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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

Samuel Gorton, the Subtle Deceiver

By Nathaniel Morton (1613–1685)

[From New England’s Memorial. 1669.]

NOT long before these troubles, there arrived at Boston, one Samuel Gorton, who from thence came to Plymouth; and upon his first coming thither, gave some hopes that he would have proved an useful instrument, but soon after, by little and little, discovered himself to be a proud and pestilent seducer, and deeply leavened with blasphemous and familistical opinions; and observing such fictions to be spread by some of his spirit already in the country, he takes his opportunity to begin to sow such seed at Plymouth, whereby some were seduced, in special one John Weeks and his wife, who in some short time became very atheists, looking for no more happiness than this world affords, not only in practice such, but also in opinion. But the said Gorton falling into some controversy with one Mr. Ralph Smith, was summoned to the court held at Plymouth, the 4th of December, 1638, to answer the said Mr. Smith’s complaint; and there he carried so mutinously and seditiously, as that he was for the same, and for his turbulent carriages towards both magistrates and ministers, in the presence of the court, sentenced to find sureties for his good behavior, during the time he should stay in the jurisdiction, which was limited to fourteen days, and also amerced to pay a considerable fine.

In some short time after he departed to Rhode Island, and in like manner, or worse, demeaned himself there, so as they were forced to sentence him to suffer corporal punishment by whipping, and they banished him likewise off the island. And from thence, he, with divers of his accomplices, went to Providence, and there he and they carried so in outrage and riotously, as they were in danger to have caused bloodshed, so as the inhabitants, some of them, namely, Mr. Roger Williams and others, were constrained to solicit the government of the Massachusetts for aid, to help them against their insolencies; and for that end some of them desired to come under their jurisdiction, and were accepted.

Moreover, several of the poor neighboring natives were so injuriously wronged by the said Gorton and his company, they seeking to bereave them of their just rights of land by surreptitious ways; in special, Ponham and Sokanoko, two petty sachems living not far off from Providence, who were bereaved of their just rights in lands, by improving the tyranny of Miantonimok, the then chief sachem of the Narragansets, for the procuring thereof, which necessitated the said under-sachems to make their appeal to the court of the Massachusetts for help in their oppressed condition, subjecting themselves and their lands unto their jurisdiction likewise; which caused the said government to require their appearance at Boston, to answer the complaints of those oppressed English and Indians. But notwithstanding they several times sent to them, with all gentleness and courteous expressions, they neither appeared, nor sent satisfying reasons for their absence; but instead thereof, many insolent, proud, railing, opprobrious returns; so that the said government saw there was no remedy, but to send force to constrain them to come; which they accordingly performed, and committed the said Gorton and several of them to ward.

And during the time of their imprisonment, they carried still very proudly and audaciously towards all in place of authority, sparing not to reproach, abuse, and traduce the most honorable and reverend both in church and state; and which is yet worse, spared not blasphemously to fly upon the Lord Jesus himself, his word and ordinances, in such a manner as scarce in any age any heretics or apostates have done the like; not only abandoning and rejecting all civil power and authority, except moulded according to their own fancies, but belching out errors in their familistical allegories, if I may so call them, as, to speak with holy reverence, they rendered the Lord Christ no other than an imagination; shunning not, blasphemously, to say, that Christ was but a shadow, and resemblance of what is done in every Christian; that Christ was incarnate in Adam, and was the image of God wherein Adam was created; and that his being born afterwards of the Virgin Mary, and suffering, was but a manifestation of his suffering in Adam; that man’s losing God’s image was the death of Christ; that Christ is the covenant properly, and, that faith and Christ are all one. They call the holy word, and sermons of salvation, tales; the Lord’s supper, an abomination, and a spell; baptism, vanity and abomination; the ministers of the Word, necromancers; and by other opprobrious terms vilify and traduce them. Much more might be spoken and mentioned of this stuff, which they have not been ashamed to divulge; but a little is enough, save but to give the reader to see the Lord’s goodness towards his poor people in New England, that hath delivered us, and saved us of his grace from their pernicious, destructive ways, and hath so detected their folly, as it is made manifest to all men. In fine, the said Gorton and his fellow-prisoners were, several of them, sentenced to remain in durance, in several of the towns in the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts, for six months, and afterwards banished.

He was a subtle deceiver, courteous in his carriage to all, at some times, for his own ends, but soon moved with passion, and so lost that which he gained upon the simple. To shut up what I have to say concerning him, which is sad, he is since become a sordid man in his life, as he hath been declared to be in his cursed principles and opinions, and hath not shunned to say and affirm, that all the felicity we are like to have, we must expect in this life and no more, and therefore advised one, with whom he had some speech, to make much of herself, for she must expect no more but what she could enjoy in this life, or words to the same effect. Thus evil men and deceivers grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.