Plymouth Rock and Stepping Stones – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
On This Day, December 21, 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock.
Jamestown was settled in 1607, the Colonists declared independence in 1776. That means the Colonial period lasted 169 years. If we take into account the previous unsuccessful settlement attempts we can say the Colonial period lasted around 200 years.
From 1776 till now (2017), 241 years have rolled by. That means the period of time from the Declaration of Independence to today, where you and I now sit reading this, is only around 41 years longer than the Colonial times. Ponder that for a minute.
This is extremely important. The Colonial period covered about eight or nine generations and their experiences shaped the future of the nation. The colonists were small bands of people on isolated settlements near the Atlantic; slowly they increased in number and, with a Bible in one hand and an axe in another, made their way further inland. They brought their English Heritage to America and molded it to conform to their new circumstances.
The Pilgrims, including men like John Carver and William Bradford, arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. Before Bradford and his brethren went ashore they met in the cabin of the ship to draw up their governing document, it was a compact called the Mayflower Compact. It’s short and concise:
“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc. having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Codd the 11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our sovereigne lord, King James, of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie-fourth. In the year of our Lord. 1620.”
John Carver was chosen as governor. More than half the colony died that first winter, including Governor Carver! William Bradford was chosen as his replacement and served in that position every year for the rest of his life except for five, and that’s because he declined those years. Bradford governed wisely and saw the colony slowly grow from a handful in 1620 to about 3,000 in 1640. He wrote an account of the Plymouth Settlement, one of the first American History books ever written, called “Of Plymouth Plantation. Here’s what he said:
“…a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world–yea, though they should be but even stepping stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”
This gives us some insight into their motivations, especially Governor Bradford. The Colonists were concerned about the future. Believing they were merely stepping stones for their children and grandchildren, they not only lived their lives for themselves, but in view of generations to come. Bradford’s history book is an example of this kind of thinking. He wanted us to know what they did hoping we’d learn from them and improve their work. This attitude gave the Colonists the courage to endure the sufferings of the new world; it was through generational family love they withstood those early days of death and disease.
The colonists were preparing the way for us, their posterity, creating institutions and ways of doing things that are still with us today. We don’t agree with everything they did or said, but we are thankful for their labors.
The history of America is how we got from Jamestown and Plymouth to where you and I sit right now.
Are we planning for the future of our children? Are we willing to be stepping stones to future generation?
***Below is a page from the Geneva Bible, the version the Pilgrims used.