The Voyage of the Mayflower



Long before the establishment of the English Episcopal Church by Henry VIII. there had been in England a large body of religious reformers, and that after that period these continued to exist, under the titles of Non-Conformists, Separatists, Brownists, etc., despite the persecutions to which they were subjected. Among the congregations of Separatists are two with which we are particularly concerned. One was gathered at Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, the other at the village of Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire. They were composed of simple agriculturists, yet they found the repression of religious liberty to which they were subjected so intolerable that they determined to emigrate to Holland, where they had heard that freedom of thought was permitted. After great difficulty, the Scrooby congregation succeeded in reaching Amsterdam, where they found the Gainsborough people, and a London congregation that had emigrated some twelve or fifteen years before. In 1616 they removed to Leyden. But the political agitation which arose in Holland made that country a disagreeable place of residence, and they finally determined to emigrate to America, where they might be free to worship God in their own way without hindrance.

They well knew the perils and difficulties they would have to encounter, and even magnified them, but were prepared to endure them all for the blessing of religious liberty. Some thought of joining the colony in Virginia; others, of going to Guiana, where Sir Walter Raleigh then was, on a second visit. Negotiations were entered into with the Dutch, with a view to emigrate to the Hudson. But they finally concluded to establish a new colony on the northern American coast, where they would be free from any interference with their fixed purposes. In July, 1620, they embarked for England in the ship Speedwell. Here, in the port of Southampton, they found the Mayflower, a vessel of one hundred and eighty tons' burden, which had been engaged for the voyage. Two starts were made, but in each case they were obliged to return, the Speedwell proving unseaworthy. Finally, on September 6, the Mayflower sailed alone, and "put to sea with a prosperous wind." Among the leading spirits of the expedition may be named Bradford and Brewster, members of the original Scrooby congregation, Winslow, a personage of superior condition to his companions, who had joined them in Holland, and Miles Standish, who was not a member of the church, but who loved adventure, and whose military knowledge was of great value to the emigrants.

At early dawn of the sixty-first day of their voyage (November 9, 1620) they came in sight of the white sand-banks of Cape Cod. In pursuance of their original purpose, they veered to the south, but by the middle of the day they found themselves "among perilous shoals and breakers," which caused them to retrace their course. An opinion afterwards prevailed, on questionable grounds, that they had been purposely led astray by the master of the vessel, induced by a bribe from the Dutch, who were averse to having them near the mouth of the Hudson, which Dutch vessels had begun to visit for trade.

The narrow peninsula, sixty miles long, which terminates in Cape Cod, projects eastwardly from the mainland of Massachusetts, in shape resembling the human arm bent rectangularly at the elbow and again at the wrist. In the basin enclosed landward by the extreme point of this projection, in the roadstead of what is now Provincetown, the Mayflower dropped her anchor at noon on a Saturday near the close of autumn, November 11.

THE colonists,-- men, women, and children,-- who were now embarked on board the Mayflower, were a hundred and two in number. Concerning very few of them is it known to this day from what English homes they came.. Little is recorded of the incidents of the voyage. The first part was favorably made. As the wanderers approached the American continent, they encountered storms which their overburdened vessel was scarcely able to sustain. Their destination was to a point near the Hudson River, yet within the territory of the London Company, by which their patent had been granted. This description corresponds to no other country than the sea-coast of the State of New Jersey. At early dawn of the sixty-first day of their voyage (November 9, 1620) they came in sight of the white sand-banks of Cape Cod. In pursuance of their original purpose, they veered to the south, but by the middle of the day they found themselves "among perilous shoals and breakers," which caused them to retrace their course. An opinion afterwards prevailed, on questionable grounds, that they had been purposely led astray by the master of the vessel, induced by a bribe from the Dutch, who were averse to having them near the mouth of the Hudson, which Dutch vessels had begun to visit for trade.

The narrow peninsula, sixty miles long, which terminates in Cape Cod, projects eastwardly from the mainland of Massachusetts, in shape resembling the human arm bent rectangularly at the elbow and again at the wrist. In the basin enclosed landward by the extreme point of this projection, in the roadstead of what is now Provincetown, the Mayflower dropped her anchor at noon on a Saturday near the close of autumn, November 11.





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