When the lands known today at the United States were being settled (and the peoples who formerly lived in this places eradicated), sexuality was in a state of flux. While pilgrims and puritan settlements enforced strict measures regarding sexuality, i.e. sex was for reproduction only, Thomas Morton cavorted with the natives and encouraged relationships between the settlers at his colony where he built his own home on his own patented land.
By contrast, Steve Rasmussen poetically explained of the Puritans in 2001: “Those dour Puritans who kneeled in thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock before marching forth to conquer the wilderness and its native inhabitants with Bibles and guns weren’t the only Pilgrims to seek spiritual freedom on the New World’s shores. Just a few leagues up the Massachusetts coast from Plymouth’s fortress of fundamentalist conformity, a poet and lawyer named Thomas Morton founded a colony that, had it survived Puritan persecution, might have spawned a far more Earth-friendly and egalitarian history of America than the one that’s come down to us.”
The longing for freedom is real and persistent.
Control on the other hand has hidden those parts of history where real life embodied freedom was practiced widely. Controlling history means hiding histories such as those of Thomas Morton and the colony at Merrymount. In American education, colonial history is presented as the exercise of domination. But another history exists that has been actively hidden, erased, and denied.
In the early colonial period in North America, control was exercised in a variety was ways but most importantly through religion, race, gender, and class.
Race along with sexuality was in a state of flux in the early colonial period. By the early 17th century, race was only beginning to come into existence as notions of ethnicity were devolving into hard and fast distinctions based on such superficial differences as skin color.
The origins of racial difference began in Latin America, which was colonized a entire century before North American colonization. The origins of race are in explaining the very existence of native peoples, but more importantly in the legal means of conquesting a people hitherto “unknown” (I put this in quotes because this is questionable history) to the conquering Europeans. Race does not begin as popularly believed with kidnapped African transport labor under conditions of British slavery. It was however British practices of enslavement and trade in human chattel of the varied nations of Africa that solidified into the racial categories we know today as they were forcibly transported across the Atlantic.
Race eventually incorporated other appearance based differences including shade of skin color, hair texture, and other physical attributes. But it was not these differences that created meaning for the term race. Rather race was given meaning by value judgements attached to these physical attributes. Perceptions of difference go far beyond skin color. Value judgements associated with notions of superior and inferior, peace and violence, chastity and lasciviousness are why race remains a significant category shaping lived experiences today. Let us recognize race as a dynamic that shifts cultural constructions of meaning when it comes to sexuality and economics. For this is important in the story of Merrymount.
Freedom Amid Racist Asceticism
At Merrymount in what is today New England (specifically Quincy, Massachusetts), Thomas Morton established a colony whose values conflicted with those of Puritan settlers vision of the world. Puritans wholeheartedly believed they were superior to other political-religious populations because of their beliefs in Christian morality. These ideas were particularly applicable when it came to natives. Puritan social behavior was serious, sullen, and without pleasure. Such was life among religious extremists whose beliefs were shaped by the Protestant Reformation.
Puritans believed native peoples were savages. Morton’s colony embraced native peoples, took no issue with sexual relations between settlers and natives, and traded guns and munition to native peoples. Native sexuality was entirely distinct from the rigid European beliefs developing around sexuality. It has been suggested that sexuality was just another way of engaging in trade among the Natives of what became New England (see  or ). The sexuality of native women in trade was distinct from the use of women as objects to trade relationships among the settlers and the imperial homeland in Britain.
Puritans were offended by the social practices allowed in Morton’s colony, calling it pagan, libertine, condemning the pleasure of their rowdy joyous colony and the sexual expressiveness of its people. Responding to Puritan offense at Merrymount, Morton said “have they ever inquired whether their gravity offendith me or not?
The Maypole That Stood For A Year
On May 1, 1627, Thomas Morton celebrated old English heritage with the erection of a Maypole. Attached to the Maypole was a poem with the concluding line
“With proclamation that the first of May
At Ma-re Mount shall be kept hollyday.” 
May Day celebrations have been characterized as drunken celebrations tied to a pagan past preceding Britain’s Anglican church. The Puritans were downright offended by these practices. They threated to burn Morton’s house to the ground and send him back to England for this show of pagan ritual that included cavorting with the natives.
“After a second Maypole party the next year, Myles Standish led a party of armed men to Merrymount, seized Morton and put him in chains. Standish also took down the offending Maypole.” 
The Maypole stood for a year. It served as an identifying landmark for shipping coming to shore. Because of this ships were attracted to Merrymount at the expense of Plymouth. The only reason the Maypole came down, was because while Morton was out of town it was cut to the ground by an angry Puritan mob.
Merrymount’s May Day festivities did not end on the first of May. Rather they continued on over time and came to characterize this place of free sexuality without social hierarchy. The qualities of May Day festivities complemented the desires of sailors coming to port and was something presumably not available among the puritans. The Merrymount settlement celebrated feasting, drinking, dancing, ribald songs, wittiness, and social levelling.
Many a writer on the internet and in scholarly circles are quick to use the term pagan when discussing Morton and the settlement at Merrymount. Yet I find no evidence of so-called paganism, which seems more an emotional manipulation used to think a certain way of Merrymount and its founder Thomas Morton.
Historians of Massachusetts history have characterized Merrymount as “a place of drunken licentiousness, a pseudoanarchical foil [compared] to the rigid puritanism of Plymouth and Boston” . Merrymount was a threat to social order because it lacked hierarchy. It is certain that when Thomas Morton was abandoned on an island as punishment for the indiscretions at Merrymount, the Puritans had no ability to conceptualize that the greatness of his settlement would send people looking for him.
Merrymount, apparently named for its proximity to the sea with a play on the Latin word mar but also interpreted as a pejorative term to refer to the aura of this place, but also maybe just a clever play on words in contradistinction to the solemn qualities of life among the Puritans. It could even be Morton making a jab at the Puritans with the a play on words shifting between merry as in merriment and Mary mother of god.
Side bar: Is it just me or do we live in a society—from its origins—determined to eliminate all sense of joy and pleasure? This is why we need this history. We are not without joy and we will find our history. It will not be published in the New York Times and it will not be published in the top academic journals. At best it will be reduced to footnotes, tangential prose in humanities and social science analysis, or in Daniel Walden’s words “a second-class counterhistory.”
Morton wrote: “”The inhabitants of Merrymount … did devise amongst themselves to have … Revels, and merriment after the old English custom … & therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beer, & provided a case of bottles to be spent, with other good cheer, for all comers of that day. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols, and other fitting instruments, for that purpose; and there erected it with the help of Savages, that came thither of purpose to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed on, somewhat near unto the top of it; where it stood as a fair sea mark for directions, how to find out the way to mine Host of Ma-re Mount.”
The religious suppression of freedom in the name of economics.
Morton cavorted with the “Indians” around the Maypole, celebrating life. Colonization for him was about balancing good times with economic opportunities. Yet his practices put him in danger with the Puritans and their rigid value system. Puritans were not good at accepting other forms of separatism. They did not want competition. They certainly did not seek out an egalitarian society and the freedom that comes with it.
Morton worked with natives to establish a highly successful fur trade and port. Three social groups that were prominent in the Merrymount colony were formerly indentured laborers and other colonial outcasts, sailors, and natives. The ability of the colony to thrive depended on fur trading and this meant a competitive advantage obtained by distributing guns to these cunning hunters and their intimate knowledge of local ecology. The superiority of the natives in the fur trade who were freely allied with Morton threated Puritan colonies. Puritan colonies meanwhile were already suffering from a harsh life with a paucity of food stuffs. Puritan prosperity was threatened by the economic successes of Merrymount.
Morton’s fall from grace came at the hands of the Puritans he so offended. Morton was a writer and a lawyer. He often wrote against the Puritans, who offended him. In history, it appears a one way street with the Puritans representing the freedom and nationalism of the United States and Morton representing an outlaw. We are taught which settlement to relate to and which to be offended by, buy what if we were independently minded in a fashion similar to Morton?
Ultimately, it was the Puritans who won out. First they had Morton shipped back to England. He returned to New England a year later. Then upon his return the Puritans sought to restrict his words by having him sign a document abiding by the law of the bible, something he refused. He was eventually imprisoned for a year, kept in a stockade and poorly cared for. We should not be surprised that he was poorly kept during this time. Life in the Puritan colony at Plymouth was known to be harsh and hunger ridden. He expired soon after his release.
The lessons learned from the colonial settlement at Merrymount are quite different than a standard history would manipulate us into believing. Thomas Morton was not a devil in disguise. He was a man seeking freedom in a community of equality and fraternity. The open sexual practices among peoples in a context lacking the social hierarchy of the old world proved extremely successful, so much so that Morton ultimately died at the hands of the Puritan settlers rulebook.
Is this the competition so celebrated by capitalism? One that involves bringing extra-market death to your competitors?
 Podruchy, Carolyn. 2006. Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. University of Nebraska Press.
 Walden, Daneil. 2013. “ ‘The Very Hydra of the Time’: Morton’s ‘New English Canaan’ and Atlantic Trade” Early American Literature48(2): 315-336.
 “MERRYMOUNT AND ITS MAYPOLE: TRUE STORY OF MORTON AND OTHERS WHO DANCED THERE DISCUSSED IN EIGHTH PAPER ON EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE COLONY OF DANCERS GAVE INDIANS FIREARMS STOPPED GUNS AND MIRTH MORTON’S HOUSE BURNED.” 1911.The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File), Nov 01, 2.
 Rasmussen, Steve. 2001. “THE PAGAN PILGRIM: THOMAS MORTON OF MERRYMOUNT; Intellectual “Heathen” Remains an Inspiration.” Mountain Xpress, Nov 27.
 New England Historical Society. “The Maypole that Infuriated the Puritans”
 Morton, Thomas. 1627. Poem, published in New English Canaan.