Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Another Famine

Now, if you please, I will set down at once that which is in my mind concerning it, so that I need not weary you by repeating. This first year of harvest was a fairly plentiful one, and would have sufficed for all our wants during the coming winter, had it not been that other people were joining us by every ship, nearly all of whom were poorly provided for, having left England in the belief that we were dwelling amid plenty.


Therefore it was, that to feed these new comers as well as ourselves, we were frequently hard pressed for what was actually needed to save ourselves the pangs of hunger.

It is true that during this summer of 1631 many cattle were sent from England; but so many died during the voyage, that those which lived seemed extremely precious, because from them were we counting on our future herds. People who had spent their money in England buying twenty cows, but succeeded in bringing to Boston only four, could not afford to kill them for the sake of meat, more especially since the very life of our colony depended upon their increase.

We had famine in the first year; we were cramped for food during the second year, yet consoled ourselves with the thought that when another season had come, there would be so much seed put into the ground that there could be no question of lack of whatever might be needed.

But the summer of our third year in Boston was cold and wet; the crop of corn failed almost entirely, and again were we forced to seek our food from the sea, or to dig for clams; but even this last was extremely difficult, owing to the exceedingly cold winter of that season.

The Charles river was frozen from shore to shore, and it was as if the snow fell almost every day, until the drifts were piled so high roundabout our town that, save in the very center of the village, we could not move about.

Another famine was staring us in the face when the winter came to an end, and we knew that unless help should reach us from the outside, we could not add to our stores until another harvest time.

Then it was that we realized the value of having neighbors, and truly these were neighbors indeed, who, at Jamestown in the New World, had such store of food, as would allow them to lade a ship wholly with corn, sending her, through God's direction, to that port where the supply was most needed.

Lest I weary you with too many words regarding our hunger, I will set it down thus briefly, that, except at rare intervals, we were pinched for food during the first five years we lived in Boston, and not until that time had passed were we free from further fear of famine.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: New Arrivals  |  Next: Fine Clothing Forbidden
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.