The Pilgrims 


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PilgrimsDuring the middle of the sixteenth century the social condition of the people of England was very primitive, and life was hard. Poor people lived in cottages built of wooden frames filled in with dirt; their houses were without wooden floors; and in many of them the fireplaces were constructed in the middle of the rooms with no chimneys, a hole being left in the roof for the smoke to escape. The windows were not glazed, and were closed against the weather, and the light was allowed to enter by means of oiled paper. Such was the plain condition of the houses of the Puritans of New England.

Very few vegetables were cultivated, as gardening had not yet become popular. The common material for bread was flour of oats, rye, and barley; and sometimes, when these were scarce, they were mixed with ground acorns. Even this black bread was sometimes not available, and meat was the principal diet. Their forks and ploughs were made of wood, and these, with a hoe and spade, constituted the bulk of their agricultural implements. Their spoons and platters were made chiefly of wood, and forks were unknown. It is said that glazed windows were so scarce, and regarded as so much of a luxury, that noblemen, when they left their country-houses to go to court, had their glazed windows packed away carefully with other precious furniture.

The non-conformist English refugees in Holland under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Robinson, yearning for a secluded asylum from persecution under the English government, proposed to go to Virginia and settle there in a distinct body under the general government of that colony. They sent Robert Cushman and John Carver to England in 1617 to treat with the London Company, and to ascertain whether the King would grant them liberty of conscience in that distant country. The company were anxious to have these people settle in Virginia, and offered them ample privileges, but the King would not promise not to molest them. These agents returned to Leyden. The discouraged refugees sent other agents to England in February, 1619, and finally made an arrangement with the company and with London merchants and others for their settlement in Virginia, and they at once prepared for the memorable voyage on the Mayflower in 1620. Several of the congregation at Leyden sold their estates and made a common bank, which, with the aid of their London partners, enabled them to purchase the Speedwell, a ship of 60 tons, and to hire in England the Mayflower, a ship of 180 tons, for the intended voyage. They left Delft Haven for England in the Speedwell (July, 1620), and in August sailed from Southampton, but, on account of the leakiness of the ship, were twice compelled to return to port. Dismissing this unseaworthy vessel, 101 of the number who came from Leyden sailed on the Mayflower on September 6.

Delft Haven

 Delft Haven

The following are the names of the forty-one persons who signed the constitution of government on board the Mayflower, and are known as the Pilgrim Fathers: John Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, William Brewster, Isaac Allerton, Myles Standish, John Alden, Samuel Fuller, Christopher Martin, William Mullins, William 'White, Richard Warren, John Howland, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Tilley, John Tilley, Francis Cook, Thomas Rogers, Thomas Tinker, John Ridgedale, Edward Fuller, John Turner, Francis Eaton, James Chilton, John Crackston, John Billington, Moses Fletcher, John Goodman, Degory Priest, Thomas Williams, Gilbert Winslow, Edward Margeson, Peter Brown, Richard Britteridge, George Soule, Richard Clarke, Richard Gardiner, John Allerton, Thomas English, Edward Doty, Edward Lister. Each subscriber placed opposite his name the number of his family.

Pilgrims Signing Mayflower Compact

Pilgrim's Signing the Mayflower Compact

The following is the text of the agreement which was signed on the lid of Elder Brewster's chest (see BREWSTER, WILLIAM).

"In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are hereunto written, 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 honor 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 of one another, covenant 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, constitution, 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 11th of November [0. S.], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini 1620."

The Mayflower first anchored in Cape Cod Bay, just within the cape, on November 21, in what is now the harbor of Provincetown, the only windward port for many a league where the vessel could have safely stayed. Nearly all the company went ashore, glad to touch land after the long voyage. They first fell on their knees, and thanked God for the preservation of their lives. The waters were shallow, and they had waded ashore—the men to explore the country, the women to wash their clothes after the long voyage.
The spot chosen by a party of explorers for the permanent landing-place of the passengers on the Mayflower was selected about Dec. 20, 1620, where New Plymouth was built. From about the middle of December until the 25th the weather was stormy, and the bulk of the passengers remained on the ship, while some of the men built a rude shelter to receive them. On the 25th a greater portion of the passengers went on shore to visit the spot chosen for their residence, when, tradition says, Mary Chilton and John Alden, both young persons, first sprang upon Plymouth Rock from the boat that conveyed them.

Plymouth Bay MapMost of the women and children remained on board the Mayflower until suitable log huts were erected for their reception, and it was March 21, 1621, before they were all landed. Those on shore were exposed to the rigors of winter weather and insufficient food, though the winter was a comparatively mild one. Those on the ship were confined in foul air, with unwholesome food. Scurvy and other diseases appeared among them, and when, late in March, the last passenger landed from the Mayflower, nearly one-half the colonists were dead.

The lands of the Plymouth Colony were held in common by the " Pilgrims " and their partners, the London merchants. In 1627 the "Pilgrims" sent Isaac Allerton to England to negotiate for the purchase of the shares of the London adventurers, with their stock, merchandise, lands, and chattels. He did so for $9,000, payable in nine years in equal annual installments. Some of the principal persons of the colony became bound for the rest, and a partnership was formed, into which was admitted the head of every family, and every young man of age and prudence. It was agreed that every single free-man should have one share; and every father of a family have leave to purchase one share for himself, one for his wife, and one for every child living with him; that every one should pay his part of the public debt according to the number of his shares. To every share twenty acres of arable land were assigned by lot; to every six shares, one cow and two goats, and swine in the same proportion. This agreement was made in full court, Jan. 3, 1628. The joint-stock or community system was then abandoned, a division of the movable property was made, and twenty acres of land nearest to the town were assigned in fee to each colonist. (See PLYMOUTH, NEW.)

Pilgrims Landin Plymouth Rock

Pilgrims Landing in the New World

Gov. WILLIAM BRADFORD  wrote a History of the Plymouth Plantation, of which the following is an extract: This was written in a form of old English, so spelling and sentence structure may appear awkward today.

The Pilgrims' Arrival at Cape Cod.—Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles & miseries thereof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente. And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remaine twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious & dreadful was ye same unto him.

But hear I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amased at this poore peoples presente condition; and so I thinke will the reader too, when he well considers ye same. Being thus passed ye vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by yt which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weather-beaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for suecoure. It is recorded in scripture as a mercie to ye apostle & his shipwraked company, yt the barbarians shewed them no smale kindnes in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they mette with them (as after will appeare) were readier to fill their sids full of arrows then otherwise. And for ye season it was winter, and they that know ye winters of yt cuntrie know them to be sharp & violent, & subjecte to cruell & feirce stormes, deangerous to travill to known places, much more to serch an unknown coast. Besids, what could they see but a hidious & desolate wildernes, full of wild beasts & willd men ? and what multituds ti r might be of them they knew not. Nether could they, as it were, goe up to ye tope of Pisgah, to vew from this willdernes a more goodly cuntrie to feed their hops; for which way soever they turned their eys (save upward to ye heavens) they could have litle solace or content in respecte of any outward objects. For sumer being done, all things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face; and ye whole countrie, full of woods & thickets, represented a wild & savage heiw. If they looked behind them; ther was ye mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a maine barr & goulfe to seperate themfrom all ye civill parts of ye world. If it be said they had a ship to sucour them, it is trew; but what heard they daly from ye mr. & company? but yt with speede they should looke out a place with their shallop, wher they would be at some near distance; for ye season was shuck as he would not stirr from thence till a safe harbor was discovered by them wher they would be, and he might goe without danger; and that victells consumed apace, but he must & would keepe sufficient for them selves & their returne. Yea, it was muttered by some, that if they gott not a place in time, they would turne them & their goods ashore & leave them. Let it also be considered what weake hopes of supply & succoure they left behinde them, yt might bear up their minds in this sade condition and trialls they were under ; and they could not but be very smale. It is true, indeed, ye affections & love of their brethren at Leyden was cordiall & entire towards them, but they had litle power to help them, or them selves; and how ye case stode betweene them & ye marchants at their coming away, bath allready been declared. What could now sustaine them but ye spirite of God & his grace? May not & ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: Our faithers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this w-illdernes; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voyce, and looked on their adversitie, &c. Let them therefore praise ye Lord, because he is good, & his mercies endure for ever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of ye Lord, spew how he hath delivered them from ye hand of ye oppressour. When they 'wandered in ye deserte wilddernes out of ye way, and found no citie to dwell in, both hungrie. & thirstie, their sowle was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before ye Lord his loving kindnes, and his wonderful works before ye sons of men.



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