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Mayflower, Day by Day - Monday, 14 September 1620

14 Sep 2020 2:50 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Speedwell leaves for London

All of the Speedwell’s passengers who were to cross the Atlantic now being on board the Mayflower, the Speedwell departed for London.  Christopher Martin had been made “governour” of the passengers on the Mayflower for the voyage, and Robert Cushman his “assistant.”  It is evident from Cushman’s letter of 17 August 1620 that Martin had become obnoxious to both passengers and crew, particularly regarding provisioning and payments and rendering financial accounts to the Leiden contingent: “If I speak to him, he flies in my face and saith no complaints shall be heard or received but by himself, and saith: ‘They are froward, and waspish, discontented people, and I do ill to hear them.’ … The sailors also are so offended at his ignorant boldness in meddling and controlling in things he knows not what belongs to, as that some threaten to mischief him …  But at best this cometh of it, that he makes himself a scorn and laughing stock unto them.”  It seems that when the passengers were all gathered in the Mayflower after the Speedwell’s departure there was a new choice of officers (though no explicit record has been found of this), as Cushman had vacated his position and gone back to London, and we will see that on November 11 [o.s.]/21 [n.s.] the colonists “confirmed” John Carver as their “governour,” showing that he had been previously chosen for this position; the likeliest day for this selection is today.


  • 14 Sep 2020 3:17 AM | Soule (Administrator)
    A number of historians have commented that the Speedwell’s return to London is a sign that some passengers, tired of staying on the ships for a month and a half and not getting very far, just “gave up and went home.” There are indications that the captains (Jones for the Mayflower and Reynolds for the Speedwell) refused to allow passengers to go ashore while the ships were anchored at Plymouth to prevent anyone from “running away.” It is nonetheless evident (a) that no one did sneak away -- a fact that Bradford would certainly have called attention to in his narrative, and (b) most of the 20 who left Plymouth for London on the Speedwell did eventually get to New England: some (the Warren women, Cushman, and Delano) within a year or two, and others (Blossom and Kenelm Winslow) after more than a decade.
    As I have mentioned before, given the mortality rate of the first year, it is highly likely that even if these 20 passengers had somehow managed to squeeze on to the Mayflower, most (particularly the women) would have died during “the great sickness.” The fact that they stayed in England and came over later meant that they survived -- for if they had not, I would not be here. Such is the role of contingency in history.
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