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Pilgrims, Puritans, and Politics

November 6, 2012 , , , , , ,

Alice Carpenter, Pilgrim

There is some gross generalization presented in the Thanksgiving spectacle/history lesson of the colonies. There was turkey, lots of lobster, and headgear similar to the hats and feathers in school pageants, but the Pilgrims and the Puritans are not the same group of people.  If one traces carefully the two thought forms still exist in America, but they are distinct.  Pilgrims came from Holland on the Mayflower to bring their biblical faith to another part of the earth.  They believed they were sojourners on the earth destined for the holy city, and only subject to worldly law when it did not conflict with religious directives.  The Puritans, as the name implies, had been working in reformation to purify religion through political action.  Puritans arrived after the Pilgrims in the Boston area. They had a different attitude toward the native people, since they were not sharing a divine sojourn with them, but making a political state that they believed aligned with pure reformation ideals.  Both groups shared biblical Christianity as their standard, but in practice Pilgrims sought peace while Puritans sought to dominate through harsh purifying authority  (think Salem/witches). None of this would have ever been done if the Bible had not been printed, causing  Europe to become politically violent about reforming, restoring, separating, and purifying. Before printing presses political power and religious power were so obviously entwined as to cause…the Reformation.

Thomas Southworth was born a Pilgrim  in Holland.  His father died there. His mother, Alice Carpenter , sailed from Leiden on the Mayflower with her second husband, Gov. William Bradford.  After Plymouth was established as a Pilgrim colony Thomas joined his mother and stepfather.  William Bradford was a shoe merchant, and many other Mayflower Pilgrims were also in clothing, hat, and fashion trades.  They had spent years in Holland being influenced by the fancy colorful costuming of the Dutch.  It was politically not cool to starch your ruffs (ruffles like QE I wore up around the neck).  The large collar draped rather than stiff said you were so New World 1620. That explains the white scarf look we see in costumes.  Almost no real Pilgrim clothing remains from the period, so the current stereotype is not accurate.  Black and grey may have been worn, but were not standard.  These Pilgrims were fashionable religious adventurers (with stylin’ footwear) bonding with the natives in the new commune/colony  of Plymouth when the Puritans arrived.  Thomas spent his career as a (well dressed, I am sure ) politician.

Thomas Southworth (1617 – 1669)
is my 10th great grandfather
Daughter of Thomas
Daughter of Elizabeth
Son of Elizabeth
Daughter of Eleazer
Daughter of Sarah
Daughter of Mercy
Son of Martha
Son of Abner
Son of Daniel Rowland
Son of Jason A
Son of Ernest Abner
is the daughter of Richard Arden
This year if you think about Pilgrims, or use little figures decoratively get something historically correct.  There was no water on the Mayflower.  Every man woman and child was issued beer each day of the trip.  Imagine the hangover a child might get from a long sea voyage drinking nothing but beer.  As sojourners of the earth they felt it was all part of the mission.  Get over the concept that these people (Pilgrims)  sailed across the sea to wear black and stuff turkeys.  They came here to tune in, turn on, and drop out of the religious struggles in the old country. They were all about debunking the folly of corrupt authority posing as religion.  Pilgrims were the big proponents of separation of church and state.  They believed  that they had a personal connection to providence that was more important and powerful than any civil institution. Puritans, on the other hand, had interest in reforming civil institutions. Can you link these beliefs to today’s political landscape?

What do you think?

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thanksgiving is alien to brits. But, enjoy turkey day;)


fiona maclean

November 6, 2012

Thanks, Fiona, they were all Brits at the time…



November 6, 2012

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