Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

CHAP. to supply the place of the pastor Robinson. He was a map

of education, of refined associations, and above all of a 1620. lovely and Christian spirit. “He laid his hand to the daily

tasks of life, as well as spent his soul in trying to benefit his fellows--so bringing himself as near as possible to the early Christian practices; he was worthy of being the first minister of New England." There was also the dignified and benevolent John Carver, the worthy governor of this band of Christian exiles, who in the cause laid down his fortune, and at length his life—for he soon sank beneath the hardships to which he was unused. These two were comparatively old men, but most of the “ Pilgrim Fathers” were in the bloom and vigor of life.

William Bradford was but thirty-two, earnest, sagacious, true and steady in purpose, “a man of nerve and public spirit ;" self-educated, and so ardent in the pursuit of knowledge, that amidst all his trials and labors, he accumulated books, and found time to read and even to study them. As a farmer's boy in England, as a dyer in Holland, as the governor of a small nation in the wilds of America, he acted well his part.

Edward Winslow was “a gentleman born," with a inind cultivated by travel and books ; gentle in manner as in spirit, his soul melted at the sorrows of others. Miles Standish was a soldier, fearless, but not rash ; impetuous, but not vindictive : though not a member of the church, he was strongly attached to its institutions and to its most rigorous advocates. Winslow was twenty-six, and Stan

dish thirty-six years of age. Nov. A tedious voyage of sixty-three days brought them in 10. sight of Cape Cod. They had left their native land to

seek in a howling wilderness an asylum from persecution. They had not the sanction of a charter from their king, and they appealed to no body of men for protection : they

· Elliott's History of New England.

A CONSTITUTION ADOPTED

67

must have a government; they were all on an equality, CHAP. and they now drew up a constitution, or compact, to which the men, servants and all, to the number of forty-one, sub- 1620. scribed their names, and mutually pledged their obedience.

The words of this first constitution, made and adopted by an entire people, plainly indicate whence its principles were derived. They say, “In the name of God, amen : we whose names are underwritten, having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a body politic; and by virtue hereof, to enact such just and equal laws from time to time, as shall be thought most convenient for the good of the colony. Unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” Thus the principle of popular liberty, that laws and constitutions should be framed for the benefit of the entire people, found its utterance in the cabin of the May-Flower, by the act of the people themselves.

John Carver was elected governor for one year. Miles Standish, who had been an officer in the army sent by Queen Elizabeth to aid the Dutch against the Spaniards, was chosen captain. Winter was coming on--they were anxious to land, but unfortunately the shallop needed repairs. In the mean time Standish, Bradford, and others, impatient of delay, went to seek a convenient harbor, and a suitable place for a settlement. The country was covered with snow ; in one place they found some baskets of corn, and in another an Indian burial-ground.

In a fortnight the shallop was ready for use, and the governor, Winslow, Bradford, and Standish, with others and some seamen, went to explore the bay. The cold was intense, freezing the spray of the sea on their clothes, until, as they expressed it, they were made as hard as iron. They landed occasionally, found graves and a few deserted wig

CHAP. wams, but no other evidence of human beings. On one of

these occasions they encamped at night on the shore near 1620. where the shallop was moored. The next morning as they

were closing their devotions, they were startled by a strange cry—the war-whoop of the savage-it was accompanied by a flight of arrows. At the report of their guns the Indians fled. All that day was spent in seeking a safe harbor for the ship. Near night a violent storm of rain and snow drove them through the breakers into a cove, protected from the blast by a hill. In the midst of the tempest they landed, and with difficulty kindled a fire. In the morning they found they were on an island at the entrance of a harbor. The next day was the Sabbath ; though urged by every consideration to hasten to the ship, they religiously observed the day.

On the morrow, December twenty-second, one thousand Dec. six hundred and twenty-a day ever to be remembered in 22. the annals of our country, the Pilgrims landed. The

place they named after the town in England from which they last sailed. The blessings which have flowed from the settlement of New England are associated with the spot where they first set foot--the Rock OF PLYMOUTH.

No time was spent in idleness. A place was selected for the settlement, and divided into lots for families. On the third day they began to build ; their houses went up but slowly ; the forest trees must first be felled and split into timbers; the season was inclement-their strength failed them : many from exposure had received into their bodies the seeds of death ; many were sick, and many died. At one time there were only seven of the whole company not disabled by sickness. "During the winter, more than forty were numbered with the dead; among these were the wives of Bradford and Winslow, and also Rose, the young bride of Miles Standish. The benevolent Carver lost his son-then he himself sunk in death, soon to be followed

PRIVATIONS AND HEROISM.

69

X.

5.

by his broken-hearted widow. They were all buried but CHAP. a short distance from the rock on which they had landed. Lest the many graves should tell the Indians the story of 1621. weakness and of death, the spot where they rested was

April levelled and sown with grass. At length spring drew near, and warm winds from the south moderated the cold. The trees began to put forth their foliage, and among their branches the “birds to sing pleasantly,” while the sick were gradually recovering.

When the May-Flower left for England, not one of these heroic men and women desired to leave the land of their adoption. They had now a government; they had a church covenant; they had a constitution under which their rights were secured, and each one according to his individual merit could be respected and honored. So dear to them were these privileges, that all the privations they had suffered, the sickness and death which had been in their midst, the gloomy prospect before them, could not induce them to swerve from their determination to found a State, where these blessings should be the birth-right of their children.

Famine pressed hard upon them, for in the autumn Nov, they were joined by some new emigrants, who had come ill-provisioned ; and for the succeeding six months they had only half a supply. “I have seen men,” says Winslow, “stagger by reason of faintness for want of food.” Their privations for two or three years were greater than those of any colony planted in the country. But their implicit confidence in the goodness of God was never shaken. At times Indians were seen hovering around their settlement, but no communication had been held with them, as they fled when approached. One day, to their surprise, an Indian boldly entered their village, crying out, welcome Englishmen! welcome Englishmen! Samoset. He belonged to the Wampanoags, a tribe living

19.

It was

CHAP. in the vicinity. He had learned a few English words from

the fishermen on the Penobscot. 1621. Samoset, in the name of his tribe, told the Pilgrims

to possess the land, for the year before those to whom it belonged had been swept away by a pestilence. This announcement was a great relief to their fears. Samoset soon again appeared, and with him Squanto, who, as has been mentioned, had been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain, had been freed, found his way to England, and finally home. They announced that Massasoit, the grand sachem of the Wampanoags, desired an interview. The chief and his retinue of warriors had taken their position on a neighboring hill. Squanto acted as interpreter. A treaty of friendship was made between the chief and the English, by which they promised to defend each other when attacked by enemies. For more than fifty years, till King Philip's war, this treaty was observed. The Pilgrims offered to pay for the baskets of corn they had found buried; this they did six months afterward when the owners appeared. A trade, very beneficial to the colony, commenced with the Indians, who promised to sell them all their furs.

Why not remember the humble services of Squanto? The Pilgrims looked upon him as “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation." He taught them how to plant corn, to put fish with it to make it grow, where to find the fish and how to take them. He was their interpreter and their pilot. Under his tuition they soon raised corn so abundantly as to have a surplus to exchange with the Indians for furs. By means of these furs they obtained from England the merchandise they wanted. He remained their friend till his death, and when dying asked the governor to pray that he might go to the “Englishman's God in heaven.”

Massasoit desired the alliance with the Pilgrims as a protection against Canonicus, the chief of the powerful

« PředchozíPokračovat »