|THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Within the short span of a hundred years, starting in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a grand tide of emigration, one of the greatest population movements in all of the recorded history of mankind, swept from the European continent to new lands of America. This motivation to take the chance in a strange new world, was impelled by powerful and diverse forces, the natural tendency to seek escape from oppression and to crave freedom. Those few but hardy pioneers built a nation out of a stubborn wilderness and, by its nature, shaped the character and destiny of an uncharted continent.
The First to cross, The Mayflower Voyage
The first shiploads of immigrants aboard The Mayflower bound for the new territories, crossed the Atlantic more than a hundred years after the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century explorations of North America. In the meantime, thriving Spanish colonies had been established in Mexico, the West Indies, and South America. These travelers to North America came in small, horribly overcrowded craft. The Mayflower was not the first or only vessel chosen to make the crossing.
The first emigrants boarded a small 60 "tun" (tun barrels it could hold, rather than tons of water displaced) vessel called the Speedwell. They left the port of Delftshaven on July 22, 1620, amid fears, tears, prayers, and farewells.
The Pilgrim group sailed to Southampton, a city on the English south coast, where they were joined by additional immigrants recruited by Weston and the merchant adventurers on a 180 tun ship out of London, the MAYFLOWER. Christopher Jones was the master. Following a five week dispute over the
contract with the adventurers, the passengers on the two ships set sail for America on August 5. Their voyage was soon interrupted when the smaller Speedwell was discovered to be leaking badly. They put into the port of Dartmouth, Devonshire, and repairs were made, but the condition re-occurred once they were under sail again. The two ships were forced to make port a second time, in neighboring Plymouth.
There it was decided to leave the defective Speedwell behind, and continue on the MAYFLOWER alone. Some of the Speedwell's passengers and cargo were transferred to the larger ship, and on September 6, 1620 (my birthday, sigh . . . well not quite yet, of course, if it had been we may now be living in Carlo3bia, instead of America . . . but I digress), the MAYFLOWER set sail across the North Atlantic and its famous 102 passengers, into history.
During their six- to twelve-week voyage, they subsisted on meager rations. Many ships of the day were lost in storms, many passengers died of disease, and infants rarely survived the journey. Sometimes tempests blew the vessels far off their course, and often calm brought interminable delay. In spite of all of these obstacles, they made landfall. Remarkably, there were only two casualties during the voyage of the Mayflower.
The First Pilgrims
The single most compelling motive of thse emigrants to leave their European homelands was the desire for greater economic opportunity. This urge was frequently reinforced by other considerations, such as the yearning for religious freedom, a determination to escape political oppression, or the lure of adventure. Between 1620 and 1635, economic difficulties swept England, and multitudes could not find work. Even the best artisans could earn little more than a bare living. Bad crops added to the distress. The new world offered HOPE.