Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weston, Thomas (d.1643?)

WESTON, THOMAS (d. 1643?), merchant and colonist, was in 1619 in close correspondence with the leaders of the English congregation at Leyden, and especially with John Robinson (1576?–1625) [q. v.], their minister. In the spring of 1620 he went to Leyden, and, finding the exiles negotiating with the merchants of Amsterdam with a view to their emigrating to New Amsterdam, he persuaded them to break off these negotiations, ‘and not to meddle with the Dutch or depend too much on the Virginia Company,’ for he and some other merchants, his friends, ‘would set them forth,’ and provide for them such shipping and money as they needed. Robinson, John Carver [q. v.], William Bradford (1590–1657) [q. v.], and the other leaders of the party believed that he was actuated by a sincere and religious sympathy with their cause, and followed his suggestions. The rigorous conditions to which he forced them to agree were passed as for the satisfaction of Weston's associates; but Carver, on arriving in England to conclude the necessary arrangements, found that little was done, and that, practically, Weston refused to advance the money unless he had the autocratic direction of the whole. The assistance which he finally gave them was much less than he had promised, and the ‘pilgrims’ were reduced to very great straits for the prosecution of their voyage.

In November 1621 the Fortune, a small vessel of fifty-five tons, came out from Weston to the colonists at Plymouth; but, though she was sent back with a cargo of clap-boards and beaver-skins to the value of 500l., Weston had thrown his old friends over, and resolved to send out a separate colony on his own venture. In this there was no pretence at any religious motive. It was for the simple advancement of Weston's interests, and the colonists were the scum and outcasts of civilisation. The council for New England petitioned against this as an infringement of their charter (Brown, Genesis of the United States, 31 May and 5 July 1622); but the expedition set out under the government of Richard Greene, Weston's brother-in-law, and arrived at Plymouth, where they remained two months, wasting their stores in idleness. Greene died, and, under the rule of one Saunders, they finally settled at a place afterwards known as Weymouth, near Bosston. Here many of them died of sickness, and the rest were threatened by the Indians with extermination—a fate from which they were rescued by a party from Plymouth led by Myles Standish [q. v.] Shortly afterwards Weston himself arrived in borrowed clothes, having lost everything, and was obliged to beg a small stock of beaver to set up in trade. Presently Robert Gorges [see under Gorges, Sir Ferdinando] came out with a royal commission as lieutenant-governor of the district, and, conceiving Weston to be an interloper, had him arrested. Bradford obtained his release, and he was eventually permitted to return to England. He is said to have died at Bristol during the civil war.

[Little, if anything, is known of Weston beyond what is told by Bradford in his History of Plymouth Plantation (collections of the Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th ser. vol. iii.). All other relations—Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims, Prince's Chronological Hist. of New England, Hubbard's General History of New England—are merely repetitions of Bradford's story, and necessarily tinged by Bradford's bitterness towards the man.]

J. K. L.