigrants to America’s New Israel carried with them a dangerous combination of hyper‐individualistic theology and revolutionary political philosophy. The Hutchinsonians suggested that the “Puritans”–so called because they wanted to ‘purify’ the Anglican church of its remaining Catholic elements–were far from pure. In fact, Hutchinson argued at her (gasp!) mixed‐sex Bible studies groups that the Puritan church followed Catholics in preaching a Covenant of Works. While Catholics believe that God’s covenant with man required the performance of specified ‘good works,’ including the sacraments, Hutchinson’s “antinomians” carried the Protestant “Covenant of Grace” to its logical extreme. Rather than performing a series of worldly actions commanded by the worldly powers of church and state, Hutchinson believed that faith alone admitted individuals to God’s family. Antinomians threatened the Massachusetts Bay Elect because they questioned the legitimacy of all worldly authorities and the commands. To make matters worse for the Elect, their colony was then in the middle of the Pequot War (ca. 1634–1638) and the prospect of soldiers disobeying temporal authorities, laying down arms, and perhaps even joining the Indians spelled New Israel’s utter destruction. If Hutchinson were not stopped in her tracks, the Merrymount hydra would surely recover, gathering Satan’s forces once again beneath a heathen Maypole.
Thomas Morton, Amsterdam: Jacob Frederick Stam. 1637. This version has been modified from the original.
New English Canaan or New Canaan. Containing an Abstract of New England.
Chap. XXVIII. Of their Policy in public Justice.
Now that I have anatomized the two extreme parts of this Politique Commonwealth, the head and the inferior members, I will show you the heart, and read a short lecture over that too; which is Justice.
I have a petition to exhibit to the high and mighty Mr. Temperwell; and I have my choice whether I shall make my plaint in a case of conscience, or bring it with in the Compass of a point in law. And because I will go the surest way to work, at first, I will see how others are answered in the like kind, whether it be with hab or nab, as the Judge did the Countryman.
Here comes Mr. Hopewell: his petition is in a case of conscience, (as he says.) But, see, great Joshua allows conscience to be of his aide: yet cuts him off with this answer; Law is flat against him. We let me see another. I marry: Here comes one Master Doubtnot: his matter depends, (I am sure,) upon a point in Law: alas, what will it not do, look ye it is affirmed that Law in on his side: but Conscience, like a blanket, over spread it. This passage is like to the Procustes of Rome, me thinks; and therefore I may very well say of them,
Even so, by racking out the joints & chopping off the head, Procustes fitted all his guests unto his Iron bed.
And, if these speed no better, with whom they are friends, that neither find Law nor Conscience to help them, I do not wonder to see mine Host of Ma‐re‐Mount speed so ill, that has been proclaimed an enemy so many years in New Canaan to their Church and State.
Chap. XXIX. How Mine Host was put into a whale’s belly.
The Separatists, (after they had burned Ma‐re‐Mount they could not get any ship to undertake the carriage of mine Host from thence, either by fair means or foul,) they were inforced, (contrary to their expectation,) to be troubled with his company: and by that means had time to consider more of the man, then they had done of the matter: wherein at length it was discovered that they, (by means of their credulity of the intelligence given them in England of the matter, and the false Character of the man,) had run themselves headlong into an error, and had done that on a sodaine which they repented at leisure, but could not tell which way to help it as it stood now. They could debate upon it and especially upon two difficult points, whereof one must be concluded upon: if they suffer him to stay, and put him in status quo prius [the status quo before], all the vulgar people will conclude they have been too rash in burning a house that was useful, and count them men unadvised.
So that it seems, (by their discourse about the matter,) they stood betwixt Hawk and Bussard: and could not tell which hand to incline unto. They had founded him secretly: he was content with it, go which way it would. Nay Shackles himself, (who was employed in the burning of the house, and therefore feared to be caught in England,) and others were so forward in putting mine Host in status quo prius, after they had found their error, (which was so apparent that Luceus eies would have served to have found it out is less time,) that they would contribute 40 shillings a piece towards it; and affirmed, that every man according to his ability that had a hand in this black design should be taxed to a Contribution in like nature: it would be done exactly.
Now, (whiles this was in agitation, and was well urged by some of those parties to have been the upshot,) unexpected, (in the depth of winter, when all ships were gone out of the land,) in comes Mr. Wethercock, a proper Mariner; and, they said, he could observe the wind: blow it high, blow it low, he was resolved to lie at Hull rather than encounter such a storm as mine Host had met with: and this was a man for their turne.
He would do any office for the brethren, if they (who he knew had a strong purse, and his conscience waited on the strings of it, if all the zeal he had) would bear him out in it: which they professed they would. He undertakes to rid them of mine Host by one means or another. They gave him the best means they could, according to the present condition of the work, and letters of credence to the favors of that Sect in England; with which, (his business there being done, and his ship cleared,) he hoist the Sails and put to Sea: since which time mine Host has not troubled the brethren, but only at the Counsel table: where now Sub iudice lis est [“the case is before the judge”].
Chap. XXX. Of Sir Christopher Gardiner Knight, and how he sped amongst the Separatists.
Sir Christopher Gardiner, (a Knight, that had been a traveler both by Sea and Land; a good judicious gentleman in the Mathematick and other Sciences useful for Plantations, Chemistry, &c. and also being a practical Engineer,) came into those parts, intending discovery.
But the Separatists love not those good parts, when they proceed from a carnal man, (as they call every good Protestant); in short time [they] had found the means to pick a quarrel with him. The means is that they pursue to obtain what they aim at: the word is there, the means.
So that, when they find any man like to prove an enemy to their Church and state, then straight the means must be used for defense. The first precept in their Politics is to defame the man at whom they aim, and then he is a holy Israelite in their opinions who can spread that fame broadest, like butter upon a loaf: not matter how thin, it will serve for a veil: and then this man, (who they have thus depraved,) is a spotted unclean leaper: he must out, lest he pollute the Land, and them that are clean.
If this be one of their gifts, then Machiavelli had as good gifts as they. Let them raise a scandal on any, though never so innocent, yet they know it is never wiped clean out: the stained marks remains; which hath been well observed by one in these words of his,
Stick Candles gainst a Virgin walls white back; If they’l not burn yet, at the least, they’l black.
And thus they dealth with Sir Christopher: and plotted by all the ways and means they could, to overthrow his undertakings in those parts.
And therefore I cannot choose but conclude that these Separatists have special gifts: for they are given to envy and malice extremely.
The knowledge of their defamation could not please the gentleman well, when it came to his ear; which would cause him to make some reply, as they supposed, to take exceptions at, as they did against Fair cloth: and this would be a means, they thought, to blow the coal, and so to kindle a brand that might fire him out of the Country too, and send him after mine Host of Ma‐re‐Mount.
They take occasion, (some of them,) to come to his house when he was gone up into the Country, and (finding he was from home,) so went to work that they left him neither house nor habitation nor fervent, nor any thing to help him, if he should return: but of that they had no hope, (as they gave it out,) for he was gone, (as they affirmed,) to lead a Savage life, and for that cause took no company with him: and they having considered of the matter, thought it not fit that any such man should live in so remote a place, within the Compass of their patent. So they fired the place, and carried away the persons and goods.
Sir Christopher was gone with a guide, (a Savage,) into the inland parts for discovery: but, before he was returned, he met with a Savage that told the guide, Sir Christopher would be killed: Master Temperwell, (who had now found out matter against him,) would have him dead or alive. This he related; and would have the gentleman not to go to the place appointed, because of the danger that was supposed.
But Sir Christopher was nothing dismayed; he would on, whatsoever came of it; and so met with the Savages: and between them was a terrible skirmish: But they had the worst of it, and he escaped well enough.
The guide was glad of it, and learned of his fellows that they were promised a great reward for what they should do in this employment.
Which thing, (when Sir Christopher understood,) he gave thanks to God; and after, (upon this occasion to solace himself,) in his table book he composed this sonnet, which I have here inserted for a memorial.
Wolves in Sheep’s clothing, why will ye Think to deceive God that doth see Your simulated sanctity? For my part, I do wish you could Your own infirmities behold, For then you would not be so bold. Like Sophists, why will you dispute With wisdom so? You do confute None but yourselves. For shame, be mute, Least great Jehovah, with his power, Do come upon you in a hour When you least think, and you devour.
This Sonnet the Gentleman composed as a testimony of his love towards them, that were so ill‐affected towards him; from whom they might have received much good, if they had been so wise to have embraced him in a loving fashion.
But they despise the help that shall come from a carnal man, (as they termed him,) who, after his return from those designs, finding how they had used him with such disrespect, took shipping, and disposed to himself for England; and discovered their practices in those parts towards his Majesty’s true hearted Subjects, which they made wary of their abode in those parts.
Chap. XXXI. Of mine Host of Ma‐re‐Mount how he played Jonah after he had been in the Whale’s belly for a time.
Mine Host of Ma‐re‐Mount, being put to Sea, had delivered him, for his release by the way, (because the ship was unvittled, and the Seamen put to straight allowance, which could hold out but to the Canaries,) a part of his own provision, being two months proportion; in all but 3 small pieces of pork, which made him expect to be famished before the voyage should be ended, by all likelihood. Yet he thought he would make one good meal, before he died: like the Colony servant in Virginia, that, before he should go to the gallows, called to his wife to set on the loblolly pot, and let him have one good meal before he went; who had committed a petty crime, that in those days was made a capital offense.
And now, mine Host being merrily disposed, on went the pieces of pork, wherewith he feasted his body, and cherished the poor Sailors; and got out of them what Mr. Wethercock, their Master, purposed to do with him that he had no more provision: and along they failed from place to place, from Island to Island, in a pitiful weather‐beaten ship, where mine Host was in more danger, (without all question,) than Jonah, when he was in the Whale’s belly; and it was the great mercy of God that they had not all perished. Vittled they were but for a month, when they wayed Anchor and left the first port.
They were a prey for the enemy for want of power, if they had met them: besides the vessel was a very slug, and so unserviceable that the Master called a council of all the company in general, to have their opinions which way to go and how to bear the helm, who all under their hand affirmed the ship to be unserviceable: so that, in fine, the Master and men and all were at their wits end about it: yet they employed the Carpenters to search and caulk her sides, and do their best whiles they were in her. Nine months they made a shift to use her, and shifted for supply of vittles at all the Islands they touched at: though it were so poorly, that all those helps, and the short allowance of a biscuit a day, and a few Lemons taken in at the Canaries, served but to bring the vessel in view of the lands end.
They were in such a desperate case, that, (if God in his great mercy had not favoured them, and disposed the winds fair until the vessel was in Plymouth road,) they had without question perished; for when they let drop an Anchor, near the Island of S. Michaels, not one bit of food left, for all that starving allowance of this wretched Weathercock, that, if he would have launched out his beaver, might have bought more vittles in New England than he, and the whole ship with the Cargazoun, was worth, (as the passengers he carried who vittled themselves affirmed). But he played the miserable wretch, and had possessed his men with the contrary; who repented them of waying anchor before they knew so much.
Mine Host of Ma‐re‐Mount, (after he had been in the Whale’s belly,) was set ashore, to see if he would now play Jonah, so metamorphosed with a long voyage that he looked like Lazarus in the painted cloth.
But mine Host, (after due consideration of the premises,) thought it fitter for him to play Jonah in this kind, then for the Separatists to play Jonah in that kind as they do. He therefore bid Weathercock tell the Separatists, that they would be made in due time to repent those malicious practices, and so would he too; for he was a Separatist amongst the Separatists, as far as his wit would give him leave; though when he came in Company of basket makers, he would do his endeavor to make them pin the basket, if he could, as I have seen him. And now mine Host, being merrily disposed, having past many perilous adventures in that desperate Whale’s belly, began in a posture like Jonah, and cried, “Repent you cruel Separatists, repent; there are as yet but 40 days, if Jove vouchsafe to thunder, Charter and the Kingdom of the Separatists will fall asunder: Repent you cruel Schismatics, repent.” And in that posture he greeted them by letters returned into New Canaan; and ever, (as opportunity was fitted for the purpose,) he was both heard and seen in the posture of Jonah against them, crying, “repent you cruel Separatists, repent; there are as yet but 40 days; if Jove vouchsafe to thunder, the Charter and the Kingdom of the Separatists will fall asunder: Repent, you cruel Schismatics, repent. If you will hear any more of this proclamation meet him at the next markettown, for Cynthius aurem vellet. [A quote from Vergil’s sixth Eclogue: literally “Apollo twitched my ear,” translated by John Dryden as “Apollo checked my pride.”]