“…Pilgrim history (is) a story which has no end. It will end only if people suffer a failure of nerve in the quest for basic human rights. It can honestly be said that ALL who cherish freedom are Pilgrim descendants.” - Rev. Gary Marks, “Pilgrims Then and Now” Plymouth, Mass. (1990)
(Note: I don’t pretend to be an authority on Pilgrim History, but I am quite knowledgeable about it, because my wife. who is descended from at least three Mayflower passengers, is a life-long member of the National/State Society of Mayflower Descendants, and we’ve attended many Mayflower Society meetings together over the years. In the early 1990’s I presented the program for the Fall meeting of the S.C. Society of Mayflower Descendants. This and the following two articles will center on these amazing people who, in obeying what they believed were the teachings of their Savior, Jesus the Messiah, changed history!)
I’ve stood several times (the first time in April, 1955) on the top of Cole’s Hill, overlooking the historic harbor at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Below this ancient but now “manicured” hill lies the rock, Plymouth Rock, underneath its beautiful marble canopy. Out in the harbor is the spot where, in the miserable winter of December, 1620, about 102 stalwart people (some sources say 104), plus crew, arrived from England in a small, old converted freighter named Mayflower. Cole’s Hill, at that time, was a craggy bluff overlooking a small rocky beach just big enough for a landing party in a small “shallop” (a large dory with oars and a sail). Eventually a group of those men and women would come ashore right below what has been named Cole’s Hill since at least 1697. According to Pilgrim tradition, based on information given by a Pilgrim descendant many years later, John Alden and Mary Chilton were the first two Pilgrims to step upon “Plymouth Rock” in late December, 1620, weary but determined to obey God’s Will. Those first halting and fearful steps marked the beginning of an “experiment” in self-government that, today, their spiritual and political descendants are arguing about over whether or not that “experiment” is worthy of preserving.
Inside a beautiful marble sarcophagus on top of Cole’s Hill rests a plain pine box, containing multiple bones unearthed from the old original burial ground on Cole’s Hill over the past couple of centuries, which were undoubtedly from those same brave souls who arrived in that small, 90 foot Mayflower, and who must have first looked upon that unnamed bluff from her deck, possibly in fear, but certainly (for perhaps forty or less of them) in faith that what they were about to embark upon was in God’s directive Will. (Technically this beautiful monument, built in 1920 by The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, is not a “sarcophagus”, which denotes the remains of but one person, but is an Ossuary, since it contains the bones of multiple people.)
Rev. Gary Marks wrote (in “Pilgrims Then and Now-1990) that, “The Pilgrim story is one of the best known…and, paradoxically, one of the least known stories concerning our American beginnings. Many are familiar with the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, and the first Thanksgiving. Few know much about the great ideas and personalities which gave rise to and sustained the Pilgrims’ heroic and persistent struggle to realize their dreams of living as a SELF-DETERMINING people. …The fame and popularity of major events in our early history ironically stand in the way of an appreciation for the basic impetus which guided their fervent and dogged quest to live FREE from the tyranny of both the King and the established Church of England. Following repeated attempts and profound searchings of soul to ‘purify’ the church from within, (this) small group of stubborn people, whom we now know as Pilgrims, separated themselves from the Church and effectually, therefore, from their own nation.”
It’s beyond the scope of this article to delve into a detailed history of the sufferings and accomplishments, over the next 70 or so years, of this small band of “Saints”, or Christians, and “Strangers”, or non-believers or non-church members. I’ve been asked several times in the past, and I’ve sometimes asked myself, why would these physical or spiritual ancestors of ours take such risks for something as nebulous, at that time, as the right to worship as they chose, and/or live in a self-governing society? Why would this small band of spiritual and also irreverent people (at most around 40 of the 102 of these “Pilgrims” were members of John Robinson’s “separatist congregation” back in Leiden, Holland) risk all they had, and their lives, for concepts that were totally foreign to most of their countrymen? The answer is complex.
One side of this sarcophagus, or monument, lists the names of the 50 or so Pilgrims who perished of disease and cold during that first terrible winter and spring of 1620/21, including two who were among my wife’s several Mayflower ancestors. On the other side is an inscription that, perhaps, answers that question as to WHY these people did what they did:
“READER! HISTORY RECORDS NO NOBLER VENTURE FOR FAITH AND FREEDOM THAN THIS PILGRIM BAND. IN WEARINESS AND PAINFULNESS, IN WATCHINGS, OFTEN IN HUNGER AND COLD, THEY LAID THE FOUNDATIONS OF A STATE WHEREIN EVERY MAN, THROUGH COUNTLESS AGES, SHOULD HAVE LIBERTY TO WORSHIP GOD IN HIS OWN WAY. MAY THEIR EXAMPLE INSPIRE THEE TO DO THY PART IN PERPETUATING AND SPREADING THE LOFTY IDEALS OF OUR REPUBLIC THROUGHOUT THE WORLD!”
I must confess that when I again read those words with deeper understanding, in 1988, tears came to my eyes and I had trouble narrating them for my video camera. They did these things—they suffered and starved and died—for us—for ME, and YOU, and in a broader sense, they did it because about half or less of them LOVED God and had concluded that “resistance to tyranny was obedience to God” (the tyranny they were resisting was not only political, that they suffered from the British government of King James, but was also ecclesiastical tyranny perpetrated against them by the authorities of The Church of England). Well, it still is, even though some Christians today have decided that resistance to the tyranny of our present day is not part of God’s Will, and that His Word teaches that! (Of course, I disagree, but that’s a discussion for another time).
THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT
While anchored at their first landfall, off what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the tip of Cape Cod, the men of this Pilgrim band drew up a “compact”, or agreement, on how they would live and interact with each other when their colony was in operation. It reads as follows:
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James…. Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, and Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony....”
I contend that these noble words, written in desperation to preserve their civil order (which was in danger of disintegrating after the voyage ended because of the disparity of their beliefs and because they decided to settle at a place other than their contracted location near Hudson’s River--“in northern Virginia”--they called it, actually today’s New York State) are among the most important ever written down for the cause of our human liberty. Although the great Magna Charta of England from 1215 A.D. formed the later basis of some of our Constitutional law, the Mayflower Compact was, in essence, the FIRST American document declaring that civil order and a mutual respect for human rights was to be established and maintained. So, readers, I ask YOU a question based on those noble words on the sarcophagus on Cole’s Hill: WILL YOU DO YOUR PART IN PERPETUATING AND SPREADING (AND DEFENDING) THE LOFTY IDEALS OF OUR REPUBLIC? If so, you’d best get on with it now, because there are forces among us that seek to deny and repress these liberties, passed down the generations to us at such a great cost!
These forces portray themselves as “patriotic Americans”, but don’t be fooled---they are despicable anti-Americans, socialist/progressive Marxists who love to disguise themselves in the formerly respectable, and now thoroughly tattered, mantel of the “loyal opposition” known as the Democrat Party, or as I now more accurately refer to them---The Klan of New Bolsheviks! (And lest you members of the “Republican Party” gloat over my words--I support the Constitution Party--in my opinion most Republicans, or at least the “RINOS” within your party, are not much better in respect to patriotism and love of our Constitutional Republic and the free enterprise system it perpetuates, than are the scurrilous Socialist Dumbocrats!)
One year from now, in 2020, we’ll be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the “Plimouth Colony” (its original
spelling) by that small band of “Saints and Strangers” who accomplished more to change human history than they could ever have imagined. What this small band of Christian “Separatists” (a part of only ONE church congregation) and perhaps non--or only nominal--Christians accomplished by their faithfulness and determination should be an inspiration to all people who are now seeking, and may seek sometime in the future, their liberation from the tyranny and oppression that is still so prevalent in our present world, just as it was over 400 years ago when they confronted these ever-present evils. We may live in a much different world, today, compared to the simpler world in which the Pilgrims lived, but the issues are the same now, as then: self-government, human liberty, and political and religious freedom. These goals are AGELESS, and until our Savior, Jesus the Messiah, returns to establish His new earthly Kingdom, they will always be goals worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for. That’s what I believe. I invite you to believe likewise!