Thomas Morton, New English Canaan or New Canaan manuscript (copy by Samuel Gardner Drake) (1830)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Thomas Morton, New English Canaan or New Canaan manuscript (copy by Samuel Gardner Drake)
Creator: Drake, Samuel Gardner, 1798-1875
Inclusive dates: 1830
Extent: 1 volume
The Thomas Morton New English Canaan or New Canaan manuscript is Samuel Gardner Drake's 1830 transcription of Thomas Morton's book, New English Canaan or New Canaan (2nd edition: Amsterdam, 1637). The work describes Native Americans and New World flora and fauna, and satirizes the Massachusetts Bay colonists.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1928. M-19.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format

The Clements Library also holds the 1637 Amsterdam edition of New English Canaan .


Preferred Citation

Thomas Morton, New English Canaan or New Canaan Manuscript (Copy by Samuel Gardner Drake), William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Thomas Morton

Thomas Morton was born around 1575 in Devon, England. In the late 1590s, he studied law at Clifford's Inn in London. Although in his work he referred to himself as the son of a soldier, little else is known of his parentage. On November 6, 1621, he married Alice Miller, a widow. Morton made his first trip to North America in spring 1624, on the Unity . He and the other travelers landed at present-day Quincy, Massachusetts, and settled at Passonagessit. Morton eventually became leader of the colony, which he called Ma-re Mount (widely known as Merrymount). In 1627, he was forcibly sent back to England after offending the Plymouth colonists by selling firearms to Native Americans and erecting a maypole. He returned to the New World in 1629, but was again banished to England in 1630, this time by members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, whose charter included rights to the Merrymount's land. Upon his return to England, he challenged the authority of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, first by legal means, and then through publication of a book satirizing them, New English Canaan. The book's first printing was seized by agents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony before distribution, but a second publication in Amsterdam (1637), found a somewhat larger audience. In 1643, Morton made a final trip to North America, where he was again arrested, and made his way to Maine after his release. He reportedly died there in 1646 or 1647.

Samuel Gardner Drake

Samuel Gardner Drake was born October 11, 1798, to farmers Simeon Drake and Love Tucke. He grew up in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and as a young man, taught school in New Hampshire and New Jersey. In 1828, after publishing a new edition of Benjamin Church's Entertaining History of King Philip's War, Drake moved to Boston and opened the "Antiquarian Book-Store," the first of its kind in the United States. In 1845, he co-founded the New England Historic Genealogical Society. A prolific collector, upon his death in 1876, he left a collection of 15,000 volumes and 30,000 pamphlets related to early American history.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Thomas Morton New Canaan manuscript is a copy of the 1637 Amsterdam edition of Morton's major work, New Canaan. Antiquarian Samuel Gardner Drake made the transcription in 1830, from John Quincy Adams' printed copy. In addition to a full transcription of all three volumes of the work, Gardner included Adams' and his own sources for further reading on Morton, as well as "Notes by the transcriber," in which he recounted his request to Adams to borrow the work and laid out his reasons for making a copy (p. ii).

Each of the three "volumes" that make up Morton's work addresses a different subject. The first contains information collected by Morton on Native Americans, including a description of a recent deadly plague (p. 23), child-rearing customs (p. 31-32), and lengthy accounts of Native Americans' home, and religious and agricultural practices. Morton was a fairly sympathetic, if at times confused, observer, and found a great deal to praise. In the second volume, Morton focused on the natural features of the New World, and cataloged and commented on a range of trees, herbs, animals, and minerals. He expressed great admiration for the wilderness, calling the New World "a Country so infinitely blest" (p. 92). The third volume satirizes the austerity of the Puritans and criticizes them for the massacre of members of the Massachusett tribe at Wessagusset (p. 111). It also incorporates several poems by Morton.

Subject Terms

  • Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.
  • Algonquian Indians.
  • Birds--North America.
  • Indians of North America--Agriculture.
  • Indians of North America--First contact with Europeans.
  • Indians of North America--Massachusetts.
  • Indians of North America--New England.
  • Indians of North America--Religion.
  • Indians of North America--Social life and customs.
  • Massachuset Indians.
  • Massachusetts--Description and travel.
  • Massachusetts Bay Company.
  • Plants--Massachusetts.
  • Puritans.
  • Quincy (Mass.)
  • Trees--Massachusetts.
  • Weymouth (Mass)--History.
  • Morton, Thomas, 1575-1646.
Genre Terms:
  • Transcripts.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
Thomas Morton, New English Canaan or New Canaan Manuscript (Copy by Samuel Gardner Drake),  1830 [series]

Additional Descriptive Data


New England old and new: a brief review of some historical and industrial incidents in the Puritan "New English Canaan," still the Land of promise; pub. by the Old Colony trust company of Boston, commemorating the tercentenary of the first landing at Plymouth in 1620. [Boston], 1920.

Morton, Thomas. New English Canaan or New Canaan: Containing an abstract of New England, composed in three bookes. The first booke setting forth the originall of the natives, their manners and customes, together with their tractable nature and love towards the English. The second booke setting forth the naturall indowments of the country, and what staple commodities it yealdeth. Amsterdam: Printed by J.F. Stam, 1637.