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King James I (1603-1625)
The Voyage of ‘Mayflower’ (1) : A crackdown on dissent in England’s established Church drove a band of Nottinghamshire townspeople to seek new shores.
The Voyage of ‘Mayflower’
Part one

Based partly on the article ‘Scrooby’ in Household Words (Dec. 22, 1855), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

‘Mayflower’ was the ship taken by just over a hundred settlers in 1620, hoping to make a new life in England’s American colony of Virginia. Most were economic migrants, domestic servants or merchants, but those who emerged as leaders were Christians from the little village of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire.

AT the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, King James I insisted that the English Church would never adopt the more extreme views of Swiss reformer John Calvin.* Some hardliners dubbed ‘Puritans’ were bitterly disappointed, and resolved to leave the country.*

Among them were William Brewster, a postmaster who leased a manor house in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire from Sir Samuel Sandys,* and William Bradford, a well-to-do farmer and fellow member of Scrooby’s Calvinist community. The Scrooby Puritans slipped out from Boston to Leiden in 1609 amid much secrecy, since James had forbidden anyone to leave the country, yet never really settled in their new home.

So when word came from Sir Samuel that the Virginia Company run by his brother Edwin needed trusty Englishmen to people the Colony of Virginia in the New World, they seized their chance. Brewster, Bradford and twenty-nine fellow passengers left Holland aboard ‘Speedwell’ on July 22nd, 1620, expecting to rendezvous at Southampton with another ship, ‘Mayflower’, before sailing in convoy for America.

* John Calvin (1509-1564) was a French lawyer and Protestant reformer who settled in Geneva where (much as in the Spanish Inquisition) the secular courts enforced what he advised them was Christian morality and orthodoxy. Church worship was stripped of art and ceremony in favour of lectures on Scripture, while in the town dancing and other public entertainments were forbidden. He taught also that God has created some people for heaven and others for hell, and that man has no freedom to choose his own fate. His ideas entered the English Reformation through Thomas Cranmer and the Scottish Reformation through John Knox, and were highly influential in the Interregnum (1649-1660), but were strongly resisted by John and Charles Wesley.

* ‘Puritans’ has been used over the years as a catch-all term for hardline Calvinists of varying opinions, though a common factor was a belief that strict morality, plain living and modest dress must be enforced by the courts. The Scrooby Puritans were not so much seeking religious freedom as hoping to create a Geneva-like state where they could enforce their morality, and the Massachusetts colony proved quite as intolerant as James had been when the Puritans gained the upper hand.

* Samuel was a son of the late Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, who was MP for Ripon from 1586 to 1588. Samuel moved to Essex and then to Ombersley in Worcestershire, receiving a knighthood in 1603 and becoming MP for Worcestershire in 1609. In 1612, he joined his brother Edwin on the Council for the Virginia Company, founded in 1606 to develop a colony at Jamestown, Virginia, in the New World.

Based partly on the article ‘Scrooby’ in Household Words (Dec. 22, 1855), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

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Picture: © Raime, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-A 3.0. View original
‘Mayflower II’, a copy of the original ship that took William Brewster and a hundred and one fellow pioneers to the New World in 1620. The replica is seen here in the harbour of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the USA; had the pilgrims’ plans worked out, she would have been moored at Virginia Beach, where ‘Godspeed’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘Susan Constant’ set the first English colonists ashore in 1606.

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