New England In The Earliest Days


Gorges was an old man, his resources spent on his lifelong labors to bring about the colonization of New England. He sent out his young cousin, Thomas, to take his place, writing a last letter to Governor Winthrop to aid him “in any just and reasonable occasion he shall have cause to use your favour in, I having given him command to be careful to do his best that all fair correspondency be maintained between those two several plantations … and when God shall be pleased that I may arrive, I doubt not but you shall perceive my greatest ambition shall tend (next to the service of God) by what ways or means an union or conformity of all parties may be established, or at the least a patient or charitable bearing with each other’s errors or self-affections.”

That day was not to arrive; at home the country was splitting apart, was on the eve of the Civil War. The Massachusetts Puritans were free to go their own way; certainly the Lord, as they said, seems to have been on their side.

It has been usual to regard the career of Sir Ferdinando Gorges as a failure. I do not think we need do so, though he has no place in the American tradition commensurate with his contribution. Where Pilgrims and Puritans have always been held high in history, their cherished names entered not only into folk memory but into myth and poetry, his name is hardly remembered—except, of course, in Maine, where he is rightly honored as the Founder. It is only in the careerist sense that he did not succeed, for in fact his efforts did bear fruit, even if others enjoyed the rewards.