Roland G. (Roland Greene) Usher.

The Pilgrims and their history online

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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited










Professor of History, Washington University, St. Louis.

Author of the Reconstruction of the English

Church, Pan-Germanism, Etc.


Published by The Macmillan Company,

AU rights reserved.



Copyright, 1918


Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1918








I have attempted a new study of the Pilgrims and their
history from the sources. While I was unable to find
much new evidence of prime importance, I have perhaps
been able to exclude from further consideration the
possibihty of ascertaining information about the Pilgrims
from the evidence concerning the Puritan Movement in
England from 1580 to 1610, and from that regarding the
history of the Established Church for the same period.
But I have been able to place the older material about
the Pilgrims in its relation to the more recent evidence
concerning English church history, and have as well
utiHzed for the first time the Plymouth First Church
records and many Plymouth wills, which contain much
of great value on economic and social history. No further
accession of evidence is now probable and it is therefore
an important fact, though due to no merit of mine, that
the narrative presented in these pages possesses a certain
aspect of finality. A new study of old evidence and the
use of some new material has made possible certain
differences in interpretation, in emphasis, and in judg-
ment, the importance of which must not be unduly
exaggerated. I have felt it possible to show that the
Pilgrims were not subject to active persecution in Eng-
land from Church or State; that Robinson's Congrega-
tion at Leyden was considerably smaller than most
students have estimated; and that the really significant
achievement was not the emigration itself, but the
economic success of the years 1621 to 1627. Indeed, the
Plymouth wills make it now possible to claim that the

viii Preface

colony was an economic success in the literal sense of the
word and that poverty and hardship did not continue at
Plymouth as long as has not infrequently been impHed.
It has also been possible to define rather more exactly the
relation of the Pilgrim Church to the Puritans in England
and to other Protestant Sects in New England.

At the same time, perhaps the chief excuse for this
volume lies in the lack hitherto of a consistent attempt
to present the story as a whole, with serious attention to
proportion, emphasis, and perspective. Such valuable
books as those of Dexter, Arber, or Ames have empha-
sized only one period or one aspect of the story, while in
other books the genealogical information has fairly
dwarfed the narrative. I have therefore sought to treat
each section of the narrative adequately, and in particular
to devote considerable space to the period after 1627,
partly because the heritage of most importance to us
seems to be that of this particular period, and partly
because comparatively little attention has hitherto been
paid to it. While our genealogical information about
the Pilgrims' immediate descendants is vast in bulk and
frequently entertaining and vital, I have felt it important
to emphasize the poKtical narrative and to subordinate
all genealogical detail.

The conclusions of most importance are frequently to
be reached only by elaborate inference and deduction
from indirect evidence and are sometimes in the end no
better than presumptions and probabilities resting upon a
lengthy process of conjecture. To attempt to give, even
in important instances, the whole train of logic and the
evidence on which it is based, is to create a critical
apparatus of quotations, references, and speculations
wearisome and vexatious to the general reader and not

Preface ix

really necessary for critical students. In such a mass of
inference, the Pilgrims and their history have sometimes
been lost to sight. It has become increasingly common in
books on the Pilgrims to reproduce as many of the old
abbreviations and contractions as can be provided in
modern type with the result that a familiar and simple
idea is presented to the reader in such strange guise that
he fails to recognize it. Nor does such meticulous accu-
racy serve any real purpose. I am not aware of any
passage the meaning of which is in doubt or from which
additional information can thus be extracted. Fre-
quently, too, such reproductions raise in the minds of
readers unskilled in research a presumption of a critical
judgment and of an extent of information in the author
wliich are not always realized. I have preferred to
subordinate the critical apparatus to the narrative
proper and to reproduce in citations what Bradford or
others would have had printed rather than exactly what
they wrote.

This is the fifth in a series of related monographs which
I am attempting to write on the constitutional and ad-
ministrative history of the Tudor and Stuart periods in
England. This particular volume, though not without
relation to my previous books, the Reconstruction oj the
English Church and the High Commission, is primarily a
part of the treatment of the period between 1610 and
1640, upon which my studies have already been pros-
ecuted at considerable length, but on which as yet noth-
ing has been pubhshed, partly because the war has
temporarily suspended access to the EngHsh archives, and
partly because it has also made difficult the publication
of technical books which appeal only to a very limited
number of readers. I am venturing thus to call attention

X Preface

to my continued interest in Stuart history because the
character of the research itself, aside from fortuitous
interference, may require some years of work still before
the more important volumes can be finished.

I have already made repeated acknowledgments in
my previous books of my indebtedness to many foreign
scholars and archi\asts, but I cannot close this preface
without acknowledging once more, in this of all books,
the influence upon me as a student of Edward Channing.
To no single man, out of many in Europe or America to
whom m.y indebtedness is great, do I owe so much.

Roland G. Usher.

Washington University,
Easter, 1918.


Chapter Page

i. scrooby and austerfield i

II. The Exodus from England 17

III. The Hardness of Life in Holland 33

IV. The Critical Decision 45

V. Ways and Means 56

VI. The Voyage 68

■ VII. The First Year 83

VIII. The Problem of Subsistence 94

IX. Standish and the Problem of Defence no

X. The Tares in the New English Canaan 127

XI. The Year of Deliverance — 1627 142

XII. The Great Achievement 157

XIII. New Plymouth in New England, 1627-1657 168

XIV. The Dominant Note at Plymouth 183

XV. Government and Administration, 1627-1657 202

XVI. Economic Privilege, 1627-1657 220

XVII. Social Life, 1627-1657 239

XVIII. Tendency after the Death of Bradford 256

XIX. The Loss of Political Independence 275

Appendix 293

Index 305


Manor House at Scrooby Frontispiece

Map of the Scrooby Region Facing page 6

Portion of Capt. John Smith's Map of New
England, 1614 " " 48

Contemporary Cut of Ships of the May-
flower Type " " 64

The Mayflower Compact: from Bradford's

History " " 74

EUzabeth Paddy Wensley " " 176

Madame Padishal " " 250

Edward Winslow. Painted in London in 165 1 " " 256





In the autumn of 1606, about fifty or sixty men and
women began to gather weekly for devotional exercises
in the chapel of an old Manor House at Scrooby, in
northern England, about forty-five miles south of the
city of York. They thanked God that they had been
vouchsafed a glimpse of the true Light and walked
no longer in darkness; that they were separated from
that abomination of Anti-Christ, the Church of Eng-
land. They assured each other of their ability and
willingness to bear with all fortitude the persecution
and travail sure to be entailed by this obedience to
"the Ordinances of God." There were among them
none of wealth, birth, or learning as those words were
then or are now used; they professed religious ideas
maintained by a few hundreds at most in the British
Isles, if not in the world; they lived in a part of Eng-
land not then considered important; they were simple
farmers, tilling the open fields of an old hunting park,
between moors and fens alive with game. Their little
assembly was too insignificant to attract the attention
of the Puritans in southern England or to rouse the
officials of the Estabhshed Church to more than a
spasmodic and perfunctory hostihty. But they took


2 The Pilgrims and their History

courage from the words in Ecclesiastes: "the race is
not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither
yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of under-
standing, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and
chance happeneth to them all." And they were right.
Among them were the leaders of a mighty movement —
the emigration of Enghshmen to the New World in
search of homes. They were the true progenitors of
the westward march of the Anglo-Saxon race, a group
of men and women worthy of becoming the ancestors
of a virile nation of one hundred millions of souls.

The spiritual origin of the Pilgrim movement ^ lay
in the impulse toward freedom of thought which was
itself the root of the Protestant Reformation. The
historical and literary study of antiquity, the new
knowledge of the classic languages, the new texts of
the Scriptures proved to Lutherans and Calvinists
that the Papacy of 1521, its hierarchy and usages, was
not warranted by the Scriptures. Christianity had
been defiled, its pristine purity sulhed by the introduc-
tion through the agency of the Popes of pagan ritual
and ceremony. The task of the reformers was clear:
to reject the innovations of the Pope, to abjure him as

^ "As applied specifically to the early settlers at Plymouth,
Pilgrim first appeared in 1798 and Pilgrim Fathers in 1799."
Bradford and others had used the word pilgrim, but not as a
generic historical designation. From about 1800 till the middle
of the nineteenth century, the term was applied indiscriminately
to aU early New England settlers, but was then by more critical
students limited to Plymouth colonists. This usage of the term
Pilgrim has been consistent for not more than forty years. See
interesting information on this point collected by Albert Mat-
thews in Publications of the Colonial Society of Mass., XVII,

Scroohy and Auster field 3

the Man of Wrath, and to establish once more on
earth in all its pristine purity the primitive Church of
Christ. In convincing their own followers of the verity
of this great discovery, they found the most cogent
evidence in the Scriptures themselves. Read the Bible,
they besought the men of their own time. Read and
see that there is nowhere mention of Pope or hierarchy,
of this ceremony or that practice, of copes or indul-
gences. Read and see that we are right and that the
Pope is wrong and a usurper, the untrustworthy serv-
ant in the vineyard of the Lord, who shall be thrown out
by the servants when the Lord shall come.

It became, however, speedily necessary that the re-
formers themselves should define with some precision
what form of discipline and doctrine Christ had insti-
tuted. Once this definition had been promulgated, once
Calvin, Luther, and Z^vingli, Knox, Cranmer, and
Whitgift had made up their minds, they became one and
all convinced that the Scriptures could be understood
only by those to whom God had vouchsafed the truth.
Accordingly, the new reformed organizations insisted
upon a conformity with their own particular practice and
belief no less rigid than that against which they protested,
and each expelled from its ranks without mercy or hesita-
tion those who ventured to differ from it in the interpreta-
tion of primitive Christianity. In England the peculiar
circumstances under which the Reformation was begun,
the character of Henry VIII and of his daughter, Eliza-
beth, the peculiar temperament of the English people,
resulted in a compromise between the old forms and the
new platform. After a good deal of hesitation, a few
sweeping changes in doctrine and discipline were afl&rmed,
but, while many of the observances of the Roman

4 The Pilgrims and their History

CathoKc Church were definitively abandoned, in out-
ward appearance the old service and the old discipline
still predominated in the observances of the Established
Church of Elizabeth. The Pope was expelled but the
hierarchy remained.

The Httle group of people, who separated from the
Established Church with such consecration and serious-
ness in the autumn of 1606, had thoroughly grasped the
injunction of the reformers to read the Scriptures for
themselves. Their strong and practical minds quickly
appreciated the inconsistency of a Hberty of thought
and expression which permitted the laity to find in the
Scriptures only the material they were told was there,
and which denominated all further examination into the
truth as "unholy prying." They opened their eyes and
saw in the Bible proof that the Church was not yet
purified, that the reformers were no more infalhble in
their interpretation of Scripture, no more consistent in
practice, nor more Hberal in attitude than the "Bishop of
Rome" whom they rejected with such determination.
The Reformation had not been thorough, the Pope him-
self had been abjured but not his "detestable enormities."
They found in the Scripture no more warrant for the
bishops and deans of the EngHsh Established Church
than for the Pope and his cardinals. They saw no more
proof in the New Testament of the validity of a prayer-
book and canons than they found for the mass and

Scrooby was hardly a favorable environment for so
radical a Protestant movement. Situated about forty-
five miles south of the city of York and about fifty miles
north of Lincoln, along the great highway leading from
London to Edinburgh, within easy ride of the old Sher-

Scroohy and Auster field 5

wood Forest long connected by legend with Robin Hood,
there lay to the north and west of Scrooby great districts
in which the Roman CathoHcs were at the time of
Elizabeth's death in the overwhelming majority. In the
immediate vicinity of Scrooby were powerful CathoHc
families. From this district had come the Pilgrimage of
Grace and the Rising of the North. From it the leaders
of the Bye Plot had confidently expected support and it
was not yet certain in 1605 that the fears of a Catholic
rising were entirely groundless. Indeed, the Protestants
in the North of all descriptions had commonly preferred
to bury their own differences and present a determined
front to the CathoHc majority who had not yet accepted
the fact of the Reformation.

About Scrooby we know a great deal, thanks to its
location upon the great highway between London and
Edinburgh.^ The ofiEicials who collected the information
for Domesday Book recorded its existence as a part of
the property of the Archbishopric of York, but it was not
in 1606 and indeed never had been since the Norman
Conquest an agricultural or industrial district in any
proper sense of the word. It was in fact a hunting lodge,
located upon a tongue of fenny land, thrown out in the
midst of the moors, broad lakes, and swamps of the lower
Trent valley. It was also a sort of halfway-house used by
official travelers, north and south, and an occasional
residence of the Archbishop of York or his officials when
occupied with affairs in the southern part of the Province.
A good many notables, first and last, slept there from the
Conquest down to the time when Margaret Tudor paused
overnight on her journey north to marry James IV,
from which marriage was to spring the union of England
1 See the notes at the end of the Chapter.

6 Tlie Pilgrims and their History

and Scotland. In the early sixteenth century there was
a good deal of huntmg at Scrooby. Wolsey himself
spent a whole month in the house. The custom had been
for the Archbishop to travel with his servants, furniture,
linen, and plate and set up for a time his establishment in
the great Manor House, and, when His Grace pleased, he
departed bag and baggage and left the empty house and
its outbuildings in the care of a Receiver or Bailiff.

The population at Scrooby consisted therefore of the
small tenant farmers and their laborers, connected more
or less immediately vnih. this estate of the archbishops,
and living around the Manor House, subject in civil as
well as in economic matters to the authority of the
Archiepiscopal Receiver or Bailiff. There was of course
no leisured class; men of any education at all were few;
and the Httle district boasted no residents of wealth,
birth, or station. For all that it was a place of some
consequence and of considerable size. Leland, the
official historian of Henry VIII, found at Scrooby a great
house of two courts, built of timber and brick, standing
on a plot of some six or seven acres, the whole surrounded
by a deep moat. As the years elapsed, the Manor House
fell into decay, perhaps because the game became less
abundant and the House less used; toward the middle of
the century the number of buildings were certainly
fewer; and, when James I on his progress to London in
1603 noted it as a useful hunting lodge, he also remarked
upon its "exceeding decay."

There is today Kttle left at Scrooby to tell of these
times. Except for the slender gray spire of St. Wilfred's
Church and a few parts of the present stone farmhouse,
there is nothing left which the eyes of Brewster or Brad-
ford might have seen of the great estate on which Wolsey




Scroohy and Auster field 7

amused himself and which Elizabeth and James I
coveted. The very earth is different. The moors and
fens have been drained and ploughed; the game has
departed, leaving only the lark and the cuckoo behind;
the tangled thickets are now waving fields of grain, dotted
by scarlet poppies and fringed with hawthorn, wild roses,
and honeysuckle. Here and there only is an untamed
spot, where the brilHant yellow of the gorse against the
dark green of its own foliage gives us a suggestion of the
sort of landscape the first Pilgrims left behind them.
In this town of Scrooby, there had come to live about
157 1 a certain William Brewster and his wife, with a
small son some five years old. About him we know noth-
ing prior to his appointment by Archbishop Grindal in
1575 to the office of Receiver and Bailiff of the Manor of
Scrooby and ''all liberties of the same in the County of
Nottingham." He became not only the Archbishop's
agent in the management of his farms and in the collec-
tion of rents, but also the civil authority, for this par-
ticular district was legally and administratively exempt
from the County of Nottingham. He must also have
exercised such ecclesiastical jurisdiction as there was
when the Archbishop and his commissaries were not
themselves present. Some seventeen Kttle groups of
people in villages Hved on the large domain and of them
his position made him practical ruler. Although Grindal
agreed to pay him only £3 6s. 8d. in money a year, the
position was calculated to be worth not less than £170 a
year, the equivalent today of about $4000. In 1588, this
William Brewster was appointed Postmaster under the
Crown; Scrooby was made a posthouse on the road to
York and it became his duty to pro\ade horses for the
Queen's messengers, and such privileged travellers as

8 TJw Pilgrims and their History

rode post, and to keep an inn where they might remain
until it became convenient to pursue their journey.

It is obvious therefore that the father of the famous
William Brewster was a man of some substance and
position, easily the most prominent individual in the
little village and its immediate environment. The boy
tasted somewhat of this modest affluence, was prepared
somehow or other for the University, and matriculated at
the college of Peterhouse at Cambridge in December,
1580. He began residence at the great Puritan Univer-
sity of England, although not at its most radical college
nor under the instruction of the most erudite and mag-
netic of Puritan teachers. But its atmosphere was
electric at just this time with radical tendencies. Peter
Baro, eminent as a Cahdnist, was Professor of Divinity;
WilHam Perkins, whose books Brewster later owned, was
lecturing at this time; and at least four notable Puritans
and Separatists were in residence — Udall, Penry, Green-
wood, and George Johnson. There is no record that
Brewster ever received a degree and it is indeed not clear
whether he remained at the University two years or only
a few months. We do know from Bradford ^ that he
achieved there a firm knowledge of Latin and "some
insight into Greek," that he there became inoculated with
radical reHgious ideas, and was "first seasoned with the
seeds of grace and vertue." This probably denotes
Brewster's own belief that his radical views originated in
Cambridge. The autumn of 1583, however, saw him in
London as a member of the household of William Davi-
son, at this time a man of some consequence at Court,
serving in various administrative and diplomatic capac-
ities. How Brewster became connected with him,

1 See the note at the end of the chapter on the Bradford History.

Scroohy and Auster field g

exactly in what capacity he "served" him, we do not
know. Bradford is our only informant, and, while he
makes it clear that the relationship was close, he does
not show good reason to suppose that Brewster was
anything more than a sort of confidential attendant,
something better than a valet but a good deal less im-
portant than a secretary, a position which, if not menial,
could hardly be called official. Certainly, he won
Davison's confidence and demonstrated a certain ability.
How closely he followed his patron in his many expedi-
tions and journeys we have no means of knowing.

He must have seen a good deal of England and Scot-
land, something of court life, much of London, and
certainly accompanied Davison on one or more of his
important diplomatic missions to the Netherlands in
1584 and 1585-86. Bradford alludes in an account
written half a century later to a long ride across the
Eastern Counties on the way back from Holland, when
Davison placed around Brewster's neck the great gold
chain presented to the Ambassador by the States Gen-
eral, and bade him wear it as they fared on towards
London. Undoubtedly, this was one of the few incidents
of that time which stuck clearly in Brewster's own
memory, and which he told and retold in those long
evenings of quiet and amiable conversation at Plymouth.
In 1587, on the disgrace of Davison after the execution of
Mary Stuart, Brewster remained with him for some little
time — perhaps attending him while he was in the
Tower— and then returned to Scrooby, urged apparently
by the illness of William Brewster, Senior. At any rate
he was acting as his father's deputy in January, 1588-89,
and at his father's death in 1590 continued to dis-
charge the functions of Master of the Post and of Re-

lo The Pilgrims and their History

ceiver and Bailiff. After some little misunderstanding
and difficulty, he was confirmed in the position of Master
of the Post, which he retained until 1608. He married in
1591 or 1592 and had three children before the exodus to
Holland, the first, bom about 1593, named Jonathan, a
BibUcal name not then common as a Christian name; a
second child, bom about 1600, called Patience; and a
third, who seems to have been born just before the
flight to Holland, named Fear. Both girls hved to reach
Plymouth. About this time Brewster's mother, Pru-
dence, died. Other relatives he does not seem to have

There is Httle reason to doubt that Brewster was the

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Online LibraryRoland G. (Roland Greene) UsherThe Pilgrims and their history → online text (page 1 of 23)