The Pilgrims • Paso Robles Press
By Connie Pillsbury
Although 400 years have passed since the Mayflower landed, little has changed in the universal human problem of government abuse of power over people. The “dissidents,” now known as the pilgrims, were persecuted by an authoritarian state regulating their religious practices and beliefs. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was as true in 1620 as it is today.
The pilgrim’s story may well begin with the Reformation (mid-1500s) and the ascendancy of the Church of England as the official State Church of which the King was the temporal head. The State Church has retained a type of episcopal dignity similar to that of the Pope with great power and jurisdiction over the people.
There were those in England who could not conscientiously subscribe to the laws and rituals established by the established church. They were dissidents or mavericks described by William Bradford, the first governor of the colony of Plymouth, as “those who labored for the righteous worship of God and the discipline of Christ to be established in the Church, according to the simplicity of the gospel, without the mixture of the inventions of men and of having and being ruled by the laws of the word of God, dispensed by pastors, teachers and elders according to the Scriptures.
Go through this together, Paso Robles
This tense situation led to the founding of the Separatist Church in 1602 by a Cambridge graduate, followed by the Scrooby community, in which William Brewster and William Bradford were in sight. These independent thinkers who firmly asserted their right to worship according to their beliefs were in constant conflict with the authorities of the Church of England.
William Bradford wrote: “The controversy was so great… to the point of accusing (very unfairly) some of their main opponents of rebellion and high treason against the Emperor and other such crimes. Regarding their treatment, he said, “They could not continue for long under peaceful conditions but were hunted down and persecuted from all sides.
From 1603, when King James I succeeded Elizabeth, conditions deteriorated more and more; Bradford wrote: “Seeing themselves so molested and with no hope of continuing, they decided to go to the Netherlands where they heard it was freedom of religion for all men. Migration to Holland in 1607-08 was not without hardships, as an old law made emigration without authority a criminal offense. The ports being closed to them, they had to look for secret means of transport. Some ship captains betrayed them to the authorities and looted their property and funds. However, “These things did not dismay them, for their desires were directed towards the ways of God and his providence.”
After a difficult year in Amsterdam, the group moved north to Leiden, where they spent twelve years in exile, while “living together in peace, love and holiness”. King James was beginning to exert influence in Holland, demonstrated to the extreme when their printing press was looted with type, books and presses seized by government authorities. They were prohibited from publishing religious writings and their meetings were prohibited. As the persecutions increased, Bradford wrote: “A compelling force seemed to urge them to seek a place of permanent settlement. “
“The place they were thinking of was those countries of America, which are fruitful and suitable for habitation… some encouraged, and others objected, noting the many inconceivable dangers, the casualties of the sea, the length of the journey, the miseries of the earth to which they would have to be exposed would be too much to bear and probably some would be exposed to starvation, death and lack of all things, ”Bradford wrote.
The answer to the objections, Bradford wrote, was that “all noble and honorable deeds have been done with great difficulty and must be overcome with responsible courage. The dangers were great but not hopeless, and the difficulties were many but not invincible. It is true that such attempts had to be made for good reasons, and not out of recklessness, as many have done out of curiosity or the hope of gain. But their condition was not ordinary. Their ends were good and honorable, their calling legitimate and urgent, and therefore they could expect a blessing; yes, although they lost their lives in this action, they could nevertheless have comfort in the same: and their efforts would be honorable.
Today there are those pilgrims who would love to board a “Mayflower” and head to a new land, seeking to free themselves from the excesses of government, corrupt power and authoritarian authority. Their ends are also good and honorable, and their call legitimate and urgent. Since the distant shores are all inhabited and occupied, our question is, what then will be our “Mayflower?”
Epilogue: Forty-five of the 102 passengers of the Mayflower died in the winter of 1620-1621, and the settlers of the Mayflower suffered greatly during their first winter in the New World from lack of shelter, scurvy, and general conditions on board the ship. My ancestors, William Mullins, wife and son, were among those who died that first winter. They left behind a daughter, 17-year-old Priscilla Mullins, who married ship’s cooper (barrel maker) John Alden. John and Priscilla are my ninth great-grandparents.
Source: Atwood, WF, The Pilgrim Story, Plymouth, Massachusetts, June 1950.