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Financial Transparency in 1620

On August 17, 1620, the Mayflower and the Speedwell were anchored in Dartmouth, Devon, along the south coast of England.  They had twice turned back to repair major leaks, which used up valuable resources and exposed conflicts among them.  Robert Cushman (who served as the agent of the Leiden congregation) sent a letter back to London, written to one of my own ancestors, Edward Southworth, complaining about the lack of transparency and accountability of Christopher Martin, the man appointed as Purchasing Agent and Governor of the Speedwell:

Near £700 hath been bestowed at Hampton, upon what I know not, Mr. Martin saith he neither can, nor will give any account of it; and if he be called upon for accounts, he crieth out of unthankfulness for his pains and care, that we are suspicious of him, and flings away, … [H]e … so insulteth over our poor people, with such scorn and contempt, as if they were not good enough to wipe his shoes. It would break your heart to see his dealing, and the mourning of our people; they complain to me, and alas! I can do nothing for them. If I speak to him, he flies in my face as mutinous, and saith no complaints shall be heard or received but by himself, and saith they are froward and waspish, discontented people, and I do ill to hear them. There are others that would lose all they have put in, or make satisfaction for what they have had, that they might depart; but he will not hear them, nor suffer them to go ashore, lest they should run away. The sailors are so offended at his ignorant boldness in meddling and controlling in things he knows not what belongs to, as that some threaten to mischief him . . .

So the demand for financial accountability and transparency have been a part of our congregational heritage for nearly 400 years!