William Bradford (Plymouth Colony governor)

English Separatist leader in Leiden, Holland and in Plymouth Colony (1590-1657)

William Bradford (March 19, 1590May 9, 1657) was a leader of the Pilgrim settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts who became Governor of the Plymouth Colony. He was the second signer and primary architect of the Mayflower Compact. As Governor of Plymouth, Bradford is also credited as being the first to proclaim what popular American culture viewed as the first Thanksgiving.

The signing of the Mayflower Compact (November 21, 1620)



Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646


Boston: MA, Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers (1898) [1]

  • Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness.
    • Ch. 2.
  • The loss of...honest and industrious men's lives cannot be valued at any price.
    • Ch. 3.
  • But it pleased God to visit us then with death daily, and with so general a disease that the living were scarce able to bury the dead.
    • Ch. 4.
  • Cold comfort to fill their hungry stomach.
    • Ch. 5.
  • Behold, now, another providence of God. A ship comes into the harbor.
    • Ch. 6.
  • Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.
    • Ch. 7.
  • The experience that was had in ... the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth ... was found to breed much confusion and discontent; and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit.... For the young men that were most able and fit for labor and service objected that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children, without any recompense.... The strong man or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes, etc., than the weak man who was not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men, who were ranked and equalized in labor, food, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger ones, thought it some indignity and disrespect to them.
    • Chapter 10, [163] and [164]

Quotes about William Bradford

  • To consummate the wanton slaughter of some 700 Pequots, in 1637 the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Bradford, proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day be celebrated "in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won." Peace on stolen land is borne of genocide.
    • Nick Estes Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance (2019)