Some Things I Admire About the Pilgrims

All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties and must be overcome with answerable courages.  William Bradford, governor of Plymouth colony, age 30

I’ve been thinking about the kind of people who would leave their homes, property, families, histories, get on a small ship, and set sail for the horizon. A very particular kind of people, for sure.


I admire their determination. Admittedly, the Puritans had a pretty severe view of righteous living. They endured scorn, financial pressure, and outright persecution from their fellow English citizens. Relocating to Holland, they eventually found financial backing to head for the New World. On September 16, 1620, 102 of them boarded the 90 foot long Mayflower. They disembarked at Plymouth on December 16th at the start of a bitter winter. Answerable courages, indeed.

I admire their motives. Before they set sail, William Bradford described their objectives. They had “. . . a great hope . . . of laying some good foundation . . . for the advancing of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Other groups did have more mercenary purposes. But the Pilgrim’s primary focus was freedom to worship, and sharing the Gospel with native tribes – the rampant, modern-day rewriting of American history notwithstanding.

I admire their foresight in drawing up and signing the Mayflower Compact while still on board ship. It provided an orderly way of establishing the colony. They didn’t just land at Plymouth and head off willy-nilly doing their own thing. Its premise, by the way, was that government rests on the consent of the governed. Although sorely tempted to editorialize here, I’ll move on.

I admire their fortitude. Nearly half of the settlers died during that first terrible winter of 1620-1621.

I admire their treaty of peace and mutual support with the local Wampanoag tribe. It was signed the following spring and read in part:

Mayflower Compact

  • That he nor any of his should do hurt to any of their people.
  • That if any of his did hurt any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.
  • That if anything were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.
  • If any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them.

This clear, simple, Old Testament-flavored treaty lasted for more than 50 years.  You have to admire that. A lot.

And, of course, I admire their first harvest celebration, now known as Thanksgiving. The menu included deer, duck, geese, turkey, clams, eel, fish, wild plums, leeks, cornbread, watercress, corn, squash – and other veggies, maybe. I like the idea of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrating together around the table, followed by games and dancing.  Sugar was, tragically, probably not available, so it was unlikely that pie made an appearance. But with that menu, who would notice?

That first Thanksgiving was preceded by terrible suffering and followed by yet more difficulties – and answerable courages. We owe them a lot, those first hardy bands of settlers. With my precious family, I will soon be thanking the Lord for them again at our beautiful, blessed, bountiful table.

I hope you will, too.



4 responses to this post.

  1. At our home following a way too much food buffet we sit back for the Annual Dunn Family Dinner Theater. In years past we have been entertained … only a loving family would call it such …. by first year students recitals on the trumpet and violin, a song and dance routine by two 8-year olds who gigglied through the entire performance and then said, “Wait! Wait! … We have to start over!” Which they did. Often. Then there have been teens reading from their journals or recounting a mission trip to Mexico. The adults have recounted war experiences or read original haiku written for a book club. One year we all had a contest to determine who could hold a spoon on their nose for the longest time. But enough about us.

    I have just printed out sister Debra’s “Things I Admire About the Pilgrims” and have entered it in the line up for our Dinner Theater tomorrow night. If I win anything, Debra, you get half. Thanks for another amusing and thought provoking article. Carolyn xo


  2. I’m honored that this piece will make an appearance at your Dinner Theater! and thank you for sharing your family’s lovely traditions.


  3. Posted by Jason Sanders on November 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    A wealth of insight and in formation as usual.


  4. Looking for admirable qualities in people is a good exercise in selflessness. Good lesson for the rest of us, Debra. Thanks.


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