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Pilgrims

Pilgrims, in American history, the group of separatists and other individuals who were the founders of Plymouth Colony. The name Pilgrim Fathers is given to those members who made the first crossing on the Mayflower.

Origins

The nucleus of the group came into being in the meetings of a group of Puritans (see Puritanism) at Scrooby, a village in Nottinghamshire, England. Opposed to the episcopal jurisdiction and the rites and discipline of the Church of England, the group had formed as a separatist church by 1606, with John Robinson eventually becoming their minister. The congregation was composed mainly of farmers and artisans, men of little education or position, although William Brewster, one of their leaders, was a man of some importance in the town and had spent some time at the Univ. of Cambridge. Although not actively persecuted, the group was subjected to ecclesiastical investigation and to the mockery, criticism, and disfavor of their neighbors.

Emigration to Holland

To avoid contamination of their strict beliefs and to escape the hated church from which they had separated, the sect decided to move to Holland, where other groups had found religious liberty, despite an English law that forbade emigration without royal permission. After several false starts, two of which were frustrated by the law, small groups made their way to the Netherlands in 1607, and by the middle of 1608 most of them had reached Amsterdam. They went from there to Leiden, where they established themselves as artisans and laborers.

Life in Holland was not easy, however, and the immigrants found the presence of radical religious groups there objectionable. Dutch influence also seemed to be altering their English ways, and the prospect of renewed war between the Netherlands and Spain threatened. For these reasons they considered moving to the New World.

To the New World

In 1617, John Carver and Robert Cushman went to London to make arrangements with the London Company, cautiously negotiating the pledges necessary to satisfy the company, king, and bishops and still keep the religion of the dissenters pure. In 1619 a charter was secured from the company in the name of one John Wincob, but it was never used. The matter lapsed until early in 1620, when Thomas Weston, speaking for a group of London merchants, offered them support and the use of a charter already obtained from the London Company. A joint-stock company to last for seven years was arranged. The congregation voted in favor of the voyage, but only about half of the members decided to go.

A small vessel, the Speedwell, was obtained to carry the Pilgrims to England, where that vessel joined the Mayflower for the trip to America. Difficulties arose, however, over restrictive arrangements included by Weston in the agreement in order to guarantee more strongly the investment by the merchants, and the Pilgrims, unwilling to accept the revised agreement, sailed without reaching a settlement. The Speedwell proved unseaworthy and returned to port; many of the passengers and much of her cargo were crowded on the Mayflower, which set out alone.

The Leiden group constituted only 35 of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower; many of the English group gathered for the trip were not even separatists (they were thus called "Strangers" ). Nonetheless, the Leiden group (the "Saints" ) retained control and were the moving force behind the emigration. While most of the Leiden Pilgrims were English, modern scholars have found that several were French-speaking Walloons and one was a Pole. Before landing, an agreement providing for a government by the will of the majority was drawn up and called the Mayflower Compact. In Dec., 1620, the Mayflower entered Plymouth harbor, where the settlers established the Plymouth Colony.

Bibliography

See W. Bradford, History of Plimouth Plantation (first pub. 1856); H. M. Dexter, The England and Holland of the Pilgrims (1905); R. G. Usher, The Pilgrims and Their History (1918); G. F. Willison, Saints and Strangers (1945, rev. ed. 1965) and The Pilgrim Reader (1953); S. E. Morison, The Story of the Old Colony of New Plymouth (1956); J. Demos, Little Commonwealth (1970); N. Philbrick, Mayflower (2008); N. Bunker, Making Haste from Babylon (2010).

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Pilgrims

PILGRIMS

PILGRIMS. At the turn of the seventeenth century, a small group of English separatists sought to practice their religion free from the persecution of Henry VIII. By 1609, the congregation settled near Leiden, Holland. Soon dissatisfied, a small group of them sailed from Plymouth, England, aboard the Mayflower on 16 September 1620, carrying a charter for what would become the first permanent English settlement in North America. These Pilgrims arrived in Provincetown Harbor on Massachusetts Bay on 21 November and soon settled in neighboring Plymouth Harbor. Half the residents died in the first

harsh winter, yet the colony grew, and in 1691, was absorbed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abrams, Ann Uhry. The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origins. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999.

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647: The Complete Text. New York: Knopf, 1963.

Dillon, Francis. The Pilgrims. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.

Barbara SchwarzWachal

See alsoMassachusetts Bay Colony ; Mayflower ; Plymouth Colony ; Religious Liberty ; andvol. 9:The Mayflower Compact .

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Pilgrims

PILGRIMS


The Pilgrims were Separatists (Protestants who separated from the Anglican Church to set up their own church). In 1609 they fled their home in Scrooby, England, in search of religious freedom, which they found in Holland. Fearing their children would lose contact with English culture, the group decided to voyage to the New World to establish their own community. In 1620 they arrived on the rocky western shore of Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts. Their trans-Atlantic crossing had taken 66 days aboard the Mayflower. Two babies were born during the passage, bringing the number of settlers to 102only about 35 were Pilgrims, the rest were merchants.

On November 21 the Pilgrims drafted the Mayflower Compact, an agreement by which the 41 signatories (the men aboard the Mayflower ) formed a body politic that was authorized to enact and enforce laws. Religious leader John Carver (15761621) was voted governor. Though their colonial patent from the London Company specified they were to settle in Virginia, they decided to establish their colony at Cape Cod, well outside the company's jurisdiction. By December 25 the Pilgrims had chosen the site for their settlement and began building at New Plymouth.

The first year was difficult and the Pilgrims faced many hardships: Thirty-five more colonists arrived aboard the Fortune, and thereby put a strain on already limited resources. Sicknesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and scurvy claimed many lives, including that of Governor Carver; and the merchants in the group challenged the purity of the settlement.

Having secured a new patent from the Council of New England in June 1621, the lands of the New Plymouth Colony were held in common by both the Pilgrims and the merchants. But this communal system of agriculture proved unsuccessful and in 1624, William Bradford (15901657), who had succeeded Carver as governor, granted each family its own parcel of land. The Wampanoag Indians, who had previously occupied the land settled by the Pilgrims, proved friendly and were helpful advisers in agricultural matters. In 1626 the Pilgrims bought the merchants' shares, and claimed the colony for themselves. Though they were inexperienced at government before arriving in America and had not been formally educated, the Pilgrims successfully governed themselves according to their religious beliefs; Plymouth Colony remained independent until 1691, when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

See also: Agriculture, Colonies (Proprietary), Massachusetts, Puritans, Virginia

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Pilgrims

Pilgrims (Pilgrim Fathers) Group of English Puritans who emigrated to North America in 1620. After fleeing to Leiden, Netherlands, in 1608, seeking refuge from persecution in England, they decided to look for greater religious freedom by founding a religious society in America. They sailed from Plymouth, England, on the Mayflower and founded the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts.

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Pilgrims

Pilgrims

In 1606, a small group of villagers in Scrooby, England, formed a congregation separate from the Church of England, the English Separatist Church. It was a radical faction of Puritanism, and its members eventually came to be called Pilgrims. As Puritans , they sought to simplify the traditions and organization of the Church of England. However, unlike many of the Puritans, they decided to leave the Church of England entirely to establish an independent church. Neighbors rejected their extreme Puritan beliefs and their separatist church, and political authorities harassed them. Determined to pursue religious freedom, the Pilgrims emigrated to Holland in 1607.

Although their congregation continued to increase over the next decade, the Pilgrims were not happy. Their work was hard, their incomes small, and their economic outlook discouraging. By living in Holland, their children were losing touch with their English background. Members lacked the civil autonomy, or independence, they deemed necessary for their purity and proper growth.

In the winter of 1616, several members of the congregation decided to voyage to the New World to establish their own community. By 1619, they had received a charter from the Virginia Company to establish a colony in Virginia . They negotiated an agreement to set up the colony as a distinct body with its own government.

As the Pilgrims awaited a grant of religious toleration from England, a group of London merchant adventurers approached them. The merchants proposed a partnership that would enable the Pilgrims to receive the funding they needed for their plan. In exchange, the merchants would sail with the Pilgrims. After some negotiations and delays, in September 1620 a group of thirty-five Pilgrims from Holland joined sixty-six other passengers and forty-eight crew members from England to sail for the New World. Their journey aboard the Mayflower took sixty-six days.

Abandoning their charter for Virginia, the Pilgrims decided instead to settle at Massachusetts Bay at Plymouth Colony , where the Mayflower had landed. To manage conflict with the merchants, the Pilgrims drafted an agreement called the Mayflower Compact. Under its terms, the settlers agreed to establish a political body that would submit to majority rule in establishing and enforcing laws. Religious leader John Carver (1576–1621) was elected governor. By December, a site for the colony had been established, and work began. A new patent from the Council for New England created the Plymouth Plantation on June 11, 1621.

The winter of 1620–21 was mild, but the first year was still difficult for the Pilgrims. By April, forty-four Pilgrims, including Carver, had died from illness. The presence of the merchants challenged the Pilgrims’ desire for a pure Christian community. In November 1621, more colonists arrived, adding strain to already limited resources. Fortunately, the Wampanoag Indians, who had previously settled the lands, were friendly and helpful advisors in agricultural matters.

In 1624 Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) changed the communal system of agriculture that had been based on shared ownership of lands. Under the new system, every family was granted its own parcel of land. In 1626, the Pilgrims bought the merchants’ shares of land and claimed the colony for themselves. The Plymouth Colony remained independently governed by the Pilgrims according to their religious beliefs until 1691, when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony .

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