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  • 30 Nov 2020 2:58 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Cape Cod harbour

    The carpenter and others were still at work on shallop, getting out stock for a new shallop, helving tools, making articles needed, etc.  There was growing impatience on the part of the captain and the crew with the lack of any plan about what to do and where to go.  The dip in temperatures and increasing illness among the passengers is compounded by the risk of supplies running out (for the Pilgrims, and also for the crew, who needed to have sufficient stores to cover their return voyage to England), the isolation and the lack of any possible help, coupled with the danger of hostile natives.  While this certainly must have taken a toll on the passengers, the crew undoubtedly wanted to get back as soon as they could: several men had signed on to remain in America for a year, but such an undertaking had not been given by the whole crew, who did not want to stay in such a precarious situation any longer than necessary.  As it turned out, they were gone for the better part of a year, and any delay rankled.

  • 29 Nov 2020 2:16 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Cape Cod harbour

    Second Sunday in harbour.  Services aboard ship.  Seamen ashore.  There was a change in weather, and temperatures became significantly colder.  Britain is warmed by the Gulf Stream (there are even palm trees in Cornwall at Lands End!), and New England was coming out of what climatologists call the “little ice age” (which lasted in to the eighteenth century), a period of exceptional cold.  The Pilgrims were really not prepared for the fact that the winters were much colder and the summers were much hotter than they were in England.

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

    At anchor, Cape Cod harbour

    The passengers started helving tools; the carpenter was at work on the shallop, which was taking a lot more time and labour than had been anticipated.  It was somewhat worse for wear after the journey, having been split into four pieces and used as a cabin and a place to sleep during the journey.  The weather was still moderate.  Those not otherwise occupied fetched wood and water.

  • 27 Nov 2020 2:22 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Cape Cod harbour 

    Weather open.  Master Jones, Governor Carver, and many of the company went ashore in the afternoon, and met the exploring party there.  Hearing their signal-guns before they arrived at the shore, they sent the long-boat to fetch them.

    While back on the mainland …

    When the exploration party had awakened, they moved further south and found the remains of what appeared to be a cornfield.  A small path led them to what appeared to be a grave site: mounds of sand covered with decayed reed mats.  In one of the mounds was a bow and several badly decayed arrows.  They decided that “it would be odious unto [the Indians] to ransack their sepulchres,” and so they buried the contents and replaced the covering on the mound.  They continued south and found an iron kettle, probably from a French shipwreck of 1615.  Near the mouth of a small saltwater creek (the Pamet River in modern Truro) they found the remains of Martin Pring’s 1603 fort. 

    Nearby, they discovered an area in which the sand had been recently smoothed out.  This was clearly different from the grave mounds seen earlier in the day.  Philbrick elaborates (Mayflower, pp. 61-62): “As three of them dug, the others gathered around in a defensive ring with their muskets ready.  Not far down they found a basket made of woven reeds filled with approximately four bushels of dried Indian corn -- so much corn, in fact, that two men could barely lift it.  Nearby they found a basket containing corn that was still on the cob, ‘some yellow and some red, and others mixed with blue.’  One of the more remarkable characteristics of Indian corn or maize is that, if kept dry, the kernels can be stored indefinitely. … Due to the woeful state of their provisions, as well as the lateness of the season, they knew they were in a survival situation. … Without a plan they were willing to try just about anything if it meant they might survive.  They decided that they had no choice but to take the corn.  The place where they found the buried seed is still called Corn Hill.  The decision to [take] the corn was not without considerable risks.  They were, after all, taking something of obvious value from a people who had done their best, so far, to avoid them.  The Pilgrims might have opted to wait until they had the chance to speak with the Indians before they took the corn, but the last thing they possessed was time.”  While the Pilgrims had brought wheat, barley, and peas with them aboard the Mayflower to plant in the spring, they were running dangerously low on provisions and might be forced to eat some of these over the winter.  Few, if any, of them were farmers by trade, and they were not sure whether their European seeds would grow in American soil.  They decided to compensate the Indians for the corn -- as soon as they could find any Indians -- and put it into the kettle (which they suspended from a staff carried between two men), and started back to the Mayflower.

    By dusk it was raining, and they became lost in the woods.  Stephen Hopkins discovered an Indian deer trap (a young sapling bent to the ground where a rope noose encircled some acorns).  Not paying attention to where he was going, William Bradford stepped into the trap and was ensnared.  He marvelled that this was a “very pretty device, made with a rope of their own making, and having a noose as artificially made as any roper in England can make.”  They took the noose, and continued to the shore line, where they set off their guns and waited to be ferried back to the ship, “and thus we came both weary and welcome home.”   

  • 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.

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