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" But that which is our greatest comfort and
means of defense above all others is, that we have
here the true religion and holy ordinances- of Al-
mighty God taught among us. Thanks be to God
we have here plenty of preaching and catechizing,
with strict and careful exercise and good and com-
mendable orders to bring our people into a Christian-
conversation, with whom we have to do withal. And
thus we doubt not that God will be with us ; and if
God be with us, who can be against us ? "

About that time an Episcopal clergyman, by the
name of William Blackstone, was the sole occupant
and proprietor of the peninsula of Boston, then called
Shawmut. The water at Charlestown was not good.
But there was a very fine supply of crystal water
gushing abundantly from a spring in Shawmut. Rev.
Mr. Blackstone, had left England because " he dis-
liked the power of the Lords-Bishops." By his in-
vitation many were led to transfer their habitations
across the water, to the forest-covered peninsula,
and thus were laid the foundations of the renowned
capital of New England.

In the year 1632 Plymouth colony was in a state
of greater prosperity than ever before. Increasing
troubles in England and encouraging reports from
America gave new impetus to the spirit of emigra

* Higginson's New England Plantation, p. 123.


tion. The products of agriculture were in greater
demand. Cattle of all kinds had much increased,
and brought high prices. More land was required
for cultivation. All the land in Plymouth was occu-
pied, and still new settlers were coming. Fears of
any attack on the part of the Indians had greatly
subsided. Enterprising men began to push into the
surrounding region, seeking choice localities and
larger farms.

Just across the bay of Plymouth, on the north,
there was a reach of land commanding a fine view
of the little settlement at Plymouth and of the
adjacent waters. Captain Standish selected for him-
self a very attractive location there, including what is
still called " Captain's Hill." Here the descendants
of an ancestor so illustrious are now rearing a monu-
ment to his memory.

The town was named Duxbury, in honor of the
captain, as that was the name of the seat which his
family occupied in England. Elder Brewster took a
farm by his side. Here both of these distinguished
men, warm friends, could often be seen in their soli-
tary fields, clearing away the forests, where no
sound of the axe had ever before been heard since
the creation of the world. These lands were deemed
among the best in the colony. Governor Bradford


seems to have deplored the gradual dispersion of the
colonists. He wrote in terms of lamentation :

" Now as their stocks increased and their increase
was vendible, there was no longer holding them to-
gether. They could not otherwise keep their cattle ;
and having oxen grown they must have land for
ploughing and tillage. And no man now thought
he could live, except he had cattle and a great deal
of ground to keep them ; all striving to increase their
stocks. By which means they were scattered all over
the bay, and the town, in which they lived compactly
till now, was left very thin, and, in a short time,
almost desolate. And if this had been all, it had
been less, though too much ; but the church must
also be divided.

" Those that lived on their lots, on the other side
of the bay, called Duxbury, could not long bring their
wives and children to public worship and church
meetings here ; but they sued to be dismissed and to'
become a body of themselves. So they were dis-
missed, though very unwillingly. To prevent any
further scattering from this place, it was thought best
to give out some good farms to special persons who
would promise to live at Plymouth, and who would be
likely to be helpful to the church or commonwealth,
nnd so to tie the lands to Plymouth as farms for the
same. There they might keep their cattle, and till


the land by some servants, and retain their dwellings

" And so some special lands were granted at a
place general, called Green's Harbor, (Marshfield)
where no allotments had been in the former division ;
a place very well meadowed and fit to keep and rear
cattle, in good store. But alas ! this remedy proved
worse than the disease. For within a few years those
that had thus got footing tore themselves away, partly
by force, and partly by wearing out the rest with im-
portunity and pleas of necessity, so that they must
either suffer them to go, or live in continual opposition
and contention. This I fear will be the ruin of New
England, at least of the churches of God there." " ; "'

* Bradford's Plymouth Plantation.

The Courtship of Miles Standish.

Removal to Duxbury. Intercourse with the Dutch. Trading Posts
on the Connecticut. Legend of the courtship of Miles Standish.
Personal Appearance of the Captain. Proposition to John
Alden. His Anguish and Fidelity. Interview with Priscilla.
The Indian Alarm. Departure of Captain Standish. Report of
his Death. The Wedding.

Notwithstanding the removal of Captain Standish
across the bay, to his beautiful and fertile farm there,
he still took a very lively interest in everything re-
lating to the welfare of the colony, and of the little
village which he had been so instrumental in found-
ing. Mr. Bradford had for twelve successive years
been chosen Governor. He was anxious to be re-
leased from the cares of office. In the annual election
of 1633, he importuned for release so earnestly that
the people yielded to his request, and chose Edward
Winslow as his successor. At the same time seven
assistants were chosen, of whom Captain Miles Stand-
ish was the first.

The Dutch, from the mouth of the Hudson, had
explored the Connecticut river. The natives were
anxious to have a trading post established on that


beautiful stream, which was lined with Indian tribes
They sent a delegation to Plymouth with this request.
The Pilgrims were not prepared to commence a set-
tlement there, but they sent a small vessel up the
river, and had great success in their traffic. The In-
dians then applied to the Governor of the Massachu-
setts colony. But he was not inclined to embark in
an enterprise so difficult, where the post could only be
reached by a long and perilous voyage around Cape
Cod, or by a journey of many days through a path-
less forest.

Some however of the private members of both
of these colonies foreseeing the danger that the Dutch
might anticipate them there, held a conference at
Boston with some of the prominent men of Plymouth,
and tried to form a partnership to engage in the un-
dertaking. They were however discouraged by the
representations which were made to them. It was
urged that the Indians were very numerous, that they
could bring many thousand warriors into the field,
that many of them were hostile, that the river was
difficult of access in consequence of a bar, and that
during seven months in the year it was closed by ice.
Thus influenced, they abandoned the enterprise.

In the mean time, the Earl of Warwick had ob-
tained a patent of all the land, extending west, one
hundred and twenty miles from Narraganset Bay, to


the Dutch settlements at the mouth of the Hudson.
This included the whole of the present State of Con-
necticut. The Dutch heard of this, and prepared to
anticipate the English, by making an immediate set-
tlement on the Connecticut River. This roused Gov-
ernor Winslow and ex-Governor Bradford, and they
determined immediately to commence a settlement in
that region. At the same time, they sent a courteous
message to Governor Winthrop, expressing the hope
that their brethren of Massachusetts would not be


displeased with their adventure, since the Massachu-
setts colony had declined embarking in the enter

In the mean time, the Dutch had dispatched an
expedition, accompanied by quite an armed force,
which ascended the river and, disembarking where
Hartford now stands, erected a fort and commenced
a settlement. Two pieces of ordnance were placec 1
in position to sweep the river ; and they loudly pro-
claimed that they should not allow any of the English
to pass by.

The Plymouth colonists took a small vessel, which
could easily cross the bar at the mouth of the river,
and placed on board of it the frame of a house, with
all the materials for putting it together. The expe-
dition was commanded by Lieutenant Holmes. When
they arrived opposite Hartford, the Dutch, standing


by their guns with lighted matches, ordered them to
stop, threatening to shoot if they did not immediately
comply with the demand. But Holmes pushed boldly
by, and the Dutch commander did not venture to pro-
ceed to those measures of violence, which would
surely have brought down upon the Dutch colonies
the vengeance of the British navy.

Lieutenant Holmes proceeded a short distance
farther up the river, to a place called Nattawanute,

now Windsor, where, near the mouth of a little stream,


he put up his house, which was both fort and dwell-
ing, surrounded it with palisades, and, unfurling the
British flag, was ready to bid defiance to all foes,
whether Dutch or Indians.

The Dutch commander at Hartford sent woru to
the authorities at the mouth of the Hudson of what
had been done. Governor Van Twiller dispatched
an armed band of seventy men, with orders to tear
down the house at Windsor and drive away the occu-
pants. He supposed that this could easily be done
without any bloodshed, and thus without necessarily
introducing war. But the intrepid Holmes was ready
for battle against any odds. The leader of the Dutch
party saw that a fierce conflict must take place, and
one uncertain in its results. He therefore came to a
parley and finally retired. An immense quantity of
furs, beaver and otter skins, was this year sent to


England, which enabled the company to meet all its

It would be hardly warrantable, in a Life of Cap-
tain Miles Standish, to omit reference to a remarkable
legend with which his name has evei been associated,
though some have expressed the opinion that it was
not very clearly verified by authentic documents. A
literary gentleman who has investigated the subject
more thoroughly probably than any other person,
writes in reference to these doubts : "The anecdote is
in all the histories. Why should it not be true ? I
am inclined to think it is ; and am willing to back it
against most historic facts that are two hundred years -
old." The story, as it has drifted down to our times,
is in brief as follows. We give it as presented by
Mr. Longfellow, in his exquisite poem entitled " The
Courtship of Miles Standish." It is very evident that
Mr. Longfellow had minutely studied our early colo-
nial history, as the reader will perceive that he is very
accurate in his historical allusions. The poem opens
with a description of Captain Standish, in his lonely
and humble log hut. His beautiful wife, Rose, was
one of the first who had died, and the place of her
burial, like that of others, was carefully concealed,
that the Indians might not perceive how the colony
had become weakened :


" In the old colonial days, in Plymouth, the land of the Pilgrims,
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
Clad in doublet and hose and boots of Cordovan leather,
Strode with a martial air Miles Standish, the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Cutlass and corslet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,
While underneath in a corner were fowling piece, musket and match-

Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep chested, with muscles and sinews of iron,
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November."

A very handsome young man, by the name of
John Alden, shared with Captain Standish the com-
forts and discomforts of the widower's home. He had
fair hair, azure eyes and a Saxon complexion, and was
sufficiently unlike the Captain for them to be very
warm friends. There could be no rivalry between
the gentle young man of books and romance, and the
stern veteran of facts and the sword. John Alden
was deeply in love with Priscilla, the most beautiful
maiden in Plymouth. Death had robbed her of both
father and mother, and she was equally in love with
John. But the bashful student had not yet summoned
courage to declare his love. But it so happened that
Captain Standish, without any knowledge of his
friend's state of mind, had also turned his eyes to
Priscilla, as the successor of Rose. Conscious of his
own imperfections as a lady's man, and fearful that he


could not woo the beautiful maiden in fitting phrase,
he applied to his scholarly friend to speak in his be-
half. In the following melodious strains the poet
gives utterance to the Captain's speech :

" 'Tis not good for man to be alone, say the scriptures,

This I have said before, and again and again I repeat it,

Every hour in the day I think it, and feel it, and say it.

Since Rose Standish died, my life has been weary and dreary,

Sick at heart have I been, beyond the healing of friendship.

Oft, in my lonely hours, have I thought of the maiden Priscilla;

She is alone in the world ; her father and mother and brother

Died in the winter together. I saw her going and coming,

Now to the grave of the dead, now to the bed of the dying,

Patient, courageous and strong, and said to myself, that if ever

There were angels on earth, as there are angels in heaven,

Two have I seen and known ; and the angel, whose name is Priscilla,

Holds in my desolate life the place which the other abandoned.

Long have I cherished the thought, but never have dared to reveal it,

Being a coward in this, but valiant enough for the most part.

Go to the damsel Priscilla, the loveliest maiden of Plymouth,

Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of actions.

Offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier ;

Not in these words, you know, but this in short is my meaning.

I am a maker of war, and not a maker of phrases ;

You, who are bred as a scholar, can say it in elegant language,

Such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers,

Such as you think best adapted to win the heart of a maiden.

Poor John Alden, the fair-haired, timid youth, was
aghast, overwhelmed with anguish. He tried to
smile, but the nerves of his face twitched with pain-
ful convulsions. He endeavored to excuse himself,
but his impetuous friend, whose commanding mind
overawed him, would listen to no excuse. To all
John's remonstrances he replied :


" I was never a maker of phrases.

I can march up to a fortress, and summon the place to surrender ;
But march up to a woman, with such a proposal, I dare not
I am not afraid of bullets, nor shot from the mouth of a cannon,
But of a thundering ' no ! ' point blank from the mouth of a woman, -
That I confess I'm afraid of, nor am I ashamed to confess it."

John Alden, anguish-stricken as he was, could not
refuse. The strong mind dominated over the weaker
one. Agitated, almost convulsed with contending
emotions, he entered the paths of the forest, crossed
the brook which ran south of the village, and gathering
a handful of wild flowers, almost in delirium, ap-
proached the lonely dwelling of Priscilla. As he
drew near, he heard her sweet voice singing a hymn
as she walked to and fro beside the spinning-wheel.
Priscilla met him on the threshold, with a cordial
greeting, hoping that he had come to declare his love.
He was greatly embarrassed, and after a long parley,
very awkwardly blurted out the words, that he had
come with an offer of marriage from Captain Miles
Standish. Priscilla was amazed, grieved, wounded.
With eyes dilated with sadness and wonder, she
looked into John's face and said, after a few moments
of ominous silence :

" If the great Captain of Plymouth is so eager to wed me,
Why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me ?
If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning."

John, exceedingly embarrassed, said, in unfortu-


tunate phrase, that the captain was very busy, and
had no time for such things. The offended maiden
replied :

" Has he no time for such things, as you call it, before he is married ;
Would he be likely to find it, or make it, after the wedding? "

Quite forgetting himself, John launched forth elo-
quently in the praise of his military friend,

" Spoke of his courage and skill, and all his battles in Flanders,
How with the people of God he had chosen to suffer affliction,
How, in return for his zeal, they had made him Captain of Ply-

He was a gentleman born, conld trace his pedigree plainly
Back to Hugh Standish, of Duxbury Hall, in Lancashire, England,
Who was the son of Ralph, and the grandson of Thurston de Stand-
ish ;

Heir unto vast estates, of which he was basely defrauded,
Still bore the family arms, and had for his crest a cock argent
Combed and wattled gules, and all the rest of the blazon.
He was a man of honor, of noble and generous nature ;
Though he was rough, he was kindly; she knew how, during the


He had attended the sick, with a hand as gentle as woman's.
Somewhat hasty and hot, he could not deny it, and headstrong,
Stern as a soldier might be, but hearty and placable always ;
Not to be laughed at and scorned, because he was little of stature,
For he was great of heart, magnanimous, courtly, courageous ;
Any woman in Plymouth, nay, any woman in England,
Might be happy and proud to be called the wife of Miles Standish."

As Priscilla listened to this glowing and eloquent

eulogy, it only increased her admiration for the young

and beautiful John Alden. She had long loved him.

Maidenly instinct taught her that she also was beloved



by him. Though this love had never been communi-
cated to her in words, it had again and again been
expressed in loud-speaking glances of the eye and in
actions. With tremulous voice she ventured to reply,
" Why don't you speak for yourself, John ? "

The tone, the look which accompanied the words,
revealed at once, to the bashful youth, the love of
Priscilla. A tempest of conflicting emotions rushed
into his soul. How could the magnanimous youth
plead his own cause, and thus apparently betray his
friend. Perplexed, bewildered, he burst from the
house, like an insane man ; hurried to the sea shore,
wandered along the sands, where the surf was break-
ing with loud roar ; bared his head to the ocean
breeze, and endeavored in vain to cool the fever, which
seemed to burn in both body and soul. His tender
conscience condemned him as being unfaithful to his

He could not, without a sense of guilt, suppplant
his friend ; and he could not live in Plymouth and
refuse the hand of Priscilla, so delicately and yet so
decidedly proffered. Heroically he resolved to re-
turn to England.

There was a vessel in the harbor which was to
sail on the morrow. The poet speaks of it as the re-
turning Mayflower. Chronology will hardly permit us
to accept that representation. Rose Standish died


on the 8th of February, N. S. The Mayflower sailed,
on her return voyage, the 5th of April, but two
months after the death of the wife Captain Standish
so tenderly loved. As the frenzied youth gazed upon
the vessel riding at anchor, and rising and falling upon
the ocean swell, he exclaimed :

" Back will I go o'er the ocean, this dreary land will abandon,
Her whom I may not love, and him whom my heart has offended.
Better to be in my grave, in the green old churchyard in England,
Close by my mother's side, and among the dust of my kindred ;
Better be dead and forgotten, than living in shame and dishonor
Sacred and safe and unseen, in the dark of the narrow chamber
With me my secret shall lie, like a buried jewel that glimmers
Bright on the hand that is dust, in the chambers of silence and dark-
Yes, as the marriage ring of the great espousal hereafter.

Thus resolving he hurried, in the gathering twi-
light, through the glooms of the forest to the " seven
houses " of Plymouth. He entered the door of his
home and found the Captain anxiously awaiting his
return. He had been gone long and was rather se-
verely reproached for his tardiness. He then gave a
minute account of the interview. But when he came
to her declaration, " Why don't you speak for yourself,
John ?" the Captain rose from his seat in a towering
passion. As he was vehemently uttering his reproach-
es a messenger came, with the information that hos-
tile Indians were approaching. Instantly the bold
warrior forgot Priscilla, and all his displeasure at John


Alden, in contemplation of his immense responsibili-
ties as military protector of the colony. Hastily he
girded on his armor and left the house. He found
the leading men already assembled in the council
room. Upon the table lay the skin of the rattlesnake,
to which we have before alluded, filled with arrows,
with the Indian who brought it, by its side. Captain
Standish at once understood the significance of the
mysterious gift. He said,

" ' Leave this matter to me, for to me by right it pertaineth.
War is a terrible trade ; but in the cause that is righteous
Sweet is the smell of powder ; and thus I answer the challenge.'
Then, from the rattlesnake's skin, with a sudden contemptuous gesture,
Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder and bullets,
Full to the very jaws and handed it back to the savage,
Saying in thundering tones, ' Here, take it ! this is your answer.'
Silently out of the room then glided the glistening savage,
Bearing the serpent's skin, and seeming himself like a serpent.
Winding his sinuous way in the dark to the depths of the forest."

Early the next morning Captain Standish took
eight men, well armed, and marched, under the guid-
ance of Hobomak, to the point where he supposed
the hostile Indians were gathering. The vessel was
about to sail. The signal gun was fired. All the in-
habitants of the little village flocked to the beach.
The ship's boat was at Plymouth rock, waiting to con-
vey the captain of the vessel, who was on shore, to
the ship. He was bidding his friends adieu and cram-
ming the capacious pockets of his storm coat with let-


ters and packages. John Alden, with others, was
seen hurrying down to the sea shore. The captain
stood with one foot on the rock and the other on the
gunwale of the boat, speaking his last words and just
ready to push off. Alden, in his despair, was about
to enter the boat, without any words of adieu to his
friends, thinking in absence and distance to find re-
lief to his tortured feelings, when he saw Priscilla
looking sadly upon him.

" But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla
Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that passing.
Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his intention,
Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring and patient,
That, with a suden revulsion, his heart recoiled from its purpose
As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruction."

Thus influenced, he abandoned his intention of
returning to England more suddenly than he had
formed it. As he stepped back he said, with a true
lover's fervor,

" There is no land so sacred, no air so pure and so wholesome
As is the air she breathes, and the soil that is pressed by her foot-

Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her forever, protecting, supporting her weakness.
Yes ! as my foot was the first that stepped on this rock at the landing,
So, with the blessing of God, shall it be the last at the leaving."

The captain of the ship sprang into the boat,
waved an adieu to the lonely band of exiles, number-
ing but about fifty men, women and children, who
were gathered upon the shore, and the boat, driven

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMiles Standish, the Puritan captain .. → online text (page 16 of 21)