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Primary Source Assignment Essay

The articles of literature produced first in the New World reveal a great deal of information about the colonies that were planted, and the type and quality of people that inhabited them. Primarily, they are of the same cloth, these colonies – Christian, organized (for the most part) and disciplined. William Bradford’s account of Plymouth Plantation and Governor John Winthrop’s writings of Boston yield a very contiguous vision, while Captain Smith’s relation of Jamestown shows a slight divergence in its tone. That being said, they remain unified enough to present comparisons more so than contrasts.

Christianity informs each of the articles. It is the single overarching theme that unifies the documents and its writers. Therefore, it is also what unites the populations of each settlement. This religion of theirs, brought with them from the Old World, is expressed in constant reference to the Bible itself. This shows that the writers had a very strong working knowledge of the text, as it is unthinkable that these undertakings were really done while the authors were cross referencing and researching their writing with the Bible in hardcopy.

Captain Smith made the fewest actual references by specific verse. And yet its influence is unmistakable. Consider Jamestown’s overall goal, according to him: to have order maintained and godly living upheld. The tone is vague, but certain. Plymouth, as well, operated under the theme of Christian religion. In Bradford’s words, though, are found the tying in of their existence to that of Biblical predecessors. It is clear that they identified with the Judeo-Christian believers who struggled in a world of evil.

The writing yields the understanding that the New World, with its difficulties, challenges and dangers was likened to the various wildernesses that are mentioned in the Bible for its characters to wander through and suffer in to follow God. That being said, it is again relevant to consider the purpose of this settlement: It was “…undertaken for the glory of god and advancement of the Christian faith. ” Where everyone on board understood this and believed in this, there was an easier success in accomplishing the goals, which were to be organized under God’s laws and provisions and to live in ordered peace.

Finally, Boston, too not only was operating under a Christian influence, but was perhaps most notably so. Governor Winthrop urges and exhorts in every line the absolutely imperative of following God in this endeavor. Verses from the Bible, such as the golden rule – doing unto others what you would want done to you – found in Matthew 7:12 and 2 Corinthians 8 with its encouragement to give to others more than you even think you have demonstrate just how serious this foundation of belief was. The overall plan of the colony was based upon this Christian action.

It is no surprise, then, that the general goal of Boston was a dual one of living under justice and mercy. Organization and discipline make up the second common bond of all three colonial settlements. Each of the seminal writings of these places is full of references to living in these manners, and the results of not living under these ways. They are in most fashions absolutely cohesive. In Jamestown, unfortunately, it is more of the latter (failure to operate as wished) that is presented. Quite clearly Captain Smith talks about being there for order and work.

They are the keys to success, according to him. Sadly, as squabbling and intrigue took hold, these ideals were no longer being lived. The colony spent more time in arguing about who was more effective that they locked up the very men sent to, or more able to, lead them. Naturally this only led to more disorder. Their best laid plans seemingly were doomed from the beginning. Again, they did have a set plan – even to the extent of planning for a governor and a council. But the execution of the plan was problematic.

The method chosen was basically to surprise the participants when they arrived by holding each of the lists in a locked cabinet only to be opened upon landing. Naturally, as leadership roles evolved on board, such as the emergence of Captain Smith, the original men named may have fallen out of favor – which again leads to jealousies and disharmony between the rulers and ruling class. Even their reliance of Biblical law failed them, as they nearly put Captain Smith to death under strict Levitical law (from the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament of the Bible).

That, though, only exposed their hypocrisy and disorder further. Plymouth fared much better in their use of organization and discipline. Their goal of being well organized under God proved well planned. Bradford gives many examples of this. The rules were passed along peacefully one to another with no great violations mentioned. The discipline inherent in the people even extended to their relations with the Indians with whom they interacted with and traded with, according to the writing. In fact, the only indication of any disagreement whatsoever extended to one of the stricter of exhortations, mentioned above.

It came down to the people being expected to give all they have and then some to the neighbors in need. As this was calling for some to work for others at no pay, some people objected, vehemently if no violently. Even so, that seems all that came of it as there is no indication that an uprising or strike occurred, just some disagreement. The final assessment of this common bond is found in Boston. As the primary stated goal according to Governor Winthrop was that of justice and mercy, it is not unexpected that the colony ran that way. It was highly structured, even as the actual text of the writing indicates.

It is a list of point after point after point, each with their own subsets – and there is nothing to indicate that this is unusual or anachronistic. It definitely implies a people that are ready to receive directions. Generally speaking the literature of Governor John Winthrop of Boston, Captain John Smith of Jamestown and William Bradford of Plymouth show a cohesiveness one might expect of colonies planted in the same New World. Upon analysis, each shows a fundamental belief and purpose in the Christian religion and perhaps as a result focused their societies on varying, but strong degrees of order and discipline

References Smith, J. (1624). The Settlement of Jamestown. In The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer Isles: Together with The True Travels, Adventures and Observations, and a Sea Grammar (Vol. III). New York: MacMillan. Bradford, W. (1650). History of Plymouth Plantation. Internet Modern History Sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/modsbook. html Winthrop, J. (1630). A Model of Christian Charity. Internet Modern History Sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/modsbook. html


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