William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (1620-1647).


[
The following is a repeated document from earlier in the semester -- the section of Bradford's History that discusses the sexual "vices" that were occuring among the Plymouth colonists.]

 

["some kind of wickedness did grow" - 1642]
Marvelous it may be to see and consider how some kind of wickedness did grow and breake forth here, in a land where the same was so much witnessed against, and so narrowly looked unto, and severely punished when it was knowne; as in no place more, or so much, that I have known or heard of; insomuch as they have been somewhat censured, even by moderate and good men, for their severity in punishments. And yet all this could not suppress the breaking out of sundry notorious sins, (as this year, besides other, gives us too many sad precedents and instances,) especially drunkenness and uncleaness; not only incontinencie between persons unmarried, for which many both men and women have been punished sharply enough, but some married persons also. But that which is worse, even sodomy and buggery, (things fearful to name) have broke forth in this land, oftener than once. I say it may justly be marveled at, and cause us to fear and tremble at the consideration of our corrupte natures, which are so hardly bridled, subdued, and mortified; nay, cannot by any other means but the powerful worke and grace of Gods spirit. But (besides this) one reason may be, that the Devil may carry a greater spite against the churches of Christ and the gospell here, by how much the more they indea[v]our to preserve holiness and purity amongst them, and strictly punisheth the contrary when it ariseth either in church or commonwealth; that he might cast a blemish and staine upon them in the eyes of [the] world, who use to be rash in judgment. I would rather thinke thus, than that Satan hath more power in these heathen lands, as some have thought, than in more Christian nations, especially over Gods servants in them.

2. An other reason may be, that it may be in this case as it is with waters when their streams are stopped or dammed up, when they get passage they flow with more violence, and make more noise and disturbance, then when they are suffered to run quietly in their owne chanels. So wickedness being here more stopped by strict laws, and the same more nearly looked unto, so as it cannot run in a common road of liberty as it would, and is inclined, it searches every where, and at last breaks out where it gets vent.

3. A third reason may be, here (as I am verily persuaded) is not more evils in this kind, nor nothing near so many by proportion, as in other places; but they are here more discovered and seen, and made publick by due search, inquisition, and due punishment; for the churches looke narrowly to their members, and the magistrates over all, more strictly than in other places. Besides, here the People are but few in comparison of other places, which are full and populous, and lie hid, as it were, in a wood or thicket, and many horrible evils by that means are never seen nor known; whereas here, they are, as it were, brought into the light, and set in the plaine field, or rather on a hill, made conspicuous to the view of all.


Source: William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, 2 vols. (Boston, 1912), 1: 308-10. *Some spelling has been modernized.

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