The Mayflower: The Making of America's Foundation Myth

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The Mayflower story is one of a national foundation, but what is true and what is myth?

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The story of the Mayflower and the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ began to be held in reverence in New England by the time of the 200th anniversary of the arrival in 1820. The fraught and troubled beginnings of the Plymouth settlement were re-invented by politicians, poets, pastors and artists, notably John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster. Plymouth Rock was turned into a national shrine and the Mayflower Compact became ‘the foundation stone of American democracy.’ The earlier Virginia Colony was swept aside; the emblem of proud southern planters, denied. The story became a national foundation myth, used in the rhetoric of ‘freedom versus slavery’ in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Rita Cruise O’Brien is the author of The Mayflower: Myths, Truths and Legacies, 2020 which is available on Amazon

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