By Art Cashin
On this day in 1620, as we all recall from sixth grade, the Pilgrim Fathers…thankful for having safely reached their destination…and to assure no limits on their new-found freedom…gathered aboard the Mayflower to draft and sign – The Mayflower Compact.
And you probably remember your version of Sister Anesthesia telling you that was the beginning of democracy in America.
Well maybe you recall it that way because you were spending too much time trying to figure out why Mary Agnes Doyle was starting to look different than she did in fifth grade. We’re sure the good Sister told you the real story. (No….not about Mary Agnes!) Sister certainly related how the Pilgrims in fact were nowhere near their destination. (Records indicate they were destined for “Northern Virginia” which according to sea charts probably was somewhere between present day Perth Amboy, N.J. and Bayonne.
If they had found their original spot….today we might speak of the thrifty reverent Pilgrims of Wall Street. They only pulled in at Massachusetts because they had run low on beer (or as they wrote in the log “beere”….oops….you heard that already).
That brings us back to the “Mayflower Compact.” It seems that a significant portion of folks on the Mayflower were “strangers” – not members of the Pilgrim sect but folks who signed on in hope of land and success in the new world. They had all signed agreements to abide by the Pilgrim Fathers in this new colony of the “Virginia Company.”
So, when the Pilgrim Fathers suggested putting a party ashore, “the strangers”, out of beer and noting a distinct chill in the air remarked that since this place was outside the Virginia Company Grant – once ashore they were free to do as they pleased. (Now lest ye think these “strangers” a rowdy group – Verily – I point out thou mayest have heard of a few – mayhap one Miles Standish or a certain carpenter, John Alden.)
So – to keep these “strangers” from demanding freedom once they went ashore, the Pilgrims devised the Mayflower Compact – which after a quick headcount went for “majority rule.” Its purpose clearly was to set a range limit on freedom of choice.
The Pilgrims spent the next 30 days, foraging, shooting crows, scaring Native Americans and their dogs (Canis Americus) and finding no beer. Finally, they landed around Plymouth and might have all died in a few months until they bumped into an Indian, named Squanto, who mysteriously spoke English (with a Portuguese accent no less) but that’s a story for another day.
To mark the day, drop anchor at a place called Rocky’s and have a “Mull Wine” or “clove laced hot cider.” But remember what the Cheshire Cat told Alice – “If you don’t know where you want to get to….it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art’s posts simply click on “Cashin’s Comments” in the label section on the sidebar.
A Sideways Look At What Really Happened On This Day In History.