A Brill Calendar: November 21
The Landing of the Mayflower
Few calendar-days in American history have been so zealously and fondly commemorated for so long a time as the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers.
After a hazardous 66-day crossing of the Atlantic, the ‘Mayflower’, a square-rigged sailing ship of modest size - measuring only some ninety feet - disembarked its 102 paying passengers at Cape Cod on November 21, 1620. Just hours before the landing in their Promised Land, 41 male passengers had signed a ‘Compact’; a solemn written agreement obliging them, their womenfolk and children to stay with the company. The document was drawn up for fear that individual members, wishing to settle on their own without the nuisance of communal deliberation, would lower chances of surviving in the wilderness by leaving. By this token, the group became, in legal parlance, a ‘body politic’.
It is seldom that an entirely new era in the history of a continent was so carefully documented; and those who look for the first instant of the American Dream need look no further back in time. Or perhaps one should. A prologue to it came into being in Leyden, where a flock of Puritan Protestants, mainly immigrants and refugees from the British Isles, developed between themselves the ideal to seek a land where their religious persuasions and moral views wouldn’t be opposed; let alone prosecuted and condemned by authorities.
The University city with its vested interests in new theologies provided a more lenient worldly climate, with its citizenry covering a comprehensive range of Christian convictions and denominations, including Popish ones; certainly a more tolerant atmosphere than to be found in an English city early in the 17th century.
The ‘Mayflower’ set sail from Southampton August 15, together with a smaller vessel, the ‘Speedwell’ who had brought the Leyden community to Hampshire earlier that summer; but she proved to be un-seaworthy. Just before this ‘big step for mankind’ then, the ‘Mayflower’ had to rough it alone. The Founding Fathers probably saw some heavenly parallel there.
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11