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whom we inquire are not literally those of whom there is no memorial left, who are passed away as if they had never been, the notices which we are able to collect, after the most persevering inquiry, are often but few, unconnected, casual, so that the inferences to be drawn from them and the combinations to be made of them may be often uncertain. Yet it is not always so; and there sometimes, as in the case before us, comes in aid of what may be collected from the general evidences of the times, particular evidence to some facts, in the form of private historical or biographical memorials, the writings of the persons themselves, or of others, their contemporaries, who knew much of their principles and proceedings.
Beside this, it will generally be found that the leaders in enterprises of this kind, though but private men and little known perhaps in their own time, were not of the very obscure, but men of some education, of some energy, and even of some position on the social scale.
I have reason to know that the subject on which we are about to enter possesses a strong The coloniza
o tion of New American interest; but it cannot be said
England an interesting
subject of into be without a claim on the attention of
Englishmen also. The settlement of New Plymouth, says Governor Hutchinson, writing in 1767, "occasioned the settlement of Massachusetts Bay, which was the source of all the other colonies in New England ;” and he speaks of the persons by whom it was founded as “the founders of a flourishing town and colony if not of the whole British empire in America.”] And to cite another English authority : when Sir Charles Lyell had viewed the relics of these founders which are preserved in the Museum at New Plymouth, he remarks, “When we consider the grandeur of the results which have been realized in the interval of two hundred and twenty-five years since the May-Flower sailed into Plymouth Harbour, how in that period a nation of twenty millions had sprung into existence and peopled a vast continent, and covered it with cities and churches, schools, colleges, and railroads, and filled its rivers and ports with steamboats and shipping, we regard the pilgrim relics with veneration.” 2
The people of New England pay all proper 1 The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, &c. 8vo, Boston, 1747, p. 452.
% A Second Visit to the United States of North America. 12mo, 1849, vol. i, p. 117.
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.3 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.