William Bradford


William Bradford





William Bradford is one of the main reasons that the Puritan Movement got rolling.  William Bradford was born in 1590 in the Yorkshire farming community of Austerfield, England.  Both of his parents died when he was very young.  He spent the early part of his life living with many different relatives.  When Bradford was twelve he attended a service in which rituals were not the same as he was accustomed to and the preaching was mainly about the separation from the Church of England.  The leaders of this movement were usually imprisoned by English authorities.  Bradford had this to say of the religious beliefs of the Puritans:

"The one side [the Reformers] laboured to have ye right worship of God & discipline of Christ established in ye church, according to ye simplicitie of ye gospell, without the mixture of mens inventions, and to have & to be ruled by ye laws of Gods word, dispensed in those offices, & by those officers of Pastors, Teachers, & Elders, &c. according to ye Scripturs. The other partie [the Church of England], though under many colours & pretences, endevored to have ye episcopall dignitie (affter ye popish maner) with their large power & jurisdiction still retained; with all those courts, cannons, & ceremonies, togeather with all such livings, revenues, & subordinate officers, with other such means as formerly upheld their antichristian greatnes, and enabled them with lordly & tyranous power to persecute ye poore servants of God."


Bradford had to flee to the Netherlands with many other Puritan followers due to the fact that King James I was forcing them out due to their religious beliefs.  Due to the fact the Bradford was not making much money just like most of the Puritans and the Dutch government, pressured by King James I, was harassing the religious refugees, he decided something was to be done.  Bradford decided that the Puritans needed a fresh start and he thought the perfect place for this was the New World.  At the age of thirty, Bradford started organizing government permissions, financing, ship hiring, and also needed to secure enough provisions for the trip.  If it was not for Bradford the Atlantic passage might have never happened.  On the decision to leave their home for the New World, Bradford had this to say:

"all great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likely, yet they were not cartaine; it might be sundrie of ye things feared might never befale; others by providente care & ye use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through ye help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome. True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground & reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, &c. But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good & honourable; their calling lawfull, & urgente; and therfore they might expecte ye blessing of god in their proceding. Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable. They lived hear but as men in exile, & in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12. years of truce [the truce between Holland and Spain] were now out, & ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are allway uncertaine."


There were many rough decisions that were made before and during the trip and Bradford was faced with many of them.  The first problem was that he had to leave his four year old son behind as he made the dangerous voyage to the New World.  The second was the passage to the New World was not the smoothest ride and around the half way mark the Mayflower sustained a broken mast and most people wanted to turn around.  Bradford convinced the passengers and crew that they must push on because they had already had made it half way there so why not push on.


The Mayflower Compact from William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation


He was the one that negotiated a patent to give legal permission for a settlement in the New World.  Bradford managed to convince the King that the community that they were going to set up in the New World would still be under the control of the king and the people living in the New World would still follow the King’s laws.  He was also in charge of finding the financial backing for the trip and also record keeping.  If it was not for Bradford who knows if the Puritan movement would have been as successful as it was.







Back to The Atlantic Passage of the Puritans