Conduct Us to Our Hope
Exhibition ends April 13th, 2014
An Interpretive Interactive History of Our Region. From Gosnold to the Pilgrims, the American Revolution, the rise of Whaling, Abolition, and Beyond…With Emphasis on Conscience and Conflict and the Issues Enduring through Time
This exhibition interprets the settlement of the Old Dartmouth region and the great 17th century issues that reverberate to this day. We are focusing on issues involving the husbanding of our natural resources once abundant on land and sea as well as the many other issues, such as immigration, arising out of our differences and issues involving race and religion, along with the rights of religion under a secular government.
Gabriel Archer sailed with Bartholomew Gosnold into Buzzards Bay and the mouth of the Acushnet River in 1602 and was impressed enough by what he saw to write that the estuary “may happily become good harbors, and conduct us to the hopes men so greedily do thirst after.” The harbor and surrounding region has conducted many to that hope. Does it continue to do so today? How are those hopes defined today? Are they defined any differently than Archer’s in 1602; broader, narrower, higher, or have they fallen quite low?
From the start of European settlement, the New Bedford region has always been about its useful maritime advantages as a sheltered, deep water port, just as it is today. Back in 1602, Archer was referring to the hope for sustainable prosperity and commerce that would be the basis for a new community of free and independent people. It took some time and trouble but by the mid-18th century, the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay thrilled to incipient commercial life and energy. The religious fanaticism that perverted the Puritan view of reality had lost some of its harsh edge and once persecuted sects such as the Quakers and Anabaptists had found safe haven in Old Dartmouth, especially with the end of the Indian wars and the death of King Phillip.
Now the colonial settlers could devote their energies culling fish from the teeming stocks that gave Cape Cod its name. They could also harvest lumber, charcoal, iron ore and granite from the forests the Indians had been cultivating for more than a thousand years. Now was the time to build communities and a commonwealth and to strengthen economic ties with England and the West Indies through maritime trade. Now was the time to reap the harvest of the fields, forests and fisheries and confirm the Puritan belief that they were the elect of God, a truth made manifest by their worldly success - a sure sign of God’s favor. But their faith-driven pursuit of the hopes men do “so greedily thirst after” led inevitably to the exploitation of the land and the sea whose resources seemed boundless and inexhaustible.
Above: Detail from“Endicott and the Red Cross,” by William Allen Wall (1801-1885). Oil on canvas (1987.19.1). In this scene John Endicott cuts the cross of St. George out of the English flag while Roger Williams looks on and a Quaker, not present at the time but nonetheless included in the scene, is shown in the stocks.
Major support for this exhibition comes from
William M. Wood Foundation