The Mayflower Pilgrims Land and Found Plymouth Led by William Bradford

The Pilgrims fled from England to Holland in 1607. When Spain threatened to invade Holland, the Pilgrims decided to flee again. They considered sailing to Guyana in South America, as they heard of its tropical climate. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation: “Some … had thoughts and were earnest for Guiana. … Those for Guiana alleged that the country was rich, fruitful, and blessed with a perpetual spring. …”

Why did the Pilgrims change their minds?

They were reminded of how close Guyana was to the “Spanish Main,” the area of the Caribbean Sea controlled by Spain, and how Spanish soldiers massacred the French settlement of Fort Caroline, Florida. Spain had claimed Florida since Juan Ponce de León’s exploration in 1512, reputedly looking for the Fountain of Youth. Ponce de León named it La Florida as he explored it during the season of Pascua Florida (“Flowery Easter”). In the following years, Spaniards explored and attempted settlements:1516, Diego Miruelo explored the Tampa Bay area

  • 1517, Francisco Hernández de Cordova explored southwest Florida
  • 1519, Alonso Álvarez de Pineda mapped the Gulf of Mexico coast
  • 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set sail to circumnavigate the globe
  • 1521, Ponce de León attempted a settlement near Charlotte Harbor
  • 1521, Pedro de Quejo & Francisco Gordillo landed at Winyah Bay
  • 1521, Hernán Cortés conquered Aztec Mexico
  • 1525, Pedro de Quejo explored Amelia Island to Chesapeake Bay
  • 1526, de Ayllón explored the South Carolina coast and attempted the settlement of San Miguel de Gualdape near Sapelo Sound, Georgia. As Dominican friars accompanied them, historians speculate the first Catholic Mass was celebrated in what what would be the United States
  • 1528, Pánfilo de Narváez landed near Tampa Bay with 400 settlers. After eight years of long marches through swamps and shipwrecked rafts on the Texas coast, only five survived. Four returned to Mexico and Juan Ortiz was a captive of the Indians for 12 years
  • 1532, Francisco Pizarro conquered Peru’s Inca Empire
  • 1539, Hernando de Soto, who had helped Pizarro conquer the Inca, landed in Tampa Bay. De Soto found Juan Ortiz, who related rumors of gold in Apalachee. De Soto seized Indians as guides. crossed Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, before dying in 1542 near the Mississippi
  • 1540, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado looked for the Seven Cities of Gold, exploring Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, viewing the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River
  • 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed up the coast of California
  • 1559, Tristán de Luna y Arellano attempted to settle Pensacola Bay
  • 1561, Angel de Villafañe attempted to settle Santa Elena (Port Royal Sound)

Indian attacks, tropical storms, hunger, diseases, and failure to find gold, resulted in the failure of Spanish settlements. Unfortunately, during this period, some Spanish conquistadors raided Indian villages, capturing and enslaving hundreds of natives.

The dominant aspect of these Spanish conquests convinced the Pilgrims not to attempt to settle near Spanish-controlled territories, as Pilgrim Governor William Bradford explained: “… but to this it was answered, that it was out of question. … If they should there live, and do well, the jealous Spaniard would never suffer them long, but would displant or overthrow them, as he did the French in Florida.”

The French had attempted a settlement in Florida in 1564 on the banks of St. John’s River. Though earlier, in 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier mapped the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, the French Fort Caroline was the first French settlement in area of present-day United States. Fort Caroline was founded by French Protestant Christians known as Huguenots.

Why did the French Huguenots sail to Florida to attempt a settlement? They wanted to escape the Wars of Religion which had been ravaging France for over a century.

During this era in Europe, whatever a king believed, his kingdom had to believe. There was little freedom of conscience, as governments dictated the religious beliefs of citizens and persecuted those believing differently.

Due to his hateful contempt for the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain, France’s King Francis I did the unimaginable – he made an alliance with the Muslim Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. This was the first time a European monarch made such an alliance with a Muslim power, resulting in calls being made for Francis I to be excommunicated.

Francis I was originally tolerant of Protestants, but he soon turned to aggressively persecute them, having thousands killed in the Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545. Religious persecutions increased in France with battles and tragedies such as the Massacre of Wassy in 1562, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572, instigated by the queen consort Catherine de’ Medici. The Edit of Nantes in 1589 provided some relief until it was officially revoked by King Louis XIV who resumed persecution with the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685.

Government persecution against Huguenots for their religious beliefs increased after the assassination of King Henry IV on May 4, 1610. When Louis XIII became the French king in 1610, he had as his Chief Minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Cardinal Richelieu consolidated State power, crushed dissent, confiscated lands, and laid the groundwork for the creation of an absolute monarchy in France.

Cardinal Richelieu destroyed the castles of the princes, dukes, and lesser aristocrats so they could not rebel. Cardinal Richelieu imposed burdensome taxes, censored the press, and had such a broad network of internal spies spying on citizens that it is considered the origin of the modern secret service. Arresting and executing his political rivals, Cardinal Richelieu was portrayed as a power-hungry villain in Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” (1844).

Cardinal Richelieu’s strengthening of the French state led to the absolute rule of Louis XIV – the “Sun King,” who is credited with saying “It is legal because I wish it”; and “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). Louis XIV reigned over 72 years (1643-1715), longer than any major monarch in European history. France’s power led to the eventual bankrupting and decline of the powerful Spanish-Austrian Habsburg Dynasty and Holy Roman Empire in Europe.

During the Europe’s religious wars, indefensible injustices were committed by both sides. Though millions tragically died in these wars, the numbers are dwarfed when compared with the hundreds of millions killed in atheistic genocides, socialist/communist purges, racial expulsions, ethnic cleansings, and Islamic jihads.

The video below is a short video of how the Puritans escaped persecution and crossed the Atlantic to a new life in America.

The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers on September 16, 1620. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.

The Pilgrims passed through trials of turbulent seas, uncharted courses, scurvy, and vile sickness that decimated their already small community, as well as intrigue, treason, and treachery. As a reward God delivered His faithful flock to the promised land, a land where they would at last be absolutely free from religious persecution and would live under laws framed and executed fairly and justly.

The congregation of pious Christians known to history as Pilgrims was in their own time called Separatists for their schism with the greater Church of England. Dissension from the Church of England was illegal during the reign of King James the First, and the king was determined to brook no effrontery to his royal highness. He would sooner purge his country of disloyal subjects than allow those subjects to effect a purge of the state religion of which the king was the titular head. To enforce his egotistical and tyrannical will, James sent agents far and wide into the country to round up those Separatists reportedly meeting in secret in small groups to avoid detection by the king’s sycophantic spies.

Fearing imprisonment or worse at the hands of the royal agents, 400 English Separatists fled their beloved England. They sailed surreptitiously to Holland (leaving England without permission was a crime), where the atmosphere was more accommodating to those given to alternative (read: unofficial) interpretations of the word of God. The Dutch were historically more tolerant of religious dissidents and would permit, within limits, pilgrims of many religious creeds to assemble without fear of reprisal or persecution.

Although the Pilgrims found a welcoming harbor in Holland, it proved to be a brief respite, as political situations altered as crucial peace treaties with Spain and France expired, leaving Holland politically unallied and therefore exposed to the avarice of other less-progressive states. As the climate in Holland became decreasingly hospitable, the Pilgrims met to formulate a new plan and consider the options open to them. It was decided that, despite the possible implications, they would return to England, and they immediately set about acquiring investors to fund their ultimate journey: to America. The Pilgrim pastors believed unwaveringly that God’s will was manifest in their wanderings and privations, just as it had been with the Children of Israel in Egypt. After 40 years, the Israelites crossed over the Jordan and entered into the Holy Land, a land promised to them by their God and his prophets. Like the chosen people of the Old Testament, the Pilgrims had faith that they would be led to a land of milk and honey on the western shore of their own River Jordan — the Atlantic Ocean.

Plymouth Rock
The Pilgrims passed through trials of turbulent seas, uncharted courses, scurvy, and vile sickness that decimated their already small community, as well as intrigue, treason, and treachery. As a reward God delivered His faithful flock to the promised land, a land where they would at last be absolutely free from religious persecution and would live under laws framed and executed fairly and justly.

Upon reaching the shores of their new home, the Pilgrims dropped to their knees with an outpouring of gratitude toward the Almighty. Rising from their knees, the Pilgrims would have noticed an enormous rock. Yes, Plymouth Rock. We’ll never know whether or not any of our Pilgrim Fathers stepped foot on it or climbed over it before going farther inland. What is known is that this small band of believers, bound together by sacred covenant and civil compact, overcame insuperable odds that would scuttle most other, less devout and determined settlers. These Pilgrims, for so they were, were a stout albeit peripatetic lot that had nowhere left to go and therefore carved, literally, a new home, a New England, for themselves. Separated by thousands of miles from the religious intolerance and oppression of King James, these Separatists were now free to worship as they chose. The Pilgrims, looking up at a rock that history would call Plymouth Rock in their honor, recalled that their Lord commanded them to build upon such a strong immovable foundation, and thus they were wanderers no more.

Stated in the simplest terms, and in their own language, the Pilgrims purposed to lay a good foundation for propagating and advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in remote parts of the world. In order to make that possible, they sought financial backing from a group of venture capitalists in England. While in Holland, the Pilgrims gave much consideration to what part of the world they would settle and finally decided upon Northern Virginia, above Jamestown but below the Hudson River. Negotiations with a syndicate called the Merchants and Adventurers of London dragged on for three years. Finally in 1620 the Pilgrims wound up on the wrong end of a bad bargain.

Who Funded the Mayflower?

Richard Maybury’s “The Great Thanksgiving Hoax,” first published in 1999 summarized the sanitized version of the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 which appears in most high school history texts:

The official story has the Pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farmed techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

Not exactly. As Maybury points out, history is much different. Fifty-three of the 102 souls that left England in September of 1620 perished that first winter. Of those who survived, many were virtually incapacitated and unable to work because of the famine resulting in starvation and disease. And many of those who were healthy enough to work stole food from the store house. As William Bradford, leader of the colony, noted in his journal, “Of Plimouth Plantation,” the crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.” After their attempts to grow crops failed in 1622, “they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, [in order to] obtain a better crop.

The original plan created an economic community, called a “common course,” by which each member would contribute to the warehouse as much as he could produce, and take from the warehouse what he needed to live. Maybury wrote that this sounded like Karl Marx’s “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” which was why, according to Maybury’s account, the Pilgrims were starving. He concluded that when Bradford abandoned the “common course” that was the end of famines.

Maybury’s article continues to get airtime and blogtime, which raised the ire of Kate Zernike at The New York Times. Her review of Maybury’s article comes out with a different twist. The “common course” was instituted by the business interests who funded the Pilgrim’s venture in the first place. A closer look at the real history behind the Pilgrims’ experience is revealing. Historian Charles A. Beard’s Basic History of the United States reveals that:

Under English law all the territory claimed in America belonged to the Crown. The monarch could withhold it from use, keep any part of it as a royal domain, or grant it, by charter or patent, in large or small blocks, to privileged companies or persons.

And so, when the Pilgrims decided to leave England for political, economic, social or religious reasons, they had to get permission. As farmers and working class citizens they had little if any capital. So they approached a group of private capitalist entrepreneurs who were interested in exploiting the new world for profit, especially gold. As historian Robert V. Remini explains in A Short History of the United States, this group “formed a joint-stock company, the London Company, in which shares were sold to stockholders for twelve pounds ten shillings [roughly $250] in order to sponsor colonization by settlers in North America.” The London Company then obtained a grant from the Crown and additional financing through the Merchant Adventurers which considered their investment as a loan to the Pilgrims to be paid back, with interest and a share of the profits. Upon landing, the Pilgrims considered themselves as bound in a “common course” to repay the loan as quickly as possible. As Zernike explained, the Pilgrims “were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.” Richard Pickering, deputy director of Plimouth Plantation, said the plan “was directed ultimately to private profit.”

The irony, then, is that the part of history most frequently left out not only ignores the Pilgrims’ failed experiment with collective farming, but also the fact that it was private capitalists, risk-taking entrepreneurs, hoping to gain a profit from the venture, who were the ones who funded the start of America. As another historian, Steve Wiegand noted:

Part of the charm of U. S. history is that many of the images it conjures up are based on things that never really happened. Many historians are appalled at the acceptance of myths as fact by so many Americans.

It should be comforting that this really happened: the land of the free and the home of brave was initially funded by capitalists hoping to turn a profit. How delightful.

Socialism was never “the dream of the Pilgrims.” They needed no Adam Smith to spell out for them the merits of free enterprise and the necessity for individual responsibility. The business purpose of the expedition was to found a fishery. The Merchant Adventurers agreed to take care of the shipping and to fund the provisions. A contract was drawn up detailing the terms of the repayment and profit sharing, but when the Pilgrims arrived in England from Holland they discovered the terms had been altered, much to their hurt. Sadly, “necessity having no law, the emigrants were constrained to be silent.”

There were three factions aboard the Mayflower: the Separatists or Saints from Leyden in Holland; the colonists from London, called “Strangers,” recruited by Thomas Watson, prime mover of the Merchants and Adventurers; and, the ship’s crew, who disliked both.

Continued on next page…

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