On this day in 1620, the British ship Mayflower lays anchor near modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers bravely prepare to break ground on their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.
This voyage has become an iconic story in the earliest annals of white American history, with its tale of perilous seas, death and of survival in the harsh New England winter environment. The culmination of the voyage, the signing of the Mayflower Compact, established a rudimentary form of democracy, with each member contributing to the welfare of the community.
The Mayflower, 90 feet in length and weighing 180 tons, initially departed from Southampton, England, on August 15, 1620. When the second vessel in her caravan, Speedwell, proved unseaworthy, it was twice forced to return to port. The Mayflower finally set out alone from Plymouth, England, on September 16, after taking on some of the smaller ship’s passengers and supplies.
Of the 102 colonists aboard, 35 were members of the English Separatist Church, a radical faction of Puritanism; they had earlier fled to Leiden, the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home. Seeking a more abundant life along with religious freedom, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Approximately two-thirds of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, including Myles Standish and John Alden.
With five souls perishing during the voyage, rough seas and storms prevented Mayflower from reaching the territory that had been granted in Virginia, a region then conceived of as much larger than the present-day U.S. state of Virginia, spanning North to the Hudson River in what is now New York state. After 66 days, she finally made landfall off of modern Massachusetts. An additional 45 original members were lost to disease and privation during the first Winter ashore.
How strange a concept when compared against “H.R.1 – Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” food assistance and disability cuts and other draconian measures which violate the true, believing modern pilgrim families in and through every conceivable cavity. The unending search for that last bit of wealth for the 1% of our richest brothers, sisters and profiteering corporations will not relent, as the “haves” are not yet satisfied by relative lower-and-middle-class penury as a nation.
Stranger still, the water-born caravan of 1620, which also included the ship Speedwell, contained some 140 dirty, diseased, dangerous and armed illegals. Notwithstanding their unlawful status, the asylum seekers were able to establish a treaty with Wampanoag Chief Massasoit which helped ensure their personal safety and survival in daunting conditions.
Through negotiation, reason, and the actual observance of certain tenets of Christianity, the Pilgrims were aided by Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, who remained behind as an emissary of Massasoit. The treaty ensured that each people would not bring harm to the other, that Massasoit would send his allies to make peaceful negotiations with Plymouth, and that they would come to each other’s aid in a time of war.
And here, the largely unlearned lesson endeth.