Morton and Bradford as almost as alike as they are different, which is what makes them so interesting. In a way, their dynamic is not unlike that of Batman and the Joker in that they sort of lived only to be one another's adversary.
It all starts with Morton, in a way, since he sort of consciously decided to settle near Plymouth, almost as if he was trying to be a bother. There, he set up Merrymount, a mere 30 miles away from the puritans, where he flaunted his flashy, sinful lifestyle, of business, and dancing! The hilarity ensues when the pilgrims go after him with full force, in a lovingly portrayed, age old style of hypocrisy that would come to define this land. The pilgrims, who fled their homeland of England in search of religious tolerance could not STAND that the guys next door had a May Pole up! It almost reads out like a farce.
Morton set up shop, and even good relations with the native Algonquin tribe, who Morton quipped, were far more pleasant allies than his "intolerant European neighbors". This whole scene brings to mind catty women lobbing underhanded insult s at one another at the salon.
The Pilgrims resented Morton's fun and fancy free lifestyle, and so, lead by Bradford, pooled every ounce of clout that had to try and get Morton arrested for unlawful sale of firearms to the surrounding native tribes. In defense of the Pilgrims, selling guns to the Indians WAS technically illegal, but it was about as illegal as downloading MP3's is today. The Pilgrims had Morton carted away, sailed across the damn ocean, and imprisoned, and while he was gone they BURNED DOWN HIS HOUSE! Because what he was doing was so awful, and so terrible, a message had to be sent!
The flip side to this, however, is comparing Morton to the puritans. The puritans thought Morton's May Pole is intolerable! However, what IS acceptable is this constant and looming belief that you were either damned... or A-OK! If you were damned, you were damned, your life and action suddenly become meaningless, you are going to hell, no questions asked. If you were NOT damned... well, well, well! You STILL might be screwed! It doesn't take much to open up those floodgates! God does not like you, he never wanted you, in all probability, he HATES you. This was the reality these people lived with every day, they raised their children to believe this. If I had to chose whose house to burn down, I might be to quick to rush over to Morton's place. Morton was not only a legitimate businessman, but an intellectual, and also an important pioneer in race relations in the newly settles/invaded frontier of the new world.
The text seems to want to argue that puritan life was not so dire and tragic, but it's really hard to imagine it any other way, but that's only coming form my 21st century, pop culture junkie loudmouth perspective.