Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

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In Search of Freedom - Part IV
By Judy Leithe

In 1620, the Mayflower set its anchor off a spit of land known as Cape Cod -- first named in 1602 for extensive cod fishing.  The French and Dutch mariners also called it, "Malabar, by reason of those perilous shoals and losses suffered there..."

It was November.  "Summer was gone...and winter, sharpe and violent, lay ahead," wrote William Bradford in his now famous journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620 - 1647.  If they looked behind them,  "there was the mighty ocean which they had passed..."  But, looking inland they saw "desolate wilderness," and they feared savages "who would readily fill their sides full of arrows." 

The Pilgrims were a band of faithful souls who could only look heavenward for comfort.  Almost daily, their ship's captain warned that as soon as the ice-encrusted ship was fit, his crew would deposit the Pilgrims and their goods on shore, and the Mayflower would sail back to England! 

However, the captain was amenable to moving the Mayflower closer to the mainland to a suitable site for the building of their new colony.  The site was on a map drawn six years earlier by Captain John Smith.  Smith was one of the founders of Virginia's Jamestown Colony, in 1606-07.  But, his brutish and tyrannical ways were so disliked by his fellow settlers, they were ready to hang him or shoot him in his sleep.   

Captain Smith barely escaped Jamestown with his life, a ship, and crew, and headed north up the coast to Cape Cod, where, in 1614, he discovered an ideal site for a colony; it was on high ground beside a river and a field of corn planted earlier by indigenous peoples.  There was also a "sweet brook" which ran under a hillside and contained "much good fish."   Smith mapped the site, and named it "Plymouth."   

Next week, the first working party of Pilgrims began construction on what they renamed, "New Plymouth."