The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Morton, Thomas (colonist)

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MORTON, Thomas, English colonist in America: b. England about 1575; d. Agamenticus (or Acomenticus), Me., 1646. He was an attorney of Clifford's Inn, London, of a somewhat doubtful reputation, and seems to have practised mainly in western England. In 1622 he landed in New England, where he remained three months; and in 1625 returned with Wollaston's Company. Wollaston soon after left for Virginia, and in the summer of 1626 Morion assumed control over those of Wollaston's following that remained. The settlement, Mount Wollaston (now Braintree, Mass.), near the coast, he called Mare Mount (Merry Mount); and in the spring of 1627 he erected a Maypole, and with the “salvages” proceeded to hold May-day to the scandalizing of their Puritan neighbors of Plymouth. Contrary to law, he supplied the Indians with firearms and instructed them in their use; and he was a rival of the Plymouth settlers in the fur-trade. He was accordingly arrested by Capt. Miles Standish and sent back to England (1628). But in August 1629 he was again in New England. In August or September 1630 he was a second time arrested and banished. He published, in 1637, ‘New English Canaan,’ which Nathaniel Morton (‘New England's Memorial’) denounces as “full of lies and slanders, and full fraught with profane calumnies,” but which as a satire is sometimes not unamusing, and contains information of interest regarding local features and the Indians. When he ventured back to New England (1643) he was imprisoned for about a year while evidence for a libel suit was being collected, and was finally let go on payment of a fine of $500. Nathaniel Hawthorne's ‘The Maypole of Merry Mount’ (in ‘Twice-Told Tales,’ 1837) and J. L. Motley's ‘Merry Mount’ (1849) are based on Morton's career.