It could have been the most tragic mistake they ever made. But the Pilgrims believed the winds of Providence were behind the Mayflower’s sails.
After a harrowing, two-month voyage across the Atlantic, they spotted Cape Cod on Nov. 9, 1620. They originally planned to settle near the mouth of the Hudson River, but when they turned south, they encountered treacherous seas and were nearly shipwrecked. The captain anchored in Provincetown Harbor and they went ashore to explore. They decided to settle permanently in Plymouth, Mass.
Aboard the ship in Providence Harbor, some passengers questioned the Pilgrim leaders because they had been granted a land patent for a settlement in the northern part of the Virginia Colony, not hundreds of miles away in New England. In response, they drafted the Mayflower Compact, a civil charter that gave them the authority to establish a government until a land patent for Plymouth could later be obtained.
In essence, the document was the Pilgrim’s covenant between God and one another that laid a biblical foundation for a new society. It was an early example of democracy in America and served as an inspiration for the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Curious to learn more about the mayflower Compact and the Pilgrim’s first settlement in the New World, I traveled to Plymouth and met with Paul Jehle, the executive director of the Plymouth Rock Foundation.
Plymouth has many fascinating places, including Plimoth Plantation, the Pilgrim Hall Museum, and Plymouth Rock. The plantation is a living history museum and features the Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original Mayflower. Pilgrim Hall is a gallery museum with original Pilgrim artifacts, including William Branford’s Bible and Myles Standish’s sword. For more information, go to Plimoth.org, PilgrimHall.org, or Visit-Plymouth.com
One phrase really stood out in the Mayflower Compact, explaining that the Pilgrims came to America for the “glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” Getting to America was just the beginning for the Pilgrims. By the beginning of spring, nearly half of the 102 Pilgrims had died from starvation and disease.
The captain pleaded with the survivors to return to England. But none of them would go, believing God had sent them to America for a great purpose.
We bask in liberty and freedom today because the Pilgrims had the extraordinary vision to risk everything – even their lives – in the American wilderness nearly four centuries ago.