Thomas Morton

Morton, Thomas, fl. 1622–47, English trader and adventurer in New England. He visited New England in 1622 and returned in 1625 with Captain Wollaston, who founded a settlement at Mt. Wollaston (now Quincy, Mass.). When Wollaston moved on to Virginia, Morton took charge of the settlement, which was renamed Mare Mount, whence it was called Merry Mount. The Plymouth settlers objected to Morton and his companions, who were of the Anglican faith and who started a rival fur trade with the Native Americans. The Maypole festivities at Merry Mount especially scandalized the Pilgrims. A force under Miles Standish seized Morton, who was sent (1628) to England on charges of trading arms to the Native Americans and harboring runaway servants. He returned in 1629 and resumed his fur trading but was again brought to court in 1630 and sent to England. There he was employed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges as legal counsel in the attempt to void the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Going once more to New England, he was imprisoned (1644–45) in Boston. Later he moved to Maine, where he died. His book, New English Canaan (1637, repr. 1883 with notes by Charles Francis Adams, 1835–1915), gives a bitter, satiric view of New England.

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