Good News from New England - Journal of events at Plymouth Colony between 1622 & 1623 .
Chapter 8, Thinking about Sailing to New England?
Written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow,
& published in London in 1624.
And first for that Continent, on which we are called New England, although it hath ever been conceived by the English to be a part of that main Land adjoining to Virginia, yet by relation of the Indians it should appear to be otherwise: for they affirm confidently, that it is an Island, & that either the Dutch or French pass through from Sea to Sea, between us & Virginia, & drive a great Trade in the same. The name of that inlet of the Sea they call Monhiggan, which I take to be the same which we call Hudson's River, up which Master Hudson went many Leagues, & for want of means (as I hear) left it undiscovered. For confirmation of this, their opinion is thus much; Though Virginia be not above an hundred & fifty Leagues from us, yet they never heard of Powhattan, or knew that any English were planted in his Country, save only by us & Tisquantum, who went in an English Ship thither: & therefore it is the more probable, because the water is not passable for them, who are very adventurous in their Boats.
Then for the temperature of the air, in almost three years experience, I can scarce distinguish New England from Old England, in respect of heat, & cold, frost, snow, rain, winds, etc. Some object, because our Plantation lieth in the latitude of 42. it must needs be much hotter. I confess, I cannot give the reason of the contrary; only experience teacheth us, that if it do exceed England, it is so little as must require better judgments to discern it. And for the Winter, I rather think (if there be difference) it is both sharper & longer in New England then Old; & yet the want of those comforts in the one which I have enjoyed in the other, may deceive my judgment also. But in my best observation, comparing our own condition with the Relations of other parts of America, I cannot conceive of any to agree better with the constitution of the English, not being oppressed with extremity of heat, nor nipped with biting cold, by which means, blessed be God, we enjoy our health, notwithstanding, those difficulties we have undergone, in such a measure as would have been admired, if we had lived in England with the like means. The day is two hours longer then here when it is at the shortest, & as much shorter there, when it is at the longest.
The soil is variable, in some places mould, in some clay, others, a mixed sand, etc. The chiefest grain is the Indian Maize, or Guinea-Wheat; the seed-time beginneth in midst of April, & continueth good till the midst of May. Our harvest beginneth with September. This come increaseth in great measure, but is inferior in quantity to the same in Virginia, the reason I conceive, is because Virginia is far hotter then it is with us, it requiring great heat to ripen; but whereas it is objected against New England, that Corn will not there grow, except the ground be manured with fish? I answer, That where men set with fish (as with us) it is more easy so to do then to clear ground & set without some five or six years, & so begin anew, as in Virginia & else-where. Not but that in some places, where they cannot be taken with ease in such abundance, the Indians set four years together without, & have as good Corn or better then we have that set with them, though indeed I think if we had Cattle to till the ground, it would be more profitable & better agreeable to the soil, to sow Wheat, Rye, Barley, Peas, & Oats, then to set Mays, which our Indians call ewachim: for we have had experience that they like & thrive well; & the other will not be procured without good labor & diligence, especially at seed-time, when it must also be watched by night to keep the Wolves from the fish, till it be rotten, which will be in fourteen days; yet men agreeing together, & taking their turns it is not much.
Much might be spoken of the benefit that may come to such as shall here plant by Trade with the Indians for Furs, if men take a right course for obtaining the same, for I dare presume upon that small experience I have had, to affirm, that the English, Dutch, & French, returnee yearly many thousand pounds profits by Trade only from that Island, on which we are seated.
Tobacco may be there planted, but not with that profit as in some other places, neither were it profitable there to follow it, though the increase were equal, because fish is a better & richer Commodity, & more necessary, which may be & are there had in as great abundance as in any other part of the world; Witness the West-country Merchants of England, which returnee incredible gains yearly from thence.
And if they can so do which here buy their salt at a great charge, & transport more Company to make their voyage, then will sail their Ships, what may the planters expect when once they are seated, & make the most of their salt there, & employ themselves at lest eight months in fishing, whereas the other fish but four, & have their ship lie dead in the harbor all the time, whereas such shipping as belong to plantations, may take freight of passengers or cattle thither, & have their lading provided against they come. I confess, we have come so far short of the means to raise such returnee, as with great difficulty we have preserved our lives; insomuch, as when I look back upon our condition, & weak means to preserve the same, I rather admire at Gods mercy & providence in our preservation, then that no greater things have been effected by us. But though our beginning have been thus raw, small, & difficult, as thou hast scene, yet the same God that hath hitherto led us through the former, I hope will raise means to accomplish the latter. Not that we altogether, or principally propound profit to be the main end of that we have undertaken, but the glory of God, & the honor of our Country, in the enlarging of his Majesties Dominions, yet wanting outward means, to set things in that forwardness we desire, & to further the latter by the former, I thought meet to offer both to consideration, hoping that where Religion & profit jump together (which is rare) in so honorable an action, it will encourage every honest man, either in person or purse, to set forward the same, or at least-wise to commend the well-fare thereof in his daily prayers to the blessing of the blessed God.
I will not again speak of the abundance of fowl, store of Venison, & variety of Fish, in their seasons, which might encourage many to go in their persons, only I advise all such before hand to consider, that as they hear of Countries that abound with the good creatures of God, so means must be used for the taking of every one in his kind, & therefore not only to content themselves that there is sufficient, but to foresee how they shall be able to obtain the same, otherwise, as he that walketh London streets, though he be in the midst of plenty, yet if he want means, is not the better but hath rather his sorrow increased by the sight of that he wanteth, & cannot enjoy it: so also there, if thou want art & other necessaries hereunto belonging, thou maist see that thou wantest, & thy heart desireth, & yet be never the better for the same. Therefore if thou see shine own insufficiency of thy self, then join to some others, where thou maiest in some measure enjoy the same, otherwise assure thy self, thou art better where thou art. Some there be that thinking altogether of their present wants they enjoy here, & not dreaming of any there, through indiscretion plunge themselves into a deeper sea of misery. As for example, it may be here, rent & firing are so chargeable, as without great difficulty a man cannot accomplish the same; never considering, that as he shall have no rent to pay, so he must build his house before he have it, & peradventure may with more ease pay for his fuel here, then cut & fetch it home, if he have not cattle to draw it there; though there is no scarcity but rather too great plenty.
I write not these things to dissuade any that shall seriously upon due examination set themselves to further the glory of God, & the honor of our Country, in so worthy an enterprise, but rather to discourage such as with too great lightness undertake such courses, who peradventure strain themselves & their friends for their passage thither, & are no sooner there, then seeing their foolish imagination made void, are at their wits end, & would give ten times so much for their returnee, if they could procure it, & out of such discontented passions & humors, spare not to lay that imputation upon the Country, & others, which themselves deserve. As for example, I have heard some complain of others for their large reports of New England, & yet because they must drink water & want many delicates they here enjoyed, could presently returnee with their mouths full of clamors. And can any be so simple as to conceive that the fountains should stream forth Wine, or Bear, or the woods & rivers be like Butchers-shops, or fish-mongers stalls, where they might have things taken to their hands. If thou canst not live without such things, & hast no means to procure the one, & wilt not take pains for the other, nor hast ability to employ others for thee, rest where thou art: for as a proud heart, a dainty tooth, a beggar's purse, & an idle hand, be here intolerable, so that person that hath these qualities there, is much more abominable. If therefore God hath given thee a heart to undertake such courses, upon such grounds as bear thee out in all difficulties, viz., his glory as a principal, & all other outward good things but as accessories, which peradventure thou shalt enjoy, & it may be not: then thou wilt with true comfort & thankfulness receive the least of his mercies; whereas on the contrary, men deprive themselves of much happiness, being senseless of greater blessings, & through prejudice mother up the love & bounty of God, whose name be ever glorified in us, & by us, now & evermore. Amen.