Pilgrim's Progress
August 20, 2007 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? Quickly. Where did the Mayflower first land in North America? Nope. Not Plymouth, but Provincetown. On Nov. 21, 1620 the Pilgrims set foot on the sandy tip of Cape Cod. After spending five weeks there, they sailed across Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth. Today Provincetown celebrates the 100 year anniversary of Cape Cod's Pilgrim Monument. The 252-foot granite tower which had its cornerstone dedicated by then President Theodore Roosevelt juts high above the relatively flat terrain of Provincetown and serves as a reference point for landlubbers and sailors alike.
posted by ericb (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nice job. I was thinking about posting this but you did a much better job than I had in mind for the post.
posted by caddis at 4:45 PM on August 20, 2007

English fisherman had traded for years up and down the coast prior to the pilgrims. They just never carried a torch, cross or flag, nor declared it theirs.
posted by Brian B. at 5:09 PM on August 20, 2007

Nice post! I never knew the pilgrims landed at P town first allthough something about Plymouth has always seemed a bit fishy. There's certainly something... odd about how they've trotted the Plymouth rock around town. It seems the poor old rock just shatters every time it takes a ride in a wheelbarrow.
posted by BostonJake at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2007

Gayest zip code in America.
posted by tomplus2 at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2007

Times have changed,
And we've often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Ptown's dock.
If today,
Any shock they should try to stem,
'Stead of landing on Ptown's dock,
Teddy's Tower would pow'r-fuck them.

posted by rob511 at 5:41 PM on August 20, 2007

Nice. That's a great tower to climb.
posted by MtDewd at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2007

Huh. That's pretty funny, that Plymouth Rock shattered in two in 1774, and it's been chipped away by people for years, it developed a massive fissure, and now it's a sad, broken echo of its former self.

Remind you of anything?
posted by blacklite at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Remind you of anything?

posted by found missing at 6:23 PM on August 20, 2007

Also in P-Town: the eastern end of US 6, once upon a time the longest highway in America.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:24 PM on August 20, 2007

Also in P-Town (this week): anathema.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2007

Hope all can forgive a slight derail. The following may be a little scattershot and ill-typed, but a broken finger and a desire to shed a little light on the Pilgrims leads me with perhaps too much haste to post. You'll find a dearth of links, but all quotes are from the cited books. Everything else is my take on or paraphrase of material in the books.

Francis Bremer, in The Puritan Experiment (1976), tells us:
The Puritans believed that God had commanded the reform of both church and society. They condemned drunkenness, gambling, theatergoing, and Sabbath-breaking and denounced popular practices rooted in pagan custom, like the celebration of Christmas. They deplored the “corruptions” of Roman Catholicism that still pervaded the Church of England — churches and ceremonies they thought too elaborate, clergymen who were poorly educated.
The refusal of English monarchs to attack these “besetting evils” turned the Puritans into outspoken critics of the government. This King James I would not endure: he decided to rid England of these malcontents. With some of the Puritans, known as the Separatists, he seemed to have succeeded.
The Separatists (i.e., the Pilgrims), a tiny minority within the Puritan movement, were pious people from humble backgrounds who concluded that the Church of England was too corrupt to be reformed from within. In 1608 one Separatist congregation at Scrooby decided to flee to Holland. That move afforded them religious freedom, but they found only low-paying jobs and were distressed by desertions from within their ranks to other religions.

They also greatly feared the rate at which their children were adapting to the culture in Amsterdam. Or, as Bradford put it: "drawne away by evill examples into extravagance and dangerous courses." So, to America.

A note on Puritans: Puritans were portrayed by their enemies as hairsplitters who slavishly followed their Bibles as guides to daily life; or they were caricatured as licentious hypocrites who adopted a grave aspect but cheated the very neighbors whom they judged inadequate Christians. They appeared in drama and satire as secretly lascivious purveyors of feigned piety. Yet the Puritan attack on the established church gained popular strength, especially in East Anglia and among the lawyers and merchants of London. The movement found wide support among these new professional classes, in part because it was congenial to their growing discontent with mercantile economic restraints. - Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco, eds., The Puritans in America (1985).

So we see that business using religion to fight government regulation is nothing new.

Anyway, about 40 Pilgrims and approximately 60 other folks (referred to as "Strangers" by the Pilgrims) hop on the cargo ship Mayflower and head out. Blown off course, the ship arrives off the coast of New England. Realizing that the charter granted them back in England doesn't apply to the stretch of land before them, The "Strangers" as Bradford put it, wanted to "use their owne libertie." Can't have that, so Bradford and the other Pilgrim leaders refuse to allow anyone ashore until they sign the Mayflower Compact. In order to get off the close, stinking ship, under duress they sign the document of which John Quincy Adams said in 1802: Here was a unanimous and personal assent by all the individuals of the community to the association by which they became a nation.
Now, who wants a drumstick?
posted by landis at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2007

i'm reading Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick right now.
posted by brandz at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2007

The way the "Saints" bossed around the "Strangers" was one of the reasons my ancestors moved away from Plymouth to nearby Duxbury in 1627.
posted by Biblio at 7:22 PM on August 20, 2007

My ancestor on the Mayflower was the prudish first governor of Plymouth, William Brewster. In his piety, according to family records we still have squirrelled away, the executors of his will Miles Standish and Jonathan "Angry God" Edwards gave his daughter a pair of silk gloves that belonged to her mother upon his death. To his son, they gave everything else.

My wife's ancestor on the Mayflower, John Howland, came as an endentured servant, got soused on his rum ration and fell overboard, only to cling to a dragging rope long enough to be hauled back in. He was actually one of the few let off to explore Cape Cod (possibly to keep him away from the rum and women, or perhaps in hopes he'd serve as the sort of red shirted Yoeman to Brewster's Capt. Kirk)

Guess who's decendant is calling the shots now.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2007

Wasn't the original plan to land somewhere in Nova Scotia or Maine - but the Indians were menacing so they kept going south until they found the "uninhabited" land of Cape Cod - uninhabited because the local Indians had died off from smallpox brought by an earlier European ship.
posted by stbalbach at 7:50 PM on August 20, 2007

They were supposed to land at the mouth of the Hudson River, but bad weather had blown them off course.
posted by landis at 7:58 PM on August 20, 2007

Sorry, this was supposed to link.
posted by landis at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2007

Good post, I love how we're commemorating the anniversary of monuments that were originally built to commemorate something. I once went to Valley Forge and they were recreating the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of the American Army. It was not the 100th anniversary, they were recreating the 100th anniversary. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that one.

I was disappointed in Mayflower by Philbrick, maybe because I enjoyed Heart of the Sea so much and had high hopes. I also think he tried to put too much in a relatively small book.

For a good book on the Pilgrims and Plymouth colony I recommend The Times of Their Lives by James and Patricia Deetz. A good scholarly work but also very accessible.

Hell, while I'm on a roll, Remaking America by John Bodnar is a good read on politicization and uses of the memory of historical events.
posted by marxchivist at 8:02 PM on August 20, 2007

Altho, as I nosed around the net for info on the book brandz mentioned, I found this in a review: . . . the Pilgrims arrived at the wrong time of year on a coast where three years before a thriving, populous Native community had been decimated by a plague brought to the Americas by European fisherman. So, good call, stbalbach.
posted by landis at 8:11 PM on August 20, 2007

Remaking America looks interesting. I'll shut up now.
posted by landis at 8:14 PM on August 20, 2007

I'd just like to take a moment to think about St. Augustine, Fl.

Thank you.
posted by oddman at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2007

I was in P-Town last week. Man I love that place. This adds nothing to the thread other than the fact that I think that it's the most fun place in America.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:50 PM on August 20, 2007

posted by Postroad at 6:27 AM on August 21, 2007

As a Plymouth resident, I definitely take this stuff for granted (like this morning, when I got my teeth cleaned about half a mile from the rock and the Mayflower II). It is fun (albeit a tad sadistic, I admit) to stand around and see people get disappointed by the rock though.

Biblio, I too may bail on Plymouth and move to Duxbury someday.
posted by nekton at 9:37 AM on August 21, 2007

I don't know about the other Pilgrim books mentioned already, but I have been reading "A Great and Godly Adventure" by Godfrey Hodgson. It does a decent job of describing in basic terms the struggles between the Catholic Church and Protestant religions, especially as it applied to England. Breaking with the Church of England was an incredibly radical thing to do in those days. The law provided that you must belong to the official church and must attend services. Cambridge was the hotbed of radicalism and many of the leading thinkers of this revolt either studied or taught there. The Pilgrims were not actually Puritans as that was the name used to refer to the radical group attempting to change the Church of England from within. The more radical group willing to separate itself from the Church was referred to by different names such as Brownists (after Robert Browne), the godly, but mostly the Separatists. A group led by a postmaster, William Brewster, formed a church in the remote village of Scrooby and this group would become the Pilgrims. An important tenet of the group was that each congregation would not be bound by a central church, but read and interpret the Bible in its own way, and to an extent this idea extended down to the individual and this is one reason why the Pilgrims were firm believers in personal liberty (although they still controlled the group very tightly). Their escape to Holland had to be done in secret, and actually failed the first time as someone turned them in.

Well, there is more to the story but I am only about a third of the way through the book. landis did a great job of summarizing some of the other books above.
posted by caddis at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2007

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