Plymouth Colony


"After the charter was granted by James to the Council of Plymouth in November 1620, a colony of pilgrims, consisting of one hundred and one persons, arrived from England, and after spending some time in exploring the coast, landed on the 21st of December at a place since called Forefathers' Rock, which was the first permanent settlement in New England, calling it New Plymouth.

The persons composing this colony, and indeed, the first settlers of New England, were principally from the counties of Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, England. In these counties there prevailed, about the year 1602, an extensive revival of religion. The new converts, willing to worship God in a manner more simple than was observed in the established church, but not being allowed to do it while they continued members of it agreed upon a separation from it; and for the sake of peace and more liberty of conscience, resolved upon a removal to the states of Holland, which at that time, granted a free toleration to different denominations of Protestants. The leader of these emigrants, in the year 1607, was an able and pious man, Mr. John Robinson, who with his congregation, prepared for their removal to Amsterdam; but they found the ports and harbors carefully watched, strict orders being given not to suffer them to depart. Twice they attempted to embark, but were discovered and prevented. At another time, having got on board a ship with their effects, the shipmaster sailed a little distance, and then returned and delivered them to the resentment of their enemies.

In 1608, they made another attempt in which, after the severest trials, they succeeded. Yet, when only a part of their number were on board, and while the women and children were in a bark, approaching the ship, the Dutch captain, apprehensive of danger to himself, hoisted sail, and, with a fair wind, directed his course to Holland. The passengers used every effort to persuade him to return, but in vain. They saw their wives and children fall into the hands of merciless enemies, while unable to afford them any relief. They had none of their effects, not even a change of clothes, on board.

Moreover, a storm arose, which raged seven days without intermission. By its violence, they were driven to the coast of Norway. Suddenly, the sailors exclaimed, "The ship has foundered! she sinks! she sinks!" The seamen trembled in despair; the pilgrims looked up to God, and cried, "Yet, Lord, thou canst save; yet, Lord, thou canst save." To the astonishment of all, the vessel soon began to rise, rode out the storm, and at length reached its destined port. After some time, all their friends who had been left arrived safely in Holland.

After remaining a number of years in Holland, first at Amsterdam, and then at Leyden, this little flock found their situation, on many accounts, unpleasant. The immoralities of their neighbors were dangerous to the rising generation; the difficulties of procuring a comfortable living induced not a few of their sons to enter the Dutch armies; and at no distant day, there was reason to apprehend, their posterity would become incorporated with the people of the country, and their church become extinct. These considerations, added to the more powerful motive, the hope of laying the foundation for the extensive advancement of their kingdom of Christ in the western wilderness, induced them to remove to America. Previous to their final determination, as their governing maxim always was, "In all thy ways, acknowledge God, and he shall direct thy paths," they set apart a day for fasting and prayer, to seek direction from God.

Their original plan contemplated a settlement in South Virginia on lands owned by the London Company; but the king not being willing to tolerate them in their religious worship by his public authority under his seal, they concluded to form a partnership with certain merchant adventurers of London. The terms of this partnership were hard upon these pilgrims; but as there was to be no interference with their civil and religious rights, the articles were agreed upon.

They now began to prepare themselves for their momentous enterprise. For this purpose, they procured two vessels, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell, of sixty tons, they purchased in Holland, with the intention of keeping her for their accommodation in America. The Mayflower, of one hundred and eighty tons, they hired at London.

All things being in readiness for their departure from Leyden, they kept a day of solemn humiliation and prayer. On the 1st of August, the pilgrims repaired to Delfthaven, a place about twenty miles from Leyden, and two miles from Rotterdam. Here they were to embark. To this port they were kindly attended by many of their brethren and friends from Amsterdam, as well as from Leyden. Leaving Delfthaven, they sailed for Southampton, at which place they were joined by the rest of their company from London, in the Mayflower. On the 15th of August 1620, both vessels set sail for the New World; but before proceeding far the Speedwell sprung a leak, and at Plymouth, whither they put in, she was condemned as not seaworthy. Under these circumstances, part of the emigrants, were dismissed, and the rest were taken on board of the Mayflower.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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