A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. — Alexander Tytler

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Mayflower

While the Spaniards were settling in Florida and New Mexico, the French in Acadia, and the Dutch in the New Netherlands, the English, as we have seen, had also been busy. In Virginia they had founded Jamestown, and Gosnold and John Smith had visited and named several places in New England, such as Cape Cod and the Charles River.

During the next few years several attempts were made to found a colony in New England, but all failed. Still, although no real settlements were made, English fishing vessels were often seen along the coast, where codfish could easily be caught and dried. The captain of one of these fishing boats is said to have captured twenty-four Indians, whom he carried off to sell as slaves. Among these savages was one named Squanto. He was taken first to Spain and then to England before he was shipped back to his native land.

When poor Squanto finally reached the New England shores once more he found everything sadly changed. During his absence a terrible plague had broken out and swept away nearly all his tribe. Wigwams, fields, hunting and fishing grounds were now deserted, and the few Indians who had escaped death had gone to live elsewhere. Squanto therefore joined another tribe, to whom he soon proved very useful, for he had learned enough English to serve as interpreter between them and the fishermen.

Nowadays people can be of any religion they choose, but in the beginning of the seventeenth century every one was expected to practice the religion of the country in which he lived. After following the Roman Catholic religion for about nine centuries, the English, in the middle of the sixteenth century, suddenly decided that England should have a church of her own. Their king, Henry VIII., said that while the pope was head of the Roman Catholic Church, he would henceforth be head of the Anglican or English Church. He added that all his subjects would have to attend the services of that church, and pay a tax to him for its support, just as they had done to the pope.

Although there were a great many people quite willing to do this, others said that as their parents had been Roman Catholics they would be so too. These people were very firm, and although the king tried to force them to change their religion, some of them bravely died rather than do what they considered wrong.

At first there were only Roman Catholics and Anglicans in England. But after a time some of the Anglicans said that they wanted a plainer and purer religion. They repeated this so often that before long they were known all over England as the Puritans. Next, some of the Puritans refused to go to the Anglican Church at all, or to pay for its support, and because they did this they were treated just as unkindly as the Roman Catholics.

Those Puritans who separated themselves from their brethren and refused to go to the Anglican Church were soon called Separatists. They were held in great contempt, and persecuted by all those who did not believe exactly as they did. After standing this for several years, some of them left England in 1607, and after many trials founded a Separatist colony at Leyden in Holland.

Here they had to work very hard to make a living; and although they tried to keep their children apart from the rest of the people, they soon saw that the boys and girls were learning the Dutch language and ways so rapidly that before long they would cease to be English. The Separatists therefore began to wonder where they could go so their children would hear nothing but the English language, have no dealings with people of a different religion, and still have a fair chance to make a living.

They finally decided to go to the New World, and sent to ask King James's permission to found a colony in a place where, while remaining his faithful subjects, they could worship as they pleased. James allowed them to go to America, but refused to give them a paper granting all the rights they wished. Still, as the Separatists knew that the king was as likely to break a written promise as a verbal one, they made up their minds to run the risk.

Too poor to hire vessels to carry them and their goods across the ocean, the Separatists borrowed the necessary money from English speculators, promising that all their earnings for the next seven years should be equally divided between the merchants and the colonists. Then, hearing that none but Church of England people would be received in Virginia, they decided to settle in the land Hudson had described so favorably.

As the Separatists were about to set out on a long pilgrimage, or journey, for the sake of their religion, they took the name of Pilgrims. The youngest and strongest among them were to go out first, under the guidance of one of their teachers, Elder Brewster. But all the old and feeble members were to remain in Holland a little longer, in charge of their minister, Mr. Robinson. After a last feast together, and a solemn parting prayer, the Pilgrims received their pastor's blessing, said good-by to their friends, and embarked on the Speedwell  at Delfshaven. The spot whence they started is now marked by a monument commemorating their departure, and from there Robinson prayerfully watched them until they were out of sight. Although their vessel was old and leaky, the Pilgrims reached Southampton safely. Here they found friends waiting for them, and all ready to sail in the Mayflower. After a short delay both vessels set out together; but they soon had to put back, because the Speedwell  proved unsafe. Leaving it at Plymouth, one hundred and two of the most determined Pilgrims embarked on the Mayflower, which set out alone to cross the Atlantic Ocean (1620).

The Mayflower

In those times all travel, whether by land or sea, was very slow. It was therefore only after sixty-three days that the Mayflower, driven out of its course by a storm, reached Cape Cod Bay. Thus, you see, it came to the shores of New England instead of New York or New Jersey. During that long and tempestuous journey one of the passengers died; but, as one little baby was born on the ship, the Pilgrims still numbered one hundred and two souls.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell