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Thomas Morton

Born: c. 1590
Died: c. 1647
Location of death: Maine
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: New English Canaan

Thomas Morton of Merrymount, English adventurer in America, was a lawyer of Clifford's Inn, London, and seems to have practiced in the west of England. He spent three months in America in 1622; returned in 1625, and settled at Mount Wollaston, in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts; and in 1626, when most of the settlers removed to Virginia, he assumed command of the settlement, and renamed it Merrymount. Morton, a Royalist rake, soon became a thorn in the flesh of the sober colonists at Plymouth. On May Day in 1627 his companions erected a maypole, and, assisted by Indians, indulged in all the revelry and license then customary in England. "The setting up of this May-pole was a lamentable spectacle to the precise Separatists that lived at New Plimmouth", says Morton. "They termed it an Idoll; yea, they called it the Calf of Horeb, and stood at defiance with the place,... threatening to make it a woefull mount and not a merry mount." In disregard of a royal proclamation, Morton sold rum and firearms to the natives, not only injuring the trade of Plymouth, but also endangering the safety of the colonists. Morton was therefore arrested and sent to England; and when John Endecott, with a patent from the council for New England, arrived soon afterward he visited Merrymount, which lay within his jurisdiction, rebuked the inhabitants, cut down the maypole, and renamed the place Mount Dagon. In 1629 Morton returned to America, but was arrested on trivial charges by the Massachusetts authorities, and was confined in the stocks. Later his house was burned and he was sent to England, where he spent a term in the Essex jail. After his release he wrote his New English Canaan (1637), in which he describes the Indians and the natural features of the country, and heaps ridicule upon the New England colonists. In 1643 Morton returned to America. He was imprisoned in Boston in the following year, and was tried before the general court for complaining against the colony before the Privy Council; he was recommitted to jail pending the gathering of further evidence, and after a year's confinement was fined 100 and released. He retired to Agamenticus (now York), Maine, and in 1646 died poverty-stricken.

Author of books:
New English Canaan (1637)



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