Monday, November 23, 2009
William Bradford (1590-1657) was born in England. As a youth he joined the Separatists, a group that left the Church of England. He fled from England with a group of Separatists in search of religious freedom. He later sailed from Holland on the Mayflower to America with other Separatists. This group became known as the Pilgrims. Bradford probably helped to write the Mayflower Compact, which established the governing rules for the Pilgrims. He served as the second governor of Plymouth Colony for more than thirty years. While he was governor, the colony survived droughts, crop failures, and debt. He organized the first Thanksgiving Day in New England. He wrote a book entitled Of Plymouth Plantation, which is the main record of the Pilgrims. After 200 years in manuscript form, it was published in 1856 as History of Plymouth Plantation. The Pilgrims lived for a few years under a program that required them to share the ownership of land, food, and tools. Under a Bradford plan, the land and cattle were divided among individual families in 1623. Personal ownership encouraged the Pilgrims to work harder and to improve their property. (I found this fact to be very interesting because it reinforces my personal belief that people work harder when they have a personal stake in something.) Bradford was also instrumental in paying off the massive debt owed to the English merchants who paid for the Pilgrims' passage to America. Bradford generally kept peace with the local Indians. Facts are from article by James Axtell, World Book Encyclopedia , Vol. 2, pp 255-256.