The Landing of the Pilgrims
ANNOUNCER It was in the month of December in 1620 that the Pilgrim Fathers
landed on Plymouth Rock and proceeded to establish the first permanent white
settlement in New England. But the Pilgrims had not set out for America to
establish their new home in New England--far from it--they had a charter
permitting their settlement in the northern portion of the Virginia
plantation, and it was toward Virginia that the little band of passengers
aboard the Mayflower thought they were heading. The story of how they happened
to come to the stern and rockbound coast of New England and of how they
happened to stay there and carve out of the wilderness a great commonwealth is
Let us begin our story in Leyden, Holland, where for some eleven years the
Pilgrims have lived in exile from England, driven out because of their
religious faith. It is early in the year 1620, and John Robinson, who is the
pastor and leader of the Pilgrims, is talking to John Carver, who is one of
the elders of the church.
ROBINSON No word yet from Elder Brewster?
CARVER Nay, not a word. I fear me that he and Master Cushman have found it
impossible to raise such a large sum of money.
ROBINSON If we delay much longer King James may repent himself of his
generosity in allowing us to settle in Virginia.
CARVER I begin to fear that we are doomed to spend the rest of our days in
ROBINSON Nay, nay, do not lose heart. Jehovah will find a way for his
children. Remember, the Children of Israel wandered for forty years in the
wilderness before they found rest in the Promised Land.
CARVER I'll not lose faith, Pastor Robinson. I know a way will be found for
ROBINSON Will you see who's at the door?
CARVER Of course, Pastor. [_sound of opening door_] Good day to you, sir.
KIEFT Does Master John Robinson dwell here?
CARVER Aye. Will you enter?
KIEFT Thank you.
CARVER Pastor Robinson, this gentleman would speak with you.
ROBINSON Good morrow to you, sir.
KIEFT Are you Pastor Robinson, then?
ROBINSON I am. And to what do I owe the honor of this visit, Master--ah--?
KIEFT My name is Kieft, Wilhelm Kieft, at your service.
ROBINSON I am honored, Master Kieft. Allow me to present Master Carver. [_they
greet each other_]
KIEFT And now to the business that brought me here--it is rumored about Leyden
that you and your company are about to leave Leyden. Is that true?
ROBINSON There is, as yet, nothing certain, Master Kieft.
KIEFT But you are planning an emigration to the New World, are you not?
ROBINSON It has been talked of, certainly, but thus far we have not found the
KIEFT Well, Master Robinson, perhaps I can find them for you.
CARVER Tell us, Master Kieft!
KIEFT I am a member of the Dutch West India Company, which possesses a large
tract of land in the New World.
ROBINSON Indeed, I did not know that.
KIEFT Ah, yes, through the discovery of a countryman of yours, Henry Hudson,
who sailed under our flag, we own the country from the Great South River to
the Great North River, where, I am told, the climate is healthful and
pleasant, and the land rich and bountiful.
CARVER And what do you propose to us?
KIEFT My company is prepared to furnish you land upon which to found a colony,
and capital to carry you and your people there and support you until you have
made yourselves self-supporting.
ROBINSON And for this you would expect of us--what?
KIEFT Some small share of your profits.
CARVER Yes, and what else?
KIEFT Nothing, except that you should live under the Dutch flag and make our
claim to the land secure.
CARVER Your offer is generous, Master Kieft.
ROBINSON And you make no other conditions than those you mention?
KIEFT None, I assure you.
ROBINSON Can you offer them in writing so that our people may consider them?
KIEFT Indeed, yes, if you are interested, my company will make you a written
offer within a fortnight.
ROBINSON We are interested, Master Kieft, very much so.
KIEFT Good. You shall receive our conditions as soon as I can arrange it. Good
ROBINSON Good day, sir, and thank you.
CARVER Jehovah has heard our prayer. The way is open. Mayhap--
ROBINSON Is it not a generous offer?
CARVER Generous? Aye, but still--
CARVER I like it not.
ROBINSON Indeed, and why not?
CARVER Why should the Dutch West India Company make us such a generous offer?
ROBINSON Why indeed, but that we may establish for them a colony in the New
CARVER Aye, a colony that will give them a stronger hold upon disputed land.
ROBINSON Do you think the land is disputed?
CARVER I know but little of the New World. I know not even where the Great
North River or the Great South River may be, but only this I know: King James
and his Virginia Company would take it much amiss, that having a patent to
lands in Virginia, we turned to the Dutch and settled under their flag.
ROBINSON And what has King James ever done for us but persecute us, drive us
from our homes, and make of us pilgrims upon the face of the earth?
CARVER Aye, but I am an Englishman. I had looked with joy upon our emigration
to America, because I had hoped we could once again live under British rule.
ROBINSON Many of our company have felt the same; but if we cannot go except
under the Dutch flag, still we must go.
ROBINSON The hand of Jehovah leads us; we must follow.
ANNOUNCER So the offer of the Dutch West India Company was received and in due
course of time the provisions were put into writing. The Pilgrim company
discussed the offer from every angle. All of them would have preferred to
settle under the British flag, if it could have been arranged, but because
more than six months had passed and they had not found anyone who could
finance them, they felt that the Dutch offer should be accepted.
Therefore, near the end of February, 1620, Pastor Robinson and Elder Carver
meet with Wilhelm Kieft to settle finally the matter of the emigration. Let us
listen as they talk together.
KIEFT Two ships and one thousand pounds, which you can repay in ten years.
ROBINSON And all your company demands is a monopoly in the fur trade?
KIEFT That is all. Otherwise you shall do what pleases you; but all of the fur
must belong to the Dutch West India Company.
ROBINSON That seems just. What think you, Elder Carver?
CARVER Who shall govern us, Master Kieft?
KIEFT You shall say that yourself. Who governs you now?
ROBINSON We have no governor except the Elders of the Church.
KIEFT It shall be the same in the New World.
CARVER Do the terms satisfy you, Pastor Robinson?
ROBINSON Indeed, I am more than satisfied.
KIEFT Then shall we sign the articles? [_rattle of paper_]
ROBINSON I can think of nothing more we should consider, can you, Elder?
KIEFT Then, if you have a quill, we can sign now. [_knock_]
ROBINSON Your pardon, someone knocks.
CARVER [_going_] I'll see who it is.
ROBINSON Thank you, Elder. Ah, here is the quill. Now, where is the inkhorn?
Ah, yes, here.
KIEFT Sign here. [_rattle of paper_]
ROBINSON Let us wait for Elder Carver.
CARVER [_off_] Oh, Pastor Robinson?
CARVER Your pardon, sir, will you come here at once?
ROBINSON What is it?
CARVER [_off_] Thomas Weston of London desires to see you.
KIEFT Can we not finish our business first?
ROBINSON Tell him to come in and sit down while we get this business finished.
CARVER [_off_] Will you come in, Master Weston?
WESTON [_coming in_] Thank you. Have I the honor of addressing Master
ROBINSON I'm Robinson.
WESTON I'm Thomas Weston, and I have come on behalf of a company of London
KIEFT [_sharply_] Master Robinson, your pardon, but may we not finish this
business in hand?
ROBINSON Certainly! Elder Carver, Master Kieft is waiting for us to sign the
Articles of Emigration.
WESTON Your pardon, Master Robinson, did you say "Articles of Emigration"?
ROBINSON Why, yes.
WESTON I have an offer to make you for the emigration of your company.
KIEFT I must insist, sir--
ROBINSON One moment, Master Kieft.
KIEFT Are you going to sign or not?
ROBINSON Master Kieft, this may cause us to change our plans; we must
consider. What is your offer, Master Weston?
WESTON A company of seven London merchants has agreed to furnish ships and
capital to carry you and your people to America.
KIEFT You have already agreed with me--
ROBINSON We have signed nothing yet. Where, Master Weston, does your company
propose that we settle?
WESTON In northern Virginia--between the Great South River and the Great North
KIEFT That, sir, is the land of the Dutch West India Company.
WESTON Your pardon, but King James has decreed--
KIEFT [_getting angrier_] I care not what your sovereign may have decreed--he
has no claim to that land. My company discovered and explored it!
WESTON Has your company established any plantations there?
KIEFT That makes no difference.
WESTON Until you have established plantations, you cannot claim it.
KIEFT I do not wish to argue with you, sir. I am here to close this business
with you, Master Robinson. I am waiting--
ROBINSON We must have time to consider--
KIEFT I had your word.
CARVER Master Kieft, the situation has changed. We are Englishmen, and if we
can emigrate under our own flag, you cannot blame us for preferring it to
KIEFT You have tricked us--you are not treating me fairly!
ROBINSON Now, sir--
KIEFT [_louder_] And I warn you if you go to our land under the British flag,
you shall regret it, sir, you shall regret it. Good day! [_sound of door
ANNOUNCER Thus the Pilgrims incurred the enmity of the Dutch West India
Company, and though the terms of the London merchants were not so generous as
those offered by the Dutch company, the Pilgrims accepted them and set about
making their preparations for the great adventure.
They secured for their voyage two ships, the _Speedwell_ and the _Mayflower_.
Our next scene is early in July of 1620. The _Mayflower_ has been engaged for
the voyage, and is lying at anchor in the Thames River off London, where it is
undergoing some repairs preparatory to taking on cargo, which is to come to
the New World. Aboard the ship is only the master, Captain Jones, when he is
KIEFT [_off_] Ahoy, the _Mayflower_!
JONES Ahoy! Who's hailing the _Mayflower_?
KIEFT Here--alongside! May I come aboard?
JONES What do you want?
KIEFT I want to talk to the master of the ship.
JONES I'm master. What do you want?
KIEFT May I come aboard?
JONES Come aboard. The ladder's over the side.
KIEFT All right, I'm coming. [_lower_] Keep the boat alongside!
VOICE Aye, aye, sir!
KIEFT [_low_] Stay here till I'm ready to leave!
VOICE Aye, aye, sir!
JONES Here you are--right up here, sir. Give me your hand! Ah, there you are,
KIEFT [_in_] Thank you, sir. Are you the master of the ship?
JONES I am, sir.
KIEFT I understand you are engaged for the voyage.
JONES That we are, sir, to America.
KIEFT Aye, yes--by a company of London merchants.
JONES And what's that to you, sir, begging your pardon?
KIEFT No matter, I know well enough you are. And now, sir, I want to know if
you'd like to put yourself in the way of earning a hundred pounds?
JONES A hundred! Law, sir, and who wouldn't?
KIEFT Exactly! I hoped I'd find you a man of sense.
JONES What do you want me to do?
KIEFT You are sailing for northern Virginia, are you not?
JONES That's the orders.
KIEFT Where do you expect to make land?
JONES I was looking to make it in the mouth of the Great North River.
KIEFT Hm--you know, I suppose, that the Dutch West India Company claims all
the land bordering on the Great North River.
JONES [_laughing_] Why, sir, everybody claims it. That's no matter. King James
has proclaimed that all the land that has been settled belongs to them that
has settled it; the rest is anybody's. When the company I'm taking gets their
plantation settled, the Dutch can't claim the land any longer.
KIEFT Perhaps not, but your company is not going to land on Dutch territory.
KIEFT You are going to lose your bearings--
JONES Me--a sailor--lose my bearings?
KIEFT Certainly--for one hundred pounds.
KIEFT And you will make land far to the north of the Great North River.
JONES I'll have to see the color of the money.
KIEFT Is it a bargain?
JONES Have you got the money with you?
KIEFT I have, and on your promise, I'll pay it.
JONES All right. I'll see that the company is landed where you wish.
ANNOUNCER And so Captain Jones of the _Mayflower_ was bribed by Dutch gold to
play false with the band of Pilgrims. You know the story of the long and
difficult job the Pilgrims had in getting fairly started on their voyage. The
_Speedwell_ sprang a leak, and they had to put back to Plymouth harbor where
the ship was repaired. They made a second start, and again the _Speedwell_
became unseaworthy and the captain refused to go on, so a second time the
little flotilla put back to Plymouth. This time, since the season was far
advanced and the Pilgrims feared that winter would be upon them before they
could get established in their new home, the _Speedwell_ was left behind, and
on September 16, 1620, the _Mayflower_ left alone for the New World. Halfway
across the ocean the ship was beset by a long series of storms, so severe that
it took more than two months for the ship to make the trip across the
Atlantic. At last, on the morning of November 20, 1620, the ship's company
were awakened by the electric cry of--
VOICE Land--ho! Land--land--ho!
JONES [_calling_] Where away?
VOICE Two points off the starboard bow!
MOB [_voices swelling up_] Land! Land! Is it really land? Captain, Captain!
Have we really made land? Land? [_etc._]
JONES Aye, we've made land! Helmsman, bring the ship to bear on land, dead
VOICE Aye, aye, sir, land dead ahead.
CARVER [_coming up_] Ah, Captain Jones, at last!
JONES Aye, at last--land ahead!
CARVER Praise Jehovah!
ALL Praise Jehovah! Amen! [_etc._]
CARVER Captain, tell us, is this Virginia that lies before us?
JONES I know not; I've not yet taken our bearings.
CARVER Do you not know where we are?
JONES How should I? We've been tossed about in storms for a month, with no sun
for days on end.
CARVER There is sun this morning. Can you not take your bearings now?
JONES The mate is figuring our position even now.
VOICE Captain Jones?
JONES Aye, mate, have you the position?
VOICE I made it, sir, about seventy west by forty-two north.
CARVER Forty-two north--but, Captain, we are bound for forty north--we're out
of our course.
JONES What do you expect--with the storms we've had?
CARVER Put your ship about--make for the south--this is not Virginia!
JONES We'll land here.
CARVER We have no right to land here. Our charter grants us land in Virginia,
JONES I can't help that. The ship is in bad shape--I won't risk sailing her
any farther without repairs.
CARVER Very well, you may stop here for repairs, but we must go on as soon as
they are made.
JONES It will take some time.
CARVER My people will help you. We must speed the work.
JONES Of course, I'll speed it all I can, but a man can't do any more than he
CARVER Well, get to it at once--this very day! We must get away from here
within a fortnight or winter will be upon us.
JONES Aye, so it will--and the winters in this country are bad.
CARVER Then we must start south without delay.
JONES Look you, Master Carver--
CARVER Well, Captain?
JONES Belikes 'twill be a month or more before I can make the _Mayflower_
CARVER A month? Surely you can do better than that?
JONES Perhaps not so well--why don't you land here?
JONES Aye. 'Tis a goodly country--full as rich as Virginia.
CARVER Nay, nay, 'tis not to be thought on. We have a patent to lands in
Virginia--a charter to establish and rule a plantation there; but here--why,
the land is not ours--
JONES It is if you take it--it belongs to no one else.
CARVER But our Council would have no rights under the King--nay, nay. We go on
to Virginia--as soon as you have made your repairs.
JONES So be it, Master Carver.
ANNOUNCER So the _Mayflower_ brought up to anchor just inside Cape Cod, near
the present village of Provincetown. The voyage had been long and arduous.
There had been much sickness aboard, and Captain Jones knew that most of the
passengers longed to set foot on solid ground and begin the task of building
their homes. So he determined to create further dissatisfaction among them.
For our next scene we are going into Captain Jones's cabin just as one of the
five men of the company, Peter Brown, has come into the cabin on the captain's
JONES Sit you down, Master Brown, and find what comfort you can in my poor
PETER Poor! If this cabin is poor, Captain, what do ye call what us folks has
to put up with, all crowded into the common cabin like sheep er worse?
JONES Aye, 'tis too bad the cabin is not a better place for your goodly
PETER Aye, well, we'll soon be out of it.
JONES I fear me, not so soon.
PETER Indeed, why?
JONES The ship must be repaired before we can go on.
PETER How long will that take ye?
JONES Mayhap two months or more, I know not.
PETER Two months? Two months more in the cabin of this ship and half of our
company will be dead.
JONES Aye, belikes they will--and winter will be upon us hard and heavy. The
winters in this country are worse than any you have ever seen in England or
JONES The snow lies so deep it would cover a man's head--the land is blotted
out, and even the sea freezes--
PETER Then how could we get ashore?
JONES I know not.
PETER And once ashore, how could we find a fair place to build our homes?
JONES 'Tis not for me to say.
PETER Why can't we land right here, Captain?
JONES Because your Elder, Master Carver, says fix the ship and go on.
PETER If Elder Carver says that, then there be naught that we kin do.
JONES You'd stay packed in the ship's cabin, facing sickness and death, rather
than rise up like men and tell the Elder what you will and what you won't do,
PETER Elder Carver and the twelve masters have the voice; we have naught to do
but to obey.
JONES Can it be that forty English freemen can't vote down twelve masters?
PETER Under our charter the freemen have no voice.
JONES Under the charter, eh?
PETER Aye, so there's naught to do but what the masters say.
JONES Have you never heard of mutiny?
PETER Mutiny? Nay, we be lawful men, bound together in the love of Jehovah;
we'll not mutiny! We must abide by our charter.
JONES The charter, aye.
PETER So there's naught to do--
JONES Hold--have you thought on this--the charter binds you under the King's
grant in Virginia Plantation--
JONES And you are not in Virginia--
PETER Nay, not yet.
JONES So you are not bound by the Virginia charter in these waters.
PETER Forsooth, Captain, I'd not thought on that.
JONES You have here all the rights of free-born Englishmen. And if you rise
like men and demand that your Elders hearken to your voice, who shall gainsay
PETER Aye--who--who, indeed? If we vote to land here, 'tis not mutiny.
JONES Nay, 'tis but your right, if you want to land here.
PETER We do--we do! Not a man in the company but would stay here if he had his
JONES Then have your way--like Englishmen! Go to your cabin. Talk to the men
of your company, tell them what I have told you.
PETER Aye, Captain, I will! At once. [_going_]
JONES Good! [_sound of door closing_] [_to himself_] Well, Elder Carver, we
shall see whose voice is stronger--yours, or the voice of forty English
ANNOUNCER Thus Captain Jones planted in the mind of one of the freemen of the
Pilgrim company an idea which he was sure would bear fruit before many hours.
He watched the company as first one man and then another fell in with Peter
Brown. He felt the temper of the company changing, but he still did not feel
that mutiny was likely against the strong religious authority of the Elders.
And so to bring the matter to a head, he asked Carver to come to his cabin. As
the door closes, the captain begins--
JONES I fear me, Master Carver, we are in a bad way.
JONES The carpenter has gone over the ship timber by timber--
JONES It is a long, hard job we have before us.
CARVER Oh, too bad, too bad! How long?
JONES What with finding the proper timbers ashore, and hewing them to fit our
needs, I fear it may well be two months or more before we can leave these
CARVER Surely you can make what repairs are necessary in less time--you need
not rebuild the ship.
JONES Nay--but the ship is sprung at every seam; 'tis nothing but good fortune
that has kept it afloat so long.
CARVER The seams sprung?
JONES Aye--all of them.
CARVER Then our stores are in danger of being ruined.
JONES Aye, they are even now in such danger they should be unshipped.
CARVER Then we must do it--set your crew to the work at once.
JONES The crew has more than it can do to repair the ship and make it ready to
sail on to Virginia, since you insist on going on.
CARVER Then I'll set our company to work on the stores--we must not let them
JONES Nay, or you'll all face starvation, for you can count on nothing from
the land at this late date.
CARVER I'll gather the company together at once and set them to work!
JONES Aye, do, Master Carver.
CARVER We must unship the stores; [_going_] we'll begin at once. [_sound of
JONES [_to himself_] Mayhap your company will have something to say to that,
ANNOUNCER So Carver gathered together his company in the common cabin, and
standing before the stern-faced, storm-weary gathering, the Elder spoke:
CARVER Men of the Pilgrim company, as no doubt you are all well aware by now,
the land we made this morning with such joy and thanksgiving in our hearts is
not the land of the Virginia Plantation.
ALL Aye, we know as much! So we have heard. [_etc._]
CARVER But our ship is sore distressed from the buffeting of the storms, and
Captain Jones must needs make repairs before we can sail on to our
destination. [_protests and grumblings_] I would it were not so, for I know
how weary you find yourselves after the many days upon the sea. But there's
naught else to do.
PETER [_calling_] Why can't we land here? [_mob assents_]
CARVER Nay, nay, it cannot be. This is not Virginia; we have no patent to
these lands. We must sail on. The captain and his crew will make their repairs
as soon as they can, but our stores in the hold are all of them in danger of
spoiling--so we must needs unship them ourselves until such time as we may
sail away from here. So let every man prepare himself for work.
PETER Master Carver--we are not able to work. [_mob assents_]
CARVER I know, but--
PETER And more--'tis not our wish to stay aboard this ship longer--[_mob
CARVER But we can do naught else--
PETER Aye, we kin land here, and find a goodly place to build our homes and
prepare against the winter that will be down upon us long before we kin get to
Virginia. [_mob agrees heartily_]
CARVER Men--men--quiet--hark to me! We've no right under our charter to settle
PETER Then tear up the charter. [_mob agrees_]
CARVER Tear up the charter? Have no government? Nay, we can't do that!
PETER We be freemen, Master Carver; we have a right to a voice in what we'll
do, and what we won't do--and we all want to land here, don't we, men? [_all
CARVER But if we make our home here, we are outside the King's rule.
PETER We'll rule ourselves--we be free-born Englishmen! [_all agree_]
CARVER Mayhap--if that is your wish--
ALL It is! Aye, aye! [_etc._]
CARVER It may be for the best interest of the company and for the glory of
Jehovah. I consent to your wishes. [_cheers_] But it behooves us to enter into
a compact, one with the other--that no man may say, once we have landed in New
England, that we have no law and cannot punish the disobedient.
PETER May it please ye, sir, we be more than willing for the masters to write
a compact that all can sign to be governed like any free-born Englishmen by
the will o' the majority--[_all agree_]
CARVER So be it--let the masters of the company join me in my cabin, and we
shall make a compact joining all the company of freemen into a body politic.
ANNOUNCER And so in the cabin of the _Mayflower_ the masters of the company,
twelve in number, met in the first American legislative assembly and drew up
one of the most famous documents in American history--the Mayflower Compact--
which organized the first self-governing community in the New World.
Originally broadcast 21 December 1926
on NBC's dramatic anthology series
"Great Moments in History"