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The Mayflower and Plymouth Rock

Summary:
The story has it that the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in New England on December 11th, 1620. They had landed earlier at Provincetown, but had no authority to found a colony there. Plymouth Colony was settled by Puritan Separatists, known to history as the Pilgrims. An earlier English colony had been founded at Jamestown, but that was largely by entrepreneurs seeking fortune in the New World. The Pilgrims were fleeing persecution, seeking religious freedom.The Mayflower had set sail on September 6th with 102 passengers and 30 crew crammed into a ship just over 100 feet long. In the second month of its voyage it was hit by storm-force gales. It was buffeted, sprang leaks, and saw its main beam crack. While still on the ship, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Contract, to have the

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The story has it that the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in New England on December 11th, 1620. They had landed earlier at Provincetown, but had no authority to found a colony there. Plymouth Colony was settled by Puritan Separatists, known to history as the Pilgrims. An earlier English colony had been founded at Jamestown, but that was largely by entrepreneurs seeking fortune in the New World. The Pilgrims were fleeing persecution, seeking religious freedom.

The Mayflower had set sail on September 6th with 102 passengers and 30 crew crammed into a ship just over 100 feet long. In the second month of its voyage it was hit by storm-force gales. It was buffeted, sprang leaks, and saw its main beam crack. While still on the ship, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Contract, to have the colony they were to establish governed by “just and equal laws.”

Men left the ship to build wattle and daub dwellings, but for several weeks returned to the ship each night to join the women and children still aboard. The first winter was harsh, and 45 of the 102 colonists died. By the time they came to celebrate “The First Thanksgiving” in 1621, only 53 were alive to celebrate it. 13 of the 18 adult women died in that first winter, and another died in May, leaving only 4 left to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims were aided by the local Indians, especially Squanto of the Patuxet tribe, who had spent 4 years in Europe after being kidnapped by earlier traders. They taught the Pilgrims how to survive, using dead fish to fertilize the soil for crops, and they joined in the first Thanksgiving, bringing deer to supplement the local foods the Pilgrims had assembled.  

The history of the early settlements reminds us that America was settled by two types of immigrants, those that today we would call asylum seekers and economic migrants. Some came to seek liberty and safety, and endured immense hardships to gain them. Others came seeking to improve their lot, and many went through years of privation before successfully establishing themselves.

The story of the immigrants shows why liberty was valued so highly that it featured in their Declaration of Independence and in their Constitution. Conservatism in America has always differed from its European counterpart because in America tradition was in large part a tradition of liberty, which it was not in Europe.

Plymouth Rock is now a symbol of that search for liberty and of the sacrifices made to achieve it. The rock itself broke in two when they attempted to haul it to Plymouth town square in 1774. The top half was located there, moved to a museum in 1834, and returned to its original site on the shore of Plymouth Harbor in 1880. It stands with other monuments in the area as a memorial to the early settlers, none of whom could have dreamed of the successful nation that would grow from those early beginnings. 

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