. . . the Speedwell, of sixty tons — miserable misnomer — was purchased in Holland for the use of the emigrants; and the Mayflower, of a hundred eighty tons–whose name is immortal–was chartered in England, and was fitting for their reception.
The Pilgrims Settle Plymouth, Massachussets, featuring a series of excerpts selected from by John S. Barry.
Previously in The Pilgrims Settle Plymouth, Massachussets. Now we continue.
Place: Plymouth, Massachussets
This concession was enough for the merchants to act upon. “They saw at once that so many families going in a body to New Netherland could hardly fail to form a successful colony.” But the political part of the question they were unable to decide. They were ready to expend their capital in carrying the emigrants to New Netherland and in supplying them with necessaries; but they had no authority to promise that the Dutch government would afford to the colonists special protection after their arrival there. “They therefore determined to apply directly to the general government at The Hague.”
The Prince of Orange was then in the zenith of his power; and to him, as stadtholder, the merchants repaired with a memorial, professedly in the name of the “English preacher at Leyden,” praying that “the aforesaid preacher and four hundred families may be taken under the protection of the United Provinces, and that two ships-of-war may be sent to secure, provisionally, the said lands to this government, since such lands may be of great importance whenever the West India Company shall be organized.”
The Stadtholder was too wary a politician to approbate immediately so sweeping a proposal, and referred it to the States-General. For two months it was before this body, where it was several times discussed; and finally, after repeated deliberations, it was resolved “peremptorily to reject the prayer of the memorialists.” Nor can we doubt the wisdom of the policy which prompted this decision. It was well known in Holland that the English claimed the territory of New Netherland. The Dutch had hitherto been tolerated in settling there, because they had not openly interfered with the trade of the English. But should they now send over a body of English emigrants, under the tricolored flag, designed to found a colony for the benefit of the Batavian republic, the prudent foresaw that a collision would be inevitable, and might result disastrously to the interests of their nation. Mr. Robinson and his associates, though exiles, were Englishmen, and would be held as such in Holland or America. Hence, had the Pilgrims emigrated under the auspices of the Dutch, and had James I demanded of them the allegiance of subjects, they would have been compelled to submit, or the nation which backed them would have been forced into war. There was wisdom, therefore, in the policy which rejected the memorial of the merchants.
In consequence of the disaffection of Mr. Weston, there were complaints of his delay in providing the necessary shipping; but at last the Speedwell, of sixty tons–miserable misnomer–was purchased in Holland for the use of the emigrants; and the Mayflower, of a hundred eighty tons–whose name is immortal–was chartered in England, and was fitting for their reception. The cost of the outfit, including a trading stock of seventeen hundred pounds, was but twenty-four hundred pounds–about twelve thousand dollars of the currency of the United States! It marks the poverty of the Pilgrims that their own funds were inadequate to meet such a disbursement; and it marks the narrowness of the adventurers that they doled the sum so grudgingly, and exacted such securities for their personal indemnity. There were some generous hearts among the members of this company–true and tried friends of the exiles in their troubles–but many of them were illiberal and selfish, and had very little sympathy with the principles of their partners.
As the time of departure drew near, a day of public humiliation was observed — the last that the emigrants kept with their pastor — and on this memorable occasion Mr. Robinson discoursed to them from the words in Ezra: “And there, at the river, by Ahava, I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before God, and seek of him a right way for us, and for our children, and for all of our substance.” The catholic advice of this excellent man was worthy to be addressed to the “Founders of New England”:
We are now ere long to part asunder; and the Lord only knoweth whether ever I shall live to see your faces again. But, whether he hath appointed this or not, I charge you, before him and his blessed angels, to follow me no further than I have followed Christ; and if God should reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; and I am confident that the Lord hath more light and truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word. For my part, I cannot but bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period of religion, and will go no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans, for example, cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; and whatever part of God’s will he hath further imparted to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace; and so the Calvinists stick where he left them. This is a misery much to be lamented, for, though they were precious shining lights in their times, God hath not revealed his whole will to them; and were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further lights as that they did receive.
Remember also your church covenants, and especially that part of it whereby you promise and covenant with God and one with another, to receive whatsoever light or truth shall be made known to you from his written Word. But take heed what you receive for truth, and examine, compare, and weigh it well with the Scriptures. It is not possible that the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-Christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once. Shake off, too, the name of Brownists, for it is but a nickname, and a brand to make religion odious, and the professors of it, to the Christian world. And be ready to close with the godly party of the kingdom of England, and rather study union than disunion–how near you may, without sin, close with them, than in the least manner to affect disunion or separation.”