Merry Mount


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Morton, Thomas

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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Merry Mount

colonists frolic around Maypole, causing Morton’s arrest. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 543]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
There is an admirable foundation for a philosophic romance in the curious history of the early settlement of Mount Wollaston, or Merry Mount. In the slight sketch here attempted, the facts, recorded on the grave pages of our New England annalists, have wrought themselves, almost spontaneously, into a sort of allegory.
Bright were the days at Merry Mount, when the Maypole was the banner staff of that gay colony!
Such were the colonists of Merry Mount, as they stood in the broad smile of sunset round their venerated Maypole.
Lo, here stand the Lord and Lady of the May, whom I, a clerk of Oxford, and high priest of Merry Mount, am presently to join in holy matrimony.
This wedlock was more serious than most affairs of Merry Mount, where jest and delusion, trick and fantasy, kept up a continual carnival.
How came it in your mind too?" said Edith, in a still lower tone than he, for it was high treason to be sad at Merry Mount. "Therefore do I sigh amid this festive music.
From the moment that they truly loved, they had subjected themselves to earth's doom of care and sorrow, and troubled joy, and had no more a home at Merry Mount. That was Edith's mystery.
But none of these motives had much weight with the colonists of Merry Mount. Their leaders were men who had sported so long with life, that when Thought and Wisdom came, even these unwelcome guests were led astray by the crowd of vanities which they should have put to flight.
But what chiefly characterized the colonists of Merry Mount was their veneration for the Maypole.
Not far from Merry Mount was a settlement of Puritans, most dismal wretches, who said their prayers before daylight, and then wrought in the forest or the cornfield till evening made it prayer time again.
A party of these grim Puritans, toiling through the difficult woods, each with a horseload of iron armor to burden his footsteps, would sometimes draw near the sunny precincts of Merry Mount. There were the silken colonists, sporting round their Maypole; perhaps teaching a bear to dance, or striving to communicate their mirth to the grave Indian; or masquerading in the skins of deer and wolves, which they had hunted for that especial purpose.
Even that dim light is now withdrawn, relinquishing the whole domain of Merry Mount to the evening gloom, which has rushed so instantaneously from the black surrounding woods.