Religion plays a major role in the day to day lives of the early settlers in America. So much so, that early colonial writers use it as a form of literary persuasion. John Smith and William Bradford were two such writers. Smith and Bradford use religion as a literary tool to persuade the reader towards their own interests.
There are similarities and differences in the motivation to use religion by these two authors, yet the use is still prevalent in their writings. The reasons for these similarities and differences are found in the greater interest of each individual author. John Smith and William Bradford use divine guidance as an explanation for the reasons of their journeys. Smith uses the providence of God to justify his placement at Jamestown.
Smith writes in "The General History of Virginia": "But God the guider of all good actions, forcing them by extreme storm to hull all night, did drive them by his providence to their desired port, beyond all their expectations... ". (27). Smith also alludes to the journey to America being a good action in the eyes of God.
So much so, that God calls upon his powers and produces a huge storm to place them where God wishes. Bradford uses the necessity of spreading the word of God (Christianity) to explain one of the reasons for his voyage to America. He writes "Lastly (and which was not least), a great hope and inward zeal they had to laying some good foundation... for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ... ". (84). Though this is not the main reason for the voyage; it is still a dominant idea.
Bradford relays through his writings that God will stand behind his journey. Once Smith and Bradford arrive in America, the difference in their use of religion in their writings is more evident. John Smith hardly writes of religion and its impact on daily life again. His narrative is focused more on the relations of the settlers, the Indians, and the adventures that ensue. His use of religion is merely used to explain what he cannot. Smith writes "But now was all our provision spent, the sturgeon gone, all helps abandoned, each hour expecting the fury of the savages, when God, the patron of all good endeavors, in that desperate extremity so changed the heart of the savages that they brought such plenty on their fruits and provision as no man wanted".
(30). In this example, Smith does not understand why the savages have brought them food and saved them from starvation. So his explanation is that God must have intervened the situation. Bradford uses religion to analyze almost all situations in daily life. His opinions of Thomas Morton and Merrymount illustrate this. Bradford writes. ".. some tending to a lasciviousness, and other to the detraction and scandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle or idol maypole... and here I may take occasion to bewail the mischief that this wicked man began in these parts, and which since, base covetousness prevailing in men that should know better, has now at length got the upper hand and made this thing common...
". (96-97). Bradford uses religion to condemn the devilish occurrences at Merrymount and to guide the reader in the good ways of God. Smith and Bradford use religion to promote their own greater interests. Underneath it all, Smith is a businessman and uses religion to relate to the reader.
This enables the reader to drop his guard and Smith is then able to weave his web of fantastic tales of adventure and to promote himself. Bradford uses religion to illustrate right and wrong in the daily lives of common people. By doing this, he furthers his ideals of religion and his derivation of the meaning behind the Bible. The argument could be made that Bradford uses religion as a form of control. John Smith and William Bradford used religion in their rhetoric. Their individual uses of religion display both similarities and differences.
The two writers had different ideals and principles that they wrote about, and used religion prevalently in their writings.