Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers with an Introduction by John Masefield

The Brownist emigration, known to Americans as the “Sailing of the Pilgrim Father,” was a little part of a great movement towards independence of judgment in spiritual affairs. The great movement began in the latter half of the sixteenth century in many parts of England. The little part of it which concerns us began in the early years of the seventeenth century in the country about the borders of the three counties of Nottingham, Lincoln and York. The Separatists were members of the lower and middle classes, who accepted the ruling of the Church of England in articles of faith, but refused her judgment in points of discipline. They held (in opposition to the Church) that the priesthood is not a distinct order, but an office temporarily conferred by the vote of the congregation.

Their attitude and action have been thus described by one of their number: “They entered into covenant to walk with God and one with another, in the enjoyment of the Ordinances of God, according to the Primitive Patern in the Word of God. But finding by experience they could not peaceably enjoy their own liberty in their Native Country, without offence to others that were differently minded, they took up thoughts of removing.”

One party of them, under Pastor John Smyth, “removed” from Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, to Amsterdam, in the year 1606. Another party organized in that year in the district of Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire, about ten miles west from Gainsborough, began to make itself obnoxious to the country authorities. This second party contained two prominent men, William Brewster, the chief layman, and John Robinson, one of the two ministers.

The members of the party were accustomed to meet together “to worship God in their own manner.” Church discipline, which forbade their meetings, imposed a persecution upon them. Religious persecution that endeavours to drive a flock along a path is successful, as a rule, only with the sheep. It makes the goats unruly. The persecution failed to bend the brethren, but it gave them enough annoyance to make them wish to leave the country. The leaders among them planned an exodus to Holland. In the autumn of 1607 a large party tried to escape to Holland from the port of Boston, in Lincolnshire. At that time it was not lawful for a person to leave the country without license. A large party could not hope to get away without the connivance of a ship’s captain. The ship’s captain to whom this escaping party appealed, accepted the bribe, then, fearing the consequences of his action, or hoping to obtain a reward, betrayed his passengers to the authorities. The members of the party were sentenced to a month in gaol; their goods were confiscated. Later in the year, another party was stopped while trying to escape from Great Grimsby. Many women and children were taken and imprisoned.

The prisoners in country gaols were then supported out of the rates. The keeping of large numbers of people in prison, in idleness, proved to be a great burden upon the rates of the towns where they were gaoled. The authorities who felt the burden soon became anxious to get rid of their prisoners. They released them and connived at their leaving the country. By August 1608, the whole party was safely in Amsterdam.

During the next few months, after some contention with the party from Gainsborough, a hundred of the Scrooby party obtained leave to go to Leyden, where they settled down to the manufacture of woollen goods. They were joined from time to time by other Separatists from England. In a few years their communion numbered some three hundred souls, among whom were Edward Winslow, John Carver, and Miles Standish.

In the year 1617, these exiles began to realize that Holland, though a seasonable refuge, could not be their abiding place. The children were growing up. The parents did not wish to send them to Dutch schools, because the Dutch children were of bad behaviour. The parents feared that the children, if sent to school in Holland, would receive evil communications and lose something of their nationality. No one is so proud of his nationality as the exile. The fear that the colony might become a part of the Dutch population caused the leaders to think of travelling elsewhere. Guiana, the first place suggested, was rejected as unsuitable, because it was supposed to contain gold. Gold, or the prospect of finding

  By PanEris using Melati.

  Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.