During Bill’s recent trip to London, he was blessed to visit the birthplace and baptismal fount where William Bradford, Pilgrim father and governor of Plymouth Colony, was baptized as a child. The history of the place is almost overwhelming.
So much has been lost to the politically correct, revisionist history mavens in our educational institutions. We really know nothing of our ancestors, the men and women and children who came to America in the 1600s and settled here.
They were people who had weathered tortuous lives, both physically and spiritually. They turned to God for strength and the ability to forge a new life in a New World.
Today’s guest on Off the Grid Radio is a special treat for this Thanksgiving season. David Bradford is a 13th generational descendent of William Bradford and has made the study of Bradford, those Pilgrim ancestors as well as their history, his life’s work. Please join Bill Heid as he and David discuss who those men and women really were, a novel Off the Grid history lesson that we can use to teach the truth to future generations.
Off The Grid Radio
Release Date November 21, 2012
Bill: And welcome everybody, to a special Thanksgiving Off The Grid News radio version, where we have a very special guest from the Bradford family. Yes, the Bradford family of Mr. William Bradford and of course many of you know Mr. Bradford—William Bradford—was the founder of the—one of the founders—of the Plymouth colony in 1620, signer of the Mayflower Compact and certainly one of the colony’s governors for more than 30 years. He wrote most of what we know about the Pilgrims as they landed and a little bit before when he wrote Of Plymouth Plantation and so I’d like you to welcome David Bradford. David, welcome.
David: Well, thanks Bill. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Bill: Well, I just back from London and flying out of Heathrow and before I left, I spent a bunch of time David, up in the Scrooby area, Gainsborough area, Austerland area and I had a chance to actually have my hands around the baptismal font where William Bradford was baptized and so I was telling you the other day when we talked that it… I almost broke down because just who this man was and just the life that he lived is really something quite amazing to me and I’m really honored to have you just chat a little bit about him. So thanks again.
David: Wow. Yeah, I’m envious. I have now… The longer I have looked into… I am basically a student of William Bradford. I don’t profess to be a scholar of any type. I haven’t published anything at this point. But I really am fascinated to learn more about his life and the people that came from that region of England, which a lot of people, I think, have been given a short trip sort of, speaking of where they came from. I know Scrooby is one of those areas where everybody focuses on. I know some of the historians that wrote early in our country’s history have focused on that. And they gave a pretty simple… simplistic view of who these people were and where they came from. So I am thrilled to be able to shed some light on that and I kind of make it my mission… I kind of want to be a mouthpiece for the governor in my generation because I think so much has been lost.
Bill: Sure. Well, it has been lost and I think if you’ve seen Monumental with Kirk Cameron, one of the issues raised there is was it just lost through sort of… kind of rust? Did it just rust away? Or was there some intentional sort of revisionism in place? And I think we’ve got a combination of both. If you look at some of the college texts, high school texts today, you really don’t get much about these guys. One of the reasons I love to have you on and talk about this is we’re just… We have such a jaded perspective on these people and it’s really read in terms of the focus of Hawthorne’s work and of course a lot of folks after Hawthorne really painted the Pilgrims, the Separatists as just bad people.
But I think everybody’s got to remember these people were being persecuted for what they believed and sort of they come here and all of a sudden “You killed all the Indians. You did this. You did that.” And if you look at the headlines, just in the news—if you go on Dredge or someplace, you can look at the headlines—half the headlines were about people angry about Thanksgiving in the Left and so forth. And so let’s talk a little bit about what the background, what the antecedents were that created these fellows like your… William Bradford. Just what was going on and what was in the early part of his life? How did he grow up?
David: Oh, he… His early life is really most fascinating. Here is a man—a young man at the time—who was very… a very… I always say very well acquainted with death, surprisingly. I mean at a very early age. He wasn’t… just over a year old when his father died so he never really knew his father. And as he got a little bit older, he lived with his grandfather on their farm—he was a farmer, shepherd basically. That whole region up there was very agricultural, as you probably could tell from traveling through there.
David: But his grandfather then died when he was four years old. And so he went to live with his mother, who remarried a fellow named Robert Briggs and by the time he was seven, his mother died. So he’s got his entire family has basically been torn away from him and he’s growing up, just becoming very familiar with death and loss and this type of thing. But the other part that made it very interesting is at that point he went to live with his father-in-law who he ended up dying as well when he was 12 years old and so now he goes and lives with his uncles—Robert and Thomas—who… He had this strange illness. I mean they don’t really know… It was not an acute health problem but it was a chronic thing.
So he couldn’t… About the time he was 10 years old—it was a very impressionable age—he ends up not being able to really do the farm work that was necessary so he ended up beginning to study under the pastor from the town there in Austerfield. And so he gets his whole spiritual awakening and looking into the Scriptures and being taught to read it and this type of thing. All these things you can look back in hindsight and see how it affected his life and… But at the time we looked at them as very tragedies but the things he learned there and the things he brought over here to… that were really important to the survival of the colonies. All… God was working in his life throughout even this very difficult time. So his early life was really… really quite interesting.
Quite the sister too. She was about three years older than he was and what was really fascinating about that is right before they left to go to Holland, he ended up losing his sister. She died when she was 18 and that was about the same year… It was early in the year where later in that year he left to go to Holland when he was 15 years old. So very, very interesting early life but you can also see how God’s hand was upon him the whole way. And the fascinating part is how he became very, very… a real student of the… of Scripture and just… He talks constantly in his writings about God’s providence and how he couldn’t help but view things in terms of what God was doing—not what was going on necessarily around him but “What’s God doing here?” and just understanding their social-political situation in terms of God’s view of it, which boy, you talk about that being lost today and how important.
Bill: Yeah, that’s really lost today. Yeah. Yeah.
David: How important it is to get that…
Bill: And David, I think I remember one of the guys… Of course I had Sue Allen up there with me, who was in Monumental and I had spent a lot of time but I think she said that when he was young he would hike across to Gainsborough to hear Richard Clifton. And Clifton, of course, was a Cambridge graduate—one of the Cambridge radicals, as they called them, along with William Brewster—and he would hike I think it’s about 10, 12 miles over there from where he lived to hear Clifton talk about these issues—God being sovereign and so forth.
Bill: And it wasn’t an easy jaunt over there. I mean it’s a ways. And there were a lot of robbers. I’ve been on some of those roads. Some of them haven’t changed too awful much, believe it or not.
David: Oh, right. Right.
David: Well, that’s the other… Yeah, that’s the other interesting thing about that whole region. Early historians try to focus us on just Scrooby—“These Pilgrims were a tight band of people that came from Scrooby.” Well, not really. When you look at it—that whole area around there—these people… All these little towns and hamlets around that area… Nick Bunker, in his book Making Haste From Babylon, does a really nice job of… He’s a Brit who goes back and he was very interested in his history and he did a beautiful job of laying out the early history and what they lived in, what their conditions were so I would highly recommend anybody that’s interested in that…
Bill: What’s the title again, David?
David: It’s called Making Haste From Babylon.
David: By Nick Bunker. And he gives a wonderful perspective on what that area—not just the agricultural—but the two main rivers and the influences of… over generations, which a lot of people don’t realize it wasn’t just agriculture. It was also a great coal region—that even back then, in the early days, mining and things like that… It was a very… very interesting area but it covered it—like you said—a lot more than just one town or two towns. These people came from various villages and hamlets around that area and right from the get-go our history that we read about brings it back to just this… It’s like this little cloister of people that are just all huddled together in a band, living in England. No, they were from that whole region there, which was really, I think, something that most people don’t realize as well.
Bill: And a lot of these guys, from what I had just in talking to—our guides and just as we made our way through—there were a lot of folks and even over at Gainsborough, there was a gal named Rose Hickman who had been reading John Knox and so she was slightly above this sort of social strata that maybe Bradford grew up in. But she was being leavened by Knox’s works all during this time and so it wasn’t, as you say, just a single movement. There were a lot of people… And of course, all this was underground, right? Because you could have your head cut off for starting to talk too loudly. Even having an English Bible wasn’t actually something that was a common thing during a lot of this time, right?
David: Well, that’s what really interested me as well because I’d hear people say the Pilgrims left England because of religious persecution and they came to America. That’s what we were taught. At least that’s what I was taught. And I began saying, okay, they left England to come to America to… for religious freedom. But then as I first started looking into it I’m going, “Wait a minute. They left England and went to Holland for…” They were there for almost 12 years. They were there for 12 years. Like, “Wait a minute.” They didn’t come directly to America. They had got their religious freedom because Holland and the Low Countries were very tolerant, as they are today. They’re a very tolerant, permissive society, as maybe you know, over there in a lot of ways.
But… So they actually… The religious persecution—I always wondered what that was—what were they really…? Was it like Fox’s Book of Martyrs? And that’s what they read, you know? They were very… [Inaudible 0:11:57.9] copy of that—that he was a real student of the church history as well. And I’m wondering, “What were they persecuted for and what was the persecution?” and I was really surprised how much are in today’s—when we look at it—and go, “Man, that’s pretty minor.” Pretty… almost—church attendance, for example. They had people monitoring your attendance. If you didn’t attend often enough, boy, you got a visit and it was a serious, serious concern and you could be imprisoned. Well, you can’t afford to be imprisoned back then. So there were a lot of things that—doctrinal things—that weren’t really… It wasn’t a great heresy. It was a lot of sort of the…
What Bradford talked about was the Roman Catholic—he called it the “popery”—the Pope and all these trappings and ceremonies and things that were required and they were all about being the New Testament church, being a testimony in their time and living faithfully to the Gospel. And that was something that was extremely important to these people that wasn’t really well tolerated in England at that time and ultimately why they—one of the major reasons—why they left. Bill, there were other things.
That’s another thing I find in history—people want to find a… “What’s the real reason or the one reason why they did something?” Well, they always… There are usually many factors that all roll together and it’s like it’s not as simple as “It was just this and only this.” It was a lot of things—the persecution for their faith but also the economics of the time and there were other things going on. But they give some very specific reasons in Bradford’s account. He talks specifically, gives four basic reasons why they left Holland to come to America because that was…
Again, the question comes up “Well, if they didn’t leave England…” I mean they didn’t come to America because they were persecuted—they had all the religious liberty they really needed in Holland—why did they leave Holland? Well, what was the real reason why they came over? And so you look at Bradford’s account and he gives four very specific things. He says number one and number two, number three and finally—and last but not least—the propagating the Gospel to the New World. I say “last but not least.” It was very important to them and a lot of people don’t realize that that was such an essential part of their motivation in what they did because they couldn’t help but view their world in terms of God’s Word.
Bill: And they were very optimistic about getting that Word out and when they were in Leiden—one of the things that I had discovered, David—was that they had set up… And the point I’m trying to make to listeners is they weren’t just a bunch of pietistic, “leave us alone” Christians. I think it’s easy to get that impression from very… If all you’ve got is in a textbook is a couple paragraphs, why you have to sort of reduce things a little bit. But these folks went to Holland and they took a printing press with them or bought a printing press and they started printing sort of anti-established church tomes.
So these guys were guerillas and they were printing books against the King’s Church at a time when the penalty for that was death because you… The card that would be played was “that’s heresy” to say that there is no such thing as the divine right of kings or to say such a thing as that. And so they started publishing these books and they were smuggling them back into England in beer kegs or whatever. So man, I mean I think…
David: Yeah, and the king wasn’t real happy with that and… I remember the reading where the government of Holland was not real quick to say, “Okay, we’re going to help you find these people that are causing you problems.” They were saying, “Hey, wait a minute.” They’re here and they sort of granted them the liberty and… the amnesty, if you will. But over time they continued to try to find out where this printing press was before they realized that Brewster had been… They found out who was the printer and where it was coming from. And that was another thing that sort of propels them to say, “We’ve got to be careful. We’ve been getting persecuted here now.” So that’s another reason why they…
Bill: Yeah. The jig was finally up for them there, wasn’t it? I mean they were pushing these books and when the king finally sent his ambassadors up there and as I’m told the same thing that you were saying—that the Dutch originally said, “Hey, wait a second. We’re not sure who you’re even talking about. We ain’t saying nothing.” And I think that they knew these guys were hard workers, that they were covenant keepers, they didn’t make any trouble and in fact, it’s almost Tertullian’s argument that he had to the emperor back in Rome—“Hey, why are you picking on us? We’re your best citizens.” And I think they were probably some of the better citizens in Leiden and they were actually even teaching English to some of the students at the university there.
David: Yeah, and they also did a lot of the things that… They were the tradesmen that… They weren’t the middle class, upper class. They were doing the work that—the hard work—and in fact, that was one of the reasons Bradford talks about why over so many years it was taking its toll on them because they were… It was hard. It was hard on them physically and drained them and their kids were starting to become sort of inculcated with Dutch culture and this ten year truce with Spain, as far as the war was coming to an end—like within a year—and so their… Some of their kids were running off and joining the Dutch Navy and everything else so he was just… They were real concerned about them and said, “You know, this is the time. The time is…”—when they felt the Lord was leading them to leave.
Bill: And you know they also… One of the things that struck me—I’m sure that it may have struck you, being the infamous theonomists that they were, they didn’t like the idea that the Dutch were working on Sundays and so to them, that was real… Like, “Man, we like living here but couldn’t we just convince you not to work on Sunday?” and the Dutch were like, “No.” So that was another thing that they basically said, “Well, I’m not sure we can live here because we don’t want our kids growing up around this.”
David: Oh yeah. That was a big… And the toll it was taking on their kids. I mean that was another thing that they—or Bradford—specifically mentioned as one of those reasons why they felt that the Lord was leading them to leave.
Bill: So they get the idea to leave, David and they don’t just come to America. They head back. What was Bradford’s place on the return trip back to Southampton?
David: Well, they left Belhaven on the Speedwell and went back to England and landed in Southampton where they hooked up with the Mayflower and that two of them—ships—were going to come together. And they sent out… They left—I believe it was July 20th. But they left in July and the Speedwell was taking on water so they pulled into Dartmouth and tried to repair it and they left again and there was more problems after they got further out so they pulled into Plymouth England and that’s where they decided the Speedwell was not seaworthy.
And there is an interesting… There is interesting study and research on that because they found that the Speedwell was a really sound ship and it turned out it was… It had many years of good life after that and they began to think, “You know what?” They think maybe the captain and the crew probably didn’t want to make the trip this late in the year and so they took… They… over the math… They over… They actually… It technically took on water, in order to… People didn’t know what the problem was and they thought it was a leaky ship but that’s an interesting sideline on that.
But the rest of the Pilgrims said, “You know, we still want to get over there” so they all compacted into one ship, which was the Mayflower and then they headed out again at probably the last possible moment because any longer and it would have been… The winter would have been too rough a journey—which it was already very rough. I mean the accounts of the trip over were… I mean they had a lot of rough seas on the way over.
Bill: And William’s status at leaving Plymouth there, after they had come back to fix the boat? Was he…? He was married to Dorothy at that point? I can’t remember.
David: Yes, he was. He was 30 years old and Dorothy was 24 and they left their son, who was I want to say three to four years old—they left him with Pastor Robinson in Leiden, thinking that they would come over later. That was the plan.
Bill: Oh, that’s right. And then Robinson never made the trip, did he?
David: No, he never did. He ended up passing away in Leiden and so he never came over though their son—Bradford’s son John—did come over later. He never… He married a woman named Mary… Her name was Mary Bourne. But they never had children so he never had any descendants from his first wife. The other interesting thing was the…his…Dorothy’s death in the harbor when they first arrived. It was…
Bill: Well, let’s wait a little bit. Let’s cover that. Let’s talk about the trip a little bit. Let’s do it chronologically and…
David: Yeah, sure.
Bill: Because there was an interesting trip. You sort of have some rough seas. You have weather not conducive to a journey with families. I think people have to remember unlike Jamestown, these folks didn’t come to sort of conquer or plunder. They came to bring… They came with their families. So that was a rough trip and there was dysentery and there was everything else. What’s going on in their minds? The sailors think they’re a bunch of scumbags. The sailors want to throw them overboard as well. There is a lot of mocking of their faith, which I suppose folks could relate to that a little bit. What’s going on inside this ship as they cross the ocean?
David: Well, it was… They were… The decks were such that they didn’t have a whole lot of room, obviously. But it was what they call a [inaudible 0:22:45.1] it used to carry… The Mayflower used to carry a lot of kegs of wine that really kind of permeated a lot of the ship, which I don’t know… There are different accounts of what sort of effect that had on their comfort as far as coming over. But yeah, the mocking you were talking about—Bradford gives us a very stirring account of this one “proud and profane young man,” he calls him, who was constantly badgering them and saying when they get a… He hoped they would all die and that he would make merry with what they had when they got ashore. Well, he said, “God saw fit to smite this young man” and the amazing part was that he says and even… All of his people—all of the unbelievers—attributed it to the hand of God, which is… And just the way he says it—the language he uses and the way he writes it—is just… It is just a beautiful paragraph in his writing about that particular event.
But yeah, that… They… There were 102 passengers that came over. One was born on the ship, you’re probably aware of—Oceanus Hopkins—he was a boy that was born on the ship. His… The interesting thing about Hopkins too was that he was the one guy who had actually been to Jamestown and he has a very interesting life but he was the one guy who had been to both… actually lived in both colonies. So he was a very valuable person, especially when they first arrived, as far as what to expect and establishing relations with the Indians and this type of thing so… But they ended up losing one passenger—William Button was his name—and he was a servant to Samuel Fuller. He died and so they had one die and one was born and then one was born in the harbor as well, when they got there. So they actually gained one.
Bill: And wasn’t William Button from that same area as well? Up in… Was it Austerfield? Was he…? Didn’t he come from that town or Scrooby?
David: You know, I’m not sure where William… I haven’t checked into that. I’m not sure. It wouldn’t surprise me because he was a servant and he came with William Fuller. I believe he was a servant of Samuel Fuller.
Bill: Yeah, it says here… I just looked it up. It says he was baptized in William Bradford’s home parish so he was baptized at the same church that I was at.
David: Okay. Yeah. Wow.
David: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. It was a long 66 days and… But they finally arrived at Cape Cod. And here’s another thing I think a lot of people think—that they were blown off course and all this sort of stuff. What I don’t think many people realize is that their target was the Hudson River where New… the Dutch had settled about a year earlier—because there were people there. There were people that… They wouldn’t have to be starting from scratch. When they landed at Cape Cod, they started heading down the shore because it was… The weather was still good and the winds were still good but right around Pollock’s Rip there, around Martha’s Vineyard and stuff, they ran into some serious problems.
They thought they were going to lose the ship and they ended up turning back and heading north and anchoring in the harbor and then exploring the harbor there and then ultimately, obviously we all know they set aground there at Plymouth. But that was their intention was to… At that time, that was the northern parts of Virginia. That’s what they referred to it as but… But they were heading down to the Hudson River. That’s where they wanted to end up but God had other plans.
Bill: God had other plans indeed and before… I mean they came to shore but before they officially came to shore, they wanted to sort of figure out how to live together and I think what’s interesting is Brewster… A lot of people don’t realize Brewster had worked actually in the queen’s court because Brewster had worked with William Davison and Davison was the Secretary of State and so people think, “Well, the non-Christians and the Christians came together and created this Mayflower kind of…” No, that’s not what happened.
You had Brewster primarily and Bradford—people like that—sort of experienced and educated. Brewster, of course, went to Cambridge and you had educated people. “How can we live together?” And so “What’s the covenantal sense in which we owe God and what’s the covenantal sense in which we owe each other?” and then I think they sort of wanted—and I’m just reading between the lines a little bit—but I think they really… Everyone had to sign because they really wanted everyone to say, “Look, I agree to live this way,” you know?
Bill: And so even the sort of…
David: They had to…
Bill: Go ahead. I’m sorry.
David: No, you’re absolutely right. They had… What was happening was a lot of the strangers amongst them on the ship were threatening to use their own liberty and just go off in their own direction and they knew that was not going to… They were not going to survive. It’s what compelled them to say, “Hey look, we need to establish some type of covenant so we can all survive this winter” because it didn’t take but… I mean almost immediately when they got there—within a month—they started all having the… I mean they lost half their number that first year—got sick and died. And they knew for them to get through this they were going to have to somehow agree to stick together.
And again, you had the strangers amongst them who said, “You know, I want to use my liberty. I want to go off and do what I want” and they’re saying… That was a compelling reason for them to sit down and go, “Okay, we’ve got to find a way that we can… how we’re going to function here.” And it’s a very short document. It’s surprising. The Mayflower Compact, a lot of people think it might be a very long document but then again, writing something or crafting something that’s going to… that they needed to have there and use right away, it couldn’t be too long. But it was very important for setting out how they were going to frame different laws and ordinances and how they were going to rule themselves or govern themselves and give authority so that people would… I think the Compact says something like… It ends with “with all due submission… We promise all due submission and obedience to the leadership” so it was a very important document for getting started.
Bill: Yeah, it says at the end “unto we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness thereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth; 1620.”
Bill: And so yeah, exactly—they really—it is a short and very sweet document but it really…
David: But a very important… Very important for them to make sure they stuck together and had the authority to hold people together because even…
Bill: And they weren’t wild-eyed Libertarians, as you’re saying. It’s not everybody… It’s not every man for themselves, was it?
David: No. No. But the strangers amongst… He always refers to them as the “strangers amongst them”—they were there for… They weren’t necessarily part of the congregation—the Leiden congregation that had come over. So they had to make sure that there was a… Well, what was interesting is that the strangers still looked to them. They looked to Brewster and they looked to Bradford because of the leadership that they obviously showed. They still deferred to them in spite of their… In fact, probably because of their strong faith, which again, you don’t necessarily see that today but…
Bill: Yeah, it was an anchor.
David: Some places you can… Yes.
Bill: And can I read a little bit of the part too—and here’s another thing that’s interesting—is “Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.” That’s their principal idea. And then they go on to say…
David: Why they came.
Bill: Yeah—why they came. And everybody needs to know that’s why they came. They weren’t coming here to try to make money as herring mongers or something. They were trying to set out for the glory of God to build a city on the hill. And then they go onto say “and the honor of our king and country.” So I mean really, James probably would have had their heads if he… in some moments. But here, how respectful they are of what was in some ways constituted law and authority. They still saw him as their king and a guy who really wanted to hunt them down like animals—they still had respect for him.
David: He said—at one point—he says, “Our children may rightly say, ‘Our fathers were Englishmen who came over this great ocean and were willing to perish in this wilderness but they cried out to the Lord and He heard their voice and He looked on their adversity.’” So he was proud of the fact and he wanted people to know that we were Englishmen and this was an English… They didn’t abandon their Englishness or their… when they left to go to Holland and became citizens of the world or Dutch citizens or whatever.
David: They were proud of the fact that they were Englishmen and they intended to be English.
Bill: Yeah, and that served them well in many senses too, as far as their political aspirations and how they formed a government. So again, which Brewster would have known a lot about contracts and compacts and so forth.
David: Oh yeah.
Bill: But now let’s kind of talk a little bit—because the boat’s landed and we lose Dorothy here—William loses his wife and I think there is some speculation if… Of course the… A lot of the Left want Dorothy to have committed suicide but I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case, is it?
David: No. Not necessarily the case. There was a… In fact, that originated with some lady in I want to say—don’t quote me on this—but it was like in the 1920s or ‘30s or something, who had written an article for a magazine and had put this out there and people just kind of latched onto it. But the problem is Bradford doesn’t speak of it, which is again—people are wondering why something so important or so profound in your life and he does… He comments on so many things but I think it’s also important to remember…
I go back to my original comments about so much of life and death were in the hands of God, were God’s providence and I’m sure he was devastated when he got back to the boat and learned it—that Dorothy had slipped overboard or fallen into the Provincetown harbor there and drowned. But again, you don’t get really any account of it and yet it was, I think, three days shy of their seventh anniversary, which again, is kind of symbolic in a lot of ways. You look back. His parents—William Bradford’s parents—were married seven years when they died… when he died and then she died shortly thereafter. They were only in their 30s. I mean Mary was 24 years old. She was a… I want to say “a kid” compared to today’s standards. So… And William Bradford was 30 at that time, as you recall, when he arrived. So he was… These were… It was a devastating thing but not much written about it.
Bill: Well, and I think there shots at him, almost like torpedoes hitting him as a vessel but they all seem to sort of get absorbed or glance off or… In other words, his focal point—losing people, as you have said, David—is really interesting to him because all of these losses don’t devastate them. They do something even more incredible. They sort of encourage and strengthen his faith. That’s what I find most fascinating about Bradford is it just “Yeah, I lose this person but really, what’s my main purpose here in life? I’m one of God’s servants. So I may lose a person here and there and that’s all part of the journey, isn’t it?” So in other words, compared to the romantic… He wasn’t a romantic. That’s what I’m saying—where…
David: No. No, he was a very…
David: Very practical and this was another thing that gives him the boldness and the courage to deal with the Indians. As I read through his history I think about… To interact with what he referred to as “savages” but I don’t think it was in the way we think of it today. The term in his time just meant they weren’t “civilized society,” as he called it.
Bill: Well, he wouldn’t have… And he wouldn’t have been—let’s be honest—he wouldn’t have been the only one to use that kind of language. So would one from every European country—burg, hamlet, whatever—that came over here and I don’t think it was something that you said to Indians as “Well, I think that they are less than human” because I think in the Pilgrim’s eyes, they saw them as potential converts and so they were very much excited about evangelizing the Indians. So I don’t think they saw them as any less of humanity than they were.
David: Correct. It was not a derogatory term. It was a … They viewed the Indians as again, children of God that could be saved and that was their mission—was to make sure they knew or heard the Good News of the Gospel and that was what they intended to do. I think there is another misconception too about… especially about the Indians because when you look at the early days and even you hear people today… You mentioned the… Oh, what do you call it? The… Where they protest and all those things going on up at Plymouth, you know, especially this time of year about how the Pilgrims came over and devastated… There were all these peaceful… peace-loving Indians here and we came over and just destroyed everything. We contaminated it and we… It was all our fault.
Well, the thing that most people don’t realize is that the Indians were very much at war with each other. There were an awful lot of… And here the Pilgrims are landing in the middle of all this but miraculously and providentially, they were spared from that because of the clearing out that occurred during the plague that went through there and really devastated the…
Bill: That’s what… Yeah, that’s the tribe that got… That’s the illness that got Squanto’s tribe while he was gone, right?
David: Well, yeah and they were… The amazing thing that I love to share with people is that they were a model and an example for cooperation and working together and they upheld the peace treaty that they entered into and I like to tell people that when you look back at every peace treaty between Native American people and governments—US government—on this soil, there was only one—only one—that lasted. That treaty lasted through the lives of the people that entered into that treaty and that was Plymouth. That was Massasoit and Bradford’s treaty. That was the one that—the only one in history—that has… that both… You know what I’m saying? Both people…
Bill: Well, talk about that for a second and we’ve got 20 minutes or so and so we’ve got to kind of get to it but I think you’ve struck on something very important there, David. Talk about why you think there was such enduring value to that treaty because the treaty was composed—it wasn’t just Bradford’s side and Brewster’s side—it was the other side as well. Why did that treaty last so long?
David: Right. Well, one of the things that we know that really cemented the relationship—there were a couple of things really—but the relationship with Hobamok, Samoset and Squanto—the three Indians… I mean these guys had learned English. Squanto started this and I wish we had time to talk about it. But here was a guy… There were some… a few negative things in there about how he fostered sort of… He wanted to make himself more prominent in being the liaison between the Pilgrims and the Pocomoke tribe but regardless of that, he was their… He was someone Bradford said was “sent of God for our good, beyond our expectation” and he showed them how to plant corn and how to fish and do all kinds of… and use fish for fertilizer and all kinds of things that he talks about.
But the one, I think, big thing that cemented their relationship too was the Pilgrims basically saved Massasoit’s life. He had an intestinal problem and blockage and this sort of thing and the Pilgrims sent over a group of guys that ended up treating him and basically, they thought he was going to die. All the signs were there. All the tribe was prepared for it and then he didn’t. He recovered. They made him this… He goes… He describes the… I want to… I’ll call it “duck soup” to be… without getting into detail of how… the stuff they made him drink, getting all [inaudible 0:41:25.2] clean, scraped his tongue and all these nasty things.
But anyway, he saved his life and I think Massasoit said, “Here is a man who has proven himself. It’s not just words. It’s not just what I think he’s going to do or his intentions. Here is a man who I can trust—I can trust with my life.” And that lasted throughout—again—the lives of both men. And with only his son who—I forget what’s the name that he was given—but after his mother died did you have the Pequot War and where it broke down. But throughout the life of those two men, this treaty was intact—for over, I want to say, over half a century. It was over 50 years, I believe.
Bill: That’s a long time.
David: That’s pretty powerful.
Bill: Yeah. You know, can I bring up another one that I think might be—and I’ll just throw this at you, David—I don’t know… You can tell me what you think but there were a couple occasions where law had to be administered and there were a couple occasions where—let’s just be honest—people are sinners; we don’t all get along well and sometimes there are issues raised and there was even a case where one of the Plymouth… One of the Englishmen had done something to the Indians and I can’t recall what it was but…
David: Well, murder.
Bill: Murder. That would be…
David: John Billington was actually the first one executed for murder and it was murder of an Indian. It wasn’t murder of a…
Bill: So murder of an Indian. But the point I was going to make was this is the way Bradford and Brewster were. The same sort of Biblical sense that allowed them to say, “Look, we use the Bible as a plumb line to judge kings”—so that might have been something they would have to say to Elizabeth or to James or somebody—but that same plumb line used to measure their own. In other words, “We’re going to let Indians come in and be witnesses”—savages ostensibly—“be witnesses in a court case against one of our own and then we’re going to find him guilty and actually execute him.” Now if I’m Massasoit, I’m saying, “Whoa. These guys really mean business. Their word is their bond.”
David: That’s correct.
Bill: “Their covenant means something.”
David: Yeah, and I think that’s a good takeaway is that these… This group of people in Plymouth colony were pretty much—at least… Again, that congregation that came over, they were a real testimony to what it means to live the Christian faith and demonstrate it—not just through words—but in deeds and action. That was very, very evident there to the Indians. I mean that was a big thing.
David: You know, the other interesting thing I learned not too long ago—we had one of the… Darn. I can’t remember the name of what they call their… the spokesman for the Pocomoke tribe who came and spoke to our Mayflower Society meeting. And he was talking about in their oral tradition that they pass down—a lot of stuff they never wrote down—they didn’t write things down. They had an oral tradition and they had to qualify somebody—the one that’s going to carry it to the next generation and all this sort of stuff, in order to maintain the integrity of the history. But one of the things I found interesting was that when they met to talk about this peace treaty, what this gentleman from the Pocomoke tribe tells us is that Massasoit had brought a good number of his braves or warriors that were out of sight, across the hill, that if this thing didn’t go well and we didn’t reach an agreement, they were prepared to come down and wipe out the Pilgrims that were there negotiating, which…
Bill: I had never heard that before.
David: No. Well, I never had either and it’s because it’s not written. It’s something that’s the oral tradition of the… Like I said, I can’t remember what they call their… I should know that. I’m just drawing a blank—what they call their… the person who is responsible for maintaining the history of their tribe, that carries it from generation to generation.
David: But yeah, it was very, very interesting that… But they did reach an agreement. It’s written very specifically what they agreed to. It was not real long but they did agree to support each other if… And this is what the Indians got out of the deal. A lot of times say, “Well, what did they have to…?” Remember, they were wiped out by this plague. They were very vulnerable to the other Indians around and here come these Pilgrims who have weapons and “They can help us” and they agreed to—“If somebody threatens you, we will support you.” It was that mutual…
Bill: Yeah, I never thought about that. You kind of… You get Miles Standish, don’t you? That’s part of the deal.
David: Oh yeah. Miles Standish was another very—again, providentially placed person in this colony because his… He was their military commander. He was the one that organized them and protected… sent them out on missions and also protected them and built the fort and made sure everybody was trained and able to defend the colony. So he was a very important figure.
Bill: Well, meanwhile… So that’s all fascinating and Bradford is… He’s still single at this point, right? Would you say—at the first Thanksgiving—he’s not remarried yet or has he? Because that hadn’t been enough time.
David: Not at the first Thanksgiving. No. Alice Southworth came over on the Ann, which came in 1623 so she came later and her husband, Robert Southworth, had passed away. And now William had known her—he’d known of her—back in Holland but she was married and this sort of thing. Well, she came over in 1623 and they got married in August of that year. So they came… She came over and within a month or two they got married.
Bill: Okay. All right. So where is Bradford? They finally get the village together and they build the great hall first. The women are going back and forth at night to this thing on the ship. They were fortunate again, providentially, the captain decides to stay and so they had a little bit of shelter and they’re building this thing up. Where is Bradford in all of this process?
David: Well, yeah. They did live on the ship throughout the winter and what they did was when they had—like I had mentioned earlier—half the people died that first winter, during January and February primarily. But they would take them… You’d think they might just put them there in the ocean but they didn’t. They gave them a burial. They’d have to… at night would take them—Burial Hill—up at Plymouth. You’ll find there is where they actually buried at night so the Indians wouldn’t ruin all those people because again, at that time they didn’t know… There was no… They hadn’t even met them yet. They hadn’t even come in contact with them. And that was kind of an interesting… Their first encounters were not real positive from the get-go. I mean they weren’t all positive signs that things were going to be… they were going to be receptive and stuff. I mean there were arrows shot at them. They were… But again, it’s amazing when you read Bradford’s account how all these things went through and got shot at them—it’s something—nobody ever got hit, nobody ever got hurt in these interactions… or altercations.
And I guess the other thing I’m thinking of is because I think about how maybe some of your listeners would think about yeah, how there are claims that they stole… ransacked the sepulchers of the Indians and stole their seed corn and all this sort of stuff. And I think one thing that’s often overlooked is that yeah, if they hadn’t found that buried corn that day—I think it was over a weekend—and the very next day it started snowing and it covered the ground to where they probably would have never found that had they not found it the day they found it. They look at that as God’s provision. They look at it as the providence of God. A lot of people say… They don’t even want to entertain that. That’s just an excuse for them to take advantage of these Indians.
Well, the other thing that most people don’t know is that they… Through Massasoit they actually made a commitment to pay these people back or… But it was something that sustained them and actually, they probably wouldn’t have survived that first winter food-wise because they had lost… They had to leave so many provisions behind and they didn’t have a whole lot to last them through the winter. So it was again, a very clear situation where God was in control and they knew it.
Bill: Well, talk a little bit about Thanksgiving Day and then I want to get your take on why we need this sort of mentality today but talk a little bit about just that first Thanksgiving. Maybe that’s overplayed. I think these folks were giving thanks on many occasions—not just when they had an abundance of food but these are the kind of people that would give thanks when they didn’t have any food. So they were given to giving thanks as just a mindset. But talk a little bit about that first Thanksgiving.
David: Sure. Well, in fact… I want to say everything we know about the first Thanksgiving is basically covered in two paragraphs—one in Bradford’s account of Plymouth plantation and another one in Edward Winslow’s account. So between those two accounts—and they’re both about a paragraph long—so it’s like they got together, they had the harvest that they had and they were getting ready to what he calls “stood up our houses against winter” and so they invited the Indians and Massasoit to come and they did come and they brought 90 of their men. They brought venison and they played games and fired… games of skill—firing arrows and…
David: …all these types of things. They did it for three days. He says—Winslow’s account—he says, “Day four and one day”—I’ve got it right here—“killed as many fowl as with a little help besides served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations they exercised their arms, many of the Indians coming amongst them and amongst the rest, their great king Massasoit and some 90 men whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, upon the captain.”
So there is lots of speculation about what they had, what they ate, how did that compare with what we have today? I’ve heard people… I’ve heard reports that people say, “Oh, it’s a big myth that the Pilgrims even had turkey.” Well, that would be a big surprise to William Bradford who said, “There was a great store of wild turkeys of which we cooked many.” So I’m sure they… But the bird at the Thanksgiving table is a proper and appropriate symbol.
Bill: Yeah, but if you’re a leftist revisionist historian, you just make up what you want and you don’t bother footnoting it. You just make it up and that’s now truth, you know? That’s what we get. At least we have some firsthand documentation of what that day was like.
David: Right. We have two firsthand accounts that we can look to. And which of course, they also talk about other things in other places that… of what they grew, what their harvest consisted of like the one… I think it was Pease. I think it was Pease—that the crop failed. They brought the seed over from England and it just… They just… It didn’t work. But the corn was something that was… and succotash and things like that are very, very appropriate and things that they would have had—duck, goose, venison—these are all very…
Bill: Do you think they would have broke out any beer?
David: Beer was a… I would have assumed so. Absolutely. You want to know another thing I found real interesting? Bradford—get this—he refers to—on the ship—he talks about cans of beer. Cans of beer. When I read that and I go, “Can of beer”—I’m thinking a metal can, you know, like we have cans of beer. I don’t… A can must be some sort of a little keg or something but he talks about… Beer was a… was something they were all… It was their common drink because water at that time was still considered… It wasn’t… Well, considered. A lot of times it wasn’t healthy. They didn’t… So it wasn’t the common drink. So they had beer and they had strong—strong water—they called it. But yeah, those would have been what everybody drank—even the kids.
Bill: Yeah, and when you were sick you got beer because I’ve read accounts as well just of people administering beer when others got sick so that was…
David: Sure. Well, and even today, I think there are… I know physicians who talk about the medicinal value and even just in general public, the health values of a glass of wine, for example—once a day. There are… You can add… They calculate your life expectancy and if you have—in moderation, of course—but if… There are the health values of both wine and beer and this sort of thing. So yeah, that was not something that was certainly forbidden. It was something very common and something that was what they… In fact, when they ran out it became a priority again.
Bill: That was one of the events is when you ran out. Yeah. So I could imagine this Thanksgiving—a bunch of guys wrestling with the Indians, drinking beer, throwing tomahawks competitively. It sounds like a heck of a lot of fun and they don’t sound like the sort of drab sticks in the mud that they’re painted by Hawthorne and others. You know, as we close up, I wanted to get your impression—we’ve only got a couple minutes—but you know David, I’m thinking we probably need this Pilgrim spirit now more than any time in history and you know, I can say about one of your ancestors that he’s one of my greatest heroes in my life—just the maturity that the man had. Why do you think we need the Pilgrim spirit today?
David: Well, I think a lot of the same situations, conditions that they faced are the same kind of conditions that we face and we have to… Their perseverance, their faith that guided and directed them, their effort to live out the Gospel in this world as a testimony to unbelievers in the world is as critical now as ever. I think our… We’re kind of being forced to maybe ask the same questions. You talk about trying to reform… The Puritans that came over to Massachusetts Bay colony in 1630—they came ten years after but they had tried to reform the Church from inside and this type of thing. Well, the Pilgrims were called Separatists because they felt it was clear that the reform and the trying to change the establishment—it was too far-gone.
And I don’t know about you—and again, I don’t want to just throw my own political beliefs out here—but I think our country is in a state where we may have reached the tipping point and unless we restore what God intended this nation to be and what our founders intended this nation to be, I believe we are… We have got to have that same spirit, that same purpose to live a life that’s a testimony to those around us because we’re not the… I don’t believe we’re any longer the dominant… I mean people go to great pains to tell us that today—that we’re not… “This was once a Christian nation. We are no longer a Christian nation.” Well, maybe we’re not acting like it but we have a lot of professing people in this country who profess Christ and they profess faith but they tend to not live it like our founders and our Pilgrim founders were dedicated to. They again, were the example of it. They were what everybody pointed to, as “That’s what it looks like. You want to see what it looks like? Watch those people.”
David: And that’s like Paul saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” They took that extremely seriously and I think we can take it… If we take it seriously as well, God will restore our land and continue to bless the country.
Bill: Well, a great point and thank you so much. You know the fat lady never really sang for these guys because no matter what, it was never over. All these bad things happened. People died and I think they just refused to quit and they refused to give up their faith in God. So David, I just want to thank you for spending some time with us.
David: Why, thank you.
Bill: It’s been great having you, man.
David: Well, I appreciate it because anytime I get an opportunity to share, I jump at it because to me this is so important and it’s so much a part of our personal, history but also our country’s history.
Bill: Well, so on behalf of the Bradford family—I can say—and on behalf of everybody here at Off The Grid News, happy Thanksgiving.