Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pilgrim Profile: William Brewster - "The Patriarch of Plymouth Colony"

posts in this series: 
part 1: Myles Standish
part 2: William Brewster
part 3: William Bradford
part 4: Edward Winslow

We continue our series of Pilgrim profiles by discussing William Brewster (1566 - 1644) - "The Patriarch of Plymouth Colony."

From Americana magazine:

William Brewster, justly named the “Patriarch of the Plymouth Colony,” was the moral, religious, and spiritual leader of the colony, and until his death its trusted guide. His early environments were of wealth and prosperity, therefore he was not brought up to arduous labors.

William Brewster was
the moral, religious, and
spiritual leader of
Plymouth Colony.
Young Brewster’s education followed the lines given to the sons of the nobility and gentry. He matriculated December 3, 1580, at Peterhouse, the oldest of the fourteen colleges which afterward became the University of Cambridge; but he did not stay long enough to receive his degree. We find him after leaving Peterhouse in the service of William Davidson, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State; he accompanied him in August, 1585, to the Court of the Netherlands on a diplomatic mission. The downfall of Davidson occurred in 1587, and Brewster, leaving court circles, returned to Scrooby. 

At the time of his father’s death he administered his estate, and succeeded him as postmaster. He resided at the Manor House, and was held in high esteem among the people, associating with the gentlemen of the surrounding country, and was prominent in promoting and furthering religion. Of a serious and religious mind, the forms and customs of the Established Church became abhorrent to him, and he became interested and active in the cause of the dissenters. Always loyal to the home government, he reluctantly accepted the fact that his conscientious scruples required his separation from the Established Church. 

He helped to form a dissenting society which met at his residence, thus forming the nucleus which constituted the Plymouth Pilgrims. The meetings were interrupted by persecutions, continuance of which caused a number of the Separatists (by which they became known), to agitate in 1607 an emigration to Holland. Brewster being under the ban of the Church, became a member of a party which unsuccessfully tried to sail from Boston in Lincolnshire, England, and was arrested and imprisoned. He was in possession of considerable property at this time, a large part of which was spent to regain his liberty and in assisting the poorer members of the party to escape to Holland.

At the time of the departure of the Pilgrims for their future home in a new land, on account of his popularity he was chosen their spiritual guide. He embarked on the Mayflower with his wife, Mary Love, and Wrestling and Love, sons, the latter an infant in arms. On arrival on the bleak coast of Massachusetts, the famous Covenant establishing the Pilgrim Republic was drafted, and Brewster is credited as being its author. For the first nine years of the Plymouth settlement he supplied the vacant pulpit, preaching impressive sermons; though often urged, he never administered the sacrament.

"Beginnings of New England," Americana (American Historical Magazine): Volume 13 (New York: The American Historical Society,  January, 1919 - December, 1919), 220, 221.

William Brewster signing the Mayflower Compact. Brewster is credited
as being the author of this famous document.

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