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course open than for both vessels to return again, and this they did, this time to Plymouth. Here the Speedwell was discharged, and it was agreed that those of the emigrants who were least fitted “to bear the brunt of this hard adventure ” should be left behind, while the Mayflower should proceed with the rest of the company. After the loss of much valuable time, the Mayflower, with her crew of one hundred and two passengers, set sail from Plymouth to the great Western World, September 6th, 1620.
It is not too much to say that in a very real and profound sense the Mayflower carried with her the moral destinies of the world. Her crew were not only the pioneers of civil and religious liberty, they were the heralds of a faith which, tested by the heroic men it has formed, and the heroic actions it has produced, may indeed challenge comparison with any faith by which men have been moulded and inspired. The struggle they were called upon to wage was a struggle for liberty, not only in the New World, but in the Old; and but for the planting of Puritanism in New England, the victory of Puritanism in the mother country would have been shortlived, and shorn of its most characteristic features and products. These expatriated exiles—self-expatriated by conscience and by principles which were dearer to them than life itself—indulged in no vain and Utopian hopes as to that which awaited them on the other side of the Atlantic. They saw, in the first place, that in the absence of any existing form of government whose protection they might invoke, it would be necessary to set up a government of their own; and
seeing that there were those among their own number
not well affected to unity and concord,” before they came within sight of land they set to work, like the sagacious and practical men they were, to formulate a code of their own.
Compact on board the Mayflower.—A compacta solemn league and covenant it might well be called was drawn up and signed in the cabin of the Mayflower : .“ In the name of God, amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign King James, having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and 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, 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, constitutions, and offices from time to time as shall be thought most convenient for the general good of the colony. Unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."
This instrument was signed by the entire body of men who were on board the Mayflower, forty-one in number. It has been truly said: “This was the birth of popular constitutional liberty. The Middle Age had been familiar
1 It would have been well for them if they had professed no such allegiance. In this unwitting acknowledgment they were heaping up trouble for themselves and their descendants (see p. 302).
with charters and constitutions, but they had been merely compacts for immunities, partial enfranchisements, patents of nobility, concessions of municipal privileges, or limitations of the sovereign power in favour of feudal institutions. In the cabin of the Mayflower humanity recovered its rights, and instituted government on the basis of 'equal laws' for 'the general
Mr. John Carver, who had acted as governor during the voyage, was confirmed in this office for the
It was on the 21st November 1620 that the pilgrims set foot for the first time on the soil of the New World. Their purpose was to find a place farther south than that at which they landed; but, finding themselves among dangerous shoals, and encountering adverse winds, they were glad to find refuge in the harbour of Cape Cod. Just before the Mayflower dropped anchor, "they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.” The hearts of the emigrants must have, indeed, sunk within them as they surveyed the bleak, barren, inhospitable coast on which
1 Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. i. p. 234, revised edition, p. 244, Macmillan & Co. 1876. Critics have pointed to this statement of the historian of the United States as an instance of his enthusiasm running away with him. Dr. Borgeaud, while allowing that perhaps some objection may be made to it on the score of exaggeration, adds: “It is not the less true that, in spite of all that has been said to lessen its importance, the agreement of the Mayflower remains one of the most remarkable documents of modern history.”. The Rise of Modern Democracy in Old and New Englund, p. 110.
they found themselves landed. With a lively prescience of coming evil our Lord said to His disciples : “Pray that your flight be not in the winter.” So cold was the season, that it is told of the first party of explorers that the spray of the sea froze as it fell on them, and made their clothes like coats of iron, Their strength was greatly reduced by the hardships which they had undergone during their rough and inclement voyage, especially with the scanty supply of food.
“Short allowance of victual and plenty of nothing but gospel ;"
and now with their retreat cut off by the ocean on one side, and their progress by the wilderness on the other,—especially such a waste howling wilderness as it must then have seemed,—their condition was as hopeless and desperate as could well be imagined. “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full might have been the language of the angry remonstrants had there been some Moses to whom they could affix the responsibility of their position; but this was not the temper of the gallant, intrepid, God-fearing band of men and women who came out, like Abraham of old, not knowing whither they were going, except that they were going at the bidding of Abraham's God.
The next day was the Sabbath, and according to their invariable custom they rested, and observed it as a day of worship. Monday had no sooner dawned than the women were astir, improving the opportunity with housewifely zeal. “Joyful
was that washing day,--dours of pine and sassafras in the air, and 'coals of juniper' under their kettles,- not. less joyful than toilsome, for their feet were at last on the soil of New England.” Two explorations into the adjacent country—one by land and the other by seawere conducted without leading to any satisfactory result. They resolved to make one more attempt to find a suitable harbour, and, after braving hardships and dangers which made them well-nigh give up in despair, they ran their boat aground in Plymouth Bay. The Mayflower
furled her tattered sails” in Plymouth Bay just five weeks after she had anchored in Cape Cod. Plymouth had been given to the bay six years before by an earlier explorer, Captain John Smith, and seeing that they had set sail from Plymouth, the pilgrims concurred in the retention of the name.
on the 21st of December 1620 that the pilgrims disembarked in Plymouth Bay. There is probably no more sacred spot in the world than Plymouth Rock, which commemorates the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers on the wild New England shore. “... Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a doorstep
Into a wild unknown, the corner-stone of a nation.”
“Setting rhetorical exaggeration aside, we need not doubt that in watching that sad yet hopeful procession of men, women, and children, we are witnessing one of the great events and one of the heroic scenes of history."1 “The consequences of that day," says the historian of the United States, “are constantly unfolding themselves as
1 The United States : An Outline of Political History, 1492-1871, by Goldwin Smith, D.C.L., p. 4.