Thanksgiving Pilgrims All

Excita, quæsumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium voluntates ....

On November 11, 1620 a group of pilgrims signed the important compact. The result is a peculiarly American holiday, ultimately unlike the Harvest Home festival of England, upon which our Thanksgiving feast first appears patterned.

The Mayflower Compact: November 11, 1620

In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c.

Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick; for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie:  unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye .11. of November, in ye year of the raigne of our soveraigne Lord king James of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom. 1620. 

Those who signed, as given by Nathaniel Morton (1669) and Thomas Prince (1736)

John Carver Edward Tilly Digery Priest
William Bradford John Tilly Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow Francis Cooke Gilbert Winslow
William Brewster Thomas Rogers Edmund Margeson
Isaac Allerton Thomas Tinker Peter Brown
Miles Standish John Ridgdale Richard Britteridge
John Alden Edward Fuller George Soule
Samuel Fuller John Turner Richard Clarke
Christopher Martin Francis Eaton Richard Gardiner
William Mullins James Chilton John Allerton
William White John Crackstone Thomas English
Richard Warren John Billington Edward Doten
John Howland Moses Fletcher Edward Leister
Stephen Hopkins John Goodman

History behind the Mayflower Compact -- -- see also

The Manor House (Old Hall) at Gainsborough-on-Trent, on the borders of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, has seen a lot of history. The current timber-framed structure dates from the early 1400's, 'though oft' enlarged. The site had a hall before the Normans arrived, with many historic guests, including Alfred the Great (son of ÆTHELWULF) when he married (868AD) EALHSWITH, of Mercia, England; she the daughter of ÆTHELRED (Mucel), the Ealdorman of Gainas and his wife ÆDBURH, all the forbearers of Henry II. Some years later a Norse chieftan (1031) sailed up the Trent, landing before the Hall, from Gainsborough he moved south to London and setting up Canute (his son) to follow Edmund II as King of England. Another Norseman and heir of Canute would claim the throne in 1066. It was here in 1541, that Henry VIII (accompanied by Wife V -- Catherine Howard) met Catherine Parr (who became wife VI) after Ms. Howard lost her head. John Wesley, after returning from Georgia preached here in 1750, 1761 and 1764. At the turn of the 17th century Gainsborough, along with Scrooby-on-Ryton (trib. of the Idle River -- a dozen miles to the west), became the center of a Separatist Movement in England. The reforms of James I seeking to end Puritan influence on the Church in Britain also fell upon the Separatists, persons who did not wish to live apart from Society. They only wished to worship apart from those who did not share in their basic beliefs. Indeed, until forced to leave England by circumstances of intolerance (which had proved fatal to some), the Separatists remained affiliated with Anglican houses of worship.

William Brewster became the Reverend Elder of the Pilgrim's church at Plymouth (England), because the primary pastor, John Robinson, had remained behind in Leyden, Holland with the majority of the congregation, which planned to come to America at a later time. The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) in the Low Countries was heating up again at with the end of a temporary period of truce. The congregation, which had left England to avoid persecution, now had to move again. Rev. Brewster technically was a fugitive from the King of England, but the government did not stop the immigration to a new England. While in Leyden, Brewster had published a number of religious pamphlets that were critical or opposed the tenets of the Church of England (a touchy subject at a time when people lost their heads over such things). He had been a member of the Separatist movement (remember, he was not a Pilgrim) from its very beginning, and was the oldest "Mayflower" passenger to have participated at the First Thanksgiving, when in his early fifties.

The Spiritual Leader at Scrooby, the Elder William Brewster {Jonathan Brewster was his son}, escaped the fate of many who crossed James, and was able to migrate to Holland, eventually becoming a citizen of Leyden on the lower Rhine River. It is a small tale of intrigue that the Brewster family and the other Separatists were able to secure the British King's permission to immigrate to New England, but that is a story for you to discover. May I suggest William Brewster {the Father of New England}, Rev. Harold Kirk-Smith. Richard Kay, Publisher. Boston, Lincolnshire (Great Britain, 1992). It is a well-written book about his ancestor.

De Pieterskerk in Leiden is een historische evenementenlocatie met ambiance en sfeer, centraal gelegen in de Randstad.So we turn to Leyden where the Scrooby Pilgrims arrived in 1609, about 100 in number, almost at the same moment when a twelve year truce is signed between Spain and the United Protestant Provinces of the Netherlands (April 9, 1609). A noted center of printing, where Brewster would set-up the first Pilgrim Press, Leyden was a fair and beautiful city, prospering between the time of two wars. The burg had 100,000 inhabitants and a relatively new University drawing from all Europe, both its teachers (e.g. Lipsius, Scaliger, Grotius and two Dousas) and students. It was a center for the Arts as well, with names such as van der Velde (Esaias and Willm) calling it home.

For Brewster, this was a return trip from the days under Elizabeth I, when this Cambridge graduate served the crown under Davison. He led the congregation to an area within the shadow of Pieterskerk, he living between Vicus Chorali and Stincksteeg, less than a five minute walk to the former Catholic Church dedicated to Saint Peter. In 1983, the city renamed a portion of the Alley Stinck to “Brewster Alley.” Pieterskerk (St. Peter's Church) in Leiden is a Gothic-style building built between 1390 and 1565. It became a Protestant church when the city supported William the Silent and the grand union. Pieterskerk also has had strong ties to the University. It was a tempoary refuge for Sunday worship of these migrating English-born worshipers. In 1975 the structure was deconsecrated, and remains managed by a cultural trust, a place for art exhibits, concerts and the like.

The time in Holland bore fruit for the Leyden congregation, but with the truce ending, a window of opportunity became available. Conditions persuaded the congregation to leave the old world for the new. So on July 22, 1620, the Pilgrims once again were on the move. They set out from Holland destined for a new England, but first a stop at the olde one. The ill-named Speedwell sailed to England from the Netherlands with members of the Leyden congregation to join the larger group at Southampton that would voyage on the Mayflower. The two ships set sail together in August, but the Speedwell soon proved unworthy for an Atlantic Ocean voyage. Both vessels turned back and the Speedwell was abandoned at Plymouth, England. The entire company of both ships then crowded aboard the Mayflower, setting sail again for a place just North of Virginia (September 16, 1620), arriving on November 11th. Nearly a year later many would be dead from the deprivations of the wilderness to which they had debarked, yet those who remained gave thanks.

What else happened on the 11th of November ?

December 21, 1620 -- Why all the fuss: According to information released by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, tourists spent $384 million in Plymouth County in 2004. Not satisfied that all of the relevant market is being captured, city fathers have tried several ways to lure would-be history buffs to pull off the main highway to visit the olde country, before they move on to spend big bucks at the Cape of Cod. Highway signs will be installed on Route 3 encouraging drivers to tune to the radio (1620 AM Dial) in order to discover see and do in Plymouth. The station's programming will be recorded and broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The radio station, funded through a state grant, will be great for Plymouth's tourism industry, according to Paul Cripps, executive director of the Plymouth County Development Council Convention & Visitors Bureau. One might say that Plymouth Rock was the first tourist attraction in the United States, being the first place the Pilgrims stepped on December 21, 1620. Although this date and place has been much discredited (There are no contemporary references to the Pilgrims' landing on a rock at Plymouth) and disclaimed (We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us, ...), the place remains a cultural icon.

Historians have always considered Jamestown more important because it was established more than a dozen years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Until recently, the Virginia site has never quite been the attraction that the one up north has been. Now that new features have opened for the 400 year celebration at Jamestown in 2007, the situation could change. But of course we would not sing O beautiful for Jamestown's Swamp -- but rather -- O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress; A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness ! Moreover, on the 200th anniversary of the landing in 1820, Daniel Webster a noted icon for everyman said: Let us rejoice that we behold this day ! We have come to this Rock to record here our homage to our Pilgrim Fathers. (link revitalized -- use Web.Archive for other dead links)

Yet, if the landing on Plymouth Rock is indeed a myth, it is no more a myth than that the Stone of Scoon once served as Jacob's pillow and no more a myth than the Blarney Stone's gift of eloquence. It is the meaning behind the myth that is important, not the myth itself. And that meaning in our case is that people who came, are coming and will come to America to seek a better life are one and all the sons and daughters of the Pilgrims of 1620.

Of the 102 passengers who arrived on the Mayflower, only 52 survived the winter. The ship sailed back to England in the spring of 1621. Despite the privations of the winter, none of the Pilgrims returned with the vessel. On February 12, 2003, the 108th Congress passed Resolution 38, expressing the approbation of the U.S. Congress for the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Josh. 24:15).

A Year later -- We have a “Thanksgiving” image of a group of stiff collars, people dressed in black and white, eating turkey, pumpkin pie and corn on the cob. They sit at a picnic table with a bunch of fully head-dressed native Americans on a bright, colorful New England fall day. The people were called pilgrims because they moved around a lot. The pilgrims called the meal “thanksgiving” because they appreciated how much the locals had helped them in the past year. All of this takes place on a conveniently large stone called Plymouth Rock in 1620; we are sure of this, because the granite edifice is so dated.
More than just the style of dress is wrong with this picture. Much more !!!
The Pilgrims arrived as strangers and sojourners on a Mission to the New World. The Mayflower Compact described the type of society they expected to establish. Less than half of those on board signed the Compact, primarily because the Pilgrims constituted a minority among the passengers. The ship may well have arrived near land in November 1620; but, the first winter was not one of celebration and holiday, spent in a gentle climate. The ship had been heading for Virginia, and the existing “comforts” of that colony. Many died when the vessel missed that mark.
The Pilgrims that arrived in 1620 were Separatists, preferring to leave rather than live under the Church of England, which they found unreformable. They had lived in relative religious freedom in a Protestant Holland for the previous dozen years. The Pilgrims were not the same as the Puritans who arrived a few years later at Massachusetts Bay and did not share the same views toward life. They did not eschew all the pleasures of the world, if enjoyed in moderation. Indeed, the Puritans, even as a religious reform group, came to the New World, primarily for political and economic reasons. The Plymouth (Plimoth) Colony remained apart from the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony for some years. View the first thanksgiving proclamation.
Neither group celebrated Christmas with much song and food, so that as in England, the traditional post-harvest holiday -- called “Harvest Home” -- became a secular focus for feasting. In October 1621, the Colony at Plymouth had this type of festival-feast and not a religious observance. This feast lasted several days, more closely resembling Harvest Home. This type of event was not repeated for some time. Do not be fooled, however, the observance in 1621 had religious underpinnings in giving thanks. Faith was just not the focus of the feast.

The Puritans introduced the regularity, calling for a religious-based feast of thanksgiving, using Thursday, because it coincided with a time in which worshipers would be at church {This would be similar to Wednesday night services, today in the US; moreover, in some Anglican countries, such as South Africa, Thursday is still “Church Night”}. Church in the morning and a feast in the late afternoon became a New England tradition. A National day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by General George Washington after the victory at Saratoga (NY); but, not until after the War between the States was a National Thanksgiving practice set in place.
“Success” is a label placed by those who survive or come afterward, which label necessarily evaluates what has taken place by the standards of a later time than the events they measure. The Elder William Brewster, spiritual leader of those who arrived on the Mayflower, lived through that first harsh winter. He had been a teacher, Cambridge educated; imprisioned in 1607 with others who had tried to leave England. In the next year they found refuge in Antwerp. The goals of the small colony were not immediately obtained; but, by the time he died in Plymouth, in the region of Massachusetts Bay, the long-term survival of the Colony was assured. Moreover today, his descendants now live in the Nation, whose written Constitution reflects some of the principles of freedom first enunciated in the New World in 1620. There is some measure of success found in those results.
Some 15 years after the Elder first stepped out upon the new land, another spiritual leader would arrive. The Reverend William Witherell disembarked from the “Hercules.” His success would be the establishment of the public school, a cherished American tradition. Family tradition says that he descended from Cambridge educated John Rogers, the “Smithfield Martyr” --- But modern research has shown no direct link (he was a cousin at best). Why is Rev. Witherell important to this Thanksgiving recounting ?? Read on.
October 4, 1535, is the date by which many report that the first English translation of the Bible was printed as authored by Miles Coverdale. Myles Coverdale and John Rogers were loyal assistants during the last six years of Tyndale's life (before he was martyred in 1535), and they carried forward his project (an English translation of the New Testament and parts of the old), ultimately resulting in the Great Bible of 1539, which is the first publically authorized widely used version. Along the way John Rogers in 1537 produced a work under the pseudonym Thomas Matthew The Matthew Bible was the combined work of these three individuals, working from numerous sources in at least five different languages (for example Luther's German version, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.'s_Bible; but, there is much more to this story.
First, whether the “Coverdale Bible” or “Matthew Bible” holds the distinction of being the first complete English Bible to be printed or whether one or the other's use of texts were better, they both relied heavily on Tyndale. See; But, as it turns out, at almost the same time that the flames were consuming Church Reformer William Tyndale for the heresy of translating the Bible into English, Myles Coverdale and “Thomas Matthew” were publishing this first complete English Bibles. In 1535, Secretary of State, Cromwell, quietly wanted to prepare a new English translation for the King's new Church of England and chose Rogers for the job. Cranmer later hired Coverdale for the first authorized version. Rogers worked with Coverdale; Coverdale worked with Rogers. The final product was a combined effort, whose foundation was layed by Tyndale.
This is the same Cromwell who had Henry's second consort, Anne Boleyn, beheaded based on perjured testimony -- and whose end would be the blade some years later. This was not Richard Cromwell, revolutionary, Lord Protector of England (1658-59), who was born October 4, 1626. This is the same Cranmer who later would be martyred. A man for all seasons, King Henry VIII, titular head of the Church in England, standing in the shoes of the fisherman, would never be able to politically sanction Tyndale’s New Testament for use in the English Church, because of this recent martyrdom.
Yet, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, Great Bible, Taverner's Bible, Geneva Bible and Bishops' Bible all had a common ancestor: the monumental work of William Tyndale, which provided the English basis for all of these translations. Some relied more heavily on Tyndale than others did, but all used the work of this great pioneer of English translations. Eventhough the Authorised Version was to be a revision of the Bishops' Bible, the translators simply relied heavily upon the work of Tyndale because it was the best inspired work. From

For more about the effect of Henry and later monarchs on Church in England -- Ecclesia Anglicana -- please see the Anglican page at: All of this is every bit as complicated as the events we saw in an earlier time regarding the succession to the English Crown among Scandanavian, Anglo-saxon and Norman interests in 1066.
Because of John Roger's notoriety and public refusal to modify his Protestant beliefs, he was one of the first to be burned for heresy by Catholic Queen Mary, although in fact he supported her rule as the legitimate heir to the English throne. But the second part of this story does not end there, with his testing by fire. As indicated above, the Reverend William Witherell landed in the New World almost exactly 100 years later. Thought to be a descendant from, the Smithfield Martyr {through his mother or in my view more likely his grandmother}, perhaps then it is only natural that Reverend Witherell, was a visible element in the institution of public education, whose original aim was the enlightenment of the common man in the New World. And, perhaps as Providential, Rev. Witherell's son married in 1659 the granddaughter of the Elder Brewster, original signer of the Mayflower Compact on an icy November day upon the frigid seas off the rocky New England coast.
So, in light of all this historical context, what does Thanksgiving really mean ?? For me and my house, it is a time to remember our family -- a time to memorialize people called out. Called out to a place, not knowing where they would go, which we, as well as they, received as an inheritance. By faith they sojourned in the land of that promise, looking forward to a nation which had foundations in a kingdom. These all died in faith, perhaps not having received fully in this life what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar. Thus, having acknowledged that they were sojourners and exiles on this earth, they were people seeking a secure homeland. If they had been thinking only of the land out of which they had come, then they would have had sufficient opportunity to return. But as it is, they desired a better country.
Thus, today we have a land of great traditions; but, some argue, a land whose enlightened public institutions cannot or will not even teach the truth of thanksgiving. And, yet, we will all stuff ourselves with turkey and all the trimmings, while watching football; thinking all along, that we have obtained the holiday blessing, yet having missed the mark. In case you have forgotten, November 24th (2016) will be Thanksgiving Day in the USA:

Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Washington's Proclamation & more
Prepared by the Division of Cultural History, National Museum of American History, in cooperation with the Public Inquiry Mail Service, Smithsonian Institution

Other Thanksgiving visions linked here.

A French vision of tolerance: Nantes
Est-ce que c'est par leçon que nous devons continuellement apprendre ?

November 17, 1732: “After repeated delays, the frigate Anne set sail from Gravesend down the Thames River into the Straits of Dover, then southward into the English Channel, and then westward along the southern coast of England before embarking into the Atlantic Ocean. At last, James Oglethorpe and the 114 colonists being sent at Trustees' expense were on their way to build the first settlement in the new colony of Georgia.”   © Carl Vinson Institute of Government [est. 1983], The University of Georgia [established in 1785].

updated last: November 22th Ano: Dom. 2009
most links restored via