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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

On a Voyage to the Massachusetts

By Francis Higginson (1587–1630)

[Born in Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England, 1587. Died at Salem, Mass., 1630. Written from New-England, July 24, 1629.]

NOW in our passage divers things are remarkable.

First, through God’s blessing, our passage was short and speedy; for whereas we had a thousand leagues, that is, three thousand miles English, to sail from Old to New England, we performed the same in six weeks and three days.

Secondly, our passage was comfortable and easy for the most part, having ordinarily fair and moderate wind, and being freed for the most part from stormy and rough seas, saving one night only, which we that were not used thought to be more terrible than indeed it was; and this was Wednesday at night, May 27th.

Thirdly, our passage was also healthful to our passengers, being freed from the great contagion of the scurvy and other maledictions, which in other passages to other places had taken away the lives of many. And yet we were, in all reason, in wonderful danger all the way, our ship being greatly crowded with passengers; but, through God’s great goodness, we had none that died of the pox but that wicked fellow that scorned at fasting and prayer. There were indeed two little children, one of my own, and another beside; but I do not impute it merely to the passage, for they were both very sickly children, and not likely to have lived long, if they had not gone to sea. And take this for a rule, if children be healthful when they come to sea, the younger they are the better they will endure the sea, and are not troubled with sea-sickness as older people are, as we had experience in many children that went this voyage. My wife, indeed, in tossing weather, was something ill by vomiting; but in calm weather she recovered again, and is now much better for the sea-sickness. And for my own part, whereas I have for divers years past been very sickly, and ready to cast up whatsoever I have eaten, and was very sick at London and Gravesend, yet from the time I came on shipboard to this day I have been strangely healthful. And now I can digest our ship diet very well, which I could not when I was at land. And indeed in this regard I have great cause to give God praise, that he hath made my coming to be a method to cure me of a wonderful weak stomach and continual pain of melancholy wind from the spleen. Also divers children were sick of the small pox, but are safely recovered again; and two or three passengers, towards the latter end of the voyage, fell sick of the scurvy, but coming to land recovered in a short time.

Fourthly, our passage was both pleasurable and profitable. For we received instruction and delight in beholding the wonders of the Lord in the deep waters, and sometimes seeing the sea round us appearing with a terrible countenance, and, as it were, full of high hills and deep valleys; and sometimes it appeared as a most plain and even meadow. And ever and anon we saw divers kinds of fishes sporting in the great waters, great grampuses and huge whales, going by companies, and puffing up water streams. Those that love their own chimney-corner, and dare not go far beyond their own town’s end, shall never have the honor to see these wonderful works of Almighty God.

Fifthly, we had a pious and Christian-like passage; for I suppose passengers shall seldom find a company of more religious, honest and kind seamen than we had. We constantly served God morning and evening by reading and expounding a chapter, singing, and prayer. And the Sabbath was solemnly kept, by adding to the former, preaching twice and catechising. And in our great need we kept two solemn fasts, and found a gracious effect. Let all that love and use fasting and praying, take notice that it is as prevailable by sea as by land, wheresoever it is faithfully performed. Besides, the shipmaster and his company used every night to set their eight and twelve o’clock watches with singing a psalm, and prayer that was not read out of a book. This I write not for boasting and flattery, but for the benefit of those that have a mind to come to New-England hereafter, that if they look for and desire to have as prosperous a voyage as we had, they may use the same means to attain the same.