Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Pilgrims set sail for America

The voyage to America for the Pilgrims was both a joyful as well as a traumatic undertaking. While the Pilgrims looked forward to building a new life in America, they were also leaving many members of their congregation behind in Holland. Many in the congregation chose not to make the trip or could not go for various reasons. This included the three year old son of William and Dorothy Bradford who they left behind with Dorothy’s parents in Amsterdam probably because they felt he was too frail to make the journey. William Bradford recorded the departure in his journal:

...With mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them...but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven, their dearest country and quited their spirits...
Bradford was responsible for coining the term Pilgrim to describe the Congregation which at the time was known as the Scrooby Congregation. The term would enter common parlance many years later.
Since not much is known about those who remained behind in Holland it can be assumed that most of
them either assimilated into Dutch culture, made their way back to England, or eventually made their way to America.

Thus, with tears in their eyes the Pilgrims set sail on the Speedwell for the long and perilous journey to America in July, 1620. The Speedwell was supposed to rendezvous with the Mayflower off the coast of England as the two ships were supposed to sail together. Since it was decided that the Speedwell was too leaky to make the trip, the 100 Pilgrims crowded onto the Mayflower were they were joined by 50 non-separatist personnel from the Merchant Adventures investment group.

After 64 days of tossing and turning, the Mayflower landed on the outer shores of Cape Cod in
Massachusetts, far off course from their destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. The passengers were exhausted, supplies were low, and with mutiny in the air a decision was taken to sail beyond the tip of Cape Cod to search for a sheltered harbor suitable for settlement. The final resting place was Plymouth Harbor with its natural breakwater and fresh brook.

Since the Pilgrims had failed to reach their destination their contract with London was therefore null and void. To remedy the problem of dissention between the separatists and the “strangers,“, a governing document known as the Mayflower Compact was drafted and signed while the Pilgrims were still off the coast of Cape Cod. In this manner, the Pilgrims pledged their loyalty to the English King while simultaneously taking steps toward self governance.

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