HOW THE PEOPLE CALLED "PILGRIMS"
MADE A PILGRIMAGE.
In the days when Captain John Smith was having most
wonderful adventures with pirates and Indians, there lived in the
pleasant village of Austerfield, in central England, a very bright boy
of sixteen, whose name was William Bradford.
At the same time a certain conceited, obstinate, narrow-minded
Scotchman, named James Stuart, was King of England. He was the son of
that famous Mary, Queen of Scots, whose pitiful story all the world
James Stuart, who was King James VI. of Scotland, was
also King James I. of England, succeeding his
cousin, Queen Elizabeth. But James Stuart had none of the good sense of
Elizabeth Tudor. He had an absurd belief that he was the only man in the
world able or fit to be King of England, and that, therefore, whatever
he did was right.
But he did many things that were wrong,
and one of these was to try
to make all the English people believe just as he did
(or say they did), and go to his church. This is a very hard thing to
do, as King James soon found out.
As I have told you, he was obstinate as well as
conceited. So, when he discovered that there were a number of people who
would not do as he commanded in regard to their religion and
church-going, he was very angry.
These independent people were called"
Puritans," because they demanded that the English Church should be
purified; for they believed that certain of its forms and beliefs were
superstitious and misleading.
Some of them, indeed, seeing no hope of reform in the
church under King James, felt compelled to separate themselves from the
English Church. For this reason they were called
"Separatists." Their determination made King James more angry
than ever, and one day he said in a rage to some of the leading
Separatists: "In my kingdom I will have one doctrine, one
discipline, one religion, and I will make you conform or I will harry
you out of this land, or worse."
And that is just what King James finally did: he
"harried" out of England some of the best and bravest and
Just south of the town of Austerfield, ‘in which
the boy William Bradford lived, there was a little village called
Scrooby. It was on the road between London and Liverpool, and was in the
pleasant county of Nottinghamshire, the English county next west of
Lincolnshire, where Captain John Smith lived as a boy.
The postmaster of the little village of Scrooby was
named William Brewster. He was one of those who
objected to King James’s command. So he, too, had become a Separatist
or "Nonconformist," as the sect was sometimes called, because
its members would not ‘~conform," or agree, to King James’s
William Brewster was so good a Separatist that when
those in the neighborhood of Scrooby and Austerfield wished a meeting
place, he gave up to them his big house, and there they held Sunday
Young William Bradford went to these Separatist
services as regularly as he could. His family did not like to have him
do this, and tried to stop him. But he believed he was right, and he
would not be stopped. He would not stop even when King James sent men to
break up the meetings and punish the leaders.
Indeed, the earnest people who went to the Sunday
services in William Brewsters house at Scrooby had so hard a time, and
were made so very uncomfortable, that at last William Brewster and his
friends determined to give up living in England, and go across to
Holland, where they knew they would be allowed to worship God as they
chose; for the people of Holland had always been what we call
So, in the year i6o8, a number of these Separatists
went across the North Sea to Holland, leaving their beloved English
homes "for conscience’ sake," and young William Bradford
left his home at Austerfield and went with them.
He grew to be an active and earnest member of the
English community that had settled in the old Dutch city of Leyden in
Holland. But as he grew to man
hood he began to feel, as did some of the older me
and women of the congregation, that they had made mistake in settling in
To be sure, they had freedom to worship God in their
own simple way, but they found that instead of remaining Englishmen they
were gradually becoming Dutch men. Their daughters grew up and married
Dutchmen their sons grew up and became Dutch soldiers or sailor, or
merchants. If they staid many years in Holland Bradford and Brewster and
the other thoughtful one! said, they would cease to be Englishmen; and
next to being good
Christians, they desired most to be good and loyal Englishmen.
So, after living twelve years in Leyden, Bradford and
Brewster and the others determined to leave Holland
and sail across the sea to that great and promising
America they had all heard about, there to settle as an
English colony under English laws.
You see, therefore, that these people did not come to
America simply for "freedom to worship God," as Mrs. Hemans’s
poem tells us. They had perfect freedom in this way in friendly Holland.
No one there disturbed them or interfered with their religion. They came
to America to make a home for themselves and their children, where
English should be spoken and England should be served and loved. But one
of the things they were determined upon for the new colony was that it
should be under the control of those of their own religion and their own
After a great deal of trouble, they succeeded in
getting King James’s consent to settle in English territory.
The king said they would be out of England anyway,
and that was what he most desired, for thus he would be rid of them.
But they were uncertain just where to settle. At
first they thought of going to South America or the West Indies. But
they soon gave up that idea. Those hot countries, though rich and
fruitful, were unhealthful for Englishmen, and the hostile Spaniards who
had settled in that section of America made it still further
objectionable to Englishmen. Then they thought of trying Virginia; but
the Church of England people were in control there, and the Separatists
could hope for no liberty of worship, according to their desires, in a
section which the established church controlled.
They had heard from Captain John Smith many pleasant
and agreeable things about New England; but they had also heard that it
was a cold, bleak country during part of the year, and almost as hard
for Englishmen to stand as the Spaniards’ country in the south.
But John Smith had told them, too, about the Hudson
River and the pleasant country thereabouts. Moreover, this was included
in the section which some explorers referred to as the northern parts of
Virginia, but which John Smith had called New England. The Separatists
liked that name. It was not New Holland—it was New England.
The arrangements were made, and the day came at last.
On the 22d of July, 1619,
they left the queer Dutch houses in Leyden which
had been their homes so long, and turned their faces toward America,
as young William Bradford said in the account he
wrote of their adventures, that "they were pilgrims, who looked not on the pleasant things
about them, but lifted up their eyes to heaven, their dearest country,
and so quieted their spirits."
And that is where this division of the Separatists
got the name by which we know them best—the Pilgrims. It comes from
William Bradford’s diary, a fragment of which is reproduced on the
For, years after, that bright boy of Austerfield
rewrote his journal into a book, or narrative, which was really a
history of the Pilgrims and their settlement in Massachusetts.
The original written copy of that book was lost for many years, but it was found a few years
ago, and was generously given up to the State of Massachusetts by those
who had it in England, for it was considered something very precious.
And now the "Bradford manuscript," as it is
called, is kept in an honored place in the library of the State-house in
Boston, the capital of that very commonwealth of Massachusetts
which John Smith first praised to Englishmen, and which William Bradford
and his companions came across the sea on an uncertain pilgrimage to
settle and upbuild.