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Mayflower II |

The pilgrims departed on their journey to the New World, leaving family and friends behind (William and Dorothy Bradford left their 5 year old son John behind, planning to send for him after they had been established in the new world; William and Mary Brewster left 3 of their 5 children behind). Departing was not easy. Even their Dutch acquaintances were moved by the pilgrims’ solemn determination. Bradford wrote, “The Dutch strangers that stood on the quay as spectators could not refrain from tears.” (Of Plymouth Plantation) They left from the Pilgrim Father's Church where the pilgrims last held a service, and then boarded the Speedwell. They would meet the other Pilgrims in Southampton, England. The current day Mayflower Court (just outside of London) was the Mayflower’s original home port. This is where many of the pilgrims boarded the Mayflower. Here, Captain Christopher Jones received his orders to depart on July 25, 1620 and meet the Speedwell in Southampton. The remainder of the pilgrims, including William Brewster, waited in Southampton for the Mayflower to meet them.

Only 3 days out to sea, the Speedwell began taking on water. The two ships returned for repairs to the major fishing port of Dartmouth. They departed Dartmouth more than a week later. But 300 miles out from Dartmouth the Speedwell began to leak again. This time, the two ships returned to Plymouth on September 7 for an assessment. The Speedwell was deemed unseaworthy and was left in England. Twenty passengers had to drop out. The remainder crammed into the Mayflower, making the total 102 pilgrims, 54 of which were separatists, the rest were non-separatists and crew members. On September 16, 1620, the overcrowded, undersupplied Mayflower left Plymouth, England for the New World. The harrowing time at sea was more than anyone had bargained for. But on November 19, land (the tip of Cape Cod) was finally sighted. Assuming that it would be wise to find a place to settle near the Hudson River, the ship headed south but found the waters treacherous and thus returned that evening to the safety of the inner Cape. The Mayflower anchored off Provincetown, and on November 21, some of the men left the ship to stand on terra firma. According to William Bradford, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean ….” (Of Plymouth Plantation, 58-61).

Their arrival in the New World was a happy sight; but it came with more problems than they would realize. Some of the “strangers” on board the Mayflower were already getting restless and realized that since they were not in the Virginia Territory they were answerable to nobody. On account of the slowly growing faction, Bradford thought it wise to establish a document that would act as their governing guide. This document, today called the Mayflower Compact, was agreed to and signed by 41 men. John Carver was elected as their first Governor for the first year. His election was based on the fact that he was godly and well-approved by the passengers of the Mayflower (Beale, 127). He died, however in 1621, and the company elected William Bradford to succeed him.

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