Four hundred years ago, in late December 1620, the Pilgrims who had sailed from England on the Mayflower finally came ashore at what would become Plymouth Plantation. They began building houses and a fort, painfully slowly because of the deep snow and frozen ground. While still on board, they had signed the Mayflower Compact (which has inspired VDARE.com’s 1620 Society). You’d think such an auspicious anniversary would occasion many celebrations and re-enactments. Not so.
Of course, it's partly because of COVID-19 policies. But even that shouldn't prevent more media and political celebration, with COVID-19 accomodations.
One must also suspect the influence of the relentless Leftist attack on America’s forebears and its English heritage explains the omission. By forcing us to forget the Pilgrims and their dangerous ocean voyage to settle a new land, Cultural Marxists intend to force us to forget the Historic American Nation. The Pilgrim saga and the story of Plymouth Rock must be retrofitted because of what it was: the establishment of an English Christian colony that was a foundation of the current United States of America.
The Cultural Marxists portray it as the beginning of a racial genocide, as the reliably Leftist Associated Press just did [400 years on, Mayflower’s legacy includes pride, prejudice, by David Goldman and Alanna Durkin Richer, October 23, 2020]. And on the other, it must be transmogrified into something it wasn’t: the arrival of “refugees” and “illegal immigrants.”
(Right, the cover of the New Yorker from Thanksgiving, 2011.)
How about radical Latino activists? Consider that 24 years ago, for instance, Agustin Cebada, of the Brown Berets of Aztlan, offered this boiling bile:
“Go back to the Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims!” he shouted. “Get out! We are the future. You’re old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you; leave like beaten rats.”
[Mexico’s “Reconquista” — We Have Been Warned, American Renaissance, June 1998]
Listen below, and go here for more:
But perhaps that was thought to be too explicit. Some on the Left have settled on rewriting the story of the Pilgrims: they were not settlers, but instead “refugees” and “illegal immigrants,” as I wrote when describing the effort to Hispanicize Thanksgiving.
Of course this is wrong, given that a country must already exist for the refugees or illegal immigrants to go to. But recasting the narrative that way enlists the Pilgrims as partners in The Great Replacement being orchestrated by today’s refugees and illegal aliens.
How, the argument goes, can we deport illegal immigrants today? The Pilgrims were illegal too! And they were refugees from religious oppression! How dare we deny Islamic refugees a place in this Melting Pot—this Nation of Immigrants!
Of course, the Pilgrims were neither. They were settlers looking for a place to establish their own sectarian polity, where they got to make the rules.
The Pilgrims didn’t call themselves Pilgrims, but “Saints”. They were also referred to as “Brownists,” after Separatist Robert Browne (who later returned to the Anglican Church). The term “Pilgrims” only came into use in 1800 [What’s the Difference Between Puritans and Pilgrims?, by Dave Roose, History.com, July 31, 2019].
A Calvinist sect, the Pilgrims were Separatists who had separated from the Church of England because they did not believe it could be purified according to their beliefs. They wanted to create their own society, governed by their own religious principles, and so, while still wanting to remain English culturally, they left their country for Leiden in The Netherlands during the reign of James I.
They began arriving in 1607, the year Jamestown was founded in the New World. Some were textile workers; others taught English to Dutchmen. (Teaching English in a foreign country, by the way, is still a stereotypical Anglo expatriate thing. I taught English in Mexico for years.)
Though the Pilgrims freely practiced their religion in Holland, they left because England’s King James was prodding the Dutch government to crack down on them. And, significantly, they were concerned that their children were assimilating to their host country; i.e., becoming Dutch. They were English, and wanted to remain English.
When the chance came to colonize a new world, they took it. They would still be on English territory, yet they would also be autonomous. Their only financial obligation: repaying the joint stock company that sponsored the colony. In that exchange, beaver pelts were coin of the realm.
Having returned to England to embark on the adventure, the settlers were supposed to sail on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The passengers, including some who hadn’t lived in Leiden, packed onto the Mayflower after they determined the Speedwell was leaking and unseaworthy.
It left Plymouth, on the south coast of Devon, on September 16. To today’s Americans with modern comforts, the prospect of crossing the Atlantic on a wooden ship, with all its dangers and discomforts and no GPS or iPhones, would be impossibly daunting. Not so for the Pilgrims. It was a chance for a new life, free from the smothering edicts of the Anglican Church.
They sighted Cape Cod on November 19. The Mayflower attempted to sail south toward the Hudson River, but strong currents and unexpected shoals, and nearly being shipwrecked convinced the crew to turn back. They dropped anchor in Provincetown Harbor at the northern end of the hook-shaped Cape Cod, on November 21. This is where they drafted and signed the famous Mayflower Compact.
For the next month, groups of Pilgrims and crew scouted the area in a smaller sailing vessel called a shallop, seeking a suitable settlement location. They eventually decided upon “New Plymouth”, which had been previously named by none other than John Smith, former leader of the Jamestown colony, who had explored that coast (and named it New England) in 1614.
On December 16, the The Mayflower dropped anchor in New Plymouth Harbor and after 3 days, a specific settlement site abandoned by the Patuxet Indians was chosen.
The first formal landing party disembarked on December 21 (O.S. December 11) and two days later, construction began. This is celebrated in Plymouth on December 22 as “Forefathers’ Day”.
But throughout the winter, most of the Pilgrims remained on the Mayflower, with the bulk of the passengers not disembarking until March 31, 1621.
The Mayflower and crew didn’t leave until April 15.
The Plymouth Colony lasted just 72 years. It was absorbed by the Province of Massachusetts Bay, dominated by the later-settled but larger Massachusetts Bay Colony of Puritans.
Nevertheless, Plymouth is the most famous of the English colonies which eventually became the United States of America, partly because of the First Thanksgiving in the Fall of 1621.
Today, it's estimated that 35 million people are descendants of 51 Plymouth Rock colonists.
I present below a partial list of Americans who wouldn’t be here if William Bradford and his stout band hadn’t sailed for Plymouth Rock, from the following six sources:
John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Note on Coolidge: In a 1920 tricentennial speech, Coolidge, then governor of Massachusetts and vice president-elect, said he was not a Mayflower descendant. Instead, he said, his ancestors were Massachusetts Bay Puritans [Learn From Pilgrims, Coolidge Admonishes, New York Herald, November 23, 1920]. However, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants claims Coolidge descended from Plymouth colonists and the website Mayflower Faces documents it. So Coolidge descended from both groups of Massachusetts colonists.
OTHER POLITICAL PERSONAGES
Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, Joanne Woodward, Clint Eastwood, Dick Van Dyke, Christopher Reeve, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere , John Lithgow, Jodie Foster, Christopher Lloyd, Sigourney Weaver, Matt Damon, James Spader, and the Baldwin Brothers: Alec Baldwin , Daniel Baldwin, William Baldwin and Stephen Baldwin .
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, Noah Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Phillips Brooks, clergyman (wrote O Little Town of Bethlehem), Ambrose Bierce, Ernest Hemingway, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and John Bartlett (Bartlett’s Quotations).
OTHER FAMOUS AMERICANS
Lavinia Warren (dwarf performer), Julia Child, Cokie Roberts, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Grandma Moses , Amelia Earhart, Alan Shepard, Benjamin Spock, Hugh Hefner, and “Mayflower Madam” Sydney Biddle Barrows.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch and Canadian songstress Avril Lavigne. Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece, is a Mayflower descendant on her American-born father’s side. Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia from 1940-1948, was a Mayflower descendant on his American mother’s side.
These are only a few Mayflower descendants. Maybe you're one too. Although I'm not (the Wall family lived in colonial Virginia) I honor them as founders of our nation.
What the Pilgrims accomplished and left for the world, a new nation and millions of descendants, was no mean feat. And so we must not allow the Pilgrims to be ignored, or worse, turned into villains, or redefined to fit today’s leftist narratives.
To its credit, the U.S. Postal Service has produced a beautiful stamp featuring the Mayflower to honor our Pilgrim heritage. Buy some, and use them proudly.
The Pilgrims must be honored for what they are: Founders of the Historic American Nation.
For more information, try these websites, in addition to those listed above:
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.