The Thanksgiving of Capt. John Smith.


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The Thanksgiving of Capt. John Smith.

The Thanksgiving of Capt. John Smith.

Here is one of the images of the Pilgrims that has captivated Americans

for a century and half . No so close.

This week  we all will celebrating (**)>> Thanksgiving , with all the fine trappings of Turkey , mash potatoes , cranberry. We all have taken under consideration that the idea that “religious pilgrims” came over to the new world to start a new life . These images are no so historic  . The Mayflower , disembarkation of William Bradford and the (1)>> Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. Has been part of what we call ” Americana” and my not be so real as our images of General George Custer. So what’s the real ? Over a hundred travelers embarked on the voyage of the Mayflower in September 1620. Less than one third were Separatists. The rest were immigrants, adventurers, and speculators. It’s fair to say that the Pilgrims left England to find religious freedom, but that wasn’t the primary motive that propelled them to North America.Remember that the Pilgrims went first to Holland, settling eventually in the city of Leiden. There they encountered a religious tolerance almost unheard of in that day and age. Bradford and Edward Winslow both wrote glowingly of their experience. In Leiden, God had allowed them, in Bradford’s estimation, “to come as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times.” God had blessed them with “much peace and liberty,” Winslow echoed. If you visit Plymouth today, you’ll find a distinctive rock about the size of your living-room sofa embedded in the sandy beach, sheltered by a classical Greek portico and labeled with a sign erected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts proclaiming, “Plymouth Rock: Landing Place of the Pilgrims.” It’s not hard to picture simple English folk huddled on that rock, envisioning through eyes of faith the great nation that would spring from their humble beginning.

Except that’s probably not what happened.

New England  as presented by Capitan John Smith to sell the
idea of English land claims to the New World 

The last spot on English soil that the “Pilgrims” touched before departing aboard the Mayflower was Plymouth, England. They were forced to put into that port and never intended to be there. The place where they chose to settle shortly after their arrival in the New World was Plymouth, New England. The harbor had already been given that name. And they never intended to settle there. So, by strange coincidence, the Pilgrims went from Plymouth to Plymouth–two places they never meant to be.In April 1614, Captain John Smith (then 34 years old) arrived off the coast of New England, as he would name it, with two ships out of London, the Francesand the Queen Anne. He had promised his investors that he would search for gold and copper along the shores of what is now Maine and Massachusetts. If that didn’t pan out (and he had little expectation it would), he had a back-up plan to hunt whales. But, as he related in his 1616 book, A Description of New England, the whaling worked out about as well as the hunt for gold. “We found this whale fishing a costly conclusion,” he wrote, “we saw many and spent much time in chasing them, but could not kill any.” After Smith presented his map to King James, a teenage Prince Charles was given leave to rename many of the locations for the version to be published. Rivers, mountains, islands, capes and Native settlements received English names. This is somewhat confusing in the case of Native settlements which are depicted on Smith’s map as though they were existing English towns with English names such as “London,” “Oxford,” and “Plimouth.” In fact there were no permanent English settlements at the time of Smith’s exploration, despite how it may appear on the map at first glance. A few of Prince Charles’s names have stuck. Among them Cape Ann, the Charles River and…Plymouth.Six years after Smith’s exploration, the Pilgrims set out for the New World. A good portion of the Separatist congregation that had been living in exile in Holland boarded a small vessel, the Speedwell, in Delfshaven and sailed to England. There they met up with another vessel, the Mayflower, in Southampton. Aboard the Mayflower were more members of the Separatist congregation who had been in England as well as a good number of “Strangers”–men and women who had signed on to the venture seeking a brighter future and not necessarily concerned with religious matters. The two ships were to sail together to the northern part of Virginia Colony. Europeans who arrived in North America before the Pilgrims also engaged in such observances. There is evidence of a thanksgiving service held in 1564 near present-day Jacksonville, Fla., by French Huguenots . The next year, Spanish documents refer to a thanksgiving Mass celebrated at St. Augustine by conquistadores (who would soon slaughter the Huguenots). Texas historians say Spanish colonists celebrated thanksgiving with the Manso Indians near present-day El Paso in 1598, not early enough to beat out Florida but still a generation before the celebration in Massachusetts. Among English settlers, there is evidence of a thanksgiving celebration in 1607 at a short-lived colony on the coast of Maine, and of two others among Virginia colonists in 1610 and 1619.The lack of awe inspired by Plymouth Rock is in inverse proportion to the story of how the Pilgrims came to stand upon it. Every grade school student knows the tale of the Mayflower. In 1620, its pilgrim sojourners fled religious persecution from the established Church of England. They embarked on a long and treacherous voyage across the Atlantic in the leaky, top-heavy Mayflower. Landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Pilgrims befriended the native occupants, endured many hardships, then, after a successful first harvest in the New World, celebrated a Thanksgiving feast with their Native American friends in the autumn of 1621.That story is true, as far as it goes, but the story your grade school history book omitted is downright fascinating, and every Catholic should know of it. Before boarding the Mayflower, the Pilgrims were called “Separatists.” The religious “persecution” they came here to flee consisted mostly of their determination to purge the remnants of Catholicism from the established Church of England.  They were not anti-monarchists. They just wanted their king to be tolerant. The Mayflower Compact was not just an acknowledgement of royal authority. It was also a wise effort to remind Pilgrims and non-Pilgrim employees of the Company aboard that they were all in it together. They were a bit grim. They allowed non-Pilgrims to take Christmas off but quashed any fun. They survived better than single, male adventurers because they had families and a larger purpose, as well as because they found Massasoit a both self-interested and civil ally, as were they. Well, someone quite forgot about post civil war England and the fact that many of the pilgrims were fleeing England after the collapse of the commonwealth and the fall of Cromwell… anyway – they weren’t a bunch of happy go lucky lovies for sure and they did set out to remove (physically) the nations that were there thousands of years before they decided to land on Plymouth Rock. There’s a well known such episode when they made a point of “gifting” the local native Americans with blankets they knew were infected with smallpox that killed well over half that tribe. Or that they made a point of treating them as subhuman… nice people. As can be said by native Americans especially: Plymouth Rock landed on us!

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The UN-Thankful for Captain John Smith 

And there’s no question that his work as an explorer and mapmaker helped create “English America” and spurred colonization to the New World.“He surveyed the whole of the area from what is now the Canadian border all the way down to Cape Cod,” says Firstbtook. “And he published two years later his map of New England and also a book called A Description of New England.” Many of Smith’s names for places stuck, such as the Charles River, Charlestown, Boston and Salem. And it turns out that Smith was responsible for Plymouth getting its name several years before the Pilgrims even arrived.Smith first called the place Accomack, but then during an audience with Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, he said the prince could change some names if he wished. So Accomack became New Plymouth.“Smith really identified Plymouth as an excellent place [for colonization] with a good harbor, and ‘only in need of industrious people’ — that was how he framed it,” Firstbrook says.The Pilgrims toyed with the idea of hiring Smith to come with them, given Smith’s vast experience in the New World, but eventually settled for purchasing his map and guidebook. He was described as a difficult and truculent man.  Smith’s vision for the New World was one of colonization by Englishmen and he mainly ignored any rights to the land that the indigenous people had. In 1614, six years before the arrival of the Mayflower, Captain John Smith – the same man rescued by Pocahontas in another famous tale – led two British vessels to the coast of Maine to barter for fish and furs. When Smith departed from the Maine shore, he left a lieutenant, Thomas Hunt, in command to load his ship with dried fish.Without consultation, Thomas Hunt sailed his ship south to what is now called Cape Cod Bay. Anchored off the coast of Patuxet (now Plymouth) in 1614, Hunt and his men invited two dozen curious native villagers aboard the ship. One of them was Squanto. Once aboard, the Indians – as the Europeans came to call them – were forced into irons in the ship’s hold. Kidnapped from their homes and families, they were taken on a six-week journey across the Atlantic. Not all the captives survived the voyage. Those who did survive, Squanto among them, were brought to Malaga off the coast of Spain to be sold as slaves.And I may mention here a special work of God’s providence. There was a proud and very profane young man; one of the sea-men, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness, and cursing them daily with grievous execrations, and told them, that he hoped to help to cast half of them over board before they came to their journey’s end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Thus his curses fell on his own head; and it was an astonishment to all his fellows, for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.

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NOTES AND COMMENTS:

(**)>> Thanksgiving. Many countries celebrate Thanksgiving. England celebrates it on the 4th of July.We celebrate Thanksgiving Day not because of the Pilgrims, but because of President Lincoln’s Proclamation making Thanksgiving Day a National Holiday.  By the President of the United States A Proclamation  .  The true history is up for debate. I like to think of Thanksgiving as a way to be thankful for the harvest from my garden and yours. For the food we are blessed to share with family and friends. And for the Thanksgiving story? It’s just a legend. Legends usually come from some small grain of truth and grow to become an ideal. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. I hope you may share with family and friends…and you are safe and healthy.

(1)>> Mayflower Pilgrims.  Religious freedom was not at all what they wanted. Of course, they wanted to practice their religion unhindered, but they regarded Holland, a 17th-century society with real religious freedom, as a land where its members were exposed to too many ideas and temptations. They craved the isolation that they would have in the new world. One thing many people may not know is the fact that the Puritans of Plymouth Colony were intolerant to those who differed from their religion. The Puritans believed in infant baptism while the Baptists (specifically the Seventh Day Baptists) believed in adult baptism. This resulted in arrests, trials and excommunications from the church in Plymouth.As a result, John Clarke (to whom I’m related) petitioned Charles I (and his son Charles II after the British revolution) to grant a charter for the Rhode Island colony. This is where the very “first” Baptist church in North America was (and is) located. There wasn’t any religious freedom or tolerance in the Pilgrim colonies. It was that religion’s way or you were cast out of the community into the wilderness. And it was unlikely that you would be welcomed with open arms by any others since it would mean having to give up your religious beliefs and “convert” to the belief system of the new community.  So much for religious tolerance…..

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68 shares, 49 points