The year 2020 is about to leave us, but before it does, let’s take a look at one last anniversary date. A significant anniversary is occurring this year. It is the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing.
This takes us back to old England, to King James I. King James I was very much against religious dissenters, who were against the Church of England. He demanded of his subjects unity. As we know, the Puritans were not willing to go along with King James. But within that umbrella group of the Puritans was another group called the separatists. They advocated a total and full separation from the Church of England. They saw no way to reform the church from within. So they simply withdrew, and were therefore called separatists. It was time to start afresh, they argued.
King James did not want them in his land. Eventually these separatists left England, made their way to Holland, and settled at Leiden. They were there for about ten years, but then realized that this was only a temporary solution. They were concerned that they would lose their English culture and heritage. They might even lose their English language. They could see that the upcoming generation and generations to come might assimilate into the Dutch culture. So they petitioned the king for a settlement in the New World. He granted that petition. They returned briefly to South Hampton, England, where they picked up more separatists who were committed to their cause. Two ships set sail for a transatlantic voyage, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell had many challenges, and eventually it returned, but the Mayflower did not. It set sail. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England, on September 1620. It had 102 passengers; among them were William Bradford and Edmund Winslow.
They kept detailed accounts of their time at sea, including daily life. The voyage lasted sixty-six days, and on many of those days the voyagers experienced severe weather. When there was severe weather, they had to stay below decks. But when the weather was nice, they could go up above. They started every morning with prayer, which was followed by breakfast. Then they would have activities. If the weather was nice, the children could play games and adults would engage in conversation. Then came lunch, and after lunch the children would again play games and also keep up with their schooling. Then there would be dinner and evening prayers, and then off to bed. That was the case for every day except the Sabbath day. On the Sabbath day, they would have their church service, and they would have their day of rest.
After sixty-six days, they arrived at Cape Cod. Now, we can do the math. The voyage was about 3,150 miles of sailing, all day and all night. Twenty-four hours a day for sixty-six days means that the Mayflower was cruising along at a blistering speed of two miles per hour. When they got to Cape Cod, they anchored for a few days and sent expedition units to see what was happening on land and to find a good place to dock. They found that at Plymouth Harbor. But before they got off the Mayflower, they penned what has come to be known as the Mayflower Compact. It begins with this sentence:
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the faith, etc.: Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony. . . .”
They proceed to say that “by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politic; for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends.”