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or thirteen, and shortly afterwards began to attend the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Clifton, puritan rector of Babworth. Notwithstanding the strong opposition of his relations and the scoffs of his neighbours, he joined the company of puritan separatists, or Brownists, who first met at the house of William Brewster [q.v.] at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, in 1606, and were presided over by Clifton. The community within a short period obtained considerable accessions, but, being threatened with persecution, resolved to remove to Holland. Bradford, along with the principal members of the party, entered into negotiations with a Dutch captain who agreed to embark them at Boston, but betrayed their intention to the magistrates, who sent some of them to prison, and compelled others to return to their homes. Bradford after several months' imprisonment succeeded, in the spring of the following year, in reaching Zealand, and joining his friends in Amsterdam, he became apprenticed to a French protestant who was engaged in the manufacture of silk. On coming of age he converted his estate in England into money, and entered into business on his own account, in which he is said to have been somewhat unsuccessful. About 1609 he removed with the community to Leyden, and when, actuated by a desire to live as Englishmen under English rule, they resolved to emigrate to some English colony, he was among the most zealous and active in the promotion of the enterprise. Their choice lay between Guinea and New England, and was finally decided in favour of the latter. By the assistance of Sir Edwin Sandys, treasurer, and afterwards governor of Virginia, a patent was granted them for a tract of country within that colony, and on 5 Sept. 1620 Bradford, with the first company of 'Pilgrim Fathers,' numbering in all a hundred men, women, and children, embarked for their destination in the Mayflower at Southampton. By stress of weather they were prevented landing within the territory of the Virginia Company, and finding themselves in a region beyond the patent, they drew up and signed a compact of government before landing at the harbour of Plymouth—already so named in Smith's map of 1616. Under this compact Carver was chosen the first governor, and on his death on 21 April 1621 the choice fell upon Bradford, who was elected every year continuously, with the exception of two intervals respectively of three years and two years at his own special request. This fact sufficiently indicates his paramount influence in the colony, an influence due both to the unselfishness and gentleness of his nature, and to his great practical abilities as a governor. Indeed, it was chiefly owing to his energy and forethought that the colony at the most critical period of its history was not visited by overwhelming disaster. Among the earliest acts of his administration was to send an embassy to confirm a league with the Indian sachem of Masassoit, who was revered by all the natives from Narragansett Bay to that of Massachusetts. Notwithstanding his friendship it was found necessary in 1622, on account of the threats of the sachem of Narragansett, to fortify the town, but no attack was made. Another plot entered into among certain chiefs to exterminate the English was, through the sachem of Masassoit, disclosed to Bradford, and on the advice of the sachem the ringleaders were seized and put to death. The friendship of the Indians, necessary as it was in itself, was also of the highest advantage on account of the threatened extinction of the colony by famine. The constant arrival of new colonists frequently reduced them almost to the starving point. The scarcity was increased by the early attempts at communism, and it was not till after an agreement that each family should plant for themselves on such ground as should be assigned them by lot, that they were relieved from the necessity of increasing their supplies of provisions by traffic with the Indians.
In 1629 a patent was obtained from the council of New England, vesting the colony in trust in William Bradford, his heirs, associates, and assigns, confirming their title to a certain tract of land, and conferring the power to frame a constitution and laws. In framing their laws, the model adopted by the colonists was primarily and principally the 'ancient platform of God's law,' and secondly the laws of England. At first the whole body of freemen assembled for legislative, executive, and judicial business, but in 1634 the governor and his assistants were constituted a judicial court, and afterwards the supreme judiciary. The first assembly of representatives met in 1639, and in the following year Governor Bradford, at their request, surrendered the patent into the hands of the general court, reserving to himself only his proportion as settler by previous agreement. He died on 9 May 1657. His first wife, Dorothy May, whom he married at Leyden on 20 Nov. 1613, was drowned at Cape Cod harbour on 7 Dec. 1620, and on 14 Aug. 1623 he married Alice Carpenter, widow of Edward Southworth, a lady with whom he had been previously acquainted in England, and who, at his request, had arrived in the colony with the view of being married to him. By his first marriage he had one son, and by his second two sons and a