The overall sense prevalent in each of the three readings is that the beginning of the inhabitation of the New World by the colonists was one filled with trepidation and little exploratory overtures. The colonies were on the surface largely inhospitable, and its original inhabitants viewed as savages were viewed with prejudice, wariness, and dread. As the days progressed, however, it became evident that the savages were willing to explore some form of relationship and interaction with the colonists, and in both John Smith’s and William Bradford’s accounts, there were episodic moments of goodwill, friendship, and collaboration.
In these accounts, the importance placed upon their belief in God was uncompromising. In them, the providence of God in bringing friendly savages to befriend them and to supply them was acknowledged. There exists a palpable atmosphere of gratitude and cheer when such events transpired. It was almost as if the settlers in general and the writers in particular knew just how daunting a challenge their situation was, and how perilous their enterprise promised to be.
The writers’ mention of God in the execution of their enterprise and how their fortunes rested on his statutes and goodwill bring out the stark contrast of the human displays of treachery, slander, and scant regard for the natives, whom they viewed as savages. This conflict would continue in their later dealings with the other tribes of the interior, and such janus-faced behavior appears schizophrenic, to say the least. Yet, the reliance on and the zeal with which they displayed their faith marked the beginnings of the settlements characterized by these three locations as mentioned in the writings.
This faith then was the thread of continuity that existed in the different accounts and narratives of the settlers, and in spite of the different types of settlements founded by different groups for diverse purposes, the Christian basis was contingent on them all. It was needful for them to rely on a comforting system of belief, and one that provides them strength of hope, unity of oneness, and a certain security of what and where they had originated from. Yet, it is also very clear on a closer inspection of these three writings that William Bradford’s and John Winthrop’s accounts were more God-centric.
This of course is a reflection of the foundations of their voyage and expedition. The colony of Jamestown, as displayed in John Smith’s account, was meant to promote business and reap profits, an enterprise by a joint stock company. Plymouth was for pilgrim families in search of a new life, a new beginning that was homely and familial. Boston, as characterized in John Winthrop’s account, was Christo-centric in its most fundamental conceptualization, foundation, and development.
Little wonder that reading his account was akin to reading an interpretation of Scripture. The level of devoutness corresponded with the motivation for the founding of the colonies. Employing basic textual analysis, it is evident that the concern, thrust, and feelings surrounding their brave ventures centered on the role of their functions in the new settlements. Every one of these accounts ended in some measure of success, and each of them concludes with a triumphant tone that their efforts had not been in vain.
From Winthrop’s firm exhortations to Smith’s tentative positive conclusion, it could be deduced that the strength of their convictions determined their celebration of the outcomes. Their struggles and searching out of the land, while battling disease, climate, lack of provision, and facing hostility from the natives, were definitely an arduous struggle. Yet, this brings out the reality of the situation and circumstances facing them, and as one gets drawn into the narrative, one begins to feel the proximity and reality of the connection.
The desperation of the settlers at Jamestown was palpable, and the eventual sigh of relief gave way to a resigned air of fatalism, that the difficult labour exercised by the less-than-scrupulous figures that dominated the narrative would finally be put to rest. The more positive gratitude of Bradford’s account was dotted with certain moments of sorrow, yet, the overall emotion that emanated forth was that here was a place where industry and good Protestant ethics would prevail and reap them a good harvest, first a thirty-fold, then a sixty-fold, and finally, a hundred-fold.
Winthrop’s account was a direct call to Christian virtues, with his sermonizing extolling the promises of God in accordance to their practicing of the faith, in spite of the difficulties that may appear from time to time. These narratives are the blood, sweat, and tears of our forefathers, and upon their shoulders are built the foundations of this great nation, America, that stand at once for freedom and liberty, and that proclaims, “In God we trust. ”
Courtney from Study Moose
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