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Thomas Morton

(c. 1587—1647) colonist in America


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(1590?–1647), British trader and adventurer, probably originally a lawyer, first visited New England in 1622 or 1624, and returned in 1625 as a member of the party of Captain Wollaston, to settle on the site of the present Quincy, Mass. When Wollaston left for Virginia at the end of the winter, Morton remained as head of the settlement, which he renamed Ma-re-Mount, whence it was called Merry Mount. He was soon in the bad graces of the nearby Plymouth Colony, because he was an Anglican given to what the Pilgrims considered licentious practices, and because he hampered the Plymouth trading and violated the frontier code by trading gunpowder and liquor to the Indians for furs. In 1628 a band under Myles Standish attacked Morton's colony in a comic-opera skirmish, captured the leader, and sent him under arrest to England, on charges of trading arms to the Indians and harboring runaway servants. He returned in 1629, to find most of his colony scattered. In 1630 he was taken into custody, sentenced to have his goods confiscated, his house burned, and himself again returned to England. There he was released from jail through the aid of Gorges, who used him in an attempt to void the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company. In 1637 his New English Canaan was published. He returned to Massachusetts (1643), was ordered to leave, and went to Maine and Rhode Island. When he once again ventured into the colony, he was imprisoned for a year on slight pretext. Released, he made his way to Maine, where he died two years later. The Plymouth view of him and his group appears in Bradford's History of Plimmoth Plantation and in Winthrop's Journal.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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