November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower were preparing to go ashore in Massachusetts. It was already cold. There no roofs, piers, chimneys, nothing welcoming, no shelter, nothing except a blank wall of trees down almost to the waters edge. They decided to set down the guiding principles of how they would govern themselves as they started a new and hazardous life in this primordial wilderness:
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.
Half of them died over the winter, mostly the women and children.
These were people whose views were, after almost four centuries, very alien to us. They went to great extremes and endured great hardships for their beliefs. Few of us have had to do so. I’m glad I haven’t had to. I hope I have their courage and endurance if I ever have to.
But, distant and strange as they are in some ways, they are yet our brothers and sisters in this: They were determined to live under a government of their own choosing, which was answerable to them, making just laws binding fairly and equally on all.
We Americans have, of course, fallen short of this standard many times in the centuries since. But they were the first community to set up that standard on this continent.
For freedom and prosperity and the sacrifices of those who came before us who made them possible, we are thankful.
Best wishes to this blog’s contributors, commenters, readers, fans, friends and foes (I’m feeling magnanimous) for a peaceful, pleasant and safe Thanksgiving.
God bless America.