Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Plymouth --harbor of religious freedom (1620)

Let's go back to where it all started... In 1497, the English, under Cabot explored the 'colonial option'. Lead by Spain and Portugal's example, England began exploration of the New World. Well that's all very interesting, but the important question is why. Why leave Europe? What was the motivation? What events lead to those motives? Modern historians will tell you that explorers were purely motivated by gold, adventure, and fame. It's true that those things motivated some. But they weren't the ultimate motive. To get to the root of it, let's look first at the rise of the Tudor dynasty. In order to end dynastic conflict in England (between the York's and Lancaster's) once and for all, Henry Tudor, a descendant of John of Gaunt's Welsh mistress (later wife), came to the throne as a Lancaster. In order to unite England, Henry (VII) married a Yorkist. But let's move along. The Tudor England peeked under Henry VII's granddaughter, Elizabeth I. Under her reign, colonization was sketchy at best. In the 1580's, Ralegh lead the colonizing effort, resulting in the Roanoke colony. As seen from history, Roanoke was a failure. To this day, historian can only speculate as to what happened to the colonists. I know what your thinking, "okay, fine. What's the point?" I'll get there soon. Let's skip forward to 1620 and the Plymouth colony. First, we'll see what motivated the Pilgrims to leave England for America. To do that we must start with Martin Luther and 1517. According to Richard Dunn, in that year he "inaugurated the ideological controversy" which tore Europe apart and cause a religious exodus out of Europe. By the mid-to-late 1500's, France, Holland, the Holy Roman Empire, and England were facing civil unrest between the Roman Catholic Church and the new Protestant denominations (primarily the Calvinist, Lutheranism, and Anglicans. These tensions lead to all out war by the beginning of the 17th century. Back in England, Elizabeth dies without and heir and the throne of England goes to James Stuart VI of Scotland (Ist of England). Unlike Elizabeth, the Stuart's were less interested in maintaining religious harmony in England. Under the Stuart dynasty, religious tensions escalated between two Protestant factions: Puritian's--who saw that the Anglican Church was becoming more and more Catholic, but believed that they could purify it from within, and the Separatist's who believed the Anglican Church was beyond saving. The Separatist's left England under intense religious persecution and went to Holland--the first modern Republic. But the Separatist's children started to become Dutch, instead of holding on to their English heritage. They were enticed with the promise of religious freedom in the New World, and in 1620 they founded Plymouth Colony where they could worship God freely.

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