Before the Mayflower: Decision to Move to the New World

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There were many reasons for the Pilgrims to want to leave Holland.  They knew that they were also not going to be welcome in England.

There were legal issues abound.  An edict passed in July 1619 that prohibited the separatist from gathering and collecting for the poor.

Life was difficult for the Pilgrims in Leiden
Life was difficult for the Pilgrims in Leiden

The Pilgrims also fears war might break out with Spain again in Holland.

Brewster and Brewer were also arrested for their publications.  While Brewster was released, Brewer would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Many of the Pilgrims were aging and running out of their savings.

Many found work in textiles, printing and brewing trades while others were hampered by the language barrier and their rural backgrounds.  The Pilgrims were used to the laid-back country life and not business of a bustling city.   The hard work quickly aged the people and even caused early death.

According to Wikipedia, “All the emphasis on work also meant that the Pilgrims had little time or energy left over to “advance the Gospel:” participating in the great debates of the time over theology and church structure. ”

Wikipedia goes on to say, “Reasons for departure are suggested by Bradford, when he notes the “discouragements” of the hard life which they had in the Netherlands, and the hope of attracting others by finding “a better, and easier place of living”; the “children” of the group being “drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses”; the “great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.”

The settlement in Jamestown was well established by this point as the Pilgrims decided on Virginia for their new home
The settlement in Jamestown was well established by this point as the Pilgrims decided on Virginia for their new home

The Pilgrims considered going to either Virginia or Guiana before settling on seeking permission for Virginia.  By this time the town of Jamestown was already established.

There were many uncertainties about going to America, after hearing stories about failed colonies and the native people.  The danger of the long ocean voyage was also of a concern.

Arguments broke out among the group as they discussed what was best for the congregation.

The group finally decided to settle at the existing Virginia colony but to sue King James II for religious freedom.  This would provide both the religious freedom and stability and security they needed and sought.

King James II rejected their request.

Bradford wrote “It was granted that the dangers were great, but not desperate.  The difficulties were many, but not invincible.”

Would they ever be able to live in the freedom they desperately longed for?

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