The restive, docile, emasculated, and comically dressed Pilgrims deserve an Underground Movement makeover!
*originally posted Nov, 12
Forget the tall black hats, knee-high, sissy-socks, and shiny brass buckles. I wanna talk about a bunch of proud, hard-nosed, fist in the air rebels that pounded out a survival on a desolate land fraught with the leftover failures of adventurers and gold seekers. The land they faced was a land that was brimming with pain. I’m talking about the real revolutionaries of Plymouth.
They constructed our nation on the shoulders of Giants.
They blazed a path to greatness with universal principles. A Genoese adventurer changed world commerce. An obscure German revolutionized the distribution of knowledge throu
gh print! An Augustine Monk denounced indulgences, forever disrupting religious abuses and giving rise to a revolution in European power. A French refugee in Geneva carved the principles of antiroyalism into the hearts of men. A Scotsman brilliantly inked theories of liberty that reverberated throughout the documents that comprise America’s framework.
Leonard Bacon wrote, “Conscience, in conscientious men, when it has been roused to declare itself, is an obstinate thing”
This obstinacy of conscience led a badass band of revolutionaries, exiles, fugitives, and ‘non-conformist’ to these American shores. You could write a partial call sheet of characters with men like, Postmaster Brewster, Gov’nor Bradford, Mercenary & Military Commander Cap’n Standish, and dozens of other legacy revolutionaries.
This obstinacy of conscience provided a gradual journey that began with the universal seeds of the rights of man. The stage for this early band of brothers was the conflict between the national Church of England and a bold revolution of the heart that sought individual liberty. The conflict climaxed with the passing of the Act of Conformity and the suppression of private assembly.
Thomas Cartwright (1570) eloquently showed how the Church of England diverged from these natural rights and the respect for the individual. The theory of separation grew stronger. It was time to step out from the imperative of a national Church ruled by Monarchs.
William Brewster’s manor in Scrooby, England became a sort of underground headquarters of a revolution that would become the ‘gem of New England.’
Separated by centuries from the events many conflate Puritans, Separatists, and Brownists. The Puritan was the Liberal of his day and sought a reformation of the national church whereas the Brownists (followers of Robert Browne) sought more local autonomy. Separatists wanted to punch out altogether and worship independently as free men of conscience. True revolutionaries!
Whether Puritan (pure form of worship), Separatists, or Brownists the majority of them were ‘non-conformist.’ They deviated from prescribed regulations of worship and incurred the wrath of the state. They were penalized for meeting in private and treated like criminals. They faced violent persecution and became fugitives escaping the law. They were hunted and intercepted in their flight toward freedom. They were exiled and their cause became famous.
From Scrooby they fled to Amsterdam and then to Leyden, Holland where they settled for more than a decade coinciding with the truce between Holland and Spain. Rumblings of war forced them to consider their final option, a perilous sea voyage, followed by a tenuous landing in a desolate wilderness. When they landed, they suppressed strains of a mutiny and formed iterations of governance to begin scraping out a coordinated, sustainable existence.
Military acumen and political diplomacy helped them forge lasting relations with sagacious natives. These relations in turn helped improved their survivability. There was no quick fix or immediate rest from the early hardships of colonization. Failures at Roanoke, famines at Jamestown, profit driven charters to the north, all provided bleak hope for the Plymouth Colony. But, from the first winter of death when they lost nearly half their company to the near famine conditions of their collective farming systems every year these independent, revolutionary travelers (the word pilgrim being a derivation of the Latin word for traveler) grimly determined not to quit.
Today we honor these hard-core survivors and world makers. We see them through the lens of time, compare them with our own trials, and know we are humbled by their fortitude.
Disrespect the Pilgrims and you get a fat blunderbuss greeting to snap you back to reality!
From Daniel Webster’s 1820 Oration, Let us rejoice that we behold this day. (read his monumental speech here http://ow.ly/fuLrV).