« ForrigeFortsett »
deference to the colony of New Plymouth as being the parent colony of their country, and they speak fondly, if not wisely, of the persons who established it as The Pilgrim FATHERS. But we need not appeal to any testimony when we have the facts before us, that when a few Englishmen settled at this point, the whole of this part of the North American continent was a savage wild, and that now it is inhabited by a population of English origin, men who speak our language, who hold to many of our ancient principles and practices in religion, law, and manners, and who still venerate the great English names which we venerate,
3 There is something of affectation in this term, which is always displeasing ; and we have seen also very strange applications of it: but further, it appears to me to be philologically improper. A pilgrim is a person who goes in a devout spirit to visit a shrinereal in the first instance but afterwards a place where, it may be, no shrine is, but which is hallowed by some recollections which would deserve to have a substantial representative. An American who visits the place from which the founders of his country emigrated is a pilgrim in the proper sense of the word, whether he find an altar, a shrine, or a stone of memorial, or not. But these founders when they sought the shores of America were proceeding to no object of this kind, and even leaving it to the winds and the waves to drive them to any point on an unknown and unmarked shore. There is, however, it must be owned, the same corrupt use of the word Pilgrim in the English version of the Scriptures, “and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
and claim them as being theirs as well as ours. Men too, who as to the nobler and better part of them, cherish an affection and cultivate respect for the land from which their forefathers in sorrow departed, and who, should a great political necessity arise, would be found to stand side by side with us in the assertion of the just rights of men. And in taking this view of the subject I cannot but express the satisfaction I feel on finding that there has sprung up amongst them within the last few years an intense curiosity respecting their English ancestry: for such researches, whether successful or not (and in very many cases they cannot be pursued to any satisfactory issue), tend to strengthen the sentiment of fraternity, and to bind one free nation to another practically as free as itself.4
4 I will take the liberty in the most friendly spirit to offer a hint or two to our brethren in New England. No genealogy is of the least value that is not supported by sufficient evidence from records or other contemporary writing. The mere possession of a surname which coincides with that of an English family is no proof of connection with that family. Claims of alliance founded on this basis are not the legitimate offspring of laborious genealogical enquiry, but of self-love and the desire to found a reputation for ancestorial honour where no such honour is really due.
Search out the history of your ancestors by all means : but claim no more than you can show to belong to you. As far as you
I cannot therefore but consider this story of English and American affairs as possessing an interest for both countries, and as deserving to be regarded even in its minutest particulars a worthy subject of historical enquiry; though the research has to be conducted among writings of very low esteem. I therefore proceed, without further apology or preface, to introduce to the reader the persons who were the chief actors in this movement, and to speak of the influences which operated to produce the strong devotional sentiment by which they were actuated, and at last determined them to leave their homes and commit themselves to the uncertainties and the many dangers
can prove you are safe, and you are doing a work that is good : but the assumption of the armorial distinctions of eminent English families who happen to bear the same surname with yourselves is not to be approved, and still less the attempt which is sometimes made to claim alliance with the ancient nobility or gentry of England. When it can be proved, well and good : but no terms can be too severe to reprobate it where there is no proof, or even when there is no show of probability. It may lead to unfounded claims not only to honour, but to property.
Beside what I have done for Brewster and Bradford, I think there was no one in the May-flower beside Winslow who has been traced to an English birth-place. Standish has the fairest chance of being one day discovered in Lancashire evidences, but even his affiliation is not at present known.
attending a removal to a distant and uncultivated shore.
munity the co
We have one advantage in relation to this subject, Unity of the which does not belong to some other enreligious com- quiries of a similar nature. New Plymouth lonists. was not built and peopled by persons wholly independent of each other, who had assembled there by accident, or who were each attracted by the prospect of some private and particular advantage. They came there a united body of men, bound together by solemn compact, men of one heart and one mind, intent on the same purpose, and that a holy one. They were a federal body, a protestant congregation, community, or Church in their sense of the term, formed according to what they had brought themselves to regard as the scripture or gospel model ; yet not a set of wild enthusiasts with principles and opinions founded on palpable errors or on frauds, but calm deliberation; and as to several of them, cultivated and discerning mien—men entitled to have an opinion in respect of their religious profession, whatever judgment another may form of the value of the opinion, or the soundness of the reasoning, by which it was
supported. It is of such a body of men that we have to treat, and it is obvious that they may be contemplated as a unit; and the history of the foundation of New Plymouth is in fact but the first chapter in the history of this confederation.
It may be necessary for the right understanding of what follows to introduce at this point Origin and in the story some account of the nature that commu
nity. and origin of communities, such as that before us : and a few words will be sufficient for our present purpose, as I have no intention of entering into the wide argument to which it might invite us.
When the Reformation of the sixteenth century, supported as it was by so much learning and piety, by so much political power, and by so much of the popular will, had set men's minds at liberty to rove at pleasure in the fields of theological and ecclesiastical enquiry, they must have been blind indeed who did not perceive that men's minds would never settle down in one uniform opinion, and that even great diversity might be expected, leading to rivalries, and struggles for supremacy. And politicians, quick to discern whatever impairs the strength and endangers the safety of a state, proceeded as soon as it was