Log in

Soule Kindred In America


  • 26 Nov 2020 2:52 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Lying at anchor in harbour 

    The exploring party was still absent from ship.  Weather continued open; the incessant exposure to damp increased the coughs and colds they were already subject to from their long time at sea.

    Meanwhile … on the mainland …

    Awaking early this morning, the exploration party continued following the Indian tracks, but “fell into such thickets as were ready to tear their clothes and armour into pieces.”  They saw their first deer, and found plentiful water, however, at about ten o’clock in the morning in a grassy meadow (the place is now called Pilgrim Spring) and drank it without any ill effect.  All that the party had up to that point was some horribly dry and hard ship’s biscuit, and old Dutch cheese -- and not much of either of those -- and the only thing they had to drink was some aquavit (brandy), which must have left them even more thirsty.  The water was “the first New England water they drunk of, and was now, in great thirst, as pleasant unto them as wine or beer had been in foretimes.”  That must have been some water, to taste as good as beer!  They then marched back to the shore, where they could see the Mayflower about four miles away across the bay.   They made camp, and that night built a large log fire on the beach, which was the prearranged signal to let those on the Mayflower know that they were safe and were ready to come back.

    One of the major results of the day’s reconnaissance was that it became clear that this area (present day Provincetown) was completely unsuitable for a permanent settlement because it was too small, too sandy, and too exposed.  They needed fields to grow grain, and fresh running water (the area had ponds, but no springs).  They also needed a good harbour: boats could not get very close to the beach because of a shallow bar and a long shelf reaching out from the shore to the boats so that the Mayflower had to anchor quite a ways away, and passengers, after transferring to smaller boats, had to wade to the land because of the shallow depth of the water (there was no dock, after all), soaking their clothes, which added to their health problems.

  • 25 Nov 2020 2:49 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Lying at anchor in harbour

    The Master and boat’s crew went ashore, followed in the afternoon by an armed party of sixteen men under the command of Myles Standish: the party was supposed to be gone from the ship for a day or two. The weather was mild and the ground not frozen, but it was still a long, very cold wade to the beach from the boat, weighted down with armour, weapons, and supplies.  The Pilgrims had originally approached Captain John Smith (of Jamestown fame) to be the military muscle of their journey, and certainly no one knew more about New England than he did, but they eventually settled on the more amenable and complaisant Standish (whose short stature earned him the nickname “Captain Shrimp”) -- who knew absolutely nothing about the area.  Standish immediately had the men march single file down the beach.  Having marched for about a mile, the party saw six men and a dog.  While they initially assumed it was Captain Jones and the crew, they soon realised that these were not Englishmen at all, but were the first natives they had seen.  “The Indians paused to whistle for the dog, and the group disappeared into the trees,” Philbrick narrates (Mayflower, p. 60).  “[Standish and his party] followed at a trot, hoping to make contact.  But as soon as the Indians saw that they were being pursued, they made a run for it. … Standish and his party did their best to chase them, but it was slow going in ankle-deep sand, and after several months aboard ship, they were in no shape for a long sprint across a beach. … They followed the Indians’ footprints in the sand.  From the tracks they could tell that the Indians would bound up each hill and then pause to look back to see whether they were still being pursued.  After what the Pilgrims judged to be ten miles (but which was probably closer to seven), they stopped for the night.  With three sentinels on guard at a time, they gathered around a log fire and tried to get some sleep.”

  • 24 Nov 2020 3:27 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Lying at anchor in Provincetown Harbour

    The carpenter at work on the shallop.  Arms and accoutrements being got ready for an exploring party inland, to leave first thing tomorrow: sixteen men are chosen, under the command of Myles Standish.  William Bradford, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Tilley join him for a council.  .

  • 23 Nov 2020 3:30 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Cape Cod harbour

    Unshipped the shallop and drew it on to land to mend and repair it.  Bradford says: “Having brought a large shallop with them out of England, stowed in quarters in ye ship they now gott her out and sett their carpenters to worke to trime her up but being much brused and shatered in ye ship with foule weather, they saw she sould be longe in mending.”  In Mourt’s Relation he says: “Monday, the 13th of November, we unshipped our shallop and drew her on land to mend and repair her, having been forced to cut her down, in bestowing her betwixt the decks, and she was much opened, with the peoples lying in her, which kept us long there: for it was sixteen or seventeen days before the Carpenter had finished her.”  Goodwin says she was “a sloop-rigged craft of twelve or fifteen tons.”  There is an intimation by Bradford that she was “about thirty feet long.”  It is evident from Bradford’s account of her stormy entrance to Plymouth harbour next month that the shallop had only one mast, as he says “But herewith they broake their mast in 3 pieces and their saill fell overboard in a very grown sea.”

    Many passengers went ashore to refresh themselves, and the women to wash (since this was the first day after the Lord’s Day).  It has been suggested, perhaps jokingly, that this is why Monday has been considered laundry day ever since.  But this would be the first clean clothes in four months.

  • 22 Nov 2020 3:29 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Cape Cod harbour

    All hands piped to service; first Sunday in New England -- this must have been a welcome day of rest.  Weather mild.

  • 21 Nov 2020 2:44 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Comes in with light, fair wind.  Signing of the Mayflower Compact 

    [This is a long post -- you may want to get a really hot cup of tea.]

    There is good reason to believe that “sickness” would not have prevented the obtaining of the signatures (by “mark,” if need be, since it is probable that some were illiterate) of the nine men who did not subscribe, if they were considered eligible.  Two whom we know did not sign were Ely and William Trevor (Ely -- whose first name is unknown -- returned to England before 1623, because he is not included in the 1623 division of land, and William Trevor returned to England in 1621 on the Fortune).  The fact seems rather to be that age—not social status—was the primary determining factor as to those eligible. 

    If the intention to land south of the 41st parallel had persisted, there would have been no occasion for the Compact, as the patent from the London Virginia Company would have been in force.  The Compact became a necessity, therefore, only when they turned northward to make settlement above 41° N. latitude.  Hence it is plain that no opportunity for “faction”—and so no occasion for any “Association and Agreement”—existed till the Mayflower turned late yesterday afternoon.  The Compact was not drawn up and presented for signature until Saturday morning.  Bradford’s language,“This day, before we came into harbour,” leaves no room for doubt that it was rather hurriedly drafted—and also signed—before noon today. That they had time on this winter Saturday—hardly three weeks from the shortest day in the year—to reach and encircle the harbour; secure anchorage; get out boats; arm, equip, and land two companies of men; make a considerable march inland; cut firewood; and get all aboard again, indicates that they must have made the harbour not far from noon.  These facts also correct another common and current error of traditional Pilgrim history, that the Compact was signed “in the harbour of Cape Cod.”  The instrument itself simply says, “Cape Cod,” not “Cape Cod harbour” (writers add “harbour” specifically to later descriptions of actions, but not here).  The leaders clearly did not mean to drop anchor until there was a form of law and authority.

    Five short comments, in order not to drag this out too long:

    1. The original copy of the Mayflower Compact, with the signatures, has been lost.  A copy was made in Bradford's handwritten journal, Of Plimoth Plantation, about 1630 (and now in the State Library of Massachusetts).  Reproductions with “original” signatures at the bottom are the result of later “cut and paste” activity from other sources.

    2. The text was first published in London in 1622 in A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England.   Nathaniel Morton, secretary for Plymouth Colony, published it in 1669, along with the earliest known list of the signers, in his history, New England's Memorial.  The Mayflower Compact was an attempt to establish a temporary but binding form of control until such time as they could get formal permission from England.  This formal permission came in the form of the Pierce Patent of 1621, which superseded the Compact.

    3. The Compact was signed on 11 November (old style), which is in our current calendar 21 November.  Today is thus the 400th anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact, and not 11 November (which would be 399 years and 354 days afterwards), the GSMD press release and the angry protestations of Richard Pickering from Plimoth Plantation to the contrary notwithstanding.  Both of them really should know better.

    4. Most of the language of the Compact is taken verbatim from John Calvin’s Sermons (1 Sam. 11: 6–10) and Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.11.1; 4.20.2–3), both of which existed in English translations in the early seventeenth century and were undoubtedly well known to the passengers.  Note also that “civil” (as in “civil body politick”) was normally used in this period as distinct from “ecclesiastical” (on the one hand) and “military” (on the other hand).  “civil” was not used to mean “secular,” a concept which did not yet exist in its modern form.  Ecclesiastical and military organisation were the only two other forms which could provide authority and control, because the passengers were outside of the reach of government: since there were no clergy on the Mayflower, and they were not organised in a military unit, mutual agreement, particularly one which had religious roots and language, would be the only way to preserve order.

    5. There is no reason to believe that those who drafted either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States based it on the Mayflower Compact.  The Compact itself, as well as Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, had disappeared by the late eighteenth century (with Bradford’s book reappearing in the nineteenth century, after both the Declaration and the Constitution had been written).  The Compact is not referenced in either document, either by name or by quotation (or even paraphrase).  The connection with these documents can be traced to Daniel Webster’s famous address on Forefathers’ Day in 1820 -- passages from which were memorised by schoolchildren for generations -- but two hundred years after the Compact, and over 40 years after the Declaration of Independence.  To see how views of the Mayflower Compact have changed, frequently radically, over the last four hundred years, see John Seelye, Memory’s Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998) -- this long and detailed work shows that statements about the Mayflower Compact, Plymouth Rock, and the Pilgrims almost always and inevitably say more about the speakers and their times than they do about the events of 1620. 

    In other events of this day:

    John Carver was “confirmed” as governor -- the use of that term suggests that he had been elected previously, probably in Plymouth before departure from England, and once the Compact was signed that choice was re-affirmed.

    The Mayflower bore up for the Cape, and by short tacks made the Cape [Paomet, now Provincetown] Harbour, coming to an anchorage a furlong within the point.  The bay was so circular that before coming to anchor, the ship boxed the compass [i.e., went clear around all points of it].  The ship let go anchors three quarters of a mile off shore, because of shallow water, 67 days from Plymouth (England), 81 days from Dartmouth, 99 days from Southampton, and 120 days (four months!) from London.  Got out the long-boat and set ashore an armed party of fifteen or sixteen in armour, and some to fetch wood (having none left), landing them on the long point toward the sea.  Those going ashore were forced to wade a bow-shot or two in getting to dry land.  The party sent ashore returned at night, having seen no person or habitation, and having filled the boat with juniper wood.

  • 20 Nov 2020 3:00 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    On course for Cape Cod harbour, along the coast

    Disaffection appeared among the colonists, on account of abandonment of their destination.  Bradford (in Mourt’s Relation) says: “This day before we come to harbor, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an Association and Agreement that we should combine together in one body; and to submit to such Government and Governors as we should, by common consent, agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows word for word.”  Then follows the text of the Mayflower Compact.  Bradford is even more explicit in his Of Plimoth Plantation, where he says: “I shall a little returne backe and begin with a combination made by them before they came ashore, being ye first foundation of their governments in this place; occasioned partly by ye discontent & mutinous speeches that some of the strangers amongst them [i.e.  not of the Leiden contingent] had let fall from them in ye ship—That when they came ashore they would use their owne libertie: for none had power to command them, the patents they had being for Virginia, and not for New-England which belonged to another Government, with which ye London [or First Virginia] Company had nothing to doe, and partly that such an acte by them done … might be as firm as any patent, and in some respects more sure.”  Bradford speaks only of Billington and his family as those “shuffled into their company,” and while he was not improbably one of the agitators (with Hopkins) who were the proximate causes of the drawing up of the Compact, he was not, in this case, the responsible leader. It is evident from the foregoing that the “appearance of faction” did not show itself until the Mayflower was turned back toward Cape Cod Harbor, and it became apparent that the effort to locate “near Hudson’s River” was to be abandoned, and a location found north of 41° N. latitude, which would leave them without charter rights or authority of any kind.  Stephen Hopkins,—then “a lay-reader” for Chaplain Buck,—on Sir Thomas Gates’ expedition to Virginia, had, when some of them were shipwrecked on the Bermudas, advocated just such sentiments—on the same basis—as were now raised on the Mayflower, and it could hardly have been only a coincidence that the same were repeated here.  That Hopkins fomented the discord is almost certain.  His attitudes and actions caused him to receive a sentence of death for insubordination, at the hands of Sir Thomas Gates, in the first instance, from which his pardon was with much difficulty procured by his friends.  The placing of Hopkins’ two servants at the very end of the signatories of the Compact has also been noted, suggesting that they were not in full agreement with either the course of action or the mechanism of the Compact.

    * * * * *

    Two final comments on the “factionalisation” of the passengers:

    1. The more research is done, the more religious connections are discovered between the Leiden congregation and the other passengers.  The only real members of the “stranger” group appear to be those in the Billington household, with the Hopkins household keeping itself apart from the main body as well.  It is thus extremely disappointing to see so many writers in this past year, including Nathaniel Philbrick (who really should know better) in his conversation sponsored by the Massachusetts State Library earlier this month, ignoring the substantial research of the last thirty years on the numerous and manifold connections between passengers (particularly the women) and separatist communities, and simply parroting the discredited dialectic of George Willison’s Saints and Strangers.  Willison, a Marxist, was explicitly trying to enlarge the divisions and reduce the size of the separatist community, and he either did not know about or intentionally overlooked the connections.  Willison, in effect, doubled or trebled the size of the “strangers,” and way too many commentators have followed him in the intervening 70 years.

    2. Bradford’s descriptions of the Leiden congregation, and (to a lesser extent) those of Edward Winslow, echo the somewhat idealised description of the early Christian church in the Acts of the Apostles -- they held all things in common, they were of one heart and mind, they sacrificed for the common good.  As many commentators have noted over the last few years, this strikes us now as incredibly naïve; the failure of this project makes the second half of Of Plimoth Plantation much darker than the first.  But against this background of this vision for the community, any division or dissension, however small, stands in stark contrast.  We are in danger of overestimating the size of the “muntinous speeches” because Bradford gives them so much attention -- but Bradford does so not because the treasonous group of mutineers was so large, but because it was so counter in every respect to the project of the colony, which was to establish a godly community based on Gospel principles.  Saying that the Pilgrims came to the New World for “freedom of religion” (a concept they would not have understood) or to “worship as they pleased” (which addresses only a small part of their project) seriously restricts the breadth of their envisioned purpose.

  • 19 Nov 2020 3:24 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Sighted land at daybreak.

    The landfall was made out to be the bluffs of Cape Cod in what is now the town of Truro, Mass.  After a conference between the Master of the ship and the chief colonists, tacked about and stood for the southward.  Wind and weather fair.  Made course SSW, proposing to go to Hudson’s River, ten leagues south of the Cape.  After sailing that course about half the day, between 12 noon and 1:00 pm the ship fell amongst dangerous shoals and foaming breakers [the shoals off Monomoy].  The Mayflower got out of them before nightfall and, the wind being contrary, put round again for the Bay of Cape Cod.  Captain Jones abandoned efforts to go further south and abruptly announced this to passengers at sunset.  No one will question that Jones’ assertion of inability to proceed, and his announced determination to return to Cape Cod harbour probably fell upon many acquiescent ears, for, as Winslow says: “Winter was come; the seas were dangerous; the season was cold; the winds were high, and the region being well furnished for a plantation, we entered upon discovery.”  Tossed for sixty-seven days on the north Atlantic at that season of the year, their food and fire wood well spent, cold, homesick, and gravely ill, the mere thought of once again setting foot on any land, wherever it might be, must have been an allurement that lent Jones some potential aid in his high-handed course.

  • 18 Nov 2020 3:14 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Signs of land.  Closing in with the land at nightfall.

    It is usually supposed that the Mayflower hit on Cape Cod by accident, but the fact that the Pilgrims felt reasonably sure that the land that they saw at daybreak tomorrow morning was Cape Cod is proof enough that they knew what land it ought to be.  They were neither sailors nor navigators, and outside of one or two of them, none of them had ever seen North America before.  Two of the ship’s officers had been in that locality previously, but it would take something more definite than that to account for the Pilgrims believing it was Cape Cod until they were close enough to make it out clearly.  The logical answer is that when they sighted land Captain Christopher Jones knew that he was close to the 42nd parallel of north latitude, and was heading toward Cape Cod.  It was usual for early navigators to strike out for the parallel they wanted to reach, and then keep to that parallel.  Jones was not in a hurry to reach Cape Cod in particular, but circumstances beyond his control were getting so out of hand that he must have been quite anxious to get to land somewhere, anywhere, and soon.  They had been held back by all kinds of bad weather, and winter was closing in.  There was a broken main beam, and the ship was in no condition to handle heavy weather.  Fresh water was getting scarce, fresh provisions were getting low, they were out of all firewood.  Scurvy was breaking out among crew and passengers, and the stork was due to come on board again for the second time almost any day now.  Any decent captain would head for the nearest land he could reach with whatever wind and weather he could manage.

    The Mayflower had enjoyed clear northwest winds for a day or two now; with a good noon sight of the sun yesterday and today, Jones’ cross staff would tell him he was on the 42nd parallel of latitude, which he undoubtedly knew would lead him in to Cape Cod if he followed it.  He would probably not have known his longitudinal position, having no way to check up on it since leaving England.  But he could be sure of his latitude.

    He must have known by the change in the colour of the sea water and by the general appearance of the western clouds that land was not far off, and it is more than likely that he had caught the earthy smell of the land in an offshore breeze.  Bradford states distinctly that the weather was clear and crisp, and that there was a northwesterly breeze off the land, when daylight broke on Thursday.  The sun rose on the back side of Cape Cod tomorrow morning at 6:55 AM.  The moon, which was nine days after full, was a waning crescent in mid-sky, too thin to help.  Daybreak, when the Pilgrims say they “espied” the land, was twenty or thirty minutes before sunrise; they thus caught their first glance of Cape Cod over the bow of the Mayflower at about half past six in the morning tomorrow.

  • 17 Nov 2020 3:18 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Birds sighted

    The body of William Butten was committed to the deep.  This was the first burial at sea of a passenger on this voyage; a crew member (the name of the first casualty is unknown) was buried at sea on 2 October, over a month ago.

    Sailors often see seagulls flying more than a hundred miles from the nearest shore, so the fact that birds were sighted today, while very encouraging, does not necessarily mean that the voyage is almost over.

Copyright 2019 - Soule Kindred In America is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization - Boston, MA 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software