- Historic Sites
The Rebels Of Merry Mount
Thomas Morton liked the lush country, the Indians liked Thomas—and the stern Puritans cared little for either
June 1955 | Volume 6, Issue 4
He wrote a biting book, New English Canaan , and aligned himself with Sir Ferdinando Gorges and others trying to get the Massachusetts charter revoked. The testimony of Morton and others who had been maltreated by the Visible Saints, before the King’s Privy Council, was telling, and the royal edict went out, granting authority to Gorges.
But Gorges’ ships met disaster, and civil war in England prevented the carrying out of Morton’s hopes for revenge on his persecutors.
Morton may have been sincerely concerned over High Church ritual, but what he craved was to get back to beloved New England, and the only way to do so safely was to get rid of the Puritans. His craving for the good earth of the New World, plus an unfavorable shift in English politics, led him to risk putting himself once more in the clutches of the Saints.
December 10, 1643, Winthrop’s Journal reported that Thomas Morton, “our professed old adversary, who had set forth a book against us and had written reproachful and menacing letters to some of us,” had arrived in Boston on the Hopewell .
He was thrown into jail to await additional evidence from England. There he lay for nearly a year. Then, without proper trial, he was fined £100, all he had left in the world, but, since he was now “old and crazy,” no corporal punishment was inflicted except to send him out of Massachusetts’ jurisdiction.
He went into the northern wilderness where, according to Winthrop, he lived “poor and despised” until his death two years later.
No man ever loved the American earth more, and he bequeathed to us a beautiful, pungent and moving story of the land and its people. He loved the freedom of America and tried to augment it. For all his waywardness, pedantry and bitterness, he shines like a single bright gem from out the dourness and solemnity of early settlement with its prevailing intolerance and persecution, soon to be challenged by far abler men such as Roger Williams and Thomas Hooker. Even before the Saints broke Morton’s spirit, there in the tight little circle of “the Blue Hills of Massachusetts,” voices were already demanding democratic expression, free government, free enterprise and religious tolerance.