Mayflower

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Free History For Your Report

The Mayflower

The Mayflower was an English merchant ship that was made famous in 1620 by carrying the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts from Southampton, England. Between the years of 1609-1622, the vessel was commanded by Captain Christopher Jones of London. Primarily used as a cargo ship, the main purpose of the Mayflower was to transport dry goods and wine from London to other European nations, including France, Germany and Spain. While the exact dimensions of the ship are unknown, many experts believe it was approximately 110 feet long and 25 feet wide, as was customary of such ships of the day.
The Mayflower’s famous voyage across the Atlantic was originally organized by the English Separatists (Pilgrims) to leave England on August 5th, 1620, alongside the Speedwell, a smaller vessel also transporting Separatists. The voyage was cut short, however, when the Speedwell developed a leak and had to be repaired. A second attempt to make the voyage was thwarted when the leak had to be repaired a second time. During this time, all the passengers and luggage were transported from the Speedwell to the Mayflower, resulting in a ship with 102 passengers and 25 crew members. The Mayflower began the voyage solo; during the trip the Pilgrim leaders had found out that a leak never existed on the Speedwell, but was a hoax created by Pilgrims who did not want to have to travel to the new land.

Of the entire collection of passengers and crew, only one – William Bradford – kept a written account of the historic voyage, which was later published as part of his journal, “Of Plymouth Plantation.” The original destination of the Pilgrims’ voyage was the Hudson River, where they were granted permission to settle in Virginia by The London Company, a royal charter designed to develop the new world. Due to foul winter weather, however, the Mayflower was forced to travel north, eventually landing at the tip of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. The New England winter that year was one of the harshest of recent times, and the settlers were unable to reach a united conclusion on how to proceed with living at Cape Cod. To help settle disagreements among the settlers, 41 of the 102 passengers wrote “The Mayflower Compact,” the first governing document of what would become the Plymouth Colony. The Compact essentially was an agreement among the settlers that they could practice Christianity how they saw fit, without the imposition of a higher governing power. For a short time, the Pilgrims remained living on the ship, and also explored nearby Native American villages. When looting and stealing occurred at the hands of the English, a fight with the Nauset Tribe in December of 1620 forced the group of settlers to relocate to Plymouth.

Despite the dedication of the settlers, however, only 53 of the original 102 crew members were still alive by the spring of 1621; scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis were some of the diseases that claimed the Pilgrims during their first winter. On April 5th, 1621, the Mayflower raised anchor and headed back across the Atlantic, returning to Southampton on May 6, 1621. In March of the following year, Captain Jones died, and the Mayflower was decommissioned and sold for scrap lumber in 1623.

In 1629, a second merchant ship, also named Mayflower, made the first of five successful voyages between London and the Plymouth Colony. In 1641, a sixth voyage carrying 140 Pilgrims proved disastrous, and the ship sunk in the Atlantic.

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