William Bradford Attendance register. Revision So far we have looked at three different attempts by English people to settle in the New World. What were they? - Roanoke - Jamestown - Plymouth What were they characterised by? - The first two were all about money. - Plymouth about religion – this gave greater community, encouraged families and so on – making it a better proposition, and the true start to English colonisation of the Americas – even though it came after Roanoke and Jamestown. What religion were they? - Protestant, Pilgrims – a kind of Puritan. At one end of a religious continuum of different kinds of Christian: • • •
Catholics – Anglicans (Episcopalians) – Puritans – Pilgrims
The Pilgrims were separatists; they had separated themselves from the Church of England and, rather than reforming it, wanted to start a new church on a new continent. Isolation was key among the attributes they were looking for. The text we have been reading, and which recounts the arrival of these Pilgrims in the New World, is called Of Plymouth Plantation. Can you remember anything about this text and its author? - Bradford a pried, leader of this (supposedly horizontalist) community and early governor of Plymouth. - Wrote the book privately and did not publish it, it remained unread until the end of the 19th-c. Arrival We will be primarily interested in how the Pilgrims come to be such a major part of the American myth of the country’s creation. [Show slide of arrival]
This illustration was made in the nineteenth-century, when ways of thinking about the USA’s Puritan past had developed significantly. What do we see in this picture? - We see the Pilgrims arriving – William Bradford is at the centre of the picture, the Mayflower, their ship, can be see to his left. What are the Pilgrims like? - Almost saintly – like an illustration of the Israelites - overcome with emotion, well-dressed, both men and women. - We see community – people helping one another. - We see babies. - We can see the blessing of God Himself – look at the way the light shines down onto Bradford’s face and the ground before him. He blesses the party and the project. What do we not see? - Native Americans. - Poverty. - Illness. - Violence. The truth was more complex: • • • •
1616-18 – Epidemic decimates Native American population in Cape Cod region 1620 – Plymouth colony founded by the Pilgrims 1621 – The ‘Great Sickness’; 46 of the 102 immigrants died 1623 – the first Thanksgiving
Of Plymouth Plantation
We will now turn back to the text.
Go to P. 110; read account of the pilgrims weeping at departure. Again we see the encroachment of literary style entering the story. What kind of style? - Taken from religious sources. Repeats the tropes of exile and community we find in the bible. Remember the Pilgrims thought of themselves as the chosen people; new Israelites – they believed the foundation of Plymouth was equivalent to the founding of a New Jerusalem – or religious capital for the world. - Sentimental; one that we might think was designed to develop sympathy for the voyagers. Why would Bradford be writing in this kind of way in a private journal if he did not think it would ever be read? - Perhaps an address to God. - Perhaps a kind of self-justification; as we see the text go on, Bradford allows various thing to happen that need some moral justification – by underlining, at the outset, the difficulties – emotional and physical – the Pilgrims faces, he helps to exculpate himself of any guilt he might have at the other things he does. * Bradford and the other Pilgrims set out, then, from Holland in a small ship called the Speedwell, with the intention of meeting up with another ship called the Mayflower in England and making the voyage in tandem. The Speedwell was unfit for the crossing, however, and all 102 passengers boarded the Mayflower instead. [show slide] Overcrowding what was a relatively small ship of 100ft long; about 30 metres. Leaving around the 5th of August they would disembark around the 11th of November. A long and arduous crossing, though only one member of the Pilgrim community died on the crossing. There had been much bad weather and winter was approaching fast.
P. 114; First paragraph – account of the death of one of the Mayflower’s crew members. What can we learn about the Pilgrims’ sense of themselves and their religion in this extract? - a strong sense of self; confident in their own position as saved believers - great confidence in God, that he would help them and so on – this whole enterprise was a godly one and one in which more or less anything that happened could be read as heavenly intercession. First Encounter P. 117; first encounter – read through this page explaining the language as needed. - Remember the importance of this mission; they needed food desperately. Why do the Indians runs away? - perhaps had encountered other Europeans. Providentially they find food on the beach. Whose is this and why is it available to them?
4 - The Native Americans’; it is available to them because the local community had already been ravaged by disease before their arrival. Notice how calmly Bradford takes the food of others here; he is effectively stealing, but considers this a gift of God. He does not consider the ownership rights of the indigenous peoples at all. On the next page Bradford specifically applies this bounty to the gift of God. P. 118. providence ˈprɒvɪd(ə)ns/ noun noun: providence 1. 1. the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power. Bottom of p. 118 to 119. On these pages we described the first encounter between the English and the Native Americans. Compare this encounter with Longfellow’s depiction of the Native American Iagoo recounting his vision of the Europeans in Hiawatha and the encounters of Pocahontas. We can imagine that this meeting is the same meeting – notice the different terms that both sides use. Iagoo describes the Europeans how? - white painted faces - in a big canoe, described in terms of nature garnered from their own bucolic experience How does Bradford describe the Native Americans? - Frightened, animal-like. There is none of the supernatural wonder that Iagoo feels at the first encounter. Conclusion In conclusion, with this text – Bradford’s journal/historical account – we gain valuable insights into a number of different elements of the first English arrivals’ attitudes towards the New World. a) It shows us the centrality of low-church Protestantism to the beginning of the American project; everything that we see here is mediated through Bradford’s religious beliefs – beliefs which both allow him to do things that for other might seem morally dubious; while at the same time giving these Pilgrims a great sense of purpose and providence that allowed them to perform otherwise difficult tasks and, in essence, to survive. b) We can gain a vivid sense of just how unfriendly and foreign this entirely new place was. c) An insight into how the Native Americans appeared to them. The difficulty of fitting these entirely strange, pagan humans into a world-view so indebted to a quite circumscribed religious outlook.
[Show arrival slide again.] Does this picture show the true story? - No – it was far more complex and difficult. Why do you think this myth was created, then? Why did later Americans choose to reimagine their founders in this way? - By the nineteenth-century everything was different – the Native Americans had been almost entirely destroyed, the country won. - Rather than needing reasons to survive and stay together, the country needed stories that would explain and perhaps lessen the guilt of the actions started then. - By placing God at the centre of the project, and by minimising Native American involvement, the difficulties of the project can be explained away as Providence – something that these people were not really responsible for. Similar reasons lay behind the popularity of the Pocahontas myth, with its exculpatory revelation of Indian collaboration in the early moments of colonisation. Other than Pocahontas, Jamestown would be minimised as a foundation myth, however, with nineteenth-century Americans preferring the religious sentiments of the Mayflower Pilgrims instead.