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Azel Ames
The Mayflower and Her Log; July 15, 1620-May 6, 1621 – Volume 2


The ship MAY-FLOWER was evidently chartered about the middle of June, 1620 at London, by Masters Thomas West Robert Cushman acting together in behalf of the Merchant Adventurers (chiefly of London) and the English congregation of "Separatists" (the "Pilgrims"), at Leyden in Holland who, with certain of England associated, proposed to colony in America.

Professor Arber, when he says, in speaking of Cushman and Weston, "the hiring of the MAY-FLOWER, when they did do it, was their act alone, and the Leyden church nothing to do with it," seems to forget that Cushman and his associate Carver had no other function or authority in their conjunction with Weston and Martin, except to represent the Leyden congregation. Furthermore, it was the avowed wish of Robinson (see his letter dated June 14, 1620, to John Carver), that Weston "may [should] presently succeed in hiring" [a ship], which was equivalent to hoping that Carver and Cushman—Weston's associates representing Leyden—would aid in so doing. Moreover, Bradford expressly states that: "Articles of Agreement, drawn by themselves were, by their [the Leyden congregation's] said messenger [Carver] sent into England, who together with Robert Cushman were to receive moneys and make provisions, both for shipping, and other things for the voyage."

Up to Saturday, June 10, nothing had been effected in the way of providing shipping for the migrating planters though the undertaking had been four months afoot—beyond the purchase and refitting, in Holland, by the Leyden people themselves, of a pinnace of sixty tons (the SPEEDWELL) intended as consort to a larger ship—and the hiring of a "pilott" to refit her, as we have seen.

The Leyden leaders had apparently favored purchasing also the larger vessel still needed for the voyage, hoping, perhaps, to interest therein at least one of their friends, Master Edward Pickering, a merchant of Holland, himself one of the Adventurers, while Master Weston had, as appears, inclined to hire. From this disagreement and other causes, perhaps certain sinister reasons, Weston had become disaffected, the enterprise drooped, the outlook was dubious, and several formerly interested drew back, until shipping should be provided and the good faith of the enterprise be thus assured.

It transpires from Robinson's letter dated June 14., before quoted (in which he says: "For shipping, Master Weston, it should seem is set upon hiring"), that Robinson's own idea was to purchase, and he seems to have dominated the rest. There is perhaps a hint of his reason for this in the following clause of the same letter, where he writes: "I do not think Master Pickering [the friend previously named] will ingage, except in the course of buying ['ships?'—Arber interpolates] as in former letters specified." If he had not then "ingaged" (as Robinson intimates), as an Adventurer, he surely did later, contrary to the pastor's prediction, and the above may have been a bit of special pleading. Robinson naturally wished to keep their, affairs, so far as possible, in known and supposedly friendly hands, and had possibly some assurances that, as a merchant, Pickering would be willing to invest in a ship for which he could get a good charter for an American voyage. He proved rather an unstable friend.

Robinson is emphatic, in the letter cited, as to the imperative necessity that shipping should be immediately provided if the enterprise was to be held together and the funds subscribed were to be secured. He evidently considered this the only guaranty of good faith and of an honest intention to immediately transport the colony over sea, that would be accepted. After saying, as already noted, that those behind-hand with their payments refuse to pay in "till they see shipping provided or a course taken for it," he adds, referring to Master Weston: "That he should not have had either shipping ready before this time, or at least certain [i.e. definite] means and course, and the same known to us, for it; or have taken other order otherwise; cannot in [according to] my conscience be excused."

Bradford also states that one Master Thomas Weston a merchant of London, came to Leyden about the same time [apparently while negotiations for emigration under their auspices were pending with the Dutch, in February or March, 1620], who was "well acquainted with some of them and a furtherer of them in their former proceedings…. and persuaded them…. not to meddle with the Dutch," etc. This Robinson confirms in his letter to Carver before referred to, saying: "You know right well we depend on Master Weston alone,…. and when we had in hand another course with the Dutchman, broke it off at his motion."

On the morning of the 10th of June, 1620, Robert Cushman, one of the Leyden agents at London, after writing to his associate, Master John Carver, then at Southampton; and to the Leyden leaders—in reply to certain censorious letters received by him from both these sources— although disheartened by the difficulties and prospects before him, sought Master Weston, and by an urgent appeal so effectively wrought upon him, that, two hours later, coming to Cushman, he promised "he would not yet give it [the undertaking] up." Cushman's patience and endurance were evidently nearly "at the breaking point," for he says in his letter of Sunday, June 11, when success had begun to crown his last grand effort: "And, indeed, the many discouragements I find here [in London] together with the demurs and retirings there [at Leyden] had made me to say, 'I would give up my accounts to John Carver and at his coming from Southampton acquaint him fully with all courses [proceedings] and so leave it quite, with only the poor clothes on my back: But gathering up myself by further consideration, I resolved yet to make one trial more," etc. It was this "one trial more" which meant so much to the Pilgrims; to the cause of Religion; to America; and to Humanity. It will rank with the last heroic and successful efforts of Robert the Bruce and others, which have become historic. The effect of Cushman's appeal upon Weston cannot be doubted. It not only apparently influenced him at the time, but, after reflection and the lapse of hours, it brought him to his associate to promise further loyalty, and, what was much better, to act. The real animus of Weston's backwardness, it is quite probable, lay in the designs of Gorges, which were probably not yet fully matured, or, if so, involved delay as an essential part. "And so," Cushman states, "advising together, we resolved to hire a ship." They evidently found one that afternoon, "of sixty last" (120 tons) which was called "a fine ship," and which they "took liking of [Old English for trial (Dryden), equivalent to refusal] till Monday." The same afternoon they "hired another pilot . . . one Master Clarke."—of whom further.

It seems certain that by the expression, "we have hired another pilot here, one Master Clarke," etc.; that Cushman was reckoning the "pilott" Reynolds whom he had hired and sent over to them in Holland, as shown—as at the first, and now Clarke as "another." It nowhere appears that up to this date, any other than these two had been hired, nor had there been until then, any occasion for more than one.

If Cushman had been engaged in such important negotiations as these before he wrote his letters to Carver and the Leyden friends, on Saturday morning, he would certainly have mentioned them. As he named neither, it is clear that they had not then occurred. It is equally certain that Cushman's appeal to Weston was not made, and his renewed activity aroused, until after these letters had been dispatched and nothing of the kind could have been done without Weston.

His letter-writing of June 10 was obviously in the morning, as proven by the great day's work Cushman performed subsequently. He must have written his letters early and have taken them to such place as his messenger had suggested (Who his messenger was does not appear, but it was not John Turner, as suggested by Arber, for he did not arrive till that night.) Cushman must then have looked up Weston and had an hour or more of earnest argument with him, for he says: "at the last [as if some time was occupied] he gathered himself up a little more" [i.e. yielded somewhat.] Then came an interval of "two hours," at the end of which Weston came to him,

[It would be highly interesting to know whether, in the two hours which intervened between Cushman's call on Weston and the latter's return call, Weston consulted Gorges and got his instructions. It is certain that he came prepared to act, and that vigorously, which he had not previously been.]

and they "advised together,"—which took time. It was by this evidently somewhat past noon, a four or five hours having been consumed. They then went to look for a ship and found one, which, from Cushman's remark, "but a fine ship it is," they must (at least superficially) have examined. While hunting for the ship they seem to have come across, and to have hired, John Clarke the "pilot," with whom they necessarily, as with the ship's people, spent some time. It is not improbable that the approach of dusk cut short their examination of the ship, which they hence "took liking of [refusal of] till Monday." It is therefore evident that the "refusal" of the "sixty last" ship was taken, and the "pilot" Clarke was "hired," on Saturday afternoon, June 10, as on Sunday, June 11, Cushman informed the Leyden leaders of these facts by letter, as above indicated, and gave instructions as to the SPEEDWELL'S "pilott," Master Reynolds.

We are therefore able to fix, nearly to an hour, the "turning of the tide" in the affairs of the Pilgrim movement to America.


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