Bradford and Smith


At the dawn of the 17th Century two English colonies found their beginnings on the East Coast of the New World. The founders of these colonies, Captain John Smith and William Bradford tell of their encounters in General History of Virginia and Of Plymouth Plantation, respectively. As their documents are compared similarities and differences become apparent in their style of writing, purpose, and the events in their separate colonies they document.


In terms of style their differences seem to be the more evident than their similarities. First and foremost Smith writes in an extremely subjective sense while Bradford writes more objectively. Although trying to sound objective, Smiths subjective style is unmistakable in the following quote:


“Captain Smith, who, by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build houses, and others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in short time he provided most of them lodgings, neglecting any for himself...”


Bradford on the other hand writes a simple account of events. Smith is also very verbose and complementary of himself while being careful not to step out of 3rd person. On the other hand Bradford writes in a simple Puritan style and in limited 1rst person point of view. However the two authors also offer some similarities in their styles. They both describe events in their similar ventures to establish colonies. Another key similarity is the fact that they both mention God in their works as illustrated in the following quotes:


“...when God, the patron of all good endeavors....”-John Smith


“...as by God’s good providence they did.” -William Bradford


These quotes show that religion was a key factor in both John Smiths and William Bradfords life.


Another point of similarities and differences is the purpose that each author was trying to attain. Although similar in that the basis of each document is set in recording events in a purely historical perspective Smith may have had other motives for authoring this work. Bradford simply records history and praises God while on the other hand Smith wrote his work in order to praise himself, explain to the London Trading Company why there was no return on their investment yet, point out his leadership was superior to that of James Wingfield, and above all to ask for more supplies and money from the London Trading Company. Even though Smith never directly states his true purpose it is most evident in the following quotation from his work:


“Thus you may see what difficulties still crossed any good endeavor; and the good success of the business being thus oft brought to the very period of destruction; yet you see by what strange means God hath still delivered it.”


The last point of contention and comparison is in the events that Smith and Bradford describe. Since these men document similar endeavors they recorded many similar events. Both had to deal with just plain survival including food shortages, sickness, the death of many in their respective parties, building shelters, and lastly encounters with the Native Americans. This last point however is also a point of dissimilarity, although both encountered Native Americans their accounts were very different. Smith came across unfriendly natives, who he supposedly killed single-handedly, his life being in ever-imminent danger. Bradford on the other hand however encountered friendly natives and participated in the most famous European-Native American festivity ever, Thanksgiving.


As shown in each of their writings each author shows similarities and differences as they document the first months of life in the colony in their style of writing, purpose, and also in the events they document. In style they differ in that Smith is subjective while bradford is objective yet they are also show some similarities in that they both record general events in their colonies and then both mention God. In purpose although similar in that they are documenting history they are also different for the reason that Smith is writing to persuade the London Trading Company while Bradfords writing is free of financial motives. Lastly they are similar in the events they document in view of the fact that they both document the struggles of surviving in the