Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Dr. Stephen Phinney
I tend to be a loyalist in most things – particularly if I am directly connected to its roots.
Many moons ago, my grandfather, Jeffery Phinney, came over on the Mayflower. His grandson, John Jr., is remembered in the iconic Pilgrim's picture populated through our country’s history. His father and grandfather were known for being deeply devoted to faith, family, and freedom.
While their roots extended into England, due to the constraints the Church of England placed on their religious freedom, they moved to Leyden, Holland, hoping to settle into a community that accepted their “separatist” practices and allowing them to worship as they liked. The good news was, they did find religious freedom in Holland. However, they found the secular practices more difficult than they’d anticipated, which agitated their “separatist” ways all the more. Since their spiritual leader, William Bradford, found Holland’s practices extravagant and dangerous for his people, he began searching for a new world. A place where government interference or worldly distractions would be minimal.
With that in mind, they returned to England and began laying out a plan to find a way to this newly discovered world, which happened to be on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. After arriving in England, a wealthy merchant agreed to fund their journey to the new world. The “Virginia Company” granted the “separatist” permission to establish a settlement/plantation. Miraculously, the king of England gave the group his blessing to part with the Church of England.
While they were scheduled to travel to the new world on the Speedwell ship, it began to leak. Being determined, they packed all their belongings on the second ship, the Plymouth Mayflower, which was a cargo ship, and set sail to the newly found land.
As history states, the voyage was unbearable – roughly two months of sickness. Their passage was during the high-seas season. While many were losing faith, Bradford consistently encouraged his members with, “God will make a way.” As history proves, He did exactly that.
Once arriving in the New World, in the wrong location, nowhere close to the Virginia Company’s territory, they discovered an abandoned Indian village. Since the “Saints” were respectful of the law, they lived the first year on the Mayflower. Even though they were in territory unclaimed by the colonist, they began to set up shop. Understanding the basics of claiming land (a colony), and they came over from the port, Plymouth, England, 41 of the Mayflower’s passengers drafted the Plymouth Mayflower Compact during their first year. This Compact became the beginnings of the United States Constitution. The Compact promised to incorporate just and equal laws, which were to be installed by the people through elected officials. In addition, the document depicts the establishment of self-government – forming the New World’s earliest form of democracy.
Their beginnings were difficult. During the first winter, only fifty-three passengers and half the crew survived. Out of the nineteen women who boarded, five survived. After the Mayflower returned to England, half of the new colonists died from malnutrition, disease, and exposure to the harsh elements. History notes that if the local natives had not stepped up to help, we most likely would not have the kind of America we have today. It was through these natives that the colonists learned to hunt, fish, and grow crops. Shortly after their first harvest, the colonists celebrated with a three-day festival they referenced as “The Days of Thanksgiving.” Thus, the Plymouth founders became known as America’s first farmers, as well as setting the foundation for our holiday, “Thanksgiving Day.”
One of the attendees, Edward Winslow, noted: “many of the Indians coming amongst us and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men.”
Since both “Saints” and “Secularist” came over on the Mayflower, the two ultimately
separated. The “Saints” maintained and grew the Plymouth Colony, while the others were absorbed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Through the years, the “Saints” were pinned with the name “Pilgrims.” For many years, the Pilgrims not only believed they were God’s beacon to the new world, but they were immovable in believing God chose them to establish a “Christian Nation.” As their leader proclaimed until his death, “As one small candle may light a thousand,” Bradford wrote, “so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.”
As we fast-forward to 1889, a monument was dedicated, the National Monument to the Forefathers. The monument honors the strength, endurance, and religious beliefs that founded our country. If you get the privilege of walking around this monument, you will discover their core beliefs – with the woman of freedom pointing toward Heaven while clutching a Bible in her other hand; the Pilgrims called her “Faith.” As you walk around the buttresses, you will behold the four principles they lived by, Morality (Prophet & Evangelist), Law (Justice & Mercy), Education (Youth & Wisdom), and Liberty (Tyranny Overthrown & Peace). These are the exact four elements our founding forefathers based their writings on the United States Constitution.
It is always a mystery why Christianity is the first to be erased from our foundings, especially when it was the initial motivation in establishing a people.
On the front panel of this monument, it states, "National Monument to the Forefathers. Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices, and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty." Today as we glance into the political world, we will see a glaring offense, those politicals who work tirelessly to remove our civil and religious liberties. I don’t know about you, but I will maintain the admonition of Governor William Bradford, which is written on the back panel.
"Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all praise."
Through all attempts of removing or reconstructing history, history is history. We cannot change what is true. We cannot change what is right. We cannot change the reality of those who sacrificed their lives to give us our freedom. Freedom is not free. It always requires someone to lay down their lives to offer such freedom to future generations. Truth is immovable.