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Coming to America
By: Wayne Brown
We are all born somewhere, grow up somewhere, and a great number of us remain within a few miles of that place our entire lives. If you ask us, most will reply that they are there because it is the best place on earth. More importantly, it is home and that makes it a special place that one really does not want to leave in most cases. On this Thanksgiving Day 2010, I began to consider that trait in the human beings that make up America and I could not help weighing in on the Pilgrims who came to this great land and started it all.
Even in today’s society with all the rapid transportation modes and all the choices, many people find it very difficult to leave their home and that family they love to set out on a journey in life. Think about that same reluctance in the early 1600’s. Think about the crude transportation methods and especially the fears that might be associated with a journey across a seemingly endless ocean. In fact, a journey to nowhere it would seem given one knows so little of what is on the other side and has so many roots in the lands they are currently living upon.
Such was the situation with the Pilgrims. I seriously doubt the majority of these people really wanted to leave their homes and come to America if they felt there was a reasonable choice. Many might point out that they most certainly did have a choice which is a true statement. But keep in mind, these were a people of great religious belief and they desired to practice their religion free of the oppressions of the church and the King who ruled it. Their choice to remain in their homeland was a choice that called for turning their back on freedom and liberty and for too many that was a price that was too high to pay.
The new land represented freedom from oppression for these individuals and religious groups. We may have difficulty relating to that because we all live in a free country at the present. I think we all are currently looking at some of the actions of our federal government and wondering how long that will be true at the present but so far we are not yet faced with such a choice.
Boarding large wooden ships bound for America was quite a gamble. So much could happen at the hands of the sea in that day. The perilous storms encountered at sea could swallow a ship and all upon it. The living conditions aboard were marginal at best and not likely too sanitary. The potential for disease was high. The potential to never reach land on the other side was high. The potential to encounter savages and die at their hands in an unknown land was also high, yet these people boarded the ships and sailed for America. That singular act spoke volumes of the courage and determination they possessed.
The first settlers had entered into an agreement with the King of England to come to America and settle in the colony then known as the Virginia Colony. Their ship arrived in the Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod. This was New England and not the Virginia Colony. On the day after their arrival, the new colonists decided to band together in a body politic and settle in New England rather than follow the agreement with the King of England and proceed to Virginia. At that point, they drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact. The body is words making up that compact is included below. It already bears a strong likeness to documents which would emerge later as the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution.
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.
It is with the strength of each other’s support that these early settlers could gain the fortitude to cast their fate upon the winds and ocean tides and sail off for America and its promise of religious freedom. For that opportunity, they were willing to risk their very lives. As we live here in this great land today, we all must ask ourselves what, if anything, are we willing to take such a risk. Sadly, we have too many years under our belt of security, comfort, liberty, and freedom to think that things could be any other way than they are. Most of us cannot imagine the need to lay down our lives to protect our freedoms yet the challenge for these people was very real.
As we pass this Thanksgiving season, we need to pause and give thanks that these very special people once walked the earth; that they possessed the courage and determination to risk all that they knew and come to America for the promise of a new life. In remembering their important steps in creating the basis for all we have today, we need to make a commitment to preserve and protect all that they held sacred and cherish those freedoms which so many have shed their blood to sustain. We have much to be thankful for in America even in our worse days. At the same time, our freedom, our liberty, and our ability to sustain it in the future rides greatly on the courage and determination that we can muster today for those who will follow behind us tomorrow.
At the same time, let us also remember those great Native Americans who were already here and in charge of the land that would be America. In many ways, their future was destroyed in the process and for that we should pause in sorrow. Give thanks that so much of their great history and respect for this great land has survived and pray that no one will ever again be treated in such a fashion within the borders of this great country. Let us not forget that this was their home and they shared our same traits for the love of their place of birth and their home. God Bless America.
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