Why did the Pilgrims leave England? In essence, the search for freedom was what propelled the group of English Dissenters, also known as the Pilgrims, to leave their homeland. England in the 16th century was a place of rigid religious laws. A law known as the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1559, demanding that all citizens follow the teachings of the Church of England.
The Pilgrims were a minority that was not in complete agreement with the practices of the Church. For a long time, disobeying the Act of Uniformity was punishable by death. Despite all the obstacles, the Pilgrims succeeded to preserve their religious convictions. Under the rule of King James, capital punishment was abolished for those who disobeyed the Act of Uniformity. However, general hatred by society persisted. Finally, in 1609, the Pilgrims decided to leave England.
Once again, religion acted as the catalyst in an event that shaped a turning- point in world history. Where did they go? Holland was their first destination of choice. There, they were accepted and allowed to practice their beliefs, yet this society did not prove ideal for them either. They had to learn a new language. Their children began to partake in the Dutch traditions. Inadvertently, their beliefs were once again threatened.
The New World
The Pilgrims realized that in order to exercise their religious freedom and preserve their traditions at the same time, they would need to move to a place where their language and customs would not be regarded as a minority. This place was the “The New World”, today known as the USA. In 1620, the Pilgrims traveled back to England to set sail for their new home. Those 66 days were long and harsh before the Mayflower reached land. The 102 passengers suffered from illness and malnourishment, but nearly all of them made it to the end of the journey.
On November 10, they reached Cape Cod, but they did not remain there. They moved to Plymouth, which is where they settled. Finally, the Pilgrims were able to enjoy complete religious freedom, but starvation and disease brought them some new struggles. Some died before springtime arrived.
It was an alliance with the local Indians that helped the Pilgrims to survive. At first, the local Indians avoided the Pilgrims due to bad relations that they had formed regarding some English sailors. Having observed that the Pilgrims were different, the Indians decided to make contact. The first Indian to make contact with Pilgrims was Samoset. Soon, the Indians and the Pilgrims formed a harmonious and prosperous interaction. The celebration feast, which the Pilgrims held as a “thank you” to the local Indians was the foundation of what is today known as Thanksgiving Day.