MORTON, THOMAS (c. 159o-1646), usually called Thomas Morton of Merrymount, English adventurer in America, was a lawyer of Clifford's Inn, London, and seems to have practised in the west of England. He spent three months in America in 1622; returned in 1625, and settled at Mount Wollaston, in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts; and in 1626, when most of the settlers removed to Virginia, he assumed command of the settle ment, and renamed it Merrymount. He came into conflict with the Puritan settlers, by setting up a maypole and also, it should be added, selling rum and arms to the Indians. He was banished to England, but returned in 1629, when he was arrested on trivial charges by the Massachusetts authorities, and was confined in the stocks. Later his house was burned and he was sent to England, where he spent a term in the Essex gaol. After his release he wrote his New English Canaan (1637), in which he heaps ridicule upon the New England colonists. In 1643 Morton returned to
America. He was imprisoned in Boston in the following year, was brought to trial, remanded pending the gathering of further evi deuce, and after a year's confinement was fined .1 zoo and released. He retired to Agamenticus (now York), Maine, and in 1646 died poverty-stricken.
See the New English Canaan, edited by Charles Francis Adams (Publications of the Prince Society, vol. ix., Boston, 1883) ; C. F. Adams, Three Episodes of Massachusetts History (Boston, 1896) ; and, for a more favourable view of Morton, A Few Observations on the Prince Society's Edition of the New English Canaan, revised and reprinted from the Churchman (New York, 5883). Morton's adventures have furnished material for Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, The Maypole of Merrymount, and for John Lothrop Motley's novels, Morton's Hope (1839) and Merry Mount (1849).