New England settlers, like those in Virginia, were part of a joint stock company organization. Those at Plymouth in 1620 were the first enduring compact settlement, and comprised of John Robinson’s Separatist church of Leyden, Holland. “They complained that economic necessity forced them to be hard not only on their servants, but also on their children, who in Holland fell easy victim to the licentious example of the Dutch youth and to the temptation of the city.”
These settlers eventually found that rum made from West Indian molasses could be traded to the Indians for furs, and later traded to African chieftains in exchange for their slaves.
Sins & Profits of Pilgrims & Puritans
“To extend the fur trade monopoly, a patent was obtained from the New England Council for Kennebec, in what is now Maine. This monopoly was so zealously guarded that bloodshed resulted. Their Puritan brethren in Massachusetts complained, “They have brought us all, and the gospel under common reproach, of cutting one another’s throats for beaver.”
Not a little of the animosity of the Pilgrim fathers and other Puritan settlers toward Thomas Morton, a nearby English trading gentleman lawyer, was aroused by his interference with their profits from the fur trade. “Morton,” wrote [Governor William] Bradford, “has committed many sins. He is licentious and atheistical. He offers a haven to runaway servants, and supplies the Indians with guns.”
All sorts of punishments were visited on this “unscrupulous competitor,” from burning down his settlement to banishment to England. Morton quite gaily explained in his New England Canaan that, while he gave the Indians guns to obtain furs, the Pilgrims gave them more potent rum.
“Commerce has opened new lands for the preaching of the gospel,” promoters wrote. But the godly who live in wealth and prosperity must head the settlements, for a great work requires the best instruments, not a multitude of rude and misgoverned persons, the very scum of the land.
In England there is little hope for the godly. The fountains of learning and religion – the universities – are corrupted by “licentious government of these seminaries where men strain at gnats and swallow camels, use all severity for maintenance of caps” and other ceremonials, but tolerate “ruffian-like fashions and disorder in manners.”
(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 29-34)