Thursday, November 24, 2011
Why I Don't "Do" Thanksgiving
The pilgrims were upset with their life in England. They disliked the Anglican church, regarding it as too “Catholic” for their taste and for the pilgrims the Catholics were absolute evil. Even as Puritans went, these were the most extreme. Not only did they few Anglicans and Presbyterians as “too Catholic”, even their fellow Puritans were insufficiently puritanical from their point of view. King James I, when it came to religion, was a fairly tolerant monarch. However, he did not want religion causing divisions and strife in his kingdoms and so restrictions were placed on the pilgrims. Disliking this state of affairs, they decided to move over to the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Even those many centuries ago the Dutch had the reputation of being very tolerant and libertarian amongst the nations of Europe. In matters of faith, in the Netherlands there was pretty much complete religious freedom for anyone (except for the Catholics of course on whom there were some restrictions) of any Protestant Christian denomination as well as for Jews.
However, the pilgrims ultimately found life in Holland unsatisfactory. They complained about the lack of tolerance they endured in England, yet in the Netherlands they complained that there was too much tolerance. They feared the numerous religious groups around them would corrupt them and their children and they disliked the licentiousness of those who adhered to no real religion at all. So England was not free enough and Holland was too free, so they decided to go to America. They hopped on the Mayflower and sailed west. For government, the leaders all signed the famous Mayflower Compact, remembered ever since as one of the earliest founding documents of what became the United States centuries later. There are a few things about the Mayflower Compact that many people may not know. The Mayflower Compact was actually a very royalist document, the very first words being a tribute to, “our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith etc”. The document also stressed their loyalty to the King and the hope that their undertaking would do the King and their country honor. Were they sincere? That’s another matter.
At the time (pre-civil war England) royal authority was fairly well accepted as a given. Even the republics of the time such as Venice, Genoa or even the Dutch republic still had royal or at least regal leadership. However, it is hard to imagine that the pilgrims who so loathed the Church of England could have much sincere faith and allegiance for the King was the “Supreme Governor” of that denomination. For those who rejected the Church of England it was not a great leap to at least be lukewarm in their submission to the monarch, especially given how paramount the place of the King was to Anglicans. Although it is mostly ignored today, that is a situation still around today as Anglican canon law still recognizes the Queen as, “the highest power under God in this kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil”. At the very least the pilgrims would have objected to the “ecclesiastical” bit, if nothing else.
Long after Massachusetts became a well established English colony it continued to be the favored place for Puritans to flee to and this increased dramatically during the reign of King Charles I who favored a very traditional, elaborate and, some would say “Catholic” style for the Church of England. Needless to say, although the American colonies played no really significant role in the English Civil War, there were divisions and Massachusetts, because of their Puritan foundation and population, was definitely on the side of Oliver Cromwell. Puritan Massachusetts had opposed the Elizabethan uniformity effort, the Bishops War of King James I and they certainly opposed the direction religion in the British Isles took under King Charles. In fact, after the King was martyred, after the long years of tyranny under Oliver Cromwell and after the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, Massachusetts showed how anti-royalist it was by being the very last English colony in America to recognize the Stuart monarch as their rightful King, not doing so until August of 1661.
Successive British monarchs likewise found out how troublesome Massachusetts could be, even as religion was eclipsed by politics as the primary vehicle for the old Puritan hostility toward the Crown. As everyone knows, the colony would finally become the greatest hotbed of revolutionary activity and eventually lead the continent into the American War for Independence against King George III. So, to bring it all back, that is one of the primary reasons I don’t “do” Thanksgiving. That, and I’m not a big fan of the first President to make it a national holiday. We have also discussed here before how the real first thanksgiving was actually celebrated in Texas long before those dour pilgrims ever set foot in New England. So, be assured it is not an issue of ingratitude which prompts me to sit this one out. You may also rest assured I pass no judgment or think any less of those who do celebrate the day as I know most do it for the right reasons (unlike some other holidays). For all who are joining in, I wish you a happy day and I hope you all know that I am thankful for all you, members, subscribers, lurkers and casual readers, who keep up with The Mad Monarchist. I do appreciate you all.