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in American history, the group of separatistsseparatists,
in religion, those bodies of Christians who withdrew from the Church of England. They desired freedom from church and civil authority, control of each congregation by its membership, and changes in ritual. In the 16th cent.
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 and other individuals who were the founders of Plymouth ColonyPlymouth Colony,
settlement made by the Pilgrims on the coast of Massachusetts in 1620. Founding

Previous attempts at colonization in America (1606, 1607–8) by the Plymouth Company, chartered in 1606 along with the London Company (see Virginia Company), were
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. The name Pilgrim Fathers is given to those members who made the first crossing on the Mayflower.


The nucleus of the group came into being in the meetings of a group of Puritans (see PuritanismPuritanism,
in the 16th and 17th cent., a movement for reform in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas of England and America. Origins

Historically Puritanism began early (c.
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) at Scrooby, a village in Nottinghamshire, England. Opposed to the episcopal jurisdiction and the rites and discipline of the Church of England, the group had formed as a separatist church by 1606, with John RobinsonRobinson, John,
1576?–1625, English nonconformist pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers in Holland. In 1592 he entered Cambridge; in 1597 he received a fellowship and was ordained. Soon thereafter he became curate of a church at Norwich.
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 eventually becoming their minister. The congregation was composed mainly of farmers and artisans, men of little education or position, although William BrewsterBrewster, William,
1567–1644, English separatist and Plymouth colonist. After studying briefly at Cambridge he became the chief member of the congregation at Scrooby that broke away, or separated, from the Anglican Church in 1606; the members, after their migration to
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, one of their leaders, was a man of some importance in the town and had spent some time at the Univ. of Cambridge. Although not actively persecuted, the group was subjected to ecclesiastical investigation and to the mockery, criticism, and disfavor of their neighbors.

Emigration to Holland

To avoid contamination of their strict beliefs and to escape the hated church from which they had separated, the sect decided to move to Holland, where other groups had found religious liberty, despite an English law that forbade emigration without royal permission. After several false starts, two of which were frustrated by the law, small groups made their way to the Netherlands in 1607, and by the middle of 1608 most of them had reached Amsterdam. They went from there to Leiden, where they established themselves as artisans and laborers.

Life in Holland was not easy, however, and the immigrants found the presence of radical religious groups there objectionable. Dutch influence also seemed to be altering their English ways, and the prospect of renewed war between the Netherlands and Spain threatened. For these reasons they considered moving to the New World.

To the New World

In 1617, John CarverCarver, John,
c.1576–1621, first governor of Plymouth Colony. A wealthy London merchant, in 1609 he emigrated to Holland, where he soon joined the Pilgrims at Leiden.
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 and Robert Cushman went to London to make arrangements with the London Company, cautiously negotiating the pledges necessary to satisfy the company, king, and bishops and still keep the religion of the dissenters pure. In 1619 a charter was secured from the company in the name of one John Wincob, but it was never used. The matter lapsed until early in 1620, when Thomas Weston, speaking for a group of London merchants, offered them support and the use of a charter already obtained from the London Company. A joint-stock company to last for seven years was arranged. The congregation voted in favor of the voyage, but only about half of the members decided to go.

A small vessel, the Speedwell, was obtained to carry the Pilgrims to England, where that vessel joined the MayflowerMayflower,
ship that in 1620 brought the Pilgrims from England to New England. She set out from Southampton in company with the Speedwell, the vessel that had borne some of the English separatists from the Netherlands back to England for the momentous voyage.
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 for the trip to America. Difficulties arose, however, over restrictive arrangements included by Weston in the agreement in order to guarantee more strongly the investment by the merchants, and the Pilgrims, unwilling to accept the revised agreement, sailed without reaching a settlement. The Speedwell proved unseaworthy and returned to port; many of the passengers and much of her cargo were crowded on the Mayflower, which set out alone.

The Leiden group constituted only 35 of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower; many of the English group gathered for the trip were not even separatists (they were thus called "Strangers"). Nonetheless, the Leiden group (the "Saints") retained control and were the moving force behind the emigration. While most of the Leiden Pilgrims were English, modern scholars have found that several were French-speaking WalloonsWalloons
, group of people living in S Belgium who traditionally spoke a dialect of French called Walloon, but who today for the most part speak standard French. The Walloons, numbering some 3.
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 and one was a Pole. Before landing, an agreement providing for a government by the will of the majority was drawn up and called the Mayflower CompactMayflower Compact,
in U.S. colonial history, an agreement providing for the temporary government of Plymouth Colony. The compact was signed (1620) on board the Mayflower
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. In Dec., 1620, the Mayflower entered Plymouth harbor, where the settlers established the Plymouth ColonyPlymouth Colony,
settlement made by the Pilgrims on the coast of Massachusetts in 1620. Founding

Previous attempts at colonization in America (1606, 1607–8) by the Plymouth Company, chartered in 1606 along with the London Company (see Virginia Company), were
..... Click the link for more information.


See W. Bradford, History of Plimouth Plantation (first pub. 1856); H. M. Dexter, The England and Holland of the Pilgrims (1905); R. G. Usher, The Pilgrims and Their History (1918); G. F. Willison, Saints and Strangers (1945, rev. ed. 1965) and The Pilgrim Reader (1953); S. E. Morison, The Story of the Old Colony of New Plymouth (1956); J. Demos, Little Commonwealth (1970); N. Philbrick, Mayflower (2008); N. Bunker, Making Haste from Babylon (2010).

References in periodicals archive ?
A jointly funded project between Nottinghamshire County Council and Bassetlaw District Council to appoint industry specialists who can undertake a feasibility study/demand analysis (local/national and international - focused particularly on the US market) around the potential value that the history of the Pilgrim Fathers story can bring to Nottinghamshire (and the wider UK) visitor economy and in response to the market analysis, provide an assessment of the types of projects and events that may be developed to maximise this market demand and capitalise on the 400th anniversary of the UK sailing and the US landing of the Mayflower in 2020 - in partnership with other areas.
Is it for tearing the two asunder that Jesus condemns in strong words, the Pilgrim Fathers founded the United States of America in the name of God?
Native Americans saved the Pilgrim Fathers from starvation.
As the foregoing demonstrates, there is much truth in the stories we have been taught regarding our Pilgrim Fathers and the First Thanksgiving they celebrated with the Indians that shared that small plot of earth with them.
When the harvest was in, the Pilgrim Fathers could relax briefly to be thankful for what the first year in the new world had brought them.
While in the Old Bell, I saw visions of men dressed like the Pilgrim Fathers," said the 37 year-old medium.
Peel's Commercial Director Nell Pakey said: "We have a rich history and heritage in the UK, with great British heroes and leaders who are known across the world--such as Robin Hood and the Pilgrim Fathers.
The book ranges from arcana about the Pilgrim fathers and the Patuxet Indians who succored them to ritual poems that can be read aloud at turkey chow-down time.
In search of the roots of that practical spirituality that caught de Tocqueville's attention, Eric Olsen, our associate executive editor, traveled to England to visit the towns and villages where the Pilgrim Fathers grew up and lived before venturing their lives on the Mayflower voyage.
As she noted in "A Glance Backwards, 1965," in the passage I have already quoted, "when reading for example the early nineteenth-century American novelist Hawthorne I naturally asked myself what does he tell us about the nature of the society in which he wrote, and then went on to inquire why the Calvinistic rural society of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Scotland produced so different a literature from the similar theocratic society set up in New England by the Pilgrim Fathers who emigrated from England and were Hawthorne's ancestors--both directly in fact and artistically by determining the theme and values of his writings.
The modest initial hundred colonists, among them the Puritan Pilgrim fathers, settled towards the end of November 1620 in their more-or-less real and more-or-less imaginary paradise.
One Italian immigrant student grasped that "the Pilgrim fathers had come in pursuit of religious freedom; we had come in pursuit of more and better bread.