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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

How the Pilgrims Sailed from Delft Haven

By Edward Winslow (1595–1655)

[A Briefe Narration. 1646.]

NEVER people upon earth lived more lovingly together and parted more sweetly than we, the church at Leyden, did; not rashly, in a distracted humor, but upon joint and serious deliberation, often seeking the mind of God by fasting and prayer; whose gracious presence we not only found with us, but his blessing upon us, from that time to this instant, to the indignation of our adversaries, the admiration of strangers, and the exceeding consolation of ourselves, to see such effects of our prayers and tears before our pilgrimage here be ended. And therefore briefly take notice of the true cause of it.

’T is true that that poor persecuted flock of Christ, by the malice and power of the late hierarchy, were driven to Leyden in Holland, there to bear witness in their practice to the kingly office of Christ Jesus in his church; and there lived together ten years under the United States, with much peace and liberty. But our reverend pastor, Mr. John Robinson, of late memory, and our grave elder, Mr. William Brewster, (now at rest with the Lord,) considering, amongst many other inconveniences, how hard the country was where we lived, how many spent their estate in it and were forced to return for England, how grievous to live from under the protection of the State of England, how like we were to lose our language and our name of English, how little good we did or were like to do to the Dutch in reforming the sabbath, how unable there to give such education to our children as we ourselves had received, &c., they, I say, out of their Christian care of the flock of Christ committed to them, conceived, if God would be pleased to discover some place unto us, (though in America,) and give us so much favor with the King and State of England as to have their protection there, where we might enjoy the like liberty, and where, the Lord favoring our endeavours by his blessing, we might exemplarily show our tender countrymen by our example, no less burdened than ourselves, where they might live and comfortably subsist, and enjoy the like liberties with us, being freed from anti-christian bondage, keep their names and nation, and not only be a means to enlarge the dominions of our State, but the Church of Christ also, if the Lord have a people amongst the natives whither he should bring us, &c.—hereby, in their great wisdoms, they thought we might more glorify God, do more good to our country, better provide for our posterity, and live to be more refreshed by our labors, than ever we could do in Holland, where we were.

Now these their private thoughts, upon mature deliberation, they imparted to the brethren of the congregation, which after much private discussion came to public agitation, till at the length the Lord was solemnly sought in the congregation by fasting and prayer to direct us; who moving our hearts more and more to the work, we sent some of good abilities over into England to see what favor or acceptance such a thing might find with the King. These also found God going along with them, and got Sir Edwin Sands, a religious gentleman then living, to stir in it, who procured Sir Robert Naunton, then principal Secretary of State to King James, of famous memory, to move his Majesty by a private motion to give way to such a people (who could not so comfortably live under the government of another State) to enjoy their liberty of conscience under his gracious protection in America, where they would endeavour the advancement of his Majesty’s dominions and the enlargement of the Gospel by all due means. This his Majesty said was a good and honest motion, and asking what profits might arise in the part we intended, (for our eye was upon the most northern parts of Virginia,) ’twas answered, Fishing. To which he replied with his ordinary asseveration, “So God have my soul, ’tis an honest trade; ’twas the Apostles’ own calling,” &c. But afterwards he told Sir Robert Naunton (who took all occasions to further it) that we should confer with the bishops of Canterbury and London, &c. Whereupon we were advised to persist upon his first approbation, and not to entangle ourselves with them; which caused our agents to repair to the Virginia Company, who in their court demanded our ends of going; which being related, they said the thing was of God, and granted a large patent, and one of them lent us £300 gratis for three years, which was repaid.

Our agents returning, we further sought the Lord by a public and solemn Fast, for his gracious guidance. And hereupon we came to this resolution, that it was best for one part of the church to go at first, and the other to stay, viz. the youngest and strongest part to go. Secondly, they that went should freely offer themselves. Thirdly, if the major part went, the pastor to go with them; if not, the elder only. Fourthly, if the Lord should frown upon our proceedings, then those that went to return, and the brethren that remained still there, to assist and be helpful to them; but if God should be pleased to favor them that went, then they also should endeavour to help over such as were poor and ancient and willing to come.

These things being agreed, the major part stayed, and the pastor with them, for the present; but all intended (except a very few, who had rather we would have stayed) to follow after. The minor part, with Mr. Brewster, their elder, resolved to enter upon this great work, (but take notice the difference of number was not great.) And when the ship was ready to carry us away, the brethren that stayed having again solemnly sought the Lord with us and for us, and we further engaging ourselves mutually as before, they, I say, that stayed at Leyden feasted us that were to go, at our pastor’s house, being large; where we refreshed ourselves, after tears, with singing of psalms, making joyful melody in our hearts, as well as with the voice, there being many of the congregation very expert in music; and indeed it was the sweetest melody that ever mine ears heard. After this they accompanied us to Delph’s Haven, where we were to embark, and there feasted us again; and after prayer performed by our pastor, where a flood of tears was poured out, they accompanied us to the ship, but were not able to speak one to another for the abundance of sorrow to part. But we only going aboard, (the ship lying to the quay and ready to set sail, the wind being fair,) we gave them a volley of small shot and three pieces of ordnance, and so lifting up our hands to each other, and our hearts for each other to the Lord our God, we departed, and found his presence with us in the midst of our manifold straits he carried us through. And if any doubt this relation, the Dutch, as I hear, at Delph’s Haven preserve the memory of it to this day, and will inform them.