Years ago I had a history instructor who taught me about the importance of primary source documents—those letters, diaries, receipts and papers written by men and women during their own time about their own lives—compared with secondary sources written at a later date about people and events by those who had no first hand knowledge. I’ve always loved to go back to those primary sources because reading the actual words of those who are describing their own experience removes history from the past and brings it into our time. I begin to understand and know those people and realize they were flesh and blood as we are.
The story of the Pilgrims is not just any past, it is our past as a nation. That past is both foundation and prologue to our present, and it can also give guidance for our future. The hopes, anxieties and courage of that company Of plimoth plantation not only describe days long gone, but also gives insight for our own times. The Pilgrims are our very own historic wake-up call of compare and contrast. We’ve never experienced their reality.
During Thanksgiving week of 2012 I wrote several posts about the early years of Plimoth Plantation and the role of Thanksgiving in our nation’s history. I’ve repeated a few of them over the last four years, but now after another Presidential election I’m reediting and publishing all of them this week, because not only did the Pilgrims gave us a foundation of self-government, a beneficial prosperity, and a Christian heritage of beliefs, character, and world view, but in their writings and in their lives they also left us wisdom and warning for our future.
Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, William Halsall: PD-US.