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How America Outgrew the Pilgrims

Pilgrims Puritans Mayflower Thanksgiving New England History Mayflower Pact

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How America Outgrew the Pilgrims






(Politico) Four hundred years ago this month, the Mayflower, carrying over 100 passengers plus crew, dropped anchor near Cape Cod after a perilous, two-month voyage. Of those on board, roughly half were Puritan separatists—dissenters who broke away from the Church of England and hoped to establish a new society rooted in what they believed to be authentic Christian worship. Cape Cod was neither their original nor final destination. Bound originally for Virginia, where they had been invited by local authorities to form their community, the “Pilgrims” experienced trouble navigating the rough currents of the Atlantic and instead made their way to nearby Plymouth, where they first set foot on December 11. The rest is history.


Given the central position the Plymouth landing long played in American public memory, it’s telling that the 400th anniversary has gone by largely unnoticed. Not so last year’s 400th anniversary of slavery’s roots in North America. The New York Times’ 1619 Project excited tremendous controversy because it challenged established narratives that date the founding of America’s political development and character to 1620 or 1776. To be sure, some conservative voices have seized on this year’s anniversary to counter the Times’ undertaking, but for the most part, they seem to be shouting into a void. Relative to the debate over 1619, there’s been little fanfare and even less debate.


How is that possible? These are the same Pilgrims who, the year after their arrival, enjoyed the first American Thanksgiving meal with their neighbors from the Wampanoag nation—an event steeped in lore and closely associated with one of the country’s most beloved holidays. The same Pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact, which arguably planted the first democratic seeds in New World. The same Pilgrims who transported a strain of Christian millennialism to America that influenced the development of political culture throughout the United States.



The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Pilgrims, Puritans, Mayflower, Thanksgiving, New England History, Mayflower Pact

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