Today I am launching a week-long series of posts on the early settlers of Plymouth Plantation. These messages are taken from a talk I gave last year to a wonderful group of home educators (I miss you Whatcom Homeschool Association folks!).
The people we have come to remember as the Pilgrims fled from England to Holland in 1608 and then from Holland to America in 1620.
They went to Holland desperately seeking religious freedom but left because the political climate in Holland was changing and it would soon be less safe for them to be there. They also were alarmed at the growing assimilation of their children into the Dutch culture. They wanted to retain their English language and culture. They were concerned for the next generation.
The Dutch offered them free transportation to the island of Manhattan as well as a cow for each family but they refused. They wanted to remain English citizens wherever they went.
The Pilgrims had a deep faith and confidence that they belonged to God. They believed that their cause was just and walked with an uprightness that only fearless and free people can display. They stand as shining examples of people who were certain of what they believed, were unswerving in their loyalty and passionately dedicated to God whom they trusted.
I believe there are several kernels of wisdom we can draw from their lives which will make a difference for us who are living in a very different time.
The Pilgrims were generationally oriented.They were visionaries who were willing to do hard things for something greater; imparting their faith, their culture and their language to their precious children.
This brings us to our first Kernel of Wisdom; All great people live their lives with an eye toward those who are coming after them. If you are sacrificing for the next generation, you are walking in the footsteps of world changers and this view of the future will change the way you live now!
And so these determined people found financial backing (the original agreement was to work four days a week for seven years to pay off their debt but this was changed to six days a week!). They borrowed the money, promised to pay off the debt with furs and goods from the New World and set sail.
Their boats were leaky. The Speedwell had to return to shore and those who had planned to travel on it either stayed behind or chose to be crammed into the Mayflower.
The crossing was awful. Because of the problems with the Speedwell, they got a late start. A horrible storm blew them off course and their main mast was shattered. They had originally planned on landing in Virginia which had a much milder climate but, because of the storm, ended up much further North.
Once they reached land (off the coast of New England) they wisely decided that they should not set foot on land without writing down what they were agreeing to as a colony. The resulting document came to be known as the Mayflower Compact and was heavily influenced by the Magna Carta (the document which limited the power of Kings in England and was a foundational document to our Constituition). These tired, sea-sick Englishmen were not uneducated! Read these words out loud.
“It was thought good that there should be an Association or Agreement, that we should combine together in one body; to submit to such Government and Governors as we should, by common consent, agree to make and choose; and set our hands to this that follows, word for word.”
This brings us to our second Kernel of Wisdom; they knew their history and borrowed wisdom and knowledge from those who had gone on before them!
It’s easy to look back on those who lived centuries before us and presume many things. The Pilgrims of Plymouth had mostly been hatters and weavers in the towns of Holland. To the men who spent drab and colorless years at a loom in Leyden, this rugged existence on the bleak New England hillside was utterly new and strange.
They weren’t well-equipped to deal with strange animals, plants, rocky hillsides and really bad New England coastal weather but in one important area they were well-prepared for hardship.
They were well read.
So, while they chopped wood, dug for clams, and struggled to discover what they could eat in the new land they thought! They thought about what others had written in hard times, they reflected on God’s word and they thought about future generations…
They were visionaries who were willing to do whatever it took while they looked beyond their immediate circumstances to something greater.
Please return to Generational Womanhood for the next part of this series! To learn more about the Pilgrims, look for a beautifully illustrated book for children entitled N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims with text by Robert San Souci (published by Chronicle books).