Of Pilgrims and Puritans
|by C.J. Chase|
Pictures of turkeys and Pilgrims have been trickling into my house for the past couple of weeks, courtesy of Mrs. R.’s kindergarten class. Yes, it’s November, and across the United States, people will be traveling to share a harvest feast with friends and relatives.
If your education was like mine (that is, you didn’t grow up in New England), your study of Massachusetts history was probably limited to three major events: the arrival of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, the Salem witch trials, and Revolutionary Boston of the tea party and Paul Revere.
In 1614, John Smith—yes, the same John Smith who met Pocahontas in 1607 Virginia—became one of the first Englishmen to explore the region then-known as “northern Virginia.” He renamed the area “New England,” drew a detailed map of the coastline, and wrote a best-selling (by 17th century standards) work titled A Description of New England. Smith wanted to found his own colony in the area, but a series of mishaps prevented him from returning to America.
|Statue of John Smith in Jamestown, Virginia|
I’ve written before about the trials and costly errors experienced by the early settlers in Jamestown, Virginia. When the group of religious separatists (now known to history as the Pilgrims) planned the creation of their own New World colony, they first turned to Smith for advice. Give the Pilgrim Fathers their due—they were smart enough to learn from others’ mistakes.
The Pilgrims (who called themselves Saints, not Pilgrims) gave us more than a November holiday. They created a representative democracy with an elected governor (as opposed to the Virginia Colony, where governors were appointed—first by the company and later by the king). The Mayflower Compact of 1620 was their mutually agreed-upon promise to follow laws enacted for the good of the colony.
The Pilgrims named their new home Plymouth Colony (sometimes also called New Plymouth or Plymouth Bay Colony). And this is where history takes one of those interesting twists. While the names of the other permanent colonies come down to us in the names of the original 13 states (for example, the Virginia Colony evolved into the present-day Virginia), the Plymouth Colony ceased to exist as of 1692.
|Portrait of John Winthrop|
Theologically, the Pilgrims and Puritans shared many beliefs--both came out of the Calvinist tradition. Some time ago I wrote a post about how both groups used the Geneva Bible, an annotated version with a Calvinist slant (Geneva was ground zero for Calvinism in the late 16th century) much out of favor with the king and aristocracy because of its footnotes denying the divine right of kings. However, while Pilgrims wanted complete separation from the official Church of England, Puritans wanted to change it (purify it) from within.
Puritanism was a popular religious movement among the English middle classes. Several of the ministers at the fledgling Virginia Colony also subscribed to Puritan beliefs. However, Puritans lacked the political clout to implement their ideals on a wide scale. But what if a group of Puritans found a place where they could create a society based on those ideals? All the world would see the rightness of their claims. Quoting scripture, Winthrop told them they would be “a city upon a hill.”
For the next decade or so, Puritans immigrated to Massachusetts in numbers that quickly dwarfed nearby Plymouth. While Plymouth had perhaps a few hundred settlers by 1630, Massachusetts welcomed almost 20,000 people during the decade of 1630-1640. However, with the elevation of Puritan Oliver Cromwell to “Lord Protector” of England, the inflow slowed to a trickle. By the time of Cromwell’s death and the restoration of the monarchy, the fervor of Puritanism had waned. Immigration into both Plymouth and Massachusetts all but ceased until after the Revolution. In 1692 (yes, the same year as the Salem witch trials) the two colonies merged into one colony called the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
One final bit of trivia to consider over the weekend, particularly as more and more retailers encroach on the Thanksgiving holiday to promote Christmas profits, er, shopping. Neither the Pilgrims or Puritans approved of Christmas celebrations.
After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at www.cjchasebooks.com