Hoist the Sails! The Mayflower and its Journey to the new World…

"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall, 1882

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall, 1882

On September 16, 1620, the famous transport ship Mayflower started its first voyage to the new world with English and Dutch separatists on board and arriving Plymouth, Massachusetts in the same year. The ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States.

On board of the 170 ton Dutch cargo ship were a total of 102 passengers and an additional number of 30 crew members. They all were curious and hopeful to start a new life at the banks of the Hudson River, which would now be New York City. However, during their two month travel the passengers had to deal with rough seas leading to two deaths on board. Also the weather caused them to approach a different destination than originally planned. They anchored near today’s Plymouth in Massachusetts and had to do nothing but wait for the winter to come, and to finally leave. During the winter, all travelers had to remain on the ship, and only half of them could survive the strong winter period. As soon as it started to warm up, the pilgrims were finally able to leave the ship and began building their new homes, while the fixed ship sailed back to England.

The Mayflower itself was built at some point around 1606, had an overall length of 28 meters (110 ft) and four decks. It was originally built for the transportation of goods, which made the settlers journey to America quite uncomfortable. The passengers had to share the cabins with living animals, lots of tools and several weapons, such as canons, artillery pieces, and huge loads of gunpowder. After the long journey to America and back to England, the Mayflower was strongly damaged and was taken out of order in 1622.

 The Landing of the Pilgrims.

The Landing of the Pilgrims.

Although the Mayflower did not survive for long, the Separatists were able to manage their living in Plymouth and started their own government in the year of their arrival, which was manifested in the so called ‘Mayflower Compact‘. The settlement of Plymouth counts as one of the oldest in the new world and therefore the Mayflower depicts a symbol of freedom, future, and hope to many Americans. Plymouth was established by English separatist Puritans who had broken away from the Church of England, believing that the Church had not completed the work of the Protestant Reformation. Today, these settlers are much better known as the Pilgrims, a term coined by William Bradford.

The Mayflower’s journey is the most prominent example of the settlement of America by Europeans and is sometimes misrepresented as its beginning. In fact, however, the colonization of North America in modern times began in the middle of the 16th century with the settlement of Newfoundland, so the city of St. John’s is considered the oldest British colony with the seizure by the English crown in 1583, almost 40 years before the crossing of the Mayflower.

At yovisto academic video search you can watch the lecture ‘Being a British Colonist’ by Professor Joanne Freeman from Yale University as part of her series ‘The American Revolution’.

References and Further Reading:

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