PURITAN DISSIDENTS FLEE EUROPE
The story of the Mayflower and the small band of religious dissidents who boarded her in the hope of finding freedom in the New World must be one of the best-known tales in history.
The origins of separatism are closely connected with the Nottinghamshire churches of Austerfield, Scrooby and Babworth. It was in the small hamlet of Babworth that Richard Clyfton was parson and two of his students, William Bradford and William Brewster came to hear him preach. Clyfton was later ‘deprived of his living’ due to his nonconformist views and this led to the first secret meetings of the early separatists being held in Brewster’s home in Scrooby.
THEY left the shores of england to start a new life in Holland. It was 13 years later, in 1620, that the pilgrims finally reached Plymouth in the United States of America. William Brewster of the Manor House at Scrooby, who led the crossing from Holland in 1620 and William Bradford from Austerfield, South Yorkshire, who was Governor of the Plymouth Colony from 1621 to 1657.as life for Puritans became more uncomfortable in England, more and more made the journey across the Atlantic. By 1630, their numbers were such that the Puritans were able to establish the Massachusetts Bay Company and establish Boston, which was to grow as a major port. Despite the privations of 1620, the Puritans founded colonies that thrived and their success depended on fishing, shipbuilding, trade and farming.
Determined to win the right to worship according to their own consciences, 101 men, women and children set out from Plymouth, England on a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Their intended destination was the British colony of Virginia but the Mayflower was blown around 500 miles off course and they finally took shelter in a natural harbour at what later became Provincetown, Massachusetts.
A lot of the trials and tribulations about where they should sail to, the journey across the Atlantic to the New World and the initial problems experienced by the Pilgrim Fathers are contained in a diary written by William Bradford.
“The place they thought of was one of those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for living. There are only savages and brutish men, just like wild beasts. This idea led to many and different opinions. But, after many things were said, it was agreed by the major part to carry it out. Some were keen for Guiana, or some of those fertile places in those hot climates. Others were for some part of Virginia.
After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a time, they met cross winds and many fierce storms. With these the ship was greatly shaken, and her upper decks made very leaky. In many of these storms, winds were so fierce and the seas so high that they could not carry a scrap of sail.
On November 9th, 1620, the ‘Mayflower’ sighted what is now Cape Cod. Despite seeing land, the crew of the ‘Mayflower’ searched for another month to find somewhere to land. Where they eventually landed was called New Plymouth. On December 25th, after finding a place where the ‘Mayflower’ could be safely anchored, the Pilgrim Fathers began to build the first house for common use. Bradford described in his diary how the “foulness” of winter affected all and that many became sick. By February 1621, Bradford claimed that 50% of the Pilgrim Fathers had died as a result of the cold weather and the inadequate housing that they had built for themselves.
After exploring the area, the travellers disembarked near the head of Cape Cod on December 21, 1620 but arguments had broken out between them over how the colony they intended to found should be governed. This led to the formulation of a binding agreement known as the Mayflower Compact which was effectively the first constitution to be written in America.
Now a unified group, the passengers of the Mayflower established Plymouth Colony, the first permanent settlement in New England. Originally known as the Forefathers, these pioneers were later called Pilgrims, a term which was often used by Puritans and Nonconformists in describing themselves………….
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, convenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politic, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.
Whilst a submission of allegiance to Great Britain, these words would , 150 years later become the basis of that commenwealth’s constitution.
In the spring of 1621 the Iroquois Indians taught them how to grow corn (maize), a new food for the colonists. They showed them other crops to grow in the unfamiliar soil and how to hunt and fish.
Thanksgiving ceremonies and celebrations for a successful Harvest are both worldwide and very ancient. Almost every culture in the world has held or do hold celebrations of thanks for a plentiful harvest.
The celebration of Harvest in Britain dates back to pre-Christian times when the success of the crop governed the lives of the people. Saxon farmers offered the first cut sheaf of corn to one of their gods of fertility, in order to safeguard a good harvest the following year. The last sheaf was thought to contain the Spirit of the Corn, and its cutting was usually accompanied by the ritual sacrifice of an animal – often a hare caught hiding in the corn. Later, a model hare made from straw was used to represent the continuity of the Spirit. This practice eventually led to the making of plaited ‘corn dollies’, symbolising the goddess of the grain. These were hung from the rafters in farmhouses until the next year. When the harvest was in, a celebratory supper was held to which the whole community was invited. Harvest suppers are simple events – reflecting the puritan spirit of a bye gone age.
In the autumn of 1621, bountiful crops of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins were harvested. The colonists had much to be thankful for, and as part of thier English heritage a harvest feast was planned. They invited the local Indian chief and 90 Indians. The Indians brought deer to roast with the turkeys and other wild game offered by the colonists. The colonists had learned how to cook cranberries and different kinds of corn and squash dishes from the Indians. To this first Thanksgiving, the Indians had even brought popcorn.
In following years, many of the original colonists celebrated the autumn harvest with a feast of thanks.In fact, the feast was planned to thank the Indians for teaching them how to cook those foods. Without the Indians, the first settlers would not have survived. Following independence , George Washington suggested the date November 26 as Thanksgiving Day, when the whole nation could celebrate the survival of that first colony. . . Then in 1863, at the end of a long and bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving. A symbol of inter racial and religious tolerance, cooperation and dependancy. This now marks the beginning of the shopping spree that is Christmas. As with halloween and christmas the true symbalism of this harvest festival appears to be lost to that great god of america – commercialism.