Pilgrims and the Puritans

The Pilgrims and the Puritans … A Study in Contrasts

Pilgrims And PuritansThe story of the Pilgrims and the Puritans is an interesting one. Both groups were religiously persecuted in England … both decided to leave their homeland and to risk everything by setting up a new life in a vast and virtually-unpopulated land, the Americas … and both succeeded admirably.

They came (to America) … they saw … they settled … and, against all odd s– they survived. And that’s where the similarities between the two groups “hit a stone wall.”  In the final analysis, they really were quite different.

The Pilgrims were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean seeking a new life in the Americas. The year of their departure was 1620, nearly four hundred years ago. If you know your history, you remember that they traveled from England to “the new land” in a single wooded ship, the Mayflower. 102 Pilgrims made that trip, along with a ship’s crew of about thirty men.  It was a difficult voyage that took sixty-six days to complete.

When the Mayflower neared the shores of this rugged new land, it was hit by a storm that threw it off course. The ship landed at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts, even though its planned destination was northern Virginia. From the very beginning, the Pilgrims were tolerant and friendly with the native Indians that lived in the area. And, while the Pilgrims arrived without sufficient food to help them survive the first year, and without the basic skills they would need to hunt, fish and farm in order to feed themselves, they were fortunate enough to establish a peaceful co-existence with the local Indians who taught them how to survive.

They did survive (although about half of their number perished in that first year) and, over time, established a stable colony that flourished and grew.

The Puritans crossed the Atlantic just a few years after the Pilgrims. Unlike the Pilgrims, they reached the Americas well-stocked with food supplies which virtually guaranteed that they would easily survive their first winter in the new land. And … that is exactly what happened. But, unlike the Pilgrims, the Puritans were extremely intolerant of anyone and everyone who did not share their beliefs. It’s interesting to note that they left England because of the intolerance they experienced at the hands of the majority. And yet, once free of England and their religious tormentors, they became extremely intolerant.

The result of that intolerance is that, unlike the Pilgrims just a few years earlier, the Puritans found themselves in a contentious and difficult relationship with the local Indians. It was a problem that would not disappear and, in fact, resulted in much strife and tension between the two sides in the early years of their troubled co-existence.

In time, the diseases brought to the new land by both the Pilgrims and the Puritans began to take a heavy toll on the Indians with whom they came into contact. It led to the virtual disappearance of the tribes that had flourished for thousands of years before the first ship brought Europeans to their shores.