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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

How the Puritans Suffered and Loved One Another

By Roger Clap (1609–1691)

[Born in Devonshire, England, 1609. Died in Boston, Mass., 1691. Memoir of Capt. Roger Clap, written about 1676.]

NOW coming into this country, I found it a vacant wilderness, in respect of English. There were indeed some English at Plymouth and Salem, and some few at Charlestown, who were very destitute when we came ashore; and planting time being past, shortly after provision was not to be had for money. I wrote to my friends, namely to my dear father, to send me some provision; which accordingly he did, and also gave order to one of his neighbors to supply me with what I needed (he being a seaman): who coming hither, supplied me with divers things. But before this supply came, yea, and after too, (that being spent, and the then unsubdued wilderness yielding little food), many a time if I could have filled my belly, though with mean victuals, it would have been sweet unto me. Fish was a good help unto me and others. Bread was so very scarce, that sometimes I thought the very crusts of my father’s table would have been very sweet unto me. And when I could have meal and water and salt boiled together, it was so good, who could wish better?

In our beginning many were in great straits for want of provision for themselves and their little ones. Oh, the hunger that many suffered, and saw no hope in an eye of reason to be supplied, only by clams, and mussels, and fish. We did quickly build boats, and some went a-fishing. But bread was with many a very scarce thing, and flesh of all kind as scarce. And in those days, in our straits, though I can not say God sent a raven to feed us, as he did the prophet Elijah, yet this I can say, to the praise of God’s glory, that he sent not only poor ravenous Indians,, which came with their baskets of corn on their backs to trade with us (which was a good supply unto many), but also sent ships from Holland and from Ireland with provisions, and Indian-corn from Virginia, to supply the wants of his dear servants in this wilderness, both for food and raiment. And when people’s wants were great, not only in one town but in divers towns, such was the godly wisdom, care, and prudence (not selfishness, but self-denial), of our Governor Winthrop and his Assistants, that when a ship came laden with provisions, they did order that the whole cargo should be bought for a general stock; and so accordingly it was, and distribution was made to every town, and to every person in each town, as every man had need. Thus God was pleased to care for his people in times of straits, and to fill his servants with food and gladness. Then did all the servants of God bless his holy name, and love one another with pure hearts fervently.

In those days God did cause his people to trust in him, and to be contented with mean things. It was not accounted a strange thing in those days to drink water, and to eat samp or hominy without butter or milk. Indeed, it would have been a strange thing to see a piece of roast beef, mutton or veal; though it was not long before there was roast goat. After the first winter, we were very healthy, though some of us had no great store of corn. The Indians did sometimes bring corn, and truck with us for clothing and knives; and once I had a peck of corn, or thereabouts, for a little puppy-dog. Frost-fish, mussels, and clams were a relief to many. If our provision be better now than it was then, let us not, and do you, dear children, take heed that you do not, forget the Lord our God. You have better food and raiment than was in former times; but have you better hearts than your forefathers had? If so, rejoice in that mercy, and let New England then shout for joy. Sure, all the people of God in other parts of the world, that shall hear that the children and grandchildren of the first planters of New England have better hearts and are more heavenly than their predecessors, they will doubtless greatly rejoice, and will say, “This is the generation whom the Lord hath blessed.”

I took notice of it as a great favor of God unto me, not only to preserve my life, but to give me contentedness in all these straits; insomuch that I do not remember that ever I did wish in my heart that I had not come into this country, or wish myself back again to my father’s house. Yea, I was so far from that, that I wished and advised some of my dear brethren to come hither also; and accordingly one of my brothers, and those two that married my two sisters, sold their means and came hither. The Lord Jesus Christ was so plainly held out in the preaching of the Gospel unto poor lost sinners, and the absolute necessity of the new birth, and God’s Holy Spirit in those days was pleased to accompany the Word with such efficacy upon the hearts of many, that our hearts were taken off from Old England and set upon heaven. The discourse not only of the aged, but of the youth also, was not, “How shall we go to England?” (though some few did not only so discourse, but also went back again), but, “How shall we so to heaven?”