CHAPTER V. THE ENGLISH IN NEW ENGLAND

NEW ENGLAND NAMED. - While the London Company was planting its colony on the James River, the Plymouth Company sought to retrieve its failure on the Kennebec (p. 39). In 1614 Captain John Smith, who had returned to England from Jamestown, was sent over with two ships to explore. He made a map of the coast from Maine to Cape Cod, [1] and called the country New England. The next year Smith led out a colony; but a French fleet took him prisoner, no settlement was made, and five years passed before the first permanent English colony was planted in the Plymouth Company's grant - by the Separatists.

THE SEPARATISTS. - To understand who these people were, it must be remembered that during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Protestant Episcopal Church was the Established Church of England, and that severe laws were passed to force all the people to attend its services. But a sect arose which wished to "purify" the church by abolishing certain forms and ceremonies. These people were called Puritans, [2] and were divided into two sects:

1. Those Puritans who wished to purify the Church of England while they remained members of it.

2. The Independents, or Separatists, who wished to separate from that church and worship God in their own way.

The Separatists were cruelly persecuted during Queen Elizabeth's reign, and afterward. One band of them fled to Holland (in 1608), where they found peace; but time passed and it became necessary for them to decide whether they should stay in Holland and become Dutch, or find a home in some land where they might continue to remain Englishmen. They decided to leave Holland, formed a company, and finally obtained leave from the London Company to settle near the mouth of the Delaware River.

VOYAGE OF THE MAYFLOWER. - Led by Brewster, Bradford, and Standish, a party of Pilgrims sailed from Holland in July, 1620, in the ship Speedwell; were joined in England by a party from London in the Mayflower; and in August both vessels put to sea. But the Speedwell proved unseaworthy, and all put back to Plymouth in England, where some gave up the voyage. One hundred and two held fast to their purpose, and in September set sail in the Mayflower. The voyage was long and stormy, and November came before they sighted a sandy coast far to the northeastward of the Delaware. For a while they strove hard to go southward; but adverse winds drove them back, and they dropped anchor in Cape Cod Bay. [3]

THE LANDING. - The land here was within the territory of the Plymouth Company. The Pilgrims, however, decided to stay and get leave to settle, but this decision displeased some of them. A meeting, therefore, was held in the ship's cabin (November 21, 1620), and the "Mayflower compact," binding all who signed it to obey such government as might be established, was drawn up and signed by forty-one of the sixty-five men on the vessel.

This done, the work of choosing a site for their homes began, and for several weeks little parties explored the coast before one of them entered a harbor and selected a spot which John Smith had named Plymouth. [4] To this harbor the Mayflower was brought, and while the men were busy putting up rude cabins, the women and children remained on the ship.

THE FIRST WINTER was a dreadful one. The Pilgrims lived in crowded quarters, and the effects of the voyage and the severity of the winter sent half of them to their graves before spring. But the rest never faltered, and when the Mayflower returned to England in April, not one of the colonists went back in her. By the end of the first summer a fort had been built on a hill, seven houses had been erected along a village street leading down from the fort to the harbor, six and twenty acres had been cleared, and a bountiful harvest had been gathered. Other Pilgrims came over, the neighboring Indians kept the peace, and the colony was soon prosperous.

PLYMOUTH, OR THE OLD COLONY. - As soon as the colony was planted, steps were taken to buy the land on which it stood. The old Plymouth Company (pp. 38, 39), organized in 1606, was succeeded in 1620 by a new corporation called the Council for New England, which received a grant of all the land in America between 40° and 48° of north latitude. From this Council for New England, therefore, the Pilgrims bought as much land as they needed. The king, however, refused to give them a charter, so the people of Plymouth, or the Old Colony as it came to be called, managed their own affairs in their own way for seventy years. At first the men assembled in town meeting, made laws, and elected officers. But when the growth of the colony made such meetings unwieldy, representative government was set up, and each settlement sent two delegates to an assembly.