Nathaniel Morton (christened 1616 – 29 June 1685) was a
Separatist settler of
Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, where he
served for most of his life as Plymouth's secretary under his uncle,
Governor William Bradford. Morton wrote an account of the settlement
of the Colony, the first historical text published in the United
States, and was first to publish a list of signers of the Mayflower
Compact as well as an account of the first Thanksgiving.
2 Colonial Secretary and Historian
3 See also
5 Further reading
Nathaniel Morton the eldest son of George Morton (1585–1624) and his
wife Juliana Carpenter (1584–1665). George Morton was one of the
organizers of the Plymouth settlement, and widely considered the
principal editor of Mourt's Relation, an early account of the
settlement designed to drum up interest in England. Morton's son
Nathaniel was born in Leiden, Holland, during the time the Separatists
lived there between their flight from England and their eventual
migration to Plymouth Colony.
The Morton family sailed for Plymouth on the ship Ann in 1623. After
his father's untimely death, Nathaniel was taken into the household of
his uncle William Bradford, then governor of Plymouth.
Morton married Lydia Cooper (1615-23 Sep 1673) on 25 Dec 1635. They
had nine children: Remember, Mercy, Hannah, Eleazer, Lydia, Nathaniel,
a stillborn daughter, Elizabeth and Joanna. After the death of Lydia,
Nathaniel married Anne Pritchard (ca. 1624-26 Dec 1691). Remember
Morton, daughter of Nathaniel Morton, married Abraham Jackson of
Plymouth, another initial proprietor of the colony. Their
descendant Lydia Jackson became the second wife of philosopher, poet
and Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Colonial Secretary and Historian
Title page, New England's Memorial, by Nathaniel Morton. Published at
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1669
From December 1645 until his death, Morton was annually elected
Secretary of Plymouth Colony, and most of the colony records are in
his handwriting. His careful maintenance of the records enabled him to
compile New England's Memorial, considered the first comprehensive
history of the colony, published at Cambridge in 1669 – and
widely considered the first book of history published in the United
States. Much of Memorial was based on the history of the colony
written by Morton's uncle, Gov. Bradford, a manuscript which was
lost for many years following the American Revolutionary War, when it
was likely appropriated by an English soldier. It later turned up in
the library of the
Bishop of London
Bishop of London in 1855, and was returned to
Morton also wrote First Beginnings and After Progress of the Church of
Christ at Plymouth, in New England. Annually since 1961, The Wall
Street Journal publishes an excerpt from Morton's history of Plymouth
Colony as an op-ed the Wednesday before
Morton was also the first to record the list of signers of the
Mayflower Compact in his work of 1669. The document itself was
^ Thacher, James (1832). History of the Town of Plymouth From Its
First Settlement in 1620, to the Year 1832. Marsh, Capen & Lyon.
^ Plymouth Colony, Its History and People, 1620–1691, Eugene Aubrey
Stratton, Reissued by Ancestry Publishing, 1986
^ Many scholars consider Bradford's history the better written volume
of the two, and some even classify Morton's book as an abridgment of
his uncle's work.
^ Bradford, William (1908). Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation,
1606-1646. C. Scribner's Sons. p. 16.
^ Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006). Mayflower A Story of Courage,
Community, and War. Penguin. p. 372.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Cambridge History of American Literature: Nathaniel Morton
Anderson, Robert Charles (1995), The Great Migration Begins 1620-1633,
II, Boston, Mass.: NEHGS, pp. 1296–97 .
Morton, Nathaniel (1826), New England's Memorial (5th ed.),
"The Desolate Wilderness, Nathaniel Morton", The Wall Street Journal,
25 November 2009
Library and Archives, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts,
archived from the original on 2009-11-04
"Morton, George". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.