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THE FIRST THANKSGIVING, Part 2

Big Turkey Season'sGreetings10113107_f520

(Repeat from November 2015)

I wish all a glorious Thanksgiving for 2016. I thank all who have been keeping up with my blog postings relating to William Bradford and the Pilgrims. I conclude our November with A History of Plymouth Plantation with the actual text of Bradford’s version of the first Thanksgiving:

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. I’ll resume The Literary Life after the New Year.

Paul Varner

 

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING, Part 1

first-thanksgiving-tradition-wallpapers-1600x1200

(Repeat from November 2015)

William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation has traditionally been the primary source for our knowledge of the Pilgrims, their voyage in the Mayflower, their landing at Plymouth Plantation, their first encounters with Native Americans, and the growth of the colony into the cultural and intellectual center of the early British American colonies. But it disappoints many when it comes to the actual Thanksgiving. Book II, Chapter XII: Anno 1621 relates the first Thanksgiving. There is no mention of the typical Pilgrim legend.

What we know of the original Thanksgiving comes from Mourt’s Relation, a history written later. The actual date of the first was December 11, 1621. The abundance of meat and corn was such that the Pilgrims could entertain Massasoit and about ninety of his people for three days of feasting and games.

I wish all a glorious Thanksgiving for 2015. I thank all who have been keeping up with my blog postings relating to William Bradford and the Pilgrims. Stay tuned Wednesday for Part 2 of this post.

 

THE NATIVE AMERICANS APPEAR IN THE PILGRIMS’ SETTLEMENT

Pilgrim greeting Indian

(Repeat from November 2015)

Our founding myths of America portray the original inhabitants William Bradford and the Pilgrims encounter as unsophisticated childlike adults entranced and terrified at the same time of the ultra-civilized Europeans who come to take over their lands and treasure. No doubt Bradford wants us to read his History of Plymouth Plantation in such a way. But let’s see what really is going on.

We have been thinking about William Bradford’s classic History of Plymouth Plantation as an appropriate read for November. If you are just now clicking in for the first time, take a moment and scroll down through the last several postings just to get a context for this post.

One day a Native American named Samoset appears boldly among them. He speaks English. Later he brings his chief, Massasoit, and another named Squanto who had actually been to England. The Native Americans teach the pilgrims basic survival skills to make sure the next winter would not be so bad. As it turns out, these inhabitants of the land claimed by the Pilgrims could speak some English and had met Europeans before. In fact Squanto spoke well and had spent extensive time among the English. Bradford devotes several pages telling of Squanto’s travels among the English. Because earlier English explorers had treated the tribes so badly these Native Americans were wary of the pilgrims at first.

Bradford labels these peoples as savages and children of darkness, yet it looks like they are more sophisticated than their European conquerors.

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Of course, I may not be treating the Pilgrims fairly here. Bradford does say that Squanto was “a special instrument sent of God” to help save the Europeans in the brutal winter ahead. And as the Native Americans accommodated them the Europeans signed a compact to their mutual benefit. Here is the original compact, one of the first “Indian” treaties with the European conquerors:

  1. That neither he nor any of his should injure or do hurt to any of their people.
  2. That if any of his did hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.
  3. 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.
  4. If any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them.
  5. He should send to his neighbors confederates to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace.
  6. That when their men came to them, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them.

What are you thinking as you read this material? Write your comments in the comment box. And let’s see your comments no matter when you read this blog. None of the ideas I am approaching are time sensitive.

Let’s start a conversation. Re-blog. Re-tweet. Re-tumble. Follow The Literary Life. The more readers who are posting comments the better.

THE PILGRIMS LAND AND BEGIN CLAIMING THEIR LAND

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It’s time to relax a bit in my grandiose, spacious study and kick back with William Bradford and his book about the Pilgrims. I tried to get a selfie with my study in the background. Ah, I wish. Who am I kidding? I just ran in to a 7-11 beside the road and grabbed some newspapers. It’s raining and the runoff water in the parking lot poured into my shoes. I’m heading home, but alas, not to this study.

Probably the single most famous chapter in William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation is the one where the Pilgrims have landed and now are beginning to make themselves at home: Book I, Chapter X: Showing How They Sought Out a Place of Habitation; and What Befell Them Thereabout.

Historical marker

This section tells of the Pilgrims’ discovery of corn, their first contact with Native Americans, and their attempt to chase some down.

After they arrived at land they decided to send out an exploring party led by Miles Standish to find a proper place for all to first settle down. The very first appearance of the indigenous inhabitants is brief. The small party flees when they first see the Pilgrims. But later, in what Bradford calls “the first encounter,” the Native Americans attack Standish and his men with arrows. No one is hurt. The Pilgrims discover several stores of corn, which they steal. Now, in fairness, they return it six months later with abundance. Nevertheless–.

Back at sea, they had another storm in which they broke their rudder, yet, as Bradford believed, by God’s mercy they survived. Finally, they landed and settled down at Plymouth Harbor on December 16, 1620.

These earlier selections from Of Plymouth Plantation help us visualize the practical and spiritual concerns of the earliest colonials. In trying to find a harbor, another “lusty seaman” on board the shallop reminds the pilot to row “or else they were all cast away.” Bradford’s account reveals the necessity for self-reliance among the first Puritan settlers; only after they reach “the lee of a small island” can they afford to give thanks to God “for His mercies in their manifold deliverances.”

Write your comments in the comment box. And let’s see your comments no matter when you read this blog. None of the ideas I am approaching are time sensitive.

Let’s start a conversation. Re-blog. Re-tweet. Re-tumble. Follow The Literary Life. The more readers who are posting comments the better.

WILLIAM BRADFORD AND THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

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(Repeat from November 2015)

I’m sitting in my study wishing the weather would be cold enough for a fire in the fireplace and I was remembering in the past at times walking through the lobbies of various federal buildings such as U.S. Post Offices and seeing displays of the founding documents upon which the U.S. form of government is based: the Declaration of Independence, of course, as well as the Constitution, and, notably, the Mayflower Compact.

We have been thinking about William Bradford’s classic History of Plymouth Plantation as an appropriate read for November. If you are just now clicking in for the first time, take a moment and scroll down through the last several postings just to get a context for this post.

Book II, Chapter I contains a narrative of the signing of The Mayflower Compact, the first American covenant instituting civil law by common consent. William Bradford posts the text of the Compact in full. Bradford places this account in Book II but I am treating it here chronologically.

You may not know this, but the actual Pilgrims were in the minority of those on the Mayflower voyage. There was the crew, of course, though most of them would be returning to England, and there were the strangers, as the Pilgrims called the other paying passengers who were simply coming along to seek their fortunes. The Pilgrims had the political authority for when they settled in Virginia as per the original charter. But the strangers were saying that they did not intend to recognize the authority of the Pilgrims since they had not landed in Virginia. The Pilgrims decided to take action. Thus the Contract, the first political document in the colonies, was drawn up by the Pilgrims. And it would assert the exclusive prerogative of the Pilgrims alone. It would consider the strangers as outsiders in subjugation to the Pilgrims.

mayflower-compact

So on board the Mayflower before they landed, the founders drew up the Mayflower Compact as a document to govern the colony. They selected John Carver as their first governor afterward. Then they began to build their settlement.

Here is the complete text of the Mayflower Compact:

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November [New Style, November 21], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.

Bradford writes that the Mayflower Compact was “occasioned partly by the discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers amongst them had let fall from them in the ship.” Notice how what Bradford calls “the first foundation of their government in this place” establishes a Puritan community from the beginning as one that excludes “strangers.” So even before landing the Puritans defined themselves as an elect group.

Well, what implicit effect does writing and signing the Mayflower Compact have? Putting their first agreement into written form was an act of major significance for the Puritans, who believed in the Bible’s literal truth and authority. Written words, from the beginning of American culture, carry the associative power of God’s word and gives the Pilgrims, as opposed to everybody else, divine authority.

What do you think about the importance eventually of The Mayflower Compact?

Write your comments in the comment box. And let’s see your comments no matter when you read this blog. None of the ideas I am approaching are time sensitive.

Let’s start a conversation. Re-blog. Re-tweet. Re-tumble. Follow The Literary Life. The more readers who are posting comments the better.

THE BEGINNINGS: WILLIAM BRADFORD’S HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION

Manuscript williambradford.opptext

November 14, 2016

(Repeat from November 2015)

I’ve started re-reading William Bradford’s foundational Thanksgiving text, History of Plymouth Plantation again after many years. It used to be a yearly ritual for me, but after I started teaching it nearly every semester it lost some of its lustre for me. But now’s another time and another place. Why not go back to this dusty old book that up until recent decades would have been read by every “schoolboy” in public schools.

The thing is, in recent years as I have studied the book formally and as I have taught it to literature majors and to undergraduates, I have come to realize how wrong the traditional readings have been, how most of what we think of regarding the Pilgrims probably is not as clean cut and worthy of Hallmark Cards’ mythologizing.

William-Bradford

A few preliminaries: Plymouth Plantation tells the original story of the Pilgrims. As you may recall, the Plymouth Pilgrims established a colony Scrooby in the Netherlands. They fled England due to religious persecution. Strangely, the Pilgrims’ story occurred during a period in English history when the Puritan branches of the English church were coming to power. Shortly after Bradford’s people left England the country would undergo its civil war that was a religious war in many ways.

What differentiated the Pilgrims from similar religious groups back home was that, unlike the Separatists, for example, the Pilgrims were not willing to try to remain within the Church of England and try to reform it from within. The Pilgrims wanted not merely to separate but to sever ties with the Church. It was Bradford who named the group Pilgrims so as to make the distinction.

When the Pilgrims felt they had outworn their welcome in Scooby they decided to sail for the New World and gained a charter for land in English Virginia. Alas, the Mayflower was blown far off course and they landed in Massachusetts instead.

Thus the beginnings. Let’s look at the book of adventure, signs, and wonders starting next Friday. But just one more note. William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation actually was lost to posterity until the middle of the 19th century. The first chapter had been reprinted often enough but it was not until the manuscript was discovered in the library of the bishop of London and finally published in 1857 that the U.S. recovered one of its chief founding documents. In 1897 it was deposited in the State House in Boston.

WILLIAM BRADFORD: MR. NOVEMBER

the-landing-of-the-pilgrims-at-plymouth-currier-and-ives

(Repeat from November 2015)

Halloween is over and with November and the depressing time change in the U.S., our attention turns to the holidays ahead. And first up is Thanksgiving and the yearly looking back to our Pilgrim forebears.

Many years ago I used to pull down my old Classics Club volume of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation every November and read through it. So I just pulled down my beloved Classics Club edition once again. How many of you subscribed to those old Classics Club editions back when?

classics-club-insert-images

Anyway, those of you who love Great Literature, if you need a reason to spend a few minutes every week really getting into the spirit of Thanksgiving, then join me during November as we look at the most famous document of Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims.

The actual book is quite a read, truthfully, so I am just going to look a few of the most famous passages. But here is the link to the full text at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24950.

If you go back to really old textbook anthologies of American Literature, you will

often find them beginning the literature of the United States with William Bradford. Who knows, maybe some books still begin American Literature with Bradford and the New England Pilgrims.

That’s crazy, of course. I mean, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. By 1620 Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Antonio, Texas were already flourishing American cities with intellectual cultures developing. Columbus, of course, had already written of his voyages. Thomas Harriot had written A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. Perhaps, more striking, the tribal peoples of North America had long been developing a dynamic and powerful literature for centuries. Surely, all these peoples were Americans. Oh well. Messy facts too often detract from wonderful and sentimental traditions.

Accordingly, William Bradford was one of the greatest of colonial Americans, a man large in spirit and wisdom, wholly consecrated to a mission of which he regarded himself as an instrument of God. The early history of Plymouth Colony was the history of his leadership, and, in fact, tiny Plymouth occupies a position in history wholly incommensurate with its size.

Like the patriarchs of the Old Testament, William Bradford in History Of Plymouth Plantation “recorded God’s ‘choosing’ of His people, their exile, and their wanderings”

November is the month we celebrate the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock in the American Thanksgiving tradition. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving month by taking a look at William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation.

THE BEGINNINGS: WILLIAM BRADFORD’S HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION

Manuscript williambradford.opptext

November 14, 2016

(Repeat from November 2015)

I’ve started re-reading William Bradford’s foundational Thanksgiving text, History of Plymouth Plantation again after many years. It used to be a yearly ritual for me, but after I started teaching it nearly every semester it lost some of its lustre for me. But now’s another time and another place. Why not go back to this dusty old book that up until recent decades would have been read by every “schoolboy” in public schools.

The thing is, in recent years as I have studied the book formally and as I have taught it to literature majors and to undergraduates, I have come to realize how wrong the traditional readings have been, how most of what we think of regarding the Pilgrims probably is not as clean cut and worthy of Hallmark Cards’ mythologizing.

William-Bradford

A few preliminaries: Plymouth Plantation tells the original story of the Pilgrims. As you may recall, the Plymouth Pilgrims established a colony Scrooby in the Netherlands. They fled England due to religious persecution. Strangely, the Pilgrims’ story occurred during a period in English history when the Puritan branches of the English church were coming to power. Shortly after Bradford’s people left England the country would undergo its civil war that was a religious war in many ways.

What differentiated the Pilgrims from similar religious groups back home was that, unlike the Separatists, for example, the Pilgrims were not willing to try to remain within the Church of England and try to reform it from within. The Pilgrims wanted not merely to separate but to sever ties with the Church. It was Bradford who named the group Pilgrims so as to make the distinction.

When the Pilgrims felt they had outworn their welcome in Scooby they decided to sail for the New World and gained a charter for land in English Virginia. Alas, the Mayflower was blown far off course and they landed in Massachusetts instead.

Thus the beginnings. Let’s look at the book of adventure, signs, and wonders starting next Friday. But just one more note. William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation actually was lost to posterity until the middle of the 19th century. The first chapter had been reprinted often enough but it was not until the manuscript was discovered in the library of the bishop of London and finally published in 1857 that the U.S. recovered one of its chief founding documents. In 1897 it was deposited in the State House in Boston.

WILLIAM BRADFORD: MR. NOVEMBER

the-landing-of-the-pilgrims-at-plymouth-currier-and-ives

(Repeat from November 2015)

Halloween is over and with November and the depressing time change in the U.S., our attention turns to the holidays ahead. And first up is Thanksgiving and the yearly looking back to our Pilgrim forebears.

Many years ago I used to pull down my old Classics Club volume of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation every November and read through it. So I just pulled down my beloved Classics Club edition once again. How many of you subscribed to those old Classics Club editions back when?

classics-club-insert-images

Anyway, those of you who love Great Literature, if you need a reason to spend a few minutes every week really getting into the spirit of Thanksgiving, then join me during November as we look at the most famous document of Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims.

The actual book is quite a read, truthfully, so I am just going to look a few of the most famous passages. But here is the link to the full text at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24950.

If you go back to really old textbook anthologies of American Literature, you will

often find them beginning the literature of the United States with William Bradford. Who knows, maybe some books still begin American Literature with Bradford and the New England Pilgrims.

That’s crazy, of course. I mean, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. By 1620 Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Antonio, Texas were already flourishing American cities with intellectual cultures developing. Columbus, of course, had already written of his voyages. Thomas Harriot had written A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. Perhaps, more striking, the tribal peoples of North America had long been developing a dynamic and powerful literature for centuries. Surely, all these peoples were Americans. Oh well. Messy facts too often detract from wonderful and sentimental traditions.

Accordingly, William Bradford was one of the greatest of colonial Americans, a man large in spirit and wisdom, wholly consecrated to a mission of which he regarded himself as an instrument of God. The early history of Plymouth Colony was the history of his leadership, and, in fact, tiny Plymouth occupies a position in history wholly incommensurate with its size.

Like the patriarchs of the Old Testament, William Bradford in History Of Plymouth Plantation “recorded God’s ‘choosing’ of His people, their exile, and their wanderings”

November is the month we celebrate the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock in the American Thanksgiving tradition. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving month by taking a look at William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation.

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING, Part 1

first-thanksgiving-tradition-wallpapers-1600x1200

William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation has traditionally been the primary source for our knowledge of the Pilgrims, their voyage in the Mayflower, their landing at Plymouth Plantation, their first encounters with Native Americans, and the growth of the colony into the cultural and intellectual center of the early British American colonies. But it disappoints many when it comes to the actual Thanksgiving. Book II, Chapter XII: Anno 1621 relates the first Thanksgiving. There is no mention of the typical Pilgrim legend.

What we know of the original Thanksgiving comes from Mourt’s Relation, a history written later. The actual date of the first was December 11, 1621. The abundance of meat and corn was such that the Pilgrims could entertain Massasoit and about ninety of his people for three days of feasting and games.

I wish all a glorious Thanksgiving for 2015. I thank all who have been keeping up with my blog postings relating to William Bradford and the Pilgrims. Stay tuned Wednesday for Part 2 of this post.

 

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