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By John M. Hunt, Jr.

Isaac Allerton's Signature
Isaac Allerton's Signature

Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton, the first assistant Governor of Plymouth Colony (and as such second in power only to Bradford), was quite an entrepreneur. Robert Charles Anderson, in The Great Migration Begins, called him "one of the busiest and most complicated men in early New England." And he truly was. Business too him everywhere on the Atlantic seaboard, not to mention Barbados, the Dutch West Indies, Spain, Portugal, and England. He crossed the Atlantic seven times. It was only when the profit motive drove him to prefer himself to Plymouth, and thereby to defraud the colony, that he earned Bradford's contempt and received, in the pages ho his History, his everlasting censure.

Bloodied but unbowed, Allerton moved to Marblehead. Various misfortunes (God's judgement upon him, Bradford thought) befell his fishing enterprises there. In New Amsterdam, however, he prospered greatly and was, as the New York Mayflower Society proclaimed on a tablet in 1904, "a leading merchant," being also, the same Society said, "the Father of New England Commerce." His two-story warehouse, on 500 feet of water frontage on the East River, bulged with tobacco, imported by the ton.

Allerton was the fifth signer of the Mayflower Compact. Does his signature—such as we have it, on a later document—reveal anything about "the magnitude and intricacy of his business activities"? Does his handwriting hint at his character? Some have found evidence of good character, as Francis R. Stoddard (The Truth about the Pilgrims, [NY 1952] p. 109) did in an entry to Old Colony Records for 1633 (OCR I 20). In the matter of discharging debts of Godbert Godbertson, owed mostly to Isaac Allerton, "the said Isaak Allerton," the record reads, "hath given free leave to all other his creditors to be fully discharged before he receive anything of his particular debts to himself desiring rather to lose all than other men should lose any." Michael McGiffert went so far as to dub Allerton "the first American Pilgrim," and to entitle an article on him "Religion and Profit Do Jump Together."

In connection with the Plymouth Church, Allerton was the son-in-law of Elder Brewster and the father-in-law of Elder Brewster's successor as Ruling Elder, Thomas Cushman. He sent his son, Isaac, Jr., to Harvard, an institution founded to educate clergy. (the younger Allerton, no doubt scrupulously schooled in Latin in his grandfather's library, did indeed graduate, in 1650.)

Handwriting analyst Michelle Dresbold, author of Sex, Lies, and Handwriting, spoke to members of our Western Colony at their Thanksgiving Luncheon on November 17, 2007. What she does, she told them, is "personality profiling through handwriting." She can determine whether someone is religious, educated, temperamental, violent, self-destructive, healthy, kindly, generous, etc. She looks at three "zones" of the person's letters. The upper zone (upper loops, like l's and k's) reveals what goes on in the head, the person's ideas and beliefs; the middle zone, what keeps the person alive, his/her everyday doings; and the lower zone, his/her physical and sexual area. Michelle Dresbold can sense, by proportion, by the way the letters are made, where the writer puts the emphasis in his/her life. She is careful to notice, in addition, whether the letters are large, small, flowing, tight, etc.

Isaac Allerton's signature caught her immediate attention. Having no prior knowledge of the man, she reacted thus:

"He is kind of a weirder guy, this one. The first thing you might notice about Isaac Allerton is that his handwriting is large. Large handwriting is a little more outgoing. "See Me." "Notice me." So this person isn't somebody who in the long run wants to be the background person, and is going to do more to get in front of the group than someone else. Remember pointed in your head means that he had a little bot of narrow-minded thinking. He may also have pointed, sometimes you see, the weapons or instrument that they used. The "I" should not go way down to the lower zine. So either money-wise or physically or sexually he did stuff he was not supposed to do. He went where he was not supposed to be. Notice  "Isaac" and "Allerton," th e two names, blended together. There is no space. What happens when there is no space? "Hi, I am an intransient host, I don't give proper space." there is a little confusion there. So this person is a little bit different, a little bit confused, no too bad—but would you trust this person around your money? No! If he is around, keep your wallet in your pocket."

 William Bradford, though he would hardly have approved of handwriting analysis, would certainly have agreed with the "money" and "wallet" comment. As for the Allertonian "see me," john Winthrop experienced it first-hand. No sooner had the great Puritan (and first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) arrived with his massive fleet in "Boston Harbor" than he received a bold welcome to the New World from—Isaac Allerton. Allerton, sailing in the waters at the time, ever the opportunist, personally boarded the Arbella. Winthrop remembered the incident and, as his Journal shows, remembered Isaac Allerton.